FROM THE RECTOR: PREPARATION
I’ve learned enough about Advent to know that the history of this short season is as complex and rich as that of any season of the church year. Somewhat surprisingly, I think it’s fair to say that the calendar and lectionary reforms of the 1970s have only increased the complexity. Advent now largely repeats the themes of judgment and of the end of time that occur every year on the Sundays just before the new church year begins—this didn’t happen in the old Prayer Book.
The late New Testament scholar Raymond Brown’s suggestion that the gospels for the Sundays of Advent should ideally come from what Matthew and Luke give us as the introduction to their nativity stories seems to me to have great merit. That said, I do love the season as it is, especially its traditional hymns and chants. I first encountered Christians keeping the season of Advent in a clear and purposeful way when I moved to Chicago after college. Ever since that time, worshiping during Advent seems to make space, as it were, for my soul to rest. Advent is an invitation to what can be new in our lives.
At Sunday Masses during Advent, as in Lent, the traditional opening hymn of praise, Gloria in excelsis, is not used—an example, to use liturgical scholar Louis Weil’s phrase, of Lent “bleeding” into Advent. Still, Advent is not Lent. The two seasons remain distinct. For instance, “Alleluia” is not omitted during this season and Advent has never been a season of abstinence.
For reasons of hospitality and evangelism, the said Masses, for which we use the Prayer Book, remain pretty much the same at Saint Mary’s as they are during the rest of the year. At Solemn Masses, at which we have a service bulletin, we use Eucharistic Prayer B from Advent Sunday (that is, the First Sunday of Advent) through the Last Sunday after the Epiphany. That prayer’s emphasis on creation, incarnation and the end of all time brings a “focus on confident hope and expectancy for the future” (Prayer Book Studies 29  83). Flowers do not adorn the altar except on the Third Sunday (more bleeding from Lent). The liturgical color of the season is purple (except on the Third Sunday when it is rose, again, bleeding Lent). An Advent wreath has become part of our seasonal decorations—but here at Saint Mary’s no ceremonies attach to it.
Mark Peterson has planned some wonderful choral music for Advent, beginning this Sunday with Missa Modale en septuor by the French composer Jehan Alain (1911-1940). Our guest flute soloist will be Karla Moe, a member of the New York Philharmonic. At Sunday Evensong during Advent we sing the office hymn, “Creator of the stars of night.” At Solemn Mass on Advent Sunday, we will sing “Wake, awake, for night is flying” from The Hymnal 1940 at the preparation of the gifts. (The substitution in The Hymnal 1982 of “rampart guards” for “watchmen” just isn’t successful—it makes one think of “guarding” not “watching,” which is the point of this reference from Isaiah 52:8.) Our final hymn on Sunday will be “Come, thou long expected Jesus”—hymn 66 in the new hymnal, but famously the first hymn in The Hymnal 1940.
I do plan to make one change to the Solemn Masses for the Sundays of Advent and Christmastide: we are going to omit the sprinkling with holy water at these services. Sprinkling will return on the First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We will continue to do the rite of sprinkling during all the Sundays after the Epiphany, all the Sundays of Eastertide and all of the Sundays after Pentecost.
The actual origins of the sprinkling at Mass are lost. The explanations usually given for it are generally either baptismal or penitential, but a useful historical record is just incomplete. The ceremony was introduced at Saint Mary’s in October 1933, following the then contemporary practice of the Roman Catholic Church. That ecclesial community has now made the ceremony an alternative to their penitential rite at all Sunday Masses, said or sung. In the Episcopal Church, since the adoption of the 1979 Prayer Book, sprinkling with baptismal water has become a familiar rite in the wider Episcopal Church.
Advent is not Lent, but it is a season for beginnings, for preparation—and anciently a time like Lent for preparing persons for baptism at Epiphany. I think we will be very ready for sprinkling again when we celebrate the feast of Christ’s baptism as the Epiphany Season begins. I hope the liturgies of Advent will help us all to rejoice in the richness of Advent’s simplicity. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Sumaya, Dick, Sharon, Rick, Donn, Billie, Edwin, Pierre, David, Takeem, Rob, Linda, Babak, Jathon, Mary, Casey, Eloise, Arpene, Clair, priest, John, priest, and Paulette, priest. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 1: 1900 Anna Julia DePalma; 1918 Alice Huckroth McKinnon; 1919 Frances Bailey; 1920 Caroline Foote Kellogg; 1977 Calvin Nash; 1989 George William Johnson, Sr.; 1992 Margaret Louise Rigler.
