From Father Smith: Christmas without Nostalgia
Last week, on Christmas Eve morning, Father Gerth, Father Mead, Deacon Jed Fox, and I met in the Rectory shortly after Morning Prayer to review plans for the day. Just before 10:00 AM, somebody realized that one of the local radio stations was about to begin its live broadcast of the Service of Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge. The Rector went and got his portable radio and quickly tuned it to WNYC. Moments later the service began with the elegant bidding prayer and, of course, the well-known first hymn, “Once in royal David’s city.” The single soprano voice with which that hymn begins seemed to have a particularly calming effect on all of us on that busy morning. We listened to a couple of verses and then went on with our meeting. As always when I listen to the King’s College service, I thought to myself – Christmas is beginning, but hasn’t quite begun. It’s coming, traveling across the Atlantic. It won’t be long – it was nice, starting the day that way.
The Service of Christmas Lessons and Carols is not an ancient one. The order of service for a “festival of nine lessons and carols” was first drawn up by Edward White Benson, the first Bishop of the then recently re-established Diocese of Truro in Cornwall, for use on Christmas Eve 1880. (In 1883, Bishop Benson was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury and served as archbishop until his death in 1896.) Benson’s service proved to be enormously popular. Since 1880, it has been adapted and used by churches around the world during Christmastide.
It is safe to say, I think, that the service, though now well-known and much-loved by many, if not most, Anglicans, has played a secondary role within the Catholic tradition. For instance, here at Saint Mary’s we would never use the service as a replacement for any of the liturgies of Advent and Christmas, particularly, of course, the great Masses of Christmas Eve and Day. This year, however, we did forego Evensong and Benediction on the First Sunday of Christmas for the Service of Lessons and Carols, something new here at the parish; and it was a really wonderful and a very beautiful service. While the service itself is new, from the point of view of liturgical history, its basic structure is no innovation. Christians have always gathered to read and reflect on Scripture and that is what the Service of Lessons and Carols is and does. Not unlike the Easter Vigil, it rehearses the whole sweep of salvation history, beginning with Genesis and ending with the Matthean and Lucan infancy narratives and the prologue to the Gospel of John. The hymns and carols all, in different ways, are poetic, musical reflections on the readings and on the mystery of the “Word made flesh.”
For many people, as they grow older, Christmas becomes about nostalgia. However, nostalgia is not a particularly Christian thing and the liturgy is not, or should not be, merely nostalgic. Christians gather to remember what God has done in the past, but we do so in the presence of the living, risen Lord, conscious of and grateful for the Spirit’s ongoing work in the world and in our lives; and we always gather with a view towards the future – “Come Lord Jesus, come!”
The Service of Lessons and Carols last Sunday was a beautiful thing. We are grateful, first of all, to Father Matthew Mead, who has urged us for some time to do the service for a number of reasons, some of them frankly and unapologetically evangelistic. He hoped that many visitors to New York and to Times Square would come to Saint Mary’s for such a service and they did. We are also grateful to James Kennerley and the Saint Mary’s Singers. James was sure that he could make such a service work here and he was right. Our only disappointment on Sunday was that there were not more Saint Marians in the congregation. The Rector assures us that we can do Lessons and Carols next year. So, mark your calendars: the First Sunday of Christmas, December 27, 2009, 5:00 PM. We missed you. We hope that you will join us then. Jay Smith
SUNDAY PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Jocelyn, Mimi, Ewan, Alan, Marcia, Murray, Richard, Deloris, Mary, Patricia, Gloria, Samuel, Russell, Frank, Stephen, Brooke, Donna, Laura, Madeleine, Marc, Janelle, Jennie, William, Gert, Mary, Terry, Daisy, Rozalind, Connie, Rick, and Charles, Priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Christopher, Omar, Curtis, Timothy, Benjamin, Marc, Keith, Dennis, Terrance, Steven, Patrick, Andrew, and Brendan; and for the repose of the souls of Martha and Vincent . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 4: 1906 Leonard Lewis; 1916 Thomas Jefferson Titus; 1931 Gertrude Piehl; 1943 Mary Bond Carl; 1951 Warrington G. Lewis; 1956 Ada Valentine Waters; 1965 Marian Wickes Haines.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Martha Dul, parishioner Allan Dul’s mother, died on December 18. Please keep Martha, Allan, Allan’s wife Grace, and all who mourn, in your prayers.