From Father Mead: Smoke Signals
I was treated to a bit of a surprise today at lunch when my wife informed me that a new pope had been elected. This is the only time in my life I have witnessed a papal election – technically this is the fourth pope of my lifetime but I have no memory of the first two. Like many others I have watched from a distance, learning something new about smoke and what its different colors can represent. Modern day smoke signals, I suppose. Being a lifelong Anglo-catholic Episcopalian, and more precisely being one of the curates at Saint Mary the Virgin, my mind has drifted from papal smoke signals to ancient smoke signals of a different sort: incense.
I love incense, as do many others who consider Saint Mary’s their home or even their home away from home. At Saint Mary’s we have enormous thuribles to fill the church with incense and we have a dedicated group of acolytes who are thrilled when they see that their name is listed as “thurifer” for an upcoming service. We even have an incense-meister; his name is Kenny Isler and he makes several hundred pounds of expertly blended, unique and “top-sirloin” incense every year or so for us. We love our smoke, and we even have a nickname that reflects this: Smoky Mary’s!
Incense is not just a fragrant smoke that makes us smell like church for the rest of the day. Incense, like our glorious music, the stunning vista that is our church and the beautiful vestments that we wear, makes our worship experience something not just for the mind, but also for the whole body. We offer our praise and thanksgiving to Jesus Christ our Lord with our hearts, minds, souls, eyes, lips, ears, hands, feet, and even our noses. Incense symbolizes the prayer of the Christian, kindled in the heart by the burning fire of the Holy Spirit, ascending with the sweetness of the resurrected Lord to our Father in heaven. Yet, aside from a purely symbolic meaning, incense serves a particular function when it is used. We cense things to visually and aurally mark them as holy and precious in the sight of God.
In the ceremonies of the old rite (before the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council) every bishop, priest, and deacon was censed individually, each with differing number of swings depending on the “rank” of the person. After several minutes of carefully censing the clergy, the censing of the congregation seems like an afterthought. Unfortunately, the signal this sends is that the people are welcome to get a whiff of the action but the holiest people are the clergy. At Saint Mary’s our practice is similar to the current practice of the Roman Catholic Church: there is no hierarchy to the way we cense: everyone receives three swings. In fact, the people, the Body of Christ, are censed in the same manner that the consecrated Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Christ, are censed. By doing this we are dramatically showing the reality that the people are the Body of Christ just as the consecrated Bread is the Body of Christ. Simply put, we express in the very act of worship that there is no holy hierarchy, just one Body of Christ with Jesus as its head.
We not only say what we believe; we express our beliefs through action. Our identity is made clear in our worship. Factions in our own church and elected leaders in other churches may distance themselves from us or they may reach out to us in love, but nothing can change the fact that all Christians are part of the one Body of Christ with Jesus as our head. At Saint Mary’s we try to make sure everything we do opens our eyes to this fact. The next time you see incense wafting in your direction know that its not because we want you to smell like a Christian; its because we want you to know and feel with all of your being that you are an equal part of the Body of Christ. Matthew Mead
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Tony, Christina, Charlton, Patrick, Eileen, John, Virginia, Mary, Ruth, William, Jane, Thomas, Brian, Deborah, Ibo, Pamela, Penn, Gilbert, Robert, Gloria, Kay, Bart, Marion, Mamie, Rick, Thomas, priest and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Jonathon, Patrick, Bruce, Joseph, Brenden, Christopher, David, Nestor, Freddie, Patrick, Derrick and Christina; and for the repose of the soul of Allan . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 23: 1993 Claude Cecil Morris; April 25: 1999 Helen Kingman; April 27: 1953 Hugh M. Smallwood, 1994 Frances Flagg.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 17:1-15, Psalm 66, 1-8 Peter 2:1-10, John 14:1-14 . . . Father Mead will be the celebrant and preacher for the 9:00 AM Mass . . . Father Gerth will be the celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM Sung Mass and the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass . . . Father Beddingfield will preach at Solemn Evensong & Benediction at 5:00 PM . . . On Saturday, April 23, Father Mead will hear confessions . . . On Saturday, April 30, Father Gerth will hear confessions.