From the Rector: Pentecost
This Sunday we gather to celebrate “The Day of Pentecost,” the last day of the Easter Season. Pentecost is one of the great ancient Hebrew pilgrimage feasts. It was a “week of weeks” – “seven” weeks – connected to the cycle of harvests. The Church began to use a period of fifty days to celebrate its central belief, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This earlier understanding of a fifty-day Eastertide began to break down as centuries passed. This breakdown went so far that some formularies suggested that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit were entirely absent from the Christian community between the fortieth and fiftieth days after the first Easter. One of the great accomplishments of the liturgical revisions of the last fifty years has been the recovery of the integrity of Eastertide.
The traditional entrance song for the Mass of Pentecost is one of my favorites, The Spirit of the Lord has filled the whole world, alleluia. It echoes in its own way the antiphon we sing at the Easter Vigil, All the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.
In John’s gospel this victory and presence is God’s gift to all who believe in his Son. In some sense John’s gospel is a record of God approaching and shepherding people so that they can come to believe in him. Those who are thirsty lose their thirst, those who are blind see, and those who are dead live because of their belief in God. By believing people are born anew as God’s daughters and sons. The new relationship of God to humankind began when the Word became flesh. The Holy Spirit continues the work of making new sons and daughters in our day.
“Do you believe in the Son of man?” is the question Jesus asks the man born blind in John’s gospel. He asks this at the most crucial point of his encounter with the man, after the man who was blind has been healed and rejected. The man had been blind from birth. He had always been treated as an outcast and a sinner. All of his life his family, his neighbors and his religious leaders had assured him something was wrong with him. His blindness gone, he is rejected anew by all of them. All he has ever wanted has been to be like everyone else, to be loved, not rejected, to be welcomed inside, not seated apart. In John’s gospel, much to the consternation of too many Christians ever since, Jesus simply welcomed all who believed in him.
In her great work on John’s gospel, Written That You May Believe (The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1999, page 56), Sandra Schneiders writes that Christian belief for John’s community was something that was “mystical and immediate rather than ritual or institutional.” It’s a great phrase. We don’t gather for ritual, we gather for belief in Jesus. Our ritual is simply the familiar pattern of our common life, a pattern that enables us to drink, to touch, to eat and to remind ourselves of who we are, God’s sons and daughters, Jesus’ true brothers and sisters.
I think it is still true that the Episcopal Church has no way of getting rid of members once they have joined – until God calls each to himself. Members can be listed as “inactive.” They can be moved from parish to parish. But they cannot be removed. Our relationship with each other in Christ begins with the work of the Holy Spirit. We can’t undo new birth. But we can grow in it.
There was a widely-sung anti-war hymn in The Hymnal 1940 that was left out of the present hymnal. Some may recall it. It was about the decision to go to war with Mexico in 1845. It entered the hymnal in 1916. This is the first verse: Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, In the strife of truth with falsehood, For the good or evil side; Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, Off’ring each the bloom of blight, And the choice goes by for ever ‘Twixt that darkness and that light.
As much as I like the hymn – it stirs up something about the need to make the right decisions in life – it is not reality. Life is a series of decisions. Over and over in our lives God seeks us. Jesus kept coming back to his disciples in spite of their disbelief. I believe God continues to come back to us. When we human beings are confronted with a serious moral decision, rarely does that decision stand in isolation. We don’t just make one decision for Christ in our lives. His Spirit daily is with us to guide us and guard us.
Again, on the Day of Pentecost we conclude our Eastertide celebration of Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension. We proclaim the presence of the Spirit he poured out on us even before he died on the cross. I hope our celebrations on Pentecost will radiate a great deal of the mystery and transcendent splendor of God’s love for us in Christ. I hope many will be able to gather at our Father’s table here in Times Square. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Daniel who is hospitalized, for Isa, Judi, Ethan, John, Brendan, Laura, Gabriela, Eve, Roy, Betty Ann, Deborah, Virginia, Mary, William, Ana, Gilbert, Marion, Jeanne, Joseph, Rick, Thomas, priest and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Fahad, Joseph, Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Christopher, Timothy, Nestor, Freddie, Dennis and Derrick . . . 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; June 10: 1963 Kenneth Wilmot, 1970 Florence B. Crouch.
