The Angelus

Volume 13, Number 37


One of the summer jobs that has fallen to me since Father Matthew Mead left us is posting the parish calendar on our web page.  The calendar of the week that appears at the end of this weekly newsletter is taken from this online calendar.  Last summer, I found working on it slow going at first; but by the end of the project, I was doing fine.  Father Mead gave us an attractive way to post the calendar – one with liturgical colors.  It could be done more simply, but I think it is helpful and worth the effort.  Our calendar for 2012 is now up.  Working on the calendar and service schedule for the new year gave me the opportunity to think afresh about what we do and why we do it.  In some important ways, not much has changed at Saint Mary’s since its founding.

Since 1868 Saint Mary’s has had the mission of being the neighborhood Episcopal parish for what would become, and remains, the theatrical district of the city.  Since its beginning, a commitment to the renewal of congregational worship meant its doors would be open daily and the regular services of the Church offered.  Saint Mary’s common life is still shaped by the vision of Father Brown and the first generation of this parish community.

Like them, we continue to live our common life by the Church’s calendar.  Our life is organized around the celebration of Easter Day, which can occur on any day between March 22 and April 25, and the celebration of Christmas Day on December 25.  This means a lot is different every year.  Christmas Day 2011 is on a Sunday.  The new year will begin on Sunday, January 1, 2012.  It is the eighth day, the day on which Jesus was circumcised (Luke 2:21).  For us Episcopalians, this celebration is now called, “The Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ” – not a bad way to begin any year.

As I went through the days, weeks and months of the coming year, it was really helpful to have in front of me a copy of the “Christian Planning Calendar” from Church Publishing, a subsidiary of the Church Pension Fund – the “compiler” of this calendar is Br. William Francis Jones, BSG, an active member of our congregation.  Since 1979, the General Convention has been adding new commemorations to the calendar every three years – and in my opinion far, far too many optional observances.  On a practical level, one way or another, each option requires at a minimum the additional work of one more thing to think about.  Significantly, one can never just pick up any Prayer Book and know what day it is.  There are too many editions, too many calendars.

Readers of this newsletter may remember that I have considerable reservations about, and not a few objections to, the proposed revision of the optional observances in the calendar.  Formerly, these observances were published in a volume called Lesser Feasts and Fasts.  The new volume is called, Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints Conforming to the General Convention 2009 (New York: Church Publishing, 2010).  There is much to celebrate in this book, but its shortcomings are too many and too significant to ignore.

Two remarkable problems with ecumenical and theological consequences: Lutherans Nikolai Grundtvig and Søren Kierkegaard are proposed for commemoration on September 8, the traditional date for the Nativity of Mary; Puritan Richard Baxter is proposed for December 8, the traditional date for the observance of the Conception of the Virgin Mary.  Mary’s conception and nativity are not part of the New Testament narrative of salvation history.  That said, they seem to have a far greater claim on God’s work among humankind through history than that which is proposed.

Then there’s the problem of historical authenticity.  The General Convention adopted nine “Principles of Revision.”  The first of these is, “Historicity: Christianity is a radically historical religion, so in almost every instance it is not theological realities or spiritual movements but exemplary witness to the Gospel of Christ in lives actually lived that is commemorated in the Calendar” (Holy Women, Holy Men, 742).  If that is the case, one might legitimately ask: What explains the inclusion on November 22 of Cecilia, a commemoration for which there is no reliable historical evidence?  The answer given is simply not truthful, “Many of the details of her life are unknown and much of what we do know comes from later periods” (Holy Women, Holy Men, 694).  In fact, we don’t know any details of her life and all of what is claimed comes from later periods and is probably not historically reliable.  Rant concluded, for the time being.

The Sunday in July when Father Smith and Father Pace were both away, I confess that I found myself thinking ahead to Christmas 2011 and New Year’s Day 2012 – two Sundays in a row with only one service.  That doesn’t happen very often.  But I know when we get there, part of me will regret we really can’t do more on those days.  We are a parish, not a monastic, community.  Saint Mary’s is not the parish of Longacre Square, but of Times Square.  My body for sure will be glad, but I think my spirit will want more until my flesh rests in peace.  Stephen Gerth


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Julia, John, Annemarie, Caleb, Brendan, Lee, Donna, Dianne, Dorothy, Isaura, Gert, and Rick; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark, Christine, and Rob . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 7: 1900 John Edwin Atkins; 1929 Mary Veronica Rodgers; 1951 Charles R. Graham.


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 . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, August 6.  Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, August 13.


THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY . . . One of our parish’s greater festivals of the year is the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Monday, August 15.  Morning Prayer will be sung at 8:30 AM.  The Noonday Office is prayed at 12:00 PM.  There will be a Sung Mass at 12:10 PM.  Organist and Music Director James Kennerley will play a recital at 5:30 PM.  Solemn Mass will be celebrated at 6:00 PM.  A reception will follow in Saint Joseph’s Hall.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . Friday, August 5, is the Eve of the Transfiguration.  There will be a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM.  On Saturday, August 6, Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM in observance of the Transfiguration . . . August 9 is the fifty-first anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of the Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus . . . Just this week we discovered that Dr. Dennis Raverty received a nice mention on the website for his article in the Living Church about the murals in our Lady Chapel . . . The Rector will be on vacation from Sunday afternoon, August 7, through Saturday, August 13 . . . Attendance Last Sunday 196.


FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude before the Solemn Mass on Sunday is Chorale by William Mathias (1934–1992).  Mathias is also the composer of the postlude. Born in Wales, Mathias was a child prodigy, playing the piano at three and composing at five.  He later studied under Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy of Music in London.  His music encompasses a variety of styles and influences, but it is his choral music that is best known (his anthem Let the people praise thee, O God was performed to over one billion people at the marriage of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981).  I am the cantor on Sunday.  At the ministration of Communion, I will sing the Benedictus from Messe in h-Moll (Mass in B minor) by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750).  James Kennerley


OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We need your help!  We are still working hard to support our outreach partner, the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry.  Sister Deborah Francis, who often volunteers at the Food Pantry on Friday, reports that donations, including donations from government sources, have decreased recently.  Last week the Pantry was only able to provide a much reduced amount of food to those who depend on it for their weekly nutritional needs.  Please consider making a cash donation to the Pantry (write a check to the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin and put “Food Pantry” in the memo line); or place non-perishable food items in the basket at the ushers’ table near the 46th Street entrance to the church on Sunday mornings.  If you have questions about the Food Pantry, please speak to Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., or Father Jay Smith.


AIDS WALK 2011 . . . GMHC has added up the numbers and done its final accounting and we are very happy to report that the Saint Mary’s AIDS Walk Team ranked 32nd out of a total of 3,641 teams that participated in the AIDS Walk last May!  Participants in AIDS Walk 2011 raised a total of $6,214,768 and Saint Mary’s raised $16,339 of that total.  Though we had fewer walkers than last year, we raised more money and ranked higher among teams overall.  We are grateful to all our families, friends, neighbors, and colleagues -- and of course to our fellow parishioners – who supported us and who gave so generously.  Thank you very much.  Next year’s AIDS Walk is on Sunday, May 20, 2012 – some of us will walk Saturday, some Sunday.  Please save the date!  This Walk really matters.  MaryJane Boland


CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . This year many of the adult-education classes on Sunday mornings will focus on the things that make Anglicans and Episcopalians distinctive, even unique.  We will look at polity, liturgy, architecture, vocabulary, theology, ethics, and Scripture as we explore our rich Anglican tradition.  We begin on Sunday, October 2, at 10:00 AM with a discussion, of bishops – after all, the word “episcopal” comes from the Greek word for bishop.  We will look at the origins and history of the episcopal ministry in the church, and will focus on the following questions.  Why are bishops so important to Anglicans?  How do they serve the church? And, just in time for New York’s election of a coadjutor bishop on October 29, we will ask, how does the Episcopal Church go about choosing its bishops?  The class will be led by Father Jay Smith.  The following week, Sunday, October 9, just five days after the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, Dennis Raverty will teach a class on the late medieval painter, Giotto, and the relation of his work to the life of Saint Francis.  On Sunday, October 16, Dr. Raverty will return and give a lecture on the principles of Gothic architecture.  This class will give us a foundation for a return, later in the year, to a study of our own church building and its neo-Gothic style.  Also on Sunday, October 16, at 1:30 PM, Dr. Raverty and the Reverend Kathleen Liles will lead a group of parishioners from Saint Mary’s and the Church of Christ and Saint Stephen on a “vertical tour” of the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine.  Please stay tuned for more details about the tour.  Jay Smith


AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Pilgrimage and Faith: Buddhism, Christianity and Islam continues at the Rubin Museum of Art through October 24, 2011 . . . The Museum of Biblical Art is presenting On Eagles’ Wings: The King James Version Turns Four Hundred to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Authorized Version of the Bible.  The exhibition runs through September 18, 2011.