The Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple is the last of the cycle of liturgical celebrations based on the infancy narratives of Matthew’s and Luke’s gospels. Forty days after his birth, in accordance with the tradition of the time, Mary and Joseph bring the infant Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem. There he is recognized as the “Light.” Yet even those who recognize who he is and understand his future do not have faith until he rises from the dead.
This is a feast about Jesus. Candle ceremonies associated with the feast (hence the nickname for the day, “Candlemas”) find their meaning in our understanding of Jesus as the Light. In previous Prayer Books the feast was called “The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” Curiously, this was the practice even in the Roman Church before Vatican II. (How Mary’s “purification” and her “immaculate conception” lived together in their calendar was never explained.)
The liturgical candle ceremonies which seem to have been associated with the feast from the fifth century were all suppressed at the Reformation. Along with palms on Palm Sunday and ashes on Ash Wednesday, candles came back into the Anglican mainstream through the commitment of parishes like ours in the nineteenth century to the recovery of liturgical tradition. The celebration of the Presentation is now fixed on February 2 and is always celebrated on this date. I confess that I personally like it best when it does not fall on Sunday. It’s a such lovely evening feast.
Like the celebration of the Liturgy of the Palms, the Blessing of Candles has come to be associated with the Mass of the day in the morning – largely, I suspect, because Christians stopped wanting to go to church twice each Sunday. This year, we will have the Blessing of Candles at all the morning Masses. (Frankly, it’s always dark enough in our church so that the candles look as if they are providing the light we need.) I hope very much you will be able to be here for Mass this Sunday. and if you are elsewhere that you will be able to be with a parish community that celebrates this feast in all its richness. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for John, Bart, and Susan who are hospitalized and for Nora, Velma June, Kenneth, Jack, Thomas, Sarah, Grover, Annie, Patricia, Paul, Robert, Eileen, Gloria, Jerri, Margaret, Marion, Olga, Rick, Charles, priest, and Paul, bishop, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Timothy, Patrick, Edward, Keith, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned, David and John and for the repose of the souls of Robert, Maggie and George . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . February 2: 1985 Walter Phelps Warren; 1985: John Doy Woods; February 3: 1983 Van Buren Chaney; February 5: 1964 Joseph Alexander Steele; 1993: Gerald Dennis Bergstrom; February 7: 1954 John Von Runneau.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . .On January 22, Colonel Robert J. Theilmann, United States Marine Corps, commanding officer of HMLA-777, a United States Marine Helicopter Air Wing, was killed in the line of duty serving our country. Age 47, a highly decorated Marine officer, he is a younger brother of Richard Theilmann . . . Robin Landis’s brother, George Landis, died on Sunday, January 26, in Cleveland, Ohio . . . Maggie May, a relative of Charles Carson, also died last week. A service was held on Monday, January 27 . . . Please pray for all who have died and for all who mourn.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Malachi 3:1-4, Psalm 84:1-6, Hebrews 2:14-18, Luke 2:22-40 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, February 1 by Father Gerth and on Saturday, February 8, by Father Weiler.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Looking ahead: Lots of additional ushers will be needed on Ash Wednesday, March 5, from 7:00 AM to 8:30 PM . . .A special thanks to Sean Cassidy and Patrick Higgins for helping Saint Mary’s follow an ancient custom related to the observance of Lent. They are burning palm branches from last year’s celebration of Palm Sunday, so that the ashes can be used at Saint Mary’s on Ash Wednesday. This practice of burning the previous year’s palms to make ashes dates from at least the twelfth century . . . The Rector will preach at Evensong at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue on February 2. The evening service there begins at 4:00 PM . . . The Rector will be on vacation beginning Tuesday, February 4. He returns to the parish on Wednesday, February 12 . . . Attendance last Sunday 275.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Sung Mass, played by assistant organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude will be Andante in A Major by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and the postlude will be Trumpet Voluntary in D by John Stanley (1712-1786). At the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Mit Fried und Freud ich fahr dahin, BWV 616 and the postlude Präludium und Fuge in c-moll, BWV 546, both by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). The prelude is a setting of a German chorale for the Feast of the Presentation. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Ich stund an einem Morgen’ by Jacob Handl (1550-1591) and the motet at Communion is When to the temple Mary went by Johannes Eccard (1553-1611). We continue our organ recital series before Solemn Evensong & Benediction. This week, we welcome Mr. George Moser, director of music and organist of Saint John’s Lutheran Church, Summit, New Jersey, who will play works of Jacob, Johnson, Franck and Hobby. At Evensong, we also welcome the Choir of Men and Girls of Christ Church Greenwich, Connecticut, and their director, Mr. Robert Tate, who will sing works of Tallis and Britten.
SPRING RETREAT . . . As in the fall, a group from Saint Mary’s will make a retreat at Mount Saviour Monastery this Lent. Again, the group will leave New York City around noon on Thursday, March 20 and this time will return from Elmira, New York after lunch on Sunday, March 23. If you would like to reserve your spot, help to plan the way that time will be spent on the retreat, or would simply like more information, please speak to Penny Byham or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Mount Saviour, see the e-mail link for the monastery at www.msaviour.org.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Monday Blase, bishop and martyr
Tuesday Cornelius the Centurion
Wednesday Martyrs of Japan
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest, The Reverend Robert Rhodes, assisting deacon,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.