From Father Smith: What Is New and What Is Old
“Jesus said, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old’” (Mt 13:51)
While I was on vacation this summer, I walked up to Lincoln Center so I could take a look at the by now not-so-recent renovations carried out on the plaza and in a number of the complex’s buildings. I worked at Lincoln Center from 1977 until 1982, so it was a very interesting and enlightening trip for me. The changes made to the plaza itself, especially the fountain and the steps, are certainly dramatic and have attracted a great deal of attention; but I especially enjoyed looking at the alterations made to the part of the complex just north of the plaza. The entrance to the Lincoln Center offices – my old haunts – is on 65th Street. In the old days, that part of the complex felt very much like an afterthought. It was dark and rather shabby. The renovations have improved things greatly and have connected the buildings on the plaza to those situated on the north side of 65th Street, to The Juilliard School and Alice Tully Hall; and the changes made to the buildings that house those institutions are quite good, it seems to me.
Not long after my trip uptown, there was a documentary on PBS about the history of the Center and those recent renovations. At one point, the filmmakers interviewed a Juilliard administrator, a man who teaches in the school’s ballet program. He talked a bit about the changes made to the façade of Alice Tully and Juilliard at the corner of Broadway and 65th St. The interview was conducted in a new dance studio that had been created during the renovations. The studio had been constructed with very tall windows that made the space very light and airy – no cinder-block studio in the basement for those students! You could see that the windows would give both instructors and dancers-in-training an unimpeded view of the outside world. The hustle and bustle of Broadway was down below, right there, for all to see.
The instructor talked about that for a bit. He said that he liked the new studio very much. He was happy that the intense, high-pressure, traditional world of the ballet studio was now inescapably and visibly linked to the world outside. He acknowledged that those extremely visible links had been distracting and disconcerting to some of the school’s instructors, especially at first. But he was convinced that the connection was a good thing. He said that it seemed to him that the new studio made everybody think about the relationship between art and “the world” in some surprising and very productive ways.
I smiled when I heard that, because, of course, he could have been talking about us, about the Church. I suppose one could argue that Christians have had to confront that problem – the connections between Church and “the modern world” – for three or four hundred years now. But, still, that confrontation has become particularly intense and problematic during the last sixty years or so; and I think that that dance studio might be a very instructive image for us as we continue to think about the confrontation with, and the connections to, what we sometimes think of as “the outside world.”
The world of ballet is a rich world, a complex world, shaped by its history and its traditions. Those traditions have been handed down carefully, instructor to student, choreographer to dancer, for hundreds of years. Oral tradition is important. Severing the links to that tradition would be disastrous. Still, the world of ballet cannot remain static or it is unlikely to survive. Story-ballets about princes and happy peasants can be lovely, but they seem irrelevant, even silly, to many people today, though of course not to all; and so the traditions and techniques of ballet are being harnessed to tell new kinds of stories, or to create a different kind of artistic vision. If I’m not mistaken, the work of the late George Balanchine was dedicated to doing just that: he knew how to make connections between a living tradition and the world outside his studio windows.
Here at Saint Mary’s I think we work hard to stay connected to a tradition that we believe is very much alive and altogether relevant. Day after day, week after week, Scripture is read, prayer is offered, the liturgy is celebrated, rituals are conducted, music is played, and texts are studied so that we can know our history, so we can know where we come from. But Saint Mary’s is not a storehouse for interesting but irrelevant artifacts. Our tradition is alive because it speaks to who we are, in the world in which we live. The Rector used a phrase recently that I liked very much. He talked about “living into” our rich liturgical tradition. I think what that means, in part, is that we don’t simply memorize the liturgy as if it were a curious, interesting, but not very meaningful set of dance steps. Rather, we celebrate it, because we believe that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, it can change us and shape our lives; and because it is a source of God’s grace, it can empower us to be in the world in some new, surprising and very productive ways.