FRIDAY ABSTINENCE . . . The ordinary Fridays of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2013-2014 . . . As of November 26, we have received pledge cards from ninety-five households. Although we received a large number of pledges on Commitment Sunday, for which we are very grateful, we still have quite a ways to go. We still have not heard from a number of households that made pledges for 2013. Our statistics thus far: $285,456.00 has been pledged to date, 63.4% of our goal of $450,000.00. We have received sixteen pledges from households that have never pledged before, or that have not been able to make a pledge in recent years; and nineteen households have been able to increase their pledges this year (both very encouraging statistics). We urge all the members and friends of Saint Mary’s to return their pledge cards as soon as possible. We continue to ask that you prayerfully consider this year’s appeal and to be generous. If you did not receive a pledge packet, but would like to receive one, please contact the parish office. Thank you to all who continue to support Saint Mary’s so generously.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, November 30, is the Feast of Saint Andrew the Apostle. Noonday Prayer is at 12:00 PM and Mass will be said at 12:10 PM . . . The Adult Forum will not meet on Sunday, December 1 . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd will meet in the Atrium on Sunday, December 1, at 9:45 AM . . . Church School for the older children will meet in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on December 4, at 6:30, in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, November 30, and on Saturday, December 7, by Father Jim Pace.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . If you would like to be confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church, please speak to a member of the clergy. Bishop Dietsche will be here at Saint Mary’s on Monday, December 9, at 6:00 PM . . . Sunday, December 1, is World AIDS Day. Please visit the GMHC website for a list of events and for more information. Please speak to MaryJane Boland or to Clark Mitchell if you would like more information about AIDS Walk 2014 . . . Jeremiah Burch is currently appearing in the National Yiddish Theatre’s production of Lies My Father Told Me, at the Baruch Performing Arts Center, Nagelberg Theater, 55 Lexington Avenue (enter 25th Street). Box Office: (646) 312-5073. The production is in English. Visit the theatre’s website for more information or to purchase tickets . . . Donations are requested: for altar flowers for Sundays in January; we also hope to receive donations to help defray the costs of the reception after the Solemn Mass on Monday, January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the Finance Office . . . Father Jay Smith returns to the parish on Sunday, December 1 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 217.
THE PATRONAL FEAST . . . Our patronal feast, the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, will be celebrated on Monday, December 9. The first services in our first church building at 227 West 45th Street were celebrated on December 8, 1870; the first services in our present church home were on December 8, 1895. (The celebration is always transferred to Monday when December 8 is a Sunday.) This year our new bishop, the Right Reverend Andrew M.L. Dietsche, makes his first visitation of the parish at the evening Solemn Mass. We hope many from our local and wider community will be able to be with us.
This is the schedule for the day: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, and Sung Mass 12:10 PM. Mark Peterson will play the recital at 5:30 PM. Solemn Pontifical Mass is at 6:00 PM. A reception follows the evening Mass in Saint Joseph’s Hall.
Advent Quiet Day . . . Saturday, December 14, 9:30-3:00 PM, “My Soul Magnifies the Lord: Praying the Anglican Rosary” will be led by Father Jim Pace. Father Pace is an assisting priest here at Saint Mary’s. He is the associate dean for Undergraduate Programs at New York University’s College of Nursing. In addition to his work in the medical field, Father Pace has extensive experience in parochial ministry, hospice care, and in the area of pastoral counseling.
On December 14, we will gather at 9:30 AM. Coffee and pastries will be served. The first address will begin at 10:00 AM. We will attend the noonday services, including Mass, and then lunch will be served in Saint Joseph’s Hall. There will be time for quiet reflection in the church, the chapels, and in Saint Joseph’s Hall throughout the day. (We are of course hoping for a quiet day on 46th Street. Our neighborhood can sometimes become noisy in surprising and unexpected ways!) If you plan to attend, please RSVP by December 10, so we can make plans for lunch. If you have dietary restrictions, please let us know. A donation of $10 to defray the costs of breakfast and lunch will be gratefully accepted.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . The Mass setting for Solemn Mass this Sunday is a seldom heard work by the remarkable French composer, Jehan Alain (1911–1940), and features flutist Karla Moe, a former classmate of mine and a member of the New York Philharmonic.
