FROM THE RECTOR: FORTY, YES, AND FIFTY, NOT SO MUCH
The rite of imposition of ashes on the first day of Lent, when Jesus' words in Matthew about not showing any sign that one is fasting are still hanging in the air, is not the only scriptural contradiction that has come down to us for Lent. In their book Liturgy for Living (1979), Charles P. Price (1920-1999) and Louis Weil wrote, "For as long as we have records, the passage read as the Gospel for the First Sunday in Lent has been the account of Jesus' temptations" (page 230). Yet Jesus' encounter with Satan happens immediately after, not before, his baptism. They wrote, "[Lent's] association with the forty days which Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and undergoing his Satanic temptations, was inevitable and has been long-lasting" (page 230). That said, I wonder how Christian faith might have come down to us differently if the passage were read on the Third Sunday of Easter-the Second Sunday just has to belong to Thomas.
In their book The Origins of Feasts, Fasts and Seasons in Early Christianity (2011), Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell Johnson review where recent scholarship has gone since revision of the liturgical rites for most denominations came out in the 1970s. If I have this right, in the wake of the Council of Nicaea, called in A.D. 325 by the emperor Constantine, the practice of a forty-day period of preparation for baptisms at Easter gains a foothold across the emerging Christian world (pages 107-8). But the council's preference for Easter baptisms reflected the practices of the church in Rome and in North Africa-not the wider church. But this was not congruent with what had been practiced across the Christian community. Bradshaw and Johnson conclude, "Whatever the theory may have been in some places, therefore, it looks as though baptism at Easter was never the normative practice in Christian antiquity that many have assumed. The most that can be said is that it was an experiment that survived for less than 50 years" (page 86).
After surveying research on the development of Lent and of how different churches across the Roman Empire calculated the forty days, they write, "the origins of what becomes 'Lent' have very little to do with Easter at all" (page 112). The motivation came from the widespread Christian practice of fasting in preparation for baptism (pages 97-98). The practices of fasting (for different lengths of time depending on where one lived) in preparation for Easter by the Christian community and more extended fasting by those preparing for baptism are "transfigured" slowly but surely into a season that is overtaken by the cross (pages 112-13).
I continue to try to grow into the challenge of the words we hear at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer on all of the Sundays and weekdays of Lent, save the First Sunday: "You bid your faithful people cleanse their hearts, and prepare with joy for the Paschal feast; that, fervent in prayer and in works of mercy, and renewed by your Word and Sacraments, they may come to the fullness of grace which you have prepared for those who love you"(The Book of Common Prayer , 379). What can I do to walk more closely with the Lord at this point of the journey of faith? -Stephen Gerth
THE OPEN DOORS CAMPAIGN WEBSITE is now up and running. You can access it here. More to come about the next phase of our campaign. Thanks are due to many, but especially to Sr. Monica Clare!
OUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR
Gloria, Robert, Dennis, Christopher, Matthew, Linda, Jerry, Kevin, Geneva, Jimmy, Elsa, Paula, Grady, Kelly, John, Alexander, Shawna, Rocco, Krystal, May, Robert, Nicole, Heidi, Barbara, Jean, Sam, Sharon, Donald, Takeem; Sidney, deacon; Horace, Hamilton, Peter, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, and Edgar, priests; and all victims of war, poverty, famine, and disaster; and the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 5: 1879 Margaret C. Eyer; 1894 Emma Merina D'Costa Guerin; 1936 George T. Harrison.
THE ORDINARY WEEKDAYS OF LENT are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. The Fridays of Lent are traditionally observed also by abstaining from flesh meats. In addition to the five Sundays in Lent, Monday, March 20, is the Feast of Saint Joseph (transferred) and Saturday, March 25, is the Feast of the Annunciation. Abstinence is not observed on these days.
FRIDAYS IN LENT . . . Stations of the Cross are prayed on Fridays in Lent beginning March 3 at 6:30 PM. Stations will not be prayed on Friday, March 24, when we will be celebrating the Annunciation on its eve at 6:00 PM.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, March 5, the First Sunday in Lent, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Solemn Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM . . . Wednesday, March 8, 6:30 PM, in the Nursery, Wednesday Night Bible Study Class . . . Friday, March 10, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross.
