There were many wonderful and interesting church moments during my trip to Rome and London. It was great to see the Shins and the Moses at All Saints Margaret Street. It was a great honor to preach at All Saints. I got the opportunity to have many substantive conversations with Anglican and Roman Catholic scholars. And I got to go to church a lot. It was a good trip on every level. One of the things that is clear to me – and many of you already knew this – we are doing fine at Saint Mary’s. The liturgical life of this parish, including its music program, are very much on the right track.
What distinguishes Saint Mary’s is not just the care with which we approach worship and music. These are important in and of themselves, but they are not ends in themselves. The end is the liturgical act, where the assembly is the Body of Christ gathered to know and to serve the Lord. It is not enough, for example, for me, and I think for most of us at Saint Mary’s, to see Baptism simply as the pouring of water and in the Name of the Trinity. We long to see Jesus Christ die and rise again in our midst. Baptism is the Easter event. The Sacraments are signs that point us to the greater reality of God’s ongoing life and presence among us.
One of the more interesting church services I attended was a Solemn Mass from the 1962 Latin Missal at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. It was celebrated by a cardinal. Lots of people, lay and clergy were present. It was interesting to observe the rite of the Roman Church as it had been celebrated on the eve of Vatican II. The Mass seemed to have an existence in and of itself. The clergy were necessary only to the extent that the rite needed them to do or say certain things. The congregation was truly unnecessary. And I could not help but wonder to what extent this might still be true for Roman Catholics in their hearts - that the congregation is unnecessary. As an Anglican, my perspective is very different. Whenever I am at Mass, as a minister of the assembly or as a member of the assembly, I hope that every member of the congregation experiences his or her presence as essential.
Observing the new Roman Rite also – especially with the latest ceremonial decree in use (a new one was just officially published in English) – also showed me why it’s not possible simply for Anglicans to copy what Roman Catholics are doing. All other things being equal, I think it is important to give serious consideration to what the largest Christian community is doing. Yet their new instructions on concelebration and posture during the Eucharistic Prayer, for example, seem designed to make the point that the priest celebrant and concelebrants alone are present at Mass in the sacramental role of Jesus Christ. The members of the assembly are present as observers – and fundamentally unnecessary to the Mass. The kneeling posture of the congregation did not seem devotional; it seemed enforced to make a point that it was the priest alone who was there in the place of Christ. I could not disagree more.
It’s not easy to be any kind of Christian. There isn’t one undivided Church. But I think of myself as being a Christian before I think of myself as being an Episcopalian. One of the key insights of the ongoing liturgical renewal within the wider Christian community is the primacy of the People of God as a holy people, a sacramental sign themselves of God’s presence. In the Acts of the Apostles (13:26) we learn that it was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus Christ were for the first time called Christians. I’d like to hope that this is a name that others invented for us. That the first Christians were so deeply united to Jesus Christ that when people saw them they saw Christ. I pray that you and I are worthy enough to be called Christians in our own day. Stephen Gerth
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 17: 1986 Charles Henry Genet.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Exodus 3:1-6, Psalm 93, Romans 8:12-17, John 3:1-16 . . . As is our custom, on Trinity Sunday, the hymn Te Deum will be sung as the postcommunion hymn. Incense will be offered! . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, June 14, by Father Gerth, and on Saturday, June 21, by Father Weiler.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Air for organ by Gerre Hancock (b. 1934), organist and master of choristers at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue. It is a lovely piece dedicated to his wife Judith Hancock. The postlude is Hymne d’Actions de grâce “Te Deum,” Op. 5, No. 3 by Jean Langlais (1917-1991). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘de la batalla escoutez’ by Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599). This is the fourth setting of the Mass by this great Spanish master of polyphony that our choir has sung this season. The motet at Communion is Gloria tibi, Domine by William Byrd (1543-1623). The Te Deum will be sung by the choir to the setting in B-flat by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924). The week concludes our series of organ recitals before Solemn Evensong and Benediction. Robert McCormick will play works of Bach, Dupré and Langlais beginning at 4:40. Watch for the return of the recital series next season!
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reminder: the final Evensong of the season is Trinity Sunday at 5:00 PM . . . Congratulations to the Reverend Robert Rhodes, our former seminarian and assisting deacon, who was ordained to the priesthood on June 7 in the Diocese of Missouri. Father Rhodes serves as an assistant at Saint Martin’s Church in Ellisville, Missouri . . . Many thanks to Pat Higgins for making an emergency run into the city from Rockaway, New Jersey to work on the office lights at the high altar last Thursday . . . The Board of Trustees meets on Monday, June 16, at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Looking Ahead: Sung Masses will be offered on Tuesday, June 24, for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, and on Friday, June 27, for the Feast of the Sacred Heart. These Masses are celebrated at 6:00 PM. . . . Attendance last Sunday 301.
TRINITY BOOKSTORE IS CLOSING . . . After almost 20 years as one of the nation's premier Christian booksellers, Trinity Bookstore announces that it will close its store at 74 Trinity Place in New York on July 1, 2003. The entire inventory of over 10,000 titles is now on sale at 40 - 50% off. You may stop in or call the bookshop at 212-602-9689.
MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR EILEEN SORENSEN . . . A Sung Mass of the Resurrection will be offered for our former parish secretary, Eileen Sorensen, on Saturday, June 28, at 10:30 AM.
SUNDAY, JUNE 22: CORPUS CHRISTI SOLEMN MASS, PROCESSION THROUGH TIMES SQUARE & BENEDICTION . . . The observance of Corpus Christi (“Body of Christ”) dates from the beginning of the thirteenth century. When Pope Urban IV decreed the feast in 1264 and prescribed a Mass for its observance throughout the Western Church he made no mention of a procession of the Sacrament. Nevertheless, it did not take long for a festival procession of the Eucharist to be added to the Mass. Next Sunday, weather permitting; we will process through Times Square. When we return to the church Eucharistic Benediction will be given.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday Trinity Sunday
Monday Joseph Butler, bishop
Wednesday Bernard Mizeki, catechist & martyr
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
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.