The Great Tradition
When I went to work after seminary, I encountered for the first time something called “The Feast of Lights.” It is an Epiphany pageant, popular among southern Episcopalians. (Does anyone know when or where it was invented?) It’s usually a good way for Episcopalians who still care about the integrity of the Christmas Season, which begins December 25, to avoid having to do a Christmas pageant in Advent. The service concludes with the congregation receiving and leaving church with lighted hand candles. The point is this: You and I see the light at Bethlehem and are called by Christ to take his light into the world, not to keep it for ourselves.
At one level one really can’t argue with the content of a service like this. Yet the great tradition has a different and I think much more important use for candles. It’s the use we make of candles at the last celebration of the Easter Triduum, the Great Vigil of Easter. Candles are anciently a symbol of Christ’s Resurrection. In liturgical language, candles and candlelight are a sign of Easter.
Then, of course, there’s the other candle feast, the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, commemorated on February 2, the fortieth day after the Lord’s birth, as reckoned by the Church.
This feast is commonly called “Candlemas.” Candles make an appearance in the great tradition here too. The focus is on Christ as the Light.
Southern Episcopalians aren’t the only ones who look for new ways to worship. In 1925 Pius XI took over one of the central themes of Epiphany and turned it into a feast, Christ the King. The liturgical tradition has always rooted its celebrations, with the single exception of Trinity Sunday, in the actual events of the Lord’s life. Salvation is not the result of ideas, but the reality of Christ’s incarnation. The great tradition has always had a feast of the kingship of Christ. It’s called Epiphany, when the wise men from the East searched for the Child so that they could worship him. Gold, incense and myrrh are signs of kingship. Jesus is the Son of David. He is born king of kings and Lord of Lords. Epiphany proclaims his kingship in the flesh.
Carrying Christ’s light into the world, again, is hard to argue with; but the great tradition calls for more. It calls for the Christian community to be the Body of Christ, for each member of the Body to be God’s son or daughter. It calls us into deep communion with one another and with God. What we have to share is more than the idea that there may be life after death; we have the reality of having died and risen with Christ. It is the light of resurrection. Christ’s light is always so much more than the light of a gleaming star. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Charles who is gravely ill and for Alex, Marion, Harold, Olga, Eleanor, John, Peter, Michael, Kenneth, Ursula, Tessie, Jennifer, John, Maureen, Marie, Jake, Rick, Edgar, Angela, Jennifer, Rose Mary, Charles, Arthur, 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 . . . January 10: 1994 William F. Lata; January 11: 1967 Sarah Bedell McDonald.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Isaiah 60:1-6,9, Psalm 72:1-2,10-17, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12 . . . The parish clergy do not sit on Saturdays for confessions, except by appointment, during the Twelve Days of Christmas. Priests are also generally able to hear brief confessions without appointments immediately following most weekday Masses . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 12, by Father Weiler . . . In the Episcopal Church, the ordinary Fridays of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. With the conclusion of the Christmas Season on the Epiphany, Friday abstinence resumes on January 11.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . The prelude before the Solemn Mass on Sunday will be Prelude on 'This endris nyght' by George Oldroyd (1893-1956) and the postlude will be Noël Suisse by Louis-Claude Daquin ((1694-1772). The Mass setting is Missa 'O Regem coeli' by G. P. da Palestrina (1525-1594) and the motet at Communion is Tribus miraculis by Luca Marenzio (1553/54-1599).
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Year 2002 Ordo Kalendars have finally arrived, showcasing last year's beautiful Christmas Creche. There will be a special table set up in Saint Joseph's Hall for the next couple of Sundays to make it simple to pick one up. We will be selling them for $5.00, $7.50 if you call the parish office and ask to have one sent . . . The Rector visited two of our shut-ins last week, Marion Freise and Margaret Johnke, to bring them Holy Communion. Both send their love to the parish community . . . We’ve received a thank-you card and a picture from a group of college students who were stranded in New York because of the tragedy of September 11. Father Shin found them and they slept for several days in the Morning Room (nursery). It was so great to hear from them! . . . Reminder: Reservations for lunch following the Annual Mass of the Society of King Charles the Martyr are due by January 13 to Dr. Mark Wuonola, 291 Bacon Street, Waltham, Massachusetts 02451. The Mass will be held this year at the Church of the Transfiguration, One East 29th Street, on Saturday, January 26. The preacher is the Rev. Canon J. Robert Wright . . . Attendance Last Sunday 180, Holy Name 53.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION IN JANUARY . . . Christian Education in 2002 starts off with a plethora of offerings in January. The “Journey in Faith” class continues on Sunday afternoons in Saint Benedict’s Study from 1:00 PM until 2:30 PM with a special focus in the coming weeks on the meaning and significance of the Incarnation and the life of Christ. The third meeting of the “Women’s Spirituality Group” is scheduled to meet in Saint Benedict’s Study at 7 PM on Tuesday, January 8. All female members and friends of Saint Mary’s are welcome. A brand new class taught by Father Richard Corney, retired Professor of Old Testament at General Seminary, begins on Wednesday, January 16 at 7 PM. This class, entitled “Toward Baptism in the Old Testament” will meet in Saint Benedict’s Study each Wednesday for four weeks in order to explore deeply the Old Testament lessons of the Easter Vigil service. Last, but certainly not least, John Beddingfield will lead a Saturday afternoon class from 3 PM to 5 PM on January 19 entitled “Getting to Know the Book of Common Prayer.”
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Epiphany of Our Lord
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Epiphany of Our Lord
Sunday, January 6
Procession & Solemn Mass 11:00 am
Music: Palestrina, Marenzio
Sermon by the Rector
Solemn Evensong & Benediction
Sermon by the Right Reverend C. Christopher Epting
Ecumenical Officer of the Episcopal Church
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew G. Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Canon Maurice M. Garrison, The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa,
The Reverend Rosemari G. Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.