FROM THE RECTOR: DAYS OF PENTECOST
Here’s a very brief, but I hope faithful, summary of some things Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell Johnson tell us about Easter and Pentecost in their book The Origins of Feasts, Fasts and Seasons in Early Christianity (2011), especially chapters five through eight:
In the New Testament Pentecost is a single-day Jewish festival. Its Christian origins are very different. For Christians Pentecost begins some time before the end of the second century. It is not a harvest festival, but a continuous fifty-day period where every day was a celebration of what we now generally mean by the word “Easter”—Jesus’ death, resurrection, ascension and coming in glory. This fifty-day season emerges in the same period when Easter Day itself begins to be celebrated as the Sunday of resurrection. Before then, it was the one Sunday of the year that was not celebrated as a day of resurrection. At first Easter, or Pascha, that is, Passover, was a celebration of Jesus’ death.
So, Christians begin to observe Easter Day and the following forty-nine days as they already observed the rest of the Sundays of the year: no one fasts and there is no kneeling for prayer. Again in origin, all of the regular weekly meals of the early Christian community were a thanksgiving for Jesus’ resurrection and his promise to return.
It was actually an older article that sent me to look again at Origins, Patrick Regan’s “The Fifty Days and the Fiftieth Day,” (Worship 55  194-218). He noted that though one ancient witness to the early understanding of the Easter Season, the text of Acts 2:1 in the Latin Vulgate Bible, “When the days of Pentecost were ended,” is still used in different chants and antiphons of the modern Roman Rite, the Latin plural is translated as a singular noun in the official English translations of his Roman Catholic denomination in the United States and in England (217). What are the days of Pentecost? They are the fifty days we Episcopalians now call the Easter Season.
I’ll be trying to read and listen on Sunday, the Day of Pentecost, with a little more care to the texts of our readings and hymns of the day. The new Prayer Book made remarkable strides in making us familiar with all of the central Easter themes (e.g., “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again . . . Recalling his death, resurrection and ascension.” [The Book of Common Prayer (1979) 363]). I’m sure there’s more to learn.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is God’s revelation of God’s self to us. Believing in this resurrection is the foundation of our faith. For many it’s the very hardest thing to believe as one journeys with the gift of life, too often in the face of great adversity, too often in the awareness of great evil.
I don’t think the Holy Spirit is trying to call us to re-enact in our lives the Christianity of any time but our own. I am thankful for scholarly work that continues to invite you and me to enlarge our understanding of the past so that our futures may be more aware of the breadth of God’s work among us today. The days of Pentecost will be behind us when the sun sets on Sunday. The life of the risen Jesus will be with us always, even to the end of time. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR William, Oscar, Mumtaz, Susanna, Sharon, Sandy, John, Ivan, Penny, Steven, Denise, Dennis, Robbie, Polly, Victoria, Bruce, McNeil, David, Sylvia, Kenneth, Rick, Gloria, Jack, Takeem, Linda, Arpene, Clara, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark; and for the repose of the soul of Eric Kahn . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 8: 1892 Janet Louise Hoffman; 1894 Annie M. Bush; 1918 Carrie Webb; 1958 Anna Magagnos Dorritie; 1998 Anthony Louise Guarino.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR . . . are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, June 8: New York Polyphony will sing at Solemn Evensong at 5:00 PM . . . Wednesday, June 11, Saint Barnabas the Apostle: Mass will be offered at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, June 7, by Father Stephen Gerth and on Saturday, June 14, by Father Jim Pace.
A PERSONAL NOTE . . . I’m very thankful for all who stepped forward to help this past week when bronchitis sent me to bed. Father Park Bodie took a couple of Masses for the parish and Father Jim Pace managed to be everywhere he was needed. The sisters, MaryJane Boland, and Marie Rosseels led Daily Offices. It came on very suddenly. I officiated at a really glorious Evensong on Ascension Eve—Mark Peterson and the quintet sang beautifully. By bedtime I knew I was very sick. I’m very much on the mend and continue to be very thankful for all who have helped. S.G.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Visual Arts Project: The exhibition of Maria Dominguez’s paintings, The Healer’s Series, continues in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Stewardship Campaign: If you have not yet made a pledge for 2014, but would like to do so, please contact the parish office . . . Donations for altar flowers are needed for all of the Sundays in July, August and September. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . This year the Gay Pride March is on Sunday, June 29. If you would be interested in forming a Saint Mary’s contingent to march together in the parade (or if you feel called to help make a banner for the parade!), please speak to Rick Austill. Please note: the parade, and the parish contingent, is open to all. You don’t have to be gay to march! . . . Two ordination anniversaries this week: Father Smith was ordained deacon on June 10, 1989 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine; Father Gerth was ordained deacon on June 11, 1983 at Saint James’ Cathedral, Chicago . . . Attendance: Ascension 270, Last Sunday 243.
A SPECIAL RECITAL & EVENSONG . . . New York Polyphony is regarded as one of the finest vocal chamber ensembles. The founders met and began singing together in Saint Mary’s choir in 2001. Their new group made their debut singing for the Solemn Mass here on Holy Cross Day, September 14, 2006. They have gone on to sing nearly 200 concerts in 33 states and 12 countries. Their fourth album, Times go by Turns, garnered a GRAMMY® nomination in 2013 in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance category. Sunday night Geoffrey Williams, parishioner and one of the founding members, will sing during Andrew Yeargan’s organ recital at 4:30 PM (note special time) as he plays “Prelude, Adagio & Choral Varié on ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’” by Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986). For the service, NYP will sing “Magnificat & Nunc dimittis à 4” by Andrew Smith (b. 1970) and “The night is come like to the day,” a text by Thomas Browne (1605-1682), set to music composed by Richard Rodney Bennett (1936-2012).
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Norman Austill (b. 1955), known to us as Rick here at Saint Mary’s, is an active parishioner, and a member of the Flower Guild that provides the magnificent flower arrangements we enjoy throughout the year. Rick claims to have been fairly obsessed with the piano and composition as a youth, and after high school he attended Carnegie-Mellon University. Receiving his BFA in Piano Performance & Composition, he spent much of his career as a dance accompanist, but he has also worked in the drama department at CMU, and with the Pittsburgh Ballet. In 1991 he took a position at Washington Ballet. He moved to New York in 1993 and worked at several dance companies before working exclusively for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for a period of ten years. Rick has stopped working due to nerve damage in his right hand. His Mass No. 2, which he wrote for St. Mary’s, was premiered in November of 2012 and performed again on the Feast of the Annunciation in 2013. It is evocative of medieval music and is written in the Phrygian mode. It is a polyphony work for four voices but is largely aleatoric, depending on partially random lines within the work. The aleatoric nature of the work is especially effective in our acoustic, creating clouds of sound, and is suggestive of the speech of numerous tongues, making it particularly appropriate to this celebration of Pentecost. At the ministration of Communion we hear a large-scaled motet by the great English composer, Thomas Tallis (c. 1505-1585). Mark Peterson
TAKING THE SISTERS TO LUNCH . . . On Sunday, June 22, please join us after Mass for lunch with Sister Deborah Francis and Sister Laura Katharine of the Community of St John Baptist, who will be our guests. We would like to show our appreciation to the sisters for their work and ministry here at Saint Mary’s. Lunch is at Tommy Bahama, 551 Fifth Avenue at 45th Street. Please contact Renée Pecquex for further details and to make a reservation.
OUTREACH . . . 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 . . . We continue to collect non-perishable food items for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please place your donations in the basket near the ushers’ table on Sunday mornings. You may also make cash donations. Please speak to Sister Deborah Francis.