The Angelus

Volume 13, Number 1


The liturgical season with the most convoluted history is arguably Advent.  Like many celebrations of the Church year, it originated in the churches of eastern Mediterranean in the fourth century.  This isn’t surprising when one remembers Constantine founded Constantinople in 324 A.D and it supplanted Rome as the largest city in the empire.  When Advent moves to Italy in the fifth and sixth centuries, Advent (“coming”) was set aside to be a time to prepare for Christmas.

As the traditions of what we now call Celtic spirituality moved south during the Middle Ages, Advent got hit with a heavy emphasis on sin and penance.  By the twelfth century, the purple vestments of Lent are being worn before Christmas in Rome and Gloria in excelsis is being omitted on these Sundays.  Yet the church in Rome did not fall entirely under the sway of the Irish.  It kept “alleluia” in the liturgy of the season.  I’m not sure when a Lent-like fast for Advent moved south from Ireland and France to Rome, but I do know that the Roman Church ended it in 1917.  Then and now, children can hardly wait for Christmas.

With the perspective of history, there are lots of reasons not to get too worked up about Christmas creeping into Advent.  But there are at least two very good reasons not to miss any of the season: Advent prayers and Advent hymns.  They are some of the best of the year.

The Book of Common Prayer (1549) got a lot of things right.  There’s no Advent fast in this book.  The collect for the First Sunday of Advent, which was composed for this book, is a great example of how rich the season is for us.  It plays off opposites in a great way:

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which our Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen. (Prayer Book, 211)

Here are three great hymns: “Come, thou long expected Jesus” (The Hymnal, 66), “Creator of the stars of night” (The Hymnal, 60), and “O come, O come, Emmanuel” (The Hymnal 56).  What makes these and other texts so important is not just the beauty of word or song, but the truths they proclaim about God’s gift for us in the Word made flesh.

I confess I’ve already attended a “Fall Holiday Party” – very politically correct.  I have been fighting the crowds in midtown for weeks now, it seems.  I’m going to get very tired, as I always do, of listening to bad Christmas music as I go about the city.  But, when I find myself getting cranky, I try to remember that from the perspective of history and poverty, we know so many blessings.

I’m glad I serve a parish community that tries to live within Christian tradition with integrity.  In my own home, as we did in my family growing up, on Christmas Eve I will hang the stocking my aunt made for me (and every other child in our wider family).  This and the other things I do at Christmas mean all the more because you and I have had Advent to prepare and Advent to pray.  Stephen Gerth


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Carol, Alan, Wayne, Chris, Averie, Lin, Tom, Ann, Mary, Joan, Owen, Robert, Thomas, Edward, José, Sharon, Daisy, Cesar, Gerardo, Rolf, Gert, Rick, and Emil, religious; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially James . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . November 28: 1881 Henry Edgar Denny; 1896 Thomas Reeves Ash; 1921 Margery Irving Hoffman; 1924 Henry Lincoln Case; 1928 Edmund Rausch; 1953 Paul Recousie; 1961 Mary Richards; 1962 Maude Hoppin Smith; 1967 James Eastman, Frances Schmidlapp


THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.


THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Adult Forum will not meet on Sunday, November 28 . . . Tuesday, November 30 is the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle.  Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM and at 6:20 PM . . . Concerts at Saint Mary’s: The Young New Yorker’s Chorus Annual Christmas Concert is on Saturday, December 4.  For details: . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, November 27, and Saturday, December 4.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . Congratulations to Jananie Nair who completed the New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 7, and to Robin Landis who completed the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday, November 21 . . . On the First Sunday of Advent, we turn to the A-cycle of the three-year Lectionary for Sunday Masses.  You can find the new Lectionary here.  The lessons for the A-cycle are available on the parish’s web site here.  The Daily Office Lectionary is on a two-year cycle.  On Advent Sunday we begin Year One.  The Daily Office lectionary has not changed.  These lessons are also available on the parish’s web site . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 282.


FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . .  The prelude at solemn Mass is the chorale prelude on Wachet auf, ruft uns die stimme BWV 625 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).  The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass for Five Voices by William Byrd (c. 1540–1623).  Byrd was a recalcitrant Roman Catholic in protestant Elizabethan England.  In spite of the political difficulties he faced due to his faith, his career flourished because of his protection by Queen Elizabeth, a great admirer of Byrd’s music.  The composer was a “distinguished gentleman” of her Chapel Royal, which at that time was the greatest honor a musician in England could receive.  Much of his Latin music, however, was written for clandestine Catholic liturgies in private homes (including this work, one of three Latin masses), and therefore has a somewhat intimate character.  The motet is Byrd’s five-part Vigilate, a lively, almost madrigal-style depiction of the coming of the Lord.  It was published as part of his 1589 volume Cantiones Sacrae.  The postlude is Le Monde dans l’attende du Sauveur (The world awaiting the Savior) from Symphonie-Passion, Op. 23, by Marcel Dupré (1886-1971).  James Kennerley


