FROM THE RECTOR: RENEWING EASTER
That the Risen Jesus did not appear in the gospels for the Easter Vigil or Easter Day until the reforms of the 1970s continues to surprise me. Quite honestly, it leaves me speechless. How was this possible? How has this been shaping Christian life for 1400 or more years in the Western church? It’s worth noting that the word “alleluia” does not appear in its Latin or Hebrew form in our Prayer Books before 1979. Just because the Risen Jesus is now with us, a lot of things have not changed. Roman Catholics still never hear from him on Easter morning. It will be a long time before Western Christians, Protestant or Roman Catholic, experience their faith as being about not just a crucified Jesus, but a crucified and Risen Lord.
That said, my sense is that the Episcopal Church and the wider Anglican Communion have moved purposefully to embrace a renewed understanding of the Paschal mystery, Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Easter Season is now, as it was in the church’s first centuries, a celebration of fifty days. The gospels for Easter Sundays invite us to connect our ordinary lives with the Risen Lord and the Holy Spirit. “Alleluia” shapes our worship during these days from the Easter Vigil to sunset on the Day of Pentecost. All of this matters because it is the Risen Lord’s making himself present to women and men—yes, let’s start with the women because the Risen Lord did—that enabled his disciples to believe in eternal life and recognize the ongoing presence of God the Holy Spirit.
On the morning of the Sunday of the Resurrection, the Risen Lord makes himself present to Mary Magdalene and sends her to tell his “sisters and brothers,” that “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). This Risen Jesus fulfills what the evangelist John proclaims at the beginning of his gospel, “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).
The gospel for the Second Sunday of Easter is the rest of John 20, which we didn’t hear on Easter Day. The focus is not Jesus telling the disciples they can forgive sins or Thomas’ lack of faith. The Risen Jesus proclaims for all who hear the gospel, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” (John 20:29).
There are three gospel narratives, two in Luke 24 and one in John 21, where the Risen Jesus eats with his disciples. Over the three-year lectionary cycle one of these is used every year on the Third Sunday of Easter. It is the Risen “life-giving Jesus”—to use Paul Bradshaw’s phrase—who is present with us to feed us when we gather around the table as God’s children.
On the Fourth Sunday of Easter, this year Sunday, May 11, we hear one of the three sections of the tenth chapter of John where Jesus, after healing the man born blind, calls himself “the shepherd of the sheep” and proclaims that this shepherd “calls his own sheep by name.” In the next chapter, he will call Lazarus from the tomb by his name (John 11:43). On the morning of the resurrection, it is not his appearance or the sound of his voice that enables Mary Magdalene to recognize the Risen Lord, but that he calls her by her own name.
The gospels for the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Sundays of Easter are always from John’s account of the supper before the Passover. That night Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit and the relationship of believers to Jesus himself and to the Father and the Spirit. Our faith is about believing (only a verb, never a noun in John) in the Risen Jesus, who, in the words of Patrick Regan, is now “beyond the reach of death” (Advent to Pentecost  302) and who invites us to share in that life in our lives today by believing. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Andrew, Wilson, Elizabeth, David, Sharon, Babak, Sylvia, Kenneth, Rick, Gloria, Jack, Takeem, Linda, Arpene, King, priest, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark and Alex . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 11: 1887 Clara Dietrich; 1951 Elsa Wuhrman; 1959 George Anderson Gordon; 1968 Anna Hegel; 1994 Malcolm Benton Wallace.
THE FRIDAYS OF THE EASTER SEASON are not special days to be observed by acts of discipline and self-denial. This year abstinence will be observed on ordinary Fridays beginning, June 13.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd will not meet on Sunday, May 11. Church School for the older children will meet on Sunday, May 11. The Adult Forum will meet on Sunday, May 11 . . . The Parish Choir of Christ’s Church in Rye, New York, will join us at Evensong on Sunday, May 11, at 5:00 PM, to sing the service . . . On Saturday, May 10, confessions will be heard by Father Stephen Gerth, and on Saturday, May 17, by Father Jim Pace.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As of Thursday, May 8, the Saint Mary’s AIDS Walk Team has exceeded its $30,000 fundraising goal for 2014. The Team has now raised $31,072.00. The Team is currently No. 8 out of all the teams that plan to walk on May 18! Though that ranking will probably slip some after the final numbers come in from all the teams, including the corporate teams, that statistic is still very impressive indeed. We encourage all our members and friends to consider making a donation to support this effort. You can make an online donation here!. Thank you to all who already made a donation . . . The episcopal ring, given by the people of Saint Mary’s, will be presented to the newly ordained Bishop Suffragan Allen Shin by a representative of this parish at his ordination on Saturday, May 17. We mailed a letter last week asking for donations to support this effort. If donations exceed the cost of the ring, the surplus will be given to our new bishop suffragan for his discretionary fund. If you did not receive a letter, but would like to receive one, please contact the parish office . . . Father Jay Smith will be away from the parish from the afternoon of Sunday, May 11, until the afternoon of Wednesday, May 14, attending a Leadership in Ministry conference. He will return to New York in time for the Bible Study Class at 6:30 PM . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 276.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . We received another new pledge this week, reminding us that our campaign continues. $405,617.00 has been pledged to date, which puts us at around 10% short of our goal of $450,000.00. It’s never too late to make a pledge for 2014. If you would like to make a pledge or receive a pledge card, please contact the finance office. We welcome, and need, your support.
