FROM THE RECTOR: REASSESSING LENT
Nicholas Russo is a liturgical scholar and an assistant undergraduate dean at Notre Dame. While looking online to see if his dissertation, “The Origins of Lent” (Notre Dame, 2009), had been published—it has not, I discovered a short essay he wrote last year for the Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University. It’s called, “The Early History of Lent.” Russo begins with what we thought we knew about Lent just a few decades ago and continues with what we know about the origins of Lent today. I quote from the last paragraph:
At this point, the early history of Lent becomes something of a “choose your own adventure.” The current state of research points to three possible conclusions . . . As with most issues in the study of the early history of the liturgy, certainty is elusive and we must be satisfied with possibilities.
That said, I think it is correct to say that before there was anything we would call Lent, in the first centuries of the Christian Era, persons preparing for baptism along with the members of the community celebrating baptism fasted. This was a pre-baptismal fast, one not identified with Jesus’ post-baptismal fast of forty days in Mark, Matthew and Luke. This pre-baptismal fast varied in length from a few days to a few weeks. This fast was not about repentance but preparation to receive a new birth. Things change in the time to come.
From the fifth century onward the late classical world collapses. Christianity becomes almost universal in the West. The conversion and baptism of adults recedes and is replaced by the baptism of infants. A focus on Christ’s suffering and death grows. Lent’s origins in baptism as the work of a community were overtaken by Christ’s suffering and our need as individuals for repentance.
I write on the second day of Lent. Yesterday people were here for ashes as soon as our doors opened at 7:00 AM. I’m told four people did not receive ashes because I was exactly one minute late for the first ash duty assignment of the day; I hope I made up for my tardiness by being on ash duty in the Mercy Chapel from 6:00 PM until just after 8:00 PM—some people continued to come in even as our sexton on duty was closing the doors.
I like taking the ash duty during the 6:00 PM Solemn Mass—it’s the only time I get to see something of a Solemn Mass here as a critical observer. As always, our church is an enormous surprise for so many people. Many people seemed to me to stay longer than they had planned because of the building or the Masses. The welcome our volunteers, staff, seminarian, sisters and clergy gave was genuine and appreciated. All in all, it was a happy and holy day at Saint Mary’s.
Yet, I confess by the end of the day as I marked people with ashes, in addition to “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” I found myself adding, “God bless you for a happy Easter.” God is always more interested in our future than in what is past. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Sharon, Gloria, Dick, Rick, John, Robert, Richmond, Gypsy, Jack, Rob, Takeem, Linda, Eloise, Arpene, Margaretta, religious, Paulette, priest, Harry, priest and Don, bishop; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark, Alex, and Elizabeth . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 9: 1881 Ivory Chamberlain; 1897 John W. Dorlon; 1928 Frank Durkin; 1951 Lenore Hibbard; 1965 Elizabeth Allen; 1966 Pauline W. Titus.
THE ORDINARY WEEKDAYS OF LENT are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial. The Fridays of Lent are also observed by abstinence from flesh meats. Abstinence is not observed on Sundays in Lent.
I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE between Dean Timpone, of Bronx, New York, and Sahoko Sato, of Bronx, New York. If any of you know just cause why they may not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are bidden to declare it. This is the first time of asking. Jay Smith
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Thursday, March 6, 7:00 PM, Visual Arts Program: Artist’s. . . Friday, March 7, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross . . . Daylight Saving Time resumes at 2:00 AM on Sunday, March 9. Clocks should be moved forward one hour . . . Christian Education for children and adults meets on the regular schedule on Sunday, March 9 . . . Sunday, March 9, 5:00 PM, Solemn Evensong, Litany, and Benediction. Please note that except on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 30, there are no organ recitals before Sunday Evensong until Easter Day . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, March 8, by Father Smith and on Saturday, March 15, by Father Pace.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks to all who worked so hard on Ash Wednesday. As always, it was a busy day here at Saint Mary’s; the day was made possible by the hard work of our ushers, acolytes, musicians, and staff members. We are very grateful . . . A new exhibition of paintings by Emilio Arraiza has been hung in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . The Narthex Gift Shop is closed for renovation. The Shop’s new manager is Dexter Baksh. Thank you to José Vidal, who has managed the Gift Shop in recent years . . . The Rector will be away from the parish Friday, March 7, through Friday, March 14 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 224, Ash Wednesday: 319.