Fall is in the air here at Saint Mary’s, but we are still trying to keep our doors wide open as long as we can, until the really cold winds blow. We do that because it visibly preserves the connection between what we do inside our church building and the rest of the world in which we live. It reminds us that these are not really two separate “worlds”. We walk in and out of those doors to exercise different ministries at different times. But the connection, the link, is always there. That is why we say, “let us pray for the Church and for the world”; that is why we “go forth in the name of Christ.” Because Christ is the link, the door, the gate, the way; he is the one who invites us to rise, to follow, and to be his disciples. Jay Smith.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Valerie, Donald, Sharon, Bob, John, Julia, Dianne, Dorothy, Gert, Rick, Lorraine, deacon, John, priest, William, priest, Albert, priest, and Carlson, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark, Christine, and Rob; and for the repose of the soul of Mary Merz . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 25: 1895 August Albert Aye; 1905 James Brill Grosvenor; 1916 James Cranston; 1953 Lydia Thompson; 1972 Doris White Reuter.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Mary Merz, the mother of Father John Merz, died on Thursday, September 15, in Brooklyn, New York. Please keep Mary, Father Merz, their family and friends, and all who mourn in your prayers.
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 . . . Thursday, September 29, Saint Michael and All Angels, Mass at 12:10 PM and Sung Mass at 6:00 PM . . . On Sunday, September 25 at 5:15 PM, James Kennerley will play an organ recital at Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, New York City . . . Father Gerth will be on vacation and away from the parish from Thursday, September 22, until Wednesday, September 28. He will return to the office on Michaelmas, Thursday, September 29 . . . Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, September 24. Father Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, October 1 . . . Sunday, October 2, Fall schedule begins: Sung Matins at 8:30 AM; Mass at 9:00 and 10:00 AM; Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM; Organ Recital at 4:40 PM; Evensong and Benediction at 5:00 PM.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . We have received a Letter of Transfer for Mary Leonard. Mary, who lives in Brooklyn, has been worshipping with us for some time now. We are very happy that she has decided to join the parish. (If you would like to find out how to join Saint Mary’s, please speak to Father Gerth or Father Smith.) . . . Altar flowers are needed for October 9 and 23, and November 6 and 13. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the finance office . . . The Ministry of Hospitality is an important part of our common life. If you would like to contribute to this ministry and sponsor a feast-day reception this year, please contact Aaron Koch or Father Smith. We are looking for sponsors for All Saints’ Day on November 1 and the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on December 8 . . . A convention to elect a bishop coadjutor for the Diocese of New York will take place on Saturday, October 29. The Committee to Elect a Bishop has scheduled several “walkabouts” at locations throughout the diocese so that delegates to the convention, as well as others who are interested, can meet the candidates. The Manhattan walkabout is scheduled for Friday, October 14, 1:00 PM, at Saint James, Madison Avenue. Other times and locations are listed on the diocesan website . . . The House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church met in Quito, Ecuador, September 15-20, 2011. Daily accounts of the House’s work have been posted on the Episcopal News Service (ENS) website. The House approved and accepted a pastoral teaching on the environment on Tuesday, September 20. The text of the document may be accessed online . . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 210.
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Our annual Oktoberfest and Hymn Sing is on Saturday, October 15, 6:00-9:00 PM. Dinner is potluck. Please contact Grace Bruni or Father Smith if you think you might be able to bring a dish to share. Beverages will be provided. All are welcome! . . . Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday, November 6, 2011, 2:00 AM . . . Monday, November 14, 6:30-7:30 PM, New and Prospective Members Reception, in the Rectory, after Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM. Please speak to Father Smith, if you would like to attend . . . Sunday, November 20, The Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King & Commitment Sunday. Pledge cards are offered.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The music this Sunday is sung by Mrs. Emilie Williams, mezzo-soprano, and myself. The prelude is Intermezzo from Deuxième symphonie, Op. 26, by Marcel Dupré (1886–1971). At the ministration of Communion, Mrs. Williams and I will sing the motet Qui sequitur me from Bicinia, sive cantiones, by Orlande de Lassus (c. 1532–1594). This collection of twelve duets was published in 1609 in Antwerp by Pierre Phalèse the Elder (c. 1510–1575) under his alias Petrus Phalesius. James Kennerley
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION FOR ADULTS . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class resumes on October 5, at 6:30 PM, in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. This semester, the class will be reading The Letter to the Ephesians. The class will be led by Father Smith . . . Sunday, October 2, 10:00 AM, Episcopal Traditions & Customs: Bishops in the Episcopal Church – What are “bishops”? What do they do? What are the origins of this office and ministry? Why do Episcopalians think bishops are so important? How do we elect a bishop? Led by Father Jay Smith . . . Sunday, October 9, 10:00 AM, Giotto and Saint Francis. Led by Dr. Dennis Raverty . . . Sunday, October 16, Episcopal Traditions & Customs: The Principles of Gothic Architecture – Saint Mary’s building was designed and built in the “Neo-gothic” style. What does that mean? Why is it important? Led by Dr. Dennis Raverty . . . Sunday, October 23, 10:00 AM, Episcopal Traditions & Customs: Using the Prayer Book – The Structure of the Eucharist. Led by Father Stephen Gerth . . . Sunday, October 30, 10:00 AM, Episcopal Traditions & Customs: Using the Prayer Book – What is the Ministry to the Sick? Is it a “sacrament”? What do we think it does and when do we do it? What is the anointing of the sick? Should one call a priest when one is sick? Led by Father Jim Pace.
CATECHESIS OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD . . . Church School for children ages 3 to 6 years old resumes on Sunday, October 2, at 9:45 AM, in the newly-renovated Atrium on the second floor of the Parish House. The class is led by Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins. Rebecca will be assisted this year by seminarian Mary Julia Jett. If you have friends, colleagues, or family members who are looking for a church-school program for their young children, please let them know about Saint Mary’s. You can contact Rebecca through the parish office at 212-869-5830.
VERTICAL TOUR OF THE CATHEDRAL . . . The date of the tour has been changed. The tour will now take place on Sunday, October 23. The group will meet Dr. Dennis Raverty and Mother Kathleen Liles inside the Cathedral (near the Amsterdam Avenue entrance, at the head of the center aisle, at the entrance to the nave, at 1:30 PM). The vertical tour will begin at 2:00 PM. Latecomers should meet the tour group at the same place in the Cathedral at 2:00 PM. There are still a few places available for the tour. Please contact Father Jay Smith if you would like to join the group. There is a fee of $16.00. Scholarship funds are available.
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. You may make a cash donation as well. 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., or Father Smith . . . Father Smith resumes his Book Sale on Sunday. All proceeds are used to benefit the Food Pantry and others who are in need. Because of the vestment exhibition in Saint Joseph’s Hall, the book-sale table has been moved to the north side of the Hall, between the pillars, underneath the crucifix.
VISUAL ARTS PROJECT (VAP) . . . There is a new exhibition in Saint Joseph’s Hall, The Vestments of Saint Mary’s. The parish has a rich history of commissioning and using beautiful vestments in its liturgies. Unfortunately, time and much wear have taken their toll on many of the vestments. However, one is still able to see the great skill, care and craftsmanship that went into creating these “works of art in fabric” by looking closely at the pieces that remain. Many Saint Marians have never had a chance to see some of these vestments. We invite you to come to Saint Joseph’s Hall each week to see the vestments (we hope to show new pieces each week). This will give us a chance to reflect on the parish’s past and to think about how we can support this rich tradition. We can do this by preserving what we own and, we hope, by filling in current gaps in the collection. (If you would like to contribute to that effort, please speak to the rector.) The exhibition is being curated by Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., and parishioner Wayne Mahlke.
THE ARTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, October 22, 8:00 PM, The New York Repertory Orchestra (Admission Free), David Leibowitz, music director: Dvorak: Othello Overture; Patterson: Saxophone Concerto (New York City Premiere); Sibelius: Symphony No. 4 . . . American Globe Theatre (AGT), October 28–November 19, 2011. Hamlet. Directed by John Basil, AGT’s Artistic Director. Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 PM, Sunday at 3:00 PM. For tickets and information, call 212-869-9809 between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Rubin Museum, Pilgrimage and Faith: Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, an exhibit that continues through October 24, 2011. The Rubin Museum is located at 150 W. 17th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues . . . The Museum of Biblical Art (moBia) 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 October 16, 2011 . . . Also at moBia, A Short History of Family Bibles in America, October 28, 2011–January 15, 2012. The Museum of Biblical Art is located at 1865 Broadway, at 61st Street.