From the Rector: The Body and Blood of Christ
In September 1867, a young priest, Thomas McKee Brown, was one of the first three associates of the American Congregation of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament. Founded in England in 1862, the society was part of the catholic renewal movement beginning to take hold of Anglican Christians around the world. The Eucharist was at the heart of Father Brown’s ministry as he began to plan with the Bishop of New York and a group of laymen the parish that would become the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin.
Almost daily I encounter people inside our church who are seeing Saint Mary’s for the first time. Their eyes are drawn immediately to the altar. Its position, design and material make it the central focus of the church in every way. From its beginning, this parish community has been gathered before the altar of the Lord. It seems very normal to us and to most Episcopalians nowadays but it’s hard to underestimate the impression it made on our Church when the doors of Saint Mary’s first building were opened on December 8, 1870. This parish was part of a movement that was sweeping the Church. The Mass was capturing the hearts of a generation in a new way. I’d like to think that movement is still very much alive today and that this parish continues to be central to it.
I have written before about what I believe is the most significant grace of the present decoration of the church – the decision to use the design from the underside of the tabernacle canopy (blue ceiling with gold stars) for the whole church. The new design makes a claim about us and about our journey as a parish community. When founded, this parish was on the forefront of proclaiming the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, that his, his “real presence” in the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist, his Body and Blood. This new design asserts the wider Church’s renewal that Christ’s “real presence” in the baptized and in the assembly of the baptized is as real as his presence in the Sacrament.
Our records indicate that since the foundation of Saint Mary’s the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ – “Corporis et Sanguinis Christi” in Latin, most commonly called just “Corpus Christi” – has been observed. The Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament was an important parish organization under Father Brown. He began a daily celebration of the Eucharist from the day the doors of the first parish opened – something almost unknown in Episcopal parishes in that time.
As early as 1905 High Mass was being offered on Corpus Christi. By 1929, the feast was observed at Saint Mary’s on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday as well as the Sunday following. On this “octave” – that is, within eight days of the feast – a procession of the Sacrament was part of the Sunday Mass. In 1974, Father Donald Garfield, seventh rector of the parish, began to follow the current practice of the Roman Church in the United States by transferring the observance of the feast from the Thursday after Trinity Sunday to the Sunday after Trinity Sunday. Many Anglo-catholic parishes continue the previous tradition of celebrating the feast on Thursday. One of the reasons I am glad for the Sunday tradition here is that it enables us to have a procession through Times Square, which has been our practice since yours truly became rector.
I’m not sure how many people in Times Square will know what the Blessed Sacrament is, but they will know there are Christians in Times Square witnessing to their faith. They will know that principally because of our music. As the Sacrament is carried our processional hymn is Amazing grace. With the brass musicians accompanying us, everyone in the square will know something Christian is occurring.
We are a pilgrim people. In truly a wonderful way we will be following Christ on Sunday and witnessing to him, to our belief in him and to his presence as we follow the Most Blessed Sacrament. I hope our joy and our faith will be a useful witness to Christ, to the gospel and to the food he has given us to sustain us on our journey home. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Nora, Pamela, Joan, 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 Martha, Eileen and John, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 10: 1963 Kenneth Wilmot, 1970 Florence B. Crouch; June 12: 1986 James P. Gregory; June 17: 1972 Charles Henry Genet.
EILEEN LOUISE WHITTLE, 1924-2007 . . . The funeral for Eileen Whittle is to be held on Saturday, June 9, at 10:00 AM. Burial will follow in the Evergreens Cemetery, Brooklyn. Eileen died on Monday, May 28, at the Brooklyn Hospital Center. I know I speak for many parishioners when I say we miss her greatly. Eileen had been formally a member of Saint Mary’s for twenty-one years. Since before I became rector, she lovingly had laundered and ironed altar linens. I am personally grateful to Eileen for the loving support and joy she gave me when I was a new rector here. And I saw her give that same love and joy to everyone else. She was able to smile from her soul. It was genuine and a real gift to all who encountered her. She loved this parish community and the people she knew here very much. We will miss her greatly. S.G.
