From The Rector: The New Church Year
The Christian year, in recent centuries, has begun four Sundays before Christmas Day. To be honest, the more I learn about the Church calendar the less I seem to know. It is an enormously complex subject. For practical purposes, but admittedly not for scholarly ones, this is what we need to know. This year Advent begins on Sunday, November 29.
For the generation of Episcopalians who grew up with The Hymnal 1940, Advent seems naturally to be the beginning of the year. The first section of that hymnal is for Advent hymns, and the first of these hymns is “Come, thou long expected Jesus.” The text is by Charles Wesley (1707-1788). I’m not sure when it was paired with the tune “Stuttgart” by Christian Friedrich Witt (1660-1716). It remains one of our most beloved hymns. It is what great hymns always are, a vehicle prayer, praise and conversion.
Each verse of Wesley’s hymn is a home run. (It’s hymn 66 in The Hymnal 1982. Quick: Can anyone name the current first hymn?) He speaks poetically, beautifully about God’s plan to bring all people to know him, love him and serve him. If I had to pick one phrase that’s very helpful to me right now it would be from Wesley’s first verse, “from our fears and sins release us.”
The gospels we hear on Sundays at the beginning of Advent are about human “fears and sins.” The first Sunday is on the end of the world, the second and third on the preaching of John the Baptist. Only on the fourth Sunday do we hear a gospel from what Matthew and Luke wrote in preparation for Christ’s birth. I think the gospel passages on the end of time and judgment are important, but they don’t seem as helpful for preparation for Christmas as what Matthew and Luke wrote. (See Matthew 1:1-25 and Luke 1:1-2:7.)
Every day we human beings live with fear and sin. Sin and fear have a way of catching our attention. And if we don’t keep them in the right perspective, they can paralyze us or send us off into the wrong direction. They can also keep us from discovering what is new. Christianity, like life, is always lived in the present and future. In some sense, to be Christian is to be open to something new, to live without knowing many details of what will be.
The last section of the Catechism of the Prayer Book is called, “The Christian Hope” (page 861). The first question of this section is, “What is the Christian hope?” The answer is this, “The Christian hope is to live with confidence in newness and fullness of life, and to await the coming of Christ in glory, and the completion of God’s purpose for the world.” This confidence comes to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Sin and fear are not conquered merely by following commandments; they are conquered by death, resurrection and grace. Life itself, I believe, is the sign of eternal life, something no one could believe until God’s Son died and rose. Advent, like, Christmas and the rest of the Church year, is really all about Easter. Happy New Year! Stephen Gerth
SUNDAY PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Carol, Jack, Sandy, Burt, Dennis, Isaura, Regina, Josephine, Robert, Chris, Timothy, Alex, Aaron, Dorothy, Sharon, Margaret, Harold, Marcia, Stephen, Madeleine, William, Gert, Mary, Allan, Rick, and Emil, RELIGIOUS . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . November 29: 1893 Adolph Seitz; 1907 Peter Heim; 1929 Mabel R. Beardsley; 1935 Helen Morgan Fahnestock; 1949 Amelia Isobel Pratt.
I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE for Paul Wojnicki and Alena Chalmovska of Leeds, United Kingdom. If any of you know just cause why they may not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are bidden to declare it. This is the second time of asking. J.R.S.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday School for Children will meet on November 29 . . . The Adult Forum will not meet on November 29; it resumes on December 6 . . . The Reverend Horace Choate, Jr., rector, Zion Church, Wappingers Falls, will be preacher for Solemn Evensong on Sunday, November 29. Father Choate served as assisting deacon in 1998 and assisting priest in 1999 here at Saint Mary’s . . . Monday, November 30, is the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle. In addition to the 12:10 celebration of the Eucharist, Mass will also be celebrated at 6:20 PM.
