Last Sunday I made a mess at the altar. I got carried away during the censing of the gifts. The thurible (censer) was full and the incense was billowing out. The music was strong. I offered incense over the gifts in the traditional way, moving the thurible in the form of a cross three times followed by three circles, two counterclockwise, one clockwise (I have no idea why that's the tradition but it is). Again, the smoke was heavy. When I finished censing the entire altar and returned to the center of the footpace (the top step where the altar stands), I realized that the corporal and everything on it was covered with ash.
At Nashotah House our liturgics professor, Father Louis Weil, taught us to be intentional about everything we did while presiding or serving in the liturgy. (He is a beautiful presider and I am delighted that he will be with us next Annunciation as celebrant and preacher at the Solemn Mass.) We weren't ordinarily supposed to be excited or carried away during the liturgy. The liturgy has a way of bringing one back to the center.
A common expression about liturgy is, "The building always wins." That is true, but it is also true that worship is affected profoundly by the shape of vestments, vessels and other furnishings for the church.
I myself own two chasubles, a white and a purple. They were both made by an Englishwoman, Joanna KilBride, who was trained as a silk weaver, dyer and vestment maker. They are made in the historic shape which is a semi-circle of cloth like a cope. But instead of being open in the front, the front is sewn. The chasuble shapes we are used to seeing derive from this earlier model.
When one is wearing this shape it is very easy for a celebrant to lose his or her hands in the folds of the fabric if the hands are held in other than a very few positions. The orans position ("orans" - "prayer" - hands uplifted) works. Hands joined and held up at a right angle or higher works. Hands hanging down at one's side does not work; once you drop your hands you find yourself sheathed by yards of fabric. The original chasuble is self-correcting if you allow it to be. And a celebrant cannot move very fast in this type of vestment.
Any priest can tell you that certain shapes for chalices work and certain do not. I am still amazed that church supply houses sell wide-mouthed chalices. They may look inviting, but are very hard to use for the ministration of Communion. (The usual shape for Anglican chalices before the Oxford movement is also impossible, a tall narrow cup - the wine cascades down into the face in the same ways ice cubes break loose in summer drinks!)
I promise to try to be a little less excited at the altar this coming Sunday. I know better. Someday you may see me in one of my own chasubles at a weekday liturgy and you will see what I mean about restraint. I trust the great tradition of the church. This doesn't mean not being willing to move forward with good ideas, but it does mean giving a certain preference to what has been handed on to us. I am always very suspicious of any item listed as "new" in a religious goods catalogue. And off the top of my head I can't think of a single vestment or furnishing that we use during Mass that hasn't been around for many centuries, with the obvious exception of printed books and electric light. I like the timelessness and restraint of tradition. It keeps me centered on why we come together as a Christian assembly, to be the Body of Christ and to do what Christ himself has told us to do.
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Jack who is hospitalized, James, Carol, Olga, Helen, Margaret, Shirley, Hannah, Dawn, Bryn, Mary, Lucille, Frances, André, Edgar, Helen, Beatrice, Timothy, Eleanor, Hendrick, Anjel, Andra, Diana, Elizabeth, Michelle, Andrea and Susan . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 6: 1959 Grace Frisby Conklin; 1966 Dudley Harrison Briggs; June 8: 1967 Mary Longley; 1998 Anthony Guarino; June 9:1952 Roy Whitson Lay; June 10: 1963 Kenneth Wilmot; 1970 Florence B. Crouch.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 1:15-26, Psalm 47, 1 John 5:9-15, John 17:11b-19 . . . 9:00 AM Celebrant: Father Shin, Preacher: Richard Lawson; 10:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Breidenthal, 11:00 AM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Gerth, 5:00 PM Celebrant & Preacher: Father Shin . . Confessions will be heard on June 3 by Canon Garrison . . . Confessions will be heard on June 10 by Father Gerth.
