From Father Beddingfield: Why all the Ashes?
I was lucky enough to be in one of Professor Frederick Shriver’s classes at General Seminary just before he retired. Father Shriver is not one to keep his opinions to himself and I especially recall his thoughts about ashes. “You know what I’d do if I were the rector of a church?” he asked our class. “You know what I’d do? I’ll tell you what I’d do. At the end of the Ash Wednesday liturgy, I’d be at the back door with a big washrag. As people left the church, I’d wipe the ashes off their forehead and remind them of the words of our Lord, “Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them” (Matthew 6:1).
Father Shriver had no time for religious pretense or hollow religiosity. His sentiments are profoundly biblical, echoing the preaching of the prophets and the teaching of our Lord. Given this strong criticism of outward piety and given that at Saint Mary’s we will offer ashes all day on March 1, we might well ask ourselves, “Why all the ashes?”
Because ashes are a sign, they are a reminder, and ashes are an invitation.
Archeologists tell us that the people of Israel were not alone in using ashes in rituals of purification. Ashes appear in Phoenician burial art and Arabic expressions. Ashes were a sign of grief, mourning, humiliation and penitence. When Job loses everything, he sits among the ashes. Cursed and overrun by enemies, the Psalmist “eats ashes like bread, and mingles tears with drink.” Ashes are what are left after destruction. After chaos or catastrophe, ashes are what remain.
Ashes also remind us of a common origin. The second chapter of Genesis tells of how we were created from the dust of the ground. Though we may spend our lives trying to distinguish ourselves from others, running after success and trying to feel different from others, the dust and ashes remind us that we are all made of the same stuff. We are reminded not only of our beginning but also of our end. On the First Day of Lent, ashes are imposed with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Those words apply to us all.
While ashes may signify and remind, they also invite. They invite us to repentance. They invite us to turn again to God and to receive new life. Isaiah brings glad tidings to the people of Israel, “to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning.” Ashes are not the end but are just the beginning. They begin a season that moves us through silence and longing into a season of joy and resurrection.
Sunday, February 26 is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany. The music will be celebrative and the mood joyous. The alleluias will echo for the next few days, until we reach the quiet of Ash Wednesday.
On that day, may the ashes we receive be a sign of our humility and our penitence. May they remind us of our individual sins and the complexity of corporate sin. But more than anything, may the ashes invite us into God’s presence, into God’s love and into God’s gift of new life. John Beddingfield
LENT AT SAINT MARY’S . . . On March 1, Ash Wednesday, we offer Said Masses at 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM. A Sung Mass is offered at 12:10 PM and a Solemn Mass is offered at 6:00 PM. A minister will be available for the imposition of ashes from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Saint Mary’s is a parish where the liturgy has a particular integrity, one that invites each of us as individuals to a greater Christian integrity in our personal lives. Episcopalians normally observe the weekdays of Lent by acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. In addition, it is customary to abstain from flesh meats on Fridays in Lent. There are two fixed days of fasting in the church year, the First Day of Lent and Good Friday. It is customary on these days to reduce the quantity and quality of the food we consume, not to make ourselves sick, but to remind ourselves that our whole being hungers for the Lord. There are many ways to do this. The fast is for adults in good health and not children, the sick or the elderly. Common sense is a Christian virtue . . . Beginning on March 3, we offer Stations of the Cross each Friday night at 7:00 PM. The service lasts about forty minutes and I commend it to you as a spiritual devotion. Everyone who is able should try to come at least once during Lent. Come and bring a friend. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for George, Loretta, Roy, Henry, Clare, Jan, Ida, Brian, Mary, Michael, MaryAnne, Ray, Betty Ann, Mikhail, Deborah, Virginia, William, Mary, Ana, Gilbert, Robert, Gloria, Rich, Marion, Jeanne, Joseph, 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 26: 1994 Milledge Polo Mosley; March 4: 1989 Timothy Francis Meyers.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The rector returns to the parish on Friday evening, February 24 . . . Robert McCormick will play a recital in Atlanta on Tuesday, February 28 at 7:30 PM at All Saints’ Church, 634 West Peachtree Street . