FROM THE RECTOR: TRANSLATIONS
Many years ago, in a parish I served before becoming a rector, I complained to a semi-retired senior colleague about a particular, and remarkably disruptive, three-year-old child. Week after week the mother let the child have free run of the church during the Sunday service. (Those who know me know it is the rare child who can disturb me even a little during Mass.) The mother, not the child, was out of control. In the sacristy after Mass I said something to my colleague about looking forward to the child to being a little older. He replied, "There will always be a three-year-old in church."
The priest wasn't a student of Family Systems theory, but experience had helped him capture one of its five basic concepts, homeostasis, described by the late Edwin Friedman (1932-1996) in his book Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue (1985). The "system" had a place for this mother and child and would always be comfortable with those who filled it. I bring this example up because I want to talk about homeostasis in biblical translations.
Last year I was celebrant for the Easter Vigil, at which we always hear Matthew's account of the resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10)-perhaps because it begins, "Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulchre" (28:1). Although I've been using Ulrich Luz's commentary on Matthew since Advent 2010, I'd never noticed until last year that Luz translates Jesus' greeting to Mary Magdalene and the other Mary as, "Rejoice," (Matthew 21-28: A Commentary , 606-7), not "Hail" as in the Revised Standard Version (RSV) or "Greetings" as in the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).
Matthew follows Mark's passion narrative closely. In Mark on the morning of the resurrection, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, find the tomb empty and a young man there from whom they learn that Jesus has risen. He tells them to go to the disciples and to tell them that Jesus will meet them in Galilee. The passage concludes, "And they went out and fled from the tomb; for trembling and astonishment had come upon them; and they said nothing to any one, for they were afraid" (Mark 16:8). But in Matthew, the women "departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples" (Matthew 28:8). The next verse is this, "And behold, Jesus met them and said, "Rejoice" (28:9). The verb here can be a greeting, but Matthew has just told us that they left with "great joy." It's not hard to imagine the Risen Jesus saying very quietly to the women, "Rejoice." This is of some theological significance, especially when one considers that every other time this form of the verb appears in the RSV and the NRSV New Testament it is translated as "Rejoice."
I think a very significant theological issue is raised by the traditional translation of the words Gabriel speaks to Mary, "For with God nothing will be impossible" (Luke 1:37, RSV; NRSV follows with a different word order). François Bovon (1938-2013) prefers the textual evidence and gives us, "For from God nothing will be impossible" (Luke 1: A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 1:1-9:50 , 53).
In both cases, the familiar translations go back to the work of William Tyndale (1494-1536), the first to translate the Bible into English from Hebrew and Greek. Though Henry VIII had broken from Rome in 1533, his agents managed to have Tyndale betrayed on the continent. He was executed at the stake (strangled) just before his body was burned for heresy by the Roman Catholic Church. His work was masterful and his life courageous. He was not "homeostasis" for his time. To use the language of systems theory, against the great and real power of church and state, he "differentiated" himself from the Christian system of which he was a part ("differentiation of self" is another basic concept in systems theory [Friedman, 27-31]).
I didn't know there was a preface to the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) called "The Translators to the Reader" until I got to seminary. The only copy of the KJV that I have ever owned with it was published by the Episcopal Church's Seabury Press, probably in the 1950s. It's worth wondering how Protestant Christianity among those whose first language is English might have followed a different path if it, along with the Apocrypha, had always been in our Bibles. The next to the last subsection of this preface is called, "Reasons moving us to set diversity of senses in the margin, where there is great probability for each." In other words, there were words and phrases that they could not translate-or translate with confidence. In this edition, however, there is a footnote on this title. It reads, "Omitted in this edition"-I'm not making this up. Homeostasis is very strong. I wonder also what difference it might have made to American Protestant Christianity in the second half of the twentieth century if the translators of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible had had the courage to be intellectually honest that there is no "thee" or "thou" form in Hebrew or Greek.
