From the Rector: He’s Here
From time to time I love to tell the story of losing Jesus one day at the weekly school Mass when I was a curate in Baton Rouge. I was the celebrant. Father John Senette was assisting. We celebrated facing the congregation of two hundred school children and their teachers. After holding up the Bread and Cup for the elevation at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, we genuflected. I remember looking at the assembly and saying, “And now as our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to say.” I’m sure I lifted my hands and my eyes as we began the Lord’s Prayer.
Sometime in the course of the prayer I became aware that the host was not on the paten (church word for plate). Remember we are facing the people. As the people prayed I asked John under my breath, “Where is he?” John responded, “He is not here. He is risen.” I confess we both cracked up. Suddenly two hundred schoolchildren were looking at the altar wide-eyed. They had never seen their priests breaking up like this before at the altar. We found him, fortunately. (I had inadvertently dropped the host on the floor it seems.) I doubt there were many reverent receptions of Holy Communion that day. What was on everyone’s mind was, “What were they laughing at?”
I write to you on Ascension Day. The essential point of the day is not that the Risen Lord has gone to heaven but that he is here, as he said, even to the end of the ages. I’m still losing Jesus in my life from time to time. And sometimes I find him in joy; sometimes I find him when I am lost on the edges of sadness, depression. He’s here, even if I have a hard time recognizing him and responding to him.
One of the ways we sustain knowledge of his presence among us is through the sign and witness of our Christian communities, through our buildings, through our worship and by what we do with the rest of our lives. Churches remind people of God. Beautiful churches with open doors are a powerful witness to belief in God. Prayer and service are powerful vehicles of presence. And when a Christian community is clear about its identity, the assembly of the baptized is the greatest sign of all of God’s presence and of God’s love.
The rich heritage of Christian worship provides many avenues for our lives to be renewed in knowledge of Christ’s presence and the work he has given us to do. Sometimes all one has to do is enter a church building to experience the peace of God which passes all understanding. If you are looking for the Lord never be afraid to come to church. It’s one of the easiest places to encounter him.
At my best, I wish it were the case that I would not lose God in my life ever. But just as our bodies aren’t always up to keeping a cold virus at bay, so our spirits are not always up to the spiritual challenges life presents to us. But I believe he’s still here. And I believe God loves all of us and wants us to enjoy him for ever. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for John who is gravely ill, Robin who is hospitalized, Daniel, Virginia, Roxanne, Tony, Christina, Charlton, Patrick, Eileen, John, Virginia, Mary, Ruth, William, Jane, Thomas, Brian, Deborah, Ibo, Penn, Gilbert, Robert, Gloria, Bart, Marion, Mamie, Rick, Thomas, priest and Charles, priest; 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 Jack . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 10: 1994 Malcolm Benton Wallace.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 1:1-14, Psalm 47, 1 Peter 4:12-19, John 17:1-11 . . . 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 Montgomery will be the officiant and Father Mead will preach at Solemn Evensong & Benediction at 5:00 PM . . . On Saturday, May 7, Father Mead will hear confessions. On Saturday, May 14, Father Beddingfield will hear confessions.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The “Handmaiden or Mother of God?” class on the Blessed Virgin Mary continues on Monday night at the Center for Christian Studies. The class this week discusses Marian doctrines and devotions and meets at 55th Street and Fifth Avenue . . . Father Mead’s Bible Study on Saint John’s Gospel meets at 7:00 PM this Tuesday in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Several members of the Women’s Spirituality Group that used to meet one Tuesday a month would like to form a new group of all interested persons, men and women, to meet on the third Sunday of each month at 1:00 PM to discuss a book or a topic or possibly even hear a talk from a presenter. Join us after Mass and over lunch in Saint Benedict’s Study on Sunday, May 15 to discuss this new group . . . Father Beddingfield has been accepted to Harvard Divinity School’s Summer Leadership Institute. The two-week program in June brings together clergy and lay leaders from across the country to improve skills in connecting churches, faith based communities, housing and medical resources and economic development . . . Attendance last Sunday 338.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Christ lag in Todesbanden (I) by Georg Böhm (1661-1733) and the postlude is Christ ist erstanden, BWV 627 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The chorales (German hymn tunes) upon which both of these pieces are based are derived from the plainsong Victimae paschali laudes. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass for Four Voices by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585), the great English composer whose 500th anniversary of birth we celebrate this year. Tallis, who remained a lifelong Roman Catholic, reached his summit near the time of the English Reformation when styles of liturgical music began to change greatly. Though this setting, sung on Sunday by men only (alto, tenor and bass), is in Latin, it was composed after the Reformation and its relatively simple homophonic (chordal) texture is largely in keeping with the reformers’ musical guidelines. An example of Tallis’s earlier florid work is Missa ‘Salve intemerata’, which our choir has sung fairly recently. The motet at Communion is In dieser österlichen Zeit by Johannes Eccard (1553-1611), a German composer perhaps known best for his many chorale motets . . . The recital at 4:40 is by Jeffrey Johnson, organist and Sarah Pillow, soprano . . . This Sunday we welcome at Evensong & Benediction the Choristers (boys and girls) of the Church of Saint Luke in the Fields, New York. Mr. David Shuler, Saint Luke’s director of music, is a valued colleague and great friend of our parish. Robert McCormick
GERRE HANCOCK IN RECITAL . . . The organist and master of choristers emeritus of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue will play at Saint Mary’s at 7:30 PM on Friday, May 13. Considered the finest organ improviser in America, his program includes an improvised Sonata on submitted themes and music of Grigny, Bach and Reger. For tickets, phone 212.869.5830, extension 25, complete the form at www.stmvirgin.org/MusicatSaintMarys or purchase them at coffee hour this Sunday.
FROM SAINT ANDREW’S GUILD . . . Bring a friend to church. Saint Mary’s is vibrant. We pray here. We form friendships here. People come to explore our liturgy and stay to become a part of our community. But the first step is the hard one. Ask most of the newcomers how long they thought about coming to Saint Mary’s and you typically get a big number. Make it easy for your friends. Invite them to church. Pray for them to accept your offer. Wait a few weeks and ask again. Find the right balance between being a pest and making a wonderful offer. If half the 260 local Saint Marians brought a friend to church and half those friends joined Saint Mary’s, we would have 65 new members. Help Saint Mary’s reach 400 people by Christmas 2005.
MISSION NOTES . . . On Saturday, May 21, from 9:00 AM to Noon, join us at Saint James’ Church, 865 Madison Avenue for “Building Housing Justice,” a workshop sponsored by Saint James, Trinity Church, Wall Street and Habitat for Humanity NYC. Come and learn how our faith communities can better play a stronger role in advocating for plentiful and affordable housing in our area. Let Father Beddingfield know if you would like information on attending . . . On Sunday, May 22 join with others for “High Worship and High Hopes: Anglo-Catholicism and Social Change,” a continued discussion based on the writing of those who have seen the close connection between worship and social outreach.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Seventh Sunday of Easter
Monday Gregory of Nazianzus, Bishop of Constantinople, 389
Tuesday Easter Weekday
Wednesday Easter Weekday
Thursday Easter Weekday
Friday Easter Weekday 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.