From the Rector: Baptism of Christ
Last Sunday, one of the younger members of the congregation was at the altar rail at the Solemn Mass in her father’s arms. The day before she had celebrated her third birthday. I was the celebrant and, as is our custom at Saint Mary’s, the minister of the Bread for the Mass. It happened that her mother received the Bread first, then the child’s father. The father put out his hand and received. Then the child put out her hand and received in the most unselfconscious way. She was doing something she had seen over and over again since she was born. I will never forget the naturalness of her putting out her hand.
This child will never remember a time when she was not fed at her Father’s Table. She received Holy Communion at the Mass when she was baptized – and she has received it at every Mass when appropriate ever since. (Parents and priests, of course, do not remove pacifiers to minister the Holy Communion!) Since becoming a rector, I have never baptized anyone without also giving the person his or her first Communion. The only time this would not happen is if I were to baptize a child or an adult in an emergency away from the church.
Very occasionally someone will complain about this practice (of the primitive Church and of the contemporary Episcopal Church) of ministering Holy Communion to all of the Baptized. I usually respond by pointing out that every argument against baptized infants receiving Holy Communion is an entirely successful argument against baptizing children in the first place. The Church’s best practice has always been, “Let the children come unto me.” Children testify to the power of the Eucharist in their lives over and over again in word and deed. I will never stand between a child, or anyone else, and the Eucharist.
There is already among us a generation of Episcopalians who have grown up not knowing a time when they were not welcome to receive Holy Communion. The power of their lives is unfolding around us – and I think you and I should be excited by the future of our Church. Lots of folks would like you and me to be worried about the generosity of God’s love. But, then again, that’s not a new story. There were people in Jesus’ time who were upset when the lame walked, when the hungry were fed, when the blind saw, when all were welcomed, when Good News was preached, when truth set people free.
Jesus did not live his life with the development of the liturgical life of the Church in mind – at least I don’t think the earthly Jesus did so. One of the early and continuing gifts of the Spirit to the Church has been to root our weekly and feast day worship around the events of Jesus’ life, as told in the gospels. The Christian community has shaped its common life by the weekly celebration of the Lord’s Day – most famously perhaps is the continuing celebration of the Lord’s Passion on the Sunday before Easter Day. (If you are only meeting on Sunday and one Sunday is the Sunday of the Resurrection, the Sunday before becomes the Sunday of the Passion.) Though the calendar of the Church has been overlaid with other feasts, the foundational cycle is the weekly gathering of the Church on Sunday.
The calendar has evolved and, in my opinion, generally for the better. Despite a disposition on my part to give great weight to the ecumenical dimensions of the calendar, I’m glad we Episcopalians still have Twelve Days of Christmas. I’m glad Epiphany has remained a fixed feast for us, always to be celebrated on January 6 (which is not true in the Church of England or in the Roman Church nowadays). The celebration of the Feast of Christ’s Baptism is now always the First Sunday after the Epiphany.
