The Assumption of Mary
The Episcopal Church observes August 15 as the “Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin, Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here at Saint Mary’s we name the feast by its more usual title, “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” We celebrate God’s work in Mary’s life and we pray that we may share with her in the glory of God’s kingdom.
Mary being in heaven was something Christians in the West decided to fight about when the Reformation started. When I was growing up Baptist Mary was hardly even mentioned apart from the Christmas pageant. Naturally, this is a card, as it were, the Roman Church has played against Protestants since the beginning of the Reformation. In 1950, Pope Pius XII decreed that belief in Mary’s bodily assumption to heaven was a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church. Fine. As in so many things, we Episcopalians just approach things differently. We state our belief in our collect for the day:
O God, you have taken to yourself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of your incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of your eternal kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
It is sad, however, that too many Episcopal Churches won’t even be observing the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin this Sunday or even transferring its celebration to Monday – an option is given in the calendar our Prayer Book. In too many places, the Episcopal Church has lost its sense of the priority of daily public prayer for the Christian community. I wish I thought there were theological reasons for this. Mostly church doors are closed because of a lack of formation and a lack of vision. At Saint Mary’s we give time and money to keep open doors and daily worship.
Here we have a conviction that Christian liturgy is the organizing principle of our lives. We believe Jesus is among us when the baptized gather. We intentionally meet at the Lord’s table, at an altar that is a sign to us of Christ. We eat and drink in remembrance of him. We gather by water still to see him die and rise in our midst. On occasion, we even take to the streets in Christ’s name.
My first year here I realized it was possible to do processions through our neighborhood on Sunday mornings. I confess I was truly nervous the first few times. There were logistical issues, but we’ve worked them out. There is a particular and important public witness on Palm Sunday and Corpus Christi that we make to the thousands of people who are in Times Square on those Sunday mornings. The one other occasion when it is possible to make this kind of witness is when Assumption falls on Sunday. (If you think it were possible to process on a weeknight at 6:00 PM, I invite you to stand at the corner of Forty-sixth Street and Seventh Avenue any night of the week. Even on Assumption 2003, the day after the blackout, Times Square was packed.)
I’d like to think that in a very appropriate way our outdoor processions are a sign of a new era of life for our parish and for our immediate community. In so many ways, Saint Mary’s is at a point in its life when it can reach out in new ways to others. Each generation has its challenges and opportunities. Some of these can be glorious and gloriously fun. I’m hoping for good weather for Sunday. I’m hoping for fun. But mostly I long for the glory that can be ours by God’s grace when we gather in his Name. There is great spiritual strength in God’s love for us, a love we can know and feel in many ways. I believe we have a rare privilege on Sunday to give God glory and to enjoy his love for us. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Paul who is gravely ill, for Samuel, Paul, Peter, Charles, Mamie, Judy, Mary, 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 and for the repose of the souls of Lonnie and Catherine . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . .August 15: 1963 Rose Macchia, 1971 Elvira Horg Oyx.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Psalm 34:1-9, Isaiah 61:10-11, Galatians 4:4-7, Luke 1:46-55 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, August 14 by Father Beddingfield . . . On Sunday, August 15, the Rector will be the celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM Mass and the Procession & Solemn Mass 11:00 AM. Father Beddingfield will be the celebrant and preacher at the 9:00 AM Mass and the 5:20 PM Mass.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reminder to Saint Vincent’s Guild: Brass polishing and sacristy work, Saturday, August 14, 10:00 AM . . . Congratulations to Terry and Donna O’Dwyer on the thirty-third anniversary of their marriage on August 15 . . . Michael Reid, a member of our parish, will be performing in the free opera productions at the Central Park Bandshell at 7:30 PM on August 11 (Turandot); August 19 (Rigoletto) and September 9 (Tosca) . . . The Board of Trustees meets on Monday, August 16, at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Attendance: Transfiguration 126, Last Sunday 173.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Fanfare (1952) by John Cook (1918-1984). The postlude is Final from Symphonie III, Opus 28 by Louis Vierne (1870-1937), an electrifying toccata in sonata-allegro form that seems a perfect conclusion to such a great day! The setting of the Mass ordinary, sung by the full choir, is Missa ‘Salve intemerata’ by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585). This setting, based on Tallis’ motet of the same name (a text in praise of Our Lady), was composed around 1530, early in Tallis’ career and before the great musical simplifications of the English Reformation. English polyphony of the Renaissance is often considered the grandest and most complicated of the period. Stylistically this Mass has much in common with the elaborate compositions of the previous generation of English composers such as Robert Fayrfax (1464-1521) and Nicholas Ludford (c. 1485-c. 1557). The listener can tell this from the long vocal lines, high treble (soprano) range and frequent melismas (many notes sung to one syllable). It is interesting to note that the tenor part was missing and was reconstructed by editor Jon Dixon. The motet at Communion is Gaude, Virgo Mater Christi by the great Flemish master Josquin Desprez (c. 1440-1521). A portion of the text, a sequence hymn of Our Lady, reads, “Rejoice, you who ascend after [Christ], for there is great honor for you in the palace of heaven.” Assumpta est Maria in coelum! Robert McCormick
HOW’S YOUR HOPKINS COMING ALONG? . . . We have a few more weeks before Rebecca Weiner leads a study of the poetry and life of Gerard Manley Hopkins. The class will be on Wednesdays September 15 through 29. (There will be a Sung Mass on Saint Michael & All Angels, September 29, but the class should still be able to begin shortly after 7:00 PM.) Rebecca is a professor of literature at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York. A good place to begin is with the Dover Thrift Edition (1995), God’s Grandeur and Other Poems.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE CHRISTIAN FAITH? QUESTIONS ABOUT THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH? . . . Consider being a part of Via Media, a new course offered at Saint Mary’s on Monday nights in October and November. Via Media includes videos and discussions on such aspects of the faith as the Bible, sin, Christian Hope, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and other basic aspects of the Christian faith from an Anglican perspective. The classes will be from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM and will include refreshments, the viewing of a videotape, discussion in small groups, and closing with prayer. The program is particularly appropriate for those who may be curious about Christianity, new to the church or who are returning after some time away. To find out more about the program or reserve a place, speak with Father Beddingfield.
SAINT MARY’S INCLUDED IN ‘DESIGN TIMES SQUARE’ . . . Design Times Square, a new program organized by the Times Square Alliance, aims to celebrate quality design in our area, draw public attention to beautiful and interesting buildings and to encourage businesses to invest in design. In this inaugural year of the program a jury of authorities in design have nominated 39 buildings based on architecture, signage, interiors or public space and art. Saint Mary’s is nominated for its interior. To cast a vote on the favorite three sites and to get a visual tour of Times Square go to http://www.timessquarebid.org/design/
Church Pension Group…. The Church Pension Group has undertaken a very laudable program to educate their employees about the Episcopal Church and its operations. Their employees handle our entire medical and pension issues plus other problems for us. They may have limited information about the larger church and how the parishes operate. In response to a lack of broader knowledge CPG offers a series of classes on such subjects as The Role of CPG and the Episcopal Church, The Ordination Process, Episcopal Parish Operations, Retirees in the Episcopal Church, Diocesan Office Operations, and Parish Administrator and Parish Treasurer – the Miracle Workers. Our own Treasurer, Barbara Klett, participated in Parish Administrator and Parish Treasurer – the Miracle Workers and found it very rewarding.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Friday Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, 1153 Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
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.