From the Rector: The Trinity
When I ask the question, “What is the most important belief of Christians?” I give full marks for two answers: either, Jesus died and rose from the dead, or, God is the Holy Trinity, one God in Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Our present Prayer Book emerged just as new attention to how we express gender in English began to emerge. For the most part, I would give our Prayer Book very good marks for its efforts, though by no means perfect, at inclusion about the People of God and its decision to avoid developing new liturgical language for the Holy Trinity.
Since the English Reformation began, Anglicans have had some big fights, but mostly over secondary things. We actually have been fighting over how our clergy are to be vested for the services of the Church since 1549. We sometimes have fights over which books belong in the Bible. Sometimes we fight over how to read the Bible. And we continue to work our way through issues of inclusion.
Until recently Anglicans have not tried to re-open the greatest controversies of Christian history. The first of these was the rejection at Nicea in A.D. 325 of Arius’ teaching that God the Son was subordinate to God the Father. The other was the definition of the union in Christ of divine and human nature at Chalcedon in A.D. 451. These controversies still shape Christian prayer, public and private.
The claim for using Trinitarian language is not that this language is the only way to talk about God. We use Trinitarian language with confidence because we believe it is one way God has clearly revealed himself to us. The idea of reopening this question is enormously difficult because the confession of the faith of the first councils of the Church is what generally defines the Christian religion across Christian denominations. One of the few things most Christians do agree about is the fundamental profession of Baptism. Christians baptize in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. (People who speak of God as “Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier” and don’t move to speaking about the Persons of the Trinity usually move quickly into a very old heresy called “modalism.” God has revealed himself as a person, not a function.)
I suspect a Sunday devoted to the Holy Trinity emerged in the West out of a perceived need of Western Christianity in the Middle Ages to strengthen teaching and understanding about the nature of God because of the challenges of its own time. (An Anglican might note also that the feast emerged at a time vernacular language is not used for worship.) It is worth noting that in the Articles of Religion adopted by our Episcopal Church in 1801, based on the 1751 Articles of Religion of the Church of England, the first article of faith is about the Trinity:
I. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.
There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. (Prayer Book, page 867
The liturgical tradition strongly resists “theme Sundays.” Liturgy celebrates the teaching and saving events of the life of Jesus. However, since the Holy Trinity, along with the resurrection, is one of the central beliefs of the Church, it is not inappropriate to devote one Sunday to it. And since its introduction throughout the Western Church in 1334, it has been observed on the Sunday after Pentecost.
Two of the greatest hymns of the year are sung at the Solemn Mass here on Trinity Sunday, I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity and Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! As is our custom on Trinity Sunday, in place of the usual postcommunion hymn, the choir will sing a setting of Te Deum laudamus while incense is offered. The Right Reverend C. Christopher Epting, ecumenical officer of the Episcopal Church, will be celebrant and preacher for the Solemn Mass of the day. (Yours truly will not be here Sunday morning. The son of one of my first cousins is being confirmed at Saint James’ Church, Madison Avenue, and I will be there with my family.)
Trinity Sunday also marks our last Solemn Evensong & Benediction on Sunday evening until the fall. We had 104 last Sunday for Evensong on Pentecost (on a holiday weekend!). I hope it may be possible for us to have another good congregation for our final Evensong. It’s one of the great things we do and I look forward to a time in the future when it may be possible for us to have the resources to offer it all through the year.
Finally, our belief in the Trinity is fundamentally about God and about how we share in the divine life of God the Father, through the Son, and in the power of the Spirit. It’s not just about God and God’s life, as it were. It’s about humanity sharing in the divinity of Almighty God in this life and in the life to come. The intimate, knowing and loving eternity of the Persons of the Trinity is the gift God intends for all. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Gary, Ida, Pamela, Joan, Ron, Hilyard, Aaron, Julie, Charles, Virginia, Daisy, Joseph, Marcia, Ana, Kevin, Gert, Gloria, Ray, Tony, William, Eve, Virginia, Mary, Gilbert, Rick, Suzanne, Thomas, priest, and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Steve, Fahad, Sean, David, Barron, Joseph, Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Christopher and Timothy and for the repose of the soul of Eileen . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 6: 1959 Grace Frisby Conklin, 1966 Dudley Harrison Briggs; June 8: 1967 Mary E. Longley, 1998 Anthony Guarino; June 9: 1952 Roy Whitson Lay.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Eileen Louise Whittle died on Monday, May 28, at the Brooklyn Hospital Center. She was eighty-two years old. As we go to press, no funeral arrangements have been made. Please pray for her and for all who mourn. S.G.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. Ordinary Fridays begin again on June 1, 2007.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks to Dale Bonenberger and to Rick Austill for arranging flowers for Pentecost. Rick is now assisting Dale in this ministry – and we are very thankful for their work! . . . Flowers for Sundays and feast days are needed for June 3, 10 and 24 and all of July and some of August. E-mail Sandra at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our flower donation form online http://www.stmvirgin.org/article32741.htm. . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, June 2, by Father Gerth and on Saturday, June 9, by Father Beddingfield . . . Attendance on Pentecost 478.
SAINT MARY’S ON THE TOWN . . . Members of the parish are planning to attend some of this summer’s opera and philharmonic events in Central Park. For the opera events (La Bohème on Tuesday, June 12 and Faust on Wednesday, June 13) those interested will gather for Evening Prayer at the church and then head to the park and find a spot to enjoy the music. The philharmonic events will be July 11 and 17. If you are interested in organizing one of these events, please contact Father Mead.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Prélude from Première symphonie en re mineur, Opus 14 (1898-99) by Louis Vierne (1870-1937), played by Chad Kelly, Saint Mary’s music intern. Mr. Kelly will also play the postlude, Johann Sebastian Bach’s (1685-1750) Fuge Es-dur, BWV 552.ii, a piece filled with Trinitarian symbolism. The setting of the Mass ordinary is The Office of Holy Communion ‘Collegium Regale’ by Herbert Howells (1892-1983). This work was composed in 1956 as part of a collection of liturgical music, begun in 1944, for the choir of King’s College, Cambridge (hence the Latin ascription in the title). Like much of the composer’s choral music, this work is atmospheric and diverse in style and mood, though a sense of melancholy joy pervades throughout much of it, particularly in Gloria in excelsis Deo. The motet at Communion is Libera nos, salva nos by John Sheppard (c. 1515-1559/60). Following Communion, Te Deum laudamus is sung to the setting in B-flat by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) . . . The organ recital at 4:40 PM, the final recital of the season, is played by Woo-sug Kang, a doctoral student from Indiana University. Robert McCormick
FROM THE STEWARDSHIP COMMITTEE . . . Because we have so many things at St. Mary’s that burn—candles, incense, tongues of fire—we take fire safety fairly seriously. Did you know that each year the church pays over $1,300 to inspect and maintain the many fire extinguishers found in the church complex?—just one of the costs of keeping our community safe and fulfilling our mission in Times Square.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday Trinity Sunday
Tuesday Boniface, Archbishop of Mainz, Missionary to Germany, and Martyr, 754
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Columba, Abbot of Iona, 597
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Mass, 10:00 AM Sung Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer. 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.
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.