FROM THE RECTOR: OUR DOORS ARE OPEN
I often read the weekly pew sheet from Grace Church, Joondalup, Perth, Australia, where Father David Wood, who was with us at Saint Mary’s in September, is the parish priest. I like to read what he writes. This week he quoted a portion of Pope Francis’s recent “exhortation,” Gaudium Evangelii (“The Joy of the Gospel”). I think the pope’s words are worth sharing:
The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One concrete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if someone, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door.
There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacraments be closed for simply any reason. This is especially true of the sacrament which is itself “the door”: baptism. The Eucharist, although it is the fullness of sacramental life, is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.
These convictions have pastoral consequences that we are called to consider with prudence and boldness. Frequently, we act as arbiters of grace rather than its facilitators. But the Church is not a tollhouse; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems. (Francis, Gaudium Evangelii [24 November 2014] 46).
As I write on Thursday, December 12, I am very aware that today is the 118th anniversary of the dedication of our second and present church home in 1895. When Saint Mary’s was founded in 1868, the congregation of Trinity Church, Wall Street, had largely moved uptown. I sometimes wonder if Thomas McKee Brown imagined the same thing would one day happen to Saint Mary’s. That’s not an easy question to answer. But one thing I do know: from the parish’s very first days, he imagined a church where the doors were open every day, where the Mass and the Offices would be celebrated daily, and the doors would be open to all people.
This week we will remember the life and witness of Father Brown, as he came to be known in the course of his ministry at Saint Mary’s. He died in the rectory on December 19, 1898. He was fifty-seven years old. The monthly parish newsletter, The Arrow (January 1899), carried the following report of his death. If you don’t know it, please go the parish webpage. You will be glad to have read it. For the record, I have never been able to read this passage aloud to others without emotion.
The other day a priest who serves at another parish asked me what was the last event at Saint Mary’s I was really excited about. I found the question hard to answer. I really didn’t have an answer about a single event. I replied that I really like being a priest and I’m so happy to be rector of Saint Mary’s. I love what I do; I love Saint Mary’s. It sounds almost trite, but I’m always excited about the parish.
But, I didn’t know in February 1999 when I became rector how important our open doors are to the excitement you and I share. I do now. Open doors make possible not just worship but the particular ministries here which touch a wider range of people and needs than most can imagine. Thank you for your gifts that make the ministry of your parish community in this place possible. Thank you, too, for your excitement about the gifts we have been given. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Sharon, Bill, Kayleigh, William, Sumaya, Dick, Rick, Dominique, Stephen, Pierre, Takeem, Linda, Babak, Jathon, Casey, Eloise, Arpene, John, priest, Clair, priest, and Paulette, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark, Alex, and Elizabeth; and for the repose of the soul of Isaiah Greene-O’Kane . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 15: 1883 Joseph Henry Bell; 1959 Howard M. Nugent; 1986 Norman Albert Rollings; 1989 Lore Brownell Britt.
FRIDAY ABSTINENCE . . . The ordinary Fridays of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THE COMPLETE SCHEDULE FOR THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS and the Epiphany has been posted on the parish webpage.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2013-2014 . . . As of December 11, we have received pledge cards from 114 households. Although we have received a number of pledges in recent days, for which we are very grateful, we still have a ways to go. We still have not heard from some of the households that made pledges for 2013. Our statistics thus far: $331,031.00 has been pledged to date, 74% of our goal of $450,000.00. We urge all the members and friends of Saint Mary’s to return their pledge cards as soon as possible. The budget committee will be meeting shortly in order to draw up plans for 2014. It is always helpful if the committee has a complete and realistic picture of the results of the campaign when they begin their work. Thank you to all who continue to support Saint Mary’s so generously.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, December 14: Advent Quiet Day, 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM . . . Saturday, December 14, 8:00 PM, Young New Yorkers’ Chorus presents “Re:Mix Christmas.” . . . Saturday, December 21, Saint Thomas the Apostle: Mass will be said at 12:10 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, December 14, by Father Jay Smith and on Saturday, December 21, by Father Stephen Gerth.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . At the Solemn Mass on Monday, December 9, the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (transferred), Bishop Andrew M.L. Dietsche confirmed Imani Baptiste-Green, Shannon Dohar, and Babak Homayoonmehr; he also received John Conner, Gilbert Corby, and José Vidal into the Episcopal Church. Please keep them and their families in your prayers . . . We are grateful to all those who made the Feast of the Conception such a beautiful and prayerful day here at the parish . . . Donations are requested: for altar flowers for Sundays in January; we also hope to receive donations to help defray the costs of the reception after the Solemn Mass on Monday, January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the Finance Office . . . Saturday, December 21, is the thirtieth anniversary of the rector’s ordination to the priesthood . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 260; Conception of Mary 187.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer (1656–1746) was a German (Bohemian) Baroque composer and Kapellmeister. Considered one of the best composers for the keyboard of his day, the rarity of surviving copies of his music has resulted in his general obscurity. Born in Schönfeld, a small town at the foot of the Erzgebirge Mountains, Fischer attended a grammar school run by Piarist friars (a religious order founded in Rome in 1617 to promote the education of the poor). It was presumably there that he received his first lessons in composition. Later studies in Dresden and Paris gave Fischer a broad exposure to various stylistic schools and the work of many leading musicians, including the famed Jean Baptiste Lully (1632–1687), whose influence can be seen in Fischer’s works. Sometime between 1686 and 1689, Fischer was appointed Kapellmeister to the Saxon-Lauenburg court in Schlackenwerth. It was during this period that he wrote some of his more notable religious works. The profound polyphony and refined counterpoint of his compositions brought him a certain regard, particularly with his organ cycle, Ariadne Musica. Fischer’s Mass setting, the Missa super “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland,” which we hear at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, was published in 1702, twenty years ahead of J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier Part I, BWV 846-869. Bach held Fischer’s work in high regard and took some of his thematic inspiration from the older man’s cycle. Bach’s two settings of the chorale, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, that we hear as prelude and postlude on Sunday, come from an earlier period, but are based on the same chorale that figures so prominently in today’s Mass setting. At the ministration of Holy Communion, we will hear a quintessential Advent work by Orlando Lassus (1532–1594) on a text from Isaiah 35:4, Be comforted. Mark Peterson
THE “O ANTIPHONS” . . . At Evening Prayer, beginning on Monday, December 16, the antiphons are said at the beginning and end of the Magnificat, the canticle which follows the first reading. The first seven antiphons address Our Lord using a particular name or attribute, all of which are rooted in holy scripture: O Wisdom, O Adonaï, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David, O Dayspring (or Light of Dawn), O King of the Nations, and O Emmanuel; the final antiphon is addressed to Our Lady, “O Virgin of Virgins.” It is the custom here at Saint Mary’s to recite eight antiphons, one per day, beginning on December 16 and ending on December 23, according to the old English usage. The recitation of these antiphons is one way of marking the approach of Christmas, when we celebrate the first advent of Jesus Christ, Incarnate Lord, King and Savior, Word made Flesh.
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, December 21, 8:00 PM, Annual New York Repertory Orchestra Benefit Concert. Admission: $10.00. The program includes Tchaikovsky’s Francesca da Rimini, Kurt Weill’s, Little Threepenny Music and Edward Elgar’s Violin Concerto. Visit the orchestra’s website for more information and to make reservations.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . Thank you to parishioner, Brendon Hunter, who discussed his work at the Episcopal Church Foundation in the Adult Forum last Sunday. We hope to have him back in the future to tell us more! . . . Christian Education on Sunday, December 15: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, 9:45 AM, The Atrium; Church School, 10:00 AM, The Morning Room; Adult Forum, 10:00 AM, An Introduction to Centering Prayer: A Presentation by Parishoner Blair Burroughs, in the Arch Room, Mission House, 2nd floor . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on December 18, 25 or January 1. The class will resume in the new year on Wednesday, January 8.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem (AFEDJ) makes a special plea for support each year, in December, around the time of the feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6. AFEDJ describes its mission thus, “As a non-political, independent nonprofit, AFEDJ acts as a partner with the Diocese of Jerusalem by helping to increase its capacity to teach and heal. AFEDJ raises funds for and promotes the humanitarian work of the Diocese of Jerusalem and its institutions so it may better serve the needs of all people in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Israel. AFEDJ is devoted to equity, respect and human dignity.” You may visit AFEDJ’s website for more information or to make a donation . . . We are gratefully accepting donations of warm clothing, as well as new, unopened packets of underwear and socks, especially white cotton socks. We send some items of clothing to the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Other items are kept here for distribution to those in need. We also continue to collect non-perishable food items and cash donations for the Food Pantry.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Jewish Museum, 1109 Fifth Avenue at 92nd Street, Chagall: Love, War, and Exile, September 15, 2013–February 2, 2014. This exhibition “explores a significant but neglected period in [Chagall’s] career from the rise of fascism in the 1930s through 1948, years spent in Paris and then in exile to New York. Marc Chagall (1887–1985), one of the foremost modernists of the 20th century, created his unique style by drawing on elements from richly colored folk art motifs, the Russian Christian icon tradition, Cubism, and Surrealism.”