More than a Drill
The priest who sent me to seminary used to insist that I read Morning and Evening Prayer. If I missed Morning Prayer in the morning I would read it later in the day, sometimes along with Evening Prayer. This approach to the Daily Office was actually pretty standard practice for hundreds of years in the Western Church. In retrospect, as preparation for seminary and my life as a member of the clergy it was excellent training.
I can recall the lecture at Nashotah House when Father Louis Weil, who then taught liturgics and church music there, explained his realization one day that he could only pray Morning Prayer in the morning. I didn’t understand what he meant at that moment in class. I knew he wasn’t lazy or looking for a way out of the disciplines that had shaped the greater part of his life. He experienced the Office as bound to the actual time of the day in a way I had not until that point. I knew he was trying to teach me something and I knew I wasn’t getting it.
I can’t remember where I was now for the morning Office when someone chose the Magnificat as one of the canticles for Morning Prayer. It’s an option in the new Prayer Book. If I recall correctly it
is the canticle of the morning in the Eastern Church. But in the West, since the time of Saint Benedict, it has been the great song of Evening Prayer. It is hard for me to think of the Song of Mary apart from the waning of the day. This is when I began to understand what Father Weil and others had been trying to teach me.
The prayer of Christians, like the prayers of our Jewish fathers and mothers, has for always been linked to the passing of time, the rhythm of days, weeks, months and years. It’s not more complicated than that. And should we forget it, then our prayer risks becoming a drill. And if you never knew this, I invite your reflection. How many of us know people who assert that they are celebrating their family’s Christmas – two weeks before December 25? Whatever they are doing – and it may be a wonderful thing – it’s not Christmas two weeks before, at least not in the Episcopal Church.
The term “liturgical movement” is often used to refer to the work of scholars and pastors from many academic fields who worked on liturgical theology and practice beginning in the late nineteenth century. Among Anglicans (also known as Episcopalians), the liturgical movement captured the hearts and minds of a small group within our communion very early on. The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin was founded in the wake of this movement and our common life is bound up with it. Perhaps the single most important result of this movement was the restoration of the Mass to its central place in Episcopal worship. This was the same kind of clarity in the twentieth century which restored the Cup to the laity at the beginning of the Anglican Reformation in the sixteenth century.
I would argue that this is the kind of clarity that moved us from the language of the sixteenth century to the language of our own day. I expect the liturgical movement will continue to call us to move forward. And the genius of liturgy is that it contains within a call to be open to change and growth. An aesthetic Christianity may still be found, but the liturgy cries out for the people to participate, not to observe, for morning to be morning, and evening to be evening, for Sunday to be the Lord’s day and no other, for Christians to love one another and their neighbors as themselves, for us to have eyes that see that to die is to live. It’s not a drill.
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Jack, Harold, Olga, Carl, Harold, Frank, Eleanor, John, Roy, Peter, John, Jonathan, Joseph, Elwyn, Shirlah, Michael, Kenneth, Ursula, Jessica, Russell, Evelyn, Susan, Rodney, priest, and Arthur, priest.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 23: 1959 Edith May Bennett.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . At the Commencement Service of the General Theological Seminary on Wednesday, May 16, the Reverend Allen Shin received the degree of Master of Sacred Theology and Mr. Richard Lawson, parish seminarian, received the degree of Master of Divinity cum laude. At Westminster Choir College, Princeton, New Jersey, on Saturday, May 12, Mr. Robert McCormick was graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Music summa cum laude in organ performance . . . The position descriptions for the curate of Saint Mary’s and for a new building superintendent are posted on the web page of the parish at www.stmvirgin.org . . . The Board of Trustees meets on Monday, May 21, at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study . . . Attendance last Sunday: 188.
A NEW WEDNESDAY EVENING SERIES . . . The lives and writings of Charles Gore, Desmond Tutu and William Temple are the subject of our final series of Wednesday evening classes, “Great Voices of Modern Anglicanism.” The class meets from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study (located on the west side off the long hallway which connects Saint Joseph’s Hall to the sacristy). You are invited to come for Evening Prayer and/or Mass before the class or just to join the class at 7:00 PM. The door buzzer for Saint Benedict’s Study is located in the foyer of the parish house entrance at 145 West 46th Street.
ON THE VISITATION OF OUR LADY . . . The Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is observed on May 31. This feast always falls during the time of the year which is called “Processiontide” at Saint Mary’s. The festivals of Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi are all observed with services of Procession & Solemn Mass. At different points in Saint Mary’s history, the Visitation too has been observed in this way.
We don’t think it is practical for us to mount a Solemn Mass for the Visitation, but it is perfectly possible and practical for us to have a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM following the present 10:00 AM Sunday service pattern. Our regular Thursday evening priest, the Reverend Rosemari G. Sullivan, will celebrate and preach. The Rector and the Curate will assist. Mr. Dale Bonenberger will be at the organ bench. Incense will be offered. The service details are not settled yet but we will probably sing a little more than we do on Sunday morning. We hope very much that many may be able to attend. As is our custom, Masses for the Visitation will also be said on the Eve, Wednesday, May 30, at 6:20 PM and on the day at 12:15 PM.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Sixth Sunday of Easter
Monday Rogation Day
Tuesday Rogation Day
Wednesday Rogation Day
Ascension Eve 6:00 PM
Thursday Ascension Day
Procession & Solemn Mass 6:00 PM
Friday The Venerable Bede, Priest & Monk Abstinence Dispensed
Saturday Augustine of Canterbury, Archbishop
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 Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.