WHY I LOVE SAINT MARY’S . . . As part of our 2010-2011 Stewardship Campaign we continue our ongoing series, “Why I Love Saint Mary’s.”  This week we hear from Kenny Isler.  Kenny has been a member of Saint Mary’s for many years and remains a faithful Saint Marian, though he now lives in Arizona.  As careful readers of the Angelus will know, Kenny is also the talented maker and mixer of Smoky Mary’s special blend of incense.  He writes, “Many churches confer upon the individual, upon their entering, a tangible sense of welcome and comfort.  Since Day One of my association with Saint Mary’s, I have always experienced a host of pointed salvos directed toward my solar plexus, as though the verities of the Catholic Faith were getting in my face, knocking feverishly upon the door of my understanding.  For me, SMV has never been about warm fuzzy feelings pertinent to some prospect of future rapture or comforting melodies emanating from the Aeolian-Skinner organ, or even the allure of incense waftings.  No; every time I pass through the narthex I am granted access to the throne of the Heavenly Grace, a sort of conduit permitting me to experience not merely sacramental grace, but an opportunity to commune with all who have come before and all those pilgrims currently seeking God’s enduring Love.  Standing beneath the magnificent Kirchmayer rood beam I experience both the inadequacy of my attempt at faith as well as my lasting dependence upon his concern for me. After thirty-plus years of parishioner status, it may be the best feeling I've ever had.”  Kenny Isler


ADVENT QUIET DAY . . . On Saturday, December 11, Father John Beddingfield will be returning to Saint Mary’s to lead a quiet day.  John will offer three meditations during the day, which begins at 10:00 AM and ends at 3:00 PM.  Those attending are invited to celebrate the Eucharist together at noonday.  Coffee and tea will be served in Saint Joseph’s Hall beginning at 9:30 AM and a simple lunch will be provided following Mass.  Please send an e-mail to Father Jay Smith at if you think you would like to attend so he can make plans for lunch.  Father Beddingfield was sponsored for ordination by this parish; he worked here as the parish administrator before his ordination and as curate thereafter.  We are very happy, and grateful, that he has agreed to be with us in December.


CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Adult-Forum will not meet on Sunday, November 28, the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day . . . Sunday, December 5, “Bishop Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray.  A brief introduction to a well-known work by a bishop of the Russian Orthodox Church in Great Britain.  Led by Father Jay Smith . . . The Adult Forum will not meet between Sunday, December 12, and Sunday, January 9.  The forum resumes on Sunday, January 16, when parishioner, Professor Robert Picken, will begin a three-part series (January 16, 23, and 30) on the history of Christian mission.  The title of the series is “Matteo Ricci and The Great Encounter.”  Professor Picken will discuss the following topics: the arrival of Western intellectuals in China, when Jesuit missionaries went to that nation at the end of the sixteenth century; the initial success of those missionaries; the Chinese-rites controversy; and the failure of the China mission in the eighteenth century.  The implications for a modern-day theology of mission will be discussed . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on December 1 and 15 and on January 5.  Those classes will be led by our seminarian Rem Slone.  The sisters will return to the Bible study class on Wednesday, January 19, 2011.


OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We are continuing to collect toys and other gift items that will be donated to the New York Foundling Hospital . . . We are now collecting new or very lightly used and well-laundered coats for the New York Cares Coat Drive, which runs from December 1-31 . . . Sunday, November 28, Saint Joseph’s Hall, Book Sale.  All proceeds are used to benefit those in need . . . We also continue to collect non-perishable food items for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry.  Please look for the basket in the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall.  Jay Smith


LOOKING AHEAD . . . Tuesday, December 7, 6:00 PM, Solemn Evensong . . . Wednesday, December 8, Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemn Pontifical Mass 6:00 PM, the Rt. Rev. Mark Sisk, XV Bishop of New York, celebrant and preacher . . . Saturday, December 11, 10:00 AM-3:00 PM, Advent Quiet Day, led by Father John Beddingfield . . . Friday, December 24, Christmas Eve, Music for Choir and Congregation 4:30 PM and Sung Mass 5:00 PM; Music for Choir and Congregation 10:30 PM and Solemn Mass 11:00 PM . . . Saturday, December 25, Christmas Day, Solemn Mass and Procession to the Crèche 11:00 AM . . . Sunday, December 26, 5:00 PM, Christmas Lessons and Carols . . . Friday, January 1, Holy Name, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM . . . Wednesday, January 5, Eve of the Epiphany, Solemn Evensong, 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, January 6, The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, Reception in Saint Joseph’s Hall 7:30 PM.


CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, December 11, 8:00 PM & Monday, December 13, 8:00 PM: Voices of Ascension: Christmas Concert, Dennis Keene, artistic director . . . Saturday, December 18, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra.  Annual NYRO Benefit Concert...and the 100th birthday of Samuel Barber.  David Leibowitz, music director & Eric Jacobsen, cello.  Music by Barber, Schumann, and Rimsky-Korsakoff.  For information and to purchase tickets:, 212.662.8383 or . . . Saturday, January 22, 8:00PM: The Early Music Series of the Columbia University’s Miller Theatre.  Songs from the Island Sanctuary: Sequentia, Benjamin Bagby, director.  A musical portrait of life in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, circa 1200.


AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue and Forty-second Street, Exhibition: “Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam”.  Until February 27, 2011 . . . Concert: “The Spirit of Old Russia,” Russian choral music.  Saturday, December 4, 8:00 PM, the Church of Saint Ignatius of Antioch, 552 West End Avenue.



The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector
The Reverend James Ross Smith, curate
The Reverend Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, deacon
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus


Saint Mary’s Mission House
Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B.
Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B.
The Community of St. John Baptist


The Parish Musicians
Mr. James Kennerley, organist and music director
Mr. Lawrence Trupiano, organ curator


The Parish Staff
Mr. Aaron Koch, business manager

Mr. Miguel Gonzalez, Mr. Mario Martinez, Mr. H. Antonio Santiago, sextons