FROM THE RECTOR: Transfiguration
William Reed Huntington (1838-1909) was rector of Grace Church, New York City, from 1883 until his death. He was among the most influential leaders of the Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century. His life and witness is commemorated in the calendar of the Church on July 27. He was a leader in the revival of the order of deaconesses. His writings on church unity formed the basis of what became the “Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral” (Prayer Book, 876-888).
Huntington was also a leader in the 1892 revision of the Book of Common Prayer, the first revision since 1789. In the end, the 1892 book made very few changes to the 1789 book. But Huntington’s generous, intelligent and prophetic character helped shaped the generation of church leaders who would give us the 1928 Prayer Book and set the stage for the present book.
I’ve been thinking about Dr. Huntington today because the Transfiguration is celebrated on Friday, August 6. It was the only new commemoration added in 1892 to the 1789 Prayer Book calendar – would that today’s leaders showed such restraint. I don’t know how many collects Huntington edited or wrote, but I do know that he composed new prayers for Monday in Holy Week (used also in the 1979 Prayer Book on Fridays at Morning Prayer) and for the Transfiguration. They are very fine compositions for reasons both literary and theological:
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified; Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God, who on the mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine only-begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistering; Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty, who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.
The former prayer is my favorite of the two. Its simplicity and its theological contrasts just work. In our new Prayer Book, Huntington’s use of the now archaic “glistering” in his collect for the Transfiguration is replaced by “glistening” in the traditional and contemporary language versions of the prayer. There’s still something old fashioned to my ear about “raiment white and glistening”; but I really like the phrase “being delivered from the disquietude of this world”. Asking that we may “behold the King” carries me to the vision of the New Jerusalem in the last chapters of the Revelation to John.
Western Christians didn’t widely celebrate the Transfiguration until the eve of the Reformation – one reason, perhaps, it was dropped from the calendar by the Church of England. It’s not only odd that it didn’t survive the English Reformation – it certainly meets the Reformation test of being scriptural – but unlike many other commemorations, this one didn’t take hold in the West for a very long time. Now the Transfiguration is celebrated also in Lent by the Roman Church. We Episcopalians also celebrate it on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday. The power of the Transfiguration hasn’t been lost, even if it has had an unusually slow journey in the life of the Church.
Yesterday I was asked how I stayed focused in my spiritual life. My quick response was something about going to church a lot – which I do, which I love. My mind kept coming back to the question during the day and I realized at the core of worship for me is a continual encounter with the Bible, God’s word, the narrative of the unfolding of God’s kingdom. This too is a slow journey.
The Transfiguration of our individual lives and our world, that is, God revealing Christ’s presence in us, is God’s work. I think it is easier for us to be aware of God’s presence and work in all people when we are moving to him and not away from him. When we make time for Scripture, Mass, prayer and others, I think we are moving towards God.
Huntington’s collects for Monday in Holy Week and for the Transfiguration capture well something really important about the journey. The way of the cross is the way of life and peace. From the disquietude of this world, may we behold the One “born King of the angels”, “lost in wonder, love, and praise.” Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED especially for Matthew, who is gravely ill, for Connie who is hospitalized, and for Carol, Margaret, Isaura, Barbara Ann, Alan, Debbie, Bonnie, Kevin, Gerardo, Cesar, Pamela, Sharon, Chris, Rolf, Daisy, Ross, Nicholas, Elsa, William, Gert, Mary, George, Rick, Charles, priest, and Pegram, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially John, James, Kayla, Marc, and Benjamin . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 1: 1874 Charles Augustus Dubois; 1880 Henry Francis Clark; 1891 Leicester Kent Ely; 1917 Axel Frederick Nelson; 1919 Edna Lillian Mayer; 1928 Elizabeth Kelsey; 1930 Eva Marion Whepley; 1936 Louis Henry Morris; 1961 Whitney Blake; 1969 Mabel Upson.
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 . . . The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Friday, August 6: Morning Prayer 8:30 AM; Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM; Mass 12:10 PM; Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, July 31, and on Saturday, August 7.
