FROM THE RECTOR: LENT TODAY
In his new book Classical Principles for Modern Design (2018), parishioner Thomas Jayne writes, "I define traditional decorating as contemporary decorating using historic models. We use them not because we lack imagination, but because their core elements have been perfected over two millennia" (page 15). His inspiration is Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman's The Decoration of Houses (1897)—the book that is regarded as "the Bible of interior decoration" (page 7). For us Episcopalians, our indispensable resources for worship are the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer. I think it can be said of them also, that we use them "not because we lack imagination, but because their core elements have been perfected over two millennia." One recalls the words of Jesus in Matthew, "Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old" (Matthew 13:52). So, if I may put it this way, where is my thinking about Lent today?
Lent changed for me in two ways when I became rector of Saint Mary's. First, I was confronted with the reality of the Christian culture of New York City that has made the reception of ashes on the first day of Lent extraordinarily important and popular. Most years, roughly fifteen hundred to two thousand people will present themselves to receive a mark of penitence and to hear the words, "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Many will be here only for a short time. Others will linger for prayer in the pews or at one of the shrines. Some will discover that a Mass is being offered and will stay for the service and to receive Communion.
At Saint Mary's four Eucharists are celebrated on Ash Wednesday. Mass will be celebrated at 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM with brief homilies. The parish choir will be present for the 12:10 PM Sung Mass and the 6:00 PM Solemn Mass. At both services, during the imposition of ashes, the choir will sing Miserere mei by Gregorio Allegri (1582–1652). The imposition of ashes will be available from 7:00 AM until 8:00 PM. Ash Wednesday is a day when the liturgy calls us to fasting and prayer-and to think about how we will prepare for the celebration of Holy Week and Easter Day.
The other way in which Lent has changed for me since I've been here has been my engagement with more recent liturgical scholarship. Many of the important assumptions that shaped the new rites in our own community, and in other Christian communities as well, have been set aside. The hardest, because of its emotional pull, has been to let go of the idea that there is basically a straight line, as it were, between the Upper Room and how Christians have prayed through the centuries (Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy , 745). Instead, recent scholarship has made it abundantly clear that there's been great diversity in Christian worship from the very start.
I was celebrant for the 12:10 Mass on Monday, February 5, the commemoration of the Martyrs of Japan (1597). Saint Mary's own lectionary text had notes about using a gospel acclamation if that date fell before the beginning of Lent and about the omission of an acclamation if it were to fall during Lent. On February 5? Is it possible that Lent could begin that early? The question led me to the back of the Prayer Book, where I learned that Lent can begin on February 4, but no earlier (page 884). I have a rule about not complaining about an early date of Easter when Easter Day falls in April. Well, this year Easter Day is April 1. I'm not complaining. I'm hoping for a season of blessing for all of us. May the witness of our community be increased by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and minds. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Bob, Mary, Greta, Carlos, Bill, Mickie, Jon, Jerry, Mike, Dick, Radhima, Eleanor, Wendell, Karen, Eugenia, May, Heidi, Takeem, Woody, David, Sandy, Dennis, John, and George; for Matthew, Horace, David, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, Edgar, and Vern, priests; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark and James; for all the benefactors and friends of this parish; and for the repose of the soul of Jeannine Liebert . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 11: 1914 Florence May Devine; 1925 Ida Stoeppel McHale; 1951 Florence McFall.
DAYS OF SPECIAL DEVOTION . . . Ash Wednesday and the other weekdays of Lent and of Holy Week are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the Lord's crucifixion.
VOLUNTEER USHERS NEEDED FOR ASH WEDNESDAY . . . On Ash Wednesday volunteer ushers are need throughout the day to help our visitors. If you are able to help for an hour or more, please be in touch with Eloise Hoffman or Father Jay Smith. Thank you!
STATIONS OF THE CROSS are prayed on the Fridays in Lent at 6:30 PM. All are welcome.
