From the Curate: Speaking The Truth In Love
Wednesday, April 25 is the Feast of Saint Mark the Evangelist. Wednesday also happens to be the day we regularly hold Christian Formation classes. Having just celebrated the Feast of a saint and an evangelist whose Gospel begins by proclaiming “The Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” it was all the more poignant for me to enter into our new series, In Dialogue with Judaism. Often in the history of western Christendom what is Good News to the Christians has been bad, very bad, news to the Jews. Yet, an honest look at the past helps inform a more faithful understanding of the present and future. Dialogue among Christians and Jews helps to foster better understanding of one another, and to minimize fear and guilt and further misunderstanding between Christians and Jews.
The series actually began last week with a solemn service of Yom Ha Shoa, the service remembering the Holocaust and its victims. It is sponsored every year by the Center for Jewish-Christian Studies at General Theological Seminary. As people gather in the seminary’s chapel, even the name of the chapel, the Chapel of the Good Shepherd, seems ominous. Is it possible that Jesus Christ, the God of Christian Faith and a Jew of two thousand years ago can provide for an embodiment of reconciliation between Christians and Jews? Of course I raise this question strictly as a Christian from the Christian point of view, for Christians throughout history have sometimes abused the name of Christ, using it as a God-given right to judge, exclude and even kill Jews and other non-Christians. If we take the Incarnation seriously we need to ask ourselves, whenever Christians judge or murder a Jew, are we, the Christians, not in effect judging and killing Christ? The particular Jewish identity of Jesus cannot be separated from the Christian notion of the universal humanity of Christ.
As the memorial service moves along into the lighting of candles, I notice the Paschal Candle prominently lit in the middle of the chapel. I cringe and am secretly embarrassed by the apparent lack of liturgical sensitivity or plain common sense. This is not particularly a Catholic liturgy, let alone Christian, to call for the lighting of the Paschal Candle. And the Jewish guests are to deal with this Christian symbolism shoved in their faces, when it must be uncomfortable enough for them to deal with other permanent Christian symbolic fixtures in the chapel. I hope that they think it’s just a beautiful, tall and expensive candle. As Christ the Light of the World triumphantly glows, the service takes on a somber tone with the lighting of the six not-so-tall candles each commemorating one million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. As long as we have the Paschal Candle lit, I ask myself again, “Can we, the Christians gathered for this service, see Jesus Christ as a possible place of reconciliation between Christians and Jews, at least for Christians?” Despite my own ambiguity, the service ended on a note that was emotionally uplifting and moving for all. There was a sense of satisfaction that we had participated in making a difference in the world, though small it may have been.
The first Wednesday evening class at Saint Mary’s was well attended with about twenty people in the room. The class is designed to be as much a real dialogue as possible. Rather than Rabbi Alder lecturing on various aspects of Jewish faith and tradition, the discussion is centered on scriptural passages. In the first class the Garden of Eden story served as a springboard for dialogue. We discussed how various Christian and Jewish traditions interpret the passage and got into such topics as Christian concepts of Original Sin, and Jewish notions of heaven and sin. The next class will look at the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22) and discuss more in depth the “place of faith” in both traditions for concepts such as the Torah, covenant, sacrament and other topics. The third class happens after participants are invited to attend a Shabbat service on Friday, May 4. (6:30 PM at Brotherhood Synagogue, located on Gramercy Park South.) This class will reflect upon that experience and will discuss topics concerning worship and ritual, music and liturgy.
In the Epistle reading for the Feast of Saint Mark, Paul admonishes the Ephesians to “speak the truth in love” and to grow into Christ. Paul’s words are words of wisdom for us as we continue In Dialogue with Judaism. The truth rooted in love, particularly rooted in the love of God, is not only universal, but also is welcoming and hospitable to conversation, open and respectful to differences, and understanding and forgiving of each other’s limits and mistakes. In so doing, we grow deeper into Christ and become more mature Christians. Please join us.
