Saint Mary’s continues the celebration of Daily Morning and Evening Prayer (otherwise known as “The Daily Office” or, more simply, “The Offices” or “The Office”) in a fairly traditional parochial way. Except on Saturday mornings (when the church doesn’t open until 10:00 AM), Morning and Evening Prayer are offered daily. Along with the Daily Office, at Saint Mary’s there is a Daily celebration of the Eucharist. A lot of Scripture is read, prayed and proclaimed every day here.
Morning and Evening Prayer are straight from the Prayer Book. Our present Prayer Book only requires us to have two Lessons at one of these celebrations. The other can just have one reading from the Bible. But at Saint Mary’s we follow the more traditional custom, permitted by the Prayer Book, of having a Lesson from the Old Testament and a Lesson from the New Testament at Morning Prayer and at Evening Prayer.
Since its doors opened here on West Forty-sixth Street and before that on West Forty-fifth Street, Saint Mary’s has also been a place for the daily celebration of the Eucharist. The present Prayer Book has two “lectionaries.” The “lectionary,” that is, the section that tells one what to read from the Bible at the service, for Mass is simply called, “The Lectionary” (page 888). The lectionary for the Daily Office is called “Daily Office Lectionary” (page 934). In addition, General Convention authorizes the use of “Lesser Feasts and Fasts,” a book which provides Lessons for commemorations of lesser rank and for daily celebrations of the Eucharist.
The weekday lectionary for Mass is basically that of the present Roman Church – someone has to do the initial work and their committee got there first. This daily lectionary, with a few revisions, has been widely adopted by provinces of the Anglican Communion largely because of the complexity of this task.
I used to think that the Romans got there first simply because daily Eucharistic celebrations are characteristic of Roman Catholic piety. This is in part true. But I’ve come to think that there is another reason. Roman Catholics don’t read a lot of Scripture in their version of the Daily Office, which they call, “The Liturgy of the Hours.” They do get one substantial passage from the Bible every day in their daily “Office of Readings” (which can be celebrated at various points in the day depending on the needs of the community or individual). In addition, there is a reading from the writings of the Church doctors and theologians as part of the Office of Readings. In fact here at Saint Mary’s we use this non-biblical reading at our daily celebration of the Noonday Office just before the daily 12:15 PM Mass. I’ve come to think that the Daily Mass Lectionary for Roman Catholics tends to function for them in a way that the Daily Office Lectionary functions for Anglicans. One experiences this especially in the ordinary seasons of the Church year, the Season after Pentecost (between Pentecost and the First Sunday of Advent) and the Season after the Epiphany (between Epiphany and the First Day of Lent).
At Sunday Masses and in the other seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter), we are generally used to the Gospel Lesson being one of the two focal points of Mass, the other being the Gospel Sacrament of the Table. One of the reasons sermons are preached on the Gospel of the day is that the Gospel Lesson almost always determines the selection of the Old Testament Lesson, psalm and, except in the seasons after Pentecost and Epiphany, the New Testament Lesson too. The Eucharist is a “Christocentric” encounter with God. Yes, we gather to pray to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. But the assembly finds its identity as the Body of Christ. Only, as the words of the Eucharistic prayers proclaim, by him, through him, with him, and in him, are we united to the Trinity.
I suspect that it is a practical impossibility to construct a Daily Mass Lectionary that would be organized like the Sunday and Holy Day Lectionary, that is, structured around the Gospel of the day. Daily Mass has been a characteristic of Western Christian piety for over a thousand years now. We aren’t giving it up. There are worse things than having to read or hear a lot of Scripture every day. I write on Thursday morning, August 14. At Morning Prayer, David has had to flee Jerusalem because of the revolt of his beloved son, Absalom. At Evening Prayer yesterday, Samson was born. At Mass at Noon today, the lessons are “proper” for the commemoration of the life of Jonathan Myrick Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian and Civil Rights worker, who was murdered in Mississippi on August 14, 1965. If it weren’t for this commemoration, we would be hearing from the Book of Joshua of the people of Israel entering the Promised Land through the Jordan River. Any of these stories alone can recall one to conversion and life in Christ.
