From the Rector: Trinity Rant
Often people bring me church bulletins from their summer travels. I enjoy seeing bulletins from other churches even when the occasional parish may be doing some really goofy things. I try to keep on an even keel, though, but I confess one bulletin I received recently made my blood boil. They had left out the “Father” and “Son” from the most important prayer of the Eucharist. Yes, that’s right, the Father and the Son didn’t get a mention. This drives me crazy. Unfortunately, there’s far too much of this nonsense going around.
The bulletin in question suggested a fairly straightforward Episcopal Sunday service in many ways. There were lots of hymns and only a little chanting. The traditional doxology (“Praise God from who all blessings flow . . . ”) was sung for presentation of the money. What was different was that the Great Thanksgiving over the bread and wine, that is, the central creedal prayer of the Eucharist, did not mention two of the Three Persons of the Trinity, no Father and no Son. I simply do not understand how this could be authorized by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church and by the local bishop. I don’t understand.
When I was in Indiana many of the local churches broadcast their Sunday services on a local cable access channel. I remember being astounded to discover that when there was more than one candidate for Baptism at the local United Methodist church, the pastor would baptize one person or child in the name of the Trinity, that is, “I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The next would be baptized in the name of Jesus, “I baptize in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” I think that pastor was completely wrong to experiment with the language of Christian baptism. I think the Episcopal Church is completely wrong when it eliminates the Father and the Son from its Eucharistic Prayers.
I don’t invite you to rush out to buy “Enriching Our Worship” (which contains authorized texts for the Episcopal Church) unless you want to be angry or sad or both. The introduction alone is enough to drive one over the edge, as it were. It’s simply not true, speaking of Episcopalians in the 1990s, that:
Then as now, ears attuned to contemporary language and culture grew uncomfortable with liturgical metaphors and forms of address, inherited largely from the 18th and 19th centuries, in which God is primarily envisioned as a kind of Paterfamilias. (Enriching our Worship, page 8)
Whose ears? Everyone’s? According to the New Testament, it was the Lord Jesus himself who introduces us to addressing God as Father and himself as Son. In John’s Gospel, Jesus promises he and the Father will send the Spirit to us. It’s easy to point to 1960s and 1970s jargon in many places in the current Prayer Book, for example, Eucharistic Prayer C – “At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home” – but I can’t find one example of an eighteenth or nineteenth century image in the other Eucharistic prayers of the new rite, not one, or of the old rite, not one.
Christian common prayer is addressed to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. This is not the only way to pray to the Triune God. But common prayer, that is, the liturgical prayer of the Church is Trinitarian, and unambiguously so. The Great Thanksgiving is not just a prayer. It, and not the Nicene Creed, is the fundamental creedal proclamation of the Eucharist. It’s what we believe. If our leaders want to experiment, please let it be something less important than the Great Thanksgiving.
Since the beginning of our parish in 1868, our community has been a place for mission and worship. At Saint Mary’s worship shapes our mission and lives. Here worship continues to call us to deeper conversion, a deeper life in Christ, in the Three Persons of the Trinity. I believe our parish has a local and a national vocation and our witness has never been more important. Every Episcopal Church should be unashamedly Trinitarian. Every Episcopal Church should be a place where Trinitarian worship shapes life. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Lloyd, Mikhail, Deborah, Henry, Charlton, Virginia, William, Mary, Virginia, Tony, Ibo, Penn, Gilbert, Robert, Gloria, Marion, Mamie, Rick, Michael, priest, Thomas, priest and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Joseph, Timothy, Christopher, David, Nestor, Freddie, Derrick, Christina and Barbara and for the repose of the soul of Stephen
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: 1 Kings 3:5 -12, Psalm 119:129-136, Romans 8:26-34, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-49a . . . Father Gerth will be the celebrant and preacher for the 9:00 AM and the 5:20 PM Masses. . . Father Beddingfield will be the celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM Sung Mass the 11:00 AM Solemn. . . On Saturday, July 23 Father Beddingfield will hear confessions. On Saturday, July 30, Father Gerth will hear confessions . . . Monday, July 25, is the Feast of Saint James the Apostle. Mass will be offered at 12:15 PM and at 6:20 PM.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
