Looking to Lent: Ash Wednesday
Ash Wednesday is the usual name given to the First Day of Lent, the season during which the Church prepares to celebrate the Easter Triduum (Triduum: “Three Days” - Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day). More people, 2500, perhaps 3000, will be in our church this day to attend Mass or to receive ashes. It is a day when the local parish has the single greatest opportunity to serve others in numbers.
I had heard things about all day “ashing” before I came to New York, and, frankly, I disapproved of the practice. If you are new to New York or are reading this newsletter from afar, I can only say I wish you were here. One person suggested to me that Ash Wednesday is the only day of the year in New York City when it is now “politically correct” to be publicly Christian. I don’t understand the phenomenon, but I do know by doing it, that having our doors open and offering ashes to those who come (and they do come), meets a genuine pastoral need of the people in our city. We “ash” all day at Saint Mary’s from 7:00 AM to until the end of the day, last year about 8:30 PM.
We need people to help all day. There are three doors to the nave (the principal church doors???) on 46th Street, one door on 47th Street. Depending on the time of day and the number of people coming in, three to seven ushers can be of great help to those who come.
There are three Said Masses at the high altar at 7:00 AM, 8:00 AM, and 9:00 AM. At noon there is a simple Sung Mass. At 6:00 PM, again this year, Bishop Christopher Epting will be with us to celebrate and preach at Solemn Pontifical Mass at 6:00 PM. The parish choir will sing at the evening Mass and this year the setting of Psalm 51 will be Allegri’s Miserere. While Mass is being celebrated at the high altar, a minister will be available for the imposition of ashes in one or more of the side chapels. If you want to help usher, put on your Sunday best and come. We will have a simple “Saint Mary’s” name tag for you.
Ash Wednesday is in many ways a day for others. Yes, most members of the parish will be at Mass here or elsewhere, but for those of us who are able to be here, the demands of serving others will inevitably take precedence for us during this day. Being of service to others, of course, will give us a chance to reflect on how much God has done for each of us and for this world.
The present Prayer Book continues the tradition of providing a variable “preface” to be used near the beginning of most of our eucharistic prayers on Sundays, feast days and during most of the seasons of the church year. Two are provided for Lent (page 379). One makes reference to Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry, and we use this preface on the First Sunday in Lent because the gospel appointed for that day is always an account of this temptation. But for all of the other days of Lent, we use the other preface,
You bid your faithful people cleanse their hearts, and prepare with joy for the Paschal feast; that, fervent in prayer and in works of mercy, and renewed by your Word and Sacraments, they may come to the fullness of grace which you have prepared for those who love you.
The First Day of Lent provides us with the opportunity for a particular “work of mercy,” a ministry of sharing the gospel with others through the simplest of liturgical rites. The stream of people is almost constant, but there are many moments in the day when those who are here serving can meditate on their own lives and God’s loving purposes for us. In this time when the shadows of terrorism and war are daily companions in our city and world, I think Lent can have a particular richness for us. I remind you that Lent’s purpose is to help us prepare to celebrate the Easter Triduum, the unspeakable mystery of God’s gift of life and love for all people through his son Jesus Christ. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your thanksgivings and prayers are asked for Noah Evans and Sara Irwin who are to be married on Saturday, February 15 at the Chapel of the Good Shepherd of the General Theological Seminary . . . Your prayers are asked for Jim, 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, for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Timothy, Patrick, Edward, Keith, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Mark, Ned, David and John and for the repose of the soul of Glen . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 16: 1955 Mary Brettman; February 17: 1983 Helen Petersen Harrington; February 19: 1958 Harry Osmond Weed; February 20: 1985 Theresa Anne Furlong.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Philip Dean Parker’s father, Dr. Glen Lawhon Parker, died at the age of 91 on February 10. Please pray for Glen, for Philip and for all who mourn.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: 2 Kings 5:1-15ab, Psalm 42:1-7, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Mark 1:40-45 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, February 15 by Father Smith and on Saturday, February 22, by Father Gerth.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Scherzo from Symphonie IV, Op. 13, No. 4 by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) and the postlude will be Toccata from the same symphony (not the more famous Toccata from his Fifth Symphony). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa in honorem Sancti Josephi, Op. 21 by the Belgian composer Flor Peeters (1903-1986). Peeters, who also was active as an organ recitalist, played a recital at Saint Mary’s in the 1960’s. The anthem at Communion is Like as the hart by Herbert Howells (1892-1983). We continue our organ recital series before Solemn Evensong & Benediction. This week, we welcome Mr. Robert Ainsley of Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut, who will play works of Bach and Dupré.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The parish office will be closed on Monday, February 17, in observance of Presidents Day. The church itself will be open only from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. The only services will be the Noonday Office at 12:00 PM and Mass at 12:15 PM . . . Robert McDermitt sang the Berlioz Requiem with the Westminster Symphonic Choir and the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center, as part of the American Choral Directors’ Association national conference . . . Altar flowers are needed for Sunday, March 2, the last Sunday before Lent. Please call the parish office if you are interested in providing flowers . . . Plans are underway for the March 20-23 Lenten Retreat at Mount Saviour Monastery. 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 email@example.com . . . Attendance last Sunday 227.
A Prayer for our National Life
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of this State, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
Presidents Day: One Mass Only, 12:15 PM
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.