FROM THE RECTOR: BELONGING TO CHRIST
Personal. Last week as the plane on which I was traveling was taking off, without thinking, the quiet prayer I said to myself was, “I belong to Christ.” Then followed several moments with no words at all in my mind. This was something new. For decades now—yes, decades (ouch)—my prayer on taking off and landing has been one complete “Hail, Mary.” I don’t even think about it; it’s a habit. Those few words, again, “I belong to Christ,” and the silent moments made me think about where it was coming from.
Questions about eternal life have come my way several times over the last few months. “Do you believe in life after death?” My answer is, “Yes.” I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Yet these words mean something different to me now than they did when I was a child, or a teenager, or a young adult. I now speak about what I believe differently than I did when I was ordained in 1983.
Sandra Schneiders’ book Risen in Our Midst (2013) has been very helpful to me. Jesus rose with a presence that was bodily, recognizable, and real, but not material. Because he had this risen body, he had the capacity for presence and relationship with his disciples. Because he is God, he is beyond creation; because he is God, he can still make himself present in creation. When he made himself known to his disciples on the day of resurrection, they knew that he had lived and died. From that day his disciples could live by faith.
For this coming Sunday, the last of the church year, our lectionary offers a choice of gospel lessons: from John, Jesus’ words with Pilate about his kingship (John 18:33–37), or from Mark, Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1–11). I will be preaching at the 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM Eucharists on Mark. (Father Pace may or may not do the same at the 9:00 AM Mass. Both gospels are worthy. You can find all of the lessons for this Sunday here.)
I think it’s fair to say that I have been reading Mark during this lectionary year with fresh eyes because I’ve been working through Joel Marcus’ commentary on this gospel (Mark 1–8 ; Mark 8–16 ). It’s gotten to the point that Mark is close to replacing John in my heart as my favorite gospel.
On the last Sunday in October the gospel was the story Mark tells immediately before Jesus enters Jerusalem, Jesus giving sight to a blind beggar (Mark 10:46–52). The man has not seen Jesus, only heard about him. When Jesus walks close to where he is, the man cries, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Jesus asks him what he wants him to do for him. He replies, “Master, let me receive my sight.” In Jerusalem, those closest to him would become blind until he rose from the dead.
Now, back to that prayer, “I belong to Christ.” It came back to me again after the terrible news from Paris on Friday evening. I remember September 11. I remember going downtown in early November. As soon as the subway doors opened at Fulton Street, we were hit with the smell of the fires from Ground Zero that would burn for 100 days. I remember the expressions of concern about Saint Mary’s that began that day. The same kind of expressions began showing up in my inbox on Wednesday when threats were made against Times Square. As we go to press, there’s been a terrorist attack today in the capital of Mali. Almost certainly more people will die before the current wave of Islamic terrorism comes to an end.
