Response to Evil
Walking home through Times Square on Monday night, August 2, I saw the NASDAQ MarketSite surrounded by police and police cars. It touched a nerve. My emotions kicked in big time. I generally try to keep my memories of September 11 and its aftermath sanely and appropriately in a part of my brain where I don’t think about them. But occasionally, as on Monday night, something can trigger the memories and the emotions. Once triggered, I’m off to the races, emotionally speaking. And it’s happened enough since September 11 that I know the pattern: great sadness, as I remember wreckage, smoke, fire, smells, dust, and body parts, followed by anger and finally rage. If I don’t stop my brain, I will soon go to the memories of the biographical portraits that The New York Times published, world without end.
Monday night as I walked – no hurrying through a very crowded Times Square, phrases from the Prayer Book liturgies started to come into my head – or my heart went looking for them. And the phrases seemed very much the right medicine. “Make us deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of life.” “Keep us from dying suddenly and unprepared.” “Deliver us from evil.”
Our response to evil as Christians is not as easy as one might think from just reading the New Testament. The pre-Constantinian Church generally did not accept the idea that a man could be a Christian and a soldier. Augustine works out the just war theory in the late fourth century, if I recall correctly. Some months ago I heard a story on the radio about Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the Catholic Worker Movement. She was a radical pacifist. She used to drop to her knees when congregations stood at Mass to sing national hymns. I found myself wondering how mothers at whose children were being ripped from their arms would view her Christian witness. I am not a radical pacifist.
For the better part of a year after September 11, 2001 I could not cross Sixth Avenue and look south to where the towers stood. When friends from out of town want to go to Ground Zero they go without me. But I also have some memories of the extraordinary sacrificial courage, competence and intelligence of the men and women I met at Ground Zero. I can remember so clearly thinking that the people who attacked us had no idea of the strength of character of ordinary Americans. More than once since the fall of 2001 I have calmed my anxiety about terrorists by remembering the firefighters, police and everyone else I met at Ground Zero during the worst time. Yes, of course, anxiety is a useful and helpful emotional response. It is also an invitation.
What can you and I do? I think our best response is to try to live our lives intelligently and truthfully and to hope that we will have grace and courage to respond to challenges and opportunities that will come our way. I think we should be gentle with ourselves and our emotions, but not with evil. Evil must be named. It is evil to murder innocent people, to terrorize people. Surely hell is for those who commit these acts.
May I remind you and myself of Jesus’ last gift to his disciples, the gift he gave on the night he told those men and women that he was their friend? Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). But these were not Jesus’ last words to them in John’s Gospel. His last words to them before going to the garden were, “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b). I invite you to continue to embrace Christ’s gift to us and his words. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Paul, Samuel, Paul, Peter, Charles, Mamie, Judy, Mary, Tom, Kara, Mark, Steve, Gilbert, Matthew, Robert, Gloria, Margaret, Jason, Harold, Bart, Hugh, Margaret, Marion, Rick and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Brenden, Jonathan, Jeffrey, Ned, Timothy, Patrick, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Timothy, David, Colin, Christina, David, Nestor, Freddie, Matthew and Bennett.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . .August 8: 1963 Charles Augustus Edgar; August 13: 1987 Toyoko Anne Tsutsumi Morton.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Genesis 15:1-6, Psalm 33:12-15, 18-22, Hebrews 11:1-16, Luke 12:32-40 . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, August 7, at 11:30 AM. Confessions will not be heard at 4:00 PM for this Saturday only . . . On Sunday, August 8, the Rector will preside and Father Mead will preach at the 9:00 AM and 5:20 PM Masses. Father Beddingfield will preside and preach at the 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM Masses.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks to our Assumption Appeal Mailing Team: George Handy, Dennis Smith and Eileen Whittle . . . Paula Lynch and Lanch Butchko are to be married here at Saint Mary’s in the Lady Chapel on Saturday, August 14 at 3:00 PM . . . Our seminarian assistant, Clare Nesmith, is working on a number of projects for us this summer, perhaps most importantly, she is coordinating our survey and storage of vestments. She is also coordinating the work of a curator who is helping us with a range of storage and repair issues. Clare, we are glad you are with us! . . . Saint Vincent’s Guild (the official name for our altar servers) will meet on Saturday, August 14 from 10 AM to early afternoon to polish brass, clean and prepare for Assumption . . . The fall music program will be published and distributed on Sunday, August 15 . . . The current art exhibit, Sacred Geometry, ends August 14. See it this Sunday in Saint Joseph’s Hall! There’s still time to order prints – yes, they are for sale! . . . Attendance last Sunday 167.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Vater unser im Himmelreich (second setting) by Georg Böhm (1661-1733). A setting of the German metrical (hymn) version of the Lord’s Prayer, this piece is one of three settings of that tune by Böhm (his first setting was played at the Solemn Mass on June 27). It was (and still is in many Lutheran churches) a popular hymn in his time; many other composers from varying musical periods have writing settings of it, including Buxtehude and Mendelssohn (in his sixth organ sonata). The postlude, also by Böhm, is Präludium a-moll. Our soloist is Mr. Geoffrey Williams, baritone and countertenor. The anthem at Communion is O Maria, stella maris, a French medieval conductus in praise of Our Lady, dating from c. 1200. We thank Mr. Williams for giving us a chance to hear this rarely heard music on a number of occasions this summer! Robert McCormick
FROM THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER . . . The Minister of the Congregation is directed to instruct the people, from time to time, about the duty of Christian parents to make prudent provision for the well‑being of their families, and of all persons to make wills, while they are in health, arranging for the disposal of their temporal goods, not neglecting, if they are able, to leave bequests for religious and charitable uses.
FROM THE TREASURER OF SAINT MARY’S . . . Bequests to Saint Mary’s should be made to the Society of the Free Church of St. Mary the Virgin, 145 West 46th Street, New York, New York. If you have any questions, please let me know and I will be happy to assist you! Barbara Klett
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Tuesday Laurence, Deacon, and Martyr at Rome, 258
Wednesday Clare, Abbess at Assisi, 1254
Friday Jeremy Taylor, Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore, 1667
Saturday J.M Daniels
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, The Reverend Matthew Mead, curates,
The Reverend Ian Bruce Montgomery, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.