Never an Ordinary Time
When the calendars of the western liturgical churches were revised in the 1960s and 1970s, our Episcopal Church maintained the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas. For Lutherans and Roman Catholics, the Christmas Season extends through this Sunday, the Feast of the Baptism of Christ. For us, when the sun sets on Epiphany (again, for us, always January 6), we begin the “Season after the Epiphany.” This season Roman Catholics call “Ordinary Time.”
It is interesting that the Roman Church has allowed the Epiphany to be celebrated on Sunday in countries like the United States. It is the most ancient of the “Christmas” feasts and before Vatican II, it enjoyed a rank only after Easter. The reality of the situation is not much different among us Anglicans. How many of our parishes actually offered Mass on January 6 and how many Episcopalians actually attended?
While on vacation during the summer of 2001, I attended the principal Sunday service at the local Anglican parish. It was a Church of England chaplaincy. There was a baptism of an adult. The building’s dignity had been lessened, in my opinion, by the addition of a movie screen. The music was almost entirely of a “Jesus and me” character. The service was very free in style. The church was full. The minister, an American recently ordained in the English church, spoke movingly of the journey of faith the candidate for baptism had undertaken. The person to be baptized had not grown up in a Christian family.
When it was time for the ministration of Baptism, before putting his fingertips in the font, the minister said to the congregation something like, “At seminary we were trained to do this part as quickly as possible.” And he did it just as he had been trained. Minimal water. Words said so quickly one could hardly hear them. Liturgical words were spoken. Liturgical action done. Liturgical rite was absent. The minister’s words and actions shouted that Holy Baptism was unimportant. No one saw or was invited to see Jesus Christ die and rise in the sacramental action. What we are about at Saint Mary’s is to know the living presence of Jesus Christ in the Sacraments.
The words and actions of rite can be used for purposes other than rite. Attempts can seem to be made to use the liturgy for “ulterior motives” – Aidan Kavanagh’s wonderful phrase – such as education, fund raising, church school pageants and the like. Yes once any thing like this begins to shape worship, it is no longer rite. There is a purity to liturgical intention and rite that transcends attempts to subvert it. Liturgical rite can never be ordinary because in rite the Eternal deigns to share himself with the humanity he created.
Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Jesus’ baptism was a sign to Israel of God’s intention to recall his people to him. God intervened in human history in Jesus Christ. His purpose is for us to live in him and with him and never to be parted from him. This is God’s extraordinary intention. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Bart, Susan and Daisy who are hospitalized and for Velma June, Kenneth, Jack, Mark, Judith, Thomas, George, Sarah, Grover, Annie, Patricia, Paul, Robert, Eileen, Gloria, Jerri, Margaret, Marion, Olga, Rick and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Edward, Keith, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned, David and John and for the repose of the souls of Julia , Harry Ray and John . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 13: 1994 Thomas E. Holz; January 15: 1983 Faith Trumbull Cleveland Booth; January 17: 1967 Letitia Fidelia de Souza; 1998: John Zippler Headley.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . A Solemn Memorial Mass of the Resurrection for John Kemper Cannon will be celebrated on Wednesday, January 15, at 5:00 PM. Mr Cannon was the retired chair of the Church Pension Fund. He died on December 15, 2002, five days before his seventieth birthday. He and his wife, Yolanda Cannon, residents of Florida and Michigan, attended Saint Mary’s when they were in New York for the last several years. He was buried from his home parish, Christ Church, Cranbrook, Michigan on Friday, January 10. The Right Reverend Herbert Thompson, bishop of Southern Ohio, and present chair of the Church Pension Fund, will preside at the service. The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan will be the preacher . . . Christina Hansen’s mother, Julia Florence Johnston Gasparro, died on Monday, January 6, at her home in Pennsylvania. She was ninety-seven years old. She will be buried on Friday, January 10. Please pray for her, for Christina and for all who mourn.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 89:20-29, Acts 10:34-38, Mark 1:7-11 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 11, by Father Gerth and on Saturday, January 18, by Father Smith . . . The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins with the Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle on Saturday, January 18. Our guest preacher at Evensong on Sunday, January 19, will be the Very Reverend Kevin Robb, O.P., prior and pastor of the Dominican Priory and Church of Saint Vincent Ferrer in New York City . . . Due to the Mass of the Resurrection this Wednesday, the January 15 meeting for Reading with Saint Mary’s has been postponed.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reminder: The Annual Meeting of the Congregation will be held on Sunday, March 9, following the Solemn Mass . . . Marion Friese is schedule for eye surgery this week. Please keep her in your prayers . . . The Annual Mass and Meeting of the Society will be held at Saint Paul’s Parish, 2430 K Street, Washington, D.C. 20037, on Saturday, February 1 at 11:00 AM. Luncheon follows and reservations are required by January 15. For more information about the society and the meeting please write, Dr. Mark A. Wuonola, 291 Bacon Street, Waltham, Massachusetts 02451 . . . Attendance Last Sunday 248, Epiphany 226.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week we welcome Dale Bonenberger who will play for the Sung Mass. We appreciate his willingness to share his gifts with us. At the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Choral from Quatre Pièces, Op. 37 by Joseph Jongen (1873-1953) and the postlude will be Final from Symphonie I, Op. 14 by Louis Vierne (1870-1937). The setting of the Mass ordinary was chosen for this week as we celebrate our organ’s 70th anniversary. The choir will sing Louis Vierne’s Messe Solennelle, Op. 16, a grand work that is well suited to our acoustics and organ. The motet at Communion is Tantum ergo, Op. 18, no. 1 by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937). We continue our organ recital series before Solemn Evensong & Benediction. This week, we welcome Mr. Robert Ridgell of Philadelphia. Joining him for Louis Vierne’s Les Angélus is mezzo-soprano Sarah G. Lutton.
ORGAN CONCERT AT ST. IGNATIUS LOYOLA . . . A friend of this parish and our former interim organist, Mr. Shayne Doty, is playing a recital at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, 980 Park Avenue at 84th Street, on Sunday, January 19. He will by playing works by Liszt, Messian and Bach. Tickets are available at the door or at 212-888-2502.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Baptism of Our Lord
Friday Anthony, Abbot Abstinence
Eve of Saint Peter’s Day 6:00 PM
Saturday The Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle
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.