From the Rector: Merry Christmas
Few things can take most of us more easily to a godly place in our heart and minds than Christmas can. Most of the time, the joy and fun I have known in my life at Christmastide break through the nonsense of life and of the season pretty easily for me. I don’t think this is really surprising. Jesus Christ makes sense of the world around us. I believe in him. The celebration of Christmas is a natural for believers. It is a day when we can focus on the joy of new birth, the birth promised to all of us.
December 25 is “The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ: Christmas Day.” “Nativity” simply means “birth.” A form of the word “Christmas” appears in manuscripts beginning in the twelfth century. It simply means “Christ Mass.” From the beginning, the feast has been one of the greater festivals of the Church year. Its rituals continue to shape culture all over the world, among believers and non-believers alike. At the heart of it all is the birth of Jesus, the son of God and son of Mary.
The celebration of Christmas emerged in the fourth century. The background is the Trinitarian and Christological controversies of that era. It took several centuries for the Church to work out a common understanding of how Christians can speak correctly about God. The worship of the Church continues to reflect our beliefs that God is One in Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that Jesus Christ is truly God and truly Man. For most of us, I think our Christmas joy springs from living out the mystery of God’s revelation, not from theological discourse. But the theology is crucial to the shape of our worship and our lives. It is what enables us to enter more fully into God’s plan for our lives and our world.
Christmas is, before and above everything else, the “Christ Mass,” that is, the Holy Eucharist celebrated on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Please come to Mass as much as you wish on Christmas. Especially in a city where so many are single and so many can’t travel to be with family or friends, I don’t want anyone not to know that he or she has someplace to go, a place at the best Table of all. At Saint Mary’s, many, many people go to Mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It is absolutely fine to come to one or the other. I promise, all three of our Christ Masses have all that is needful.
Finally, I want to wish all the members and friends of our parish community a very Merry Christmas. I hope the joy of Christmas will be strong for all of us and will strengthen us as we continue our journey as members of Christ’s family. No services seem to pass more quickly during the course of the year than the Masses of Christmas Eve for me. The final hymn at both of these Masses here is the same, “Hark! the herald angels sing.” That great hymn text begins with “glory to the newborn King!” and builds to the last line, “born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give man second birth.” We join the herald angels in proclaiming Christ’s birth and look forward to God’s great love for us at Easter. Merry Christmas! Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Martina, who is hospitalized, and Craig, Wayne, Lois, Terry, Mary, Jane, José, Jack, Gert, Ana, Kevin, Gloria, William, Gilbert, Rick, Carl, priest, Thomas, priest, and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Terrance, Andrew, Patrick, Brenden, Christopher, Marc and Steve . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 24: 1962 Charles Moran; December 25: 1986 Norman Albert Rollings; December 28: 1953 Martha May Cockrill Lewis; December 29: 1957 Mary Isobel Sonnenberg; December 30: 1977 Josephine Thompson.
2008 STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . To date, we have received $407,087.00 in commitments for 2008, or 74.3% of our goal – three-fourths of the way! We have $141,000.00 left to go. Included in the tally so far are over $40,000 in commitments from new pledgers, and returning pledges are averaging 11% higher than 2007! Thanks to everyone for the generous response, and we look forward to hearing from the rest of you soon. Note that the pledge form can now be filled out online. Check it out! Steven Heffner, treasurer
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reminder: Church decorating on Saturday, December 22, Sunday, December 23, and Monday morning, December 24 . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, December 22. The parish clergy do not sit for confessions during the Twelve Days of Christmas, except by appointment . . . 2008 Ordo Calendars will be available for $5.00 in Saint Joseph’s Hall after the Solemn Mass on Sunday . . . The parish kitchen remains closed as renovations proceed. Beverages only are served by the parish staff. Food cannot be served until the kitchen reopens . . . Bishop Grein’s class on the Parables of Jesus continues on Sunday morning in the Mission House at 10:00 AM. Father Smith begins a three-part series on the Creeds on Sunday, January 6, at 10:00 AM . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 252.
ADVENT & CHRISTMASTIDE SCHEDULE NOTES . . . We welcome the Reverend Dr. Louis Weil, professor of liturgics, the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, as preacher at Solemn Evensong on Sunday, December 23, at 5:00 PM . . . Mass will be said at 9:00 AM on Monday, December 24. This is the last Mass of Advent. There will be no 12:00 PM Noonday Office or 12:10 Mass on Christmas Eve . . . The parish office will close at 2:00 PM on Christmas Eve. The parish office will be closed on Christmas Day . . . December 26 is the Feast of Saint Stephen; December 27 is the Feast of Saint John, Apostle & Evangelist; December 28 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents . . . The church and the parish office will close at 2:00 PM on New Year’s Eve.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the voluntaries are improvisations on Veni Emmanuel and Veni Redemptor gentium. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Messe basse by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924). Composed in Fauré’s harmonically and melodically rich fashion, the setting is for two-part choir of sopranos and altos with organ. The title means “Low Mass,” and since this setting does not include Gloria in excelsis Deo, it is likely that Fauré composed it for a simple weekday celebration of the Eucharist, albeit for one with music. The motet at Communion is a beautiful setting of Ave Maria by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971), Opus 9/3 . . . The recital at 4:40 PM is by Iris Lan . . . At the 5:00 PM Sung Mass on Christmas Eve, a special gift has provided for a brass ensemble to join full choir and organ. The pre-service music for choir and congregation includes works of Harold Darke (1888-1976) and Gerre Hancock (b. 1934), and organ music of Johann Michael Bach (1648-1694) and Dupré. The Mass ordinary is Hancock’s festive Missa Resurrectionis (1976) for choir, brass and organ. Also sung is John Rutter’s (b. 1945) Angels’ Carol . . . At the 11:00 PM Solemn Mass, the pre-service music includes works of Darke, Hancock and Herbert Howells (1892-1983) and organ music of Dupré and Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707). The setting of the Mass ordinary, a resplendent piece for double choir, is Cantus Missae (Messe in Es-dur), Opus 109, by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger (1839-1901). The music at Communion is Rutter’s Angels’ Carol and O magnum mysterium (1952) by Francis Poulenc (1899-1963). The postlude is Carillon de Westminster from Pièces de fantaisie by Louis Vierne (1870-1937) . . . On Christmas Day at the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, the setting is Missa super ‘Ich stund an einem Morgen’ by Jacob Handl (1550-1591), a Roman Catholic composer who spent most of his life working in Austria and Bohemia. The motet at Communion is Handl’s well-known Resonet in laudibus . . . Hymns and congregational carols sung on Christmas Eve and Day, and throughout Christmastide, are a truly “catholic” (universal) selection. Be certain to be present throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas to have the opportunity to sing all of your favorites! Robert McCormick
SPECIAL OUTREACH PROJECT . . . We are collecting new and “lightly used” winter coats for the New York Cares drive. If you have a coat to donate, please speak to Father Smith.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fourth Sunday of Advent
Monday Advent Weekday
Tuesday Christmas Day
Wednesday Saint Stephen, Deacon & Martyr
Thursday Saint John, Apostle & Evangelist
Friday The Holy Innocents No Abstinence
Saturday Thomas Becket, Archbishop & Martyr, 1170
Eve of the First Sunday after Christmas Day
Sunday, December 23: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 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.
The Parish Office: This week the parish office will close on Christmas Eve at 2:00 PM and will be closed on Christmas Day. Our regular hours are Monday – Friday, 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM, Telephone 212-869-5830, Facsimile 212-869-7039, Saint Mary’s Online www.stmvirgin.org