From the Rector: Experiencing Prayer
When I was in my last year in seminary, I taught a class on the Eucharist at the parish where I served on Sundays. When I got to the Nicene Creed I made some remark about it not being an early or essential part of the Eucharistic rite. (It came into the rite first in Spain in the eighth century to combat heresy about the Trinity.) I remember pointing out that the main creedal proclamation of the Eucharist was the Great Thanksgiving, the Eucharistic Prayer. An older woman, a gentle, life-long, faithful Episcopalian, objected. “The Creed is our prayer. The consecration is the priest’s prayer. Why do you want to take it away from us?” It was an exchange that spoke volumes and I have never forgotten it.
The Eucharistic Prayer is led by the celebrant on behalf of the assembly. It begins with the celebrant inviting the congregation to join in by lifting hearts and giving thanks. Classically, the prayer is addressed to the God the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. The Eucharistic Prayer is a proclamation of salvation history – what God has done in the past and is doing in the present among his people gathered today. Again, and this is crucial, the prayer is not addressed to the congregation – it’s our prayer to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit.
Ritual is not unimportant. We are heirs to ceremonial traditions of great breadth as Episcopalians. Ritual and gestures, like words, speak. Our words and our gestures, like all of the other components of a service, can make sense. When they do, I think they can help shape our lives, and can assist in the conversion of our lives.
Here are some things I look for in the proclamation of the Eucharistic Prayer when I am in a congregation and not at the altar: When a celebrant speaks to the assembly at the beginning of the prayer, the tradition at its best suggests he or she should look at the persons he is addressing, the assembly. When he or she gets to the body of the prayer, which is addressed to God, his or her posture should reflect that. Very importantly, this includes the proclamation of the words Jesus spoke over the bread and wine. A Eucharist is not the Last Supper; it’s the Lord’s Supper. The celebrant is an ordained member of the assembly, not Jesus Christ himself. In my experience, if a celebrant gets these things right, he or she gets the rest of it right too. Then, the question is, what about us as members of the assembly?
The words of Scripture and of the liturgy, as well as the songs of our worship, have an incredible power to move us deeply into awareness of God. The great traditions of Christian worship have had a particular focus in the life of this parish community since its inception. Our work, our conversion in Christ, is by no means finished – it just begins in this life and continues into eternity.
I have written before that I believe one of the most serendipitous artistic conventions of our present church home was a gift of the great repainting in 1997. I don’t know when gold stars first started being painted on blue ceilings in Christian churches, but I do know that the first one in our building wasn’t the ceiling of the nave but the underside of the tabernacle canopy. The 1997 repainting extended this design not just to the Sacrament but to the entire assembly, the Body of Christ in this place assembled.
I think you and I should experience the Eucharist with the greatest spiritual and intellectual integrity that is possible for us to offer. Gestures, words, buildings and design can and should all be servants of the Lord to help us know who we are, of God’s love and plan for us and for all people. At this point in my life I am convinced that I will always have something to learn – and I hope I always may be open to learning something new about myself and the Church.
I was recently in a chapel for a service. As I sat there something bothered me. Something just seemed off. Was it the paint? Was it the design? Finally, I realized what was really bugging me – in the Stations of the Cross Jesus was going backwards. I almost laughed in the middle of Mass. Like the Mass itself I was enduring, the chapel was just a little off. In some ways you and I are always a little off in this life. But we can try to be open to more integrity, not less.
