From the Rector: Listening to Genesis
It would not be wrong in some real sense to refer to our parish as the “Times Square Bible Church.” My firm guess is that there is no Christian community of any denomination in our city where more of the Bible is prayed in community and few communities that equal us in this regard. We are known for our ceremony, smoke and music. But these are not the things we do every day. What we really do every day is read and pray the Bible together and it has been ever thus since this community was gathered by our first priest and lay leaders in 1868. It’s almost as if people really don’t know us. They like it that way and perhaps we do too.
Since the Monday after Epiphany the first lesson we’ve been hearing at Morning Prayer has been from Genesis. I’ve been trying to listen in a fresh way to a familiar book. And I’ve been trying to pay attention to the whole thing – including the few passages that were omitted by the lectionary committee. (Using the permission granted to extend readings, I’ve fixed it so that we hear the entire New Testament at Saint Mary’s at the Daily Office – that is, at our services of Daily Morning and Evening Prayer – but the length of the Old Testament makes it practically impossible to do this for the Old Testament, even parts that we really should in my opinion be hearing in church.)
When all is said and done, Genesis seems sad to me, this year, very sad. There is a memory of a garden and of a family. As the narrative moves forward sometimes sin is described in very matter-of -fact ways. Other times, it is plaintive, heartbreaking. This morning (Thursday, February 9) we heard Esau and Isaac discovering that Jacob has stolen Esau’s blessing from the blind Isaac. This is orchestrated by Rebekah who loves her son Jacob more than her eldest son Esau. When Esau discovers this, he cries out “with an exceedingly great and bitter cry”, and said to his father “Bless me, even me also, O my father” (Genesis 27:34). He asks a second time and then the third time says, ‘Have you but one blessing, my father? Bless me, even me also, O my father.’ And Esau lifted up his voice and wept” (Genesis 27:38). I think you and I can hear his words, his voice and his tears in the deepest memories of our being.
Was it in the garden that the first murder was committed or after the first humans left their first home? Was it in the garden that one parent first loved one child more than another or one sibling cheated another? Where did all of the rules that bound human beings to sin arise? We don’t know. But we Christians believe God answers sin and death in Christ and sets us free once again to live.
One of the interesting conversations I have had from time to time with one of my uncles, the Reverend Larry Matthews, retired pastor, Vienna Baptist Church, Vienna, Virginia, concerns the spirituality of place. For him, the mountains of Virginia – and there is nothing quite like the Blue Ridge for most of us who were brought up near them – are what the Celtic spiritual tradition would call a “thin place” – a place where heaven and earth seem to touch. For me, the forested and cleared fields by the Chesapeake Bay are a thin place. I cannot entirely account for the peace I feel whenever I am by the bay, a peace that for me is greater than the spiritual peace I have often felt while I watched the sun go down over the Blue Ridge. Were there mountains in that first garden? Where those rivers in Genesis wide?
Christ didn’t return his people to the garden, but to a city on a mountain, the city of David – not Bethlehem, but Jerusalem, the place Jesus loved more than any other on earth. (Sorry, all you fundamentalists, Luke’s Christmas Eve gospel contains one of the most obvious mistakes in all of Scripture: the City of David is Jerusalem, not Bethlehem.) Christ calls us to move to new places in our lives, in our relationships with him and with other people. We aren’t going back to the garden with a river, a place where so much went wrong. We journey through life, death and resurrection to a new and eternal Jerusalem, where in the words of the Prayer Book, “sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life everlasting”, Heaven is the city where we may dwell with one another in the light of God’s love. Heaven is the new beginning, the new Genesis. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Roy, Henry, Clare, Vesta, Jan, Ida, Brian, Mary, Michael, MaryAnne, Ray, Betty Ann, Mikhail, Deborah, Charlton, Virginia, William, Mary, Ana, Gilbert, Robert, Gloria, Rich, Marion, Jeanne, Joseph, Jack, Roy, Rick, Henry, Thomas, priest and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Christopher, Timothy, Nestor, Freddie, Dennis and Derrick.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 15: 1967 Nina Gay Dolan, 1973 Dorothy McCormack, 1978 Carrington Raymond; February 16: 1955 Mary Bretman; February 17: 1983 Helen Petersen Harrington.
