Before the Great Vigil of Easter I had a few minutes with the Presiding Bishop in the church to discuss some ceremonial details. One of the things I told him was that he would not be able to get the Paschal Candle into the baptismal font because of the cover. He sized up the situation and smiled, saying nothing. Those who were here may recall that he announced during the sermon that despite the worries and concern of the rector he was going to plunge the candle into the font during the Thanksgiving Over the Water. And he did it three times, as is traditional. It was one of many moments of grace for our parish community as we entered and celebrated the Easter Triduum.
Twice I have experienced a particular power in the kindling of the new fire at the beginning of the Great Vigil. Once was at Nashotah House. I will never forget the profile of Michael Ramsey in chasuble and miter, supported by deacon and subdeacon, as he stood in the open doors of the darkened chapel as the new fire rose just outside the chapel in front of him. I will never forget the profile of Frank Griswold in chasuble and miter as the brilliant new fire rose up in the darkened church. With Bishop Ramsey I only remember the outline of his figure, since the fire was outside. But I could see the joyful and purposeful solemnity on the face of Bishop Griswold as the fire burned brightly. On both occasions I felt a profound connection across time to the Church of every age and of every place. Not every bishop is comfortable with that mantle. Bishop Ramsey certainly was. Bishop Griswold too embodies it with a simplicity that helps us feel connected to each other and to the wider fellowship of Church through the ages. It was an extraordinary moment.
Saint Mary's does not have a large baptismal font, certainly not one large enough for immersion baptism even of an infant. (Immersion is the preferred method of baptizing in the catholic tradition - you may not believe me but I assure you that this is true.) Over the years I have learned a few tricks and it is entirely possible for a person to feel immersed during his or her baptism by the generous application of water poured thrice. We don't have a large enough vessel of quality for holding the water to be poured into the font. So we used a large stockpot from the kitchen. If you were in the church, however, you heard the water poured. And because the microphone was on you may also have heard Angela Allen choking because so much water was poured. It was a very baptismal moment.
The Presiding Bishop blessed the water. I administered the water. (It is customary for priests and deacons who assist a bishop to administer the water, not the bishop himself or herself.) The Bishop then took a large flagon of Chrism and poured the sacred oil on Angela's head. He then laid on his hands and sealed her baptism. She was vested in white and a candle lighted from the Paschal Candle was given to her by her sponsors. The sacramental signs of the Lord's death and resurrection were generous. The baptismal procession returned to the chancel. The Presiding Bishop aspersed the congregation with baptismal water as the assembly and choir sang Psalm 23 with the antiphon, "You anoint my head with oil, and my cup is running over." Eleven others were presented for confirmation, reception or reaffirmation. It indeed was Easter.
Weren't the flowers spectacular, absolutely spectacular? On Maundy Thursday there were trees hanging down from the balcony in the Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy. The altar of repose was lavishly beautiful. The flowers for Easter were brilliant in every way including being brilliantly large. Mr. Howard Christian has an extraordinary ministry among us. Howard, thank you so very, very much.
I know the procession of the Sacrament to the altar of repose was glorious, even though I was in it. I was near the end, but I could sense the power of all of the altar servers and clergy holding lighted hand candles to lead a procession of two thuribles, two torches, two ministers bearing the Sacrament, followed by two more torches. The congregation was kneeling and at the customary intervals we sang the great hymn, "Now, my tongue, the mystery telling."
The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord was also extraordinary. One of my favorite new quotations comes from the food writer Patricia Wells, "Simplicity is not simple, neither is it impossible." There was the richest simplicity on Good Friday both at the liturgy at 12:30 PM and at Stations of the Cross at 6:00 PM. I warn you, however, that the year 2000 may well be the last year when the proper Good Friday liturgy ("The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord") is celebrated only once. Too many members of our community have to (yes, I do mean, "are required") work on Good Friday. I expect there will be two full celebrations next year, one at 12:30 PM and one at 7:00 PM.
One of the nice surprises of Easter Day was a simple service of Sung Matins (Morning Prayer). The Sung Mass at 9:00 AM and the Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM were both wonderful. Solemn Paschal Evensong & Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction was a more than fitting conclusion to the Easter Triduum.