JOHN MACQUARRIE, priest, 1919-2007 . . . The Rev. Dr. John Macquarrie died in Oxford, England on Monday, May 28. Ordained as a Presbyterian minister in the Church of Scotland, he came to New York City as professor of systematic theology at Union Theological Seminary. Partly as a result of his relationship with the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, he underwent an increasing movement toward Anglicanism. In 1965 he was ordained a priest by the Bishop of New York and on June 17, 1965 celebrated his first Mass on Corpus Christi at the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. In 1970 Father Macquarrie was appointed Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford University. Soon after he was ordained priest, he wrote an article on Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament for AVE, the Saint Mary’s monthly bulletin. That article appears on the parish web site. J.B.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . You are invited to join fellow members of the parish community to hear La Bohème on Tuesday, June 12, and Faust on Wednesday, June 13, in Central Park. We will gather for Evening Prayer at the church and then head to the park and find a spot to enjoy the music.
Sister Laura Katherine and Sister Deborah Francis return to the parish from the annual retreat of the Community of St. John Baptist at the convent in Mendham on Tuesday evening, June 12 . . . Monday, June 11, is the Feast of Saint Barnabas the Apostle . . . The Feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated this year on Friday, June 15. Father Smith is the celebrant and preacher for the Sung Mass at 6:00 PM . . . June 10 is Father Smith’s eighteenth anniversary of ordination to the diaconate and June 11 is Father Gerth’s twenty-fourth anniversary of ordination to the diaconate . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, June 9, by Father Beddingfield and on Saturday, June 16, by Father Gerth . . . Attendance Visitation 168, Trinity Sunday 363.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This is the final Sunday of the choir season. During the summer months, the full choir will sing twice: on Sunday, July 1 at the Solemn Mass (just before the Region II Convention in New York of the American Guild of Organists) and on the feast of the Assumption, Wednesday, August 15 . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Le banquet céleste (1928) by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). The postlude is an improvisation. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa Resurrectionis (1976) by Gerre Hancock (b. 1934). Dr. Hancock, organist and master of choristers at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue from 1971 until 2004, composed this setting for use on Easter Day. It is set for choir, brass ensemble and organ. During Communion, the choir sings the first performance of a new piece that was composed for the Saint Mary’s choir, Adoremus in aeternum (2006) by Iain Quinn (b. 1973). Mr. Quinn is a distinguished young organist, church musician and composer, and is now director of music at St. John’s Cathedral, Albuquerque, New Mexico. The motet before the exposition of the Sacrament is Messiaen’s O sacrum convivium. Robert McCormick
THANK YOU TO CHAD KELLY . . . This Sunday will be Chad Kelly’s final day at Saint Mary’s. Chad, from Manchester, England, has served as music intern for the past three months while living in New York with his father. He has been of great assistance in maintenance of the music library and has distinguished himself at the organ, playing voluntaries, choral accompaniments, pre-service recitals and entire liturgies upon occasion. Chad is an extraordinarily gifted young musician, and it has been a pleasure to have him with us at Saint Mary’s. He begins studies in the fall at the Royal College of Music, London. R.M.
FROM THE STEWARDSHIP COMMITTEE . . . Although the Rector prefers the traditional name “Passion Sunday” for the Sunday before Easter, the finance office can’t seem to get away from the term “Palm Sunday.” Why? Because while Passion can’t be quantified, we can tell you with certainty that the palms used on that one Sunday cost the church nearly $400.00 – just one of the costs of keeping our processions verdant and fulfilling our mission in Times Square.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday THE BODY AND BLOOD OF CHRIST: CORPUS CHRISTI
Monday Saint Barnabas the Apostle
Thursday Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea, 379
Friday The Sacred Heart of Jesus Abstinence
Saturday Joseph Butler, Bishop of Durham, 1752
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, 5:20 PM Mass. 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.