The Beginning of Easter
At the end of the Easter Vigil, when I went into the congregation to speak a few words of welcome to our visitors and thank those who had made the celebrations of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve so extraordinary, the congregation just broke into applause at the mention of the name of our Presiding Bishop. It was one of many wonderful moments our community shared as we celebrated the presence of the death and resurrection of the Lord in our midst.
Easter is celebrated at Saint Mary’s as fully as it can be. It is a rare and precious thing to be in a place where the liturgy itself is the primary parish tradition. The liturgy shapes us far more than we shape it. We let the tradition speak and it reveals to us our relationship to God and to each other in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection.
Maundy Thursday. The day begins with Sung Matins. Father Louis Weil and our own seminarian Ryan Lesh have arrived from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific and are in choir. Howard Christian is here to begin the work that will help the Holy Spirit speak to us at the altar of repose. The Preparations for the Triduum continue through the day. The Table for the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper is set with the white frontal. The Blessed Sacrament is removed from the church. The afternoon brings more rehearsals. Shortly before Mass begins, Howard puts calla lilies in two vases. They are placed on the altar. They are perfect. The Presiding Bishop arrives. The sacristy is full of clergy and servers. The congregation begins to arrive. The ministers of the assembly form up behind the altar. Incense is made. A bell is rung. The choir begins to sing the entrance song in Latin, “We will glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, our life and our resurrection.” Lent has ended. The Easter Triduum has begun.
On Good Friday veils are almost everywhere – including one which covered the great painting of the Immaculate Conception behind the high altar. Father Weil took the pulpit at the 12:30 PM Celebration of the Passion of the Lord. Bishop Griswold presided and preached at the 6:00 PM celebration. We do the Good Friday liturgy twice in its entirety because so many people cannot now leave work to worship. The liturgies flow seamlessly because of the hard work of so many, the rehearsals, and the heritage of the parish. Once a service begins, we really know what to do, all of us. Again, the liturgy orders and leads us deeper into the mystery of Christ.
The Great Vigil of Easter. Yours truly tries very hard not to be upset when he is told we are running out of hand candles. There are always temptations to be upset during this season of the year. A quick prayer for the grace of patience and trust seems to be answered. There is a moment at the second station of the paschal candle when the Presiding Bishop receives the light. From my position in the procession the light reflects gloriously off of his miter and vestments. The light begins to spread. The temple is filled with smoke. It’s wonderful and holy. Ordinary time has stopped. I am in the middle of the Body of Christ; I am part of this Body. It is the Passover of the Lord. It is Easter.
The sacristy was filled with laughter before the liturgy. That spirit was just below the surface all through the Vigil. It broke out in when the servers were finally able to light their tapers from the paschal candle. I was in tears while Robert McCormick played Choral-Improvisation sur le “Victimae paschali.” (Tournemire). There were so many joyful folks in Saint Joseph’s Hall afterwards. Again this year, there was a brilliant Easter reception. The altar flower arrangements seemed especially glorious this year.
The continuing celebration on Easter Day confirmed the power of the gospel. Lives are changed by Christ. His presence in his people is unmistakable. Two moments from Paschal Evensong are fixed in my mind this year: the sprinkling with baptismal water while we sang “The strife is o’er” and when Father Weil read during Benediction Luke’s account of Jesus meeting the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. It was a perfect Easter Day.
There are never enough words to express thanks to all who makes this possible, including all of the friends of this parish who are not with us physically but who know that in this place the fullest possible celebration of Easter is done because of our love for the Lord and for each other, his Body on earth. Every year the Holy Spirit renews our faith through the liturgy. We are a different people because of our Christian hope. It is still very much Easter at Saint Mary’s, Times Square. Come this Sunday as we continue to celebrate. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Alice who is gravely ill, for Margaret and Marjorie who are hospitalized, and for Lois, Joan, Loretta, Joanne, Eva, Nicholas, Bart, Brett, Nora, Nicole, Jack, Thomas, Sarah, Grover, Annie, Patricia, Paul, Robert, Gloria, Jerri, Margaret, Marion, Olga, Rick, and Charles, priest; 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. . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 15: 1981 James Thomas Gordon; May 16: 1960 Minnie Packard Rounds; 1992: John Francis Arnold.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . The Right Reverend Paul Moore, Jr., XIII Bishop of the Diocese of New York, died Thursday, May 1 after a long illness. The Mass of the Resurrection for Bishop Paul Moore will be held on Saturday, May 10 at 4 pm at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, New York City. Pray for Paul, bishop, his friends and family, and all who mourn.
MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR EILEEN SORENSEN . . . A memorial service for our former parish secretary, Eileen Sorensen, will be held at Saint Mary’s on Saturday, June 28, at 10:30 AM.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 4:23-37, Psalm 23, 1 John 3:1-8, John 10:11-16 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, May 10, by Father Gerth, and on Saturday, May 17, by Father Smith.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Sung Mass, played by assistant organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude will be Andante from Organ Sonata No. 7 by Josef Rheinberger (1839-1901) and the postlude will be Allegro maestoso e vivace from Sonata No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 65 by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847). At the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Mors et resurrectio, Op. 5, No. 1, by Jean Langlais (1907-1991) and the postlude will be Choral-Improvisation sur le ‘Victimae paschali’ by Charles Tournemire (1870-1939) and transcribed by Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Communion Service in A Minor by Harold Darke (1888-1976). This setting by Darke, an Englishman, was written for the choir of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Buffalo, New York. The anthem at Communion is I sat down under his shadow by Edward C. Bairstow (1874-1946). We continue our organ recital series before Solemn Evensong & Benediction. This week, we welcome Ms. Svetlana Fehretdinov, organist of Saint Paul’s Church, Englewood, New Jersey, who will play works of Jehan Alain (1911-1940). Ms. Fehretdinov is a doctoral student at the Manhattan School of Music, studying with McNeil Robinson, and you are also welcome to join us at 7:30 on Tuesday, May 13, when she will present her degree recital here at Saint Mary's.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Altar flowers are needed for Sunday, May 18 . . . The Women’s Spirituality group will not meet in May, but will resume its program in the fall . . . Attendance last Sunday 267.
THANKS TO OUR SEMINARIANS . . . This Sunday we say goodbye to the Reverend Robert Rhodes. Father Rhodes will be preaching at Evensong. Please let Rob and Lisa know how much we have enjoyed having them and how much we look forward to seeing them when they visit. They have a wonderful ministry ahead of them . . . This will also be the last Sunday that Mr. Noah Evans is with us. Mr. Roy Cole concluded his formal seminary placement with us last Sunday.
THE AMERICAN BOYCHOIR IN CONCERT . . . Please mark your calendars for the renowned American Boychoir in concert at Saint Mary’s on Saturday, May 17 at 7:30 PM. This is one concert you don’t want to miss. It will feature music of Buxtehude, Schütz, Poulenc, Rheinberger, Brahms, Britten, Bruckner, Randall Thompson and others. Joining the choir for portions of the concert will be the Albemarle Singers, a professional men’s choir. Tickets are $30.00 ($15.00 for students) and may be purchased at (212) 869-5830, extension 25, at Coffee Hour this Sunday, or at the door, though we suggest reserving them ahead of time.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fourth Sunday of Easter
Monday Easter Weekday
Tuesday Easter Weekday
Wednesday Easter Weekday
Thursday Easter Weekday
Friday Easter Weekday 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.