FROM THE RECTOR: EASTER WORSHIP
We bought a bigger Paschal candle this year, a fifty-five inch one instead of the forty-inch one we had purchased for many years. Last year, the smaller size almost didn’t make it through Eastertide. This candle burns in its stand by the high altar whenever the church is open during the fifty days of Easter. We started doing this a few years ago when the chandlers stopped collecting candle stubs for making new candles. I’m not that disappointed by this change. I’ve come really to like the symbolism of this candle burning whenever the church is open. It’s part of what I might call my “Easter agenda,” if you will: I want the fifty days of Easter to mean more to us than the forty days of Lent.
My journey along agenda began when I became a rector for the first time in Indiana. One Eastertide Sunday when I was away from the parish I served, I went to a church and it didn’t feel like Easter at all. The readings were the right readings, a Paschal candle was burning, and the vestments were white, but it didn’t really seem like Easter. The sermon was good, but not on an Easter theme. The music and hymns were good, but no Easter hymns or music associated with Easter. It got me started thinking about how Eastertide might always look and feel like Easter, Lent like Lent, Christmas like Christmas, and Advent like Advent. I think preaching and music are part of the answer.
The sermon at the Sunday Eucharist should be about the appointed gospel – the gospel is the liturgical lead in, as it were. Certainly one can write good sermons on Old Testament and New Testament lessons, but the sermon follows the gospel. The gospel lesson is in a sense the key to the pulpit. Music matters too. The text and the tune need to seem right for the season. With attention, it’s almost always possible for things to hang together.
Music has been key in all great revivals in Anglicanism. When the Anglo-catholic revival started, the Anglican Communion re-embraced much of its musical heritage from the Middle Ages. John Mason Neale (1818-1866), a priest of the Church of England, had a particular gift for translating classic Latin hymns into English. The work of Charles Winfred Douglas (1867-1944) made plainsong in English accessible to the Episcopal Church. Douglas, a priest of the Church, was musical editor for The Hymnal (1916) and The Hymnal (1940). Episcopalians, high and low, know and sing this music because of his work.
Not once during this Easter season has James Kennerley used the organ to introduce or accompany the hymn, Christians to the Paschal victim, at Solemn Mass. Of course, we have tremendous choral resources to support us. But this has become one the songs of Eastertide for us. And it’s fair to say the congregation knows it.
Traditionally, this hymn is sung twice, before the gospel on Easter Day and before the gospel on the Second Sunday of Easter. With my Easter agenda, we sing it before the gospel every Sunday until Pentecost, which has its own “sequence” – the term for this hymn before the gospel at Mass. The text and the tune of Victimae paschali, to use the first Latin words of the text, are in our Christian bones, as it were. And, there’s more. We take full advantage of the Prayer Book permission to add “Alleluia, alleluia” to the dismissals at Mass and at Morning and Evening Prayer all through the season. Only during the Easter season do we add the acclamation “Alleluia” to the anthem “Christ our Passover” during the breaking of the Bread. We choose to make Easter be Easter for fifty days.
Some may remember that until the present Prayer Book (1979), the Easter season was only forty days. Then, there was a ten-day period commonly called Ascensiontide. The present Prayer Book reflects this by using the old name for the Sunday after Ascension Day in its new title for this Sunday, “The Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Sunday after Ascension Day.” Egeria, the famous fourth century pilgrim to Jerusalem, found the church there celebrating Ascension and Pentecost together on the fiftieth day of Easter. But before the end of the fifth century, Eastertide seems to have lost its last ten days (Adolf Adam, The Liturgical Year: Its History & Its Meaning after the Reform of the Liturgy [Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1981] 88-89). One of the many fruits of liturgical study has been the recovery of the ancient tradition of fifty days of Easter. Devotionally, the Ascension, like the Epiphany, is a celebration of the Lord Jesus’ sovereignty over all.
