The Angelus

Volume 7, Number 6

Suddenly and Unprepared

As we go to press on Wednesday, December 29, the death toll in South Asia from the tsunami that hit on Sunday continues to rise.  The number of deaths this morning is estimated to be about 70,000.  The enormity of the tragedy will unfold for several generations. 

The Great Litany (1979 Book of Common Prayer, page 148) contains among its many prayers a petition that we may be delivered from “dying suddenly and unprepared.”  The burial rites of the Episcopal Church directly address the mystery of death and life.  One prayer that speaks to me (and that I read at the grave when I am presiding at a committal) includes the petition that God make us “deeply aware of the shortness and uncertainty of human life” (page 504).  This terrible tragedy also brings to mind the first burial anthem from our old (1928) Prayer Book (page 332),

Man, that is born of a woman, hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery.  He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay.  In the midst of life we are in death; of whom may we seek for succour . . .

In times of tragedy we are often filled with more questions than answers.  We ask theological questions but we also ask practical questions.  How do we respond?  What can we do to help? 

Though it is sometimes therapeutic to pack boxes of supplies and accomplish tangible projects, one of the best and most helpful responses is for us to contribute money to existing programs that can mobilize resources on a huge scale.  There are many such programs, one of which is Episcopal Relief and Development (formerly known as the Presiding Bishop’s Fund for World Relief).  One can donate online at  To make a credit card donation by phone, call 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to: Episcopal Relief and Development, c/o South Asia Relief Fund, PO Box 12043, Newark, New Jersey 07101.  Let us continue to pray for those who have died, those affected by the disaster, and for those offer help.  Stephen Gerth

Christmas at Saint Mary’s

This year Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the First Sunday after Christmas Day came three days in a row.  It felt to some of us as though we had a Christmas “Triduum” (Church jargon for “Three Days”) in addition to the familiar Easter Triduum (Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter).  Like the Easter Triduum at Saint Mary’s, our Christmas Triduum was just super.  Words cannot begin to convey the love, the faith and the hope that were celebrated here.   There were more than a few glimpses of glory, not to mention the sounds of heaven.

On Christmas Eve when I walked into the church around noon, great swags of green were hanging around the chancel lit with single strings of white lights.  My first thought was, “There’s always been a little bit of Italy in England.”  The church is so very beautiful.  Many thanks to all whose gifts made it possible.  Many thanks to Howard Christian for his leadership, his creative vision and his work and for those who helped him execute the decoration on Christmas Eve: Rick Austill, MaryJane Boland, Jon Bryant, Carolyn Gregg, Stephen Karagan, Patrick White, and a new friend to Saint Mary’s, Nick Burnett.

Saint Raphael’s Guild (our ushers) had more than the usual amount of greeting and help with the church full and many people seated in the side chapels on Christmas Eve.  And for them too there were Masses and Offices to serve on Christmas Day and the First Sunday after Christmas Day.

Saint Vincent’s Guild (our altar servers) makes it look easy.  It is – when you do what they do with so much care and joy.  Saint Bede’s Guild (our readers) was here at every service to help in proclaiming the Word.

Those of you at the Christmas Eve Mass in particular know that our musicians took us to a very special place.  At the end of the choir singing Agnus Dei, I, as celebrant, made a very deliberate pause before showing the Gifts to the assembly.  There were six hundred people in church and no one was moving.  It was still.  It was a moment of transcendent presence.  It was Christmas.

Thank you to my colleagues.  Thank you to the church staff.  There were graces upon graces here at Christmas.  And our Twelve Days of celebration still have a long way to go.  Merry Christmas.  S.G.


PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Tony, Joan, Brenda, Cecil, Ibo, Deborah, Mary, Rick, Pamela, Charles, Gloria, Penn, Gilbert, Robert, Margaret, Jason, Bart, Hugh, Marion, Mamie, Christine, Judith, Thomas and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Bruce, Paul, Brenden, Jonathan, Jeffrey, Ned, Timothy, Patrick, Kevin, Christopher, Andrew, Joseph, Marc, Timothy, David, Colin, Christina, David, Nestor, Freddie, Matthew and Bennett . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 1: 1983 Gertrude Schrage.


SERVICE NOTES . . . At the Solemn Mass this Saturday, January 1 at 11:00 AM (The Holy Name), the Rector will celebrate and preach . . . On Sunday, the Rector will be the celebrant and preacher for the 9:00 AM Mass . . . Father Beddingfield will be celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM Sung Mass and for the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass . . . Father Mead will be the preacher at Solemn Evensong & Benediction at 5:00 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 8 by Father Gerth.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . Father Charles Whipple continues to recover from a broken hip.  He is now at the Village Nursing Home.  Please keep him in your prayers . . . The 2005 Ordo Calendars are here and will be available for $5.00 in Saint Joseph’s Hall after the Solemn Mass on Sunday . . . Baptisms, Confirmations and Receptions will be offered at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, January 9, 2005, the Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Bishop Grein will celebrate and preach.  If you wish to be included in one of these sacraments or sacramental rites, please speak with Father Beddingfield as soon as possible . . . Attendance Christmas Eve 618, Christmas Day 147, Last Sunday 303.


NOTES ON MUSIC . . . On Saturday, the feast of the Holy Name, the cantor at the Solemn Mass is Geoffrey Williams, baritone and countertenor.  The voluntaries are chorale preludes for New Year’s Day by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).  The anthem at Communion is the fifteenth century English Coventry Carol (usually associated with Holy Innocents’ Day, December 28) . . . This Sunday at the Sung Mass, played by Robert McDermitt, the voluntaries are settings of In dulci jubilo by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707) and Johann Michael Bach (1648-1694) . . . At the Solemn Mass, the voluntaries are Noëls by Louis-Claude Daquin (1694-1772).  The setting of the Mass ordinary, a 5-part setting for Christmastide, is Missa ‘Quaeramus cum pastoribus’ (“Let us seek with the shepherds the Incarnate Word”) by Cristóbal de Morales (c. 1500-1553).  Morales, a native of Seville, is considered the first major composer from Spain.  His career spanned from Seville to Rome (for ten years he was a singer in the papal choir) to posts as maestro de capilla of the cathedrals at Toledo and Málaga.  The anthem at Communion is Ibant Magi by Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), a student of Morales . . . The organ recital at 4:40 on Sunday is Jamie Shiell of Decatur, Georgia . . . On the Epiphany, January 6, the recital at 5:30 by Robert McCormick includes music by Buxtehude, Daquin and Messiaen.  Continuing our practice of performing rarely heard Spanish works of the Renaissance, the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Ave Maria’ by Francisco de Peñalosa (c. 1470-1528).  Peñalosa was undoubtedly an influence on Morales, as he was a canon of Seville Cathedral during Morales’s formative years.  This Mass, like many of his works, is austere in style yet haunting in its beauty.  The motet at Communion is Videntes stellam by the Flemish master Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594).  The postlude is an Improvisation on “We three kings” (perhaps one might hear differing musical sections and motives for each of the kings!).  Robert McCormick


The Calendar of the Week

Sunday              The Second Sunday after Christmas

Monday                     Christmas Weekday

Tuesday                     Christmas Weekday

Wednesday               Christmas Weekday

                                    Eve of The Epiphany 6:00 PM

Thursday                   The Epiphany

Friday                        Weekday                                                                      Abstinence

Saturday                 Weekday



The Parish Clergy

The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,

The Reverend John Beddingfield, The Reverend Matthew Mead, curates,

The Reverend Ian Bruce Montgomery, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assisting priests,

The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.