FROM THE RECTOR: INEFFABLE EASTER
I have been wrestling this Eastertide with what for me is a new realization of how little we know about the disciples and the resurrection. This has struck me pretty forcefully this year. Why wouldn’t we know more than we do about the most important thing, the resurrection? I’m not thinking here about Jesus and the tomb. I’m thinking about the encounter of the disciples with the risen Lord.
The best manuscripts of Mark’s gospel end with the three women who came to the tomb fleeing with fear (Mark 16:1-8). In Matthew, the disciples meet the risen Jesus in Galilee and receive what we call the Great Commission (28:19-20); but that’s all we learn. In Luke and John there’s more, but not much.
In Luke there are three stories, all from the evening of the first Easter Day. The most well known is probably the encounter on the road to Emmaus. And it’s the only one where we have a hint of what the disciples experienced. After the two disciples on the road recognized Jesus, he “vanished out of their sight.” Then, they said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?" (See Luke 24:13-33).
In John, there are two encounters of the disciples with the risen Lord in Jerusalem, one with and one without Thomas (John 20:19-29). Then, there are two by the Sea of Tiberias (John 21:1-24). In Jerusalem we learn of Thomas’s doubt. At the sea we learn that Peter is “grieved” because Jesus asks Peter a third time whether Peter loves him. We don’t know any more than this about the disciples’ encounters with the risen Lord. Perhaps it is all simply beyond words, that is, ineffable.
Probably the most useful sermon critiques I have ever received were those written by the rector of the parish where I first served after seminary, Father Paul Pritchartt. He was part of a generation of priests for whom the craft of the sermon was the focus of their ministry. He was a really fine preacher and set a very high standard. He introduced me to the problem of “mythological preaching.”
By “mythological preaching” Father Pritchartt meant words that sounded good but have no connection to anything concrete. This is an example he lit on. It’s a sentence I used in a Thanksgiving Day sermon – “But go out into the desert and seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be yours as well.” Sounds good, but what does it mean?
The word “ineffable” was used in the new Prayer Book for the collect for All Saints’ Day. It replaced Cranmer’s word “unspeakable,” which had come to carry a negative sense. “Ineffable” is not an everyday word, but it sounds to my ear like old Prayer Book English. At the risk of moving to a mythological ending, I would like to suggest that one way to explain the gospels’ particular silence about the risen Jesus and the apostles is the ineffability of the encounter.
The New Testament speaks of the body of the risen Lord in different ways. Since the time of the New Testament, Christian faith has been shaped not only by what we have heard proclaimed and by what we have known in our own lives, but by the response of a world that does not hear as we hear, does not see as we see. The resurrection would be a mythological ending if we were to make claims for it that are beyond what we know. That’s something the New Testament, in its defense, really doesn’t try to do.
Christians over the centuries have too often been willing to live with fanciful stories for devotional and evangelical reasons. I’m not convinced that we need them. On the bulletin board in my office I have a card drawn by a child named Katharine. It is a drawing of the earth with a Jesus, much larger than the earth, in a simple white robe over it with his hands stretched out. The young child wrote these words, “He would do something nobody would ever think of.”
On Sunday the Easter Season closes with the Easter Day gospel from John, it is evening, and the risen Lord joins his disciples. For the second time, he pours out his Spirit on them – in John he has already done this once from the cross. Certainly we have some emphasis this Sunday on God’s revelation of God’s self as Holy Spirit among us as this Easter Season comes to an end. But the central revelation of our God and God’s plan for his creation is revealed in the death and resurrection of his Son. We can say little more than the apostles did about the resurrection. Easter is beyond our words, ineffable. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED especially for Troy, Carol, Mary, George, Loraine, Dennis, Wayne, Sharon, Chris, Alicia, Angie, Rolf, Daisy, Ross, Roger, Emil, Henry, Nicholas, Robert, Elsa, William, Gert, Mary, Rick, and Pegram, priest; for the repose of the soul of Loraine; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially John, James, Kayla, Marc, Benjamin and Andrew; and for the repose of the soul of Peter Dyer . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 23: 1895 Sarah Jane Courtright; 1923 David Hillhouse Buell, priest; 1933 Sarah Cook Montague; 1939 Victor Desiree Estephe; 1951 Emma M. Murtaugh; 1998 John Phillip Gilligan, III
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Peter Dyer, the father of parishioner Liz Tomassino, died on Saturday, May 15, following cardiac surgery. He was 74. Please pray for Peter, for his wife Sandra, for Liz and her family, and for all those who mourn.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, May 23, is the Day of Pentecost . . . Church School meet for the final time on Sunday, May 23, and resumes in early October . . . The Rector will hear confessions on Saturday, May 22. Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, May 29.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. The first ordinary Friday after Pentecost in this year of grace is May 28.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Sunday, May 30, is Trinity Sunday: Solemn Mass and Te Deum 11:00 AM; Sunday, June 6, is the Feast of the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ: Corpus Christi: Solemn Mass, Procession to Times Square and Solemn Benediction 11:00 AM . . . On Sunday May 30, we offer our final service of Evensong and Benediction for the academic year. Beginning on Sunday, June 6, the final service of the day will be Evening Prayer, said in the church at 5:00 PM, until the first Sunday in October . . . Monday, May 31, Feast of the Visitation and Memorial Day: Federal Holiday Schedule. The church opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 2:00 PM; only the noon services are offered; the parish office and the finance office are closed . . . We have received Letters of Transfer for Ivan Martin, III, and Susan Martin. Ivan and Susan live in Hoboken, New Jersey. Ivan has been a regular member of our noonday congregation and he and Susan have been coming to Saint Mary’s for some time now. We are very happy that they have joined the parish . . . Parishioners Rob Imig and Shirley Young recently moved to downtown Manhattan and have decided to make Trinity Church, Wall Street, their parish home. Shirley was baptized and the couple were married here at Saint Mary’s. We will miss them and we wish them well . . . Thank you to MaryJane Boland and Grace Bruni for their leadership of Saint Mary’s 2010 AIDS Walk Team. The Saint Mary’s Team raised $13,995.00 this year; and a total of $5,717,610 was raised for AIDS Walk 2010, an increase over last year’s total. Donations to this very worthy cause can still be made until early June . . . We are still collecting non-perishable food items and new or “gently used” clothing on Sundays for the Food Pantry at Saint Clement’s. Look for the basket at the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . The 2010 LGBT Pride March will take place on Sunday, June 27. The Committee on LGBT Concerns of the Diocese of New York is organizing this year’s effort and is making plans to introduce an Episcopal Church float at this year’s march. For more information or if you would like to make a donation to defray the costs of the float, please contact Father Mark Hummell, Chair of the Diocesan Social Concerns Commission, at email@example.com, or Paul Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org . . . Attendance:
Ascension Day 224, Last Sunday 274.