I'm going to continue to work with Greek-and I know I need to know more. And to work in my life on "differentiation of self." I'm going to continue to try to be aware of homeostasis that locks me into a place prepared in the systems of my family of origin, the parish, the diocese, the church, and the larger communities of which I am a part. -Stephen Gerth
OUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Grady, MaryJane, John, Clint, Michael, Charlie, Gus, Aston, Doug, Rick, Patricia, Gloria, Primi, Jerry, May, Robert, Nicole, Heidi, Takeem, Marahl, Barbara, Jean, Dennis, George, Abraham; Sidney, deacon; Horace, Ross, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, and Edgar, priests; all victims of war, persecution, poverty, famine, and disaster; the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark; and the repose of the souls of Seymour Cynamon and Margaret Korda. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 30: 1894 Sarah Josephine Lewis; 1913 Katherine Schuster; 1939 Andrew Benjamin Smith.
THE FRIDAYS OF THE EASTER SEASON are not observed by acts of discipline and self-denial.
ANNUAL MEETING OF THE PARISH . . . The Annual Meeting of the Parish will take place on Sunday, May 7, following the Solemn Mass. Reports are due in the parish office no later than Monday, May 1. At the Meeting, nominations of delegates to Diocesan Convention will be received for election by the Board of Trustees.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Monday, May 1, Saint Philip and Saint James, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:00 PM . . . Wednesday, May 3, 2017, Sung Mass 12:10 PM and Bible Study Class 6:30 PM. The class meets in the Nursery . . . Thursday, May 4, Thursday in the Third Week of Easter, Mass with Healing Service 12:10 PM
AROUND THE PARISH . . . On Saturday, April 15, Easter Eve, Rami Eskelin and Jordan Tamelcoff received the sacrament of baptism and the sacramental rite of confirmation. It was a joyous night. We welcome Rami and Jordan to the parish. Please keep them and their families in your prayers . . . Candle Sale: Sister Laura Katharine tells us that her sale has been doing well. She is going to take a couple of weeks off, but the Sale will return before the beginning of the summer. Expect discounts! We will keep you posted . . . Homeless Ministry: We are very grateful to all those who have been volunteering this week to prepare for Friday's Drop-in Day. Thank you for your help as we look for ways to expand this ministry . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 225.
AIDS WALK 2017 . . . On May 21, 2017, the Saint Mary's AIDS Walk Team, supported by their friends and fellow parishioners, will join the 32nd Annual AIDS Walk here in New York. We invite you to join the Team or to make a contribution to the Team. Last year, the Saint Mary's AIDS Walk Team, fourteen people strong, ranked Number 9 in fundraising among all teams walking. We raised $55,035 from almost 300 generous contributions. Our goal this year is a very ambitious $60,000 as we walk in solidarity with people living with HIV or AIDS and with those who support and care for them. We invite you to join our Team and raise money with us or simply to make a donation to our very determined Saint Mary's AIDS Walk Team. You can join or contribute by clicking here. You can also direct your questions to Father Jay Smith or to Team co-leaders MaryJane Boland and Clark Mitchell.
DONATIONS FOR ALTAR FLOWERS . . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowers for the following Sundays and holy days: May 7, 14, 21, June 4 (Pentecost), June 11 (Trinity Sunday), June 25, June 29 (Saint Peter and Saint Paul), and all the Sundays in July. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office at 212-869-5839 or by e-mail. We are grateful to all those who support the ministry of the Flower Guild so faithfully.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . Our pledge campaign continues, since we have not yet reached our goal for 2017. Thus far we have received $384,606.00 in pledges, 91% of our goal of $425,000.00. We hope to reach that goal by June 1, 2017. Please help us to reach that goal. We need your help. To make a pledge for 2017, please fill out a pledge card and mail it to 145 West Forty-sixth Street, New York, NY 10036; place your pledge card in the collection basket at Mass; or make a pledge online. We are grateful to all those who continue to support the parish so generously.
