The Angelus

Volume XI, Number 31

From the Rector: Ponder Anew Great Thanksgiving

Hymnody plays a huge role in the spiritual life and worship of Reading Sacrifice Unveiled: The True Meaning of Christian Sacrifice by Robert J. Daly, S.J. has sent me back to the books to look afresh at what I think I know about Eucharistic prayers.  In particular, one of his sentences got to me, “the primary focus, indeed the very purpose of the transformation of the bread and wine, is the transformation of the assembly” (page 18).  For some very good reasons, my gut focuses on other dimensions of the Eucharistic mystery.

In Western Europe, from the sixth century forward, the prayers of consecration contain no invocation, that is, no petition that the Father will send the Holy Spirit on the bread and wine to make them the Body and Blood, no petition that the Father will send the Holy Spirit to bless the assembly.  In the East, the invocations are retained.  For us western Christians the words of institution become the focus of the prayer.  At the Reformation, the nature of Eucharistic thanksgiving for bread and wine will become, and remains today, one of the most divisive theological controversies among Christians.

For a variety of reasons, an invocation over the bread and wine was put into the 1549 English Prayer Book and then deleted from 1552 book.  Through the tortured history of Anglicans in Scotland, an invocation over the bread and wine comes to be included in the Eucharistic prayers of the Episcopal Church from our first book in 1789 and going forward.  But until our 1979 book, none our Eucharistic prayers has contained an invocation of the Holy Spirit upon the assembly.

In the 1979 book, invocations of the Holy Spirit upon the assembly are included in three prayers in Rite II.  In Prayer A, we pray for the Holy Spirit to, “Sanctify us also that we may faithfully receive this holy Sacrament, and serve you in unity, constancy, and peace” (page 363).  In Prayer B, we pray, “Unite us to your Son in his sacrifice, that we may be acceptable through him, being sanctified by the Holy Spirit” (page 369).  And in Prayer D we pray, “Lord, we pray that in your goodness and mercy your Holy Spirit may descend upon us, and upon these gifts, sanctifying them and showing them to be holy gifts for your  holy people, the bread of life and the cup of salvation, the Body and Blood of your son Jesus Christ” (page 375). 

In The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary (1950) Massey Shepherd wrote, “All the ancient liturgies, as far back as we can trace them, contained some form of Invocation in their Consecration Prayers.  In some it was the creative Word (cf. John i.3; Col. i.16) Who was invoked; in others, the sanctifying Spirit.  The earliest forms request the hallowing of the communicants or the Church, no less than of the oblations” (pages 80-81).  The disappearance of the invocation on the assembly at the end of the classical age is a sign of a shift that is taking place generally on how Western Christians understand God’s presence in their midst.  The Bread and Wine become greater signs of God’s presence than the holy people of God.

The diminution of the sacramentality of the Eucharistic gifts with among Protestant Christians comes to mirror the diminution of the sacramentality of God’s people among Roman Catholics.  It’s helpful to recall that the Roman Missal of Paul VI (1969) contained three forms of the Eucharistic Rite: Mass with a Congregation, Concelebrated Mass, and Mass Without a Congregation.  The last of these has now been renamed, “Mass at which Only One Minister Participates.”  The title itself speaks volumes.

My journey in Christ has been shaped by many, many things.  Among them is the petition I first learned from the 1928 Prayer Book, “that we, all others who shall be partakers of this Holy Communion, may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with him, that he may dwell in us, and we in him” (page 81).  I hope I can continue to grow in my heart and gut to embrace a fundamental view of others as sister and brother in Christ.  The New Testament word which is translated as “church” doesn’t carry in the New Testament any sense of institution.  It means simply, “those who are called out” – out of this world to a new relationship with each other and with the Living God.   It is for this that we give great thanks.  Stephen GEpiscopalians and most other Christians.  It was not always so.  Hymns started to creep into Anglican worship near the end of the eighteenth century.  For decades it would be considered a dangerous innovation.  The Church already had the songs Jesus himself knew and used: the Psalms.  And why would we need any others?  Today, few of us could imagine the Episcopal Church or Christianity apart from the hymnody that has come to be used, now for generations, in the wake of the Protestant Reformation.

Like many people, I would have a really hard time choosing my five favorite hymns.  Choosing ten would be easier.  Among the many contenders for my list would be a hymn Episcopalians only began to sing with The Hymnal 1940, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of creation.”  The text and the tune quickly became among the most popular in the Church, and remain so.

Like many hymns, its biblical imagery suffered in the hands of those who produced the texts for the current hymnal, but most of it is still there.  (The omitted phrase, “all that hath breath join with Abraham’s seed to adore him”, has been changed to “all that hath life and breath come now with praises before him” – I do get upset when important, basic biblical imagery is discarded.)  My favorite line is still there, “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, who with his love doth befriend thee.”

