From the Rector: The Assumption
Saint Mary’s has always occupied a special place in the life of the Episcopal Church. Since its beginning an important part of its mission has been to bear witness to the catholic tradition within Anglicanism. There are many outward and visible signs of this. The growing catholic movement with Anglicanism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has always made sure of that. Another important way Saint Mary’s has provided a catholic witness has been its celebration of some festivals observed by other Christians but not officially by the principal churches of the Anglican Communion.
The archival record is not entirely complete. There were no printed bulletins for many decades for summer Sundays. When I read that in July there would be “High Mass with Sermon” at 10:45 AM on Sundays but in August only “High Mass” at 10:45 AM, I can’t help wonder whether the pulpit was empty for that month. We know that from the parish’s beginning its patronal feast has been the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, December 8. Corpus Christi, that is, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, has been celebrated annually and with great solemnity since the 1890s.
The Feast of the Assumption, August 15, has been celebrated here at least since 1923. We know this because we have a liturgical calendar printed for the months of July and August in the last bulletin of the 1922-1923 “season.” The idea of Mary’s assumption into heaven seems to have been in to response to people thinking about what happened to her. By the end of the sixth century the emperor in the East extends a celebration of Mary’s “birthday” to the whole of the Church under his authority. (“Birthday” in this sense means her heavenly birthday, her death.) One hundred years later the church in Rome is celebrating Mary’s “death” in August. By the end of the eighth century this is called Mary’s “Assumption.”
During the Protestant Reformation and the Roman Church’s Counter Reformation, Christians shaped new lines of theological battle that are with us to this day. The role of Mary came to be an easy fight to have, in the sixteenth century and even today.
I don’t know who the first person was to make the remark, “If Mary’s not in heaven, where is she?” In a way, that sums up pretty clearly the Assumption. That wasn’t enough for Pope Pius XII. In 1950, he proclaimed not only “that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory” (Munificentissimus Deus, paragraph 44) but declared “infallibly” (paragraph 41) that it was a “divinely revealed dogma” (also paragraph 44).
Of course, this declaration came four years after the Italian people abolished their monarchy. Pius XII’s role during World War II was beginning to emerge as a matter of great debate. (I am not alone in wondering what would have happened if he had walked out of Vatican City to attempt to stop the Germans and Italians from rounding up the Jews of Rome – this was happening literally next to the Vatican. Would the German soldiers have stopped in their tracks? Would their Italian cohorts? Remember too, Pius XII was a native of Rome, the first native pope in centuries.) In Pius XII’s lifetime this dogmatic declaration seems to have strengthened his position. In retrospect, the fact of the declaration seems to me at least to have had a lot more to do with papal power than with proclaiming the gospel. That being said, we Episcopalians do believe that God has taken to himself the blessed Virgin Mary (see Prayer Book, page 243). God’s will is for all to know him through his Son, Jesus Christ.
The Feast of the Assumption is fixed on August 15. Our celebrations will begin Sunday evening, August 14, with Evening Prayer. The Sunday evening Mass on August 14 will also be for the Assumption. Monday will be a very rich day of prayer at Saint Mary’s. Morning Prayer will be sung at 8:30 AM. There will be a Sung Mass at 12:00 PM. Robert McCormick will play an organ recital at 5:30 PM. The Solemn Mass will be at 6:00 PM. A reception will follow.
Sometimes I’m almost too proud of being an Episcopalian. And I am no more proud than on a day like August 15 at Saint Mary’s. Our Anglican tradition allows us to enter the mysteries of salvation history without beating people up with too many rules and dogmas. Jesus said to those who believed in him, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32). I think that the mystery of death and life will continue to unfold in the lives of those who believe in Jesus until God’s kingdom gathers all to itself. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Patty who is gravely ill, and for Donna, Lloyd, Mikhail, Deborah, Luis, Anita, Erika, Rosemary, Rich, Lou, Michelle, Charlton, Virginia, William, Mary, Virginia, Tony, Ibo, Penn, Gilbert, Robert, Gloria, Marion, Mamie, Rick, Thomas, priest and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Joseph, Timothy, Christopher, David, Timothy, Nestor, Freddie, Derrick and Christina, and for the repose of the souls of Toyoko, Rose and Elvira . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 13: 1987 Toyoko Anne Tsutsumi Morton; August 15: 1963 Rose Macchia, 1971 Elvira Horg Oyx..