CLERGY NOTES . . . The Reverend John Merz has accepted a call to be Priest-in-Charge of the Church of the Ascension, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and Missioner to Greenpoint and Williamsburg. His last service with us will be on Tuesday, August 3. Greater congratulations are in order because he and Tara Anderson are to be married on August 11 at the Church of the Transfiguration. John has served as Episcopal chaplain at New York University. We will miss him . . . The Reverend Dr. David Wood, parish priest, Grace Church, Joondalup, Perth, Western Australia, is with us this month. He will be preacher for the Solemn Mass on Assumption, Sunday, August 15, and will be helping out with other Masses while he is here. SG
FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION . . . Our rector emeritus, Father Edgar F. Wells, was ordained priest on August 9, 1960, the Feast of St. John Vianney, the Curé d’Ars. In order to mark the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, he will be the celebrant at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, August 15, the Feast of the Assumption. Our preacher that day will be the Reverend Dr. David Wood. Several longtime friends and colleagues of Father Wells will concelebrate and Bishop James Montgomery, VIII Bishop of Chicago, will be in attendance. Music at the Mass will include Mozart’s Missa brevis C-dur, KV 259 (“Orgelsolo”). Light refreshments will be served in Saint Joseph’s Hall following Mass. We hope that you will be able to be with us.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, Matthew Kerr, Judi and Thomas Kerr’s son is critically ill. He was struck by a car. Please keep him and his family in your prayers . . . Parishioner Margaret Malone is at Amsterdam House for rehabilitation therapy following surgery. She is doing very well. Please keep her in your prayers . . . Our seminarian Remington Slone was recently awarded the Robert C. Dentan Scholarship for 2010-11 at The General Theological Seminary. The award recognizes outstanding overall academic accomplishment, and particular excellence in Old Testament interpretation and in the study of biblical Hebrew. We are very pleased and proud to hear the news. Congratulations, Rem! . . . Altar flowers are needed for Friday, August 6, the Transfiguration. These will be used also on Sunday, August 8. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the finance office . . . Father Gerth will be away from the parish from Wednesday, August 4, until Monday, August 9. He returns to the office on Wednesday, August 11 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 165.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The music at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is sung by Christopher Howatt, tenor. We are also joined by clarinetist Alvaro Iborra Jiménez, an extremely talented musician from the Navarra region of Spain. Mr. Jiménez will play during the prelude and communion motet. The prelude is an arrangement of Ave Maria by Franz Schubert (1797-1828). At the ministration of Communion, Mr. Howatt will sing “Arise, my love, my fair one” by Richard Hundley (b. 1931), a setting of the well-known Eastertide text from the Song of Solomon. Hundley, who resides in Manhattan, is an American composer and pianist particularly known for his unique Art songs for solo voice and piano such as this one (heard here in an arrangement for voice, organ and clarinet). James Kennerley
ASSUMPTION APPEAL . . . Our annual appeal letter, sent around the time of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, will be mailed next week to members and friends of the parish. We invite you to give the appeal your prayerful consideration and to be generous.
SAINT RAPHAEL’S GUILD OF USHERS . . . We are looking for a few good women and men who are willing to serve as ushers at Mass on Sunday mornings, on holy days, and at Evensong and Benediction on Sunday afternoons during the academic year. Ushers usually serve one Sunday per month. If you like to meet new people, are eager to welcome our visitors, and are willing to help newcomers learn more about the parish, perhaps this ministry is for you. If you are interested, please speak to George Handy, Randy Morgan, or Father Jay Smith.
RESIDENT THEATER . . . The American Globe Theatre (AGT) recently announced its 2010-2011 season, its twenty-second season here in Times Square. Lecture Series: “What Makes Shakespeare Great,” featuring John Basil, AGT Artistic Director; Lecture 1: Othello!, October 12, 7:30 PM; Lecture 2: Hamlet!, November 30, 7:30 PM; Lecture 3: Much Ado About Nothing!, January 11, 7:30 pm. Staged Readings: Othello, directed by John Basil, October 19, 7:30 PM; Hamlet, directed by David Mold, December 7, 7:30 PM. Full Production: Much Ado About Nothing, directed by John Basil, February 25-March 30.
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