As we go to press, it’s Ascension Day. At Saint Mary’s we are observing this “principal feast” of the Church year with all great solemnity and greater joy. This Seventh Sunday echoes this joy in its gospel, John 17:1-11, where Jesus prays to the Father for his friends and who will come to believe at the supper before the passover. At the preparation of the gifts at the Solemn Mass on Ascension Day we sing Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon his throne. On Sunday, our hymn at the preparation is Alleluia! Sing to Jesus! This great hymn, with its Easter text, finds no better place in the Church year than on this, the Seventh Sunday of Easter: The Sunday after Ascension Day. Please join us. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Carol and Robert who are hospitalized; for Andrea, Sharon, Jack, Sandy, B.F., Lindalou, Richie, Krislea, Michael, Michele, Max, Olutoyin, Timothy, Anna, Julia, Dorothy, Chris, Rolf, Danielle, Gert, and Rick; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Christine, Rob, and Mark . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 5: 1899 Josephine Hicks; 1943 Francesca Ethel Merritt VanBrauer; 1949 John David Parrish.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd has begun its summer break and will resume on the first Sunday in October. The Adult Forum will meet on Sunday, June 5. This will be the final class in the spring series. The Adult Forum will resume in October . . . Saturday, June 11, is the Feast of Saint Barnabas the Apostle . . . Father Jim Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, June 4; Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, June 11.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Carol Pepper is at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for treatment. Please keep her in your prayers . . . Former assistant organist Robert McDermitt is at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Altar flowers are needed for the following dates: July 3, 10, 17, 24, and 31. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the finance office . . . Many thanks to Sr. Laura Katharine for the repair of the celebrant’s chasuble of our solemn white set. The silk is very delicate and required much loving work. Sister, thank you! . . . Friday, June 10, is the twenty-second anniversary of Father Smith’s ordination as deacon. Saturday, June 11, is the twenty-eight anniversary of Father Gerth’s ordination as deacon . . . Parishioner Thomas Jayne’s new blog is called Decoration – Ancient & Modern . . . Jane Lear’s blog, Writing on Food and Travel, was cited by the Food News Journal in its “Best of the Blogs” column on June 1 . . . As the summer months approach, we would like to encourage all Saint Marians to try and stay current on their pledge payments, since this is a time when we often experience cash-flow problems. We are grateful to all those who continue to support Saint Mary’s. If you would still like to make a pledge for 2011, please contact Aaron Koch or Father Smith . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 313.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude at Solemn Mass on Sunday is the chorale prelude on Christ ist erstanden (“Christ is arisen”), BWV 627, from the Orgelbüchlein by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa Un gay bergier by Jacob Handl (1550–1591). Handl (also known as Jacobus Gallus) was a Roman Catholic composer who spent most of his life working in Austria and Bohemia. His output, mostly sacred music and including twenty Masses, is marked by influences from both the Netherlands and Venetian styles of the day. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Ascendens Christus by Handl. James Kennerley
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . 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.”
MORE LECTIONARY MESS . . . In reviewing the lessons for Trinity Sunday, I discovered that there is a verse discrepancy between the new lectionary and the enumeration of the Bible lessons as given in the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Bible. It’s just another one of many details which speaks volumes about how the new lectionary for the Episcopal Church was prepared – and not very carefully.
The Prayer Book states, “Scriptural citations in this Book, except for the Psalms, follow the numeration of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible” (page 14). Well, not so in the new lectionary. It uses the numeration of the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). I don’t know where this might matter besides the lessons for Trinity Sunday in the first year of the lectionary cycle, but it means there’s one more thing to check.
This is the verse in question in the RSV, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). In the NRSV it reads, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:13). I think the Episcopal Church can and should do better than this. S.G.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We recently made a donation to the Diocesan Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Concerns. We received a kind letter of acknowledgment from Timothy Palmer, chair of the committee. He writes, “I am writing to thank [the people] of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin for [their] generous contribution…to our efforts to demonstrate the Episcopal Church’s embrace of LGBT persons and families during the 2011 Pride March in Manhattan. When our float makes its way down Fifth Avenue–music at full tilt, surrounded by clergy and laity from parishes across the New York diocese–we will not only be celebrating Pride, we will be making a bold, public witness that the Episcopal Church truly welcomes us all.” The Pride March will take place on Sunday, June 26. Jay Smith
SAINT RAPHAEL’S GUILD OF USHERS . . . The summer schedule was e-mailed last week. If you did not receive a copy, please speak to Father Smith or Randy Morgan. Since the summer vacation period has almost arrived, we would like to remind all the members of the ushers’ guild that, if possible, they should try to find a replacement if they are not able to serve on a Sunday for which they have been scheduled. If you need a copy of the current contact list, please speak to Father Smith.
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector;
The Reverend James Ross Smith, curate;
The Reverend James Pace, assisting priest;
The Reverend Rebecca Weiner Tompkins, deacon;
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.
Saint Mary’s Mission House
Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B.;
Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B.
The Community of St. John Baptist
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.