. . . The Budget Committee and the Board of Trustees expects that we will need to raise around $4,000.00 in 2017 in order to supplement the funds allotted in the budget for hospitality. Our hospitality efforts include Sunday Coffee Hours and Evensong receptions, holy-day receptions, and special events such as Quiet Days, Oktoberfest, the Super Bowl Party, and birthday and anniversary celebrations. Since we welcome so many visitors to the parish, the hospitality ministry is crucial to what we do and who we are. If all our members and friends were to make a regular donation to this ministry, we would easily cover our shortfall. No donation is too small! We are about $500.00 short of what we'd like to raise for 2017. If you make a donation by check, please include the words "Hospitality Ministry" in the memo line. We recently received a donation of several boxes of Walker's Shortbread cookies for use on Sundays at Coffee Hour and at our Evensong receptions. We are grateful to the donor of the cookies and to all those who continue to support our ministry of hospitality.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . On Sunday, April 30, and on Sunday, May 7, in the Adult Forum at 10:00 AM, Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will present a series of classes on the theme "Rising / Rose / Risen: Readings on Resurrection from Scripture into Poetry." Deacon Rebecca writes, "Beginning with biblical texts we will follow our theme into poems by various writers, as diverse as Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, John Milton, Claude McKay, Vachel Lindsay, Theodore Roethke, Wendell Berry, Emily Dickinson, D. H. Lawrence, Christina Rossetti, and more." . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on Wednesday, May 3. Newcomers are especially welcome; no prior study or attendance is needed.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The choral music on Sunday is English in origin and from two distinctive periods. The motet sung during the administration of Communion is a setting of the first four verses of Psalm 126 by Adrian Batten (1591-1637). Born in Salisbury, Batten was subsequently a chorister and organ scholar at Winchester Cathedral. He moved to London in 1614 to become a lay clerk of Westminster Abbey. He later assumed a similar position at Saint Paul's Cathedral where he also played the organ. As a music copyist in London, Batten is credited with preserving much significant church music of his time, his copies being the only surviving source. Ironically, much of Batten's own music has been lost. However, his surviving compositions show him to be a thoroughly skilled composer of liturgical music. Batten was one of several composers who developed the verse anthem genre in which full choral sections alternated with solos accompanied by organ or other instruments. Today's motet is in the more standard form of a full anthem in which there are no solo sections nor separate accompaniment. However, the singers are divided into two equal divisions, decani and cantoris, which sit on opposite sides of the center aisle and sometimes sing in alternation.
Charles Wood (1866-1926), approximately three centuries after Batten, also had a decided influence on the development of English church music in his time. His principal composition teachers were Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) and Charles Hubert Hastings Parry (1848-1918), and his students included Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and Herbert Howells (1892-1983). Irish by birth, Wood received his early musical training as a treble chorister in the choir of the Church of Ireland's Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin. In 1883, he became a member of the inaugural class of the Royal College of Music. His career included teaching music, directing and playing the organ at several colleges. After Stanford's death in 1924, Wood succeeded his mentor as Professor of Music at Cambridge. Wood's compositions are varied and include eight string quartets, but he is chiefly remembered for his church music and his arrangements of carols. His Short Communion Service, sung at the Solemn Mass on Sunday morning, is described as "In the Polyphonic style, written for unaccompanied singing, chiefly in the Phrygian mode." As such, Wood has done what church music composers throughout the centuries have done in returning to a stilo antico for inspiration.
The organ voluntaries on Sunday are two settings of the chorale Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). The fact that Bach composed nearly a dozen organ settings of Allein Gott reveals the importance and popularity of this chorale, which paraphrases Gloria in excelsis, in the liturgical culture of his time. In fact, long before Bach, the leading German composers had set this melody repeatedly and, in our day, one finds this tune with its translated text in most major hymnals across denominational lines. For the Prelude, BWV 664 is a bright trio which quotes the opening phrases of the chorale melody only near the end. For the Postlude, BWV 715 is a rather brash harmonization of the chorale with short fantasia flourishes inserted between the phrases. It is thought that this may be a model for the way in which chorales were sung and accompanied in Bach's day. -David Hurd
LOOKING AHEAD . . .Wednesday, May 24, Eve of Ascension Day, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, May 25, Ascension Day, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Wednesday, May 31, Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mass 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Sunday, June 4, Day of Pentecost . . . Sunday, June 11, Trinity Sunday . . . Sunday, June 18, Corpus Christi.
THURGOOD MARSHALL LAW DAY: Saturday, May 13, 4:00 PM, Saint Philip's Church, 204 West 134th Street, New York City: Evensong and Conversation with the Honorable Stephen G. Breyer, associate justice, Supreme Court of the United States. Evensong with readings appointed for Justice Marshall's commemoration will begin at 4:00 PM, after which Justice Breyer will speak. A question-and-answer session will follow, and light refreshments will be served. Bishop Mary Glasspool will offer welcome and blessings. Justice Marshall was a member of Saint Philip's. Justice Breyer is the father of the Reverend Chloe Breyer, a priest of the Diocese of New York and Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of New York.