From Father Smith: The Holiness of Beauty
One of our parishioners is a “gemologist” and a recent graduate of the Gemological Institute of America. She recently found work at one of New York’s famous jewelry stores. (You will recall that Saint Mary’s is only a couple of minutes’ walk from the city’s Diamond District.) Our parishioner was in class last Sunday morning when we were discussing Revelation 4–5; her observations, when we arrived at Revelation 4:2-3, were very helpful. The verses go like this, “At once I was in the Spirit, and lo, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne! And he who sat there appeared like jasper and carnelian, and round the throne was a rainbow that looked like an emerald.” Saint John’s vision here is very beautiful, once you find out what jasper and carnelian look like and then imagine those colors surrounded by a shining rainbow. (Jasper is an opaque stone, usually red or reddish-orange, with bands of yellow or gold. Carnelian is also red, orange, or reddish-brown. What does an emerald-green rainbow look like?) This gorgeous vision is also striking because of what remains hidden. Saint John is reticent here. He neither utters the name of God, nor does he describe or anthropomorphize God. The Almighty, the Ineffable One, cannot be defined, constrained, or limited by human language; and yet, paradoxically, John tells us about his vision by using language, specifically, the language of simile – “the one that sat there appeared like jasper and carnelian”. Such language is surely meant to engage our imaginations, to appeal to our experience of, and feelings about, those beautiful, tangible, valuable, highly desirable objects that are jewels and gemstones. The image is lovely and a bit mysterious. John refuses to limit God by putting him in a frame or under a microscope. God is not an object. God is Creator, not a thing created. Still, John insists, God is beautiful. That much we can intuit and imagine. That much we can know. God is lovely, glorious, brilliant, shining, fascinating, entrancing, enticing, beyond time, and deeply, profoundly desirable.
The theologians, and the Scriptures, tell us that beauty is one of God’s “attributes”. It is an attribute that is perhaps less mentioned and less discussed than are justice, truth, life, goodness, or mercy; but for that reason it is perhaps all the more useful to us. (Many of us learned that God was “good” before we could even talk. When did you first hear that God was “beautiful”?)
Sister Wendy Beckett, the British nun, hermit, and contemplative, who is also, ironically, the well-known art historian and television celebrity has said, “My own definition of beauty is that which perpetually satisfies us. I would say that beauty is very much an attribute of God. He is essential beauty. But only those of us who have been fortunate enough to have faith know where beauty comes from. For the others, they are responding to beauty and responding to [God]; though they mightn’t be aware of [it] – they are responding to the pure, free, strong, loving spirit of God.” Sister Wendy’s words are very interesting. Without missing a beat she moves from God’s beauty to created beauty. She simply assumes that the two things are connected. God is beautiful and therefore the creation is beautiful. That much we might say is “obvious.” But something else is going on here, she seems to be saying: ultimately, human beings respond to beauty and human beings are moved to make beautiful things because God is beautiful and we, who are made in God’s image, are made to love beauty, to respond to beauty, to make beautiful things and, dare we say it, to be beautiful.
The kind of beauty that Sister Wendy is talking about, of course, is not limited to the canons of beauty set by the beauty pageant or the tabloids. She says, “Beauty comes from all parts of the compass. It comes in the sunrise and it comes in the sunset. It comes in the people you meet and it doesn’t just come in art – beauty is everywhere.” In this, Sister Wendy, is sharing in Saint John’s vision. Beauty is complex. Sometimes even that which is ugly can be beautiful. In Revelation, John immediately moves from the vision of the One on the throne in chapter 4 to the vision, in chapter 5, of “the Lamb standing as thought it had been slain.” God is beautiful and the Son is also; and, for John, the Son is beautiful because of what he has done for us because he loves us. He suffered and he died – and he did it for us. He is the Lamb, the one “who is slain”. Even the cross can be beautiful.
