From the Rector: Twelve Days of Christmas
Saint Mary’s celebration of the Twelve Days began formally with music on Christmas Eve before the 5:00 PM Sung Mass of the Nativity. Some preparations for Christmastide actually had begun in the spring. That’s the very latest that certain decisions about music and the service schedule can be made here. The activity intensifies in early November as music and server rehearsals and flower decorating and everything else are settled. There is a flurry of emails among staff and volunteers about everything from deliveries to mailings.
Between the celebration of our patronal feast on December 8 and Christmas Eve there are many quieter days in the church. It feels like Advent at Saint Mary’s, and not Christmas, until just before December 24. Then everyone begins their final work in earnest as servers, ushers and volunteer decorators fill Saint Joseph’s Hall and the church. A few people even make sure there is food for all of those who were working at the church! Christmas is very much in the air and one can hardly wait for the first bells and music of Christmas Eve.
Across the decades, the Christmas service schedule has varied a great deal at Saint Mary’s. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Religious practice generally is “conservative”, whether it is a liberal or conservative theological tradition. A Christmas Eve Mass was one of the last celebrations to be added to the regular calendar of the parish, and not until 1928. Many marks of Anglo-catholic parish life had already been established long before this at Saint Mary’s. Corpus Christi was celebrated here from the beginning of the parish and the Easter Vigil began in 1918. Since the Reformation Anglicans have worshiped on Christmas Day and not late on Christmas Eve. At Canterbury Cathedral there is a full schedule of services on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day, but no Midnight Mass in the cathedral. This year at Saint Mary’s, we found ourselves putting up and filling chairs in the aisles and in the open space in the nave in front of the pews even before the 11:00 AM Mass began! Our ushers did a wonderful job of coordinating the many people who were here to celebrate with us.
Each of the three major services had something particular and special. A special gift provided the resources for choir and brass instruments for the Sung Mass at 5:00 PM – and these were used to wonderful effect. The Solemn Mass at 11:00 PM overflowed with joy. The music could not have been better. On Christmas Day, the congregation packed the side chapels and aisles to pray the Angelus at the end of the Solemn Mass. There really aren’t enough words or space to begin to thank all who made these offerings so special. And Christmastide, the Twelve Days of Christmas that the Church celebrates, continues. I am writing on Thursday morning, December 27, the Feast of Saint John, Apostle & Evangelist, the third day of Christmas.
In addition to the feasts of the “Companions of Christ: Saint Stephen, Deacon & Martyr (December 26), Saint John, Apostle & Evangelist (December 27), and the Holy Innocents (December 28),” Saturday, December 29, is the anniversary of the martyrdom of Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury. January 1, the eighth day, the Church celebrates the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. On this day, the infant Jesus was circumcised and named.
Saint Mary’s location, just off of Times Square, does affect our common life in many ways through the year. It is only possible to have outdoor processions on Sundays. (Only when August 15 falls on a Sunday we are able to have a procession for the Assumption.) Our main Thanksgiving service is on the eve because the Thanksgiving Day parade closes Times Square. On New Year’s Eve, the church closes at 2:00 PM because of the celebrations in Times Square. On New Year’s Day, the church is open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM and one service, Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM, is celebrated. I hope it may be possible for many to join us for the regular and special services of the parish through Christmastide.
As the new civil year begins, I would also like to urge you to take the time to make sure your personal and legal affairs are in order. It made an enormous difference when my mother and stepfather were in an automobile accident last February that their affairs were in order. It meant that we knew how to provide the care for my mother that she wanted and how to bury our stepfather as he wanted. Especially if you are a parent of a minor child, I remind you that this is a primary Christian duty. I remind you also that for legal purposes, the parish name is “The Society of the Free Church of St. Mary the Virgin, a religious corporation organized and existing under the laws of the State of New York, and having its principal office at 145 West 46th Street, New York, New York.”
The Minister of the Congregation is directed to instruct the people, from time to time, about the duty of Christian parents to make prudent provision for the well-being of their families, and of all persons to make wills, while they are in health, arranging for the disposal of their temporal goods, not neglecting, if they are able, to leave bequests for religious and charitable uses.
– The Book of Common Prayer
Finally, I hope you, your family and friends have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I thank all whose continuing gifts and prayers make possible the extraordinary and rich life and witness of this parish church. Thank you so very, very much for your love of Christ and for this parish church of Saint Mary the Virgin. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Delia, Martina, Craig, Wayne, Lois, Terry, Mary, Jane, José, 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, Steven, Andrew, Patrick, Brenden, Christopher, Marc and Steve . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 31: 1961 Everett Phillips Irwin, 1985 Frances Bulkley Hirsch, 1985 Anna Marie Schuman; January 1: 1983 Gertrude Schrage.
2008 STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . To date, we have received $411,357.00 in commitments for 2008, or 75.1% of our goal – just over three-fourths of the way! A second mailing to the parish community is in preparation for January 2. Please help us to meet our mission needs for 2008. The pledge form can now be filled out online. Steven Heffner, treasurer
YEAR-END GIVING REMINDER . . . Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of the year count for 2007. This is true even if the credit-card bill isn’t paid until next year. Also, checks count for 2007 as long as they are mailed this year. For further details please see the IRS web page (www.irs.gov) or consult your tax professional.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Sunday, December 30 is the last day for winter coat donations! . . . 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 will lead his fourth and final class on the Parables of Jesus on Sunday morning, December 30, at 10:00 AM in the Mission House . . . Father Smith begins a three-part series on the Creeds on Sunday, January 6, at 10:00 AM . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 319, Christmas 1003.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is In dulci jubilo by Johann Michael Bach (1648-1694). The postlude is an improvisation on Venite adoremus. The setting of Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei comes from the Worcester fragments. Dating from the late thirteenth century and early fourteenth century, the fragments are among the most priceless pieces of late medieval English polyphony. The setting of Gloria in excelsis Deo is an example of slightly later English polyphony, from the late fourteenth century. The motet at Communion is Nowell sing we, an anonymous English carol . . . The recital at 4:40 PM is by David Lamb . . . The final hymn at the Solemn Mass, The snow lay on the ground (tune: Venite adoremus), is a particular favorite among Episcopalians, particularly those of the “cradle” variety, though newcomers tend to enjoy it almost as much. The text, which features a Latin refrain (Venite adoremus = O come, let us adore him), is of somewhat dubious origin, from a number of different sources. The tune is also of mysterious derivation, though it almost definitely comes from nineteenth century. It was arranged for The Hymnal 1940 by Canon Charles Winfred Douglas and Leo Sowerby. Robert McCormick
NEW YORK POLPHONY IN CONCERT ON JANUARY 2 . . . All are invited to a free concert on Wednesday, January 2, at 1:00 PM in the church (following the Sung Mass). The program by New York Polyphony, all of whom are former singers in our professional choir, will include seasonal works by Pérotin, Byrd, and Praetorius, and Bach’s Violin Partita, BWV 1004 interspersed with chorales. The ensemble is joined by Lizzie Ball, violinist. R.M.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday First Sunday after Christmas
Monday Christmas Weekday
Eve of The Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Tuesday The Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Tuesday Christmas Weekday
Wednesday Christmas Weekday
Thursday Christmas Weekday
Friday Christmas Weekday No Abstinence
Saturday Christmas Weekday
Eve of The Epiphany
Sunday, December 31: 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.