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Isaiah 56:1 -7, Psalm 67, Romans 11:11-13, 29-32, Matthew 15:21-28 . . . Father Mead will be the celebrant and preacher for the 9:00 AM and the 5:20 PM Masses. Please Note: Sunday evening services will be for the Assumption . . . Father Gerth will be the celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM Sung Mass and the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass . . . On Saturday, August 13, Father Gerth will hear confessions. On Saturday, August 20, Father Beddingfield 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.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the voluntaries are settings of Von Gott will ich nicht lassen (BuxWV 220 and 221) by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707). The cantor this Sunday is Ms. Elizabeth Baber, soprano. At Communion, the anthem is Ich will den Herren loben allezeit from Kleine Geistliche Konzerte I, SWV 308 by Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) . . . On the Assumption, the organ recital at 5:30 is played by the music director and includes works of Bach, William H. Harris and improvisation . . . The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Virgo prudentissima’ by Heinrich Isaac (c. 1450-1517). Isaac, a Flemish composer of great note during his lifetime, spent nearly his entire career either in Florence and Germany; as would be expected, therefore, his works display influence from Flemish, German and Italian styles of composition. This setting for 6-voice choir, considered to be in the Netherlands style, is based upon a plainsong antiphon to Our Lady. The cantus firmus (melody line on which the mass is based) retains some of the original Latin text. This means the choir at times will sing additional texts above the customary words of the Mass ordinary, as Isaac probably intended (this practice was tolerated in sacred composition until the Council of Trent). The motet during Communion is O Virgo prudentissima by Josquin Desprez (c. 1440-1521), who is considered among the greatest of the Renaissance masters. It is remarkable that his music is still not more widely performed today (with the exception of a few particularly famous works such as his Ave Maria and Missa ‘Pange lingua’). This motet sets an Italian poem to Mary as well as liturgical texts from the Divine Office. Robert McCormick
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks to George Handy, Dennis Smith and Eileen Whittle for their help with the Assumption mailing . . . Saint Vincent’s Guild: You know it’s coming. Saturday, August 13, will be a workday to prepare the sacristy and church for Assumption. We will be working from 10:00 AM to early afternoon. Please meet in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . The Reverend Canon Carl Gerdau admitted Ben Garren as a companion of the Oratory of the Good Shepherd at the Wednesday evening Eucharist on August 10. The Oratory is an international community of Anglicans, ordained and lay, who share a common Rule of Life . . . Through the month of August we continue to collect art supplies for the homeless. See the flyer in church or the parish website for more information . . . The Board of Trustees meets on Tuesday, August 16, at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Gifts for a chasuble for Bill Franklin should be made payable to Saint Mary’s and marked “Franklin Ordination” . . . Attendance Transfiguration 91, last Sunday 212.
ON ACTIVE DUTY . . . This week we begin a series to tell the parish community about the men and women we are praying for . . . Staff Sgt. Patrick G. McKelvey is currently stationed in Iraq with an Infantry rifle squad near Fallujah. A career soldier and veteran of the Gulf War, but neither a war-lover nor a crusader, he was a combat instructor at the Army’s Non-Commissioned Officers’ Academy before requesting assignment to Iraq. Patrick is Gerald McKelvey’s son . . . Timothy Adams, a Marine Pilot, is stationed in Texas. He has returned from his second tour of duty and is flying transport for the National Guard. His tours began soon after the birth of his first child and he missed seeing her take her first steps. Now he is grateful to be home with is wife and family, and particularly to help his second child learn to walk. Timothy is Thomas Jayne’s cousin . . . Major Brenden Anderson is an Army Ranger who is currently stationed at the U.S. Army’s Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. At the JRTC, they train and deploy combat and combat support units, and Brenden’s job is in training members of the Special Forces. He is married and has two children. Brendan is Susan Miranda’s cousin.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, 1153
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.