I hope and pray that this parish will continue to be what it has always been, a place where people know and experience that beauty is holy; and I also pray that it can always be a place where people come, asking God to help them to become who they really are – beautiful because they are holy. James Ross Smith
SUNDAY PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Joanne, who is gravely ill, and for Lawrence, Rosanne, Patrick, Jocelyn, Benjamin, Mimi, Marcia, Richard, Deloris, Mary, Gloria, Russell, Stephen, Brooke, Donna, Laura, Margaret, Madeleine, Marc, Janelle, Jennie, William, Gert, Mary, Terry, Daisy, Rozalind, Rick, Charles, Priest, and Stephen, 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 soul of John Gondolfo . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 1: 1903 Maria Worgitz; 1906 Austin Huntington Mitchell; 1916 Chauncey Crosby; 1925 Mary Elizabeth Brown; 1931 Mary Sayles.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude at Solemn Mass this Sunday is Les Bergers (“The Shepherds”) from La Nativité du Seigneur, a suite of nine movements based on scenes from the birth of Christ, written in 1935 by Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992). The cantor at Solemn Mass is Dr. Mark Risinger, bass. At the ministration of Communion, Dr. Risinger sings The Three Kings, Opus 8/3, by Peter Cornelius (1824-1874), arranged by Ivor Atkins (1869-1953). Originally scored for full choir (which sings the chorale tune Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern – “How brightly shines the morning star” – in juxtaposition with the solo melody), the motet is heard today with the choir parts played on the organ. At the Feast of the Presentation on February 2, James Kennerley will play a recital of music by Bach and Franck, and, during the service, the choir will sing the Nunc Dimittis from Evening Service in G by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), Missa “Ave Maria” by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594) and the motet When Mary to the temple went by Johannes Eccard (1553-1611). Please note that there is NO Saint Mary’s Singers rehearsal this week. The next rehearsal and service is on February 8 at 3:00 PM. We now have a wonderful core group which I very much want to expand upon. Why not invite a friend or two to sing with us next week? If you haven’t sung with us before, please just come along to a rehearsal. James Kennerley
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Rector began his sabbatical on January 1. He returns to New York at the end of March and to the office on April 1, in time for Holy Week . . . Father Mead will hear confessions on Saturday, January 31, 11:30-11:50 AM and 4:00-4:50 . . . Saturday, January 31, 2009, 8:00 PM: Columbia University’s Miller Theatre presents, “A Royal Christening and Musical Banquet,” with Piffaro, The Renaissance Band; Parthenia, A Consort of Viols; and the Vox Vocal Ensemble . . . Sunday, February 1, at 10:00 AM, on the second floor of the Mission House: Father Mead will teach part four of a seven-part series on the Revelation to John. This week’s class will begin in the text at chapter 6 . . . Sunday, February 1, 7:00 PM: Fifth Annual Superbowl Party in Saint Joseph’s Hall. The party is a pot-luck centered around Father Mead’s “Abusive Chili.” We will watch the game in Saint Joseph’s Hall. For those Saint Marians who don’t know anything about football or who think football is a different game called soccer, Father Mead will once again offer a “class” entitled “Football for Anglo-Catholics” before the game begins. Those members and friends whose interest in football is minimal should know that there are plenty of opportunities for conversation that do not involve the game. It’s a fun evening at Saint Mary’s and all are invited! . . . Monday, February 2, 2009, The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple: Candlemas, Sung Mass at 12:10 PM, Organ Recital by James Kennerley at 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM. Father Mead is the celebrant and preacher at the Solemn Mass. A reception follows the Solemn Mass in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Tuesday, February 3: The Feast of Saint Blase, the Blessing of Throats is offered at both masses, 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Father Mead’s class on the Prophets will meet on Wednesday, February 4, at 7:00 PM, after the evening Mass . . . The Saint Mary’s Guild will meet on Saturday, February 7 . . . Father John Merz will hear confessions on Saturday, February 7, 11:30-11:50 AM and 4:00-4:50 PM. Father Merz is the Episcopal chaplain at New York University and an assisting priest here at Saint Mary’s. Confessions are also heard by appointment.