When I was a young priest I was set up by the fourth graders at Saint Luke's School to settle the question about whether Santa Claus was real or not. They didn't ask their own teacher; they asked me. I was a thirty-one year-old at the time with little experience of nine and ten year-olds. They brought the subject up in such a sly way that I was never conscious that I was being put on the spot. Of course it never occurred to me that children in the fourth grade would "believe" in Santa Claus; first grade was the universal line of demarcation when I was a child.
My sense at the beginning of this year of grace 2000 is that the Santa thing is being revealed later and later - and it tells us much more about many of today's parents than it does about today's children. I remember being totally surprised when the school principal came to see me later that day to find out what I had done. Again, it was in one sense a set-up. The kids sensed they could get a straight answer from me and that is what they wanted. I was only really sorry for the problems I had inadvertently created for the wonderful principal of the day school. She had to deal with the parents, and the rector probably caught it too!
I am looking forward very much to the anniversary of my first year here, when I will have been through the year's liturgical cycle at least once. In more than a few areas of our common life, and none more than church ceremonies, do I have the sense that I might be standing before those fourth graders again and the questions about Santa have reappeared.
You would probably be surprised by how many decisions I am asked to make about what I am going to do or not going to do during so many different liturgies. I've learned quickly that memories of what was or was not done in the past are not always uniform and bulletins should always be checked for evidence of previous practices. But there is another reason why memories are not accurate; changing and evolving ceremonial has always been a part of the Anglo-catholic tradition.
If I have an agenda it is no secret to any reader of this newsletter by now. I care deeply about the liturgical act, about the community of faith being the Body of Christ to do the work of Christ. I care deeply about the language of gesture and ceremony to the extent that the language of signs helps the community be the Body of Christ and to serve others in Christ's name.
It is almost impossible to do "what was always done" and it is almost impossible not to participate in the evolution of liturgical prayer because liturgical prayer is always evolving as communities of faith enter ever more deeply into the mystery of Christ and the Church.
I happen to have a first edition copy of one of the "bibles" of ritualists, a first edition of Adrian Fortescue's The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described (1917). After the author's original preface he adds a note that the book has been late in appearing because after the book was in press a revision of the rules of ceremony was published and the whole project had to be reworked. The reason I own a "Seventh Edition" of a book used by Anglo-catholics, Ritual Notes, is that this book continued to be revised every few years as new decrees were issued from Rome. (The best current versions of these kinds of books for those who are interested are The Ceremonial of Bishops and the Sacramentary, both in English!)
Liturgical life in our Episcopal Church and liturgical life in all Christian communities are always evolving. Even communities that pretend not to change or change very slowly in fact do change. It is part of the evolution of circumstances of life itself and a result of increased or decreased understanding of worship.
Many might be surprised to learn that the elements of liturgical reform that we associate with Vatican II are already very much in evidence in Fortescue's preface to his work in 1917. He writes of ceremonial practices that have been adopted in England because of errors in translations - he refers to subdeacons kicking the door of the church on Palm Sunday with their foot instead of the foot of the processional cross. He questions the almost endless repetition of certain gestures (mentioning in particular the almost endless ceremonial kissing of objects and hands and the number of genuflections appointed in 1917) that reduce the "effect" of the gesture.
I think great consideration should be given by Anglo-catholics to the current liturgical understanding within its own tradition, the Anglican tradition, and within the other traditions of Western liturgical churches, Roman Catholic and Lutheran in particular. (I don't remember where I first heard it but, "It's important not to try to be more catholic than the pope" - and please, no arguments that Anglicans or Orthodox Christians could ever be more truly "catholic" than the pope!)
You and I also live after a generation of liturgical scholars have worked with an awareness of the meaning of liturgy within the various parts of the Western Christian community. It would be impossible for a new scholarly Roman Catholic book on confirmation, for example, not to mention the work of Anglican scholars or the positions taken by different parts of the Anglican Communion on some questions about this sacramental rite or vice versa. We are connected in ways in which we weren't connected when the modern liturgical movement began in the nineteenth century.
I think our liturgical ceremonial should make sense with our own rites and so far I think the rites at Saint Mary's make a great deal of sense for worship in this building. I am very aware that someone in this parish is always going to prefer that we do things another way. I hope some day that I will be such a good liturgist and servant of the liturgical assembly that it will not be necessary for many members of the congregation to focus on ceremonial. I hope the language of signs will be spoken clearly enough and understood well enough that we will be lost as a community in the best possible sense in the mystery of God's presence in this world and in the world to come.
PRAYER LIST…Your prayers are asked for Jack, Margaret, Margo, Shirley, Julia, Clara, Daniel, Samuel John, Hannah and Helen and for the repose of the soul of Katherine . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 10: 1994 William F. Lata; January 11: 1967 Sarah Bedell McDonald; January 13: 1994 Thomas E. Holz; January 15: 1983 Faith Trumbull Booth.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold celebrated and preached here on New Year's Day, the Feast of the Holy Name. It is always great to have Bishop Griswold with us! And we are delighted that he will be here on Candlemas as celebrant when Bishop Jenkins of Louisiana will be here to preach . . . The Rector was able to bring the Holy Communion to three of our New Jersey shut-ins last week, Marion Freise, Margaret Johnke and Gaylord Mason. All send their regards to the parish community . . . The Board of Trustees will meet on Monday, January 10, at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict's Study. Members of the parish community are always invited, but this month a considerable part of the meeting may be spent in executive session to deal with personnel issues as the budget for the new year is proposed . . . Speaking of the budget, as we go to press seventy-six pledges have been received for the 2000 Operating Budget that total $135,297 . . . Attendance at Mass: Holy Name 36, Last Sunday 140.
FLOWERS FOR THE FUTURE . . . The Christmas flower donations have paid for the flowers for the Epiphany. Flowers have been donated for Sunday, January 16. Flowers would be very welcome for Sunday, January 23, Sunday, January 30, and for Wednesday, February 2, the Feast of the Presentation. Until the substantial deficit in the flower fund is eliminated there will only be flowers on our altars when they are donated.
BOOKSTORE . . . If you may be interested in being a part of the bookstore staff, the present staff is interested in talking with you! The bookstore at present is open only following the Solemn Mass on Sundays. At present we need others to help us at this time, but there are lots of other possibilities for helping too! Please speak with Jon Bryant, Esther Kamm or the Rector if you might be interested in helping on a regular basis.
SAINT MARY'S GUILD . . . This is the name of the historic Altar Guild of this parish church. When I arrived there were three members, Marion Freise, Carmen Wallace and Eileen Whittle. Marion was caring for the fair linens, that is, the various altar and credence table cloths. Carmen is our faithful silver polisher. Eileen launders and irons the small linens. Other sacristy tasks are done by altar servers and by the parish's household staff. When I called on Marion this past week she turned in her key to the sacristy because she is no longer able to do the fair linens regularly. She has done more than enough! I personally will miss her ministry. Perfectly laundered and ironed altar linens are a beautiful sign of how much we reverence our eucharistic worship. Marion's work was perfect. If you might be interested in regularly helping with the altar work of the parish please speak with me. There are lots of different opportunities, including doing the fair linens! There is a prayerful richness to this kind of work that those who are called to it deeply enjoy. Marion, thank you for your work! Carmen and Eileen, thank you for your continuing ministry! S.G.
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 after the Epiphany
Monday William Laud, Bishop
Wednesday Aelred, Abbot
Thursday Hilary, Bishop
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.