FROM THE PARISH REGISTER . . . Letters of Transfer were received for Carol Selle from Saint Thomas Church, New York City, for David Jette from Saint Paul’s Cathedral Church, Burlington, Vermont, for Robert P. Clepper from Grace and Saint Peter’s Church, Baltimore, Maryland, for Norman Richard Austill from Church of the Redeemer, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and for James Brophy from the Church of the Transfiguration, New York City. Letters of Transfer were sent for Hugh and Janet Tidwell to St. Thomas Church, New York City. In addition, Geoffrey Allen Pigman has been recognized and recorded as a baptized member and a confirmed communicant in good standing. Dr. Pigman was baptized and confirmed at Pusey House, Oxford, England.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Andrew Heath will be graduated from the Millbrook School, Mill brook, New York, on Friday, June 2. Andrew will be a freshman in the fall at the College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina. When he is here he is regularly serving at the altar. Congratulations, Andrew! . . . We are delighted and thankful that Mary Haddad will be ordained deacon on Saturday, June 10, at her home parish All Saints' Church, Beverly Hills, California. She will serve as deacon of the Solemn Mass here for the first time on Trinity Sunday . . . The Reverend Yamily Bass Choate and her youth group were at Saint Mary's last Sunday night . . . The Catechesis Training Course meets on Saturday, June 10 . . . The Rector's Sunday Class will meet through Pentecost and then break until the fall . . . Attendance last Sunday: 195.
OUR GUEST ORGANIST . . . We are grateful to Dale Bonenberger, a member of this parish, for serving as our guest organist for the next few weeks. Many will recognize Dale from his frequent service as an usher at Saint Mary's. Dale studied pipe organ privately in Pennsylvania before moving to New York City. In addition to playing in various churches, he has attended summer seminars, workshops and master classes at Duquesne University and Merrimack College. When not practicing the organ, Dale works in advertising, specializing in advertising and marketing of pharmaceuticals. Welcome to the organ console, Dale.
WEDNESDAY EVENING SERIES CONTINUES . . . We meet in Saint Benedict’s Study at 7:00 PM with Fr. Breidenthal, Richard Lawson and Fr. Shin from June 7 through July 26 on The Darkside of the Bible. This Wednesday, June 7, Fr. Breidenthal’s topic will be “Genesis 21 The Exile of Hagar”. The series will examine scriptural passages that are difficult, challenging and controversial. Each class will deal with one select passage. Various interpretations and their theological perspectives will be examined and class discussions will be encouraged. Various methods of biblical interpretation will also be introduced.
JOURNEY TO SEOUL . . . Amelia Nagy-Rochester and Father Shin will both be a part of the Diocesan Youth Program's "Journey to Seoul." Father Shin is accompanying the trip as a chaplain and his expenses are covered. However, each of the youths participating needs to raise $1,500.00 to make the trip. I know a few of you who are aware of the need have already sent in checks. More is needed! Please make your check payable to the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin and mark it so that we will know it is for this trip to Seoul. Thank you!
WALKING TOUR OF THE HISTORICAL EPISCOPAL CHURCHES IN MANHATTAN . . . This tour will be held on Saturday, June 17th, time and itinerary to be announced. Manhattan was an important place in the history of the Episcopal Church in the US. The tour will explore some of many historical Episcopal churches, and their architectural styles and theological influences.
ABOUT THE LITURGY . . . This Sunday, June 4, is going to be a little different musically. The congregation is invited to join the choir in the singing of Sanctus and Agnus Dei from Missa Orbis Factor, one of the historic chant Masses of the Western Church. The congregation already knows and during Lent this year sang Kyrie eleison in Greek from this service. This Kyrie is in The Hymnal 1982. The choir has sung this setting many times for many years in this parish. The Sanctus and Agnus Dei are available in English transcriptions. We sang them in English when I was in seminary. Although not ordinary among Episcopalians, I suspect this is not the first time a congregation here has sung something in Latin! I am afraid to try the Gloria with the congregation until we have these other pieces under control. Andrew Adams, however, has more confidence in you than I do. Andrew, I'm chicken. This Sunday we will sing the Mathias setting of the Gloria. If all goes well, we will add the Orbis Factor Gloria the next time this setting comes up. 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 The Dark Side of the Bible
Father Breidenthal leads a study of Genesis 21: "The Exile of Hagar" in this series which examines difficult and challenging scriptural passages.
The Calendar for the Seventh Week of Easter
Monday Boniface, Archbishop and Martyr
Tuesday Easter Weekday
Wednesday Easter Weekday
Thursday Easter Weekday
Friday Columba, Abbot
Saturday Ephrem, Deacon
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.