The Prayer Book, following the account of the Acts of the Apostles, has a very strong focus on Ascension Day as a single event that happened forty days after the resurrection. Yet, the Ascension as one event that happened on the fortieth day is not recalled this way in any of the four gospels. In Mark, Luke and John Jesus ascended to the Father on Easter Day. Matthew concludes his gospel with the commissioning of the disciples and the promise that he is with them always until the close of the age.
The Church seems to have found it liturgically and pedagogically convenient to celebrate the events of Easter over the course of time. But this is a device, and it seems to me that it shortchanges to some extent the complexity, mystery and interrelatedness of the events of Jesus’ life. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus reassures his disciples that he is always with them – no need to wait for another event. In John’s Gospel, Jesus says that he and the Father live with those who believe in him – again, no need to wait for the Lord to come. He is already there.
The Ascension is not the last time he appears in his resurrected glory. In Acts, Jesus appears to Paul long after the fortieth day. In the First Letter to the Corinthians, Paul recounts the Lord’s appearance to him, to the disciples and to hundreds of others. At the same time, the language of God as the Trinity begins to be used to describe God’s work in the lives of those who came to be called Christians. Before the Church had these words, perhaps before it is correct even to speak of those who believed as “Church,” Jesus’ followers were sure of his presence since that first Easter Day in the breaking of the bread.
Ascension Day has long been a favorite day for Episcopalians to go to Church. It has often been a civil holiday in Christian countries. Here at Saint Mary’s the day is observed with Sung Mass at Noon and Procession & Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM. (Robert McCormick is playing a recital at 5:30 PM too.) I hope you are able to be here on May 20 to share in the celebration of Mass. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Philip, Tom, Doreen, Steve, Gilbert, Robert, Jason, Harold, Matthew, Bart, Margaret, Marion, Hugh, Rick, and Charles, priest; 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 . . . May 15: 1981 James Thomas Gordon; May 16: 1960 Minnie Packard Rounds, 1992 John Francis Arnold; May 18: 1949 Don Patterson.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 14:8-18, Psalm 67, Revelation 21:22— 22:5, John 14:23-29 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, May 15 by Father Gerth . . . On Sunday, May 16, Father Beddingfield will be the celebrant and preacher for the 9:00 AM Mass. The Rector will be celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM and the 11:00 AM Masses. Holy Baptism will be celebrated at the 11:00 AM liturgy for Agnes Barbara Heffner, daughter of Steven and Mary Heffner . . . Mr. John Hamilton will be the preacher for Solemn Evensong at 5:00 PM . . . The three days before Ascension Day are called Rogation Days, from the Latin, rogare (meaning to ask or plead). Traditionally these days included special prayers for crops and fields, but have also come to include special prayers for peace or other particular concerns.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Congratulations to John Hamilton, a senior seminarian from the Diocese of Atlanta and a student at the General Theological Seminary, has accepted a call to be curate at Grace Church in Newark, NJ. John will be ordained deacon at Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Atlanta, on June 5. This Sunday he is our preacher at Solemn Evensong. The ties between this parish and Grace Church date to the nineteenth century and we are especially pleased that John has been called to serve there . . . Dr. Ryan E. Lesh has been admitted as a Candidate for Holy Orders by the Bishop of New York. Dr. Lesh is studying for the priesthood at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific . . . Father Beddingfield will be away Monday through Wednesday attending the Leadership in Ministry seminar near Boston . . . Doreen Swann continues to improve and we hope she will be able to return home very soon . . . Many thanks for all who helped with the reception for Canon Ndimbo after Evensong last Sunday night . . . Attendance last Sunday 262.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . Sunday at the Sung Mass, played by associate organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude is Prelude in G by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and the postlude is Präludium G-dur, BWV 568 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750) . . . At the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn, BWV 630 by Bach and the postlude is Christ lag in Todesbanden (second setting) by Georg Böhm (1661-1733). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass for Five Voices by William Byrd (1543-1623). The anthem at Communion is Byrd’s Sing joyfully, one of his most popular works (during his time and today) . . . The organ recital is played by Iain Quinn and features works of Saint-Saëns, Dupré and Russian composer Alexander Glazunov . . . On Ascension Day, the recital at 5:30 features works of Bach and Böhm. At the Mass, the setting of the ordinary is Missa brevis, Op. 50 by Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988). Born in Wakefield, England, Leighton’s unique musical language (including lyrical melodies combined with chromaticism, and later in his career, use of serial techniques) earned him great respect as a composer. The anthem at Communion is God is gone up, Op. 27, No. 2 by Gerald Finzi (1901-1956), an important figure in British music of the early 20th century. Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) regarded Finzi as his successor as an English composer, though sadly Finzi may not have lived long enough to fulfill what Vaughan Williams anticipated. The postlude is Paean (1966) by Leighton. Robert McCormick
BECOME A GOOD NEIGHBOR TO THE HOMELESS . . . Jacob’s Tents is a new program from Common Ground that seeks to help congregations create teams to get to know the homeless in a particular geographic area. These parish teams would then be connected with the larger network of social service organizations, thus being able to assist persons who wish to move from homelessness to housing. An orientation meeting will be on Thursday, May 27 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Times Square Hotel, 255 West 43rd Street. If you are interested in attending the orientation with Father Beddingfield, or becoming involved at a later dated, please call the parish office or send an email to email@example.com.
OUT OF TUNE . . . The middle C-sharp of the Pedal 16’ Flûte ouverte stop on our organ has been persistently out of tune for some time now. Naturally, this particular pipe (about 8 feet long) is very high near the rear of the organ, under the rose window and hard to reach. In order for organ curator Larry Trupiano to reach this pipe, he has to crawl through tiny spaces and up several ladders. He went to investigate a few weeks ago and found a fire extinguisher in the pipe, the cause of the tuning problems! He believes a worker dropped it in the pipe during the restoration of the church (some of the larger pipes were not removed at that time). Unfortunately, the pipe was cracked as a result and is awaiting repair, when it will finally be in tune again! RM
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Monday Rogation Day
Tuesday Rogation Day
Wednesday Rogation Day
Eve of Ascension Day 6:00 PM
Thursday Ascension Day
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.