FROM THE RECTOR: HOLY WEEK 2014
Holy Week begins at Saint Mary’s on Saturday evening, April 12, with the Sunday Vigil Mass at 5:00 PM. On Sunday morning, there are two Eucharists: Liturgy of the Palms & Sung Mass at 9:00 AM and Liturgy of the Palms, Procession through Times Square & Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM. The Communications Office of the Episcopal Church will be filming the 11:00 AM Liturgy of the Palms & Procession through Times Square—it should be online sometime on Palm Sunday afternoon.
As I write on Thursday morning, the weather forecast for the day is good. Since 1999, there has only been one year when we have not been able to process through the square. The procession is a very public witness to Jesus Christ. The procession itself, in what is now a pedestrian plaza, more than a crossing of roads, is a particular reminder that we are an urban, liturgical parish—very much a part of a large and diverse city. When we return to the church for the Mass of the Passion, the liturgy reminds us that we are Body Christ in very direct ways. Like the other great services of this week, the Mass of the Passion invites us to share in Christ’s death and resurrection in this world and renews our faith in the life of the world to come.
I wish we had a more complete service record for Saint Mary’s than we do, but we do have pretty complete musical records beginning in 1871. That year, Christmas Day and Easter Day were celebrated on their eves with “Solemn Vespers” at 8 PM. Christmas Midnight Mass would not be held here until 1928. The beginnings of the Easter Vigil can be seen in 1891 with the blessing of the Paschal candle on Easter Eve—by 1898 Mass is included; the prophecies will be added in the years to come. The first full Easter Vigil will be celebrated here in 1931 at 10:00 AM on Easter Eve.
In the music record for 1873, this note is included for the principal service on Maundy Thursday, “After the “Gloria in Excelsis” of the High Celebration this morning [7:00 AM] no instrumental accompaniment will be used until the First Easter Vespers”—“High Celebration” was the name used for “Solemn High Mass” here until 1891. This tradition and many others continue here, but every year some things are different. Liturgy is not a set piece; it’s the living worship of a living and growing Christian community. That said, the changes that come grow out of our experiences of our life as a Christian community today.
Many years we often have a bishop of the church present for some or all of the services of the Easter Triduum, especially the Easter Vigil. A retired bishop urged me not to invite him or another bishop this year—and I understood why. We are not a cathedral; we are a parish church and I am the pastor of this parish.
I am very clear that I am a priest because I am a pastor, not a pastor because I am a priest. This is why, especially on Sundays, a priest of the parish is celebrant and preacher, not because he or she is a priest, but because he or she is a pastor of the congregation. It is a lot of work, but in many ways it reminds me why I felt called to be a priest and what is most important in my work as rector: being the pastor of the congregation.
I hope you may be able to be here not just on Palm Sunday but for the principal services of the week: The Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:00 PM on Maundy Thursday; The Celebration of the Passion of the Lord at 12:30 PM or 6:00 PM on Good Friday; and the Great Vigil of Easter on Easter Eve at 7:00 PM. I think it’s fair to say that in so many ways these services speak for themselves and invite us to reflect more deeply on the mystery of Christ in our lives and our world. I’d like to conclude with words from New Testament scholar Sandra Schneiders that I quoted here last week and which are still running around my heart and my head, as it were, “The indwelling of Jesus is quite real, and he is more intimate to us than we are to ourselves” (Jesus Risen in Our Midst  31). Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Sylvia, Sharon, Kathleen, Barbara, Ben, Priscilla, David, Rick, Gloria, Jack, Takeem, Linda, Darius, Arpene, Jake, Hugh, priest, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark and Alex . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . April 13: 1885 Eleanor Marsden Cook; 1915 Joseph Moor Houghton; 1918 Robert Glasper Smith; 1930 Susan Rhea Bayard Irving; 1950 Amelia Unsold; 1953 Marie Desmond; 1958 Earle W. Stevenson; 1992 George Edward Mueller.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Achiel Neefs, the brother-in-law of parishioner Marie Rosseels died on Friday, April 4. Please keep Achiel, Marie, and their family and friends in your prayers.
ABSTINENCE AND FASTING is not a simple subject during Holy Week. Over the centuries a number of traditions come together in different ways and for different reasons to shape the various practices that become normative at any one time. In the Episcopal Church we currently observe two days of fasting during the year, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. The ordinary weekdays of Lent and Holy Week “are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial.” I think it is really good that our tradition expects us to take responsibility for our participation as we are guided by the shape of our prayer and our work.
It is traditional to be hungry on Good Friday as a physical reminder that we hunger for the Lord, not to make ourselves sick. My own practice at this point in my life is to eat something after I finish hearing confessions following the 12:30 PM celebration—that means about 3:00 PM or so. If I’m so hungry in the morning that I can’t concentrate on my work, I’ll have a bowl of cereal or a cup of yogurt. I’ll eat a normal supper, but no meat, nothing sweet. On Holy Saturday, I keep it simple during the day but have a regular plate of food before the Vigil—it’s a very much a work night, whether I’m a celebrant or concelebrant. S.G.
