From The Rector: Christmas Light
There are many moments of great emotion for me during Mass on Christmas Eve. Usually it is not much of a problem because these moments don’t occur in any of the places in the liturgy where I am saying or singing something by myself. Two are pretty close. During the last verse of O come, all ye faithful the image of the Christ child is being placed in the crèche. During the last verse of Once in royal David’s city we are all standing below the great rood beam with its outstandingly powerful crucifix. It’s hard for me to keep the tears back.
There is another powerful moment on Christmas I can avoid because priests don’t read the first lesson at the Christmas Eve Mass. Perversely (or some would smile and say, providentially), between the Daily Office and weekday Masses this Advent, I’ve already had to read this passage aloud three times. It’s Isaiah’s prophecy of a messianic king in the ninth chapter:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation thou hast increased its joy; they rejoice before thee as with joy at the harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For the yoke of his burden, and the staff for his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, thou hast broken as on the day of Midian. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this
The only other lessons that move me so deeply are from John’s gospel, the Raising of Lazarus (11:1-57) and the Healing of the Man Born Blind (9:1-41). I have a sense why both of those passages do me in. Few of us human beings ever really get over the loss that death brings. The pain subsides over time, but death is profoundly unnatural. Jesus weeps over the grave of his friend. He has words for his friend, “Lazarus, come out.” And Jesus has words for those who were with them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
The Man Born Blind is rejected by his family, his friends, his community and his religious leaders before and after he has received his sight from Jesus. Imagine all your life you are always treated as a sinner because you are blind, and when you can see you are still despised. The work of God in this man’s life would not be that the world finally would accept him. The world is a place of darkness, but a light was shining. The work of God was that he would be given true sight to see the true light, the Son of man, Jesus.
Perhaps I am moved by the Isaiah prophecy because of John. In Christ you and I can see beyond the bitterness of death to eternal life, beyond the darkness of this world to see and believe in the one who is light and life. At Saint Mary’s we proclaim the light has come into this world, and it is a great and good light. The light seeks ways for it to shine in the lives of all people.
I hope very much you may be able to be with us for Mass at Christmas. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and that God grants us the grace to have a renewed and powerful vision of his Son. Merry Christmas. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Vesta, Jan, Ida, Brian, Mary, Michael, MaryAnne, Ray, Betty Ann, Mikhail, Deborah, Charlton, Virginia, William, Mary, Gilbert, Robert, Gloria, Marion, Mamie, Rick, Henry, Thomas, priest and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Christopher, David, Timothy, Nestor, Freddie and Derrick . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 25: 1986 Norman Albert Rollings; December 28: 1953 Martha May Cockrill Lewis; December 29: 1957 Mary Isobel Sonnenberg; December 30: 1977 Josephine Thompson; December 31: 1961 Everett Phillips Irwin, 1985 Frances Bulkley Hirsch, 1985 Anna Marie Schuman.