Our parish has retained the custom of remembering our baptisms with the sprinkling of water at the beginning of the principal Mass on all of the Sundays of the year, except for those in Lent, a season when baptisms (and weddings!) are not ordinarily celebrated. We are born from water from our mothers’ wombs. We are born again as God’s children in the waters of Baptism. Christians have always believed there is no earthly power that can break that bond. As the Lord says through the prophet in the Book of Isaiah, “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). The Feast of the Baptism of Christ is a great day in the cycle of the year. Let’s celebrate. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Daniel, Haydon, Arturo, Kevin, Brian, Ana, José, Gert, Peter, Harold, Robert, Gloria, Ray, Tony, Joy, William, Gabriela, Eve, Virginia, Mary, William, Gilbert, Rick, Thomas, priest, Louis, priest, and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Fahad, Barron, Joseph, Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Christopher, Timothy and Dennis . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 10: 1994 William F. Lata; January 11: 1967 Sarah Bedell McDonald; January 13: 1994 Thomas E. Holz.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Flowers are needed for the last three Sundays in January (and many other days during 2007). If you would like to give flowers, please contact Sandra Schubert in the parish office for full details . . . The 2007 Ordo Calendar is available in the gift shop . . . Father Mead will be away from Friday, January 5, through Saturday, January 13. Father returns to the parish on Sunday, January 14 . . . The regular schedule of Saturday confessions resumes on January 13 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 13, by Father Gerth and on Saturday, January 20, by Father Mead . . . Attendance last Sunday …279, Holy Name …. 77.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is an improvisation on ‘Tysk’, the Postcommunion hymn, and the postlude is Fuge C-dur, BuxWV 174 by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Surge propera’ by Francisco Guerrero (1528-1599), one of the greatest Spanish composers of the sixteenth century. Unlike the more famous Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611), the vast majority of Guerrero’s career was spent in Spain, much of it as maestro de capilla of Seville Cathedral (Victoria spent many years in Rome). This setting, a parody Mass based upon an unknown model, is from Guerrero’s second book of Masses, published in Rome in 1582. The motet at Communion is Videntes stellam Magi by Orlande de Lassus (1523-1594) . . . The organ recital at 4:40 PM is played by Mark Peterson, organist and choirmaster of St. Paul’s Church, Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and a parishioner of Saint Mary’s . . . Next Sunday, January 14, the Solemn Mass and Solemn Evensong & Benediction are sung by the choir of Christ Church St. Laurence, Sydney, Australia, widely considered one of that country’s finest liturgical choirs. The choir’s visit to Saint Mary’s is part of an international tour that includes services and concerts at such great churches as Westminster Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral . . . Robert McCormick
NEW VISUAL ARTS EXHIBITION . . . The Visual Arts Program at Saint Mary’s presents the work of Rafael Velez in Saint Joseph’s Hall, opening on January 5. “Santos” is an altar series inspired by religious and social practices that remain present in the Puerto Rican diaspora. The work portrays some well-known Christian saints and some saints who are less well-known, as well as some additional figures from other religions that have become absorbed within cultural Catholicism. More about the artist can be found in the Visual Arts section of the parish web site.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . Our weekly parish Bible Study resumes Wednesday, January 17 at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. Throughout Epiphany Season we will study the Parables of Jesus . . . On Sunday, January 21, Father Mead will offer a class on the Daily Office: “All you ever wanted to know about Morning & Evening Prayer” . . . On Sunday, January 28, Father Mead will offer a class entitled: “The Structure of Solemn Mass: Ordinaries, Propers, Minor Propers” . . . On Sunday, February 5 (following Evensong & Benediction), Father Mead will offer a “class” entitled “Football for Anglo-catholics.” This class will precede the Super Bowl party in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . On Sundays, February 11 & 18, Father Beddingfield will offer a two-part class entitled: Anglo-catholics & Mission: The Good, the Strange and the Holy . . . On Sunday, February 25, the Reverend Louis Weil, professor of liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, will offer a class on The Liturgy of Lent . . . Unless otherwise noted, Sunday classes begin approximately 15 minutes after Solemn Mass concludes. For details and resources please visit the Adult Education section of our parish website.
THE SEASON AFTER THE EPIPHANY . . . When the calendar was reformed with the present Prayer Book, the Sundays between the Epiphany and the beginning of Lent were labeled “Epiphany Season,” and the Sundays between Pentecost and Advent were labeled “The Season after Pentecost.” Many Episcopalians are particular about such details – and we try to get spelling, grammar, and usage right at Saint Mary’s without needing medication. At Saint Mary’s, green is the color for ordinary Sundays of the Epiphany Season. The ordinary Fridays of the year, including those of Epiphany Season, are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the Lord’s crucifixion. We do continue to use Eucharistic Prayer B and the preface for the Epiphany at Solemn Masses. On the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, the gospel now is always an account of the Transfiguration of the Lord – most appropriate before Lent begins. At Saint Mary’s, this Last Sunday after Epiphany is often a Sunday for the celebration of Holy Baptism and we expect to celebrate baptism on that day this year, February 18, 2007.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Baptism Of Our Lord
Wednesday William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1645
Friday Aelred, Abbot of Rievaulx, 1167 Abstinence
Saturday Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, 367
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