From the Rector: Pentecost
“Pentecost” means “fiftieth day.” I don’t always remember that without giving it some thought. I confess the word too often brings to mind a great deal of liturgical silliness that is visited on Christian communities, usually by clergy who don’t know what they are doing. We won’t be having a wedding cake (as Father Beddingfield says, “It is not the birthday of the Church.”) or reading the appointed lessons in fifteen different languages. We will not be flying dove kites in the entrance procession. And very blessed are you if you have never had to experience any nonsense like this.
Again, “Pentecost” means “fiftieth day.” Fifty, like forty and seven, is an important Old Testament calendar number. In the ancient Jewish religious calendar, there was a celebration of the harvest fifty days after the beginning of Passover (and even earlier, the barley harvest). Sunday is the original and fundamental Christian feast day. But by the second century the Church seems to have broadened its sense of sacred time and in addition to being a great Sunday, Easter began to be observed as a celebration extending for fifty days.
As the Church spread from the Mediterranean world (that is, to the colder north), Pentecost became one of the days for the celebration of Baptism. The other common name for Pentecost, “Whitsunday” (White Sunday), refers to the white baptismal garments worn on this day. The liturgical color is red because there is a particular emphasis on the gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. But the main point of the day is that we are celebrating the Paschal Mystery, the death and resurrection of the Lord.
From the first new day of creation, that is, the first Easter Day, God has been pouring out his gift of the Holy Spirit on those he is calling to faith. Just as across the Easter Season we celebrate the Lord descending from the Father and ascending to heaven (over and over again), across the Easter Season we celebrate God’s pouring out the Holy Spirit on his people. At every Mass during the fifty days of Easter there is a reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the story of the Holy Spirit falling into the lives of the first Christians.
Over the years Saint Mary’s has been very much at the forefront of the renewal of the Church year. My predecessor, the Reverend Donald Garfield, was very much involved in the revision of the Calendar of the Church as a member of the Standing Liturgical Commission that produced the present Prayer Book. And of course for us it is not an academic exercise. The Calendar of the Church shapes our common life.
Among the things this means is that we reserve Holy Baptism and the other rites of Christian Initiation for the days recommended to us by the tradition of the Church. Above all, Holy Baptism is celebrated at the Great Vigil of Easter. The other days are Pentecost, All Saints’ Day and the First Sunday after the Epiphany, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
Because we are in this great urban city, we usually are able to have a bishop with us to preside at most of these festivals. Our great friend, the Right Reverend C. Christopher Epting, ecumenical officer of the Episcopal Church, will be here on Sunday, May 15, to celebrate and preach at Solemn Mass and to preside at the Rites of Christian Initiation. The Paschal candle will be burning. It is the second greatest Sunday liturgy of the year. Everything will be big. And we are privileged to be able to celebrate Holy Baptism, to see Jesus Christ die and rise in those he is calling to faith.
The Paschal candle burns all day on the Sundays of Easter at Saint Mary’s and is extinguished without ceremony with the rest of the candles after Solemn Evensong & Benediction on Sunday night. This week we are honored to have as guest preacher the Reverend Anne F. C. Richards, chaplain, Grace Church School, New York City.
Another way to think of time is to see it as the history of the kingdom of God. Eastertide is the very rich annual encounter of our minds, bodies and souls with the Lord’s death and resurrection and all of its gifts. I hope the joy of the day is large and burns richly into all of our senses so that we may let the Holy Spirit fall upon us in new ways this year. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Ana, Robin, Michael, Daniel, Virginia, Roxanne, Tony, Christina, Charlton, Patrick, Elizabeth, 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 Chirla and John . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 15: 1981 James Thomas Gordon; May 16: 1960 Minnie Packard Rounds, 1992 John Francis Arnold; May 18: 1949 Don Patterson
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 2:1-11, Psalm 104:25-32, 1 Corinthians 12:4-13, John 20:19-23 . . . Father Beddingfield will be the celebrant and preacher for the 9:00 AM Mass and the 10:00 AM Sung Mass… The Right Reverend C. Christopher Epting, Presiding Bishop's deputy for ecumenical and interfaith relations, will be the celebrant and preacher for the 11:00 AM Solemn Pontifical Mass . . . Mother Anne F. C. Richards will preach at Solemn Evensong & Benediction at 5:00 PM . . . On Saturday, May 14, Father Beddingfield will hear confessions . . . On Saturday, May 21, Father Gerth will hear confessions.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . A special welcome to the Reverend Dr. Paul F. Bradshaw and Rowena Bradshaw who are guests at the rectory this week. Father Bradshaw will be receiving a doctor of divinity degree, honoris causa, from the General Theological Seminary on Wednesday, May 18. Father is a professor of theology at Notre Dame and directs Notre Dame’s undergraduate program in London. He serves as priest vicar at Westminster Abbey and we are always delighted when he and Mrs. Bradshaw are able to be with us at Saint Mary’s . . . Congratulations also, of course, to our senior seminarian Clare Nesmith who will receive the Master of Divinity degree from General on Wednesday . . . Flowers are needed for Trinity Sunday, May 22. Please contact the parish administrative assistant Sandra Schubert by telephone or e-mail if you would like to give them . . . Thanks to Richard Theilmann for donating stereo equipment for parish audio/visual use . . . Father Mead’s Bible Study on the Gospel of John continues this week at 7:00 PM Tuesday evening. The class will focus on chapter 7 of that Gospel . . . Attendance last Sunday 337.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is an improvisation on the great plainsong hymn Veni Creator Spiritus. The postlude is Maurice Duruflé’s (1902-1986) Choral varié sur le thème du “Veni Creator” (from his larger work Prélude, adagio et choral varié, Opus 4), an astounding work consisting of five brief variations on the hymn, the last of which is a brilliant and monumental toccata. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Berliner Messe by the contemporary Estonian composer Arvo Pärt (b. 1935). This setting for choir and organ, written in 1990 but revised in 1997, includes settings of some of the propers of Pentecost, of which we will use the second Alleluia on Sunday. Pärt, whose stark and powerful music has achieved great popularity worldwide, has composed since 1976 in a style he named tintinnabuli (“little bells”). Tintinnabulation, the practice of considering two simultaneous voices as one line (one voice part moves in a stepwise motion, the other outlines notes of the triad in leaps), is what gives Pärt’s music its inimitable sound. The anthem at Communion (which differs from the previously published schedule) is Draw us in the Spirit’s tether by Harold W. Friedell (1905-1958). This simple hymn-like anthem is beloved around this country and beyond. For the last 12 years of his life, Friedell was organist and choirmaster of Saint Bartholomew’s Church in the city . . . The recital at 4:40 is by Andrew Kotylo of Bloomington, Indiana. Robert McCormick
SPIRITUALITY READING GROUP . . . Join us this Sunday afternoon in Saint Benedict’s Study for a light lunch and a discussion about a new reading group to be formed at Saint Mary’s. We’re hoping 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.
MOVIE NIGHT AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Join Father Beddingfield and Father Mead in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Friday evening, June 3 after the Sung Mass, for our inaugural voyage across the silver screen. We will be showing the classic biblically inspired movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. Please bring a few extra dollars if you are able for food so that we can all order pizza and soda.
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 Day of Pentecost: Whitsunday
Thursday Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, 988
Friday Alcuin, Deacon, and Abbot of Tours, 804 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.