I cannot begin to acknowledge all of those who made this possible. At every major liturgy there was a large group of altar servers. It was very impressive. Did the musicians ever quit? Tenebrae, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Eve and Easter Day were all just wonderful. Thank you! Do not forget the very few people also who clean and polish brass and silver and the two people who iron linens for the church. (Usually a load of linen comes back in a not small box; this week it came back in a not small basket.) The work of Brother Lawrence Guild (food hospitality) and Saint Raphael's Guild (our parish ushers) was just outstanding. They coped with the crowds when required and were helpful when we ran out of bulletins.
More Thanks: To all who folded bulletins, to all who served in the kitchen, to Martin Cowart for his help with supper for the altar servers, to the church staff for all of their extra work and to the ordinary members of the parish who stepped forward so consistently to help whenever needed. Thank you so very much. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for James, Dennis, Carol, Olga, Helen, Jack, Margaret, Shirley, Hannah, Dawn, Bryn, Mary, Lucille, Frances, Ronald, AndréJ, Edgar, Helen, Beatrice, Timothy and Marilyn and for the repose of the soul of Diana . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 3: 1947 Rachel Howland; May 4: 1995 Alexandrina Patricia Hunte; May 5: 1965 Elizabeth Perrigo; 1991 Homer Lee Hennig.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 3:12a,13-15,17-26, Psalm 111, 1 John 5:1-6, John 20:19-31 . . . 9:00 AM Celebrant: Father Breidenthal, Preacher: Richard Lawson; 10:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Shin, 11:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Gerth . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, April 29, by Canon Garrison. Confessions will be heard on Saturday, May 6, by Father Gerth.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Additions to the Easter Flower List: George Blackshire, Ray Duncan, Rosemary Kern Cardenas, Michael Merenda and Abraham and Suzanne Rochester . . . Larry Green has joined the usher group. Welcome, Larry! If you also are interested in serving please speak with any usher or with a member of the clergy . . . Attendance last week: Tenebrae 150, Maundy Thursday 182, Good Friday 256, Easter Vigil 350, Easter Day 461.
WEDNESDAY EVENING SERIES: Jesus of History and Faith . . . "Facts that Matter" will be presented this week by Robin Landis. The group meets on Wednesdays at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict's Study. You are welcome to join us.
A PERSONAL NOTE FROM THE RECTOR . . . Many of you know that my first cousin Mark Matthews and his wife Page are in New York for their son Jack's treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Medical Center. Jack celebrated his third birthday last Thanksgiving. Three days later he complained of a stomach ache. Page rubbed his stomach and felt something hard. They went that night to the emergency room. Jack has a very aggressive cancer, neuroblastoma. They live in Chesapeake, Virginia. They were here earlier this winter for the removal of the tumor. Jack is now back for a bone marrow transplant and for the associated treatments that are part of the protocol for him. He and his mother will probably be here for two months. Mark will be here on the weekends and when two parents are needed for the treatment protocol. I spent most of Thursday at the hospital while they harvested Jack's bone marrow for the treatment to come. Just being in that hospital and seeing Jack and so many children with cancer was a values clarification exercise that none of us ought to need. The hospital staff is unbelievably kind, competent and flexible. (They can wait until a three year-old is out before changing him into the gown he will need for his operation. The staff's maturity promotes every one's maturity.) Jack is doing very well. I am in awe of his parents' love and ability to care for him. In so many ways he seems to me to be just a little boy. All little children are affectionate by nature. But it isn't easy for me when he kisses my hand and closes it and tells me to hold it close to my heart and not to drop it. I don't think God is going to love Jack any more if I ask you to pray for him. God already loves Jack more than you or I can. But I ask your prayers for him in this sense, that his parents be continually strengthened as they give their best to him and that you and I be the kind of people in our ordinary living that promotes a reverence for each other and for the world God has made so good. S.G.
This week at Saint Mary’s
Sunday 10:00 AM The Rector's Class in Saint Benedict's Study
Wednesday 7:00 PM Jesus of History and Faith in Saint Benedict's Study
The Calendar for the Second Week of Easter
Monday Saint Philip & Saint James, Apostles
Tuesday Saint Mark the Evangelist
Wednesday Easter Weekday
Thursday Monnica, mother of Augustine of Hippo
Friday Easter Weekday Abstinence Dispensed
Saturday Easter Weekday (Monthly Requiem)
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector, The Reverend Allen Shin, curate, The Reverend Thomas Breidenthal, assistant, The Reverend Arthur Wolsoncroft, The Reverend Canon Maurice Garrison, The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa, assisting priests, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.