FATHER SMITH'S BOOK SALE . . . We recently received a large number of donations for the Sale, the funds from which benefit those in need. We will not be able to receive any further donations for the moment, since we are running out of storage space. Thank you for your generosity, and we hope to be able to receive donations again before too long. —J.R.S.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Saturday, February 10, 2018, 8:00 PM, The New York Repertory Orchestra. A donation of $10.00 is welcomed and appreciated. For more information, visit the orchestra's website . . . Sunday, February 11, The Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Adult Education 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Solemn Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM . . . February 14, Ash Wednesday, Mass 7:00 & 8:00 AM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM. Ashes are offered either in the church or in the Mercy Chapel from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Ash Wednesday, February 14 . . . Friday, February 16, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM, Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM . . . Friday, February 16, Atrium in the Parish House, Centering Prayer Group . . . Saturday, February 17, Lenten Quiet Day, 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM.
CHRISTIAN FORMATION . . . On Sunday, February 11, at 10:00 AM, in Saint Benedict's Study, Father Jay Smith will conclude his series on The English Reformation and the Oxford Movement. The series is the latest offering in our year-long study of the Protestant Reformation, the role of Reformed theology and spirituality in the Anglican Communion, and the sometimes uneasy place of the Reformation in Anglo-Catholic thought and practice . . . Coming up: On Sundays in Lent and on Palm Sunday (February 18 and 25, March 4, 11, 18, and 25), Father Pete Powell will resume his series on the Gospel of Matthew . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Ash Wednesday, February 14. The class resumes on February 21. The class will be reading the Passion Narrative in the Gospel of Mark, which we will hear this year on Palm Sunday.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Donations for the parish's Hospitality Ministry are always welcome. Such donations support an essential ministry here at Saint Mary's, since we welcome so many visitors to the parish. Our hospitality budget helps us to provide refreshments on Sunday mornings and afternoons, at holy-day receptions, and at such special events as Oktoberfest and Quiet Days. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 163.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The setting of the Mass on Sunday morning is Missa Aeterna Christi Munera by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525–1594). Palestrina, like J. S. Bach at a later time, is a composer who is regarded today more as source and inspiration for what came later than as the product of already established musical practice. However, it may be said that Palestrina stood on foundations largely laid by the Netherlandish composers Guillaume Dufay (c. 1397–1474) and Josquin des Prez (c. 1440–1521). He is responsible for setting the canons for Renaissance polyphony and the standard for Catholic liturgical music which pertains to this day. Among his hundreds of compositions are 105 Masses, most of which were published in thirteen volumes between 1554 and 1601. The Missa Aeterna Christi Munera is based upon the plainsong melody for the hymn for the commemoration of apostles and martyrs attributed to Saint Ambrose (339–397). A translation of this Ambrosian hymn appears at 233 and 234 in The Hymnal 1982, but with different music. At 132 in The Hymnal 1940 one finds both the translated Ambrosian hymn and the plainsong melody on which Palestrina based his four-voice Mass. As one often finds in Renaissance polyphonic Masses, an additional voice is added for the final Agnus Dei.
Max Reger (1873–1916) was an extremely prolific composer both in terms of the volume of music he composed in relatively few years, and in the density and intensity of that music from the standpoint of harmony, counterpoint, and sheer number of notes and accidentals to the page. His music paid a great debt to counterpoint of Bach yet stretched forward to a powerful post-romantic expressiveness. Composer, pianist, organist, conductor, and academic, Reger was a professor at the Royal Conservatory in Leipzig and a music director both at the Leipzig University Church and at the court of Duke Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen. Catholic from birth, Reger married his wife Elsa, a divorced Protestant, in 1902 and was subsequently excommunicated. His choral and organ works reflect both the Catholic and Protestant musical cultures in late nineteenth-century Germany. The Communion motet today is from Max Reger's Acht Geistliche Gesänge, Opus 138. This collection of eight motets, ranging in voicing from four to eight parts, was composed in 1914. Reger died before completing the corrections of their publication proofs. Morgengesang, sung during the ministration of Communion at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, is the second of the eight in Reger's Opus 138. It is a harmonically rich six-voice setting of a text by the German Reformer and hymn writer Johannes Zwick (c. 1496–1542). Zwick's text characterizes Christ as the highest and redemptive Light.
