From the Rector: Holy Week and Easter
Christians sometimes speak and act as if the Church and the Sacraments were realities existing apart from and independent of the People of God. They are not. With special focus and intensity the liturgies of Holy Week and Easter invite us to know Christ and to be the Body of Christ.
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday. Three Eucharists are offered: Saturday at 5:20 PM, Sunday at 9:00 AM and Sunday at 11:00 AM. The 11:00 AM service is the principal celebration and it includes a procession of the assembly through Times Square. During the procession we pass out palms along the way to everyone who asks for them – yes, even to people in cabs. Just as New York is urban in a way that no other American city is, Saint Mary’s life is shaped by our location in Times Square. Our mission, work and witness are radically a part of the life of our city.
This year, on Monday in Holy Week, the choir of Eton College, Windsor, England will be with us to sing at Solemn Evensong at 6:00 PM. We are delighted that they want to be here with us. It will be a great opportunity to invite friends and coworkers to worship with us. I hope you can come.
The season of Lent ends at sunset on Maundy Thursday when the Church begins the celebration of the Easter Triduum. (“Triduum” – TRI-djoo-um – is Latin for “Three Days.”) On the three days of the Triduum the Church reckons time as the Lord did, from sunset to sunset. The first day of the Triduum begins at sunset on Thursday, the second at sunset on Friday, and the third at sunset on Saturday.
On Thursday the Church celebrates the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The purple of Lent is gone. White vestments are worn. At Saint Mary’s calla lilies are on the altar. During the singing of Gloria in excelsis the bells of the church are rung. Then the bells and the organ fall silent until the proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection during the Easter Vigil.
The gospel for this Mass is always from John’s account of the Last Supper. Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. The passage concludes, “If I then, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should also do as I have done to you” (John 13:14-15). At Saint Mary’s, all are invited to sit to have their feet washed and then to wash the feet of the next person. Time almost stops as we transact the business of eternity.
By ancient tradition the offering of money at this Mass is used entirely for ministry to the poor. Again this year it will go the Weekday Meal Program at the Church of San Juan Evangelista in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Near the end of Mass, the Sacrament consecrated for the communion of the Church on Good Friday is carried in solemn procession to the Mercy Chapel. Members of the parish and the wider community are invited to come and pray at the “altar of repose,” traditionally for an hour, at some point, at any time during the night and until the celebration of the Good Friday Liturgy. Finally, the clergy and servers remove the linens and hangings from the altar and wash it with water and wine. The chancel is stripped of all of its furnishings. The assembly departs in silence. The statues in the church are veiled.
On Good Friday we celebrate the entire liturgy twice, at 12:30 PM and at 6:00 PM. The prayers of the people are offered in an ancient form used only on this day. The service includes the Veneration of the Cross and the ministration of Holy Communion from the reserved Sacrament.
The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day begins at sunset on Saturday, April 7. Our principal service is Saturday night. It is called “The Great Vigil of Easter.” It begins in the dark, and before it ends this building cannot begin to contain the light.
There is something compelling about the rites and traditions that have come down to us. They are different in some way each year because we are different each year. We don’t live apart from God. He dwells in us and we dwell in him. You and I and all people matter to God. We have no better way as a community to renew our knowledge and faith than to gather around a table, to hear again the story of God’s kingdom and to do what he told us to do, as best as we are able.