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Beatrice and Seymour who are hospitalized, Jack, Nolan, Harold, Olga, Carl, Harold, Frank, Eleanor, John, Barbara, Roy, Peter, John, Jonathan, Bill, Melanie, Joe, Elwyn, Shirlah, Joyce, Daisy, Karen, Michael, Kenneth, Ursula, Jessica, Gayla, Rodney priest, Charles priest and Arthur priest . . . The parish office received news this week that Russell Bagley will be undergoing surgery in May. When Russell lived in New York he was a very active member of Saint Mary’s and served on the board of trustees as Treasurer. Those who would like to send him a card or note can mail it to him at 4 Corners East, 307 North Street, Bennington, Vermont 05201 . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 3: 1947 Rachael Howland, May 4: 1995 Alexandrina Hunte, May 5: 1965 Elizabeth Perrigo.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Acts 9:1-19a, Psalm 33:1-11, Revelation 5:6-14, John 21:1-14 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, April 28 by Father Garrison and on Saturday, May 5 by Father Shin.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Beatrice Norling remains at Hackensack University Medical Center. Please continue to keep her in your prayers . . . The Rector will be away for the first part of the week, attending a “Leadership in Ministry” class April 30 through May 2. After the class he will be able to spend several days with his family before returning to New York . . . Attendance last Sunday: 181.
WELCOME FATHER GALLOWAY . . . Our preacher this Sunday at the Solemn Mass will be the Reverend Peter J. Galloway, an old friend of Saint Mary’s. Some may recall that Father Galloway was first at Saint Mary’s in 1982 as a seminarian. Currently he is vicar of Emmanuel Church, West Hempstead, London.
IN DIALOGUE WITH JUDAISM . . . Join Rabbi Daniel Alder and Father Thomas Breidenthal for this continuing series. The class meets at 7:00 PM after Mass on Wednesday May 2 and May 9 in Saint Benedict’s Study. On Friday, May 4, the class is invited to meet for Shabbat services at Brotherhood Synagogue on Gramercy Park South at 6:30 PM.
ADDITION TO THE LIST OF EASTER FLOWER DONORS . . . Joseph Klee.
ABOUT THE EASTER SEQUENCE HYMN . . . Several people have remarked that they know it is Easter when they hear the great hymn, “Christians to the Paschal Victim,” known as victimae paschali. At Saint Mary’s we sing this hymn each Sunday of Eastertide at the Gospel procession. The musical form known as “sequence” developed from the sung alleluia verse just before the proclamation of the Gospel. Gradually the alleluia was broken up into melodic phrases so that the singers could catch their breath, and by the 9th century words were added and phrases were added. Since these sung verses were not strictly a part of the Mass, but followed from it, they were called “sequences” or “proses.” Victimae paschali is one of the oldest sequence hymns, attributed to Wipo of Burgundy, c. 1030. From this Easter hymn developed some of the first liturgical dramas and miracle plays of the Middle Ages. This Sunday, notice especially how the various verses lend themselves to dialogue. In fact, as the hymn appears in The Hymnal 1982, the verses are arranged in parts, by voice. (When we include the hymn in our worship booklet, we delete the direction for singing in parts and all people are invited to sing all verses.) As a drama, victimae paschali was performed before the Te Deum at Matins on Easter morning.
Christians to the Paschal victim offer your thankful praises!
A lamb the sheep redeemeth: Christ, who only is sinless,
reconcileth sinners to the Father.
Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous:
the prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Third Sunday of Easter
Monday Easter Weekday
Eve of Saint Philip & Saint James’ Day 6:00 PM
Tuesday Saint Philip & Saint James, Apostles
Wednesday Athanasius, bishop
Thursday Easter Weekday
Friday Monnica, mother of Augustine
Saturday Easter Weekday
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.
The Parish Office
Telephone 212-869-5830, Facsimile 212-869-7039
Saint Mary's Online