CONFESSIONS will be heard on Saturday, February 11, by Father Mead and on Saturday, February 18, by Father Gerth.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The Spirituality and Reading Group meets on Sunday, February 19 at 1:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. The group will read Peace in the Post-Christian Era by Thomas Merton . . . Check the Gift Shop for new Lencan pottery from Honduras . . . Flowers are needed for Sundays, February 12, 19 and 26. Send your request to Sandra Schubert at firstname.lastname@example.org . . . Lunch with Sister Deborah Francis continues on Wednesdays after the 12:10 Mass. Bring a lunch and eat with Sister and others in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Sister Deborah Francis is also available to meet with persons for spiritual direction on Wednesday afternoons . . . 2006 offering envelopes are available at the back of the Church . . . Attendance Candlemas 255, Last Sunday 248.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, we are pleased to welcome musicians from Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland, who are on tour in the United States this week. The cathedral choir sings the setting of the ordinary and, along with sopranos and altos from Saint Mary’s choir, the motet at Communion. The director of the choir is Ms. Judy Martin, and the organ voluntaries are played by Mr. Tristan Russcher, acting assistant organist of the cathedral. The prelude before Mass is Prélude sur le nom d’Alain, Opus 7 by Maurice Duruflé (1902-1968). The setting of the Mass ordinary today is Messe für zwei vierstimmige Chöre (“Mass for Double Choir”) by Frank Martin (1890-1974). Martin, a greatly respected Swedish composer, completed this work (his only sacred composition) in 1922 and 1926. It was not performed, however, until 1963, due to Martin’s perception of his Messe as a manifestation of his own devout faith rather than a piece to be heard publicly. An intensely beautiful work, the text is communicated throughout in a richly expressive way . . . The recital at 4:40 is by Ben Woodward . . . At Evensong & Benediction, we welcome an ensemble from the Choir of Men and Boys of Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut . . . Many thanks to Paul Walker, a musicologist from the University of Virginia and friend of the Reverend Dr. Ryan Lesh, who provided his superb edition of Taverner’s Missa ‘Gloria tibi Trinitas’ for use by our choir at the concert. Thanks, also, to Larry Trupiano for organ tuning and preparation of our organ’s secondary console for the concert. Robert McCormick
MISSION NOTES . . . On Sunday, February 19 at 1:00 PM Mr. Clyde Kuemmerle will speak about Ecclesia Ministries. This new network will follow the Boston model of offering a Sunday afternoon outdoor Eucharist with the homeless. Particular parishes will be responsible for preparing a lunch one Sunday a month and for other aspects of the outreach. Some members from Saint Mary’s attended an exploratory meeting and training event for this project last winter. For information on Ecclesia in Boston see http://www.ecclesia-ministries.org/
MARCH 3-5 LENTEN RETREAT . . . If you are interested in the Lenten retreat at St. Marguerite’s Guesthouse at the Community of St. John Baptist in Mendham, New Jersey, please
e-mail Father Beddingfield immediately to reserve a spot. Brochures are in the back of the church.
MORE E-MAIL INFORMATION . . . Spam filters like to divert new mail away from inboxes, and into spam/junk folders. If you haven’t already done so please add our new e-mail addresses into your online address book. If you are missing the Angelus or e-mails from us it is most likely sitting in your spam/junk folders. Check the folder to see if any Saint Mary’s mail may have ended up there. Remember our names will remain the same – as an example; email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org (only the extension is changing). Our website is http://www. stmvirgin.org
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION & FORMATION . . . This Sunday at 1:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study Father Mead offers an Introduction to the Bible. This is your opportunity to learn about the basics of the Bible and ask all of those questions you might have about the Bible . . . The Tuesday Night Bible Study will not meet this week. Next week (February 21) we will continue to examine the crucifixion narratives in the gospels . . . Sunday School meets on Sundays at 10:00 AM . . . Coming in Lent: On Sundays throughout Lent the Reverend Peter Powell, president, Interfaith Housing Association, Westport, Connecticut, will lead a class in the Mission House on the prophet Jeremiah. See the Saint Mary’s website for more information . . . On Monday nights in Lent Father Beddingfield will teach a class on the theology of the cross at the Center for Christian Studies. To learn more or register for the course see http://www.christianstudies.org.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany
Monday Absalom Jones, Priest, 1818
Tuesday Cyril, Monk, and Methodius, Bishop, Missionaries, 869, 885
Wednesday Thomas Bray, Priest and Missionary, 1730
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Mass, 10:00 AM Sung Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass,
5:00 PM Solemn Evensong & Benediction. Childcare from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
Monday – Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass,
6:00 PM Evening Prayer, 6:20 PM Mass. The 12:10 Mass on Wednesday is sung.
Saturday: 11:30 AM Confessions, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 4:00 PM Confessions, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass