The Body of Christ
Our parish since its inception has been known for pushing the envelope, as it were, especially in matters of worship. Saint Mary’s was founded in 1868 at a time when the “liturgical act” was a dream for a very small group of Christians, Anglicans, Roman Catholics and others, who were stumbling onto the heritage of their Christian tradition. Anglicans had not experienced a solemn celebration of the liturgy since the Reformation. Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Lutherans had not regularly experienced participation in a Christian assembly of the kind which had been the everyday reality of Christian communities before the Dark Ages descended on Western Europe. It is something rare and precious today, being able to see the assembly as the Body of Christ.
Despite all of the Church’s problems, the Holy Spirit was as present to the Church in the Middle Ages as it was in the beginning and is today. In every age, the Holy Spirit works to reveal Christ’s presence and gift of eternal life to all. It should not surprise us that we are shaped by the experience and traditions of those who have gone before. It should not surprise us that some things which were normative for early Christians and of great value came to be obscured by accidents of culture, education and history.
Again, in the nineteenth century, a very small group of Christians began to rediscover the liturgical act. At the heart of the liturgical act is not any ceremony but a transcendent reality, that the assembly of the baptized is the Body of Christ. These words still can send our souls soaring to the heights of heaven even if we don’t yet understand all they mean. It’s pretty easy to come through the doors of any church on a Sunday or a weekday and see the outward signs of Christianity. I believe you and I – and Christians everywhere really – are seeking to be the kind of Christian community (or congregation, or assembly) where people seeing the assembly see the Body of Christ.
Jesus called us to this mystery many ways, I believe. What did he mean when he said, in Luke’s Gospel, “Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21)? Or in Matthew’s Gospel, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20)? The writer of the Letter to the Ephesians proclaimed, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
Some of my readers know that one of the trick questions I used to enjoy using on candidates for Holy Orders in my previous diocese was to ask which came first the Sacrament of Baptism or the Sacrament of Holy Orders? The question is all messed up, of course, and on many levels. Baptism and Order are gifts of God for the Church which unfolded within the history of the Church, after the Lord’s death and resurrection. Before there was a Mass, before there was a priesthood, there was an assembly of the Body of Christ.
I used to ask the question to see what a seminarian would do with it. It is not, however, irrelevant to the way in which most of us were taught to think about God’s plan for the Church. The ordained ministry is not the source of the Church or the Gospel; the Bible is not the source of the Church or the Gospel. Christ himself died and rose. He and the Father have sent the Spirit to us so that we can die and rise in and through Christ to new life. It is the Body of Christ that is the source of salvation and life. It was Christ who revealed that dying and rising for him would be a cross and that for us we would die and rise by water and the Spirit. As Jesus told us, apart from him we can do nothing (John 15:1) but with him all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).
During Holy Week we are going to push the envelope again. The parish clergy and I are going to try to do our part to assist the assembly in having more and more the sense that it is the primary sign of God’s presence in this place. The more our assembly understands itself to be the Body of Christ the more of Christ’s own work it can do outside our doors. We aren’t worried about liturgical details. We are worried about being the kind of servants and pastors for the assembly so that the People of God may follow Christ’s call to love and serve all. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Guiseppina, Doreen, Mabel, Gloria, Marion, Olga, Peter, Michael, Kenneth, Ursula, Maureen, Marie, Rick, Edgar, John, Joanne, Barbara, Jeffrey, priest, and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Edward, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned and David . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 10: 1962 John Jarvis Beach, 1989 Marion Campbell Jr.; March 11: 1994 Virginia Greene; March 12: 1961 Muriel Dorothy Blaine; March 15: 1969 Peter Chan.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold was the celebrant for the 12:15 Mass on Saturday, March 2. It was his seventeenth anniversary of consecration as bishop in the Church of God and we were honored that he was able to preside here on this special day . . . Doreen Swan and Father Charles Whipple are both home from the hospital. Please continue to keep them in your prayers . . . Ushers are needed for many of our extra services. Please see the sign-up sheet in Saint Joseph’s Hall to sign-up to help! . . . Many thanks to all who helped with the Dessoff Choirs’ concert at Saint Mary’s last week . . . There is a wonderful card for Holy Week thanks to the efforts of Robert Loper and Robert Dance. It will be included in the Easter offering mailing . . . Attendance last Sunday (a Sunday without Evensong!) 161.
ACTIONS OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES, FEBRUARY 19, 2002, MEETING . . . At the February 19, 2002, meeting the Board of Trustees: 1. Approved the Budget for 2002. 2. Heard from the Rector that $1,000 of our endowment is spent each day, which is the amount that is necessary to maintain the programs at St. Mary’s and to keep the Church open seven days a week. 3. Learned that the Investment Committee had met with representatives of US Trust, to review the performance of our investment accounts. 4. Discussed having a planning retreat for the members of the Board of Trustees, to make goals and financial plans for the next five years. 5. Heard that the choir loft balustrade needs to be repaired, to provide increased support for it. This will also entail some electrical re-wiring.
BRING A FRIEND FOR HOLY WEEK . . . Children’s Sunday school programs often have a special day called “Each one, bring one.” This is the day when each child tries to bring at least one person who has never been to their church. Well, it’s not such a bad idea, is it? Think about the people you know. Is there anyone in particular who has heard you talk about your church and showed some curiosity about it? Ask that person to join you for one (or more) of the services during Holy Week. It might just change that person’s life and it might give you a deeper appreciation for your own ability to share your faith. The Good News about Jesus Christ is not conveyed by signs or radio commercials or ads in the New York Times. People come to Jesus Christ through other people, one at a time.
WHAT IS OLD AND NEW . . . Several months ago, one of Saint Mary’s many friends, Titi Halle of Cora Ginsberg, Inc., was at a textile auction and discovered some antique vestments that she thought should go to Saint Mary’s. She called some friends at the parish and very quickly three sets of antique vestments were given to the parish. Because of the richness of our liturgical calendar and the range of services which we do, two of the sets are very usable, one is a white and one is a rose. Both sets were made for the old rite, but unlike virtually all of the vestments which our parish owns, these are in superior condition. The parish still desperately needs two new sets of vestments – a summer green set and a large white set – the antique white set doesn’t come with five chasubles and everything else which is now needed for the liturgy on greater feasts! The rose set was given as a memorial to William Bell Daniels, Jr., priest, whose daughter, Jane Daniels Lear is a member of the parish. The white set was given as a memorial to Celine G. Burke, the mother of a friend of the parish. On behalf of the parish community, I am tremendously thankful for gifts like this for our parish. The rose set will be worn at the Solemn Mass this Sunday. The fabric for the vestments was made circa 1720; the fabric on the cope used for orphreys is circa 1680. The rose colored frontal which we own should set them off stunningly! Titi Halle, thank you! Donors, thank you! These gifts, like our beautiful new vestments, are gracious signs of the love we have for God and for each other. S. G.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fourth Sunday in Lent: Laetare
Monday Weekday of Lent
Tuesday Weekday of Lent
Wednesday Weekday of Lent
Thursday Weekday of Lent
Friday Weekday of Lent Lenten Abstinence
Stations of the Cross and Benediction at Saint Mary’s at 7:00 PM
Saturday Weekday of Lent
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Canon Maurice Garrison, The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa,
The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests, The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.