Every Sunday during the Easter season we are singing the traditional Easter Day sequence – “sequence” is the church word for a hymn assigned by tradition to be sung on certain days before the proclamation of the Gospel. It’s not used at the Easter vigil. The historic sequence for the Vigil is Psalm 114 – “When Israel came out of Egypt.” But on Easter Day it is “Christians to the Paschal victim” (Hymn 183).
The tune for the Easter Day sequence is called by the Latin name of the sequence, “Victimae Paschali laudes.” The text and the tune are about 1000 years old. Before I became a rector of a parish, I sang this hymn only occasionally. I had learned the hymn as a choir anthem once. I have it on a record. At some point I realized that it is entirely singable by a congregation if the congregation could sing it more than once a year. My solution as a rector: sing it every Sunday from Easter Day until Pentecost – one of the few other days that has its own historic sequence.
Although the text is not ancient, it sounds to me as if it is. Its words and images are straightforward and scriptural. It is good Easter theology. Singing it every Sunday before the Gospel gives a certain liturgical unity to the season and reminds us that every Gospel lesson proclaimed during the Easter season is fundamentally a proclamation about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is an excellent example of how the liturgical tradition can lead us to a deeper understanding of itself.
On Sunday evening, Solemn Evensong allows us the opportunity to sing another Easter song every week, “The Lamb’s high banquet called to share” (Hymn 202). I like “Jesus Christ is risen today, alleluia!” as much as the next person and the absolute joy and triumph it expresses are the birthright of every Christian, but there is a another kind of richness to “The Lamb’s high banquet” that is more thoughtful and helpful for Christian living and praying. The first verse:
The Lamb’s high banquet called to share,
arrayed in garments white and fair,
the Red Sea past, we now would sing
to Jesus our triumphant King.
References to the Passover and the Exodus continue through the hymn. The white garment is the garment in which the baptized are clothed, the garment of the saints, the King of Kings. Which banquet? The one in heaven? The one at this altar? The one at tables throughout the world where the Body of Christ gathers? All of these? And the word “call” – so important in the spiritual journey of each person. No one gets to the Lamb’s table by himself or herself. It is the Holy Spirit that calls each of us to be joined to Christ’s Body, the Church, to be one in the Lord. The fourth verse links Easter to Good Friday:
O all sufficient Sacrifice,
beneath thee hell defeated lies;
thy captive people are set free
and endless life restored in thee.
We are God’s people. Our journey began long ago. We were slaves in Egypt; we were slaves to sin and death. God shared eternal life with us for all times by sending his Son to us. The Church assembles to recall our history in Scripture and liturgy Sunday after Sunday, feast day after feast day, day after day. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Eileen, Fred, Jerri, Myra, Mary, Sarah, Doreen, Mabel, Gloria, Marion, Olga, Peter, Betty, Kenneth, Maureen, Marie, Rick, Edgar, John, Joanne, Barbara, and Charles, priest, and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Edward, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned, David and John . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 24: 1993 Claude Cecil Morris, Jr., April 25: 1999 Helena Kingman, April 27: 1953 Hugh M. Smallwood, 1994 Frances Flagg.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . On Sunday, April 21, at the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Prelude on ‘Rhosymedre’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) and the postlude will be Fuge in C-dur, BuxWV 174, by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707). Buxtehude was the preeminent German composer of the generation preceding J. S. Bach. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa syllabica by Arvo Pärt (b. 1935) and the motet at Communion is The Lamb by John Tavener (b. 1944). Pärt’s music seems to capture the spirit of an earlier age, and his unique style is known as tintinnabuli, which refers to the practice of viewing two voice parts as one line, as one part moves in steps, and the other in larger leaps from one note to another. Tavener, a practicing Russian Orthodox, has become one of Britain’s leading composers. His style, while modern, seems quite mystical. The music of both composers is very liturgical and well suited to celebration of the Mass.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, Eileen Sorensen and Fred Ruth have gone home from the hospitals. Please keep them in your prayers . . . Many thanks to all who helped with the reception for new members and friends of Saint Mary’s that was held last Tuesday night at the rectory! . . . Father Weiler has returned from attending a three-day course, “Leadership in Ministry,” at a conference center outside Atlanta . . . Saint Mark’s Day is Thursday, April 25. As is our custom, we also observe Major Feasts at the Mass on the Eve . . . We are delighted that the Choir of Men and Boys of Christ Church, Greenwich, Connecticut will be with us to provide music for Solemn Evensong & Benediction on Sunday, April 28 . . . Attendance last Sunday 227.
THE RECTOR WILL BE AWAY . . . On Sunday afternoon, April 21, after the morning Masses, I leave for the continuing education class that I attend twice each year. I am leaving from the class for two weeks of vacation. I will return to the parish on Wednesday evening, May 8, so I can be here to celebrate and preach the Solemn Mass on Ascension Day. Then, on Saturday, May 11, I will be going to Saint Gregory’s Abbey for the first retreat I have taken since becoming rector. I return to the parish on Friday, May 17. S.G.
SUMMARY OF THE APRIL 16, 2002, BOARD MEETING . . . At its April 16, 2002, meeting, the Board of Trustees: 1. Certified to Bishop Sisk that St. Mary’s has received a copy of the Diocesan guidelines for sexual misconduct. 2. Approved the addition of handrails to steps leading to the High Altar. 3. Approved the use of an Internet company for donations to St. Mary’s, Networkforgood.org. A link will be available on St. Mary’s Web site to this company, which will allow people to make donations to St. Mary’s online. 4. Approved Mr. John Beddingfield as a candidate for Ordination to Holy Orders. 5. Learned that some work is needed on the organ, and that funds will need to be raised for this purpose. 6. Voted to donate the Maundy Thursday offering, which is traditionally given to the poor, to the Momentum AIDS Project, a not-for-profit AIDS service organization that provides meals and support to people with HIV-1 infection. 7. Voted to send a letter of congratulations to the Very Reverend James Kowalski, the new dean of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. 8. Received a report from Mr. Fred Peelen, on behalf of the Mission House Committee, concerning issues regarding future use of the Mission House. Leroy Sharer, secretary
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Fourth Sunday of Easter
Monday Easter Weekday
Tuesday Easter Weekday
Wednesday Easter Weekday
Eve of Saint Mark’s Day (6:00 PM)
Thursday Saint Mark the Evangelist
Friday Easter Weekday
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.