The Episcopal Church is fundamentally a Bible church. It is a Church where we are invited to read the Bible, and a lot of it, every day. You don’t need to be in the Church to read the Daily Office. You don’t need to be at Mass simply to read and pray from Scripture. One of the sad realities of our time is that most people who quote Scripture for the sake of an argument, especially in the area of marriage and human relationships, don’t really read or know Scripture. The Bible has changed my life. It’s made me more open, less judgmental, and more committed to God’s grace and love for all people. One intolerance I fall into easily is to dismiss the words and intentions of those who quote from Scripture on the issues of the day as if Scripture by itself has the answer. That is almost always intellectually dishonest – and anyone who really does read Scripture knows it. If I had one prayer for our Church today is that more of its clergy and people would pray the Bible. When I think of God’s mighty acts, I am not so afraid of the evil of our own day, small wrongs and evil writ large over the lives of human beings. God in his time is leading us into his kingdom. Along the way, I hope we may be worthy of the love he has for us in Christ and in the lives of otherwise ordinary Episcopalians, like Jonathan Myrick Daniels, who died so that another might live. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Louise who is hospitalized, Alice, Gates, Billie, Jonah, Susan, Joan, Michael, Lois, Virginia, Bart, Brett, Nicole, Jack, Thomas, Annie, Patricia, Paul, Robert, Gloria, Jerri, Margaret, Marion, Olga, Rick, and Charles, priest, Gregory, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Timothy, Patrick, Edward, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Ned, Timothy, David, John and Colin. Your prayers are also asked for the repose of the soul of Alice . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 22: 1949 Mattie Myrtle Jones; 1997: Charles Bertram Harmon.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Dan Franks’s mother, Alice Franks, died on Monday, August 11 in Mississippi. She will be buried from her home parish, the Church of the Resurrection, Starkville, Mississippi. Mrs. Franks was a parishioner at Trinity Church, Michigan City, Indiana, before I served there as rector. But she was a frequent visitor to Michigan City and I had the privilege of meeting her and her late husband there as they had many friends in that town. She and her family were active members of Trinity, and I know she was for many years directress of the Altar Guild there (and remembered warmly for her smile and her high standards). Pray for Alice, for Dan, and for all who mourn. S.G.
I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE between Thomas Michael Devaney of San Francisco, California, and Melissa Ann Twiest of San Francisco, California. If any of you know just cause why they may not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are bidden to declare it. This is the first time of asking. S.G.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Proverbs 9:1-6, Psalm 34:9-14, Ephesians 5:15-20, John 6:53-59 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, August 16, by Father Gerth, and on Saturday, August 23, by Father Smith . . . NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Ave maris stella (Le Tombeau de Titelouze, Op. 38) by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971) and the postlude is Fuge in G-dur, BWV 541 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). Our soloist is Mr. Joseph Chappel, bass-baritone. The solo at Communion is Quia fecit mihi magna from Magnificat, BWV 243 by Bach.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Thanks to Sean Cassidy, Pat Higgins, Father Beddingfield and Father Smith, who helped polish brass last Saturday . . . Thanks to everyone involved this past week in preparing for the Assumption Mass and the reception afterwards . . . The Board of Trustees meets on Monday, August 18, at 7:00 in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Father Smith is away this Sunday, August 17. Father Gerth and Father Beddingfield are on duty . . . Attendance last Sunday 187.
PLAN FOR AN OCTOBER RETREAT . . . The fall parish retreat will be held at Mount Saviour Monastery, near Elmira, New York, www.msaviour.org, Saturday, November 8, through Tuesday, November 11, Veteran's Day. The retreat topic is “Sheep May Safely Graze.” The maximum number of participants is fifteen. E-mail reservations or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
WELCOME SANDRA SCHUBERT . . . Beginning next week, when you call Saint Mary’s, you’re less likely to encounter an out-of-breath and frazzled deacon or priest, but instead, you might reach our new administrative assistant, Ms. Sandra Lee Schubert. Sandra brings enormous skills in editing, organization, facilities management and other areas. In her spare time, Sandra is a writer who coordinates a group of writers called Wild Angels. She is a member of the Congregation of Saint Saviour at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Please welcome Sandra when you speak with her or when you see her.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday William DuBose, priest
Wednesday Bernard of Clairvaux, abbot
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, curate,
The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.