FROM FATHER SMITH:
"LISTEN, AND INCLINE THE EAR OF YOUR HEART"
Last Friday, I traveled to Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York, to attend the ordination of Brother Aidan William Owen, O.H.C., to the priesthood. The bishop of New York was the celebrant that morning. Sister Elizabeth Broyles, C.M.A., preached the sermon.
The ordination took place in the monastery chapel, a space where prayer is offered many times each day, as it has been for many years. Such sacred spaces, I often feel, are inhabited by the memory, and the power, of all that praying. At Holy Cross, it is as if the words of the Eucharist and the psalms--the heart of monastic prayer--hang there patiently in the chapel, just waiting to become audible once again.
There were, of course, many words that needed to be proclaimed, and read, and sung that morning: the words of Scripture, the words of the Prayer Book, the words of the sermon and of several hymns. Kairos, a local Hudson Valley choral group, to which several of the brothers belong, sang a beautiful motet by Arvo Pärt. The members of Kairos also sang the hymn, Veni, Creator Spiritus, as Brother Aidan knelt before the bishop, surrounded by the gathered presbyters, preparing himself to hear his bishop say, "Therefore, Father, through Jesus Christ your Son, give your Holy Spirit to Aidan; fill him with grace and power, and make him a priest in your church" (BCP, 533). The choir finished that ancient hymn, and, then, remarkably, there was silence. The bishop did not rush to say the solemn words. And so we prayed, and thought, and breathed, and waited, and tried to surrender to the waiting and the breathing and the praying.
People who are experienced in the ways of meditation and prayer often tell us to expect our minds to travel, wonder, and wander in silences as pregnant as that silence was. I read not long ago that the human brain has evolved in such a way that thinking is most often a preparation for action. If that is so, it is no wonder that some of us, myself included, have difficulty with silence. It is not easy to watch and wait. It is not easy to be patient when we are not sure when the next word will be uttered. "Let's do. Let's act. Let's get on to the next thing, and the thing after that." The mind is well-equipped to initiate and manage action. For many of us, to obey the mind, so hungry for action, feels like living. It feels like survival.
At one point during that long silence, the sound of bird song entered the chapel through the open clerestory windows. I have no idea what that sound meant. It was loud and lively, but I don't know what the birds were up to. Perhaps they were asking for food or announcing food's arrival. Perhaps they were seeking a mate or squabbling over territory. Maybe they were singing simply because that's what they like to do. I am not so anthropocentric as to think that the birds were trying to take part in the ordination liturgy. This was not a Disney cartoon; quite the opposite. The birds live there in that beautiful place on the west bank of the Hudson River. It is their home, too. Human beings didn't create them. Human words did not call them into being. God's Word did.
The choir sang "Come holy Spirit," and then we waited in silence. It is a faithful, but also a risky, thing to invite the Holy Spirit into the room and into our lives, because we can never be sure what's going to happen next. We can never be sure what sound is going to come in through the clerestory windows. We can never be sure what word is going to be spoken in our hearts. But if we believe that the Spirit is distinct from our own spirit, then the Spirit's word will never be a word entirely of our own making.
The first word of the Rule of Saint Benedict, which governs the lives of Aidan and his brothers, is "obsculta," a Latin word which means both "listen" and also "heed or obey." I like that. I live in a noisy world that is filled with so many words and so very many opinions, many of them my own. Perhaps I need to take Benedict's advice: to seek more silence, to learn how to listen more carefully, to cultivate the virtue of patience, to experience the surprise of opinions that are not mine, to calm down, and to listen before I speak. After all, if we are going to keep on asking the Holy Spirit to "lighten our souls with celestial fire," it seems wise to be careful, to listen before acting, to acknowledge the Spirit with reverence and respect, and never, ever, to play around with fire. —Jay Smith
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Ptolemy, Sheila, Dick, Marcy, Nadira, Peter, Ron, Rhonda, Eloise, Angie, Maxine, Anita, George, Alex, Dora, Marilouise, Dennis, Bob, Abe, Randy, Burt, Mike, Kyle, Greta, Karen, Melissa, Eugenia, May, Heidi, Ridhima, Marissa, Takeem, David, and Sandy; for Michael, deacon; for Horace, Gaylord, Louis, Edgar, and Jude, priests; and for all the benefactors and friends of this parish.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 17: 1882 Eleanor Bertine Leverich; 1886 Annie M. Pierce; 1950 Katherine von Steer; 1962 Ralph W. Stubbs; 1970 Agnes E. Lloyd; 1972 Charles H. Genet.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the Lord's crucifixion.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Sunday, June 17, The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 AM, Mass 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass,11:00 AM, Evening Prayer 5:00 PM . . . Friday, June 22, 6:30 PM, Centering Prayer Group, Atrium, Parish Hall, Second Floor . . . Sunday, June 24, The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Thursday, June 21, Solstice (and Yoga) in Times Square. For more information, visit the website of the Times Square Alliance . . . Altar Flowers: We hope to receive donations for altar flowers for the following Sundays: July 29, August 19, and September 2; and also for September 14, Holy Cross Day (these flowers will also be used on Sunday, September 16). If you would like to make a donation, please contact Chris Howatt in the parish office (212-869-5830 x 10) . . . Father Jay Smith will be away from the parish on vacation from Monday, June 18, until Monday, July 9 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 212.
