The Word Made Flesh
One of the things that most distinguishes the history of worship within our parish community is that it has been a part of a movement within the wider Christian church that has been working to recover the liturgical act. Christians worship in many ways, but in their most ancient tradition Christians gathered for liturgy, to do the work of the people.
Many would argue that by the nineteenth century Western Christians had lost almost entirely the capacity for the liturgical act. They were capable of great acts of worship, great choral worship in particular became strong within the Anglican Communion. Christian worship in which the congregation observed and listened while the clergy led or did the service was typical of almost every Western Christian community until very recently. Then a few parish priests and a few scholars began to hunger for something more, for the words of the liturgy to be more than words.
The phrase "the liturgical act" began to be used to distinguish an assembly of Christians gathered for worship who were gathered to be the Body of Christ doing worship, not an audience watching others perform acts of worship. The words of the baptismal liturgy always had spoken of persons dying and rising in Christ; congregations began to understand in new ways what that means. The New Testament speaks of the Christian assembly as the Body of Christ. What does it look and feel like when we try to do that?
Most of us who have some experience of the Episcopal Church or other liturgical churches can remember Masses that were essentially a "drill." People used to joke about how fast certain priests could say Mass - and some really could and can. Holy Baptism in particular was experienced as a sacred drill - one that protects infants from "limbo." (I have every reason to believe that worried grandmothers still "baptize" their grandchildren when they have the first opportunity to do so when no one else is around.)
The liturgical language of sign and gesture - as old as any of the languages of the Christian assembly - is largely unknown to members of the clergy of the Church, to say nothing of the laity. I have come across so many priests and bishops who work overtime not to try to learn it. Many do not bother to use "orans" - the ancient Christian prayer position (uplifted hands) for leading prayers. Many prefer to hold a book in their hands. Others use orans for prayers they say but make a point of not using it when the people join in - as when they lead the Lord's Prayer. One can make an almost ironclad case that tradition demands that the entire assembly stand and use orans when it prays the Lord's Prayer. This is how Jesus himself did it; this is how the entire early Church did it.
The first book of the assembly is not a prayer book or an altar missal but a bible. In the early church this along with communion plate were the community property of the assembly. The early church did not have altar missals or service leaflets. The clergy and laity were so deeply formed in the mystery of the Body of Christ that the idea that one needed a written text was not only impractical but beside the point. The Church was the Body of Christ and knew how to be the Body of Christ. They didn't baptize you until you knew what that meant.
As the Body of Christ how do we "hear" the Gospel of Jesus when it is proclaimed at Mass? Do we hear him speaking to us? He is speaking to us, and we are his Body. If you want to know what Jesus Christ looks like, look at your sisters and brothers during the proclamation of the Gospel. If you want to know what Jesus Christ is saying to you, listen to the words of the Word. If you want to praise Jesus Christ, love his Word (the Gospel) and his Body (the Assembly) when you say, "Glory to you, Lord Christ."
I believe Saint Mary's continues to have a call to a prophetic role in helping the wider Christian community recover the liturgical act. This is at the heart of the catholic mission, the confession of Jesus Christ, crucified, risen and present still among us. Come to Mass expecting to see the Body of Christ in the liturgical act, not on the pages of a book. Come to live the risen life that the risen Christ has given you. Come to hear the Word, Jesus Christ; come to see the Body of Christ; come to touch the Body of Christ; come to adore the Body of Christ; come to love Christ; and come to love yourself and one another as much as Christ loves you.
