FROM THE RECTOR: ENCOUNTERING JESUS
When Jesus read from Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth (Luke 4:16-21), he was the only person in the room who had the text in front of him. Until the industrialization of printing, “listening” remained a normative experience across many settings of life. It’s not surprising that the act of listening is significant in all of the gospels. Two examples: Jesus concludes the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-9; Matthew 13:1-23; Luke 8:4-15) with the words, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” and in John Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27).
Beginning this Sunday and continuing through the last Sunday in Lent, our gospel lessons from John are some of the most powerful passages in the New Testament. None of them is a short reading. They are Jesus and the Woman of Samaria (John 4:1-42), The Healing of the Man Born Blind (John 9:1-41), and the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44). Before the early-medieval period, the church in Rome used them on the three Sundays before Easter at special Masses for the preparation of adults for baptism at Easter. By the eighth century, when adult baptism was no longer normative, these readings were shifted to weekday celebrations—a time when daily Eucharists in the church in Rome were not celebrated (Patrick Regan, “Two Lents Compared,” Liturgical Ministry 19 [Spring 2010] 54).
For me, with or without candidates for baptism, these three gospel lessons are more powerful than any other passages in the New Testament save for the narratives of Jesus’ death and resurrection. None of these gospels were read on Sundays before the revision of the lectionary that was finally adopted in 1979. At this point, they had been out of Sunday use in the West for about fourteen hundred years. I can’t help but wonder how the history might have been different if these gospels had been known by the ordinary worshipper for the last 2000 years.
When the Woman of Samaria meets Jesus, he already knows all about her. Sandra Schneiders remarks, “Nowhere else in the Fourth Gospel is there a dialogue of such theological depth and intensity” (Written That You May Believe, 2nd ed.  141). For me, the highpoint of this exchange happens when the Woman says to Jesus, “‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ); when he comes, he will show us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4:25-26). It doesn’t matter that she is not Jewish, does not follow the law, and has had many men in her life. What matters is believing in Jesus.
The importance of John’s account of the Healing of the Man Born Blind cannot be overstated. The man is rejected because of his blindness by his family, his neighbors and the religious leadership of his community—before and after he is healed. John writes, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out, and having found him he said, ‘Do you believe in the Son of man?’ He answered, ‘And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and it is he who speaks to you.’ He said, ‘Lord, I believe’; and he worshiped him” (John 9:35-38). Truth had set the Man Born Blind free for eternal life.
The Raising of Lazarus goes to the heart of our Easter faith. It is in this passage that Jesus declares, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Jesus asks to see the place Lazarus was buried. He tells the men there to remove the stone covering the grave. He prays. He calls to the man who has been buried for four days to come out of the tomb. Then, he tells those who have removed the stone to remove the cloths with which the dead were buried. He said, “Unbind him and let him go” (John 11:44). Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Sharon, Barbara, Ben, Ruth, Tish, Rick, Gloria, John, Gregory, Babak, Jack, Rob, Takeem, Linda, Eloise, Arpene, Paulette, priest, Harry, priest, and Don, bishop; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark, Alex, and Elizabeth; and for the repose of the soul of Rowan Greer, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 23: 1881 Mary Cornelia Anderson.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . The Reverend Dr. Rowan Greer died in New Haven on Monday, March 17, after a long illness. Father Greer was for many years on the faculty of the Yale Divinity School and the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale. During his academic career, he exercised his priestly ministry at a number of Episcopal parishes in the diocese of Connecticut. He was a renowned patristics scholar, who, unusually, was also able to teach courses in Anglican theology, spirituality, and history. He taught Father Matthew Mead and me and hundreds of other seminarians who studied at Yale. He was a fine priest, an excellent scholar, and an exceedingly kind and generous teacher. May he rest in peace and rise in glory. James Ross Smith
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.
THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION . . . Monday, March 24, 6:00 PM, Solemn Evensong. The service will be sung by a quartet from the parish choir. The canticles at Evensong are from The Evening Service of Richard Farrant (c. 1525-1580) . . . Tuesday, March 25, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, Reception in Saint Joseph’s Hall 7:30 PM. The music at the Solemn Mass will include works by Hans Johann Leo Hassler (1564-1812).
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Christian Education for children and adults meets on the regular schedule on Sunday, March 23 . . . Sunday, March 23, 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 . . . Friday, March 21, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, March 22, by Father Pace and on Saturday, March 29, by Father Smith. Confessions are also heard by appointment.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Sharon Singh was admitted to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center this week for treatment. Please keep her in your prayers . . . Visual Arts Program: An exhibition of paintings by Emilio Arraiza has been hung in Saint Joseph’s Hall. For more information, and for a price list, please contact José Vidal . . . Father Jim Pace’s sermon from last Sunday has been posted on the parish webpage . . . We hope to receive donations for flowers for the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, and for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 30. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . If you are interested in helping to decorate the church for Easter, please speak to Rick Austill, Dexter Baksh, or Marie Rosseels . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 280.
