From the Rector: Easter Communion
I heard something on Maundy Thursday I had never heard before. I heard something Jesus and those present in the Upper Room heard, the sound of feet being washed, the pouring of water, the pottery, the quiet movement of people. I’ve been participating in the washing of feet every year since 1980 with the exception of the two years I served as a curate in a parish where the rite was not observed. Sometimes I missed that sound, I’m sure, because a choir was singing an anthem. But that hasn’t been the case at Saint Mary’s. There’s plenty of silence. One of the graces of the Easter rites this year for me was to have this connection made between past and present. In its own way, the sound of the water on this night, in this place, among the Body of Christ, became for me a sacramental sign of our union with Christ.
As Holy Week began, copies of two articles by Patrick Regan, O.S.B. arrived for me from Father Louis Weil, Hodges-Haines Professor of Liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific – and a great friend of Saint Mary’s. One was on the reservation of the Sacrament on Maundy Thursday, the other on Good Friday. I happened to meet Father Regan when I was in Rome a couple of years ago. I had met him once years earlier when he was abbot of Saint Joseph’s Abbey, Covington, Louisiana. He is a liturgist and he now teaches in Rome at the Pontifical Liturgical Institute, Sant’ Anselmo. As I said on Good Friday, Father Regan’s research on the Good Friday rites had led him to restate something that had been obscured over time – the connection between the veneration of the cross on Good Friday and the reception of Holy Communion immediately following this.
The anomaly of only the celebrant receiving the Eucharist on Good Friday (a practice still remembered by some) was a consequence of only the celebrant normatively receiving the Eucharist at Mass during the Middle Ages – because it would not have been a supper if someone did not eat. In earlier centuries, the bishop of Rome tried to preserve the early custom of the Roman church of people not receiving Communion on Good Friday. He lost. And it seems that for some centuries everyone else in the city received but him and his successors. I couldn’t help but wonder about not only the intuitive connection Christian people made between the veneration of the cross and reception of Communion – despite the earlier practice of the church and the example of the bishop of Rome, but also the particular character of the Good Friday gospel, which has always been that of John’s gospel. I’d like to suggest that perhaps the people understood the triumph of the gospel and the cross.
Sometime after coming to Saint Mary’s I stopped using the private prayer from the Roman rite of the celebrant before receiving the Eucharist, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, your death brought life to the world. By your holy body and blood free me from all my sins, and from every evil. Keep me faithful to your teaching, and never let me be parted from you.” It’s a beautiful prayer. But I felt moved simply to focus on the dominical act of eating and drinking the Bread and the Wine, not forming other words in my head and heart at that moment. It has been a useful spiritual practice.
Father Regan’s article, however, moved me to focus again on what you and I receive when we receive Holy Communion. We unite ourselves to Jesus’ death and resurrection and to his ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is food that sustains our life in him. Easter Communion was renewed this year in a way I had not expected. I hope and expect renewal will continue in unexpected ways across my life. I didn’t expect the sound of the water to take me to the Upper Room. I hope I am a little more open today to see what the Lord is doing in our common life and in our own life as we continue along the Way. Happy Easter. Stephen Gerth.
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Mabel, Aaron, Drew, Virginia, 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 19: 1997 Gudrun Lagergren.
WORDS OF THANKS . . . Where is a rector to begin to thank all those whose efforts made Holy Week and the Easter Triduum such a joy and a blessing? Good spirits and much laughter seemed to accompany the simplest and most routine tasks. It was easy also to see a great deal of thankfulness and awareness for the privilege we have of calling Saint Mary’s our parish home. From the kitchen to the altar, from the front door to the back, from the oldest to the youngest, our community gathered, worshiped and left to serve others in the name of the risen Lord. Ministers of hospitality, ministers of the assembly, ministers of music, volunteers, church staff, sisters and our curates all deserve our thanks as a congregation and my thanks as the rector. Thank you for giving so much to the community this Easter. S.G.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Remember: Evensong to welcome the Community of St. John Baptist to Saint Mary’s Mission House, Sunday, April 22, 5:00 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, April 14, by Father Gerth and on Saturday, April 21, by Father Mead . . . Father Mead’s Wednesday Night Bible Study on the Maccabees begins on April 18. The class follows the evening Mass and meets in Saint Joseph’s Study . . . Many thanks to Beth Mahaffey for assisting in the parish office while Sandra Schubert is on vacation this week . . . The Rector will be attending “Leadership in Ministry” Monday, April 16, to Wednesday, April 18. He returns to the parish late on Wednesday evening . . . Attendance Maundy Thursday 269, Good Friday 567, Easter Eve & Day 952.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is an improvisation on ‘Noel nouvelet’ and the postlude is an improvisation on ‘Unser Herrscher’. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa Morus (1983) by Elliot Z. Levine (b. 1948), a New York-based composer and singer. The anthem at Communion is O hear us, Lord by Anthony Piccolo (b. 1946) . . . The organ recital at 4:40 PM is played by Ted W. Barr. Robert McCormick
ROBERT McCORMICK AND RUTH CUNNINGHAM IN CONCERT . . . Mark your calendars: on Monday, April 23 at 8:00 PM, Robert McCormick and Ruth Cunningham, soprano, will present a program of music for Eastertide, mostly improvised. 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 in a more extended setting, along with several works for organ. Admission is free.
ECCLESIA MINISTRIES of New York will conduct a street ministry training day on Saturday, April 21, from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM at the Church of the Holy Apostles, 296 Ninth Avenue at 28th Street. All those who are interested in joining this effort with the homeless are encouraged to attend. In order for lunch to be arranged, please RSVP to email@example.com.
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 $15,000.00 for the fight against AIDS.
ONE BODY, ONE VOICE . . . By happy coincidence, the New York alumni and friends of Eton College, Windsor, England needed a place to have a reception while the Eton College choir was on tour. Saint Mary’s became the place for the choir to sing Evensong on Monday in Holy Week. It was quite wonderful and many comments were made about the extraordinary acoustic of Saint Mary’s church by members of a community used to singing in extraordinary spaces. There were moments during Evensong when 283 people present sounded as if there was one body here, one voice. It was not expected because there were so many guests. But it was hard to miss.
When I was a young priest in Baton Rouge I remember expressing my hope to a senior priest that a certain noisy three-year old would grow up quickly. He responded by saying there would always be a three-year old in church. I try to remember that at times visitors or members of the parish are so excited by reading and singing that they forget they are part of a community, one body, one voice. We clergy are aware that sometimes our voices need to be heard over others, but one thing Father Beddingfield, Father Mead and I share is a genuine desire not to be soloists when the rite calls for the congregation to be one. A good rule is that one should always make sure that the people next to us can hear us and that we can hear them. Our building gives us an extraordinary opportunity to witness to Christ in so many ways. How we pray together and how we sing together really does matter. S.G.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Second Sunday of Easter
Monday Easter Weekday
Tuesday Easter Weekday
Wednesday Easter Weekday
Thursday Alphege, Archbishop of Canterbury and Martyr, 1012
Friday Easter Weekday No Abstinence
Saturday Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1109
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.
Saturday in Easter Week: 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass.