FROM THE RECTOR: RITUAL AND REVELATION
I was still in seminary when the late Aidan Kavanagh’s Elements of Rite: A Handbook of Liturgical Style (New York: Pueblo Publishing Company, 1982) was published. It’s part rant, but mostly it’s a theological essay on worship. His book encourages pastors to think more seriously about their ministry of presiding in worship, but he does not want pastors to be too serious. Near the end of the book (page 92), Kavanagh wrote, “Style raises meaning to revelation.” It’s one of his many short statements that invites more reflection – and it’s been in the back of my mind for a long time.
I was reminded of it while reading “The Moment of Eucharistic Consecration in Byzantine Thought”, an essay by Michael Zheltov, a priest and professor of practical and liturgical theology in the Russian Orthodox Church. (The essay is published in Maxwell Johnson, Issues in Eucharistic Praying in East and West: Essays in Liturgical and Theological Analysis, Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2010, 263-306). I was intrigued by the essay; I know so little about the Orthodox theological tradition. The Orthodox do a lot more than Western “moment of consecration” thinking. It’s far more than touching the bread and wine at the right time with a few words, quoting Jesus.
In his concluding paragraph Zheltov wrote, “But the most distinctive feature of [the Byzantine] approach seems to be not their preference for one set of words over another but their reverence toward the manual acts of the Eucharistic celebration . . . It stresses the unity of the liturgical text and the ritual action . . . the importance of experiencing the whole Divine Liturgy in its entirety – the gifts are not ‘complete’ until they are needed for communion” (305). His article, I hope, has begun to give me some understanding of Orthodox Eucharistic theology. He also gets at the same kind of thing Kavanagh was reaching, I think, for when he wrote, “style raises meaning to revelation.”
I found myself wondering too, as I read Zheltov, whether the Byzantine connection of word and gesture is more profound because there is no narrow sense of a few words being consecratory. By understanding the totality of the words and gestures of the rite as being essentially one thing, perhaps their tradition has never lost its sense that the people of God gather for a meal, that the Eucharist was about the table before it became a sacrifice. Western Christianity has been working since before the Reformation to remember that it all began with Jesus sitting down to eat with his friends.
How we worship reveals in significant ways what we understand about God, God’s work past and present, and each other. God’s work is large. Our worship can and should direct us to the breadth of God’s presence in our world and in our lives.
Part of our vocation, I believe, as a parish community is to be a place where word and ritual welcome people to know and to praise Jesus Christ, a place that understands that God is at work in all people in many different ways. How a congregation enters and leaves its “dining room” says something about how its members are in relationship, about what it values. How people speak to and with one another in our “dining room” reveals something, too. Our music, our food, our drink, our “menus” and everything about the setting of the Table says something. There are many successful cuisines, many vastly different cultural traditions that nurture and sustain fellowship across the globe.
In another essay in the same volume, Issues in Eucharistic Praying, Paul Bradshaw writes about how Western Christians generally came to associate the Eucharist with Christ’s sacrifice of his body and blood and almost to have forgotten “the value of his living and nourishing flesh and blood . . . a disproportionate emphasis, if you like, on altar rather than table” (“Did Jesus Institute the Eucharist at the Last Supper”, 19). I don’t think any Western Christians, Protestant or Roman Catholic, will ever lose sacrifice. I never hear the words “the Body of Christ” without thinking of the cross. I’m trying to let the words “at supper with them he took bread” and the words, “eat, drink”, make me always know I am at a real meal, where all, especially the hungry, are really fed. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Carol, Sharon, Russell, Doreen, Margaret, Julia, Dennis, Dorothy, Alan, Chris, Rolf, Gert, Daisy, William, Rick, Mark, and Lawrence, deacon; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Nicholas and Christine; and for the repose of the souls of Nancy and Jean . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 27: 1908 Eunice Josephine Allen; 1920 William Lee Ward; 1929 Alfred Handy.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, February 26, 3:00 PM, La Nativité du Seigneur, James Kennerley, organ . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and the Adult Forum will meet on Sunday, February 27 . . . Father Peter Powell preaches at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, February 27 . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on March 2, at 6:30 PM . . . Saint Mary’s Guild will meet on Saturday, March 5, at 1:00 PM, following the 12:10 PM Mass . . . Father Stephen Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, February 26. Father Jay Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, March 5.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . George Handy continues to recover at home. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Thank you to parishioner Terry Carlson, who continues to work on the lighting throughout the building complex. His lighting design for last weekend’s concert was striking and enormously effective. We are grateful to Terry for his hard work, his creativity, and his contributions to our common life . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 226.
