From the Rector: Onan and Tamar
There are five women mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-16). They are Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and Mary. I finally realized last week why I have a hard time remembering who Tamar is. This Tamar is not Tamar the sister of Absalom, King David’s son, who was raped by another of David’s sons, Amnon. This is Tamar, the widow, who conceives a child by playing the role of a harlot and having intercourse with her deceased husband’s father, Judah. This Tamar has twins, one of whom is an ancestor of David. Through these twins God will fulfill his promise to Abraham that he will become the father of many nations. What I realized last week at Morning Prayer was that our Daily Office Lectionary omits the thirty-eighth chapter of Genesis. Onan, whom the Lord slew because he refused to consummate intercourse with his brother’s widow, is in that chapter also, so we miss hearing his story as well.
Saint Mary’s began some years ago to format and produce our own lectionary materials for the Holy Eucharist and for the Daily Office. The Daily Office Lectionary doesn’t include all of the Bible, but certainly most of it. With regard to the New Testament, we have made use of the permission in the Prayer Book (page 934) that “Any Reading may be lengthened at discretion.” We read all of the New Testament at Saint Mary’s. We do not omit the difficult passages about sexuality, divorce, remarriage, or Saint Paul’s instructions about the role and dress of women. I think reading the whole New Testament, not to mention the Old, is the single biggest defense against an anti-intellectual Christianity of biblical inerrancy and biblical infallibility. Those who espouse such beliefs simply aren’t telling the truth about what’s actually in the Bible.
When Thomas Cranmer produced the first Prayer Book in 1549, the Daily Office provided for two lessons at Morning Prayer and two at Evening Prayer. In his scheme, the Old Testament and the Apocrypha were read through once in the course of the year and the New Testament was read three times. There have been modifications of the scheme ever since – there are many chapters of the Old Testament that truly have little value for public Christian prayer (geography and genealogy provide two of many examples). For these reasons, I certainly have no desire to return to Cranmer’s scheme.
I have experimented with lengthening some of the lessons we read from the Old Testament, especially from shorter books like the Minor Prophets. Frankly, it’s just not possible or practical to do this too often because of the structure of the office. It would be easy to overwhelm Morning or Evening Prayer with Old Testament material. And to do this simply for the sake of doing it would take us back to the 1549 scheme. No, thank you. Sadly, because of the length of the Office lessons in the second week of Lent, it is not practical to include Genesis 38. And that is sad.
Genesis 38 relates directly to the proclamation about who Jesus Christ is in Matthew’s gospel. Five women are mentioned by Matthew and none of them (not to mention their sexual companions) conform to the sexual norms of Jesus’ own time or of the later Christian community. Jesus’ genealogy includes, among others, not only Tamar who played the harlot to Judah, but a murderer (King David had Uriah killed so he could take Uriah’s wife as his own), a harlot (Rahab), and generations of sinners.
I like keeping the whole Biblical narrative in front of me as I continue on the journey of life. It gives understanding to life as I know it and to what I believe. It is a useful perspective on the pronouncements of Christian leaders across many denominations since the time of the New Testament. It is a reminder of God’s plan to bring all people, living and dead, to know him and to enjoy him for ever. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Katherine who is hospitalized, for Samuel, Joan, Brooke, David, Allison, Doreen, Terry, Mary, Jane, Gert, Kevin, Gloria, William, Gilbert, Rick, Robert, priest, Carl, priest, and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Dennis, Terrance, Steven, Andrew, Patrick, Brenden, Christopher, Marc and Steve; and for the repose of the souls of Henry and Rosalie . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 26: 1994 Milledge Polo Mosley.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Father Peter Powell’s mother, Rosalie Powell, died on Monday, February 18. Father is to be the celebrant for her funeral on Saturday, February 23, in Wilmington, Delaware. Please pray for her, for Peter and for all who mourn. S.G.
THE ANNUAL MEETING OF THE CONGREGATION will be held on Sunday, March 2, at 12:30 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall. The congregation meets to receive reports from parish organizations, staff and clergy about the state and work of the community, and to elect our delegates to the 2008 Diocesan Convention.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Father Powell’s class will not meet on Sunday, February 24 . . . We were delighted and honored to have the Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, and her husband, Professor Richard Schori, with us for Mass on Sunday . . . We have received a baptismal certificate for Gerald Gould and have recorded his name in the parish registers. We are very happy to welcome Jerry as Saint Mary’s newest member . . . The Feast of Saint Matthias the Apostle is observed this year on Monday, February 25 . . . Attendance: Stations 31, Last Sunday 286.