ASH WEDNESDAY: WE ARE GRATEFUL . . . Accurate numbers are a little bit hard to come by, but we estimate that between 1000 and 2000 people came to Saint Mary's during the course of the day on Ash Wednesday. It was a good day here at the parish, good for our members, our friends, our neighbors, and for those who worship with us regularly during the week. But it was also good, we hope, for our many visitors who come here infrequently and for those who visited us for the first time. The four Masses, two celebrated with the help of our choir, and the distribution of ashes throughout the day comprises an important ministry to the Times Square neighborhood. We would not be able to undertake this ministry without the help of the many parishioners and clergy friends who volunteered their time-some for twelve-hour shifts-on Wednesday. Things went very smoothly. We put our best face forward. We introduced ourselves and what we do to many newcomers. We helped each other and our friends to begin Lent in a prayerful and intentional way; and we are grateful to those who made all these things possible.
THE PARISH . . . Gloria Fitzgerald was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital for two days last week for observation and treatment. She is now recuperating at home. Linda Bridges is now at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx. She is able to receive visitors. Dennis Smith has been discharged from the Hudsonview Care Facility in North Bergen, New Jersey, and is now at home. Please keep our fellow parishioners in your prayers . . . Dr. Matthew Daniel Jacobson is to be ordained deacon on Saturday, March 4, at 10:30 AM, at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. The members of the parish community are invited to attend . . . Former parishioner Chris Lee has been made a postulant for Holy Orders in the diocese of Long Island. Chris often serves at the altar here at Saint Mary's at the Wednesday Sung Mass and remains a great friend and supporter of the parish. Please keep Chris and his family in your prayers . . . Parishioner and Master of Incense-Making, Kenny Isler, will be with us Monday, March 13, through Thursday, March 16. He will be mixing a new batch of incense while he is here. Kenny now lives in Arizona, but returns to New York every fifteen to eighteen months or so in order to mix the distinctive Saint Mary's blend of incense. It is a very generous thing for Kenny to come back East, and we are very grateful to him for taking the time to do so and for sharing his creativity and expertise with us . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 179; Mass Attendance on Ash Wednesday 339.
LENTEN QUIET DAY . . . On Saturday, March 18, from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM, Sister Monica Clare, C.S.J.B., will lead a Quiet Day here at the parish. The day's theme is "Keeping our faith and hope in the midst of fear and despair." Sister Monica will deliver her meditations in the Wedding Chapel. Saint Joseph's Hall, the chapels, and the church will be available for quiet, prayer, reading, and meditation. A light breakfast will be provided at 9:30 AM. The first meditation will begin at 10:00 AM. Noonday Prayer is at 12:00 PM and Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM. Lunch follows in Saint Joseph's Hall. Please RSVP to Father Jay Smith if you plan to attend (this helps us plan for lunch). A freewill offering of $10.00 is suggested.
MUSIC NOTES . . . The musical setting of the Mass on Sunday morning is from the traditional plainsong Mass XVII In Dominicis Adventus et Quadragesimae designated for use on Sundays in Advent and Lent. This setting, as presented in the Graduale Romanum, includes three options for Kyrie, the first of which, Kyrie salve, dating from the tenth century, will be sung. The Sanctus and Agnus Dei are dated from the eleventh and thirteenth centuries respectively.
