A number of years ago the understanding I had of Lent began to change. It began to change when the congregation where I served began to observe the historic rites of preparation for baptism in Christian tradition. Those rites begin with the church year on the First Sunday of Advent. On that Sunday a young adult in his mid-twenties stood before me with his new wife. She had grown up in the Church. They had recently been married in her home parish in another state. At another time either her rector or I would have baptized him before the wedding, just done it to get it done. But her rector said he deserved something more and I did too.
On that first Sunday of the church year, after the sermon, he stood before me. I asked, “What is your name?” He answered, “Robert.” I continued, “What do you ask of God’s Church?” He looked at me and answered, “Faith.” Continuing to look at each other I asked the second question of the ritual, “What does faith offer you?” He answered, “Eternal life.”
I was aware in that moment that silence had descended on the congregation, the kind of silence I associate with the opening of the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday when the clergy lie prostrate before the altar. In a sense we were very close to Holy Week. The person who stood before me was taking his first steps towards dying and rising in Jesus Christ.
My understanding of Lent would continue to change as the man was being prepared for baptism, and I hardly was aware that the change was happening. The parish community continued to celebrate the historic preparatory rites during the Sundays of Lent. Every Sunday the traditional liturgy was bringing our community closer to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The great rites of preparation are all linked with the historic gospels for Lent that are now in the “A” cycle of the eucharistic lectionary, the cycle we are currently in. They are The Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness, the Encounter with Nicodemus, The Woman at the Well, The Man Born Blind and The Raising of Lazarus. These are the historic gospel lessons for the season because the season in origin was all about the preparation for celebrating Holy Baptism at the Easter Vigil. The power of the gospels and the rites led my parish community to a different place than we had been before. Lent that year began for the community to be particularly about recalling its own death and resurrection in Jesus.
Yes, I still admonished people to be strict about the devotional life. Stations are a good thing, no meat on Fridays, more people at weekday offices and Masses, some generous sacrificial gifts, some significant social outreach work and a little more activity in the confessional are all good things. But our energy as a community was really somewhere else. It was making a baptismal journey. Lent began to be more about dying and rising in Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ than about anything else.
PARISH PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Thomas who is to have surgery and for Daisy, Shirley, Tom, Mark, Donna, Maria, Ellen, Bernadine, Gloria, Louis, Karen, Dorothy, Margaret, Ken, John, Nina, Rodney, priest, and Maurice, priest.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 15: 1967 Nina Dolan, 1937 Dorothy McCormack, 1978 Carrington Raymond; February 16: 1955 Mary Brettman; February 17: 1983 Helen Harrington; February 19: 1958 Harry Weed; February 20: 1985 Theresa Furlong . . . And the parish has received word that the Reverend Phil Porter, retired rector of Saint Mark’s Church, Mt. Kisco, died on February 8 in Muskegon, Michigan. Please pray for him, his widow, Joan, and all who mourn.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Exodus 24:12-18, Psalm 99, Philippians 3:7-14, Matthew 17:1-9. 9:00 AM: Celebrant Father Parker, Preacher: Mr. Burnette, Celebrant & Preacher 10:00 AM Father Gerth, 11:00 AM Father Parker, 5:00 PM Father Shin . . . On Saturday, February 13, Father Shin will hear confessions. On Saturday, February 20, Father Parker will hear confessions.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, Tommy Cerulli, who is in the seventh grade, is scheduled to have heart surgery on Friday. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Children who are ten years of age and older and any others who wish to begin serving at the altar should speak with Father Parker as soon as possible . . . The Rector still needs to speak with someone who knows something about sound systems and microphones . . . The Board of Trustees will meet on Monday, February 22, at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Attendance last Sunday: 213.
FATHER HORACE CHOATE . . . The Reverend Horace Choate was ordained to the priesthood on Saturday, January 30, in Meridian, Mississippi. Father Choate has been assisting at Saint Mary’s since 1998. He will celebrate at Saint Mary’s for the first time on Shrove Tuesday at 6:15 PM. Since this is Father’s first celebration here it will be at the High Altar. We hope many of you are planning to be here for the pancake supper and the concert. This is one more happy reason to be at SMV that night. Father Choate, congratulations.
PRESIDENT’S DAY SCHEDULE . . . The parish office will be closed on Monday, February 15, in observance of President’s Day. Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are not offered. The only services are the Noonday Office and Mass at 12:15 PM.
RECTOR’S TELEPHONE . . . I’m not yet sure what the name of the local telephone company is and I’m not sure I want to see the bill for the service call, but the folks from the company on the phone and the servicemen who were here were great and helpful. My telephone number at the rectory is (212) 764-4089. The line is listed under my name. S.G.
E-MAIL ANGELUS . . . The Rector does not have a great deal of control over his e-mail program at the present moment, but The Angelus was sent out successfully by e-mail last week. If you wish to receive the weekly newsletter this way please send Father Gerth a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
STATIONS DURING LENT . . . Again this year the people of our parish and the people of the Church of the Transfiguration will be walking the Way of the Cross together on Friday nights beginning, Friday, February 26. On February 26 we will be at Saint Mary’s, on March 5, at Transfiguration, on March 12 at Saint Mary’s, on March 19 at Transfiguration and on March 26, here at Saint Mary’s. Stations of the Cross begins promptly at 7:00 PM and we conclude with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Rarely is Benediction more powerful than when it concludes the Way of the Cross. Please join us.
SERVERS’ MEETING . . . We have scheduled a meeting of altar servers for Saturday, February 27, at 10:00 AM. The Rector wants to meet with the acolytes to discuss the new regime! And, he wants to schedule some Saturdays for cleaning the sacristy with the group. Father Parker is contacting all of the children in the parish who are old enough to serve at the 11:00 AM Sunday Masses. They are excused from the meeting. If you are a server and will not be able to be here on the twenty-seventh please let Father Parker know. If you are interested in serving at the altar, put this meeting on your calendar. It will be a great way to start.
RECTOR’S CLASS . . . On the Sundays of Lent the Rector will be teaching an adult class on the rites of Holy Week from 10:00 AM to 10:45 AM. The class will meet in St. Joseph’s Hall. Coffee will be served. The Bible Study class will also continue to meet in St.. Benedict’s Study.