From Father Weiler: Visitations
We live in a highly mobile culture. For example, I was born one place, grew up mostly in a second, spent the majority of my summers in a third, went to graduate school (twice) in a fourth and fifth, and at the moment live in yet a sixth place. All this movement, combined with all the movements of everyone else I know, has resulted in my having family and friends in a couple dozen cities, many states, several countries, and four continents. If I had the time and the money, taking a round-the-world trip to visit all of my family and friends could be quite an adventure. The problem, of course, is that I have neither the time nor the money for such a trip. Thus, I have to rely on other means to keep in touch: letters, phone calls and e-mails. Most of those whom I know and love live far away from me. One of the sad consequences this presents for someone like me who believes quite seriously that human beings necessarily live in and through one another, is the fact that my life is pulled apart, stretched by distance. Little bits of me reside in the hearts of others all over the world.
On those occasions when I do find the time and money to get away, to go find myself as it lives in others, I am always invigorated by the experience. And this isn’t a new phenomenon for me. As a child, I was often dragged around to call on near or distant relations. But now, when I think back upon those visits, I realize that I wasn’t just informed in those moments, I was formed in those moments. I didn’t just learn new tidbits of information about Aunt Jill or Cousin Jack, I changed and grew in encounters with those to whom I was linked by blood or friendship. I became someone I wasn’t before the encounter, or rather, I grew more fully into the person I was destined to be.
Our patron, the Blessed Virgin Mary, once paid just such a visit to her kinswoman, Elizabeth. We celebrated that encounter, the Visitation, on May 31. I’ve often wondered, “Why remember, let alone celebrate, such a seemingly routine thing as a woman visiting one of her relatives?” The Immaculate Conception, Annunciation, The Nativity, The Baptism of Christ, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Day—yes, of course. The importance of those events, though complex, has a certain obviousness about it. But the Visitation? Frankly, it always struck me as a little mundane, however quaint and touching I might have found the story. Lately, I’ve changed my mind.
In response to the angelic annunciation, Mary made a call of her own. As Saint Luke narrates the event, “Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb . . . ” Not only did we celebrate this encounter on May 31, but one might also say that we commemorate the Visitation everyday in this parish since 365 days a year we say or sing, at Evening Prayer, the song Mary sang during her visit with Elizabeth. That song, Magnificat, was itself an ecstatic response to Elizabeth’s benediction. “Blessed are you among women,” Elizabeth cried out, filled with the Holy Spirit. “And blessed is the fruit of your womb!”
The opening words of Mary’s song are forever carved into the steps of our high altar as permanently as they are carved into the consciousness of the whole Christian community down through the ages. An angel “visits” a pious young girl. The only-begotten Son of the Father, in and through that woman’s body, “visits” all of humanity. That same woman, carrying within her the Holy Child, visits another woman (in whose own womb a pre-natal prophet lives). And in that latter encounter of two women and their two sons the Holy Spirit is active, blessing is pronounced, joy is spread, songs are sung, and the Lord is magnified. And the echo of that Visitation reverberates down the corridors of time not merely to inform us of the event, but to transform us by the encounter. Whenever you and I rise, leave that place where we usually reside, enter the house of another, greet the one there and encounter that other person we don’t just enter a house, we enter an abode, a dwelling place—and not just a physical one—but a personal one. We enter into the life of another human being. And by virtue of that intercourse, and all that is involved in it, we and they are changed. –Matthew Weiler
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Alice who is gravely ill, for Marjorie who is hospitalized, and for Lois, Bart, Brett, Nicole, Jack, Thomas, 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 . . . June 8: 1967 Mary E. Longley; 1998: Anthony Guarino; June 9: 1952 Roy Whitson Lay; June 10: 1963 Kenneth Wilmot; 1970: Florence B. Crouch; June 12: 1986 James P. Gregory.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 2: 1-11, Psalm 104: 25-32, 1 Corinthians 12: 4-13, John 20: 19-23 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, June 7, by Father Smith, and on Saturday, June 14, by Father Gerth.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . At the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist by Georg Böhm (1661-1733) and the postlude is Fantasia super ‘Komm, Heiliger Geist’, BWV 651, by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). The setting of the Mass ordinary is The Office of Holy Communion ‘Collegium Regale’ by Herbert Howells (1892-1983). The anthem at Communion is Draw us in the Spirit’s tether by Harold W. Friedell (1905-1958) who for many years was organist and choirmaster of Saint Bartholomew’s Church in the city. We continue our organ recital series before Solemn Evensong & Benediction. This week, we welcome Mr. Richard Fitzgerald, organist and director of music at the Church of the Resurrection, Burtonsville, Maryland, who will play works of Gerald Near, Mark Hiljeh, Langlais and Naji Hakim.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . There are just two more Sundays for Solemn Evensong & Benediction before we move to our summer schedule. If you haven’t attended yet, be sure and come on June 8 or June 15. We have guest preachers on both Sunday evenings, and would love to fill the church for them . . . Attendance last Sunday 209.
MEMBERSHIP NOTES . . . This week the parish office received and registered baptismal information for Joseph Pearson, formalizing his relationship with us and making him our newest church member. Joseph is an assistant professor of theology at Fordham University, specializing in the fields of historical theology and medieval theology. Please welcome Joseph when you see him.
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.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday
Monday Columba, abbot
Tuesday Ephrem of Edessa, deacon
Eve of Saint Barnabas’ Day 6:00 PM
Wednesday Saint Barnabas the Apostle
Friday Weekday No Abstinence
Saturday Basil the Great, bishop
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, The Reverend John Beddingfield, curates,
The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.