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Altar flowers are needed for the following Sundays: February 15 and 22. Generous donors have already given flowers for February 1, Candlemas (February 2), and February 8. If you would like to donate flowers for the altars and shrines, please contact Father Mead. There are no flowers on the altar during most of Advent and Lent . . . Father Ian Montgomery, who is well known to Saint Marians, is again helping out at the parish as an assisting priest. He was, until recently, the Rector of the Church of All Saints, Palo Alto, California. We are very grateful to Father Montgomery for his help while the rector is away. Father Montgomery’s son, Charlie, is preparing for confirmation and has recently joined the guild of acolytes . . . Monday, February 10–Saturday, February 21: Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., will be accompanying parishioner, Dr. Michael McNett, on a mission trip to South Africa . . . Sunday, February 15, Solemn Evensong & Benediction at 5:00 PM. Choristers from Guildford Cathedral will sing the service and the cathedral’s dean, the Very Reverend Victor Stock, will preach. Guildford is in Surrey, in the United Kingdom, southwest of London . . . Sunday, February 22, Solemn Mass at 11:00 PM. Bishop C. Franklin Brookhart, Jr., IX Bishop of Montana, will be the celebrant and preacher. (The Diocese of Montana was established in 1904 and has forty-two congregations in twenty-six of the state’s fifty-six counties. The cathedral and the diocesan offices are in Helena, the state capital, located in the west-central part of the state) . . . February 16, Presidents’ Day: Federal Holiday Schedule – the church opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 2:00 PM, only the noon services are offered, and both the Parish and Finance offices are closed . . . The Board of Trustees will not meet on Monday, February 23 . . . February 25, Ash Wednesday: Said Masses at 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM, Sung Mass at 12:00 PM, Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM. Ashes are distributed between the Masses throughout the day. Father Smith will be the celebrant and preacher at the Solemn Mass . . . Friday, February 27, 7:00 PM, Stations of the Cross. The service of Stations of the Cross is offered on Fridays during Lent . . . Attendance: Last Sunday, 3 Epiphany 289.
CHRISTIAN FORMATION & EDUCATION FOR ADULTS . . . All classes meet in the Arch Room on the Second Floor of the Mission House (133 West 46th Street). Sunday classes meet at 10:00 AM. Coffee and doughnuts are provided. The Wednesday Night Bible Study and other weeknight classes meet at 7:00 PM. Detailed information on upcoming classes is below. All are welcome at every class. One need not have attended earlier sessions in order to drop in on later sessions in the series. Matthew Mead
THE REVELATION ACCORDING TO JOHN . . . On Sundays during Epiphany Season (February 1, 8, 15 & 22) Father Mead and Father Smith will lead a class examining the most famous apocalyptic book of the Bible.
THE PROPHETS . . . The Wednesday Night Dinner and Bible Study resumed on January 21, after the Christmas break, and will meet again this week on February 4. During the autumn, the class, led by Father Mead, studied the narrative accounts of the prophets in the Books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles. The class has now begun to read the prophetic books, beginning with the Book of Amos, and then moving on to Hosea and the later prophets. Members of the class are invited to donate five dollars (or more) to cover the cost of dinner.
THE PSALMS . . . The Reverend Peter Powell will lead a class on the Psalms in Lent 2009 (Sundays, March 1, 8, 15, 22). Father Powell is the president of the Interfaith Housing Corporation, Westport, Connecticut. He is a graduate of Virginia Theological Seminary and holds advanced degrees from Princeton and the University of the South.
HOSPITALITY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . During this time of belt-tightening and budget cuts, we would like to invite those members and friends of Saint Mary’s, who are able to, to consider making a donation to support the parish’s hospitality efforts. There are several ways that one can do that. First, you can sponsor a feast-day reception. (We try, when possible, to pay for such receptions through the generous gifts of friends and parishioners.) The next planned reception will be on Candlemas, on February 2. We now have a donor for that reception and for the reception at Annunciation. However, if you would like to sponsor (or co-sponsor) an upcoming reception, such as the reception following the Easter Vigil, please let me know, or, if you would like to plan and host a reception, please contact me. Second, you can donate unopened boxes of cookies or other sweets or pastries for use at our receptions on Sunday evenings after Evensong & Benediction (this is an especially effective way to banish those too-tempting simple carbohydrates from the home as one attempts to meet one’s weight-loss goals!) (One donor informs us that he has recently ordered ten boxes of Girl Scout cookies – a two-for-one donation. He is supporting his goddaughter’s Scout troop and the hospitality efforts of the parish!) Third, you can make a cash donation. Checks should be written to the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin and “Hospitality Fund” should be written in the memo line. Finally, if you feel called to be a server and host at a reception, please let me know. The only job requirements are a calm and welcoming disposition, a friendly smile, the ability to engage newcomers in conversation, and a willingness to be helpful and to work with others to organize, prepare, and host receptions and other events. Since Saint Mary’s welcomes so many visitors, our hospitality efforts are an essential means of evangelism and church growth. If you are interested, please speak to me and thank you for your help. Jay Smith
