Something unusual happened on Christmas Eve: the assembly starting applauding as the final hymn, Hark! the herald angels sing, ended. There was still a dismissal to do, still a postlude to be played. I had the strong sense that the spontaneous applause that broke out throughout the filled church was not just for the hymn and the descant on the final verse, which was glorious, but for the whole Mass – and, I confess, especially for our parish musicians. The music and the Mass were extraordinary.
It is always a great honor for us as a parish community to have our retired bishop, the Right Reverend Richard F. Grein, with us. Bishops are a particular sign of Christ’s presence. In liturgical parishes their presence seems almost normative. Certainly that’s so for us when Bishop Grein is with us.
Howard Christian and his team were here all Christmas Eve to prepare the church for Christmastide. The church was stunningly beautiful. There are so many wonderful elements to the decoration. Above all, the scale is right. Saint Mary’s is an enormous space. There’s something else, of course. The flowers and greens are beautiful, but the decoration looks its best during Mass, with the sanctuary full of servers and vested members of the clergy and the nave full of people. It’s more than genius. There is a grace to this ministry that is profound.
Grace is a good word also to describe the ministries of ushers, servers and the church staff. The welcoming smiles of the church ushers help to fill Saint Mary’s with guests on Christmas Eve. In the same way, it is so easy to serve at the altar when the hearts of the servers are so obviously joyful.
Every moment of our lives is unique. I want to say that there is something especially wonderful about the colleagues I have at the present moment. The church staff comes through for us. The staff ‘volunteers’ – including finance office volunteers, not seen but crucial to our ongoing parish life – comes through for us. Calls for help from these and others with anything are answered, even at this busy time of the year.
Saint Mary’s only has two members of the clergy on staff right now, me and Father John Beddingfield. I know I speak for him and myself when I say that we look forward daily to the arrival of our third full-time priest on July 1, 2004. In the meantime, I want to publicly thank Father for his work and his gifts. I could not do my job without his collegial support. Father, thank you very, very much for all that you do for me and for Saint Mary’s.
Finally, I want to thank our music leadership, especially our music director Robert McCormick and his associate Robert McDermitt. There were more than a few moments when I wasn’t at Saint Mary’s during the Midnight Mass. I was in the spirit. The grace of the liturgy and its music took me there. I never imagined I would really stand at an altar while Vaughan Williams’s Mass in G Minor was sung, much less at the altar of a parish anything like Saint Mary’s. It was a very Merry Christmas for yours truly and, I’m sure, for hundreds and hundreds who are here for Masses and who enter our open doors to pray. To all who made and are making Christmastide at Saint Mary’s so wonderful, thank you. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Margaret, Will, Jay, Mabel, Heidi, Robert, Gloria, Jason, Harold, Billie, Matthew, Virginia, Bart, Margaret, Marion, Hugh, Rick, Mary Angela, religious, and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Ned, Timothy, Patrick, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Timothy, David, and Colin and for the repose of the soul of David . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 10: 1994 William F. Lata.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Jeremiah 31:7-14, Psalm 84:1-8, Ephesians 1:3-6,14-19a, Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 . . . During Christmastide the parish clergy will not sit for confessions on Saturdays except by appointment. Scheduled confessions resume on Saturday, January 10 . . . The ordinary Fridays of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. Friday abstinence is not observed during Christmastide but resumes for Episcopalians on the Friday after the Epiphany, this year, January 9.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . At long last, the 2004 Stewardship Campaign mailing is going out on Friday, January 2. Local members of the parish will be asked to return them on Sunday, January 11. Of course, pledge cards can be returned by mail as well . . . Congratulations to Mervin Garraway, our building superintendent, and his wife Kathy Garraway on the birth of their daughter, Jaida Jazmin. She was born on December 19 at 1:37 PM. She was 19 inches long and weighed six pounds and six ounces . . . Those who knit or may enjoy learning more about knitting, there will be a “Knitters’ Retreat” at Mount Saviour Monastery, February 6-8, 2004. For more information, please see Penny Byham . . . Attendance Christmas 623, Sunday after Christmas 318.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This week at the Sung Mass, played by associate organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude is Prelude in G Major by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) and the postlude is Toccata d-moll, BWV 538 by J. S. Bach (1685-1750) . . . This week at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Dans une douce joie from Neuf pièces by Jean Langlais (1907-1991) and the postlude is the same as Sung Mass. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa Morus by New York composer and former Saint Mary’s choir member Elliot Levine (b. 1948) and the anthem at Communion is Candlelight Carol by John Rutter (b. 1945) . . . We continue our series of organ recitals at 4:40. This week Preston Smith, associate organist and choirmaster of Saint Bartholomew’s Church, New York, plays works of Franck, Buxtehude, Vaughan Williams and S. S. Wesley . . . On the Epiphany, January 6, the organ recital at 5:30 by Robert McCormick features works of Daquin, Buxtehude, Dupré, Langlais and Bach. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Surge propera’ by Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599) and the motet at Communion is Surge, illuminare by G. P. da Palestrina (1525-1594). This is the sixth Mass setting by Guerrero that our choir has sung in the past year. Though often overshadowed by the better-known Victoria, Guerrero, who was for a time maestro de capilla of Seville Cathedral, is widely considered one of the finest Spanish composers of the late Renaissance.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Second Sunday After Christmas Day
Monday Christmas Weekday
Epiphany Eve 6:00 PM
Tuesday The Epiphany
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday William Laud, archbishop
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, curate,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priest, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.