Alain has been called the De Grigny (a master of the French Baroque) of the twentieth century. Born into a highly musical family, Alain died in combat at the age of twenty-nine at the very beginning of the Second World War. He was posthumously awarded the Croix du Guerre for his service to France and for his bravery.
Alain’s short life provided the world with a body of work that includes some 120 compositions written between 1929 and 1939. These works show a maturity and startling innovation, rare in one so young, works which put him squarely in a class with such luminaries as Debussy, Roger-Ducasse, and Paul Dukas. Alain’s initial organ studies were with his father, Albert, who was an organist and organ-builder. Albert had built the four-manual pipe organ that stood in the family living-room in Saint-Germain-en-Laye (also Debussy’s birthplace), and it was this instrument that influenced the musical taste of Albert’s talented son, Jehan. Alain’s brother, Olivier, was also a composer, and his youngest sister, Marie-Claire, was to become one of the best-known international concert organists of the twentieth century, and Jehan’s greatest champion.
The Messe Modale en septuor, which we hear at the Solemn Mass on Sunday morning, was written for the church of Saint-Nicolas, Maisons-Laffite, in 1938, which the composer served as music director. It was composed for a small choir of female voices (no men being available at the time), in a small church with a very rudimentary organ, complemented by solo flute. Of strongly modal construction, the Mass is at once functional and inspirational, and its Sanctus is undoubtedly one of the most bewitching pieces Alain ever wrote. The prelude for Sunday, an Andante for flute and organ, taken from Alain’s Trois Mouvements, is also a haunting work of great delicacy. These works offer a view into a brilliant mind that might have provided us many more important works had the composer survived the war. At the ministration of Holy Communion, we hear the moving allegorical carol, Jesus Christ, the apple tree, in a setting by the English composer, Elizabeth Poston (1905–1987). Poston was a composer, a well-respected music editor, and, for many years, a copyist to the great Ralph Vaughan Williams. Mark Peterson
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will resume on December 4, at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. The class, which is led by Father Jay Smith, is reading the Acts of the Apostles this year. All are welcome. No prior experience is necessary. On December 4, the class will begin its discussion at Acts 9, with the conversion of Saint Paul . . . The Adult Forum will not meet on Sunday, December 1. On Sunday, December 8, parishioner Brendon Hunter will lead the discussion at the Adult Forum in our ongoing Faith & Work Series. Brendon is assistant program director for Leadership Resources at the Episcopal Church Foundation. On Sunday, December 15, parishioner Blair Burroughs will lead the Adult Forum in a discussion of Centering Prayer . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Christian education for young children, continues on Sunday, December 1, at 9:45 AM, in the Atrium on the second floor of the Parish House. For more information, please speak to Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins . . . Church School for the older children will meet on Sunday, December 1, at 10:00 AM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Donations to Episcopal Relief and Development may be directed to the relief effort in the Philippines . . . We are gratefully accepting donations of warm clothing, as well as new, unopened packets of underwear and socks, especially white cotton socks. We send some items of clothing to the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Other items are kept here for distribution to those in need. We also continue to collect non-perishable food items and cash donations for the Food Pantry. These donations have become increasingly important, since cuts in the Food Stamp program began recently and more of our neighbors are now depending on food pantries and soup kitchens. See a recent New York Times article concerning those cuts.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, Chagall: Love, War, and Exile, September 15, 2013–February 2, 2014. This exhibition “explores a significant but neglected period in [Chagall’s] career from the rise of fascism in the 1930s through 1948, years spent in Paris and then in exile to New York. Marc Chagall (1887–1985), one of the foremost modernists of the 20th century, created his unique style by drawing on elements from richly colored folk art motifs, the Russian Christian icon tradition, Cubism, and Surrealism” . . . At The Cloisters, September 10–December 8, 2013, Fort Tryon Park, New York City: The Forty-Part Motet (2001), a sound installation by Janet Cardiff.