STEWARDSHIP MATTERS . . . As of January 27, we have received pledges from 170 households. The total amount pledged thus far is $449,070.00, which is 86.5% of our goal of $518,970.00. Eighty-three households have been able to increase their pledge from 2008 (which is not an insignificant figure in these hard times). Twenty-five households are pledging for the first-time or are returning after some time away. We had a pretty good week, despite the fact that we are well into the campaign and the New Year has begun (thank you to all who sent their pledges in this past week!). We are still waiting to hear from 26% 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. We would especially like to encourage all new members and all members of our parish guilds to pledge this year. 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. Please keep the parish and the Stewardship Campaign in your prayers. If your financial situation is clearer now that the New Year has begun and if you now feel ready to make a pledge, if you need another pledge card, or if you have questions, please speak with Father Jay Smith, MaryJane Boland, or Steven Heffner. We are very grateful to all those who have pledged; we are inching our way closer to our goal! We really believe that we can reach that goal, working together, and, as always, with God’s help. Jay Smith
MISSION & OUTREACH . . . Saint Marians are invited to bring non-perishable food items on Sundays and place them in the basket at the ushers’ table in the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall during Coffee Hour. The food is then delivered to the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry on 46th Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues. (We will be making our second delivery to Saint Clement’s at the end of this week.) Cash donations can also be made: please write the check to the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin and put “Fr. Smith’s Discretionary Fund” in the memo line. (Both diocesan and parish guidelines stipulate that such funds are only to be used for outreach and for those who are in need. They are not used for personal reasons. Here at Saint Mary’s their use is overseen by the Finance Office.) Lightly used clothing may also be donated and should be placed on the table near the Kitchen in Saint Joseph’s Hall. During the winter months, coats and sweaters, hats and gloves are particularly welcome. Thank you to all who continue to give so generously to the Food Pantry! Jay Smith
COME AND SING WITH US! . . . Saint Mary’s Singers is looking for members. We are a group of parishioners and non-parishioners who now sing twice a month at the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Times Square. The church has one of the finest acoustics in the city, as well as one of the city’s greatest organs. Why don’t YOU consider taking a break from work on Sunday afternoons to come sing and socialize with a group of Saint Mary’s neighbors, friends, and parishioners? (Trips to the local pubs and restaurants of Hell’s Kitchen immediately follow the rehearsals and performances!) If you are able to match pitch and have a desire to sing, especially some of the great Anglican choral repertoire, why not consider being part of our new choir? We promise that you will have fun! If you would like to join, or just come along for a rehearsal, please email me at email@example.com. James Kennerley
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saint Mary’s offers a wide variety of concerts each year. In addition to concerts offered by our music department, we also host a number of outside groups who offer concerts in the church. See below for upcoming concerts at Saint Mary’s . . . Every Sunday, 4:40 PM (October to June, except during Lent): Before Sunday Evensong & Benediction Saint Mary’s offers a weekly organ recital by a visiting musician. For more details, please see the current music schedule HERE . . Saturday, January 31, 2009, 8:00 PM: “A Royal Christening and Musical Banquet”: Piffaro, The Renaissance Band; Parthenia, A Consort of Viols; and the Vox Vocal Ensemble . . . Saturday, February 14, 2009, 8:00 PM: “Songs of Love, Lust, and Lamentation”: The Vox Vocal Ensemble, George Steel, conductor . . . Thursday, April 2, 2009, 8:00 PM: Music for Double Choir, The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips, director.
CHILDREN AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Children are always welcome at Mass at Saint Mary’s. The Rector encourages families with children to sit at the front of the church – so the children can see easily and clearly. Childcare for younger children is available in the Saint Benedict’s Nursery & Playroom which is open and available every Sunday from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM.
SUNDAY SCHOOL FOR CHILDREN . . . Sunday School for children meets on Sundays during the academic year at 10:00 AM, in the Morning Room (follow the blue signs in Saint Joseph’s Hall to the Morning Room). Sunday School is led by Deacon Jedediah Fox and Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
Monday The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple: Candlemas
Tuesday Blase, Bishop & Martyr, c. 316
Wednesday Cornelius the Centurion
Thursday The Martyrs of Japan, 1597
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
Eve of the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Sunday School & Adult Christian Education, 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. Confessions are heard Saturdays at 11:30 AM and 4:00 PM or by appointment.