The Angelus

Volume XII, Number 15

From the Rector: When Eucharistic Signs Signify

If any of us were to walk into an assembly hall that was completely empty except for a table and what appeared to be a small empty pool, few of us would immediately think we were in a Christian church.  But a table and a pool are the fundamental signs that we are in a place where the Body of Christ gathers.  What’s going on?  What’s happened?  If table and pool, things that are primary and fundamental for the Christian assembly, no longer signify, then something is amiss.

The journal Worship, in January and March 2007, published articles by Patrick Regan on the development of the liturgies of Good Friday and Maundy Thursday in the city of Rome.  The articles reminded me of some fundamental changes in the way the Eucharist was celebrated and experienced in the Middle Ages, changes that are still very much with us today.

In the eleventh century France, texts for the first time indicate that the Sacrament reserved for communion on Good Friday is a focus of devotion.  In the year 1210, we get the first record of any celebrant lifting the bread over his head at the words of institution so the congregation can see it.  (As far as we know, before then, they just touched it.)  Of course, these are the centuries when the Christian community has lost any sense that Jesus’ words, “Take, eat” and “Drink this, all of you,” were his commands for them to follow.  The Eucharist was not their ordinary spiritual food.

For most of the last 1000 years, Christians received communion once a year, at Easter.  (At Saint Mary’s, communion wasn’t even offered to the congregation at the principal Sunday Eucharist until Good Shepherd Sunday 1967.)  The rubric in the Prayer Book requiring the celebrant to receive communion first at Mass has its origins in the Church trying to make sure that at least someone received communion at every Eucharist.

Paul Bradshaw argues convincingly that the words of institution were introduced into eucharistic prayers in the late fourth century as a means of catechesis, not consecration (see his Eucharistic Origins (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 140).  Just as we have inherited a sense of what makes a building look like a church, almost all Christians, of whatever denomination, experience our Lord’s words as a formula of consecration.  In churches of our Anglo-catholic tradition, our buildings and our ceremonial articulate this understanding.

Well, our building is our building.  Our inheritance is our inheritance.  You and I can’t undo the Middle Ages.  I have no desire to mess with the architectural integrity of Saint Mary’s or anything other church building.  That said, I have been thinking about how our Eucharistic signs might signify more fully that they are food.  I have been thinking about bread and wine.

On Maundy Thursday, at the Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper, we will use real bread and ordinary red wine for communion.  The bread will be baked by a professional using a recipe I know well from Saint Gregory’s Abbey, Three Rivers, Michigan, that was and still is used at my former parish, Trinity Church, Michigan City, Indiana.  The wine will be something that one would drink at an ordinary dinner with guests.

The nature of our community and our ministry to so many visitors makes the regular use of any form of bread other than wafers totally impractical.  Fortified wine is used for communion here, and almost everywhere, so that it can be reserved without fear of spoilage.  Again, these are practical matters.  But it seems to me that there should be at least one service during the year when it is clear that behind our wafers and sweet wine is the ordinary stuff.  Maundy Thursday seems the right service to do this.  It is probably the most intimate, most congregational, of all the principal liturgies of our year.

Patrick Regan’s work on Holy Week liturgies uncovered many things I didn’t know.  In the seventh century, though communion was being given on Good Friday at what are called the “titular” parish churches in Rome, at the pope’s liturgy, the pope left before communion was distributed to the people.  The pope and his retinue continued the older city tradition of no communion on Good Friday.  The practice of receiving this day arrived in Rome from the east.  It turns out, Good Friday communion arises from one of the most primitive strands of Christian spirituality, and here Regan uses Bradshaw’s phrase, “feeding on the life-giving Jesus” (“The Eucharistic Sayings of Jesus,” Studia Liturgica 35 (2005), 11).  In our own way, I hope on Maundy Thursday we will do many things Jesus himself told us to do, wash feet, eat and drink, and most of all, continue to grow in love for one another.  Stephen Gerth


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED especially for Carol, Donald, Angie, Rolf, Wayne, Jack, Daisy, Ross, Alice, Charlie, Jo Ann, Roger, Henry, Nicholas, Chris, Dorothy, Robert, Elsa, Juan, Chris, William, Gert, Mary, Rick, Anson, Mary, and Pegram, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially John, James, Christine, Kayla, Marc, Benjamin, Patrick, and Andrew; and for the repose of the soul of Richard . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 7: 1903 Mrs. Eliza P. Ward; 1906 N.A. Stallard; 1917 Clara Graham Durrant; 1921 Alberta Osbal Plaistridge; 1925 Isabelle Cook; 1933 Alice Smith Baker; 1947 George Widmayer; 1967 Frank Hartlage.


IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . We have received word of the death on February 18 of Richard Proulx, retired organist and music director, Holy Name Roman Catholic Cathedral, Chicago.  He came to Chicago from Saint Thomas Church, Medina, Washington, where he will be interred.  A memorial service was held at his home parish, the Church of Saint Paul & the Redeemer, Chicago.  Many may not know his name, but you have probably sung A Community Mass.  He was a major contributor to The Hymnal 1982.  Please pray for him and for all who mourn.  S.G.


THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Friday, March 5, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross . . . Saint Mary’s Guild, the parish’s altar guild, will meet on Saturday, March 6, after the noonday Mass.  If you would like to know more about the guild’s work, please speak to Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., or Marie Rosseels . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, March 6.  Father Merz will hear confessions on Saturday, March 13.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . Thank you to Dennis Raverty, who designed the Lent and the Holy Week posters on display in Saint Joseph’s Hall.  We are grateful for the gift of his talent and his time . . . Thank you to the monks of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Brookline, Massachusetts, who gave us permission to use the images on the posters and on our Lenten postcard . . . Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., is away from the parish for retreat and a few days of vacation.  She returns to Saint Mary’s on Sunday, March 14 . . . The Rector will be on vacation and away from the parish from Tuesday, March 9, until Wednesday, March 17.  He returns to the office on Thursday, March 18 . . . The parish kitchen has been repainted.  It looks great . . . Father Smith continues his book sale on Sunday in Saint Joseph’s Hall.  All proceeds will be used to benefit the people of Haiti and agencies working there . . . We sometimes hear from parishioners and friends of the parish who are looking for work, especially during these difficult times.  If you know of a job opening, please contact Father Smith . . . Last Sunday 314.


Outreach at Saint Mary’s . . . Thank you so much to all those who have made special donations to the parish’s various outreach projects and partners, including those who have donated books to the Book Sale.  Checks were sent this week to Episcopal Relief and Development and the International Rescue Committee (in support of the people of Haiti); the Dwelling Place, a shelter for homeless women on 40th Street; the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry; the Order of the Holy Cross’s Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery in Grahamstown, South Africa; and the parish of San Juan Evangelista, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  We could not have made these donations without the generous support of our many friends and parishioners.


FROM THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT . . . On Sunday, the mass ordinary is Missa “Nunca fué pena mayor” by Francisco de Peñalosa (c. 1470-1528).  Perhaps Spain’s most important composer of the generation preceding Cristóbal de Morales, Peñalosa worked at a time when Spanish church music became greatly influenced by the international “Flemish” style.  His career was aided by Spain’s prominence at that time.  A renowned singer, he was a member of the Papal Chapel choir after leaving Seville for Rome in 1517.  This relatively brief setting (one of the composer’s six masses) is based upon a villancico (a type of Spanish song) by the Flemish composer Johannes Urrede.  At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet In jejunio et fletu orabant sacerdotes (“In fasting and weeping the priests prayed”) by Thomas Tallis (ca. 1505-1585).  At Solemn Evensong and Benediction on Sunday, the service will be played by parishioner Mark Peterson.  James Kennerley


CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . March 7, 14 and 21: The Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Led by Father Peter Powell . . . April 25: Prof. Dennis Raverty, art historian and friend of Saint Mary’s, will give a slide lecture on “God & Nature in the Nineteenth-Century American Romantic Landscape”.  The lecture will examine how painters of the Hudson River School were influenced by contemporaneous understandings of the relationship between God, Humankind & Nature . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class meets at 6:30 PM on Wednesdays.  The class meets in the Arch Room in the Mission House.  The class, led by Sister Deborah Francis and Sister Laura Katharine, is reading Ecclesiastes and Job.


IN CONCERT AT SAINT MARYS . . . The New York Repertory Orchestra (NYRO), David Leibowitz, music director, will present its next concert at Saint Mary’s on Saturday, March 27, 2010, at 8:00 PM.  The program will include Busoni’s Orchestral Suite No. 2 (“Geharnischte”), Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy, and a world premiere of a work by Stephen Dembski, Raven-Year, which was commissioned by NYRO.  For information, please, 212.662.8383, or



The Parish Clergy

The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector

The Reverend James Ross Smith, curate

The Reverend Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, deacon

The Reverend John Merz, assisting priest

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


Parish Staff

Mr. Aaron Koch, business manager

Mr. Steven Gonley, building superintendent,

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