CONFESSIONS . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, June 3, by Father Mead and on Saturday, June 10, by Father Beddingfield.
I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE between Robin Clive Landis of New York City and Sarah Whittingham Barrett of New York City. If any of you know just cause why they may not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are bidden to declare it. This is the first time of asking. S.G.
FRIDAY ABSTINENCE . . . The ordinary Fridays of the year are observed by acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the Lord’s crucifixion. This discipline is not observed during the seasons of Christmas and Easter. This year, Easter Season ends at sunset on the Day of Pentecost, Sunday, June 4, and the observance of Friday abstinence resumes on June 9. Traditionally abstinence has meant abstinence from flesh meats. Outside of Lent, when “fish on Fridays” remains a widespread and ecumenical practice among Western Christians, any act of personal discipline or devotion to observe the day is appropriate.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, Daniel Craig is at Holy Name Hospital, Englewood, New Jersey. Please keep him in your prayers . . . It was great to have the Reverend James W. Nutter, rector, Palmer Memorial Church, Houston, with us as a concelebrant on Ascension Day . . . Many thanks to Dale Bonenberger for arranging the flowers for Ascension Day and for the Sunday after Ascension . . . The Ascension reception was marvelous. Many thanks to all who helped make the day so wonderful . . . Sr. Deborah Francis will not be with us on Wednesday, June 7, because of a prior commitment . . . Solemn Evensong & Sermon on Sunday evenings continues through Trinity Sunday. Our Sunday evening summer schedule (Evening Prayer at 5:00 PM and Said Mass at 5:20 PM) begins on Sunday, June 18 . . . Attendance Last Sunday 362, Ascension 300.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is an improvisation on the plainsong hymn Veni Creator Spiritus. The postlude is Fantasia super ‘Komm, Heiliger Geist’, BWV 651 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass fir Mixed Chorus, Opus 84 by Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987). Persichetti, a Philadelphia native, worked as a Church musician in his youth; for much of his career he was on the faculty of the Juilliard School, including a period as chairman of the composition department. This unaccompanied setting was composed in 1960 for New York’s Collegiate Chorale, a distinguished choir that remains active today and, in fact, presented a concert at Saint Mary’s in January 2005. The composer praised a performance of this work by the Saint Mary’s choir, under the direction of McNeil Robinson, in the 1970s. Persichetti employed traditional compositional techniques in his Mass, including counterpoint and plainsong thematic material, but his strikingly “modern” harmonic language gives a distinctly mystical and haunting effect. The motet at Communion is Loquebantur variis linguis by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585) . . . The recital at 4:40 is played by Jeremy S. Bruns, associate organist of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue . . . On Corpus Christi, June 18, I am delighted to announce that McNeil Robinson, Saint Mary’s former music director, will be present to conduct the choir in his Missa brevis (1996) and other music sung that day. It will be an honor to have Mr. Robinson back in the choir gallery for the Solemn Mass. Robert McCormick
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION & SUNDAY SCHOOL RECESSED FOR THE SUMMER . . . Sunday School and Adult Christian Education have come to a close for the academic year. Thanks to everyone who helped out and came to the classes; it was a great year! Look for information regarding the Fall Schedule in the coming weeks in the Education section of the Parish website. This year was the first year in many years we were able to have regular Sunday School for children at Saint Mary’s. I’d like to thank Sam Hunt, Nicole Mead and Rebecca Weiner for their help teaching throughout the year! Matthew Mead
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Day Of Pentecost: Whitsunday
Monday Boniface, Archbishop of Mainz, Missionary and Martyr, 754
Friday Columba, Abbot of Iona, 597 Abstinence
Saturday Ephrem of Edessa, Syria, Deacon, 373
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