Summer arrived formally last week.  The final feasts of Eastertide and the first Sundays of the Season after Pentecost are behind us.  As I write on Thursday, June 25, we celebrated the birth of John the Baptist yesterday.  On Monday we will celebrate the feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.  For us in the northern hemisphere, it is the growing season, a good time for pondering anew what the Almighty can do among us, now and in the future. 

I’ve just started reading online the first parish newsletter, The Arrow.  It was published from October 1891 until March 1899.  I’ve read only two of them so far, the first and the last.  The first one discusses many of the contentious issues of the day, and not, it’s probably fair to say, in a very gracious way.  The last issue contains noteworthy announcements of Holy Week services.  On April 2, 1899, Easter Eve, Morning Prayer was at 9:00 AM, “immediately followed by the blessing of the Paschal candle and Solemn High Mass.”  I had thought the first “Easter Vigil” here was in 1917.  I’m going to have to go back to the books to find out if there are some other papers that tell more.  (And here is a good place to thank Dick Leitsch, Mary Robison and those who made special contributions for the archives which have made the reappearance of The Arrow possible – Thank you!)

Many of you know one of my favorite Scripture verses is Matthew 13:52, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”  I hope when people look back on our days we will be seen to be a people looking for the Lord to do something new among us still, open to the work of the Spirit.  Stephen Gerth


SUNDAY PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Frances and Margaret who are hospitalized; for Carol, Eva, Allan, Allan, Jenny, Wayne, Charisse, Jewell, Dorothy, Rick, Jean Marie, Kirk, Jack, Alice, Harold, Marcia, Richard, Stephen, Laura, Madeleine, Marc, William, Gert, Mary, Daisy, Colleen, and RickFrances who is hospitalized; for Jenny, Murphy, Allan, Jewell, Aaron, Charisse, Dorothy, Rick, Jean Marie, Kirk, Jack, Alice, Harold, Marcia, Richard, Mary, Stephen, Laura, Donna, Madeleine, Marc, William, Gert, Mary, Daisy, Colleen, and Rick; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Marc, Omar, Christopher, Benjamin, Steven, Andrew, and Patrick; and for the repose of the soul of Murphy Len, Pablo, Ian, Nancy Brook. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . Abbie Dobson, June 28, 1890; Mary Elliot, June 28, 1921; Lillie Rebecca Ferguson, June 28, 1929; Edward Delavan Ransom, June 28, 1937; Douglas McNabb, June 28, 1956.June 21: 1907 George Prentice.


THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Irish choir Capella will give a short concert on Saturday, June 27, at 1:15 PM.  Music is by Rutter, Allegri, McGlynn and others, and entry is free . . . Monday, June 29, is the fThe choir from Saint Paul’s Parish, K Street, Washington, D.C., will sing at the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass on Sunday, June 21.  The choir is directed by Mr. Robert McCormick, former music director at Saint Mary’s . . . Nativity of Saint John the Baptisteast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles.Wednesday24  Mass will be said Sung Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM; Sung Mass will be celebrated 6:00 PM . . . The church will observe the federal holiday for Independence Day on Friday, July 3.  The church will be open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.  The Noonday Office and the 12:10 PM Mass will be offered.  The parish office will be closed.  The regular Saturday schedule will be observed on Saturday, July 4 . . . The Irish choir Capella will give a short concert on June 26 at 1:15 PM.  Music is by Rutter, Allegri, McGlynn and others, and entry is free . . . On Saturday, June 20, Father Mead will hear confessions; On Saturday, June 28, and on Saturday, July 4, Father Gerth will hear confessionsonJune 27.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . Frances Geer, Hardison Geer’s wife, is now at Mount Sinai Medical Center for rehabilitation.  Please keep her in your prayers . . . Margaret Malone is at St. Luke’s Hospital.  Please keep her in your prayers . . . The Arrow – a parish newsletter from the 1890s – is now available online at the parish website.  Look for it (and much more) in the Archives section of the website . . . Altar flowers are needed for the following dates: July 5, 12, 26.  Please contact the parish office if you would like to make a donation . . . Father Smith is away on vacation until July 13 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 277, Nativity of John 113.


459A GREAT DAY: THANKS SO MUCH! . . . Did you notice that the sun came out when we processed into Times Square with the Blessed Sacrament on Sunday?  Corpus Christi was fantastic, the liturgy and music were wonderful, and it was a great treat to have a Guild Fair and festive lunch afterwards.  Thanks to everyone for making it such a great day and for making lunch and the guild fair such a success: all of our guilds grew and the procession returned to the church with about twenty more people than when it left! 


FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . During the summer months the full choir is on vacation, and the music at Solemn Mass is sung by a cantor or a small group of voices.  This week the cantor is Mr. Geoffrey Williams, countertenor.  The prelude is Légende, No. 13 from Pièces en style libre, Op. 31, by Louis Vierne (1870-1937).  The setting of the Mass ordinary is for choir and congregation.  During the ministration of Communion, Mr. Williams sings the motet Agnus Dei from the Mass in B minor, BWV 232, by Johann Sebastiann Bach (1685-1750).  The Mass in B minor has long been a source of mystery in terms of its purpose and initial performances.  It was assembled in 1749, although parts date back to as early as 1724.  Instead of a unifying title, the work is divided into four sections: Kyrie, Gloria, Symbolum Nicenum (Creed), and Sanctus, Hosanna, Benedictus, Agnus Dei, each section calling for different numbers and arrangements of performers, giving rise to the theory that Bach never expected the work to be performed in its entirety.  It also lasts over two hours!  One theory is that it was, at least in part, composed to impress Augustus III, when he succeeded his father as elector of Saxony and king of Poland.  Bach was appointed court composer to Augustus III in 1736 . . . The Irish choir Capella will give a short concert at the church on Saturday, June 27 at 1:15 PM.  Music is by Rutter, Allegri, McGlynn and others, and entry is free.  James Kennerley


TO THE PARK . . . Grace Bruni is leading an expedition of parishioners to Central Park to picnic in style and to hear the New York Philharmonic on the Great Lawn July 14 and July 17.  These free concerts feature different programs of Mozart, Beethoven, Copland, and Mahler, with a fireworks display following each concert.  For more information contact Grace ( with any questions.


JOINING A NEW GUILD . . . It’s not too late to join a parish guild.  Signing up is easy – just visit the parish website, click on the Join a Parish Guild section, and learn about and sign up for any of the parish guilds… Or speak to Father Mead!


A FRIENDLY REMINDER . . . If you plan to be away from the parish for all or part of the summer, we would appreciate it if you tried to stay current on your pledge payments.  We often run into cash-flow problems during the summer months and that is, of course, a special concern this year.  Thank you very much for your consideration – and thank you to all who give so generously to support the work and mission of this parish.


MISSION & OUTREACH . . . Food Pantry: You are invited to bring non-perishable food items on Sundays and place them in the basket at the back of the church or on the table in Saint Joseph’s Hall.  The food is then delivered to Saint Clement’s Food Pantry.  Thank you to all those who have given so generously and so consistently to this very important outreach effort . . . Post-Katrina Mission Trip to the Gulf Coast (Mississippi and Louisiana): A group from Grace Church, Brooklyn Heights, is planning a mission trip to the Gulf Coast for November 8-14, 2009.  This is not their first trip so the effort seems to be well-established.  The coordinators have already booked lodging (described as “convenient and comfortable”) in New Orleans’s Garden District.  For more information, please speak to Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins or send an e-mail to Barbara Pace at



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.  One thing you can do is donate unopened boxes of cookies or other sweets or pastries for use at Coffee Hour on Sunday mornings.  Even if there is a surplus of donated items on a given Sunday, we are able to freeze items for use at a later date.  You can also 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.  We are grateful to all those who have already answered this appeal and have helped with this important ministry of hospitality.  James Ross Smith


A FRIENDLY REMINDER . . . If you plan to be away from the parish for all or part of the summer, we would appreciate it if you tried to stay current on your pledge payments.  We often run into cash-flow problems during the summer months and that is, of course, a special concern this year.  Thank you very much for your consideration – and thank you to all who give so generously to support the work and mission of this parish.

The Calendar of the Week

Sunday                   The Third Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

Monday                  Alban, First Martyr of Britain, c. 304

                                   Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Apostles

Tuesday                     Weekday

                                     Eve of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Wednesday                Weekday                                          

                                   The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Thursday                    Weekday

Friday                         Weekday – Federal Holiday Schedule                   Abstinence

Weekday                 Abstinence

Saturday                 Of Our Lady

Saturday                 Independence Day

                                   Eve of the Fourth Fifth Sunday after Pentecost


Sunday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 9:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass,

5:00 PM Evening Prayer.  Childcare is available from 9:00 AM until 1:00 PM all Sundays of the year.

Monday–Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 6:00 PM Evening Prayer.  The Wednesday Mass is sung. The Thursday Mass includes 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 on Saturdays 11:30-11:50 AM & 4:00-4:50 PM.