From Father Smith: A Prayer for Lent
In the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian has traditionally been said at each weekday service during Lent. The prayer goes like this: “O Lord and Master of my life! Take from me the spirit of laziness, faint-heartedness, lust of power, and idle talk. Give instead to your servant the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love. Yes, O Lord and King! Let me see my own errors and let me not judge my brothers and sisters. For you are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.”
The first phrase, the invocation, is not a “throwaway” line. It puts into words what we sometimes forget. It is God who has created and redeemed us: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” [1 Corinthians 6:19-20]. It could be said that Lent is designed, in part, to reorient us to that truth.
The second sentence presents a kind of diagnosis of the human condition. It reminds us why we are called to repentance. In a way, these four sins are a direct result of our failure to remember that God is Lord. Many early Christian writers, especially the desert monks of Egypt and Syria, warned their spiritual children about the torpor, sloth, and passivity that lead to the sad conviction that life is without purpose or meaning. In the midst of such a “spiritual depression,” the abiding sense of God’s presence expressed in the invocation is denied or ignored and is replaced with those things that can never satisfy us – words (“idle talk”) and deeds (“lust of power”), which are inspired by the illusion that things, possessions, control, power, money, and status can cure our despondency and fill us with life.
In Saint Ephrem’s prayer, the diagnosis is followed by the remedy, namely chastity (or “wholeness,” both spiritual and physical), humility, patience, and love. Those virtues are the antidote to self-centeredness. By coming to an understanding of who we really are and by rejoicing in the unique gifts God has given us (“humility”) and by allowing God’s grace to heal our sadness, distractedness and negativity, we begin to see the true nature of things – that we are created, not for a life of isolation, focused only on our desires and compulsions, but for a life of relationship and love. In such a life, there is both time and space of others (“patience” and “love”) and the call to serve is experienced not as a burden, but as both a gift and an opportunity.
In Eastern Christianity, Saint Ephrem’s Prayer is accompanied by a series of bows or “prostrations.” No doubt this would feel strange to most Anglicans, but such a manner of praying can at least remind us that Lent is meant to engage us totally, in body, mind and spirit, so that when Easter comes we can know, just a little bit more, what it means when Saint Paul says, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day…” [2 Corinthians 4:16] and “For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” [2 Corinthians 5:14-15]. (Source: Alexander Schmemann, Great Lent: Journey to Pascha (New York: Saint Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974)
— James Ross Smith
SUNDAY PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Janet, Wayne, Laura, Angie, Jack, Ben, Alice, Harold, Lawrence, Rosemarie, Patrick, Caroline, Jocelyn, Mimi, Marcia, Richard, Deloris, Mary, Gloria, Stephen, Brooke, Donna, Margaret, Laura, Madeleine, Marc, Janelle, Jennie, William, Gert, Mary, Terry, Daisy, Rozalind, Rick, Michael, Deborah Francis, RELIGIOUS, and Stephen, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Christopher, Omar, Curtis, Timothy, Benjamin, Marc, Terrance, Steven, Patrick, Andrew, and Brendan . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 22: 1879 Francis Lundy; 1886 William Jones, Edward Bieral; 1912 Mortimer Marble; 1913 Ole Olsen; 1917 James Hand.
PLEASE KEEP IN YOUR PRAYERS . . . The Reverend Charles Whipple, who has left Saint Vincent’s Hospital, is now at home, and is gravely ill. Father Whipple is a longtime friend of Saint Mary’s and is known to many of our parishioners. We are remembering him in our prayers, especially at the altar.
LENT AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, February 25, 2009. The church will open and ashes will be offered from 7:00 AM until 8:00 PM. Said Mass will be offered at 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM, Sung Mass will be offered at 12:10 PM, Solemn Mass with the choir will be offered at 6:00 PM . . . Fridays during Lent are observed with special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. Stations of the Cross are offered on Fridays in Lent at 7:00 PM . . . Sister Laura Katharine will offer a Lenten Meditation Day of Personal Reflection through the use of the Mandala on Saturday, March 14, from 10:00 AM until 4:00 PM . . . The Reverend Peter Powell will offer an Adult-Education Class on the Psalms at 10:00 AM each Sunday in Lent . . . During Lent we are excited to have a number of guest preachers at Sunday Evensong & Benediction, including the Right Reverend Andrew St. John, the Reverend E. Clare Nesmith, the Reverend Dr. Ryan Lesh, and the Reverend Robert Rhodes . . . Lent is a season of simplicity: throughout the season there are no flowers on the high altar, organ music is used only to accompany singing, and there are no pre-service organ recitals, preludes, or postludes . . . In addition to our regular observance of Lent, this year Father Mead and Father Smith will offer a six-part, fifteen-minute midday Bible study on the Gospel narratives of the Passion of Jesus. The class will meet in the choir area every Wednesday in Lent (not in Holy Week) immediately following the 12:10 PM Sung Mass, and it will feature a 10-15 minute lecture (the lecture will end at 1:00 PM) followed by a brief question-and-answer period for those who do not have to rush back to work. The first class will be led by Father Mead on Ash Wednesday, February 25.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude at Solemn Mass this Sunday is the first movement from Trio Sonata No. 1, BWV 525, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass in G, D. 167 by Franz Schubert (1797-1828). The Mass, Schubert’s second, was composed in 1815 in less than a week. Schubert evidently revised the work soon after its first performance, adding to the existing string orchestration trumpet and timpani parts, as well as altering a few notes. Furthermore, his brother Ferdinand also added woodwind parts, following the work’s great popularity. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet O Jesu Christ, meins lebens licht (“O Jesus Christ, light of my life”) from Cantata No. 118 by Johann Sebastian Bach. Of the some 209 existing cantatas by Bach that survive, this one is unique: it possesses only a single movement (other cantatas feature a variety of arias, choruses, or chorales). At Solemn Evensong, we will be premiering a recently-composed setting of the Benediction text O Salutaris hostia by choir member and composer Allen Hill – do come and hear it! The Saint Mary’s Singers meet this Sunday, February 22, at 3:00 PM, to rehearse and to sing at Solemn Evensong. Please note that we have professional singers leading each voice part, so, if you were thinking of joining us, do not be worried that you’d be the only one in your section! James Kennerley
