FROM THE RECTOR: RITUAL STUDIES
A footnote reference led me to a book edited by Paul Bradshaw and John Melloh, Foundations in Ritual Studies: A Reader for Students of Christian Worship (2007). I've glanced briefly at all of the articles-and all but two of them made me feel as if I were back in the graduate school grind I knew for a few years before seminary. That said, I'm going to try to read all of the essays because of the editors' selection of the first two, "An Open Letter" by Romano Guardini (1885-1968), and "Ritual" by Mark Searle (1941-1992), who taught at Notre Dame and gave a lecture on "Guardini and the Liturgical Act" to a course for the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at Notre Dame that I didn't hear in person, but which I have on a cassette. He was a remarkable scholar.
"Ritual studies" is an emerging discipline among liturgical scholars. It seeks to bring the methodology of what are called the "human sciences," for example, anthropology and linguistics, to the study of Christian worship. In their brief introduction Bradshaw and Melloh write, "In particular, this approach facilitates the possibility of a comparison between the theological claims which are made for liturgy and the actual experience and perception of its participants" (page vii).
In his 1965 letter Guardini asked, "What is the nature of the genuine liturgical action, as opposed to other religious actions, such as individual devotions or the loose communal act of popular devotions? How is the basic liturgical act constituted?" He never gave a direct answer to those questions. He wondered whether many "desire that liturgical act or, to put it plainly, whether they know of its existence and . . . [that it is] a matter of fundamental importance."
He gave the example of a nineteenth-century priest whose concern was, " 'We must organize the procession better; we must see to it that the praying and singing is done better.' He did not realize that he should have asked himself quite a different question: how can the act of walking become a religious act, a retinue for the Lord progressing through his land, so that an 'epiphany' may take place."
I can't read this without thinking of the prophetic vision of our first rector, the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown, and the lay people who, with him, founded this parish. They wanted Saint Mary's to be a place for "not only . . . preaching the comfortable Gospel of Christ, and of ministering the Holy Sacraments to His people, but also of restoring to its proper place and importance the Worship of God-the rendering Adoration to Him as a Congregational and ceremonial act-(made beautiful, majestic and impressive by all the outward adornments, which are called the Beauty of Holiness, springing from the heart-love, within); but, which in later times have been forgotten" (The Story of St Mary's , 17). Please note the four words that Brown had set in italics: worship, adoration, congregational, and ceremonial.
The first psalm of Daily Morning Prayer is traditionally Psalm 95. American Prayer Books from 1789 through 1928 substituted two verses from Psalm 96 in place of the last four verses of Psalm 95-and this is maintained in the 1979 book in Rite One. For Episcopalians until the present book, the words "O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness; let the whole earth stand in awe of him" were familiar to every church goer-and still familiar to most of us today. Father Brown took the call very seriously. He was part of the movement that restored beauty to worship-music, flowers, candles, incense, vestments, paintings, and statues. He didn't get everything right; no generation does. But he was on the way to recovering the liturgical act.
Western Christians had largely forgotten the power of John's Jesus ("I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst" [John 6:35]) and were still focused entirely on Paul's Jesus ("For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" [1 Corinthians 11:26]). I want to feed, in Father Bradshaw's phrase, "on the life-giving Jesus" and also to proclaim the Lord's death and resurrection" until I come to rest in the life of the world to come. -Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Olutoyin, Lenore, Mary, Howard, Pearl, Brian, Michael, Eugenia, David, Sandy, Mary, Adam, Caryn, Cookie, Irene, Brian, Karen, Ivy, Pat, Peggy, Vera, Cathy, Grady, Mike, May, Marahl, Heidi, Takeem, Barbara, Jean, Dennis, and George; for Horace, Mitties, Ross, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, and Edgar, priests; for all victims of war, famine, poverty, violence, and disaster; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark; and for the repose of the soul of Gregory Lugliani . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 16: 1899 Valentine Gauther; 1915 Beverley Ward; 1918 Alma Katherine Cooke; 1967 Frances Brock Hirsch.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Saturday, July 22, is the Feast of Saint Mary Magdalene. Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM in commemoration of this apostle of the resurrection . . . The church is open and the regular services of the Episcopal Church are offered daily . . . Friday, July 21, 6:30 PM, Centering Prayer Group, Atrium, Parish Hall, Second Floor.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks to Clint Best for helping in the parish office while Chris Howatt has been on vacation this past week. Chris returns to the office on Monday, July 17 . . . Father Jay Smith is on vacation. He returns to the parish office on Tuesday, July 25 . . . Attendance last Sunday: 144.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The cantor at the Solemn Mass this Sunday is soprano Charlotte Mundy who will sing Höchster, mache deine Güte ("Highest, make thy gracious goodness") by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). And we welcome Stephen Rumpf as guest organist. About the organ music for Sunday he writes: "The organ voluntaries today are both from the Second Symphony, op. 13, by Charles-Marie Widor, who was 'provisionary' organist at the Church of Saint Sulpice in Paris for 64 years. During his long career, he was constantly revising his earlier works. Praeludium Circulare is from the fifth published version of Symphonie II in 1900, so named to reflect the modulatory explorations of the movement. Between the opening and close in D major, the piece touches harmonically upon all twelve degrees of the chromatic scale. In the revised and refined version of this symphony, the Scherzo La Chasse from the 1872 version, is replaced with a chorale-fantasy on the Salve Regina chant, reflecting the renewed interest in Gregorian chant at the turn of the nineteenth century. Widor is best known today for a singular piece, the Toccata from the Fifth Symphony. He was a very prolific composer in all genres, probably better known in his day for his stage works. His opera Les pêcheurs de St. Jean had a long run as did his ballet, La korrigane. He had many noted students, including Louis Vierne, Edgard Varése, and Albert Schweitzer. Many Americans studied with him also, among them Charlotte Gardner and Alexander Schreiner. As the postlude today, I will play La Chasse from the first version of this symphony."
SAINT MARY'S AIDS WALK TEAM SAYS THANK YOU . . . Our team wishes to report our extraordinary success in the 2017 AIDS Walk and to thank all the friends and parishioners who supported us. Our team ranked No. 9 of all teams walking, and we raised a total of $50,888 of the nearly $5 million raised overall. For facts and figures: 16 people were on our team; more than 250 people supported us; they were from 23 states and 6 countries (Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, the Netherlands and the US); and 10 of our walkers raised more than $1,000 each. This was a Saint Mary's event, and we couldn't do it without you. We will walk again on May 20, 2018.
DONATIONS FOR ALTAR FLOWERS . . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowersfor the following Sundays: July 23, August 6, August 20, and August 27, and all the Sundays in September. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office at 212-869-5830 or by e-mail. We are grateful to all those who support the ministry of the Flower Guild so faithfully.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Saturday, July 22, Saint Mary Magdalene, Mass 12:10 PM . . . Tuesday, July 25, Saint James the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Sunday, August 6, The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mass 9:00 AM and 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM . . . Tuesday, August 15, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, Reception 7:30 PM.