PRAYER LIST…Your prayers are asked for Jack, Margaret, Katherine Rose, Margo, Shirley, Rich, Julia, Owanah, Clara, Daniel, Samuel John and Hannah and for the repose of the soul of William.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reminder: The church will be open on December 31 for Morning Prayer and Mass at 8:30 AM. The church buildings will be closed the rest of the day . . . New Year's Day is the Feast of the Holy Name. Mass will be said at 12:15 PM at the high altar. This will be the only service on January 1 and the church will be open only for the Mass so that our household staff can observe the holiday . . . Kevin Farley folded the Sunday bulletins while George Blackshire was out of town. We are thankful! . . . As we go to press, 76 pledges that total $133,837 have been received for the 2000 Operating Budget . . . Frederick Buechner will read from and sign copies of his new book, The Eyes of the Heart, on Tuesday, January 11, at 6:00 PM at the Episcopal Church Center bookstore, 815 Second Avenue (between 43rd and 44th Streets) . . . Notices about the annual meeting of the Society of King Charles the Martyr are available on the ushers' table. . . . Attendance at Mass: Christmas Eve 392, Christmas Day 93, Sunday 115.
ADDITIONS TO THE CHRISTMAS FLOWER LIST . . . Mark and Cecilia Cho, Larry Green, William and Barbara Knoeller, Terrance and Donna O'Dwyer and John Schultz. To all who contributed, thank you! The church, of course, looks splendid!
THE Y2K FLOWER CHART . . . The flower chart for the new year has been posted on a bulletin board in Saint Joseph's Hall, (the small board near the double doors closest to the church). As another effort to address the serious deficit in the flower account, the suggested donation for the flowers is raised from seventy-five dollars per Sunday to one hundred dollars per Sunday. We continue to be thankful for the regular flower ministry of Howard Christian, Jon Bryant and Dean Driver. Our flowers are selected at the wholesale market and arranged by our own team. That's a big effort.
SOME CHRISTMAS THANK YOUS . . . Where does a rector begin? From my perspective so many different people make so many significant contributions that it is almost impossible to make a list. There are people who come to work before, during and after services in so many ways, from folding hundreds of bulletins to shaking hands with a warm smile at the door. Altar servers who deal with a range of tasks that make the liturgy flow with a smooth effortlessness that enables the prayer of the assembly. Some people put in long and extra hours to decorate the church; some people put in long and extra hours to prepare the vessels, vestments and altar furnishings of the church. And a huge pile of linens went off to be laundered after the weekend! Several key people had bad colds during the weekend, but you would never know it from the way in which they did their jobs. I attended a meeting with the music and acolyte leaders that I expected to last forty-five minutes and took instead two hours. That's the kind of effort that I observe in every area of our common life. And it is the kind of effort of love for this community that encourages me and others to want to give in the same way for the service of the Lord. Thank you so very much. S.G.
THE EPIPHANY PARTY . . . Ann Sokolowski is going to be chair for the reception after the Solemn Mass on Epiphany, January 6. Ann is relatively new to the parish and has helped with hospitality already. If you would like to bring some party foods or to help with clean up on set-up please speak with Ann after the Solemn Mass this Sunday or call the parish office.
Worship at Saint Mary’s
The Holy Eucharist
On Sundays Mass is said at 9:00 AM, 10:00 AM and 5:00 PM. A Solemn Mass is offered at 11:00 AM. Monday through Friday Mass is said at 12:15 PM and 6:15 PM. On Saturdays Mass is said at 12:15 PM.
The Daily Office
On ordinary Sundays Morning Prayer is said at 8:40 AM and Evening Prayer at 4:45 PM. Monday through Friday Morning Prayer is offered at 8:30 AM, the Noonday Office at 12:00 PM and Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM. On Saturdays the Noonday Office is offered at 12:00 PM and Evening Prayer at 5:00 PM.
The Reconciliation of Penitents
Confessions are heard on Saturdays between 11:30 and 12:00 and between 4:00 and 5:00. Appointments can also be made with members of the parish clergy for the Reconciliation of Penitents at other times.
The ordinary Fridays of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
The Calendar for the Second Week of Christmas
Tuesday Elizabeth Seton, Religious
Wednesday John Neumann, Bishop, & Epiphany Eve
Thursday The Epiphany of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Saturday Of Our Lady
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.