Easter at Saint Mary’s
Sometimes I have trouble explaining to people what makes Saint Mary’s so special. To say that the liturgical rites of the Church are prayed and lived out with enormous integrity would not be the most helpful way of introducing us. Yet that is who we are. We are a place where our lives our shaped by the message of the gospel and celebration of liturgy. In our midst people are reborn to eternal life and Jesus Christ still rises from the dead.
During the 9:00 AM Mass on Palm Sunday I realized it had stopped raining and the sun was coming out. We had sunshine long enough for the Procession through Times Square at the beginning of the 11:00 AM service. It was a glorious day with glorious worship.
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week are always interesting. The service schedule changes and we have a morning Mass following an early service of Morning Prayer. At 6:00 PM we have a simple service of Evensong. This year, Tuesday night was particularly well attended.
Our Diocese’s Chrism Mass is celebrated at 11:00 AM on Tuesday in Holy Week. Father Montgomery was able to do the Noon services here at Saint Mary’s so both Father Beddingfield and I could attend the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral. Father Wells was there too. The Bishop gives a lunch for the clergy afterwards. It is the only time during the year when so many of the members of the clergy are able to be with each other and John and I were very grateful we were both able to go.
The services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Eve and Easter Day could not have been better. Every rehearsal for every service took less time than it has in years past. At the beginning of the week I was a little worried that we were leaving something out. The servers and the clergy were able to enter into their work this week with a spirit that enabled each other to enjoy the rites – instead of worrying about the rites. I am so thankful for our visiting clergy, Bishop Epting, Father Andrew and Father Weil, and for their help. It is always great to have Mother Sullivan with us and the arrival of Father Montgomery could not have been better timed. It was so much fun to have Father Matthew Mead with us – and he did such a great job as deacon for all of the principal liturgies. Of course he had to make special trips from New Haven to do it and for this we are thankful. After the 11:00 AM Mass on Easter Day I was able to thank Father Beddingfield for all his work this week. The congregation spontaneously applauded – and I want the readers of this newsletter to know that too.
What can I say about our altar servers? They are simply the best. I’m not just talking about their graceful service during the liturgy but the spirit with which they serve and help each other and the rest of us. To all of them, I say thanks on behalf of the rest of us.
George Handy and our ushers were there all week. Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you. Howard Christian and the flower team gave us a beautiful church for Holy Week and Easter. Thank you so very much. (Howard says there have never been more roses at the high altar and I believe him.) The receptions on Easter Eve and Easter Day were just perfect too. Thank you, Jim Dennis and the rest of the Brother Lawrence Guild.
How can I begin to speak of the music? The range, the quality, and the appropriateness of the offerings are without peer. And there was no music for the sake of music! There was music for the service of the assembly and of the liturgy. Robert McDermitt gave us a wonderful recital on Easter Day before Evensong. Robert McCormick, I cannot thank you enough.
Let me also say a word of thanks publicly to those who work for the church and those who volunteer behind the scenes. It would not be possible for us to do so much for so many without your love for Saint Mary’s. On behalf of the parish, I thank you for all of the extra effort you made during the week so that we could welcome so many.
Every year a few moments from the week will always stand out in each of our minds. The first moment of the week came for me on Palm Sunday when the procession was moving into Duffy Square (the name for the northern part of what is called Times Square). The procession stretched with palms and people into the square. At the head I could see smoke rising from the thuribles and the processional cross, adorned with palms and flowers. The sun was shining. Palms were spreading through the Square. We are an urban liturgical parish and no single service makes me feel it more than this one.
The “Fabric of Faith” exhibit in Saint Joseph’s Hall is simple and simply great. It seems so right and it was such a gift to go into Saint Joseph’s Hall after the Vigil and see it. The leadership that Erwin de Leon, Susan Miranda and José Vidal are giving to the Visual Arts Program is most appreciated.