When I get worried about terrorism, I’m likely to turn to great hymns for strength and consolation. Among my favorites are “A mighty fortress is our God” and “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord.” This is the third verse of the former: “And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us; we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us; the prince of darkness grim, we tremble not for him; his rage we can endure, for lo! his doom is sure, one little word shall fell him.” I invite you to remember that you and I belong to Christ. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Moses, Osborne, David, Nargis, Magda, Walter, Martha, Lisa, Sally, Sam, Albert, Peggy, Maxine, Jean, Quinn, Mala, Mark, Gerry, Kenneth, Heidi, Rasheed, Catherine, Babak, Mazdak, Trevor, Takeem, Arpene, Pamela, religious, Horace, deacon, Sidney, deacon, Lawrence, deacon, Horace, priest, Paulette, priest, Gaylord, priest, and Harry, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . November 22: 1901 Laura E. Janes; 1932 Gulian Crommelin Verplanck Richards; 1946 Amelia Stout Slavin; 1960 Marion Eppley.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Fred Goodyear, the grandfather of our seminarian, Matthew Jacobson, died on Tuesday, November 17. Please keep Fred, Matthew, his family and all who mourn in your prayers.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . The month of November is a crucial time for the pledge campaign. We need to maintain the momentum of the campaign’s first four weeks. Commitment Sunday is November 22, and we hope to receive the majority of pledges by that date. We urge all members and friends to return their pledge cards as soon as possible, either by mail or by placing your pledge card in the collection basket at Mass on Sunday morning. You may also call the finance office to discuss your pledge. The staff will be happy to fill out a pledge card for you. If you have already returned your pledge card, we thank you. If you have questions about stewardship, please ask to speak to a member of the Stewardship Committee, MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, or Marie Rosseels; and please pray for the success of this year’s Stewardship Campaign.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, November 22, Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King & Commitment Sunday. Please bring your pledge card and place it in the offering basket . . . Wednesday, November 25, the Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on the Eve of Thanksgiving Day. The class resumes on Wednesday, December 2 . . . Wednesday, November 25, Eve of Thanksgiving Day, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, November 26, Thanksgiving Day, the church opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 2:00 PM. Only the noonday services are offered and the parish offices are closed . . . Sunday, November 29, The First Sunday of Advent . . . On Saturday, November 21, confessions will be heard by Father Stephen Gerth. On Saturday, November 28, confessions will be heard by Father Jim Pace.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Emil Bretzger was admitted to Trinitas Regional Medical Center, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, last week for tests. He is now at home. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Parishioner Barbara Klett is now at home continuing her recuperation following surgery. Please keep her in your prayers . . . Altar flowers are needed for all of the Sundays in January. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Father Jay Smith will be away from the parish and on retreat from the evening of Thursday, November 19, until the afternoon of Saturday, November 21 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 209.
A VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY . . . The New York City Department of Homeless Services is seeking volunteers for its upcoming Homeless Outreach Population Estimate (the “HOPE Count”), which will take place on Monday, January 25–26, between 10:00 PM and 2:00 AM. Volunteers should be eighteen years of age or older, and will be able to choose their volunteer site when they register on the departmental web site. Volunteers will report to their respective sites, where a HOPE Count representative, or captain, will lead volunteers into their selected communities and will provide instructions about how to accurately count the city’s homeless people. If you would like to volunteer for the HOPE Count, please contact Father Jay Smith, and he will register the Saint Mary’s contingent as a group. Members of the parish have done the Count in the past and have found it to be rewarding work.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Food Pantry at the Church of San Andres, Yonkers: For the past several years Saint Marians and their friends have been responding to Mother Yamily Bass-Choate’s call to help with her parish Food Pantry’s Thanksgiving dinner effort. A donation of $20.00 buys a turkey for a family in need. If you would like to donate, send a check to San Andres, 22 Post St., Yonkers, NY 10705 and put “Turkey Drive” in the memo line . . . The Help Network is a nonprofit organization and an agency of the Global Change Project. It is looking to recruit volunteers who are willing to commit one hour per week to help out at a number of partner organizations located throughout New York City. The Network works with its partners to pair volunteers with the sick, elderly, and with disabled persons based on availability, skills, and particular client needs. For more information, please contact the Network by e-mail . . . We continue to collect nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church, 423 West Forty-sixth Street . . . The Saint Mary’s Book Sale continues on Sunday mornings. All proceeds are used to serve those in need at Saint Mary’s, in our neighborhood, and beyond . . . Need help finding food or know someone who does? Call 1-800-5-HUNGRY (Why Hunger Hotline, Monday–Friday 9:00 AM–6:00 PM EST) or 1-866-3-HUNGRY (USDA National Hunger Hotline, 8:00 AM–8:00 PM EST). —Jay Smith