The organ voluntaries at the Solemn Mass are also compositions of Max Reger taken from his Opus 59, a collection of twelve pieces, several of which have titles reflecting musical parts of the Mass. Toccata, today's prelude, however, is a free work. It is the fifth piece of the collection. Reger's Toccata is a brash and dramatic piece with fiery episodes alternating sharply with reflective interludes. Fugue, today's postlude, is another free work and is the sixth piece of the collection. It is unambiguously in the key of D Major and moves from a gently stated upward-rising subject, in a constant crescendo through rich chromatic harmony, to a powerful finish. These two pieces are well able to stand alone, but they are also very effective when paired and are often performed together in concert. —David Hurd
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Donations and volunteers are needed for our February Drop-in Days-February 21 and 24-and for the many requests for assistance between Drop-in Days. As always, the number of those who are homeless who seek refuge in the church and who ask for assistance increases when the weather grows colder. In order to meet some of those requests, we are hoping to receive donations of the following items: blankets, razors, shaving cream; packs of new underwear for both women and men, in all sizes; cold-weather clothing such as coats, sweaters, thermal underwear, gloves, boots, and sweatshirts. Such basic items will prove to be useful to our neighbors living without shelter . . . Please contact Sister Monica Clare, if you would like to volunteer for this important ministry or if you would like to make a donation . . . We also 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 . . . The Episcopal Diocese of New York has created its own Caribbean Recovery Fund to pay for the work that the diocese is proposing, or hopes to support, in the region. This is distinct in nature and purpose from the activities of Episcopal Relief & Development, which directs funds toward the Episcopal Church's broader efforts in recovery. The Caribbean Recovery Fund will be available for individuals and churches in partnership to make requests for specific infrastructure and ministry projects, partnerships, and mission with the Diocese of Puerto Rico and other areas in the Caribbean. For more information, please click here. If you wish to make a donation online, please complete the form on the website.
LENTEN QUIET DAY . . . On Saturday, February 17, Father John Beddingfield will return to Saint Mary's to lead a Lenten Quiet Day. Father Beddingfield is a spiritual director, retreat leader, and the rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, East Eighty-eighth Street. Father Beddingfield writes, "Saint Bonaventure's Tree of Life is a meditation on the life of Christ imagined as a tree with branches and fruits, growth and produce. We will discuss the text, explore images of the Tree of the Life, and look for practical implications for our own spiritual growth. A good image, one of the ones I'll be using, is available online." The tentative schedule for the day is as follows: 9:30 AM Gathering. Light refreshments available; 10:00 AM First Address; 11:00 AM Second Address; 12:00-12:40 PM Noonday Prayer and Eucharist; 12:50-1:45 Lunch; 2:00 PM Third Address; 3:00 PM Final Prayers and Farewell. Lunch will be provided. A $10.00 free-will offering is most welcome. If you plan to come, please send an RSVP message to Father Jay Smith. You do not need to be a member of Saint Mary's in order to attend. We are very happy that some members of Father Beddingfield's parish may also join us for the Quiet Day.
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Saturday, February 24, 2018, 8:00 PM, The Miller Theatre at Columbia University presents New York Polyphony: The Tallis Lamentations. The members of this very accomplished early-music quartet are good friends and members of this parish. For more information, visit the Miller Theatre website.
AT THE GALLERIES . . . At the Frick Collection, 1 East 70th Street, New York, NY, until April 22, 2018, Zurbarán's Jacob and His Twelve Sons: Paintings from Auckland Castle. The Frick Collection is now presenting an exhibition of Jacob and His Twelve Sons, an ambitious series of thirteen paintings that depict over life-size figures from the Old Testament that are on loan from Auckland Castle, long the residence of the bishops of Durham, located in County Durham, England. The story of the composition and the provenance of these paintings is a fascinating one and should make the series of interest to Christians, perhaps especially to Anglican Christians; to Jews and Muslims; to students of the history of Spain, England, and the New World; and to those interested in the history of the "emancipation" of the Jews in England. From the museum website, "These works by the Spanish Golden Age master Francisco de Zurbarán (1598–1664) have never before traveled to the United States. The iconography of Zurbarán's remarkable series is derived from the Blessings of Jacob in [Genesis 49], a poem that has significance for Jews, Christians, and Muslims. On his deathbed, Jacob called together his sons, who would become the founders of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. He bestowed on each a blessing, which foretold their destinies and those of their tribes. Jacob's prophecies provide the basis for the manner in which the figures are represented in Zurbarán's series." For more information, and to read about the history of this collection, you may visit the Frick's website.