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The parish priests do not sit for confessions on the Saturdays in Christmastide. If you wish to make a confession during the Christmas Season, please call to make an appointment . . . On Wednesday, December 31, the church building and parish offices closes at 2:00 PM for New Year’s Eve . . . On Thursday, January 1, the church celebrates The Holy Name of Jesus. A Solemn Mass will be offered at 11:00 AM. The Saint Mary’s Singers will sing at the service . . . The Rector leaves for his sabbatical on January 1. He returns on April 1 . . . Saturday, January 3, Meeting of the Saint Mary’s Guild. Contact Sister Laura Katharine, Sister Deborah Francis, or Marie Rosseels for more information . . . Sunday, January 4, Solemn Evensong and Benediction, 5:00 PM. The preacher is the Reverend John Merz, Episcopal Chaplain at Monday, January 5, Eve of the Epiphany, Solemn Evensong, 6:00 PM . . . Tuesday, January 6, The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Sung Mass, 12:10 PM, Solemn Mass, 6:00 PM. A reception in Saint Joseph’s Hall follows the Solemn Mass . . . Music director and organist, James Kennerley, will be away January 8-14. He returns to the office on January 15.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . We need volunteers to “un-decorate the church” on Saturday, January 10, 10:00 AM–3:00 PM and on Sunday, January 11, immediately following Solemn Mass to dismantle the Crèche. If you have questions, please contact Dale Bonenberger . . . Thanks to all who made our Service of Lessons and Carols a success: to Father Matthew Mead whose idea it was and who planned the liturgy, rehearsed the servers and acted as master of ceremonies during the service itself; to James Kennerley and the Saint Mary’s Singers, who sang so beautifully, and to our ushers and all those who provided hospitality at the reception. It was a good day for Saint Mary’s and we are grateful to all of you . . . Thanks to Grace Treiman, and Dick Leitsch for their help around the office this week. Thanks also to Clint Best and Bob Picken, who have been helping out in the Finance Office, mostly unsung and unrecognized, for a long time now. A special word of thanks to them both during this time of transition in the parish and finance offices . . . Flowers are needed for many Sundays and feast days following Christmas. If you would like to donate the flowers for any one of these days, please contact Father Mead . . . Attendance: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 803; Last Sunday 446
MISSION & OUTREACH . . . Saint Mary’s has begun a cooperative relationship with the Food Pantry of Saint Clement’s Church, 46th Street. The Pantry serves between 400 and 500 households per week, most of them neighbors of our two parishes. Friends, visitors and parishioners are invited to bring non-perishable food items and place them in the basket at the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall during Coffee Hour. If you find that bringing food items to Saint Mary’s is difficult or cumbersome, you may also make a money donation. Many Saint Marians have already brought food items for the basket. Thank you for your generous response. We will be delivering our first food donation next week. The Food Pantry operates each Saturday, except the first Saturday of every month. Food is sorted and bagged the day before. If you would like to volunteer, either on Friday afternoons or Saturday mornings, or if you would like to make a money donation, please speak to Father Smith.
STEWARDSHIP MATTERS . . . As of December 29, we have received pledges from 148 households. The total amount pledged thus far is $401,580.00, which is 78% of our goal of $518,970.00. We had a good week in our stewardship campaign, with the end of the year approaching (thank you to all who sent their pledges in this past week!), but we are still waiting to hear from 33% of those who pledged for 2008; and we would like to hear from a number of active friends and members, who did not, or were not able to, pledge in 2008. Our church is an important part of the community and, we hope, an important part of your life. We join in God's love and sacrifice for us by our personal sacrifices for others. Your help is needed. If you need another pledge card or if you have questions, please speak with Father Jay Smith, MaryJane Boland, or Steven Heffner.
A (VERY BRIEF) FESTIVAL FOR CHILDREN AT EPIPHANY . . . Join Deacon Jedediah Fox and the children of the Saint Mary's Sunday School for a wonderful (and short) festival for children the first Sunday after Epiphany at 10:40 AM at the Christmas Crèche. The service will feature a familiar song and the presentation of gifts by the children. All are invited!
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Second Sunday of Christmas
Monday Christmas Weekday
Eve of the Epiphany
Tuesday The Epiphany
Saturday William Laud, Archbishop, 1645
Eve of the First Sunday after Epiphany:
The Baptism of Our Lord
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 4:40 PM Organ Recital, 5:00 PM Solemn Evensong & Benediction.
Childcare is available from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM every Sunday.
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 Wednesday 12:10 PM Mass is sung. Thursday Masses include anointing of the sick.
Saturday: 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass. During Christmastide, Confessions are heard by appointment only.