FROM THE RECTOR: DARKNESS AND LIGHT
Since our church is surrounded by very tall buildings, only a little sunlight ever shines through the windows. The transition to Standard Time in the fall is always an abrupt one. Although there’s a gradual transition to cooler weather, there’s no gradual transition to the darkness of winter. On the first Sunday of Standard Time, it’s just darker in the church for evening services—my reaction is always to think that some of the lights aren’t turned on.
In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the youngest children are presented with what are called the “Advent Prophecies.” If memory serves, there are five of them. During the service of Benediction that concludes Sunday Evensong, we hear one of the four prophecies as the reading after the Sacrament has been placed in the monstrance for adoration.
Our reading for the first Sunday of Advent begins, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Isaiah 9:2)—the beginning of the beautiful first lesson appointed for the services of Christmas Eve. But the young children only hear that one verse. Its purpose is to invite wonder about the meaning of this light. Adults working with children never answer the question for the children. In the catechesis this is called, “Education to Wonder.” Occasionally, we adults are also graced with a pause that opens up our own imaginations and souls to God.
In his book The Liturgical Year (1981), Adolf Adam (1912–2005) wrote that the origins of Advent can be traced to the sixth century. There was a focus in Ireland then on the end of time and preparing for judgment. This focus begins to spread in what we call France under the influence of Irish missionaries. Adam notes that “something of a penitential character was transmitted from Gaul to the Roman liturgy of Advent in the twelfth century; for example, the omission of the Gloria and the wearing of purple vestments” (page 131).
Adam also notes in his book that, beginning in the tenth century, the texts for Advent Eucharists begin to be placed at the front of liturgical manuscripts, not the end (page 28). I missed the importance of that (still?) unexplained shift until I came across a reference in Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell Johnson’s book The Origins of Feasts, Fasts and Seasons in Early Christianity (2011). If I’m reading them correctly, it was Neil Alexander who pointed out the significance of the shift. Bradshaw and Johnson write, “Historically, [Advent’s] proximity to Christmas, therefore, would have been more accidental than deliberate in Rome” (page 168). And they note that this shift makes sense if we look at Christmas as a celebration and a proclamation of the belief that Christ is to come again in glory (Ibid.).
For me, the light I associate with Christmas is the Word made flesh. I think of Christmas as a celebration of Christ’s birth and, at this point in my life, not the end of time, but of Easter. “Hark! the herald angels sing” is my favorite Christmas hymn. We sing the version from The Hymnal 1940, not for its traditional language, but for the clear link it makes from Bethlehem to Calvary, Christmas to Easter: “Mild he lays his glory by, Born that man no more may die, Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.” I look forward very much to trying to keep my emotions in check as we sing those words on Christmas Eve. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Dorothy, David, Terry, Joan, MaryHope, Alexandra, Kyle, Martin, Carolyn, Ivy, Liam, Barbara, Shauna, Ricardo, Kenny, Jondan, Michelle, José, Eloise, Michael, James, Karen, Susan, Marilouise, Greg, William, Dennis, Abraham, Randy, Burton, May, Heidi, Takeem, David, and Sandy; for Horace, Clayton, Daniel, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; for all the benefactors and friends of this parish.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 16: 1892 John M. Brannan; 1959 Emily Cooper Campbell; 1996 Viola Douglas.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the Lord’s crucifixion.
WE LOOK FORWARD TO RECEIVING YOUR PLEDGE CARD! . . . We encourage all friends and member of the parish to return their pledge cards as soon as possible so that the Budget Committee may begin their work, planning for 2019. Our needs are urgent. Our mission is clear. We welcome your support, and we are grateful to all those have supported Saint Mary’s so generously in the past . . . Our campaign and pledge drive is well underway. Once again this year, our goal for the campaign is $425,000. As of December 10, we have received $286,173.00 in pledges from 69 households, 67% of our goal.