CLERGY & STAFF NOTES . . . Robert McCormick returns to the parish office from vacation on Thursday, July 28 . . . Father Mead returns to Saint Mary’s from vacation on Sunday, July 31.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, played by associate organist Robert McDermitt, the prelude is Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV 731 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The postlude is Bach’s Präludium G-dur, BWV 568. The cantor this Sunday is Mr. Geoffrey Williams, countertenor. At Communion, he will sing Notre Père by Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986). Though it is a motet for full choir, it may be performed nonetheless by solo voice and organ. It is Duruflé’s only liturgical work that is not in Latin. Because of the composer’s passion for chant and its frequent use in his music, a Gregorian line may be implied but it is not easily discerned; the piece is probably original throughout. It will be sung in the original French. Robert McCormick and Geoffrey Williams
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reminder: Join Father Beddingfield in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Friday evening, July 22, after the Mass for movie night . . . The flowers last Sunday at the shrines of Christ the King, Our Lady and the Sacred Heart came from the garden of Sean Cassidy and Pat Higgins. Sean and Pat, thank you! . . . Attendance Last Sunday 200.
LITURGY 101 . . . Announcing Lessons: The Book of Common Prayer permits lessons to be announced at Masses and Offices in many different ways. The best way to do this is something I’ve discussed with my colleagues and others on and off for several years. I think it was Father Beddingfield who suggested we simply use the names for the books of the Bible as given in the version of the Bible that we use, that is, the Revised Standard Version. When a long and a short title are given we use the shorter version. Thus we say, “A Reading from Genesis” and not “A Reading from The First Book of Moses Commonly Called Genesis.” I’m sure the committee that worked on the RSV had debates about titles. Some of these issues are substantive. For example, most scholars think Isaiah is a compilation of the work from three different periods by at least three different men. These parts of Isaiah are often referred to in biblical studies as First Isaiah, Second Isaiah, and Third Isaiah. The canonical Hebrew and Christian traditions treat Isaiah as one book. I suspect this is why the RSV doesn’t call the it “The Book of the Prophet Isaiah” as the Authorized Version did . . . On the Altar: The altar table, that is, the top of the altar is a special sign in Christian tradition. Altars have been consecrated in cathedrals and parishes since the beginning of the sixth century if not before. Of course a wonderful ritual has developed! Five crosses which represent the five wounds of Jesus are usually carved into the table top. The consecration rite includes anointing with oil, sprinkling with holy water and blessing with incense. Relics of saints were placed in English altars before the Reformation and are sometimes included in the altars of Anglo-catholic parishes today. At Saint Mary’s the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in a tabernacle at the main (also called “high”) altar of the church. This sits on the same level as the altar table. The altar table is covered by a fine linen cloth, called by Anglicans (following the wording of the Prayer Book tradition) “the fair” linen. At Saint Mary’s only traditional handsewn linens are used at the altars. During Mass the Book of Gospels is reposed on the altar. When needed for the celebration of communion, required vessels and book are brought. The altar table is never used for storage. Hymnals and Prayer Books are not put on it, nor is it the place to rest a bishop’s miter. (Your Rector once heard a young child during a service in a diocese far away ask her mother why the bishop was hiding the Bread and Wine with his hat.) The placing of candlesticks on or near the altar table is a subject of great discussion. Historically there are many variations. It is customary to acknowledge an altar with a bow when passing in front of it. If the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, a genuflection is customary. During Mass the clergy and servers acknowledge the presence of the Sacrament in the tabernacle with genuflections when they enter and leave. During the Mass itself they bow to the altar except when consecrated Bread and Wine are on the altar table. Your Rector cringes should anyone touch the altar unnecessarily. A reaction from him can be guaranteed if he observes someone leaning against it casually.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Saint James the Apostle
Tuesday The Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Wednesday William Reed Huntington, Priest, 1909
Friday Mary and Martha of Bethany 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 R. William Franklin, assisting deacon,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.