From Father Weiler: Misters Personality
I had what I think was a real New York moment on Monday of this week, Easter Week. I’m not from New York originally so when such a moment happens I cherish it as something special. My wife and I were in a cab, right around the corner from Saint Mary’s. We were headed down Broadway. We were stopped at a traffic light and while I was looking about, I noticed that Times Square was populated (in addition to the usual mix of people from around the world) by several dozen young men, interspersed equally throughout the square, wearing black suits and masks, not the kind of mask a bank robber would wear—no, they were more colorful and exotic—more like professional wrestler meets masquerade ball attendee. Suddenly one of these masked men dashed over from his place on the sidewalk. In a burst of courage and folly he thrust his colorful handbill (cleverly cutout in a shape and color indentical to the mask he was wearing) into the hands of my unsuspecting cabbie (who made known his lack of gratitude for the intrusion in words too indelicate to be published in a weekly parish newsletter). “Give me that,” I said to the cabbie as the light changed and we sped away down the avenue. He was happy to oblige.
The bright yellow, mask-shaped, double-sided, glossy card stock advertisement was part of the FOX Broadcasting Company’s marketing campaign for its latest reality show, “Mr. Personality.” Monday, April 21 was the show’s debut episode. The host? Monica Lewinsky. The point? Allow me to quote from the handbill: “In this show, a young, beautiful and single woman will be courted by several eligible men who must rely on their individual personalities to captivate her. Each man will be disguised throughout the dating process, keeping his looks hidden. As the series progresses, the single woman ultimately narrows her choice to one man. Will she love her new mate after first setting eyes on him or will she leave him?”
Perhaps you too got one of these handbills. (I’m a sucker for them, not being from around here). Perhaps you saw television commercials advertising the show. Perhaps you even tuned into the series debut on Monday night along with me (and 17 million other Americans). Of course, after reading the handbill (and even more so after watching he first episode), I felt the same way I do about most of our popular culture—first disgusted and then intrigued. First, I thought, “What poor excuse for programming will FOX think of next? “Will the rash of reality-TV ever go away or will I have to itch and scratch forever?” And then, I thought to my self, “Hey, in a way, this really is an interesting idea, to test whether ‘the search for love is only skin deep,’” as the handbill put it. “Is it possible for someone ‘to fall in love with a man based only on what he’s like on the inside?’”
Were it not for our general interest in the questions like these, the masquerade, as a type of social intercourse, would never have developed. FOX certainly didn’t invent the masquerade. The masquerade ball had its genesis many centuries ago and attending a masquerade can be fun, at least for a while. You might think that, as a Christian, I would be the kind of person who hopes that is indeed possible for someone to fall in love with another person based only on what that other person is like on the inside. It may surprise you to learn that I have no such hope. Yes, I think humanity as a species suffers from a bad case of vanity (and always has). Yes, I know I suffer from it too. And, to the extent that that is true, it’s noble to look beyond the shallow and false facades we often construct which don’t honestly reflect what’s on the inside of our hearts when the doors are open and an(other) steps in. Yet, everything I know about the Christian tradition mitigates against the idea that we, as human beings, are who we are apart from our bodies and what our bodies reveal about our souls. Moreover, my second experience of Holy Week here at Saint Mary’s has only deepened this conviction.
From Palm Sunday to Evensong on Easter Day, we did not dance a masquerade with God. He wasn’t hiding behind a mask. We were never forced to choose whether or not to love God on the basis of what he’s like “on the inside.” On the contrary, the Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us. We have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father. Yes, it’s true, no one has ever seen God, but the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; he has made him known—to you and to me. We saw him ride into the holy city as the crowds shouted “Hosanna” and waved their branches of palm. We saw him in that upper room, when he broke a loaf of bread and poured a cup of wine for the forgiveness of our sins. We saw him when, in the face of a friend (or stranger!) he knelt down and washed our feet. We saw him at the pillar, his body whipped and his face spit upon, wounded for our transgressions. We saw him as we stood with his blessed mother and the beloved disciple, nailed to the tree for our iniquities. And, thanks be to God, we saw him when he broke “his three days prison and from death hath risen.” As incomprehensible as God is in his essence, as hidden as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Sprit are dwelling (as the Trinity does) in light inaccessible from before time and forever, despite all that, the very heart of the Christian faith is the conviction that in the face of Jesus, the Christ, we have seen the very face of the only true God. A God-Man who lived, who died, and who rose again that we might fall in love with three Persons based on what we know the second One looked like on the outside when he came and lived among us. May the light of his Paschal countenance shine upon us now and for ever.