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) blossomed early as a conductor, composer, and pianist. His initial music studies in Berlin were followed by travel in England, Scotland, Italy, and France before his 1833 appointment as music director in Düsseldorf. Two years later he became conductor of the Gewandhaus concerts in Leipzig where, together with Schumann and others, he founded the Leipzig Conservatorium in 1842. His 1829 Leipzig performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion helped decisively to stimulate the nineteenth-century rediscovery of the music of J. S. Bach. His contributions as a composer span the categories of orchestral, choral, stage, chamber, piano, vocal and organ works. His music is said to have set the canons of mid-Victorian musical taste. His eight-voice motet Denn Er hat seinen Engeln befohlen, sung during the administration of Communion on Sunday, is a setting of Psalm 91:11-12, referenced in Matthew's account of Jesus' temptation by the devil, and read today as the Gospel. This music was later incorporated by Mendelssohn into his oratorio Elijah (Op. 70, No. 7) where it has an orchestral accompaniment. -David Hurd
VISUAL ARTS PROJECT. . . There is a new exhibition in the Gallery in Saint Joseph's Hall: NYC Inspires: Paintings by Lola de Miguel. Lola showed her work here last year, and the show was very well received. We are happy to be able to welcome her back to Saint Mary's. Her paintings will be on view in the Gallery until March 30. - José Vidal
ADULT EDUCATION . . . On Sundays in Lent, March 5, 12, 19, 26, and April 2 and 9, at 10:00 AM, Father Pete Powell will continue his class on the Acts of the Apostles. Father Powell writes, "The Adult Forum in Lent will study volume 2 of Luke, more commonly known as the Acts of the Apostles. Here we find the story of the beginning of the church. Much of what we think we know about Paul we read in Acts. Much of what we think we know about the struggles in the church as it became majority Gentile, we learn from Acts. In other words, Acts contains the formative stories about how the church came to be. I have been persuaded that Acts was not written because the end of the world didn't come, but instead was written to provide a unifying story/myth for the early church. We see it used this way in the late second century by Irenaeus. One can argue, successfully, that Jesus never intended to found a church. Acts shows how early Christians survived and ultimately thrived. We will examine the context of Acts and what it has to say about the church today. The church is more directly the child of Acts and the Letters of Paul than the child of the Gospels. However, Paul and Acts have different and sometimes irreconcilable differences on what it means to be the church. Acts was written after the Epistles and in many ways tries to tame Paul. While we read Acts during the Sundays of Eastertide, the content of it is usually overlooked. In these series of Sunday mornings, we'll look closely at texts which undergird Christianity as we know it. We will begin with Acts 3 on the First Sunday of Lent, March 5. This will be an interesting Lenten discipline for you as together we study the founding documents of Christianity and the Church" . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on Wednesday, March 8, 15, and 22, at 6:30 PM. Newcomers are especially welcome; no prior study or attendance is needed
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Sunday, March 12, Daylight Saving Time begins . . . Fridays in Lent, Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM (except on March 24) . . . Monday, March 20, Saint Joseph (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Friday, March 24, Eve of the Annunciation, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Saturday, March 25, The Annunciation, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM and Mass 12:10 PM . . . Saturday, April 8, Eve of Palm Sunday, Liturgy of the Palms and Sung Mass 5:00 PM . . . Sunday, April 9, Palm Sunday, Liturgy of the Palms and Sung Mass 9:00 AM; Liturgy of the Palms, Procession to Times Square and Solemn Mass 11:00 AM . . . Monday-Wednesday, April 10-12, Sung Matins at 8:30 AM & Evensong at 6:00 PM . . . April 13, Maundy Thursday, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, The Holy Eucharist 6:00 PM. The Watch before the Blessed Sacrament . . . April 14, Good Friday, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, The Good Friday Liturgy, 12:30 PM & 6:00 PM. Confessions will be heard by the parish clergy after both liturgies . . . Saturday, April 15, Easter Eve, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, The Great Vigil of Easter 7:00 PM . . . Sunday, April 16, The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Said Mass with Hymns 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Organ Recital 4:30 PM, Solemn Paschal Evensong 5:00 PM
AT THE GALLERIES. . . At the David Zwirner Galleries, 525 and 533 West Nineteenth Street, February 23-April 22, 2017, Alice Neel, Uptown, curated by Hilton Als. David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Alice Neel curated by Hilton Als. The [exhibition] includes works that the artist made during her five decades of living and working in upper Manhattan, first in Spanish (East) Harlem, where she moved in 1938, and, later, the Upper West Side just south of Harlem, where she lived from 1962 until her death in 1984. Hilton Als writes, "By painting Latinos, blacks, and Asians, Neel was breaking away from the canon of Western art. She was not, in short, limiting her view to people who looked like herself. Rather, she was opening portraiture up to include those persons who were not generally seen in its history. Alice Neel, Uptown, the first comprehensive look at Neel's portraits of people of color, is an attempt to honor not only what Neel saw, but the generosity behind her seeing."