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., will be accompanying parishioner, Dr. Michael McNett, on a mission trip to South Africa until February 21, 2009 . . . Father Mead will hear confessions on Saturday, February 21. Father Montgomery will hear confessions on Saturday, February 28. Confessions are also heard by appointment . . . Sunday, February 22, at 10:00 AM, on the second floor of the Mission House: Father Smith will conclude the series on the Revelation to John . . . 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 Board of Trustees will not meet on Monday, February 23 . . . Ash Wednesday is February 25, 2009 . . . Father Mead’s class on the Prophets will not meet on Ash Wednesday, February 25.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . 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 . . . Thank you to Tom Heffernan and Clark Mitchell who donated refreshments for last Sunday’s evening reception. The cakes were delicious and greatly appreciated, since we had a large turnout, in part to hear our guest choir from Guildford Cathedral, Surrey, in the UK . . . The Parish Library on the fourth floor of the Mission House is being painted this week with money from the Jones Library Fund. Once adequate shelving has been installed, we hope to begin moving books into the space in March. Special thanks to Terry Carlson, Dick Leitsch, Andrew Smith, Grace Treiman, and José Vidal for volunteering time to help paint! Grace also gave up some of her winter break to help Father Smith with the parish-register project (thank you, Grace) . . . Reha Sterbin has begun an outreach project for the Seamen’s Church Institute. She is knitting cold-weather garb (hats, scarves, etc.) for mariners visiting the Port of New York and New Jersey. If you would like to help with this project or if you would like to receive more information, please contact Reha at firstname.lastname@example.org . . . Our Lenten postcard, with its schedule of services through Holy Week, arrived this week. The postcard, designed by parishioner Terry Carlson and paid for through a generous donation from the Saint Andrew’s Guild, looks wonderful and is also a very useful guide to life at Saint Mary’s during Lent. We give out hundreds of the cards to those who come to Saint Mary’s on Ash Wednesday. Thank you Terry and all the members of the Saint Andrew’s Guild for your generosity and expertise . . . Father Mead’s class on the Prophets will not meet on Ash Wednesday, February 25. We will read the Book of Isaiah during Lent . . . Friday, March 13–Sunday, March 15: Youth Group of the Church of the Mediator, Allentown, PA, Visit to Saint Mary’s . . . Saturday, March 14, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM: Lenten Meditation Day of Personal Reflection through the Use of the Mandala . . . Sunday, March 22, 1:00 PM, Meeting of the Mission & Outreach Committee in Saint Joseph’s Hall. A light lunch will be served . . . Attendance: Last Sunday, 6 Epiphany 380.
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 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.
STEWARDSHIP MATTERS . . . As of February 18, we have received pledges from 178 households. The total amount pledged thus far is $465,180.00, which is 89.4% of our goal of $518,970.00. Eighty-four households have been able to increase their pledge from 2008 (which is not an insignificant figure in these hard times). Thirty households are pledging for the first time or are returning after some time away. We had a pretty good couple of weeks, despite the fact that we are well into the campaign and the New Year has begun. We are still waiting to hear from 25% 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
HOSPITALITY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . During this time of belt-tightening and budget cuts, we would like to invite the members and friends of Saint Mary’s 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 the Feast of the Annunciation on March 25. We now have a donor for that reception and for the reception following the Easter Vigil. We are now hoping to find a donor for the reception on Ascension Day. If you would like to sponsor (or co-sponsor) that reception, or some other upcoming reception, 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. 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. 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. 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! Professional singers lead each voice part, so you will never be alone! If you would like to join, or just come along for a rehearsal, please email me at email@example.com. James Kennerley
THE PSALMS . . . The Reverend Peter Powell will lead a class on the Psalms in Lent 2009. 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.
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 . . . Monday, March 16, 7:30 PM: Concert Choir and Chamber Orchestra of Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH . . . Saturday, March 21, 1:00 PM: Lenten Recital by the Choir of Saint Mary’s School, Calne (near Salisbury), England.. Admission is free . . . Sunday, March 29, 5:00 PM: The Service of Evensong and Benediction is sung by the Choir of the Church of Saint Paul, Fairfield, Connecticut, Jonathan Abdenour, director . . . Thursday, April 2, 2009, 8:00 PM: Music for Double Choir, The Tallis Scholars, Peter Phillips, director . . . Tuesday, April 14, 2009, 1:15 PM: The Choir of the Royal Memorial Chapel, Sandhurst, UK, Peter Beaven, director . . .
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Last Sunday after Epiphany
Eve of Saint Matthias
Tuesday Saint Matthias the Apostle
Wednesday Ash Wednesday: The First Day of Lent Fast & Abstinence
Thursday Lent Weekday
Friday Lent Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Lent Weekday
Eve of the First Sunday In Lent
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 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. A service of Stations of the Cross is offered every Friday in Lent at 7:00 PM
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.