From the Rector: Last Year in Jerusalem
I arrived in Israel with friends on July 7, 2006 at Ben Gurion Airport. It was a first visit to Israel for all six of us. Our visit was a pilgrimage. The focus of our journey was Jerusalem, the place Jesus loved above all others. It is the city that is at the heart of God’s love for the world. It is at the center of history in the unfolding of God’s kingdom.
In the current cycle of Sunday readings, we just reached the point in Luke’s gospel when Jesus sets his face for Jerusalem, where he goes to fulfill his Father’s will for his life. In this gospel, he was there first in Jerusalem just after his birth, when he was forty days old, and again when he was twelve. From Jerusalem the risen Lord sent his gospel to the ends of the world.
I go back in my head to Jerusalem often. There is no end to the times it is mentioned in the daily prayer of the Church. In its history it has been a place of beauty and glory and it has been a place of destruction, hunger and slaughter. It is hard to imagine fighting in the streets, but I am old enough to remember the Six-day War in 1967 when there was fighting in streets I would walk, not to mention the conflicts since.
While we were there, another war started. If I remember correctly we were in Tiberias three days before it was shelled with rockets from Lebanon. A week later, as we left Israel, it seemed as if we were the last guests to leave our hotel – except for members of the press who were moving in to cover the new conflict. As I write on Tuesday, July 3, the news about the latest terrorist plot in Britain is unfolding. We don’t expect Muslim physicians, or physicians of any religious or racial tradition, to blow up people. In another generation we didn’t expect physicians to run experiments on Jews and others in German concentration camps either. Evil will be present in this world until the end of time.
Last summer in Israel, it was easy to be angry about all of the evil that had been done to others in that place. (And after the war started, it would be easy to be afraid, as people have been in every generation.)
Neither our Israeli guide nor our Jordanian guide could go for very long without making a snide remark about the other community. In a museum in the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem I overheard a young Israeli speaking to a large group of American teenagers about how loyalty to Israel was more important than loyalty to their own country. (I was aware – and relieved – that the teenagers were far more interested in each other than the politics of their tour leader.) There are so many wrongs done on both sides that no feeling is entirely clean.
One consequence of the focus of twentieth century fighting in the Holy Land is that the Christian community continues to decline. It is almost forgotten that as World War II ended most of the people of Jerusalem were Christians. There are reminders throughout the city that all who are there could be victims of Islamic terrorism in the next instant. The Jerusalem Jesus knew was not peaceful either. But it was a place where people lived and where people worshiped God. People still live there. People still worship God. I long to go back.
I don’t want to give the impression that fear, anger and sadness were the primary emotions I felt in Jerusalem, in Israel or in Jordan. There were so many moments and experiences of holiness beyond words. There were many, many happy people. There was a great deal of joy. In the midst of everything, hope in God seemed greater to me than anger, sin or evil. I did not expect to feel such hope, such trust in God.
There is a local stone used for building in Jerusalem that gives a certain unity to the architecture, new and old. The stone reflects sunlight and makes for a certain kind of atmospheric unity as well – especially on sunny days. But as strong as the past is in Jerusalem, I constantly longed for the future. This should not have been surprising to me at all. I am a Christian. Christians are people who look forward. The future is what I felt on the Via Dolorosa. This is what I felt on the Mount of Olives. This is what I felt at the Western Wall.
I don’t expect peace in my lifetime in Jerusalem, but I do long for it, as I long for a world where “justice” really does “roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Henry, who is hospitalized, Thomas, priest, who is hospitalized, Pamela, Joan, Hilyard, Charles, Virginia, Daisy, Joseph, Marcia, Ana, Kevin, Gert, Gloria, Ray, Tony, William, Eve, Virginia, Mary, Gilbert, Rick, Suzanne, 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 . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 9: 1991 Blanche Evelyn Preene; July 11: 1981 Pelham St. George Bissell
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reminder: Saint Mary’s Guild meets Saturday, July 7, at 10:00 AM . . . On Sundays Child Care during the 10:00 AM Sung Mass and 11:00 AM Solemn Mass will be available all summer long. The Nursery is located next to the Sacristy (down the hallway from Saint Joseph’s Hall) . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, July 7, by Father Mead and on Saturday, July 14, by Father Gerth . . . Father Beddingfield continues on vacation. He returns to the parish on Sunday, July 15, when Father Mead will leave for vacation through Saturday, August 11 . . . Flowers for Sundays and feast days are needed for July 8, 22 and the 29 and most of August. E-mail Sandra at email@example.com or fill out our flower donation form online at http://www.stmvirgin.org/article32741.htm . . . Attendance Last Sunday 380.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Rhosymedre from Three Preludes founded on Welsh Hymn Tunes by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). The postlude is an improvisation on ‘Paderborn’. The cantor is Mr. Aaron Larson, baritone. The solo at Communion is I got me flowers from Vaughan Williams’s Five Mystical Songs. Robert McCormick
PRAYING TOGETHER . . . When I was an assistant at the Church of the Incarnation, Dallas, just out of Nashotah House Seminary, one of my colleagues picked up on how Nashotah shaped my presiding. He remarked that I read the liturgy as if I were singing. I think he was right then and right now. I hear the liturgy sung in my head. The norm for me is a sung Office, a sung Mass. I happen to serve in a parish where this background serves very well.
Our building shapes so much about how we pray. We have a great building; we don’t need to fight it. Its acoustic dictates a lot about how we read and pray as members of the congregation, members of the choir, readers and presiders. A regular reminder is made to cantors during the summer, when they sit in the chancel to sing the minor proper, is that they should sing facing the wall opposite – not the congregation. The building will carry a cantor’s voice really well if he sings to the wall – just as a celebrant at the high altar can make himself or herself heard throughout the building without a microphone. I’ve learned that when I come out to the congregation to do announcements I must have the microphone on or I can’t be heard.
Sometimes our pace or reading prayers together may seem slow. It is, in part because of the building, but also a fractionally slower, more deliberate pace seems to invite visitors to join in our services. That’s something we like to do; it’s one important reason our doors are open and the regular services of the Church are prayed daily.
I do know that occasionally a visitor, often a committed Episcopalian, is annoyed by the way in which we pray. The logic of what we do may not be apparent to some. It just doesn’t occur to some that the laypersons, sisters and clergy who pray together daily might have a pattern or rhythm. Sadly, given the liturgical situation in the Church at the present time, why would one expect to find a regular pattern anywhere?
We pray to give glory to God, to listen to his Word to us and to do the work he gives us to do. Moments of transcendent common prayer have many facets. But moments when the congregation is aware of its unity in singing, in reading, in listening can’t be forced. They are moments of grace. Sometimes they happen when the organ is playing; sometimes they happen when the organist leaves us to sing on our own. Sometimes they happen when a preacher pauses, sometimes while a small group is reading the psalms at Evening Prayer.
The Church invites us to be a community of prayer. This can only happen if the congregation and clergy of the parish work at it. It’s actually pretty easy at Saint Mary’s. We have resources of liturgy and music that have few peers. We have been blessed with the opportunity. I invite you to join in common prayer with the purpose for which it was instituted and intended. S.G.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Wednesday Benedict of Nursia, Abbot of Monte Cassino, c. 540
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
Sunday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 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.