From the Rector: Trinity Sunday
In New Testament communities and in the first centuries of the Christian era, Christians struggled for the right language to speak about God. Around the year 200 AD, if I recall correctly, we have our first record of someone using the word “Trinity” to refer to God. For all of the differences among those who call themselves Christians, confessing God as Trinity defines the Christian community at its broadest and most inclusive.
We Christians use Trinitarian language about God with confidence. We do believe God has truly revealed himself to us as one God in Three Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We also believe that Son Jesus is God and man, truly divine and truly human. Christian prayer is addressed confidently “to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit.” These patterns of language have shaped Christian believing and living from the time of the New Testament into our own time. In our Prayer Book worship, we Episcopalians use this Trinitarian language to set forth the “truths of the Gospel” (see the Prayer Book, page 11). Gospel truth is the fundamental source of our unity with God, with Christ, and with each other through the power of the Spirit.
Trinitarian language has been a challenge almost from the beginning of the Church. It will always be difficult to grasp until the end of time because it is a belief, not a physical object and because it is a beginning and not an end in itself. Jesus himself does not mention it in the gospels. The only direct Trinitarian reference ascribed to him at all comes at the end of Matthew, when Jesus tells his disciples to baptize in the “name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In the Acts of the Apostles baptism is always in the “name of Lord Jesus” alone. There is an emerging doctrine of the Trinity in John’s gospel, but if it were entirely clear the Church’s controversies into the present day would have taken a different course.
Some Christians are very concerned about the masculine imagery of Christian formularies that tends to hide the presence of women and of the feminine from Christian history and theology. It is an entirely legitimate concern. That’s a subject which could take up many newsletter articles like this. But in this article I want to say something about what I think our common Trinitarian language means and does not mean.
Trinitarian language is an agreed beginning and it is a sufficient beginning and revelation of God to humankind. Trinitarian language is God’s revelation of himself to us. Our language does not limit or control God. Many conventions of English language and literature – which make me want to use “himself” and not “God’s self” – are just that, conventions of our language that aren’t shared by New Testament Greek. God has been experienced and known through feminine imagery in the Old and New Testaments and in the Apocrypha. Christian mystics and teachers have felt God’s presence as Mother.
I have never have been led to describe an experience of God apart from traditional Trinitarian language. It is interesting to me that I have a very similar affection for my sister and for my brother. Its sibling affection and it is identical as far as I can tell. On the other hand, my love and affection for my father and my mother feel to me very different, though I’m not sure it would be easy for me to put it into words. I’m sure all of this does influence how I respond at some level to God in prayer.
I remain intent in using traditional language about God while I find myself becoming increasingly careful to use inclusive language about fellow human beings and inclusive in my actions. As a Christian I want to share in Christ’s mission to welcome others and to witness in word and deed to God’s life and love for all. We still have a ways to go before women and men in the Church relate to each other as sister and brother without power agendas from both sides.
I absolutely recognize that in personal prayer the Holy Spirit may lead a person through many different images and paths into God’s presence. I expect the public prayer of the Church to be from the Prayer Book for reasons of doctrine, mission and ecumenism. (Again, more subjects for more newsletters!)
There is always a good reason to go to Mass on Sunday. There are some especially good reasons to go to a Mass with music this coming Sunday, Trinity Sunday. Some of the greatest hymns written are the ones we sing on this day. They shape and nurture our faith in the powerful way song can. They are at the same time an offering of praise to the one who made us, saved us, and is with us always, the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Daniel who is hospitalized, for Isa, Joy, Christine, Danny, Ann, William, Judi, Ethan, John, 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 12: 1986 James P. Gregory; June 17: 1972 Charles Henry Genet.
CONFESSIONS . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, June 10, by Father Beddingfield and on Saturday, June 17, by Father Gerth.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . As is our custom, at the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass on Trinity Sunday in place of the usual postcommunion hymn, the choir will sing a setting of Te Deum laudamus, “You are God: we praise you.” During the singing of Te Deum, incense is offered . . . The Feast of Saint Barnabas the Apostle, June 11, is observed this year on Monday, June 12 . . . The ordinary Fridays of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
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 second time of asking. S.G.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, Daniel Craig is still at Holy Name Hospital, Englewood, New Jersey. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Movie Night in June will follow the Sung Mass for the eve of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist on Friday, June 23 at 7:00 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Since June is so often the month for weddings, we’ll watch the original version of Father of the Bride (1950) with Elizabeth Taylor, Spencer Tracy and others. It may be hot, so dress comfortably and join us for food, beverages and fun . . . The Feast of Saint Barnabas the Apostle is the Rector’s twenty-third anniversary of ordination to the diaconate . . . Evensong & Benediction 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 320.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Präludium D-dur, BuxWV 139 by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707). The postlude is an improvisation on ‘Nicea’. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass for Five Voices by William Byrd (1543-1623). Byrd was a Roman Catholic in protestant Elizabethan England. In spite of the difficulties he faced due to his faith, his career flourished because of his protection by the Queen, a great admirer of Byrd’s music. The composer was a distinguished gentleman of her Chapel Royal, which at that time was the greatest honor a musician in England could receive. Much of his Latin music, however, was written for clandestine Catholic liturgies in private homes (including this work, one of three Latin masses), and therefore has a somewhat intimate character. The Te Deum laudamus sung near the end of Mass is from Byrd’s Great Service, a sizable collection of liturgical music written for the reformed English rites of Matins, Holy Communion and Evensong, as found in the Book of Common Prayer . . . The recital at 4:40, the final one of the season, is played by Gerald Carper of Macon, Georgia. Mr. Carper was my organ teacher while I was in high school, and prepared me for my college organ auditions. I am delighted to welcome him to Saint Mary’s . . . We welcome for Evensong the choir of the Parish of Christ the Redeemer, Pelham, New York . . . Congratulations to a number of choir members for recent distinctions: Mellissa Hughes, soprano, has been granted the Master of Music degree in voice, with a specialty in early music, from the Yale University School of Music. Ted Hearne, tenor, is an extremely talented young composer, and has recently been accepted into Yale’s graduate program in composition. He is one of five accepted out of several hundred applicants. I am happy that both Mellissa and Ted will continue in our choir next season. Adam Ward, countertenor, was recently accepted into Chanticleer, the famed male vocal ensemble, based in San Francisco. I am thrilled for Adam, but he will be greatly missed in the choir. Robert McCormick
CHILD CARE & SUNDAY SCHOOL. . . Child care is offered every 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM Sunday and during Solemn Masses celebrated during the week. Sunday School is offered October through May from 10:00 AM to 10:45 AM. Please contact Father Mead for more information.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday Trinity Sunday
Monday Saint Barnabas the Apostle (transferred)
Wednesday Basil the Great, Bishop of Caesarea, 379
Friday Joseph Butler, Bishop of Durham, 1752 Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
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