The Angelus

Volume 5, Number 9

Holy Week 2003

The Calendar of the Church Year and the regular services of the Church, the Holy Eucharist and Daily Morning and Evening Prayer, have ordered the common life of Saint Mary’s since the parish’s beginning.  Over time, of course, the schedule and range of services celebrated during the church year has evolved.  There have always been decisions to make about what feasts and fasts we observe and when to observe them.  Since the beginning of my rectorate there have been a number of changes in our schedule of services, but behind each change has been our continuing commitment to the Calendar, the Mass and the Offices, the “regular services” of the Christian Church.

Perhaps the most significant change in the last four years has been moving the 10:00 AM Mass from being a Said Mass in the Lady Chapel to being a Sung Mass in the Church.  At the high altar we are able to offer a liturgically rich yet straightforward service in a forty-five minute framework.  It works and more people now attend at 10:00 AM.

Beginning in January 2002, Solemn Evensong & Benediction has been offered every Sunday night from the beginning of the choir season through Trinity Sunday.  In addition, we now sing Morning Prayer every Sunday during the choir season.

I have added an annual Solemn Mass on Holy Cross Day and weekday evening Sung Masses on all Feasts of Our Lord that are not celebrated with Solemn Mass or fall on a Sunday.  In addition, Sung Masses are now offered at Noon on weekday Principal Feasts when a Solemn Mass is celebrated in the evening, as we did on All Saints’, Immaculate Conception, and the Epiphany in the last few months. These Sung Masses are an outreach to those in our parish community who work here but live elsewhere, and who otherwise may not have an opportunity to worship with others on these days.

On Palm Sunday, Corpus Christi and whenever August 15 falls on a Sunday, the congregation processes through Times Square as part of the liturgy of the day.  On Good Friday, now, the entire Good Friday Liturgy is celebrated twice (we use the same bulletin for both services).  The tradition of the Church allows this for pastoral reasons.  As announced previously, Stations of the Cross will be celebrated on every Friday evening in Lent at Saint Mary’s.  These changes were made in part to deepen our worship but also to enable more people to be a part of our life here at Saint Mary’s, Times Square.

As our common liturgical life evolves, I am aware that our resources are not limitless, and by this I don’t mean just money.  Last year on Wednesday in Holy Week, after the service of Tenebrae, our parish musician remarked to me that the choir hadn’t started on any of the music for Maundy Thursday.  I was surprised.  He looked at me as if I had been on another planet.  The choir had just finished singing for almost three hours.  They were prepared.  They sang well.  But a few days earlier, of course, was Palm Sunday – a huge liturgy at Saint Mary’s.  And, no, they had not started on the music for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Eve, Easter morning or Solemn Paschal Evensong on Easter Day.

Most people will be surprised to hear that the service during Holy Week which has required the most musical preparation is Tenebrae.  After Tenebrae last year and my conversation with parish clergy and musicians, it seemed clear to me that I needed to look at whether we were doing things in the best way for the parish and its mission today.  147 people attended Tenebrae last year.  The cost for the music that evening was $2,000.00.  The amount of the offering received was $256.00.  But attendance and money are not the primary issue.  Something more fundamental is the question: What is Tenebrae?

Many will know that Tenebrae was a series of three offices, a special combined form of matins and lauds for each of the last three days of Holy Week that evolved in the late Middle Ages. It was part of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic worship.  Episcopal monks brought it to Saint Mary’s when they arrived in the fall of 1930.  From the beginning of Father Granville William’s rectorate through the rectorate of Father Grieg Taber, Tenebrae was said or sung on Wednesday of Holy Week, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, imitating then contemporary Roman practice.  In the rectorates of Father Donald Garfield, 1964 through 1979, and Father Edgar Wells, my predecessor, a slightly revised form of Tenebrae was sung only on Wednesday in Holy Week.

More recently, Tenebrae has been adapted in various forms for parish use by the Episcopal Church and it is offered by several Episcopal parishes here in Manhattan.  One will also find Methodist, Baptists and Presbyterians advertising services under the title, “Tenebrae.”  The form for Tenebrae which we have used was put together specifically for The Book of Occasional Services of The Episcopal Church, and, according to that book, includes material from each of the three different Tenebrae services used by Roman Catholics before the liturgical reforms.