Especially if you are new to Saint Mary’s or to this tradition within the Christian community, I invite you to be here for the liturgies on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Eve. (And yes, those who come on Easter Eve may also come on Easter Day, morning and evening!) We don’t do “scenes” from Christian tradition in this parish. We don’t leave things out. We trust the rites. We trust each other. We believe in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Jeanne, Andy, Drew, Barbara, Virginia, Selina, Daisy, Chandra, Michael, Charles, Brian, Ana, Kevin, Gert, Harold, Robert, Gloria, Ray, Tony, William, Gabriela, Eve, Virginia, Mary, William, Gilbert, Rick, Suzanne, Thomas, priest, and Charles, priest, for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Fahad, Sean, David, Barron, Joseph, Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Christopher and Timothy . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 4: 1987 Clara D. Lewis, 1992 Thelma Bradford Ingersoll; April 5: 1964 Harold Bosworth Libbey; April 8: 1964 Grieg Taber, priest & rector, 1996 Donald Lothrop Garfield, priest & rector.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Sister Deborah Francis will read one of the lessons at the Chrism Mass at the Cathedral on Tuesday in Holy Week . . . Father Mead’s Wednesday Night Bible Study resumes on April 18, when we will study the Maccabees . . . Thanks to Chuck Carson for his work on the Holy Week and Easter advertisements for The New York Times . . . Many thanks to George Handy, Eileen Whittle, Dennis Smith, Esther Kamm and Dick Leitsch for mailing our Easter Letter . . . Attendance Last Sunday 285, Annunciation 214.
THE FAST FOR FRIENDS NEARS ITS COMPLETION . . . This Lent, we’ve invited the parish and wider community to consider fasting to help feed others. The money saved from giving up one or two meals a week should be contributed to the Maundy Thursday Offering on April 5.
JOIN IN HOLY WEEK AND EASTER PREPARATIONS . . . Beginning at 10:00 AM on Saturday, March 31, members of the Saint Vincent’s Guild (our altar servers) and the Saint Mary’s Guild (our altar guild) will strip palms for Palm Sunday and polish all of the parish brass for Holy Week and Eastertide. All are welcome to attend and help us . . . The Flower Guild invites you to join in preparing the church for Holy Week and Easter. No special skills are necessary. There are jobs that can be done by everyone. We need people on two days: Maundy Thursday, April 5, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM and on Easter Eve from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. If you are interested in helping, or have any questions, please see Dale Bonenberger or MaryJane Boland.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . On Palm Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass for Five Voices, Opus 64 by Lennox Berkeley (1903-1989), a haunting piece for unaccompanied choir. Composed in 1964, it was commissioned by Cardinal Heenan, then archbishop of Westminster, and dedicated to Colin Mawby and the choir of Westminster Cathedral, London . . . On Monday in Holy Week, Solemn Evensong is sung at 6:00 PM by the renowned choir of men and boys of Eton College, Windsor, England, directed by Ralph Allwood. They will sing works of Tallis, Bruckner and Lotti, beginning with a short choral prelude at 5:55 . . . On Maundy Thursday, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa brevis, Opus 50 by Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988). Leighton was born in Wakefield, England, and his unique musical language (including lyrical melodies combined with chromaticism, and later in his career, use of serial techniques) earned him great respect as a composer. This setting for unaccompanied choir was written in 1968 for the choir of Liverpool Cathedral . . . On Good Friday the choir sings, as in the past two years, the striking setting of the Reproaches by John Sanders (1933-2003), for many years director of music of Gloucester Cathedral. Robert McCormick
ROBERT McCORMICK AND RUTH CUNNINGHAM IN CONCERT . . . Mark your calendars: on Monday, April 23, at 8:00 PM in the church, Robert McCormick and Ruth Cunningham, soprano, will present a mostly improvised program of music for Eastertide. Ms. Cunningham, a member of our choir and formerly a member of Anonymous 4, is often heard during Solemn Masses chanting her own version of the Latin propers. This concert provides an opportunity to hear her and Mr. McCormick in a more extended setting. Admission is free.
JOIN OR SUPPORT THE SAINT MARY’S AIDS WALK TEAM . . . Saint Mary’s team will walk again this year on Saturday, May 19, and on Sunday, May 20, and we would love you to join us on one or both of those days. If you can’t walk with us, please donate to our walk. To learn more, pick up an information sheet at church or contact MaryJane Boland (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mary Robison (email@example.com). Our goal is to have 25 walkers from Saint Mary’s and to raise $15,000 for the fight against AIDS.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
Monday Monday in Holy Week
Tuesday Tuesday in Holy Week
Wednesday Wednesday in Holy Week
The Easter Triduum
Thursday Maundy Thursday
Friday Good Friday Strict Fast & Abstinence
Saturday Easter Eve
Sunday The Sunday of the Resurrection: Easter Day