AIDS WALK 2014 . . . This year, the Saint Mary’s AIDS Walk Team thinks it’s important that our community knows more about where their donations go. Be sure to check this space every week for a new statistic about the AIDS Walk and the organization that benefits from it, GMHC. And please donate to our team here! . . . Did you know? Despite the name, GMHC (“Gay Men’s Health Crisis”) is not just for gay men. A full 25% of its clients are women. And 32% of its clients are straight people. The organization’s name comes from the history of its founding within New York’s gay community—a group hard hit by the AIDS crisis at a time when gay people were already heavily stigmatized—but today, GMHC serves nearly 10,000 clients a year regardless of gender, sexual orientation or HIV status. It’s there to serve anyone who may be at risk of HIV infection or is living with the virus.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . We are just short of reaching 90% of our ambitious goal of $450,000 in this year’s campaign. We would love to reach our goal this year! We know that most of the readers of the Angelus are committed supporters of the vision, and the ministry and mission, of this parish. Please join other friends and members of Saint Mary’s in helping us to keep our doors open seven days a week, so that we can continue to praise God and to serve God, each other, and our brothers and sisters in the world. If you would like to make a pledge, or to increase your pledge for 2014, please contact the finance office. We are grateful to all those who continue to support Saint Mary’s with such generosity. The Members of the Stewardship Committee
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . The Mass setting at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is the Missa Quarti toni, by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548–1611). Much has been written about Victoria, the greatest Spanish composer of the late Renaissance. Compared with the prolific Palestrina (with whom he is thought to have studied while in Rome), and a number of other composers of his time, the number of Victoria’s works is not great. There is none of the dazzling virtuosity and broad culture, none of the extraordinary diversity of other Renaissance composers. Yet there is a specialization to his music which is strictly liturgical and completely devotional in character. Victoria’s music, some of the most technically solid in the repertoire, is also some of the most perfectly suited to its purpose and stands totally in accord with the requirements of the Tridentine Rite. This is catholic music by definition ancient and modern. In the preface to his 1583 book of Masses, Victoria wrote: “I undertook for preference the setting of that which is universally celebrated in the Church . . . for what should music serve rather than the holy praise of the immortal God from whom number and measure proceed, whose works are wonderfully ordered by a kind of harmony and consonance?” At the ministration of Holy Communion we hear one of the standards of the Lenten literature for the Anglican Church, Call to Remembrance, by Richard Farrant (c. 1530–1581). Farrant was a “gentleman” (singer) of the Chapel Royal until 1564, when he was appointed organist and choirmaster to Saint George’s Chapel, Windsor. As composer to the queen, he was responsible for a broad range of musical material which included theatrical works. The motet we hear today dates from his time at Saint George’s. Mark Peterson
BAPTISM, CONFIRMATION & RECEPTION . . . If you, or someone you know, would like to be baptized at the Easter Vigil on April 19 please speak to Father Smith or Father Gerth. If you would like to be confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church, you may also speak to a member of the clergy. Confirmation & Reception will be celebrated at the Solemn Mass on Ascension Day, Thursday, May 29, at 6:00 PM by our newly ordained bishop suffragan.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . Christian Education on Sunday, March 9: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd will take place in the Atrium at 9:45 AM; Church School for the older children will meet with Peter Secor at 10:00 AM in the Morning Room . . . The Adult Forum will meet at 10:00 AM on the second floor of the Mission House. Father Peter Powell resumes his series on the Book of Exodus . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on March 12 at 6:30 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall. J.R.S.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park, New York, New York: Radiant Light: Stained Glass from Canterbury Cathedral, February 25–May 18, 2014. There is more information about the exhibition on the museum’s website.
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, March 24, Eve of the Annunciation, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Tuesday, March 25, The Annunciation, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Sunday, April 13, Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . . The cold weather continues so donations of warm clothing, as well as new, unopened packets of underwear and socks, especially white cotton socks are still needed . . . The Holy Cross School and its Scholarship Fund at Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery, Grahamstown, South Africa, a house of the Anglican Order of the Holy Cross. Donations may be made c/o Brother Robert Sevensky, OHC, Superior, Holy Cross Monastery, PO Box 99, West Park, NY 12493. When making a donation, it would be helpful if you could let the brothers know that you heard about the school through Saint Mary’s . . . The New York City Coalition Against Hunger is in the midst of its Annual Appeal for donations. Please visit the Coalition’s website for more information or to make a donation. J.R.S.