Tenebrae no longer exists for Roman Catholics.  When one reads accounts of the Roman reforms during the pontificate of Paul VI, there are many liturgical issues which engaged the council leaders and assistants emotionally and intellectually.  The retention of Tenebrae doesn’t appear to be something that was a significant part of the deliberations of the concilium working on the revision of the Liturgy of the Hours.  At least, I haven’t found any discussion of it yet, and I have looked.

I became aware of something else last year.  I realized during the service of Tenebrae that I and many others in attendance had already heard a great deal of the psalms and lessons of the service at Morning and Evening Prayer during that very week.  Much of the psalmody and other Scripture associated with Tenebrae is already part of the regular services of the Church for Holy Week.  Tenebrae is now in its own way much like services of lessons and carols which are done in many places during Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.  It is often a moving and powerful service but it is not a part of the “regular worship” of the Church.  My reflections and study have led me to decide to change the schedule for Holy Week.  We will no longer offer Tenebrae.  Our efforts will be focused on the “regular” observances of Holy Week and the Easter Triduum.

Some of you will welcome this decision.  Some will not care particularly as Tenebrae has largely been attended by people from outside our parish family in recent years.  Some will think very strongly that I am doing the wrong thing.  I genuinely dislike disappointing anyone.  But when I reflect on the present needs of the parish, the present liturgical situation, and the pastoral need to serve our parish and local community with the Good Friday Liturgy celebrated twice, I think this is the right direction for our parish at this time.

This year the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church will be with us as celebrant and preacher for the principal liturgies of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve.  The senior liturgical scholar of the Episcopal Church, the Reverend Louis Weil, will be with us too over the Easter Triduum and he will preach at one of the two Good Friday liturgies.  It will be a spiritually powerful Holy Week.  Stephen Gerth


PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for John, Bart, Susan and Daisy who are hospitalized and for Nora, Velma June, Kenneth, Jack, Thomas, George, Sarah, Grover, Annie, Patricia, Paul, Robert, Eileen, Gloria, Jerri, Margaret, Marion, Olga, Rick, Charles, priest, and Paul, bishop, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Timothy, Patrick, Edward, Keith, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned, David and John . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . January 28: 1987 Wan Tang Jou.


LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Jeremiah 3:21-4:2, Psalm 130, 1 Corinthians 7:17-23, Mark 1:14-20 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 25, and on Saturday, February 1, by Father Gerth.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . We were saddened to learn that the Right Reverend Paul Moore, XIII Bishop of New York, has inoperable brain and lung cancer.  Please remember him and his family in your prayers . . . Flowers are needed for three Sundays in February, 9, 16 and 23.  Please call or e-mail the parish office if you would like to give them . . . Looking Ahead: Lots of additional ushers will be needed on Ash Wednesday, March 5, from 7:00 AM to 8:30 PM . . . Attendance last Sunday 258.


NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Sung Mass, the prelude will be Liebster Jesu, BWV 731, and the postlude will be Herr Gott, nun sei Gepreiset, BWV 601, both by J. S. Bach (1685-1750).  At the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Pastorale by Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) and the postlude will be Final from Symphonie IV, Op. 13, No. 4 by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937).  The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass in the Phrygian Mode by Charles Wood (1866-1926) and the anthem at Communion is Jesus Christ the apple tree by Elizabeth Poston (1905-1987).  We continue our organ recital series before Solemn Evensong & Benediction.  This week, we welcome Mr. Richard Frey of Ridgewood, New Jersey, who will play works of Karg-Elert, Walford Davies, Arne, Mulet and Frey.  Also joining us for Evensong will be members of the Boy and Girl Choristers of Saint Bartholomew’s Church, New York City.


The Calendar of the Week

Sunday    The Third Sunday after the Epiphany

Monday                     John Chrysostom, Bishop

Tuesday                     Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Friar

Wednesday               Weekday

Thursday                  Weekday

Friday                        Weekday                                              Abstinence

Saturday                   Brigid, Abbess


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.