Of the Father's Love
The earliest of our Christmas hymns in The Hymnal 1982 is "Of the Father's love begotten." It is ascribed to Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (348-410?). In early Christian hymns there is a theological directness and simplicity that is helpful and spiritually powerful. Think of, for example, the Good Friday hymns "Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle" and "The royal banners forward go." Others are the Easter hymns "Welcome, happy morning!" and "Hail thee, festival day!"
I know from my experience in singing them that certain phrases move me almost to tears. The Easter hymns do so perhaps because I have sung them at so many funerals of people I have known and served and loved. I know in the Good Friday hymn, "The royal banners," the second verse I sing from memory because my eyes always well with tears, Fulfilled is all that David told in true prophetic song of old; how God the nations' King should be, for God is reigning from the tree.
The Christmas hymn that has the same effect on me is "Of the Father's love." When we sing it at Saint Mary's on the First Sunday after Christmas Day we will use the text from The Hymnal 1940 which includes the following verse (optional in The Hymnal 1940 and omitted from the present hymnal); Thee let old men, thee let young men, Thee let boys in chorus sing; Matrons, virgins, little maidens, With glad voices answering: Let the guileless songs re-echo, And the heart its music bring, Evermore and evermore!
I know in this hymn there is one verse and one phrase that moves me deeply. The verse is the second one, O that birth for ever blessed, When the Virgin full of grace, By the Holy Ghost conceiving, Bare the Saviour of our race; And the Babe, the world's Redeemer, First revealed his sacred face, Evermore and evermore! The phrase is the last phrase of the final verse before the refrain, Christ, to thee with God the Father, And O Holy Ghost, to thee, Hymn and chant and high thanksgiving, And unwearied praises be: Honor, glory, and dominion, And eternal victory, Evermore and evermore!
It's those words, it is "eternal victory" that does it. I'm not sure what it touches so deep inside of me; but I know it does. What does the King of Kings look like? A dead man on a cross and a body wrapped with linen. A man arrested and whipped. A man whose family thinks he's crazy. A boy in the temple. A baby in a manger. It doesn't make any sense rationally, but I believe it with all that I am. Though there are days when it almost seems to make no sense and there are circumstances of life which cry out for a God who simply fixes everything with a magic wand, I believe in a baby who was born in a stable, the Son of Mary, the Son of God. I invite you to join me in the belief, in the celebration and in the worship.
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Beatrice, Jack, Olga, Helen, Mary, Lucille, Frances, Carl, Harold, Frank, Cindy, Eleanor, Jane, John, Kersten, Nolan, Barbara, Santiago, Rick, Judy, Mary Josephine, Anthony, Roy, Peter, Phillip, Romi and Charles, priest, Rodney, Priest, and for the repose of the souls of Grace and David . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 24: 1962 Charles Moran; December 25: 1986 Norman Rollings, December 28: 1953 Martha Cockrill Lewis; December 29: 1957 Mary Isobel Sonnenberg; December 30: 1977 Josephine Thompson; December 31: 1961 Everett Irwin; 1985 Frances Hirsch; 1985 Anna Marie Schuman.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . Yes, the faithful may receive Holy Communion on Sunday morning, and again on Christmas Eve, and again on Christmas Day! . . . The Sunday Proper: Micah 5:2-4 Psalm 80, Hebrews 10:5-10, Luke 1:39-56 . . . The Proper for Christmas Mass at Midnight: Isaiah 9:2-4,6-7, Psalm 96, Titus 2:11-4, Luke 2:1-20 . . . The Proper Christmas Mass of the Day: Isaiah 52:7-10, Psalm 98, Hebrews 1:1-12, John 1:1-14 . . . On Saturday, December 23, Father Gerth will hear confessions. The parish clergy will not sit for confessions on Saturday, December 30 or on Saturday, January 6.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . We are delighted that our sexton Lazaro Terron will become a citizen of the United States on Tuesday, January 2 . . . On Sunday, December 31, the church will close at 3:00 PM and there will be no evening services because of the New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square. New Year’s Day, Monday, January 1, is the Feast of the Holy Name. As is our custom, Solemn Mass will be sung at 11:00 AM. This is the only service on January 1 . . . Special thanks to Bill Morton, Charles Walsh, Larry Green, and Carmen Wallace for their help with our coffee hour ministry . . . Attendance last Sunday: 173.
CHURCH CUSTOMS . . . The catholic faith is a living tradition. Some old customs are retained while new customs arrive. It seems good to include a few reminders about current catholic practice in the newsletter this week. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (and on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25) the custom of kneeling during the singing of the Nicene Creed at the words, by the power of the Holy Spirit, he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man, is retained. Before Vatican II there were several other customs similar to this which no longer are used. Some may remember kneeling during the proclamation of the gospel appointed for Christmas Day, for example. Among the customs that are retained is the custom of bowing our heads at the names of Jesus and Mary and at the naming of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Two old catholic traditions have been renewed, the Solemn Proclamation of the Birth of Christ on Christmas Eve, which includes the traditional reckoning of the chronology of the world, and the Proclamation of the Date of Easter on Epiphany, using the tone for the Exsultet from the Great Vigil of Easter. In the Episcopal Church abstinence is dispensed on the Fridays between Christmas Day and Epiphany.
YEAR-END CONTRIBUTIONS . . . If you are planning to make a contribution to the church and wish to receive contribution credit in the year 2000 from the IRS, please be aware of the following guidelines that must be followed: All contributions must by received in the church office in 2000 in order to receive credit in 2000. The church will close on Sunday, December 31, at 3:00 PM. Mailed contributions must be postmarked in 2000 to receive credit in 2000. Contributions of stock and securities can also be received by the Society of the Free Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. Call Barbara Klett, 212-869-5830, for more information, or call the church office and we will be glad to send you a guide. Finally, to ensure the deductibility of your church contribution, please do not file your 2000 income tax return until you have received written acknowledgment of your contributions from the church..
The Calendar of the Week
SUNDAY The Fourth Sunday of Advent & Christmas Eve
Monday Christmas Day
Tuesday Saint Stephen, Deacon & Martyr
Wednesday The Holy Innocents
Thursday Saint John, Apostle & Evangelist
Friday Thomas Becket, bishop & martyr No Abstinence
Saturday Christmas 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.