FROM THE ORGANIST & MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . Much of the repertoire we sing here at Saint Mary’s is written by composers of the High Renaissance: Palestrina, Lassus, and Byrd will continue to be our regular companions throughout the church year that begins next Sunday, November 29. But as this year draws to a close, we celebrate Christ the King with music of the eighteenth century in a Mass setting that often bubbles over with Viennese joie de vivre (or is that Lebensfreude?) and energy. Musical phrases of the Classical era sometimes lack the flexibility of length and plasticity of modality that sixteenth-century composers delight in, but in the Missa brevis in F, K. 192, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) employs contrasts of phrase lengths to guide us engagingly through the text. The Gloria opens with an eight-measure line from the sopranos that is answered by buoyant three- and then two-measure phrases from soloists and full choir. The composer helps bind the movement together by returning to that eight-measure phrase both for the first “miserere” (“have mercy”) and for the final “Amen.” The tonal language of Mozart’s era has an in-built sense of inevitability. In some ways the predictability of this language can be used with some theological currency. This is favorably demonstrated in the motet at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, the sublime “Laudate Dominum” from the Vesperae solennes de confessore, K. 339, of 1780. The soprano solo at the start sings a gentle, sincere melody to the words of Psalm 117 and the choir joins her for the “Gloria Patri.” The “Amen” interrupts the closing cadence and after a decorative flourish brings the music to a secure home. One would need an especially cold heart not to sense the psalmist’s sentiment that “the truth of the Lord endures forever” in these exquisite closing moments . . . At the Solemn Mass on Sunday the accompanied movements of the Mass ordinary, some of the hymnody, and the postlude will be played by Alessandro Pittorino, while I conduct the choir. Alessandro is an organ student at The Juilliard School. We are grateful to him for his assistance and for his artistry. —Simon Whalley
ADULT EDUCATION . . . Sundays, November 22 at 10:00 AM, The Succession Narrative: 2 Samuel 11-20; 1 Kings 1-2, led by Father Peter Powell. This is the final class in the autumn segment of this series. The class will resume on the first Sunday in Lent. We are very grateful to Father Powell for giving of his time, talents, and wisdom in order to teach in our adult-education program . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Wednesday, November 25, the Eve of Thanksgiving Day. The class resumes on December 2 . . . Sunday, December 6, seminarian Matthew Jacobson will discuss the image of Jesus as Good Shepherd in early Christian art . . . Sunday, December 13, Father Jay Smith will discuss the Icon of Christ Pantokrator (“Almighty” or “All-powerful”) . . . January 10 and 17, Canon Michael Barlowe, Executive Officer of General Convention of the Episcopal Church, will lead the class in a discussion of Episcopal polity and governance. (This will be a very useful class for those preparing for Confirmation or Reception, as well as for those who want to learn more about what our church believes and how it works.) In this series, Canon Barlowe will address such topics as the workings of General Convention, legislation passed at this summer’s convention in Salt Lake City, the role of the Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church, and the mechanism for electing a Presiding Bishop in our church. — Jay Smith
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, November 28, 2015, 7:00 PM, Trident Ensemble, Tim Keeler, conductor: Cast Away—A Journey into the Unknown, a Discovery of Experiences on the Sea. Tickets are available at the door or online . . . Friday, December 4, 2015, 8:00 PM, Young New Yorkers Chorus, Michael Kerschner, artistic director: The Triumph of the Sky—A Fifteenth-Anniversary Holiday Concert. Tickets may be purchased online . . . Saturday, December 5, 2015, 8:00 PM, Miller Theater at Columbia University presents The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips, director: Sacred Muses—An Exploration of the Works of William Byrd. Tickets are available online or by calling 212-854-7799 . . . Friday, December 11, 2015, 8:00 PM, New York City Master Chorale, Thea Kano, artistic director: Rheinberger, Der Stern von Bethlehem and other favorite holiday carols, featuring special guest, the Reaching for the Arts Choir. Tickets available only from New York City Master Chorale . . . Saturday, December 12, 2015, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, conductor: Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 9. Annual