I write to you on the morning of Maundy Thursday. We have already celebrated the last service of Lent, Morning Prayer for today. The altar of repose is being prepared. The great silver sanctuary lamp is being polished. MCs will begin to arrive shortly. The church staff is making final preparations for the Triduum. The music of a hauntingly beautiful Tenebrae still seems to hang in the air, especially the lovely treble voice of the Allegri Miserere mei.
Each year the Church, our holy Mother, commands us to keep the Easter Triduum so that the Spirit can renew an awareness in the core of our being of our death in Christ and our rebirth to eternal life as God’s sons and daughters. Every year our Mother takes us again to an upper room where we are commanded by Jesus to do what he tells us to do. She takes us again to the place of judgment, suffering and crucifixion. She shows us the shroud. She shows us the Lord of all beaten, bloodied, dirty and dead in the arms of the Blessed Mother. She takes us to the darkest night, when the earth itself seems dead. And in the midst of death, the Church shows us the Light.
In my second year in seminary we studied how the Church’s self-awareness evolved over the centuries. Perhaps due more to the collapse of the classical world than to any other single factor, the Church lost in many practical ways a sacramental sense that it was in this world already the Body of Christ, died and risen. By the time the Black Death arrives, the clergy and the people of the Church lived more in fear of judgment than in hope of eternal life. We became miserable offenders, not the beloved children of God. Despite the Lord’s commands, his family did not receive Communion but once a year. The worship of the Church became something to be observed by the people not done by them. Baptism was the rite that made peace with God and enabled us perhaps to make it to purgatory.
I make no apology for being a liturgical Christian and to asserting that no other theological study is of greater importance than liturgical theology. The most radical claims of the Church are not that we are invited to look on Christ and to believe but to die and rise with him in Baptism now and to share now in his eternal life. Among the most marvelous things about the repainting of our own church building was the decision to use the decoration of the underside of the tabernacle canopy for the nave. Certainly the Blessed Sacrament is a particular sign of the presence of the Lord, but the greater sign is the assembly of the Baptized.
I am looking forward especially this year to Solemn Paschal Evensong on Easter Day. What makes this Evensong different from the Evensongs of all the other Sundays of the year is that there is a procession to the font and a sprinkling of the assembly as the procession returns. On the way to the font we will sing the hymn O sons and daughters, let us sing, which includes Saint John’s account of the first Sunday evening of the new creation. On the way back, as we feel the water we will be singing The strife is o’er, the battle done, a great Easter hymn which is sung at so many funerals. In the language of signs, the language of the liturgy, I think our own sharing in the Easter triumph will be clear in ways that go beyond our ability to describe them. Yet the song in our minds and hearts and the smells of Easter, the feel of the water, will be “words” which repeat in our hearts time and again in the year to come. These words and memories aren’t magic. They won’t keep us from all harm; they won’t keep us from all sins. But they can sustain us through the trials of our humanity with an insistent reminder of God’s love for us, a love which we cannot escape. I hope our celebration of the Triduum will put many songs and words in our hearts.
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Beatrice who is hospitalized and for Jack, Nolan, Harold, Olga, Carl, Harold, Frank, Eleanor, John, Barbara, Roy, Peter, John, Jonathan, Bill, Melanie, Joe, Elwyn, Shirlah, Joyce, Daisy, Naomi, Madelyn, Karen, Michael, Kenneth, Ursula, Jessica, Rodney, priest, Charles, priest, and Arthur, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 19: 1977 Gudrun Lagergren.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The faithful are reminded that one may receive Easter Communion at the Great Vigil of Easter and again at one Mass on Easter morning . . . The Lessons for the Masses of Easter Day will be found in the Prayer Book on page 915. The Lessons for the Offices of Easter Day will be found in the Prayer Book on page 958 . . . The parish clergy do not sit for confessions except by appointment during Easter Week.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Father Shin, while bringing Holy Communion to shut-ins on Monday in Holy Week, called on Beatrice Norling. She was in some distress and Father took her to the Emergency Room at Hackensack University Medical Center. As we go to press she is still in the hospital for treatment. Please keep her in your prayers . . . We usually like to have people use our church facility for films, but no, we were not able to provide space for Saturday Night Live on Good Friday . . . We were able, however, to provide the use of the rectory parlors on Tuesday in Holy Week to the Mayor and Arnold Schwarzenegger while they waited for a charitable event to begin in Times Square . . . Many, many thanks to Mabel Lewis for the fine devotional booklet for Maundy Thursday . . . The parish office will be closed on Easter Monday but the Offices and Masses will be offered on the regular schedule . . . The Board of Trustees will meet on Wednesday, April 18, at 6:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . The Rector will be out of town Thursday, April 19, through Thursday, April 26. On Sunday, April 22, he is to be guest preacher at Trinity By-the-Cove Church, Naples, Florida . . . On Easter Day there is no coffee hour following the Solemn Mass . . . The office computer project continues to unfold and the parish staff may be online by Easter Day . . . Gifts for Easter Flowers that are not received in time for listing in the Easter service bulletins will be printed in next week’s Angelus . . . Attendance last Sunday 321.
URBAN LITURGICAL CHRISTIANITY . . . There are many moments of the year when the character of this community reveals itself. Among the times when who we are and what we are about is so very clear is the solemn liturgy of the Sunday of the Passion. I cannot tell you how proud I am to be your rector as I walked at the end of the procession through Times Square on Sunday morning. The Christian joy of this assembly was so very evident to all who saw us. I’ve never given out palms to people in passing cars before, but I did this year. Clearly we met some evangelical need by what we did. Even the Jamaican steel band person in the middle of Duffy Square (the real name for the northern end of Times Square) was playing, “What a friend we have in Jesus!” It didn’t surprise me that the staff of O’Lunney’s, the Irish pub near Saint Mary’s wanted palms. I was surprised that the staff of the Afghan Kebab House did. The Mass of the Passion was beautifully offered. A few people came and did not stay, but most came and stayed and stayed! Some came in with us after the procession. Many needed a short break during the liturgy. All of this was just fine. This is the nature of worship and community in an urban liturgical catholic parish. Thanks to all who made the day possible. S.G.
The Calendar of the Week
April 15 The Sunday of the Resurrection
April 16 Monday in Easter Week
April 17 Tuesday in Easter Week
April 18 Wednesday in Easter Week
April 19 Thursday in Easter Week
April 20 Friday in Easter Week
April 21 Saturday in Easter Week
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, The Reverend J. Barrington Bates, assisting priests, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.