HOSPITALITY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We still hope to receive donations to help defray the costs of the special feast-day receptions on the Feast of the Annunciation (March 25), Easter Eve (April 19), and Ascension Day (May 29). These receptions are always great events at Saint Mary’s. We have many visitors and the receptions give us an opportunity to welcome our visitors and talk about the parish, its history and its ministries. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office.
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 (“Gay Men’s Health Crisis”). And please donate to our team here! . . . Did you know? GMHC’s Legal Department can help clients avoid eviction; file for bankruptcy; access benefits; apply for Social Security; request a fair hearing; obtain a reasonable accommodation from an employer; prosecute an HIV-related discrimination claim; apply for a green card, asylum, or citizenship; and address a range of other legal issues.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . The Third Sunday in Lent: Healey Willan (1890–1968) has been well and truly championed this season at Saint Mary’s, but it’s an almost forgotten work that graces our liturgy this Sunday. The Missa brevis in G for men’s voices stands apart from all of Willan’s other Mass settings (fourteen Missae breves written for the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, Toronto), in several ways. It was written to fulfill a commission, and the circumstances of its voicing and construction are unclear. It is also the only Mass that Willan composed that includes the Gloria in excelsis Deo. Willan was committed to the idea of congregational song, and the Gloria was an element of the Mass ordinary that he felt should be sung as an offering of the assembled congregation. This work stands a bit apart from the music composed for the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene, music which reflected so completely the needs of the Anglo-Catholic liturgy. Willan’s deep interest in plainsong and polyphonic music, and his belief in their correctness for this type of worship, are clearly evident in this music. Modality, melismatic vocal line, rhythmic freedom based on verbal accentuation, and a strong preoccupation with linear shape combine to form a thoroughly personal idiom. The motet heard at the ministration of Holy Communion is by the great Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1524–1594). Written for the men of the Sistine Chapel, it demonstrates the solid, impeccably constructed polyphony that marked his work, but was written so as to obscure as little of the text by overlapping lines as possible . . . The Feast of the Annunciation: Hans Johann Leo Hassler (1564-1612) was the most distinguished of three musician sons of Isaac Hassler, organist at Nuremberg and town musician. In the funeral sermon for Isaac it is recorded of him that he had “carefully brought up and trained his son Hans Leo in the fear of God, in the free arts, and especially in the praiseworthy art of music.” Though there were many eminent musicians at the time in Nuremberg, it does not appear that Hans Leo had any other teacher there but his father. He became a competent organist at a very early age, and it may have been at the expense of the Nuremberg senate that Hans Leo was sent to Venice in 1584 for further study. Hassler was actually the first notable German composer to study alongside Giovanni Gabrieli under the latter’s uncle, Andrea Gabrieli, organist of the great basilica of San Marco. Though his actual stay in Venice was short, he quickly and fully assimilated the Venetian influence in music, as the warmth and suavity of harmony of his works show. In 1604 he married and retired, and near this time acquired tuberculosis, which would ultimately prove fatal. Having some time previously been ennobled by the Emperor Rudolph, he now received an appointment to the Imperial court at Prague. It’s worth noting that upon his death in 1612, both Michael Praetorius and Heinrich Schütz were appointed in his place. Nuremberg honored its greatest musician by a memorial epitaph in not one, but two of its churches. The Mass we hear at the Solemn Mass is a parody mass utilizing the motet of the same name, written for the Feast of the Annunciation by Herr Hassler. At the ministration of Holy Communion we hear the motet. 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 23: 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 continues his series on the Book of Exodus . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet in the Arch Room, on the second floor of the Mission House, on March 26 at 6:30 PM. On March 26, we will begin reading at chapter 21, Paul’s return to Jerusalem.
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Sunday, March 30, Organ Recital 4:30 PM & Solemn Evensong, Litany, and Benediction 5:00 PM. The service will be sung by the Choir of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Richard Latham, music director and conductor. . . Sunday, April 13, Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday . . . The Triduum: April 17, Maundy Thursday; April 18, Good Friday; April 19, The Great Vigil of Easter; April 20, Easter Day . . . Saturday, May 17, Consecration of Suffragan Bishop-Elect Allen Shin.
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. We also welcome donations of: hand sanitizer; granola bars; applesauce, sold in small, plastic cups with peel-off tops; water; peanut butter and crackers; and other small items that can be packed in bags for distribution to those who are homeless . . . 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’s website is a valuable resource for learning more about hunger and homelessness in the City of New York. 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 . . . Also at the Met Museum, Piero della Francesca: Personal Encounters, January 14–March 30, 2014: “The Metropolitan Museum of Art is hosting a focused presentation of the devotional paintings of Piero della Francesca, addressing Piero's work for private devotion for the first time. The four works on view have never before been brought together; the exhibition, therefore, promises to make an important contribution to the study of this major figure of the Renaissance. It consists of: Saint Jerome and a Donor, Madonna and Child with two Angels (the Senigallia Madonna), Saint Jerome in a Landscape, and Madonna and Child.”