CLERGY NOTES . . . At the 11:00 PM Christmas Eve Mass we welcome the Presiding Bishop as celebrant and preacher, the Right Reverend Richard F. Grein, XV Bishop of New York, as our principal concelebrant and the Reverend Louis Weil, James F. Hodges Professor of Liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, as a concelebrant. The Reverend Ryan E. Lesh, a transitional deacon, from Saint Mary’s who is in his last year of study at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific is here for Christmas too. He will be deacon of the Mass for the services on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We also welcome a seminarian from the Diocese of Southwark, England, Peter McBride. Peter is in his last year of study and will be ordained to the transitional diaconate in July. Before beginning studies for the priesthood, Peter was an attorney. He’s been a friend of Saint Mary’s for many years and it is great to have him with us at Christmas.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . On Christmas Eve, there is music for choir and congregation at 4:40 PM. At the Sung Mass at 5:00 PM, music is by Hassler, Victoria and Wood . . . There is music for choir and congregation at 10:30 PM, including works of Darke, Howells and Vaughan Williams . . . At the 11:00 PM Mass, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Messe solennelle, Opus 16 by Louis Vierne (1870-1937), a magnificent piece composed in 1900 for choir and two organs. Traditionally, many large French churches have two organs: a large grand orgue in the gallery and a smaller orgue de choeur in the chancel. Our church is not arranged in that way and we have only one organ (the music can thus be adapted for one organ only), though our Aeolian-Skinner Opus 891-A, built in 1932, is strikingly similar to a French grand orgue. It often has been compared, in fact, to the organ of Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, where the blind Vierne was for many years organiste titulaire (he died there while playing a recital, just as he wished). Music at Communion is by Dirksen and Rutter . . . At the Solemn Mass on Christmas Day, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass in the Phrygian mode by Charles Wood (1866-1926). Wood, a composer who made numerous contributions to Anglican Church music, intentionally wrote this quietly meditative setting in a style similar to 16th century polyphony. He completed this work, which uses the traditional Prayer Book English texts, at a time when such polyphonic music was beginning to enjoy a recovery in Anglican churches (for the first time since the Reformation), though only English adaptations were allowed at the time. This resurgence is due partially to the Oxford movement, the high church movement that led to the founding of churches such as Saint Mary’s. Robert McCormick
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, the Church was open for services on the first day of the strike and we have been able to be open most of the day and for all services on days two and three of the strike. We are deeply thankful for the efforts of the parish staff who have made this possible . . . There will not be a coffee hour on Christmas Day after the 11:00 AM Mass . . . The Gift Shop will be open on Christmas Eve! . . . On Monday, December 26, the church will observe its federal holiday schedule. The parish office will be closed. The church will be open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM only. The only services of the day will be the Noonday Office at 12:00 PM and Mass at 12:10 PM . . . Many thanks to the Reverend Peter Powell and the Reverend James Ross Smith for teaching Sunday Christian Education classes throughout Advent. Christian Education and Sunday School will resume in the new year after the Baptism of Our Lord. Please look online at www.stmvirgin.org for details . . . Ordo Calendars for 2006 now available in the Gift shop . . . Attendance last Sunday 321.
TWO WAYS TO HELP HONDURAS . . . Bring supplies for vacation Bible school: On the mission trip in January, we have anywhere from 60-100 children for activities that will include drawing, coloring, creative writing, and mural-making. Especially useful are lots of crayons, watercolor markers, colored pencils, plain pencils, pens, and plenty of unlined and lined paper, including construction paper. Some glue sticks, school scissors in packages, fun stickers/stars, a stapler and staples, and bright pocket folders will definitely come in handy. Please bring your supplies to Saint Mary’s and place them in the bin in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . ALTERNATIVE GIVING FOR CHRISTMAS . . . And it’s not too late to provide a season of Sunday school for a child (providing supplies, biblical materials and a snack) for $25, provide for a bunch of cinder blocks with $50, supply a family with water for six months for $75 and provide one year’s worth of hot meals for a child for $100. Gifts can be purchased in the Saint Mary’s Gift Shop and by e-mailing Father Beddingfield at email@example.com . . . Thanks to several generous donors, we have matched our challenge gift of $1,000. All of these gifts will go directly into the programs and ministries of the Church of San Juan Evangelista in Villanueva, Honduras.
NEW YEAR’S EVE AND NEW YEAR’S DAY . . . The church closes at 2:00 PM on New Year’s Eve because of the celebrations in Times Square. The only services on Saturday, December 31 will be the Noonday Office at 12:00 PM and Mass at 12:10 PM. Confessions are not scheduled. On Sunday, January 1, the Feast of the Holy Name, there will be one Mass only, Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM. The Reverend Louis Weil will be celebrant and preacher.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Monday Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr
Federal Holiday Schedule
Tuesday Saint John the Evangelist
Wednesday The Holy Innocents
Thursday Thomas Becket, archbishop, 1170
Friday Christmas Weekday No Abstinence
Saturday Christmas Weekday
The Church closes at 2:00 PM today, New Year’s Eve.
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