HOSPITALITY MINISTRY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We hope to receive donations to help pay for the holy-day receptions on December 25, February 1, and March 25. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office. The total cost of each reception is around $500.00, but we welcome gifts of any size in support of this important ministry.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . December 16, The Third Sunday of Advent, Sung Matins 8:30 AM and Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM; Catechesis of the Good Shepherd 10:00 AM; Solemn Mass 11:00 AM; Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM . . . Wednesday, December 19, Sung Mass 12:10 PM; Bible Study Class will not meet on December 19, 26, January 2, or January 9. Class will resume on January 16 . . . Friday, December 21, Saint Thomas the Apostle, Mass 12:10 and 6:00 PM . . . Friday, December 21, The Centering Prayer Group 6:30–8:00 PM in the Atrium, 145 West Forty-sixth Street . . . Saturday, December 22, Work Day: Decorating the Church for Christmas
CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS . . . Looking for volunteers: Preparations to decorate the church for Christmas begin next week. Saturday, December 22, is a day on which a big volunteer force would be helpful. Please contact Grace Mudd, if you think you might have some time to give.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . On Wednesday, December 12, Brother Damien Joseph SSF celebrated the anniversary of his first profession of vows in the Society of Saint Francis. Please keep him in your prayers . . . On Thursday evening, December 13, we were pleased to be able to welcome members of the Church Club to Evening Prayer. The service was followed by the Club’s annual Christmas Party in Saint Joseph’s Hall. It was good to have our fellow Episcopalians back with us again and to have the opportunity to the pray the Office with them . . . At Evensong on Sunday, December 16, the Third Sunday of Advent, and at Evening Prayer for the next seven days, special antiphons are sung, or said, at the beginning and end of the second evening canticle, the Magnificat. These antiphons are called the “O Antiphons.” This Sunday’s antiphon, O Sapientia (“O Wisdom”) goes like this, “O come, thou Wisdom from on high, who orderest all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go” . . . At the meeting of the Board of Trustees on Monday, December 10, the following parishioners were elected to the Board for four-year terms: Ms. MaryJane Boland, Mr. Thomas Jayne, Mrs. Grace Mudd, and Dr. Mark Risinger. Ms. Marie Rosseels and Dr. Leroy Sharer submitted their resignations to the Board, since their current terms had come to an end. The Board accepted those resignations with regret and thanked Ms. Rosseels and Dr. Sharer for their faithful service to the parish. The following were then elected as officers of the Board: Dr. Mark Risinger, vice-president; Mr. Steven Heffner, treasurer; and Ms. Mary Robison, secretary. Fr. Stephen Gerth is president of the Board ex officio . . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowers on the following dates: Sunday, January 13 and 27, February 10, 17, 24, and March 3. We also welcome donations to help defray the costs of flowers and other decorations at Christmas. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Dr. David Hurd will be away from the parish from Tuesday, December 18, until Friday, December 21. Father Jay Smith will be away from the parish attending a funeral in Baltimore on Friday and Saturday, December 21 and 22 . . . Attendance: Conception of Mary 132; Last Sunday 184.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The setting of the Mass on Sunday morning is the Mass for four voices by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585). Tallis was one of the most foundational composers of English — Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth I— with all the shifts in the church’s liturgical and institutional life which these different reigns occasioned. Tallis’s early life is not well documented, but references to his musical employment begin to appear as early as 1532 when he was appointed organist at the Benedictine Priory of Dover. Notably he later was employed at Canterbury Cathedral and served as a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal. Along with William Byrd, Tallis enjoyed an exclusive license to print and publish music which was granted by Elizabeth I in 1575. While he was one of the first musicians to compose for the new Anglican rites of the mid-sixteenth century, Tallis retained an affection for the Latin forms and continued to compose extensively for them. Tallis’s unnamed Latin Mass for four voices probably dates from the 1550s. Its musical style reflects the trend of that time away from very florid liturgical settings and toward syllabic and chordal compositions, favoring clearer declamation of the text.
The motet at Communion was composed by the Scottish-born composer Robert Ramsey (c.1590–1644). Ramsey obtained the bachelor of music degree from the University of Cambridge in 1616 and was organist of Trinity College, Cambridge, from 1628 until 1644 as well as Master of the Children from 1637. The Great “O” antiphons traditionally surrounded Magnificat at Vespers on the seven evenings before Christmas Eve. Each is addressed to Christ, by way of one of his scriptural attributes, summoning him to come. O Sapientia (“O Wisdom”) is traditionally sung on December 17, the first of the Great “O” antiphons. Ramsey is one of many who have composed choral settings of these famous liturgical texts. His stately setting of O Sapientia employs a rich five-voice texture.
