FROM THE RECTOR: STILL ADVENT, STILL LISTENING
Advent could be one day longer than it is this year, but these days, that’s not a problem at all. I can remember as a child how hard it was to wait for Christmas Day. The calendar didn’t have much to do with that. Time has always been the same. It is my experience of time that has changed over the years. I expect it to continue to change. Now, more than before, the length and breadth of Advent seems to me to be a real gift, one that seems to invite me to think about being committed to Christ.
Advent hit me for the first time when I was a first year graduate student in Chicago, in the fall of 1976. So much was new to me. I was in that great city, doing something different – studying British Indian history at one of the great universities. There was lots of snow. It was cold in a way that the Virginia in which I had grown up is never cold. That first fall, I read Thomas Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain. Merton (1915-1968), a Roman Catholic, wrote passionately about the experience of becoming a Trappist monk in Advent 1941. I’m not sure I would have paid as much attention to the texts and tunes of Advent were it not for reading him. Merton was certainly right about their richness.
Two of my favorite songs, text and tune, are the entrance chants for the First and Fourth Sundays of Advent. On the first Sunday we hear, and in Latin at Solemn Mass at Saint Mary’s, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God I put my trust in you” (Psalm 25:1). This fourth Sunday we will hear, again in Latin, “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the skies rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation may spring up” (Isaiah 45:8). Advent offers a gift of redirection, new focus. It points to the unfolding of God’s kingdom in our lives and in our world today.
Last Sunday a visitor asked to see our Christmas crèche. I told him, with a gentle smile, he would need to come back on Christmas Eve. It would be up then and it would be up until Epiphany. For now, it is still Advent at Saint Mary’s.
I’m certainly thinking about Christmas, among other things, about the sermon I will preach for the 5:00 PM Sung Mass on Christmas Eve. (Bishop Frank Griswold is celebrant and preacher for the 11:00 PM Procession & Solemn Pontifical Mass on Christmas Eve; Father Smith is celebrant and preacher for the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass on Christmas Day.) I’m thinking about Christmas dinner. I’m thinking about a visit to my mother during the week after Christmas.
And I’ve been thinking about the founding rector of Saint Mary’s, Thomas McKee Brown. Father Brown died at home in the rectory on December 19, 1898. He was only fifty-seven years old. December 19 was a Monday that year; of course it is Sunday this year.
But mostly I’m thinking about Jesus. I’m happy that around the world people will hear about him, in one way or another. I never expected God to speak, in a sense, to me in the deep snow of Chicago; I believe God has been speaking in his own way to many people this year too. I hope you and I can share our Christmas joy not only with those we know, but also with those whose lives are being touched in a new way by the kingdom of God. As always, “Saint Mary’s Opens Her Doors To All People.” Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Carol, Peter, Lynn, George, Savannah, Alan, Wayne, Sharon, Chris, Averie, Lin, Tom, Ann, Mary, Joan, Paul, Owen, Robert, José, Daisy, Rolf, Gert, Gerardo, Cesar, Rick, Emil, religious, and John, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially James . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 19: 1893 John Francis Crook; 1898 Thomas McKee Brown, priest and first rector of Saint Mary’s; 1912 Catherine Marble; 1934 Frederick Lynch; 1991 Grace Taylor.
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 . . . Saturday, December 18, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra. Annual NYRO Benefit Concert . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd will meet on Sunday, December 19. The Adult Forum will not meet on Sunday, December 19. The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on December 22 . . . Tuesday, December 21, is the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle. The Eucharist will be celebrated at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Please click on this link for Christmas Music & Services . . . The church will be open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM on Christmas Day, Saturday, December 25 . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, December 18 and on January 8. Confessions are only heard by appointment during Christmastide.
DECORATING THE CHURCH . . . The Flower Guild will be working to decorate the church on Thursday, December 23, 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM, and on Christmas Eve, Friday, December 24, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. If you are able to help, please come and join them. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a great way to get ready for Christmas. For more information, please speak to José Vidal, Marie Rosseels, or Rick Austill. You are very welcome just to show up and help .