NYC PRIDE 2018 . . . Sunday, June 24. Check in for Episcopalians is at 3:00 PM. The formation block is Seventeenth Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. Other details: Section Number 7; Order Number within the section is 39. Tips for the Day: Wear comfortable shoes; stay hydrated; if you don't need to bring a bag or backpack, please don't-the New York Police Department will be searching bags. If you have access to Facebook, you may find updates on the Facebook page of the diocese of New York's LGBT Concerns Committee.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY'S . . . A summary of the Episcopal Church's policy recommendations on immigration and refugee issues is available online as is an ENS article about the church's response to the government policy of separating parents and children at the border . . . If you would like to make a donation to the Diocese of New York's Caribbean Recovery Fund, you may do so online. From the diocesan website, "[The Recovery Fund is meant] to pay for the work that we propose to do and/or support in this 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" . . . Donations and volunteers are needed for our next Drop-in Days on June 27 and July 11, and for the many requests for assistance between Drop-in Days . . . 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 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.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . The cantor at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is soprano Sharon Harms, a regular member of the choir of Saint Mary's, who will sing Samuel Barber's "Saint Ita's Vision" from Hermit Songs during the administration of Communion. Twice a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, Samuel Barber (1910-1981) remains one of the most revered twentieth-century American composers. His Hermit Songs, Opus 29, was premiered in 1953 at the Library of Congress, sung by soprano Leontyne Price (b. 1927), and with the composer at the piano. Barber's
Hermit Songs is a cycle of ten settings of anonymous poems written by Irish monks and scholars from the eighth to the thirteenth centuries. "St. Ita's Vision" is the third song of the cycle. The translation of the original text is by Chester Kallman (1921-1975), who, with W. H. Auden, wrote the libretto for Igor Stravinsky's opera The Rake's Progress in 1951 among many other comparable collaborations. Auden was responsible for the translations Barber used for two others of his Hermit Songs.
The Concerto after Vivaldi in D minor is one of several compositions by other composers which Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) adapted for organ. Though mis-identified for generations as the work of W. F. Bach, this transcription by J. S. Bach of Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto (L'Estro Armonico, Opus 3/7) makes available to the hands and feet of an organist a piece originally intended for two violins, cello, and string orchestra. Olivier Alain writes "Here Bach adds his own final touches to this sublime music, but his arrangement is rather close to the original, thus making it difficult to play on the organ." The Concerto begins with an opening movement in three sections ending with a fugue. The second movement, Largo e spicatto, is played for the prelude today. In Vivaldi's original scoring this movement features a solo violin. The finale movement of the Concerto is played as today's postlude. It is typical of Italian Baroque concerto grosso writing in its use of alternation between larger and smaller forces. —David Hurd
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Friday, June 29, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles . . . Wednesday, July 4, Independence Day . . . Monday, July 23, Saint Mary Magdalene (transferred) . . . Monday, August 6, The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Tuesday, August 14, The Eve of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary . . . Wednesday, August 15, The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary . . . Friday, August 24, Saint Bartholomew the Apostle . . . Monday, September 3, Labor Day.
AT THE GALLERIES . . . At the Jewish History Center, 15 West Sixteenth Street, New York, NY (between Fifth and Sixth Avenues): 1938 Projekt: Posts from the Past. From the Center's website, "Eighty years after the events of 1938, how does one grasp the mixture of horror and surprise felt by the victims of the Nazi regime? One significant way is to look at the letters, diaries, and photographs saved by German Jews and their families. Using documents from our archives and those of several partner institutions, the Leo Baeck Institute -- New York | Berlin will update www.1938projekt.org with personal stories based on documents from our own collections and the collections of partner institutions-one for each day in 1938. These materials illustrate the range of reactions and emotions that individuals and families had as they struggled to escape Germany and Austria in order to survive. In addition, significant world events are described alongside the calendar entries to provide a broad context for the individual stories."