HOLY WEEK SCHEDULE . . . Saturday, April 12, Eve of Palm Sunday, Blessing of Palms and Sung Vigil Mass 5:00 PM . . . Sunday, April 13, Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, Blessing of Palms and Sung Mass 9:00 AM; Blessing of Palms, Procession to Times Square and Solemn Mass 11:00 AM . . . April 17, Maundy Thursday, Sung Matins 8:30 AM & Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper 6:00 PM . . . April 18, Good Friday, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Celebration of the Passion of Our Lord 12:30 PM & 6:00 PM . . . April 19, Holy Saturday, Sung Matins 8:30 AM & Great Vigil of Easter 7:00 PM . . . April 20, Easter Day, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass with Hymns 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Organ Recital 4:30 PM, Solemn Paschal Evensong 5:00 PM.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Christian Education for adults meets on the regular schedule on Sunday, April 13. Church School for children will not take place on Sunday, April 13 . . . Friday, April 11, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, April 12, by Father Gerth. Confessions on Saturday, April 19, and on Saturday, April 26, are by appointment. Confessions will be heard by the parish clergy after the Good Friday liturgies.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Our annual Easter Appeal packet was mailed to the friends and members of the parish this week. We invite you to give the appeal your prayerful consideration and to be generous . . . Thank you very much to all those who delayed their lunch and gave up part of their Sunday afternoon last week to process the Easter Appeal mailing. The job was accomplished in record time. Thank you for your help! . . . If you are interested in helping to decorate the church for Easter, please speak to Rick Austill, Dexter Baksh, or Marie Rosseels . . . The Narthex Gift Shop is open—and more is to come! If you have questions, please speak to Dexter Baksh, shop manager . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 263.
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 Workforce Development (MATCH) Program supports clients who are interested in transition-to-work services including vocational counseling, GED and college prep classes, job training, skills-based training, and job placement and retention services.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Palm Sunday: For more than fifty years, organist-composer McNeil Robinson (b. 1943) has been one of New York City’s most visible church musicians and concert organists. His two-decade tenure here at Saint Mary the Virgin saw the creation of one of the most notable liturgical Early-Music movement, engaging at one point a full-time musicologist for the church. For more than twenty years he was organist and music director at Park Avenue Christian Church, for an even greater period was organist at Park Avenue Synagogue, and has been head of the organ department at both the Mannes College of Music and the Manhattan School of Music for years. His choral compositions are performed widely across the country. An internationally renowned recitalist, he receives consistent critical and popular acclaim for his improvisational skills, which are legendary. His Mass setting entitled Missa in die tribulationis was written in 1980 and has been a staple of this day’s liturgy at Saint Mary’s nearly every year since. In response to the singing of the Passion and in acknowledgement that Holy Week has truly begun, there will be no motet at the Ministration of Holy Communion, nor an organ postlude on Palm Sunday . . . Maundy Thursday: The setting of the Mass is the Missa syllabica (1977/1996) by Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt (b. 1935). Pärt, a major proponent of the minimalist movement of composition, has enjoyed enormous popularity for his powerful, but often stark, works. Since about 1976, Pärt has composed in a style he calls tintinnabuli (“little bells”), a technique which considers two simultaneous voices as one line moving at different intervals. This is one of two memorable Masses by Pärt that the choir has presented this season. The anthems at the footwashing are the plainsong settings as adapted by David Hurd and Bruce Ford. The Offertory Song is the best-known of the set of Four Motets by Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986), Ubi caritas. Mark Peterson
VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM . . . The work of Steve Pauley is now on view in the gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Steve currently lives and works in Brooklyn. He earned his MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland. He received his BA degree from West Virginia State University and an MA degree from Marshall University. Steve’s work bridges sculpture with photography, printmaking, painting, installation and performance—with innovative skills evolving organically from his work as a headstone carver and a photography teacher. He explores engraving anamorphic images into polished granite, which he then projects onto a wall by reflecting light off the stone’s surface. Most recently, in a continued studio exploration of the proverbial rabbit hole, Steve is shredding and pulping scraps of unwanted paper and creating casts of his relief sculptures. The patterns are of graffiti he transcribes from the streets of Brooklyn into stone slabs.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . Christian Education on Sunday, April 13: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and Church School for the older children will not meet . . . The Adult Forum will meet at 10:00 AM on the second floor of the Mission House. Father Peter Powell concludes his series on the Book of Exodus . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on April 16 or April 23. The class resumes on April 30 and concludes on May 7.
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, April 28, Saint Mark the Evangelist (transferred) . . . Saturday, May 17, Consecration of Suffragan Bishop-Elect Allen Shin . . . Sunday, May 18, AIDS Walk 2014 . . . Thursday, May 29, Ascension Day, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, Bishop Allen Shin, celebrant and preacher.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The collection at the Maundy Thursday liturgy is entirely for those in need. This year donations will go to AIDS Walk 2014 and to the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry . . . Outreach teams from the Common Ground Initiative have been working with those who are homeless, and who have been seeking shelter here at Saint Mary’s, to help the homeless to move off of the streets and into more stable living situations. We heard this week from another of our friends that he had found a living situation with roommates and would not, he hoped, have to sleep on the streets. We are grateful for Common Ground’s assistance . . . The weather is beginning to warm, but 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 Book Sale continues on Sunday. All proceeds benefit those in need. Thank you to all those who have donated books for the sale. Your generosity is very much appreciated . . . 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. James Ross Smith
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Saint Marians may recall the work of Beatriz Elorza, which was exhibited last year in the gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Her work in that show drew the attention of a gallery here in Manhattan. Beatriz’s work is now on view at the Spanierman Modern Gallery, 625 West Fifty-fifth Street, New York City. The exhibit is entitled “Breathing Color” and continues until April 23. For more information, please visit the gallery’s website. Beatriz is a talented artist and a lovely person. We wish her continued success . . . At the Church of Saint Paul and Saint Andrew, 263 West Eighty-sixth Street at West End Avenue, Easter Mysteries: A Contemporary Oratorio about Death and Resurrection, music, book, and lyrics by John O’Boyle. April 11 & 12 at 8:00 PM, April 13 at 7:00 PM. Performances benefit The West Side Campaign Against Hunger. There is more information online . . . At the Cloisters, Fort Tryon Park, New York City: Radiant Light: Stained Glass from Canterbury Cathedral, February 25–May 18, 2014. There is more information about the exhibition on the museum’s website.