The Angelus

Volume XII, Number 30

From Father Smith: Breaking the Cycle

I don’t know a lot about opera and I know even less about medieval German literature; and so, when I picked up a recent issue of the Times Literary Supplement and read the following headline, “Before Wagner: The Song of the Nibelungs deserves a wider readership than students of German and lovers of opera,” I surrendered.  I’m not sure if I was surrendering to curiosity or to some kind of guilt about my ignorance, but surrender I did.  I read the review of a new English translation of the Song and discovered that the text of the Nibelungenlied had a long and complicated history “before Wagner.”  It turns out that this “greatest medieval German heroic poem” or “revenge saga” existed as oral poetry before it was written down around the year 1200 by an anonymous poet.  It was very popular during the Middle Ages, but in the years after 1500 it ceased to be much read until, in the eighteenth century, it was “rediscovered,” treated, anachronistically, as a kind of German “national epic” by the writers of the Romantic movement, appropriated by Richard Wagner for his Ring cycle, and then, horribly and notoriously abused by the ideologues of Germany’s Third Reich.

Those of you less ignorant than I will know that the Song of the Nibelungs tells the tragic and brutal story of the hero Siegfried, of his murder by political rivals, of the vengeance taken by Siegfried’s wife, Kriemhild, and, finally, and inevitably, of the death of Kriemhild at the hands of those who savagely respond to vengeance with vengeance.

The author of the review says the following about this cycle of violence and revenge, “When Siegfried dies, [Kriemhild] takes his loss into her heart and becomes like him.  But she has no intention of ‘getting over’ him by acknowledging this bereavement and moving on.  To her, that would be not only impossible, but also a betrayal.  Remembering the dead to Kriemhild means physically holding on to them.  The only way in which she can envisage overcoming her loss is also corporal:  by passing the loss [on] to somebody else.  As if there were only one pain, she thinks she can get rid of her grief by inflicting it on the perpetrators.  This is behind her desire for revenge…the only cure for Kriemhild is hurting somebody else” (Bettina Bildhauer, TLS, No. 5593, June 11, 2010, p. 3).

From the earliest days of the Church, Christian theologians have tried to answer the questions that are, and must be, asked in every generation: Why did God become incarnate? Why did Jesus die on the cross? Why did Jesus have to die on the cross?  In an odd way, with her profoundly secular text (Christianity is never mentioned in the review), Ms. Bildhauer allows us to propose a modern answer to those ancient questions: the Son of God takes on human flesh and dwells among us and teaches and heals and suffers and dies and rises from the dead in order to put an end to the illusion that “hurting somebody else” will cure the rage, the pain, the grief, and the fear of death that dwell in our all-too-human hearts.

In the twenty-second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, after eating the Last Supper with his disciples, Jesus goes to the Mount of Olives.  After praying by himself, he gets up, awakens his sleeping followers, and is approached by a crowd led by Judas Iscariot who has come to betray him.  The evangelist writes, “When those who were around him saw what was coming, they asked, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.  But Jesus said, ‘No more of this.’”  Jesus lives out these words, he makes them “corporal,” by willingly going to his death on the cross; and the Father’s response to Jesus’ “oblation of himself once offered” is also “corporal.”  He raises his Son from the dead and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, gives us his Son’s Body and Blood, a meal and a gift that Christians have taken into their bodies, Sunday after Sunday, down through the centuries.  Is it too much to think that this gift is a way to break the cycle of violence and vengeance?  Could it be that the Eucharist is the tangible, bodily antidote, the cure for hatred and the thirst for vengeance?  Could it be that when we get out of bed and go off to Mass on a hot Sunday morning in June we are letting God in, letting God work on us, letting God heal the dangerous fantasy that “hurting somebody else” will heal us, make us happier, give us life or end our pain?  (Source: The Nibelungenlied. Translation and introduction by Cyril Edwards. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).    Jay Smith


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED especially for Carol, Santiago, John, Robbie, MaryJane, Sharon, Wayne, James, Robert, Chris, Angie, Rolf, Daisy, Ross, Nicholas, Robert, Elsa, William, Gert, Mary, George, Rick, and Pegram, priest; for the repose of the soul of Richard Pilozzi; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially John, James, Kayla, Marc, and Benjamin . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 20: 1874 Charles Alfred Smith; 1879 Andrew Ward; 1890 Ann Sands Campbell; 1894 Emma A. Jones; 1901 Sarah J. Rosencrantz; 1913 Carolina Boughton Chambers; 1920 Johanna M. Barr; 1930 Edwin Elisha Carpenter


I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE between Martin Franks of Washington, D.C., and Sherry McCaffery of Washington, D.C.  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.  S.G.


THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Board of Trustees will meet on Monday, June 21, in the Arch Room, on the second floor of the Mission House, at 6:30 PM, following Evening Prayer . . . Thursday, June 24, The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . The Rector is away from the parish until Monday, June 21.  He will chair the Board Meeting on Monday, June 21 and will return to the office on Wednesday, June 23 . . . Our Christian Education classes have concluded for the year and will resume in October.  Child care will continue every Sunday throughout the summer from 8:45 AM until 12:45 PM.  Please stay tuned for announcements about our 2010-2011 Christian Education schedule and offerings . . . Father John Merz will hear confessions on Saturday, June 19.  Father Jay Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, June 26.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . Tuesday, June 29, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Monday, July 5, Independence Day, Federal Holiday Schedule: The church opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 2:00 PM, the noon services are offered, and the parish offices are closed . . . The Visual Arts Program is now presenting a an exhibition in Saint Joseph’s Hall, curated by parishioner Terry Carlson.  The exhibition consists of photographs taken from the parish archives, including photos of the first church building on 45th Street, as well as of the façade of the present building . . . We are grateful to parishioners Clint Best, Grace Bruni, Scott Holman and Dick Leitsch, who continue to volunteer their time and expertise, providing us with invaluable assistance in the parish and finance offices . . . New York Polyphony recently issued a new CD entitled Tudor City.  Copies of the new CD are now on sale in the Gift Shop.  The members of this early-music group are good friends of Saint Mary’s . . . Father Smith will be away from the parish from Monday, June 28 until Sunday, July 25.  He returns to the office on Monday, July 26 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 247.


FROM THE MUSIC DEPARTMENT . . . Solemn Mass on Sunday is sung by the Choir of Saint John’s Church, Tampa, Florida, directed by Simon Morley, director.  I will accompany the choir.  We are extremely grateful to our visitors for singing at Saint Mary’s.  The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa Brevis by Simon Preston (b. 1938).  Preston was born in Bournemouth, England, and was the organist and choir master of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, and then, until 1987, of Westminster Abbey.  The Missa Brevis, composed in 1967, features a particularly rhythmic Gloria, the main motif of which is based on the familiar plainsong intonation to the hymn.  At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet O vos omnes by Spanish composer and cellist Pablo Casals (1876-1973).  James Kennerley


SAINT MARY’S IN CENTRAL PARK . . . Parishioner Grace Bruni is leading an expedition of Saint Marians to Central Park to picnic in style and to hear the New York Philharmonic and the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra on the Great Lawn on Tuesday, July 13.  This free concert, which begins at 8:00 PM, features works of Tchaikovsky, Bernstein, Ravel, and Gershwin, along with a fireworks display following the concert.  You can meet Grace in the Park or travel uptown with MaryJane Boland and a group from Saint Mary's after Evening Prayer; if you have questions, please contact Grace or MaryJane.


LOOKING AHEAD . . . On Sunday, July 4, Solemn Mass will be sung by the Choir of Downing College, Cambridge University, directed by organ scholar Camilla Godlee.  The music for the Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM will include works by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) and Pierre Villette (1926-1969) . . . Friday, July 16, 1:00 PM, Concert by Angelus, Dana Farrell, director . . . On Sunday, August 15, 2010, the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus, will be celebrant for the Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM in observance of the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood on August 9, 1960.  Our guest preacher will be the Reverend Dr. David Wood, parish priest, Grace Church Joondalup, and Anglican chaplain, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia.  More details will follow later this summer . . . Third Annual Oktoberfest and Hymn Sing, Saturday, October 2, 6:00-9:30 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall and the Organ Loft.  All are invited.  Please consider inviting your friends.  James Kennerley will be giving his wonderful “tour of the organ,” something that children of all ages will find fascinating and entertaining . . . In November, the Visual Arts Program will present Nativity Scenes: Works on Paper by Carlos Molina in the gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . On Saturday, December 11, from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, there will be an Advent Quiet Day, led by Father John Beddingfield.  Father Beddingfield, who served here as curate, has been the Rector of All Saints Memorial Church, Washington, D.C., since he left Saint Mary’s in the fall of 2007.


The Calendar of the Week

Sunday                              The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Monday                                 Weekday

Tuesday                                 Alban, First Martyr of Britain, c. 304

Wednesday                           Weekday

                                                 Eve of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Thursday                            The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Friday                                     Weekday                                                                                                                                                                                                 Abstinence

Saturday                                Of Our Lady

                                                 Eve of the Fifth Sunday after Pentecost


Saint Mary’s is open every day of the year for worship, prayer and rest.  Most weekdays the church is open from 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM.  On Saturdays the church is open from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM.  On Sundays it is open from 8:00 AM to 6:30 PM.  On holidays the church is open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

On Sundays our services are: Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 AM, Mass 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Evening Prayer 5:00 PM.

For the complete list of daily services, please see our web page at