I invite you to reflect on how you experience the Eucharistic Prayer – is it mostly the assembly’s prayer or mostly the celebrant’s? Is the Mass the Last Supper or the Lord’s Supper? And I remind myself and you that prayer isn’t just about what we do together at God’s altar; prayer is our lives. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Teresa, Pamela, Joan, Ron, Hilyard, Aaron, Charles, Virginia, Daisy, Joseph, Marcia, Ana, Kevin, Gert, Gloria, Ray, Tony, William, Gabriela, Eve, Virginia, Mary, 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 . . . May 23: 1959 Edith May Place Bennett.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Movie night is Friday, May 18, at 7:00 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Join us Saint of 9/11, the documentary about Father Mychal Judge, a compassionate champion of the needy and forgotten, and beloved New York City Fire Department chaplain. If you can, bring a few dollars to help with the cost of food and beverages . . . Congratulations to the Right Reverend Richard F. Grein, who celebrates his twenty-sixth anniversary of consecration to the episcopate on May 22. Bishop Grein served as bishop of Kansas from 1981 to 1988, as bishop coadjutor of New York from 1988 to 1989, and as bishop of New York from 1989 to 2001 . . . Congratulations to Marc Khouzami, who received his M.B.A. this week from the Columbia University School of Business . . . Terry and Donna O’Dwyer’s first grandchild, Seán Brendan Lynch, was born on May 15. We are happy and thankful! . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, May 19, by Father Mead, and on Saturday, May 26, by Father Gerth . . . Father Mead’s Wednesday Night Dinner & Bible Study concludes this week following the 6:20 PM Mass . . . The Saint Mary’s Guild next meets on June 2 . . . Many thanks to Dick Leitsch for assisting in the parish office last week while Sandra Schubert, administrative assistant, and Vince Amodei, bookkeeper, attended a conference on our church database system . . . Many thanks to all who made the special Solemn Evensong on the Eve of the Ascension possible . . . Sister Deborah Francis and Sister Laura Katharine will lead a discussion about Anglican Religious Life on Sunday, May 20, after the Solemn Mass. The sisters will present an overview, brief history and casual conversation about Anglican religious orders and what it is like to be an Anglican nun . . . Neighborhood News: An old Times Square favorite restaurant of many, Trattoria Trecolori, has reopened at 254 West 47th Street. The site of their previous building on West Forty-fifth Street is being redeveloped. We hope that the last of the sunlight that shines into Saint Mary’s (and illuminates our rose window in the afternoon) will not be lost . . . Attendance last Sunday 330.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is Chorale Prelude on ‘Llanfair’ (1995) by McNeil Robinson (b. 1943). The postlude is an improvisation on ‘Coronation’. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa Tertii toni by Costanzo Porta (1528/29-1601). A student of Adrian Willaert and an important figure in the Italian Renaissance, Porta was celebrated as one of the finest composers and teachers in his day (he was roughly contemporary with Palestrina). This work, one of the composer’s fifteen masses, is based upon Cipriano de Rore’s madrigal Come havran fin. The anthem at Communion is O God, the King of glory by Henry Purcell (1659-1695) . . . The organ recital at 4:40 PM is played by Shannon Gallier . . . On Friday, May 18 at 8:00 PM at the Church of the Good Shepherd (240 East 31st Street), Ruth Cunningham will present her concert Light and Shadow, a program of chants, prayers and improvisations. Admission is $15/$10. Robert McCormick
’TIS THE SEASON OF WALKS, RUNS AND MARATHONS . . . Emily Helming, a parishioner and altar server, is running a marathon in Alaska in June to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Support her at http://www.active.com/donate/tntnyc/ehelming . . . Join the Saint Mary’s team this weekend as they try to raise $15,000.00 for the fight against AIDS. Our goal is to have 25 walkers from Saint Mary’s. As we go to press we have 23 walkers and have officially raised a total of $11, 240. It’s not too late to sign up; please contact MaryJane Boland if you wish to walk or pledge money (the team can raise money until mid-June).
E-mail Angelus . . . Twenty-two people have signed up to receive the Angelus via e-mail rather than postal mail, saving Saint Mary’s $469.04 to date! If you still receive the print edition, contact Sandra at firstname.lastname@example.org to make the change to e-mail today. If you can’t get e-mail please consider a gift of fifty dollars to offset the cost of printing and mailing the Angelus. We appreciate your support as we continue to look for ways to save money.
FROM THE PARISH STEWARDSHIP COMMITTEE . . . Saint Mary’s may be known as “Smokey Mary’s” for the amount of incense we use, but we could also be known as “Steamy Mary’s.” Saint Mary’s relies on ConEd’s steam system for heating the complex, and in the first three months of this year, the church paid ConEd nearly $34,000.00 for steam—just one of the costs of keeping our doors open and fulfilling our mission in Times Square.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Seventh Sunday of Easter
Monday Easter Weekday
Tuesday Easter Weekday
Wednesday Easter Weekday
Thursday Jackson Kemper, First Missionary Bishop in the United States, 1870
Friday Bede, the Venerable, Priest, and Monk of Jarrow, 735 No Abstinence
Saturday Augustine, First Archbishop of Canterbury, 605
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.