AROUND THE PARISH . . Volunteers are needed on Saturday, December 19, to polish brass and help organize the sacristy for Christmas. Please speak with Daniel Craig or Sister Laura Katharine if you can help . . . Volunteers are also needed to help decorate the church: Sunday, December 20, after Solemn Mass; Tuesday, December 22, and Wednesday, December 23, work sessions beginning around 9:30 AM; Thursday, December 24, final work session at 10:00 AM, following the 9:00 AM Mass. There will also be a work session after Epiphany (date and time to be announced) to “un-decorate” the church. Please contact Marie Rosseels or Rick Austill if you would like to help. All are welcome! . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 276.
ADVENT AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Christian year begins four Sundays before Christmas Day with the First Sunday of Advent. The most visible signs of Advent are the liturgical colors, the absence of flowers for most days during these weeks and the singing of Kyrie eleison in place of Gloria in excelsis on Sundays. As is our custom, at the Solemn Masses until Lent we will use Eucharistic Prayer B. Prayer B’s proclamation of salvation history emphasizes Christ’s incarnation and makes it especially appropriate for Advent, Christmastide, and the Season after the Epiphany. Some of the loveliest entrance chants are sung during these weeks, notably the chant appointed for the First Sunday of Advent. “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; my God I put my trust in you” is about the best prayer for the beginning of the year one could make. S.G.
RECEIVING “THE ANGELUS” BY EMAIL . . . “The Angelus” is a vital communication tool that keeps us in touch with both members and friends around the country and, indeed, around the world. We don’t want to lose this opportunity to keep in touch, but postal costs continue to rise. Last week we spent nearly $75.00 on postage for the newsletter. If you receive the newsletter by mail and can make a special donation to defray the costs of postage, we would appreciate it; and thanks so much to all those who have already “subscribed” to the newsletter and have sent us a donation.
PATRONAL FEAST . . . Monday, December 7, on the Eve of the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemn Evensong will be offered at 6:00 PM. Tuesday, December 8, the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary our schedule is: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM and Solemn Mass 6:00 PM. A reception follows the evening Mass in Saint Joseph’s Hall.
FROM THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT . . . The prelude at Solemn Mass this Sunday is the chorale prelude on Wachet auf, ruft uns die stimme, BWV 645, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). It is a setting of the chorale tune sung at the Offertory today, and was part of a collection (known as the Schübler Chorales) of six chorale preludes that Bach arranged from his cantatas and published as a set in the late 1740s. The setting of the Mass Ordinary is the Missa Brevis in G (“Rorate coeli desuper”), Hob. XXII:3 by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). The setting was composed around 1750, and is probably the first mass that Haydn published. It is a true “missa brevis” (literally, “brief mass”): the Gloria, for example, (which lasts about one minute) is composed in such a way that the voice parts sing multiple lines of the text simultaneously. At the ministration of communion, the choir sings the motet Rorate coeli desuper by William Byrd (1543-1623). Solemn Evensong is sung by the upper voices of the professional parish choir. The canticles are sung to the setting Plainsong with faburdens by English composer and former organist of York Minster, Philip Moore (b. 1943). They are based on the plainsong Tonus peregrinus (literally “wandering tone”), so-named because the reciting note of the chant changes from the first to the second half. Its mood is particularly appropriate for Advent . . . On Saturday, December 19, at 8:00 PM, I will be the organ soloist for Poulenc’s Concerto pour orgue; other music will include Saint-Saëns’ Concerto No.3 (“Organ”) and Thompson’s The plough that broke the plains, played by the New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, conductor. James Kennerley
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2010 UPDATE . . . As of November 24, 121 households have pledged $332,374, which is 62% of our goal of $535,044. 61 households have been able to increase their pledge this year; and 18 of the 121 households are either pledging for the first time or are pledging this year, although they were not able to do so for 2009. We give thanks to God for these acts of generosity and we rejoice that so many have come together to support the work of this parish. Now that Commitment Sunday has come and gone and as the end of the year approaches, we hope that those who have not yet made a pledge will be able to do so soon. We are almost two-thirds of the way to our goal!
