FROM THE RECTOR: WE ARE WHAT WE READ
“You are what you eat” is a common expression. It might be fair to say, especially of different Christian denominations and congregations, “You are what you read in worship.” Since Advent Sunday of the current church year, we have begun to use the Episcopal Church’s version of the “Revised Common Lectionary” (RCL). As we’ve begun to use the RCL, I have continued to learn new things about who we have been and who we’ve become.
Until the 1970s, most denominations that used a lectionary used the pattern inherited from the medieval church – a generally unacknowledged and surprising fact given the bitter antagonisms of the Reformation period. However, by the 1950s, many denominations were beginning to experiment with new lectionaries. The ecumenical spirit of the Roman Communion during the pontificates of John XXIII and Paul VI led many other denominations to use the new three-year Roman lectionary that they published in 1969 as the basis for their own reforms.
The timing of liturgical revision in the Episcopal Church meant we were one of the last denominations to do this and we benefited greatly from the work that others had already done. The work on our calendar and lectionary in the 1979 Prayer Book was generally very good. The new lectionary, I’m very sorry to say, just isn’t up to the same standard – and the examples are too many even to begin to number in this article.
Last December, I found myself wondering why we read Matthew’s short Christmas story (1:18-25) in Advent, once every three years. Christmas in Advent? We only have two nativity stories. In all previous American Prayer Books Matthew’s account was read on the First Sunday after Christmas Day. We now use the prologue of John’s gospel, not only on Christmas Day, but also on the First Sunday after Christmas Day.
Then, I realized, when I happened to look at the current Roman lectionary, that it omits the end of Matthew’s story. The omitted verse is one that is never heard by Roman Catholics at Mass on a Sunday or a major feast: [Joseph] took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus (Matthew 1:25). It is more important for them to omit the first half of this verse, which suggests Joseph and Mary were physically intimate, than to have us know that the child was in fact named Jesus.
At Easter I realized the Roman Communion does the same kind of thing with John’s account of the resurrection. They never read the whole thing on a Sunday, which would include the appearance of the risen Jesus to Mary Magdalene at the tomb (John 20:11-18). One suspects that there is some anxiety about including this story in which a woman is the first apostle of the resurrection. (Perhaps this also explains why a few Episcopal parishes still cling to the 1928 Prayer Book lectionary and, even on Easter Day, always read Mark 16:1-8.)
I can joke about the length of lessons with the best of them. When I do special services for small groups from time to time, I know how to adjust things in an appropriate way. That said, I think we are just beginning to appreciate the many riches in the Bible that we have discovered because, for the past thirty years, we have been using the lectionary of the 1979 Prayer Book. Our generation of Episcopalians is being shaped by the Scriptures in new ways.
I really do think it matters that for 1500 years no Sunday congregation in the West ever heard, even in Latin, the accounts of Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well (John 4:5-42), the Healing of the Man Born Blind (John 9:1-38), or the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44). Even now, those passages are appointed for use only once every three years. And let me give recognition to this good thing in the RCL: there is no longer permission to shorten those three lessons. I certainly appreciate the real pastoral need for Sunday services to be a manageable length. But there are some things that can’t or shouldn’t be shortened. (Interestingly, the permission to shorten the gospels on the Sunday of the Passion was retained, but the permission to shorten the passion on Good Friday is gone.)
I’m thinking about all of this because I realized a couple of weeks ago that the lectionary of the 1979 Prayer Book and the RCL has us reading on the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Sundays of Easter, in every year, different passages from John’s account of the supper before the Passover – the longest account in any of the gospels. In the 1928 Prayer Book, we had a passage from this part of John on Pentecost and a moving passage (John 16:16-22) on a Sunday in Eastertide about the joy that will be with the disciples after their sorrow. Now, many more riches of this account will be read and preached every year.
I think Scripture continues to renew and reshape the way we are God’s people. We are what we read. We read a lot. And at Saint Mary’s, whenever we have the choice, we don’t leave things out, especially the hard sayings of the Scriptures. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Andrea, Carol, Sharon, Lindalou, Daniel, B.F., Jack, Sandy, Krislea, Michael, Max, Michele, Olutoyin, Virginia, Timothy, Anna, Julia, Dorothy, Chris, Rolf, Gert, and Rick; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Christine and Mark; and for the repose of the souls of William, Doric and Odair . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 22: 1875 Annie Clarke.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . William Cutting, the brother of parishioner Robert Cutting, died on February 16, after a long illness. William has been in the prayers of the members of the Saint Mary’s community for many years now. Please remember William, Robert, and all who mourn in your prayers this week.
