Holy Week II
One service of the year proclaims the Christian Gospel as no other, the Great Vigil of Easter. This service is celebrated at Saint Mary’s on Saturday, April 10, beginning at 7:00 PM. This newsletter is going to be dedicated to some details about the other services of Holy Week and Easter, but I want to begin with some remarks about the principal service of the year. It would not be an exaggeration to observe that all Christian services celebrated through the rest of the year are essentially preparation for the Easter Vigil.
On Easter Eve the Christian community gathers in darkness. For us, this gathering takes place inside the church. In many places the assembly gathers outside the church building. Fire is kindled. (Thank God for very, very high ceilings – and fire extinguishers!) Then the celebrant says,
Dear friends in Christ: On this most holy night, in which our Lord Jesus passed over from death to life, the Church invites her members, dispersed throughout the world, to gather in vigil and prayer. For this is the Passover of the Lord, in which by hearing his Word and celebrating his Sacraments, we share in his victory over death.
The central Christian proclamation is that Jesus rose from the dead. His life and teachings, his death and the manner of his death, of eternal importance in their own right, are secondary and derivative of the Easter Gospel: Jesus rose from the dead. This is the message of Easter. He was dead yet he rose and lives. The Easter Vigil, the Church’s Queen of Feasts, is about this. The services on Palm Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday can change and convert lives but all of these services derive their real meaning and power from Jesus’ rising from the dead.
The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
There are two Masses today, one at 9:00 AM and one at 11:00 AM. The later service is perhaps the service of the year where our character and vocation as an urban liturgical parish is most evident – as we process through Times Square during the 11:00 AM service. The day begins, of course, with Sung Matins at 8:30 AM and ends with Solemn Evensong at 5:00 PM. Our guest preacher at Sunday Evensong is our Suffragan Bishop, The Right Reverend Catherine S. Roskam.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week
Times Square is not normally a place for morning Masses. However, during Holy Week many appreciate and take advantage of the opportunity to come to Mass in the morning. Therefore on these days Morning Prayer is offered at 7:40 AM and Mass follows at 8:00 AM. The Noonday Office and the 12:15 PM Mass are also celebrated as is customary. Evening Prayer is sung on these days at 6:00 PM. There is no evening Mass on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week.
Lent ends today at sunset when the Easter Triduum begins. On these three days the Church continues to reckon time as the Lord did. Days begin at sunset. In the morning of Maundy Thursday (the nickname for the day comes from the Latin mandatum – “command”), Matins is sung at 8:30 AM. After Matins the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the tabernacle and the church is prepared for the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. There is no Mass during the day.
The Mass begins at 6:00 PM. The entire offering from the Mass is given away to the poor. This year it has been designated for the Mission of San Juan Evangelista, a mission congregation of the Cathedral Church of Saint Mary of the Angels in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The offering will be brought to the congregation by a mission group from our own parish in November.
On Maundy Thursday the Washing of Feet follows the sermon. The entire congregation is invited to participate. We first sit to have our feet washed; then we wash the feet of the next person. It’s not scripted except that the bishop and priests start the washing and they are the last to have their feet washed.
Bread and wine are consecrated for the Communion of the Church at this Mass and for Good Friday. At the end of the service the Sacrament is carried in a solemn procession to an altar of repose that will have been prepared in the Mercy Chapel. You are invited to come to spend time with the Most Holy Sacrament in prayer. The church is open through the night. A security guard will be on duty. (He will also have the key to the restrooms!)
We begin with Sung Matins at 8:30 AM. On Good Friday the liturgy of the day is celebrated twice. Historically it was always celebrated in the early afternoon – the time of the Lord’s death. But Good Friday is now a day of work for most of our community. The service and the music is the same at 12:30 PM and 6:00 PM. The parish clergy sit for confessions after both Masses. All the confessionals are used and the name of the priest hearing confessions is posted. Episcopalians observe Good Friday as a day of fasting and a day of abstinence from flesh meats.
We begin with Sung Matins at 8:30 AM. The Third Day, the day on which Jesus rose, begins at sunset. The Great Vigil of Easter begins at 7:00 PM. Eat a light supper before you come. Bring a hand bell. (You will be sorry if you don’t.) Champagne and cake will be served afterwards.
Some General Remarks
I receive many letters and notes from friends of our community throughout the country who value the particular integrity of the witness and life of this parish. I hope our individual lives and our community’s life will be worthy in new ways of the ceremonies we celebrate and the mysteries we proclaim. I pray that you and I will grow this Holy Week in our knowledge and love of the Lord who died and rose again, Jesus Christ. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Carlson, priest, who is hospitalized, and for James, Cynthia, James, Jane, Mary, Naomi, Arlene, Gilbert, Mary, William, Joseph, Jean, Lynn, Nancy, Margaret, Robert, Gloria, Jason, Harold, Billie, Matthew, Virginia, Bart, Margaret, Marion, Hugh, Rick and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Jonathan, Jeffrey, Ned, Timothy, Patrick, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Timothy, David and Colin . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 4: 1987 Clara D. Lewis, 1992 Thelma Bradford Ingersoll; April 5: 1964 Harold Bosworth Libbey; April 8: 1964 Grieg Taber, priest & rector, 1996 Donald Lathrop Garfield, priest & rector.
MEMBERSHIP NOTES . . . Please welcome our newest church members. We have recently received baptismal records for Steven and Mary Heffner who have been friends of Saint Mary’s for several years. They are the proud parents of little Agnes, who will be baptized at some point this spring . . . .We have also received baptismal information for Timothy Higdon, also a friend of the parish for several years – in fact, Tim has helped Howard Christian with flowers from time to time . . . Please welcome these newest members of the parish when you see them.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Mass Lectionary for Holy Week can be found in the Prayer Book beginning on page 903. The Lectionary for the Daily Office can be found in the Prayer Book on page 957 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, April 3 by Father Gerth, and by all the parish clergy after both Good Friday liturgies.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Remember: Turn your clocks ahead for daylight savings time on Saturday night, April 3 . . . As we go to press, Jim Dennis is home from Saint Vincent’s Medical Center and Canon Carl Gerdau is at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Please keep them in your prayers . . . Easter offerings for the church for Easter are now being received. Send your gift to the parish office and mark it “Easter.” Thank you very much! . . . Altar servers and members of the clergy are reminded that the rehearsal for Palm Sunday is on Saturday, April 3, at 1:00 PM . . . The sign-up sheet for the Watch Before the Blessed Sacrament is in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Attendance for Annunciation 249, Sunday 198.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa in die tribulationis (1980) by McNeil Robinson (b. 1943), former music director of Saint Mary’s. Mr. Robinson composed this setting for Palm Sunday in this Church, and it seems eminently suitable for the liturgy of the day. One gets a sense of gathering gloom, and this is most evident in Agnus Dei . . . On Maundy Thursday, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa syllabica by Arvo Pärt (b. 1935). Singing this setting on Maundy Thursday is also a parish custom, though a more recent one. Pärt’s unique style of “tintinnabulation” gives a sparse and ethereal effect that goes hand in hand with the liturgy . . . The music at all these liturgies includes much plainsong, both choral and congregational. On Good Friday, the choir sings the beloved Improperia (Reproaches) of Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611) during the Veneration of the Cross.
The Calendar of the Week
The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
Monday in Holy Week
Tuesday in Holy Week
Wednesday in Holy Week
The Easter Triduum
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, curate,
The Reverend Ian Bruce Montgomery, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.