Today’s organ prelude is, as were the past two week’s voluntaries, based upon Luther’s chorale Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (“Come now, Savior of the Gentiles”). This chorale (54 in The Hymnal 1982) is Martin Luther’s sixteenth-century adaptation of the fourth-century Latin hymn Veni Redemptor gentium attributed to Ambrose of Milan (55 in The Hymnal 1982). The Prelude is an extended Choralfantasia by Nicolaus Bruhns (1665–1697) in which each of the chorale’s four melodic phrases (the last of which is identical to the first) is elaborately developed in four distinct sections to be played on two manuals and pedals. Bruhns was a highly regarded virtuoso of both keyboard and stringed instruments of the generation before J. S. Bach. The postlude is one of the miscellaneous chorale preludes of J. S. Bach. It is a fugue in the French manner with theme and counter-theme introduced simultaneously at the outset. The theme is based upon the Tonus peregrinus (“Wandering Tone”) sometimes called the ninth tone, a distinctive medieval melodic formula to which Magnificat was often sung. Only in the final section of this fugue does Bach call for the use of the organ’s pedals to play the theme in long notes as the fugal counterpoint continues above. —David Hurd
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Adult Forum begins its Christmas break on Sunday, December 16. Classes will resume on Sunday, January 13, at 10:00 AM . . . On January 13, John Basil, former artistic director of the American Globe Theater, begins a four-part series on William Shakespeare, focusing on Hamlet. The series is designed to help us read Shakespeare’s language, while looking at some of Shakespeare’s humanist and religious concerns. John writes, “This will be an introduction to William Shakespeare’s first folio and will provide an approach to the text using methods that Shakespeare and his company utilized. The participant will learn how to uncover the character’s physical life from the language. This gutsy, visceral way to analyze Shakespeare’s language teaches the participant how to use the script as a ‘blueprint.’ The Tragedy of Hamlet will be the text explored. We will also hope to uncover all of the Protestant and Catholic references that are hidden in the text. Workshops begin on January 13, at 10:00 AM in Saint Benedict’s Study, and classes are fifty minutes long . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on December 19, 26, January 2, or January 9. We are reading the Letter of James. The class is led by Father Jay Smith. Class will resume on January 16, when we will begin reading at James 4:1.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Drop-in Day on December 12 was a great success. We served around 70 guests, and we welcomed some new volunteers. Donations and volunteers will be needed for our next Drop-in Day on Wednesday, January 16, and for the many requests for assistance between Drop-in Days. We are in particular need at the moment of packs of new, clean underwear for both men and women. Please contact Brother Damien Joseph, SSF, if you would like to volunteer for this important ministry or if you would like to make a donation . . . We continue to receive nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please place those items in the basket near the ushers’ table at the Forty-sixth Street entrance to the church. We are very grateful to all those who continue to support this ministry with their time, talent, and treasure.
THE VISUAL ARTS AT SMV . . . Works from The Third Annual Latinx Art Fair: DR/PR Collects, Supporting Dominican and Puerto Rican Artists are still on view in the Gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Please contact curator José Vidal for information about the artists or for prices.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Monday, December 24, Christmas Eve, Music for Choir and Congregation 4:30 PM and Sung Mass 5:00 PM; Music for Choir and Congregation 10:30 PM and Solemn Mass 11:00 PM . . . Tuesday, December 25, Christmas Day, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM . . . Wednesday, December 26, Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr . . . Thursday, December 27, Saint John the Evangelist . . . Friday, December 28, The Holy Innocents . . . Tuesday, January 1, Holy Name of Jesus, Sung Mass 11:00 AM . . . Sunday, January 6, The Epiphany . . . Sunday, January 13, The First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
AT THE GALLERIES . . . At the New-York Historical Society, Central Park West and Seventy-seventh Street, until March 3, 2019, Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow. From the museum website, [This exhibition] explores the struggle for full citizenship and racial equality that unfolded in the fifty years after the Civil War. When slavery ended in 1865, a period of Reconstruction began, leading to such achievements as the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution. By 1868, all persons born in the United States were citizens and equal under the law. But efforts to create an interracial democracy were contested from the start. A harsh backlash ensued, ushering in a half century of the “separate but equal” age of Jim Crow. Opening to mark the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment, the exhibition is organized chronologically from the end of the Civil War to the end of World War I and highlights the central role played by African Americans in advocating for their rights. It also examines the depth and breadth of opposition to black advancement. Art, artifacts, photographs, and media will help visitors explore these transformative decades in American history, and understand their continuing relevance today.”