I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE for Andrew William Gould and Kristen Marie Gennaro of Hamden, Connecticut. 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 third time of asking. S.G.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . . The New York Repertory Orchestra will perform its final concert of the season here on Saturday, May 21 . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and the Adult Forum will meet on Sunday, May 22 . . . The Reverend Deacon T. Remington Slone will preach at Evensong on Sunday, May 22, at 5:00 PM. This Sunday will be Rem’s last Sunday here at Saint Mary’s before he returns to Georgia to take up his first call at Saint Peter’s Church, Savannah. We invite all members of the Saint Mary’s community to join us for Evensong on Sunday and to say goodbye, and thank you, to Rem and his wife, Casey Slone . . . Father Jim Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, May 21. Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, May 28.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . At its meeting on Monday, May 16, the Board of Trustees accepted with regret the resignation of Susan Wamsley as a trustee. Susan was serving also as secretary of the board. The trustees elected Steven Heffner as its new secretary . . . On Thursday, May 19, Father Gerth celebrated a Requiem Mass for Odair Corona Castellato in the Mercy Chapel. Mrs. Castellato was the mother-in-law of former Saint Mary’s organist, McNeil Robinson. Please keep Odair and her family in your prayers . . . Monday, May 30, is Memorial Day. The church will open at 10:00 AM and close at 2:00 PM. The parish offices will be closed. Only the noonday services will be offered . . . Tuesday, May 31, the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mass 12:10 PM, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Wednesday, June 1, Eve of Ascension Day, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, June 2, Ascension Day, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, Reception in Saint Joseph’s Hall 7:30 PM . . . On Saturday, June 4, at 1:00 PM, a Requiem Mass will be celebrated for Alan Champion at the Saint Clement’s Church, Philadelphia . . . Sunday, June 26, The Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ (“Corpus Christi”), Solemn Mass, Procession and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at 11:00 AM . . . Altar flowers are needed for the following dates: July 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31; and August 21 and 28. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the Finance Office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 222.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude at Solemn Mass this Sunday is an improvised minuet and trio in the style of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa brevis Sancti Joannis de Deo (Kleine Orgelmesse), Hob. XXI:7, by Haydn. Probably composed in the 1770s, this setting is one of Haydn’s most popular. It earned its nickname, “Little Organ Mass,” because of the extended organ solo in Benedictus. Gloria in excelsis Deo is particularly brief due to a compositional device whereby each voice part sings different words at the same time. This practice was not uncommon at the time of composition, though it was suppressed not long afterwards. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Stetit Jesus by Jacob Regnart (c. 1540–1599). James Kennerley
AIDS WALK 2011 . . . We congratulate the Saint Mary's AIDS Walk Team and we thank the many Saint Marians who contributed to their success. The Team, eleven members strong, raised well over $15,000, almost $1,000 more than last year, when we ranked 50th out of 3,000 teams registered for the Walk! Final results and ranking will be announced in the Angelus later this summer. In the meantime, you can contribute to the Saint Mary's Team until June 10 by clicking here. If you prefer to write a check made out to AWNY, you can give it to Father Smith or to MaryJane Boland.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class 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 and is currently reading the Book of Ecclesiasticus. Newcomers are most welcome! The final class of the 2010-11 season will take place on Wednesday, May 25. Please stay posted for announcements about next year’s class, which will resume in October . . . The final class of the current series in the Adult Forum will take place on Sunday, May 22, at 10:00 AM. Grace Bruni is leading a church-history series on the complex relationship between civil and ecclesiastical authority during the Middle Ages The Adult Forum will not meet on Sunday, May 29, Memorial Day Weekend . . . On Sunday, June 5, at 10:00 AM, Dr. Dennis Raverty, will give a lecture on The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood & the British Arts and Crafts Movement. Dr. Raverty writes, “In the mid-nineteenth century a secret society of young British painters from Oxford rebelled against the academy, signing their paintings with the mysterious initials, “PRB”. Influenced equally by the Gothic Revival and the contemporaneous Realist movement on the continent, much of their work is devoted to Christian subject matter, in emulation of artists of the early Renaissance and late Gothic periods. Their religious work was derided publicly by no less a figure than Charles Dickens for lacking decorum, and the movement had ties with the Anglo-Catholic revival and with socialism, both of which were controversial in the Church of England during the Victorian era.”
The Reverend T. Remington Slone, The Reverend Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, deacons
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus
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