FROM THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT . . . The prelude at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is En taille a 5 and Fugue a 5 from Hymne sur Veni creator spiritus by Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa octo vocum by Hans Leo Hassler (1512-1562). Though he was Protestant, Hassler, a student in Venice of Andrea Gabrieli (c. 1510-1586), wrote a good amount of Latin music for Roman Catholic liturgy (in addition to madrigals, keyboard music and instrumental music). This work for double choir (two distinct choirs of four parts each) bears the influence of the Venetian polychoral tradition. This tradition, which was prominent at the time of the transition from Renaissance to Baroque styles of music, is particularly associated with Giovanni Gabrieli, organist of Saint Mark’s, Venice. Giovanni Gabrieli was a nephew of Andrea Gabrieli and a contemporary of Hassler. At the Ministration of Communion, the choir sings a setting of the dramatic text Dum complerentur for five voices by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548-1611). On Sunday afternoon at 4:40 PM, before Solemn Evensong and Benediction, I will play the organ recital. The recital program includes music by de Grigny and Petr Eben (1929-2007) . . . The Saint Mary’s Singers rehearse for their final service of the year on May 30 (Trinity Sunday) at 2:30 PM in the Choir Room. They will then sing for the 5:00 PM service of Solemn Evensong and Benediction. This is your choir – so please do your best to promote this wonderful opportunity. Interested singers are very welcome to join us – please email me (email@example.com) if you are interested. James Kennerley
FROM THE PARISH ARCHIVES . . . An excerpt from a letter to Dr. Barry, rector, from Haley Fiske, vice-president of the trustees, May 10, 1927. Dr. Barry is upstate recuperating from a recent illness. The bishop of New York was William Thomas Manning . . . There is no news. I suppose you heard of the Confirmation service. About thirty were confirmed. I understood . . . there were to be eight male adults, but I only saw three. The service was very fine, but as usual Mr. Nold [music director] only permitted the congregation to sing one Hymn out of four or five.
We had a funny time about the Bishop. He did not turn up and the Cathedral telephone office was of course closed and his own telephone is not registered and Central refused to give it. By running through the book I discovered the fact that the Verger lives outside the Cathedral and has a separate number, so through him we got the Bishop’s house. He was very busily writing his diocesan address. He said his secretary had not told him anything about it and he was quite horrified, but took a taxi down to the Church and arrived just after Evensong was finished. He wore Cope and Mitre and looked the part, and blessed the people as he went about and in every way acted as a Catholic Bishop ought to. He sermon was very short and very good. He sent his best love to you and wanted you to know that he frequently remembers you at Mass. He was of course very much annoyed at the failure of his Secretary to notify him and said it was the first time it had ever happened, but he was so glad he was at home, because if he had been away he would never have forgiven himself.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At Mobia, the Museum of Biblical Art, 1865 Broadway at 61st Street: Uneasy Communion: Jews, Christians, and the Altarpieces of Medieval Spain. The exhibition discusses the last two centuries of medieval Spanish history from the vantage point of religious art, and illustrates the cooperative relationship between Christian and Jewish artists, who worked either independently or together to create art both for the Church and the Jewish community. The exhibition closes on May 30, 2010 . . . Also at Mobia beginning June 18 through September 12, 2010: Ukrainian Icons. September 12, 2010. This exhibition from the collection of the oldest monastery in Ukraine, the Kyiv-Pecherskaya Lavra (or “Monastery of the Caves”) will survey the history of Ukrainian icons and their stylistic evolution over the centuries. Ukrainian icons, unlike their Russian counterparts, show distinct influences from Western artistic traditions. Alongside icons the exhibition will display textiles, ceremonial and altar crosses, chalices and other liturgical objects . . . The Asia Society through June 20 has an exhibition, Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art. It features items from the first through the twentieth centuries. Details: http://pilgrimage.asiasociety.org/.
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
The Parish Musicians
Mr. James Kennerley, organist and music director
Mr. Lawrence Trupiano, organ curator