ARE YOU INTERESTED IN BAPTISM, CONFIRMATION OR RECEPTION? . . . For one to become a “member” of Saint Mary’s, we simply need to record the fact of one’s baptism; but if you would like to make your membership special in a more formal way, the Easter Vigil on March 22 is a wonderful way to do that. Bishop Griswold will be with us to baptize, to confirm and to receive those from other Christian churches. If you are interested, please speak with Father Smith. If you wish to be baptized at the Easter Vigil (and there is no better time to do it!), please speak to Father Smith.
THE LETTERS OF SAINT PAUL & THE LETTER TO THE HEBREWS. . . Father Mead’s Bible Study continues on Wednesday nights at 7:00 PM. Throughout Lent we will conclude our year-long study of Saint Paul, reading Ephesians, Colossians, and the Letters to Timothy & Titus. In Eastertide we will read the Letter to the Hebrews.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR OUTREACH . . . We invite you to think about giving up one or two meals a week during Lent, saving that money and then contributing what you have saved to the Maundy Thursday Offering on March 20. The offering will go to support the work and ministries of the Church of San Juan Evangelista in Villanueva, Honduras . . . The Food Pantry at the Church of the Ascension, New York City, is experiencing a shortfall in funding. The pantry fed some 7,000 people in 2007, and expects to serve an even greater number of people this year. Due to rising costs and a decrease in funding, Ascension is trying to raise around $15,000.00 in 2008 to meet their expected deficit. If you think you might be able to help with a donation, however small, please contact Father Smith or write to the Reverend Mark Hummell, 12 West 11th Street, New York, NY 10011.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass for Four Voices by William Byrd (1543-1623). Byrd was a Roman Catholic in Elizabethan England. In spite of the political difficulties he faced due to his faith, his career flourished because of Queen Elizabeth, 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, among his most tender and beautiful), and therefore has a somewhat intimate character. The motet at Communion is Salvator mundi by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585) . . . Sunday afternoon organ recitals resume during Eastertide. . . The Postcommunion hymn at the Solemn Mass is I heard the voice of Jesus say (tune: The Third Tune). The text is by Horatius Bonar, and is commonly sung to the English folk hymn tune Kingsfold. It was matched with Thomas Tallis’s beautiful The Third Tune in The Hymnal 1982, which is perhaps best known as the theme in Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis. Robert McCormick
HOW MANY DAYS OF LENT ARE THERE? . . . The Prayer Book declares that Ash Wednesday is the “First Day of Lent.” The Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Day are five “Sundays in Lent” and “The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.” Lesser Feasts and Fasts provides collects and lessons for all of the weekdays between Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday. Including Ash Wednesday, there are 34 of these days this year (including February 25 – the Feast of Saint Matthias – and February 29). After Palm Sunday, the Roman Church counts as days of Lent Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday until sunset. That would make their total 38. We count these days simply as days of Holy Week, which take precedence over all other celebrations. Saint Joseph’s Day, March 19, falls during Holy Week, and the Annunciation of Our Lord, March 25, falls during Easter Week. This year these feasts are transferred respectively to March 31 and April 1, after Easter Week. Like Holy Week, the weekdays of Easter Week are privileged and take precedence over all other commemorations. Have there ever been forty days of Lent? If you start with Ash Wednesday and include every day until Easter Day, with the exception of Sundays, there are, in fact, forty days. S.G.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Second Sunday in Lent
Monday Saint Matthias the Apostle (transferred) Abstinence
Tuesday Weekday of Lent Abstinence
Wednesday Weekday of Lent Abstinence
Thursday Weekday of Lent Abstinence
Friday Weekday of Lent Lenten Friday Abstinence
Saturday Weekday of Lent Abstinence
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Sung Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Christian Education, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 5:00 PM Evensong & Benediction
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. Stations of the Cross, Fridays in Lent, 7:00 PM.
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.