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, February 25, by Father Beddingfield and on Saturday, March 4, by Father Mead . . . The Spirituality and Reading Group meets on Sunday, March 19 at 1:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. The group will read Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor . . . Extra ushers and greeters are needed for Ash Wednesday. If you have a few hours to spare, find George Handy or MaryJane Boland for an assignment and pick up a Saint Mary’s nametag in the back near the ushers table . . . Attendance Last Sunday 326.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the voluntaries (prelude and postlude, respectively) are Adagio and Final from Symphonie III, Opus 28 by Louis Vierne (1870-1937). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa brevis in C-dur, KV 220 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The 250th anniversary of Mozart’s birth was celebrated on January 27. This setting has been known since the nineteenth century as Spatzenmesse, or “Sparrow Mass,” a nickname that comes from the “chirping” motif heard in Sanctus. Though a straightforward work and one sometimes criticized for its perceived lack of profundity, it remains one of the composer’s most popular masses. It is an early work and was composed at some point from 1774 to 1776, while Mozart was in Salzburg. The motet at Communion is Iesu dulcis memoria by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger (1839-1901) . . . The recital at 4:40, the last Sunday recital until Easter Day, is played by Marie Daniele Mercier, an extraordinary organist who divides her time between her native France and a residence in New Jersey . . . On Ash Wednesday at the Solemn Mass, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Aeterna Christi munera’ by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594), a “paraphrase mass” first published in 1590. Each movement is based upon the plainsong hymn Aeterna Christi munera, the office hymn for feasts of Apostles. At the imposition of ashes, the choir sings Miserere mei, Deus by Gregorio Allegri (1582-1652), the famous setting of Psalm 51 that for years exclusively was performed on Good Friday at the Vatican (the score was kept secret). The version we know today, however (including the notoriously high soprano part), largely comes from ornamentation added in the nineteenth century. The motet at Communion is Palestrina’s Super flumina Babylonis. Robert McCormick
MISSION NOTES . . . On Monday, February 27 at 7:00 PM we will offer a Honduras evening of Stories and Slides (along with a light dinner). Join us in Saint Joseph’s Hall to hear about the ongoing relationship with our friends in Honduras . . . Also on Monday, February 27, beginning around 11:30 PM, some of us from Saint Mary’s will be helping Common Ground Community with its winter count of the homeless in west Midtown. See http://www.commonground.org to register or speak to Father Beddingfield for more information.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION & FORMATION . . . The Tuesday Night Bible Study will continue to examine the passion narratives in the gospels at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. This week we will read the burial accounts . . . Sunday School meets on Sundays at 10:00 AM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . On Sundays in Lent, at 1:00 PM in the Mission House, the Reverend Peter R. Powell will lead a Bible Study on the Book of Jeremiah. The class will discuss what prophecy is, what it means to have a call, and how to complain to God . . . On Mondays in Lent, at 7:00 PM at the Center for Christian Studies at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Father Beddingfield will lead a class on the Theology and Spirituality of the Cross. This class will explore theologies of the cross beginning with images in scripture and building upon the classic theologies of the atonement put forth by Anselm, Abelard and others. To learn more or register for the course see http://www.christianstudies.org or pick up one of the booklets in the back of the church . . . On Tuesdays in Lent, at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study, Father Mead’s Bible Study will explore the Exodus. This class will read through the book of Exodus and other parts of the Pentateuch to get an overview of the Exodus and how it helped shape Jewish and Christian identity . . . On Wednesdays in Lent (March 8, 15, 22, 29) join Father Mead and Father Jonathan Erdman, curate at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, as we enjoy The Simpsons in Lent! We will watch two episodes each week and have discussion around religious themes in the popular cartoon. This get-together is designed for young adults and those who are young at heart. Our first show-and-discuss on “Homer the Heretic” and “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” will be March 8 at 7:00 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Last Sunday after the Epiphany
Monday George Herbert, Priest, 1633
Wednesday The First Day of Lent: Ash Wednesday Fast & Abstinence
Said Masses 7:00 AM & 8:00 AM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM,
Solemn Mass 6:00 PM
Thursday Weekday of Lent
Friday Weekday of Lent Lenten Friday Abstinence
Saturday Weekday of Lent
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. At 7:00 PM on Fridays in Lent we offer Stations of the Cross.
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