WHAT THINGS COST AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Hundreds of worshippers and visitors walk through the open doors of Saint Mary's each day. With so many pilgrims passing through, keeping the church “clean” is more than a fulltime job. The cleaning supplies alone (polish, wax, detergent, bleach, mops, buckets, etc.) that our sextons use cost the parish a little over $52 per day, or nearly $19,000 per year. This is only one of the costs of cleanliness – and we all know what that is next to. Steven Heffner, treasurer
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Adult Education class will not meet this coming Sunday, November 29 . . . Adult Education – Studies in Christian Liturgy: Sunday, December 6, 10:00 AM, Mission House, 2nd Floor, Led by Father Gerth, The American Editions of the Book of Common Prayer, 1789-1979. The Adult Education Class will take a break for the holidays between December 13 and mid-January . . . Church School for Children continues on Sundays at 10:00 AM in the Morning Room, just outside the sacristy. This year, Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins is the Church-School teacher. She is beginning to work with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. The children are busy in the Morning Room on Sundays, working with Scripture and liturgy appropriate to their age. They have also been singing! We welcome young children to join the Church School at any time. The children need not have attended earlier sessions. For more information, please contact Deacon Weiner Tompkins or the office.
OUTREACH MINISTRIES AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to collect non-perishable food items and new or “gently used” clothing for the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s Church. The Pantry serves families living in our own neighborhood. The Pantry fills an increasingly important need during this time of economic difficulty. Those needs are particularly pressing during the next six weeks. You are invited to bring food or clothing and place it in the basket in Saint Joseph’s Hall after Mass (or at the ushers’ table before Mass). You can also make a cash donation, if that is more convenient for you (speak to Father Smith about how to do that). We just made a large delivery to Saint Clement’s this past week. (Thank you to MaryJane Boland, Scott Holman, Aaron Koch, Dick Leitsch, Marie Rosseels, Seth Sabanda, Tony Santiago, and Andrew Smith for making the delivery happen) . . . AIDS Action International (AIA): We delivered Saint Mary’s offering of toys and gift items for children and adults to the Cathedral last week, in preparation for the AIA event on Tuesday, November 17. Once again, Father Rand Frew, director of AIA, expressed his gratitude to the friends and members of Saint Mary’s for their ongoing support of AIDS Action International . . . 21st Annual New York Cares Coat Drive: Once again this year – between December 1 and December 31 – we are participating in the Coat Drive. You are invited to bring your new or gently used coats, for either children or adults, to church on Sundays. We will deliver them to one of the donation sites at the end of December . . . Parish of San Juan Evangelista, Villanueva, Honduras: Though we are not planning a mission trip this year, we hope to be able to continue to provide our friends at San Juan Evangelista with financial support. Please speak to Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins for details . . . Episcopal Response to AIDS commemorates World AIDS Day: You are invited to join parishes from around the diocese and the metropolitan area to commemorate World AIDS Day 2009 at a celebration of the Holy Eucharist, on Tuesday, December 1, at 6:30 PM, at the Church of Christ and St. Stephen, 120 West 69th Street, New York, NY. J.R.S.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The First Sunday of Advent
Monday Saint Andrew the Apostle
Tuesday Nicholas Ferrar, Deacon, 1637
Wednesday Advent Weekday
Thursday Advent Weekday
Friday John of Damascus, Priest, c. 760 Abstinence
Saturday Clement of Alexandria, Priest, c. 210
Eve of the Second Sunday of Advent
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Said Mass, 10:00 AM Church School, 10:00 AM Adult Education, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, 4:40 PM Organ Recital, 5:00 PM Solemn Evensong & Benediction. 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. Holy Days as announced.
Saturday: 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Vigil Mass for Sunday. The Adult Education Class will not meet on Sunday, November 29. Class resumes on December 6.