AROUND THE PARISH . . . On Monday, December 13 the three parishioners ended their terms of service on the Board of Trustees: MaryJane Boland; David Jette, and Jane Daniels Lear. We are grateful to them for their work and their ministry. At the same meeting, Steven Heffner, Thomas Jayne, Mark Risinger, and Susan Wamsley were elected to the board. James Dennis, Randy Morgan and Susan Wamsley were chosen to serve as vice-president, treasurer, and secretary, respectively. Steven Heffner was elected to serve as assistant treasurer . . . George Handy is at Roosevelt Hospital, where he is doing rehabilitation therapy following surgery to repair his broken right hip. He is doing well. We expect that he will be at Roosevelt until the beginning of next week. Please keep him in your prayers . . . The Quiet Day last Saturday was quite successful. Sixteen Saint Marians heard Father John Beddingfield’s meditations during the day. Thank you to Father Beddingfield for traveling to New York and for leading the group so well and so beautifully. Thanks also to all those who helped Father Smith with various organizational details, bringing food for lunch, and helping with cleanup . . . December 21 is the twenty-seventh anniversary of Father Gerth’s ordination to the priesthood . . . If you would like to sponsor the receptions that follow Solemn Mass on Epiphany (January 6) or Candlemas (February 2), please contact the Finance Office, or speak to Father Smith . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 211.
PUBLICITY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The annual Christmas postcard has arrived in the parish office. We use the postcard to advertise our Christmas services, especially in the Times Square neighborhood. If you would like to help distribute the card, please speak to Father Smith. James Kennerley designed the postcard and we are grateful to him for his help and his expertise. Thank you also to photographer Edward Burns for volunteering his time and skills to photograph the Daingerfield murals in the Lady Chapel. We are using a photograph of the mural on the south wall of the chapel, The Epiphany, for the postcard.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude at Solemn Mass on Sunday is an improvisation on the plainsong tune Veni, veni, Emmanuel, which is also sung today as the offertory hymn. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa Brevis by Benjamin Britten (1913–1976). Britten wrote the Mass in 1959 for the boys of Westminster Cathedral Choir, London. He had heard the boys sing under their director George Malcolm and had been excited by the unconventional strong-toned singing that they produced. In fact, most of Britten’s choral music was written with boys’ voices in mind. The work displays Britten’s characteristic flair for writing for younger voices, but retains a devout liturgical gravitas. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet There is no rose to an anonymous fifteenth-century English setting found in a manuscript entitled the “Trinity Roll,” which is held in the library of Trinity College, Cambridge University. James Kennerley
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2010-2011 . . . We continue to make progress, if a bit more slowly than we would like: as of December 15, we have received pledges from 141 households. Of those households, 18 are pledging for the first time or have begun to pledge again after some time away from the parish. $362,656.00 has been pledged to date, which is around 20% less than what the Budget Committee hoped we might achieve during this year’s campaign. We still have a ways to go. We have received pledges from only 67% of the households that pledged during last year’s campaign. We very much hope that by year’s end we will have received pledges from every household that pledged last year, as well as from new members and friends of the parish. If you are worried about finances or about your ability to fulfill your pledge, understandable concerns in these difficult times, please note the very encouraging news in these statistics: we are just 20% short of our goal! In these circumstances, every pledge makes a difference. Every pledge matters. Every single gift, no matter its size, brings us closer to our goal! The Budget Committee is still preparing a budget for the coming year. Please help them to make a realistic and hopeful plan. Join those who have already made a pledge and help us to continue our ministry to our members, our friends, and to the Times Square community. We are very grateful to all those who continue to support Saint Mary’s so faithfully and so generously. Jay Smith
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . 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 next on January 5 at 7:00 PM, following Solemn Evensong. The class will be led by our seminarian Rem Slone.
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 . . . 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
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