OVERHEARD IN THE HALLWAYS (AND ON THE INTERNET) . . . I was walking downstairs one evening recently (not wearing clericals) as two young people were departing after attending the play in the theater on the third floor. The young woman said to the young man, “Have you seen the church next door? It’s really beautiful.” The young man responded, “Oh, I know, it’s gorgeous. And it smells really good, too!” A few days later, we read a post on a blog written by a student at the Groton School. The Groton alumni association recently held an event here at the parish and a school choir sang for half an hour in the church. The young student had this to say, “We finished [our] trip with our service at Saint Mary the Virgin. We stood on the balcony overlooking the [church], hearing our voices reverberate through the space; the church is gorgeous, its ceilings painted with stars, light peeking in from the stained glass windows it was stunning.” How blessed we are to have been given this great gift from those who have gone before us. From the Prayer Book, “Almighty God, we give you thanks for the fellowship of those who have worshiped in this place, and we pray that all who seek you here may find you, and be filled with your joy and peace” (254-55). Jay Smith
ADULT FORUM . . . The Adult-Education class continues this coming Sunday, May 11, when Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will teach the second part of her three-part series (May 4, 11 & 18), entitled Readings in Poetry Inspired by the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation. Rebecca will be talking about poems like Denise Levertov’s “The Jacob’s Ladder” (1961), inspired by Genesis 28:12: “The stairway is not/a thing of gleaming strands/a radiant evanescence/for angels’ feet that only glance in their tread, and/need not touch the stone.//It is of stone./A rosy stone that takes/a glowing tone of softness/only because behind it the sky is a doubtful,/a doubting night gray.//A stairway of sharp/angles, solidly built./One sees that the angels must spring/down from one step to the next, giving a little/lift of the wings://and a man climbing/must scrape his knees, and bring/the grip of his hands into play. The cut stone/consoles his groping feet. Wings brush past him./The poem ascends.” Rebecca’s class will help us see again the Bible’s enormous influence on English literature, while providing another approach to the study of Scripture itself.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594) was a Franco-Flemish composer who, together with Palestrina in Italy, and William Byrd in England, capped the amazing compositional output of the Renaissance. His professional life included a number of posts in the Low Countries, but by 1553 de Lassus was choirmaster at Saint John Lateran in Rome, remaining there for a time before settling briefly in Antwerp. His career from 1556 was centered in Munich at the court chapel of Duke Albrecht V of Bavaria, as maestro di cappella from 1563, with duties that included some travel in Germany, Flanders, France, and Italy. His cosmopolitan lifestyle is often reflected in his catalogue of over 2,000 works. Nearly sixty Masses of undoubted attribution survive complete. Most are parody masses as in the case with the beautiful, simple four-part Mass we hear this Sunday at Solemn Mass, the Missa “Il me suffit”. The Mass is based on melodies in a secular song (a chanson) by Claudin de Sermisy (c. 1495–1562). Lassus sometimes uses the tune, note by note, in one of the voice parts; other times he uses fragments of the tune in his counterpoint. This chanson was in time to become a Lutheran chorale tune, and astute listeners will recognize it as one of the chorales Bach harmonized and used in his Saint Matthew Passion. It is a five-voice motet by de Lassus that we hear at the ministration of Communion . . . At 4:40 PM on Sunday, May 11, the organ recital will be played by Joseph Russell, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania . . . At 5:00 PM, on Sunday, May 11, the Parish Choir of Christ’s Church, Rye, New York, will join us to sing the services of Evensong and Benediction. The Choir is directed by Ruaraidh Sutherland, organist and director of music at Christ’s Church. Mark Peterson
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) will not meet on Sunday, May 4, 11, or 18, since Rebecca will be leading the Adult Forum on those days. Please speak to Rebecca about plans for the 2014-2015 academic year. CGS will resume in October. Church School will meet on May 11 and May 18, which will be the last class of the season. Church School will resume in October . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet for the final time this spring at 6:30 PM. Thank you to all those who attended the class so faithfully. Your insights and enthusiastic participation are much appreciated. J.R.S.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . 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. The Episcopal News Service (ENS) recently posted a short video about the monastery and its school here . . . 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 are grateful for Common Ground’s assistance . . . We 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. J.R.S.
THE ARTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Royal Family Productions presents the US Premiere of Four Last Things by playwright Lisa Tierney-Keogh, directed by Chris Henry, in the theater on the third floor of the Parish House. The cast includes Tony nominee, Elizabeth A. Davis (Once), Victor Verhaeghe (HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire”), and Justin Hagan (Film: Shortbus, Party Monster). The play’s running time is eighty minutes. The performance schedule is a bit unusual: Monday and Tuesday at 7:00 PM; Friday and Saturday at 5:30 PM. The final performance is on Wednesday, May 14, at 5:30 PM. Tickets are $18.00. For more information and to purchase tickets, you may visit the company’s website . . . The New York Repertory Orchestra will play its final concert of the 2013-2014 season on Saturday, May 17, at 8:00 PM. The program includes music by Panufnik (Jagiellonian Triptych), Tchaikovsky (Violin Concerto), and Hanson (Symphony No. 3). Admission is free. A $10.00 donation is encouraged.
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Saturday, May 17, 11:00 AM, 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 . . . Saturday, May 31, The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Said Mass 12:10 PM . . . Sunday, June 8, The Day of Pentecost . . . Sunday, June 15, Trinity Sunday . . . Sunday, June 22, Corpus Christi (Evening Prayer at 5:00 PM) . . . Sunday, June 29, Sunday Summer Schedule begins: Morning Prayer 8:30 AM; Mass 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Evening Prayer 5:00 PM . . . Friday, July 11, 8:00 PM, Parish Outing: New York Philharmonic Concert in Central Park.