Finally, I want to say something about the service of the word at the Easter Vigil. We use seven Old Testament readings. The church is darkened except for a few candles and just enough electric light from lamps in the ceiling so that the assembly can sing the psalms after the readings. There is a special beauty to this semi-darkness. This year all seven readers read so very well. I know that this was a moment of grace. Even when one practices, we are not machines. We are human beings. Sometimes our voices don’t do everything we would like them to do. Saturday night, the prophecies were proclaimed so very well. We weren’t the first people to hear God’s Word. We won’t be the last. It was profoundly clear that God’s Word was being spoken.
To all who were able to be here and to all whose prayers and gifts make the ministry of this parish possible, I thank you. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . .Your prayers are asked for Russell who is gravely ill, for Suzi, Doreen, James, Cynthia, Jane, Mary, Naomi, Arlene, Gilbert, Mary, William, Joseph, Jean, Lynn, Nancy, Margaret, Robert, Gloria, Jason, Harold, Matthew, Virginia, Bart, Margaret, Marion, Hugh, Rick, Carlson, priest 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, Colin, Christina, David, Nestor, Freddie, Matthew and Bennett . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 10: 1993 Edna Isabelle Matthews Craig; April 12: 1975 Violet Carolyn Cadney; April 13: 1958 Earle W. Stevenson, 1992 George Edward Mueller; April 19: 1997 Gudrun Lagergren.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 5:12a,17-22,25-29, Psalm 111, Revelation 1:1-19; John 20:19-31 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, April 24, by Father Gerth.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Russell Bagley, former parishioner, trustee and treasurer of the parish, is gravely ill. Mr. Bagley lives in Bennington, Vermont. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Doreen Swan is at the Village Nursing Home, continuing to improve as she recovers from a fall . . . Flowers are needed for Sunday, April 25 and for Sunday, May 2 . . .Attendance during the Easter Triduum: Maundy Thursday 244, Good Friday 413, Easter 904.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Christ lag in todesbanden (I) by Georg Böhm (1661-1733) and the postlude is Christ ist erstanden, BWV 627 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750). Both pieces are based upon German Easter chorales (hymns), which themselves are based upon the plainsong Easter sequence Victimae paschali laudes. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass for Three Voices by William Byrd (1543-1623), a setting for altos, tenors and basses. The anthem at Communion is Christ rising again by John Sheppard (c. 1515-1559/60). Both Byrd and Sheppard, living around the time of the English Reformation, wrote Latin and English Church music. Each composer had a particular style depending on the language of the piece. Byrd, though, remained a faithful Roman Catholic (and was tolerated by the Anglican monarchs), but much of his Latin music was written for clandestine Roman Catholic Masses where only a few were present. This may have led to the intimate style of his Latin music . . . We continue our series of organ recitals at 4:40. This week, Mr. Cleveland Kersh of Princeton, New Jersey plays works of Brahms and Alain.
FROM SEAN CASSIDY . . . The processional cross that you saw for the first time at the Great Vigil of Easter and on Easter Day is not new to Saint Mary’s but it has not been used for many years. Pat Higgins and I don’t know the history of this piece other than it is engraved January 1908 and it has the initials on it of the person for whom it was given. It is solid brass decorated with an elaborate filigree design and the corpus is solid silver. It had lost its staff. Although badly tarnished, it was an excellent candidate for restoration. An unused staff with brass fittings was located in the basement. We found an artisan who works with these types of items. He was able to modify the staff to accommodate the cross. After some wood refinishing and a lot of "good old fashioned" polishing, the processional cross has been returned to the service of the altar. We think it is really glorious and that you will agree when you see it. Sean Cassidy
VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY . . . Lighthouse International is recruiting volunteers to help with their 32nd Annual POSH Clothing Sale on May 13 – 16. Lana Mullen is an active volunteer and has asked that we help to advertise the need for more volunteers. People are needed to help at many different times and days during the week. For more information, please contact Carmella Chessen, Volunteer Resources, (212) 821-9406, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Second Sunday of Easter
Monday Alphege, bishop & martyr
Tuesday Easter Weekday
Wednesday Anselm, bishop
Thursday Easter Weekday
Friday Easter Weekday No abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
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.