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Margaret who is hospitalized, and for Rachel, Leah, Loretta, Eva, Nicholas, Bart, Brett, Nora, Nicole, Jack, Thomas, Sarah, Grover, Annie, Patricia, Paul, Robert, Gloria, Jerri, Margaret, Marion, Olga, Rick, Charles, priest, and Paul, bishop, for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Timothy, Jonathan, Patrick, Edward, Keith, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Mark, Ned, Timothy, David, John and Colin. Pray also for the repose of the soul of Nigel . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 3: 1947 Rachel Howland.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 3:12a, 13-15, 17-26, Psalm 111, 1 John 5:1-6, John 20:19-31 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, April 26, by Father Smith, and on Saturday, May 3, by Father Gerth.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Sung Mass, the prelude will be Air in D from Suite No. 3 and the postlude Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn, BWV 630, both by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). We look forward to welcoming two visiting choirs on Sunday. At the Solemn Pontifical Mass, the Choir of Men and Girls of Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut will sing Missa ‘in simplicitate’ by Jean Langlais (1917-1991) and Maria Magdalene et altera Maria by Andrea Gabrieli (c. 1510-1586). The choirmaster is Mr. Robert Tate, and the organ scholar is Mr. Ben Woodward, who will play the prelude and postlude, Präludium und Fuge in G-dur, BWV 541 by Bach. At Solemn Evensong, we welcome the Choristers of the Church of Saint Luke in the Fields, Mr. David Shuler, music director. The canticles will be sung to Evening Service in C minor by Desmond Ratcliffe (b. 1917). The anthem is Ave Maria by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971), and the choir will sing Tantum ergo by Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) at Benediction. The organ recital before Evensong (beginning at 4:40) is by Michael Diorio of Cambridge, Massachusetts, who will play works of Vierne, Elgar, Duruflé and Farnam. We appreciate all of our guest musicians this Sunday!
AROUND THE PARISH . . .The rector has been away during the first part of this week at a Leadership in Ministry seminar in Lost River, West Virginia. He returns to the office on Friday . . . One of our younger members, Elizabeth Gillespie, is participating in the “Kids Walk for Kids with Cancer” walkathon on May 10. The walk was started several years ago by a classmate of Elizabeth’s and the funds raised go to the organization, Hope Street Kids, which will give 100 per cent of the funds to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for research and treatment of pediatric cancer. Elizabeth will be grateful for donations of any size. Checks should be made out to Hope Street Kids and can be sent to the church, or given directly to Elizabeth when you see her on Sunday . . . The Board of Trustees will meet on Monday, April 28 . . . Attendance during Holy Week: Monday 52, Tuesday 59, Wednesday 55, Maundy Thursday 253, Good Friday 269, Easter 979.
WELCOME OUR NEWEST MEMBERS . . . At the Easter Vigil John Gillespie, Jonathan Bingham, and Kevin Reid were confirmed. Received into the Anglican Communion were Michael Dougherty, Bernard Flannery, Karen Leiding, Walter Leiding, William Mauldin, and Steven Potanovic. Bryan Bradford, Antonio Breton, Victoria Breton, and Clark Mitchell reaffirmed their baptismal vows, having transferred their membership from other Episcopal parishes. Congratulate these friends when you see them.
ALTAR FLOWERS ARE NEEDED . . . Flowers are needed for most Sundays through the spring and summer months. Please call the parish office or e-mail mailto:email@example.com if you would like to reserve a particular day.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Second Sunday of Easter
Monday Saint Mark the Evangelist
Tuesday Catherine of Siena, religious
Wednesday Easter Weekday
Eve of Saint Philip & Saint James, Apostles 6:00 PM
Thursday Saint Philip & Saint James, Apostles
Friday Athanasius, bishop No 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 John Beddingfield, The Reverend Robert Rhodes, assisting deacons,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.