A GIFT FOR A SAINT MARIAN BISHOP . . . The Reverend G. William Countryman, a former member and trustee of the parish, was elected bishop of Western New York on November 20, 2010. The presiding bishop has announced that the necessary consents have been received from the bishops and standing committees of the Church. Father Countryman will be consecrated bishop on Saturday, April 30, at the Center for the Arts on the SUNY Buffalo campus in Amherst, New York. Gifts are being received for episcopal appointments (a pastoral staff, miters, etc.) by the Reverend Earle King, Saint Martin’s Church, 2587 Baseline Road, Grand Island, New York, 14072-1656. (Make your check payable to “The Diocese of Western New York” and mark it, “Episcopal Gifts.”) Please keep Bill and his family in your prayers. S.G.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The setting of the Mass ordinary at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is Missa “Simile est regnum coelorum” by Alonso Lobo (c. 1555–1617). Lobo was an important Spanish composer of the generation following Francisco Guerrero (1528–1599), whom he served as assistant at Seville Cathedral. Many years later he was Guerrero’s successor there. This setting, published in a 1602 book of masses, is based upon the motet Simile est regnum by Francisco Guerrero (1528–1599), sung today at the ministration of Communion. The organ recitalist on Sunday afternoon at 4:40 PM is Simon Thomas Jacobs, associate director of music at Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut. The recital program includes music by Nicolaus Bruhns (1665-1697) and Jehan Alain (1911–1940). James Kennerley
LA NATIVITE DU SEIGNEUR… On Saturday, February 26 at 3 PM, James Kennerley will perform Olivier Messiaen’s (1908-1992) La Nativité du Seigneur on the magnificent 1932 Aeolian-Skinner organ. The suite of nine pieces, composed in 1935, sets to music the various biblical scenes concerning the birth of Christ. The sounds of Saint Mary’s instrument are particularly appropriate for the music of Messiaen. Readings will be presented before each movement of the work, and the performed will be visible to the audience via a live camera feed. The performance lasts around an hour. Admission is free.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class normally meets in the Arch Room, on the second floor of the Mission House from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM. The class is led by the sisters. Newcomers are most welcome! . . . The Adult Forum continues through March 6 with Father Smith’s series on The History of the Bible in English . . . On Sundays during Lent, March 13 through April 10, Father Peter Powell will teach a class on First Corinthians 15.
THE AMERICAN GLOBE THEATER’s production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing opens on Friday, February 25 and runs through Sunday, March 20 (Thursday-Saturday 7:30 PM; Sunday 3:00 PM). Call 212-869-9809 for ticket reservations. (“AGT” is the resident theater group at Saint Mary’s. Their auditorium is on the third floor of the parish house.)
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to collect non-perishable food items for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please consider making a regular donation to the Food Pantry. Look for the basket in the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall. If you would like more information about how the Food Pantry works or if you would like to volunteer, please speak to Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B. . . . Father Smith resumes his Book Sale in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Sunday morning. All proceeds benefit the Food Pantry and other outreach efforts.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . The First Day of Lent: Ash Wednesday is March 9 . . . Fridays in Lent, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross . . . Friday, March 25, The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, the Reverend Dr. Ryan Lesh, preacher . . . Saturday, May 14 & Sunday, May 15, AIDS Walk. Please speak to MaryJane Boland about registering for the Walk and to begin fundraising efforts.
The Parish Musicians
Mr. James Kennerley, organist and music director
Mr. Lawrence Trupiano, organ curator
The Parish Staff
Mr. Aaron Koch, business manager
Mr. Miguel Gonzalez, Mr. Mario Martinez, Mr. H. Antonio Santiago, sextons