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Congratulations to Robert McCormick for a successful and well-attended organ recital on Tuesday, April 19. Robert will play a portion of this program this Sunday in recital at 5:15 at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue (though we encourage our parishioners to come to Saint Mary’s to hear Father Beddingfield preach and the choir of Grace Church in Newark sing!) . . . Father Beddingfield’s class on the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Center for Christian Studies continues on Monday night. The class this week will cover Marian theology and piety through the High Middle Ages, setting the stage for Reformation responses. The class meets at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church on the Eight Floor . . . Father Mead’s Bible Study on the Gospel according to Saint John will meet at 7:00 PM this Tuesday in Saint Benedict’s Study. The class will focus on the second half of Chapter 6 . . . Attendance last Sunday 267.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Ad regias Agni dapes (the Eastertide Office hymn for Vespers) from Le Tombeau de Titelouze, Opus 38/7 by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971). The postlude is Chant de joie from Neuf pieces (1943) by Jean Langlais (1907-1991). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Canterbury Mass by American composer Anthony Piccolo (b. 1946). This setting was written in 1980 for the choir of Canterbury Cathedral, a choir of which the composer was a member for a time. Piccolo’s accessible and appealing choral music has been equally popular on both sides of the Atlantic. This setting is particularly brief and uses modern (Rite II) texts. The motet at Communion is an exquisite setting of the text from the Song of Solomon, Rise up, my love, by the English-born Canadian Healey Willan (1880-1968). Willan wrote a great deal of liturgical music for the choir of Saint Mary Magdalene, Toronto, a great Anglo-catholic parish he served for many years. This piece comes from his collection of Liturgical Motets . . . The organ recital at 4:40 is played by Kyle Babin . . . This Sunday we welcome at Evensong & Benediction the Choir of Men and Boys of Grace Church in Newark, New Jersey, who will sing works of James McGregor (Grace Church’s director of music) and Bruckner. Robert McCormick
FROM SAINT ANDREW’S GUILD: BRING A FRIEND TO CHURCH . . . Join our lunch bunch! At the suggestion of a new parishioner, since December a group of Saint Marians has gone to lunch after church virtually every Sunday. Our numbers have ranged from 3 to 20 people. We started nearby and went looking for a place more affordable by all of us. For now, we’ve settled on a restaurant near the corner of 46th Street and Eighth Avenue. Almost every Sunday, a newcomer or a visitor or two has joined us and learned more about Saint Mary’s. Join us this Sunday or any Sunday – just look for MaryJane Boland, Eric Peterson or Don Wright, who are typically in Saint Joseph’s Hall rounding up Saint Marians for the walk down the block. Often we continue our conversation and come back together for Evensong & Benediction. Help Saint Mary’s congregation grow to 400 members by Christmas 2005.
CHRISTIAN INITIATION ON PENTECOST . . . Holy Baptism and the other rites of Christian initiation will be celebrated on the Day of Pentecost, Sunday, May 15, at the Solemn Mass. We are delighted that the Right Reverend C. Christopher Epting, ecumenical officer of the Episcopal Church, will be with us as celebrant and preacher. If you wish to be baptized or to present someone for baptism, or if you wish to be confirmed or received as a member of the Episcopal Church, please speak with Father Beddingfield or one of the other parish priests. These rites will next be celebrated on All Saints’ Day, Tuesday, November 1.
HONDURAS 2006 . . . It’s not too early to become thinking about joining the mission trip to Honduras. We will be visiting our friends at the Church of San Juan Evangelista in Tegucigalpa January 16, 2006 through January 22, 2006. Though we will know more as time draws closer, we will most likely be involved in some programs with the children of the village, a construction project, the effort to provide good meals for the whole parish during the work week, and a mentoring project with some of the young adults. In late summer or early fall there will be a meeting for those who are interested in hearing more about the upcoming trip. The overall cost of the trip per person would be around $1,100.00. Each person pays his or her own way so that all of the mission funds raised by the parish may go directly to the people of Villanueva.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fifth Sunday of Easter
Monday Saint Mark the Evangelist (transferred)
Tuesday Easter Weekday
Wednesday Easter Weekday
Thursday Easter Weekday
Friday Catherine of Siena, 1380 No 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 James Ross Smith, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.