The Angelus

Volume 16, Number 30

FROM THE RECTOR: WITNESS OF SOUND

Extraordinary devotion to the Eucharist arose in the Western Church in the early Middle Ages, a devotion completely unknown to the church of earlier centuries—or to the Christian east even to today. During the Middle Ages the Eucharist continued to be celebrated in Latin, a language understood only by an elite few. This Christian community lost its experience of the Eucharist as spiritual food. Here’s an excerpt from the “confession” which the theologian Berengarius of Tours was forced to make in Rome in 1059:

I confess with my mouth and heart that . . . the bread and wine which are placed on the altar are not merely a sacrament after consecration, but rather the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ—and that these are truly, physically and not merely sacramentally, touched and broken by the hands of the priests and crushed by the teeth of the faithful (Nathan Mitchell, Cult and Controversy [1982] 137).

By this point the Western Church was far from the writings of Augustine of Hippo (354-430). In his commentary on the psalms and making a link to the sixth chapter of John, Augustine has Jesus say this to his disciples:

Understand what I have said spiritually. You will not eat this body that you see, nor will you drink the blood that will be shed by those who will crucify me. A sacrament is what I have given to you: understood spiritually. Even if it is necessary to celebrate [this sacrament] visibly, it should be understood spiritually (Mitchell, 45).

It got worse. Reception of Communion by anyone other than the celebrant at Mass becomes so infrequent that the Western Church at the Fourth Lateran Council in A.D. 1215 had to make it a requirement that all received Communion at Easter. The rubric in our own Prayer Book requiring that the “ministers receive the Sacrament in both kinds” arose when even the celebrant at Mass wasn’t receiving Communion. The Sacrament becomes something people want to look at—they don’t know Communion. So, elevations and genuflections come into the rite. Eucharistic adoration and benediction are born.

In our American Church it would lead to this statement in our Prayer Book, one that I believe Augustine himself could have written:

The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we received that grace (The Book of Common Prayer [1979] 857).

Christians continue to journey, as it were, with the Eucharist. Our parish was founded by clergy and laity who were committed to a renewal of congregational worship that included a daily celebration of the Eucharist and devotion to Christ’s sacramental Eucharistic presence.

The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (“Corpus Christi”) has been celebrated at Saint Mary’s since the founding of the parish in 1870. After the calendar reforms of the 1970s, Saint Mary’s joined the practice of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States of having this celebration on the Sunday following Trinity Sunday. (It used to be celebrated both on the traditional day, the Thursday after Trinity Sunday, and on the following Sunday—but that is a story for another day.)

I confess that in the first few years I was rector I thought about returning the celebration to the traditional day. But by then I had already talked the congregation into an outdoor Eucharistic procession. It didn’t take long for me to realize that outdoor processions are only possible on Sunday mornings—Times Square is far too crowded on any weeknight for us to process. And, I didn’t expect the sounds of our guest brass musicians playing “Amazing grace!” over and over again during the procession to have the effect it does.

The well-known tune for that text, New Britain, is from an early American hymnal, Virginia Harmony (1831). In our time it is experienced by most people as Christian and friendly. I think we can make use of our musical and Eucharistic heritage on Sunday. Certainly, there will be Christians in Times Square who will know what we are doing; but they will be few. The witness of sound is the way on Corpus Christi that we remind people that Jesus Christ is the savior of the world. I hope you can be here to rejoice and be a part of this witness. Stephen Gerth

 

YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Sharon, Steven, Rasheed, Sandy, John, Bruce, McNeil, David, Sylvia, Kenneth, Rick, Jack, Takeem, Linda, Arpene, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark; and for the repose of the souls of Barbara Ann Ginther, Kathleen Hubbard and Ellen Aitken, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 22: 1899 Henry Lankton; 1911 Henrietta Grant; 1921 Agnes Lang; 1958 Rachel Todd; 1967 Elizabeth Brown; 1973 Richard Taylor.

 

IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Eleanor Pritchard’s sister, Kathleen Hubbard, died on Thursday, June 12. She was eighty-nine years old. Please pray for Eleanor and for all who mourn . . . Steve Ginther’s mother, Barbara Ann Ginther, died on Monday, June 16. She was eighty-six years old. Please pray for Barbara, for Steve and for all who mourn.

 

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 . . . Tuesday, June 24, The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist: Mass 12:10 PM, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, June 21, by Father Jim Pace and on Saturday, June 28, by Father Stephen Gerth.

 

A SPECIAL NOTE FOR THE CORPUS CHRISTI PROCESSION . . . Two security officers from the Times Square Alliance will be walking with the brass section as we process through the square. We were saddened to learn recently that on Palm Sunday our guest musicians were pushed and shoved during what seemed to be a joyful time for so many. This has never been a problem in the past; I hope it is not a problem again. But as we so often hear in regard to public safety, “If you see something, say something.” We are thankful to the Times Square Alliance for their assistance. We ask for your awareness and help.

 

AROUND THE PARISH . . . Sharon Singh continues at Calvary Hospital Hospice, Bronx. Please keep Sharon in your prayers . . . This year the Gay Pride March is on Sunday, June 29. Rick Austill is organizing a Saint Mary's contingent to march together. Please be in touch with him if you want to be a part of it. The parade, and the parish contingent, is open to all. You don't have to be gay to march! . . . Many thanks to all who made the Sunday Evensongs so special this past year. Sunday Evensong returns on October 5, 2014. During the summer months Evening Prayer is read on Sundays at 5:00 PM . . . Attendance: Trinity Sunday 228.

 

MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Three unique and widely different composers provide the music for this, the Feast of Corpus Christi and the final choral Sunday of the season. The Communion Service (Collegium Regale) by Herbert Howells (1892-1983), was written for King’s College, Cambridge, and its famous choir of men and boys. Howells was born in Gloucester, England, but moved to London to study at the Royal College of Music. His teachers included Charles Villiers Stanford, Hubert Parry and Charles Wood. His success as a composer came early, with his Mass in the Dorian Mode performed at Westminster Cathedral within weeks of his arrival in London. Initially prolific and capable of music of great energy and humor, Howells was diagnosed with Graves’ disease, and was told he had only six months to live. He proved more resilient than predicted, and was in time to marry and enjoy the birth of a child. His only son, however, died at the age of nine from polio, and Howells never truly recovered from the loss. He wrote only sacred music from this point forward, much of it choral, and all of it imbued with great emotion and pathos.

 

Gabriel Jackson (b. 1962) was born in Bermuda, served as a chorister at Canterbury Cathedral, England, and studied at the Royal College of Music, gaining his BMus in 1983. Much influenced by the minimalist school of composition, Jackson’s work shows the influence of early English polyphony as well as a certain devotion to Gregorian chant. Much commissioned by numerous choruses and institutions, he is performed widely by many of the world’s leading vocal ensembles. His remarkable Edinburgh Mass has been presented here in two consecutive years, and his setting of the O Sacrum Convivium is a welcome addition to our choral library.

 

Jehan Alain (1911-1940) has been called the De Grigny of the twentieth century. Born into a highly musical French family, Alain died prematurely at the age of twenty-nine at the very beginning of the Second World War in the service of France. His short life provided the world with a body of work that includes some 120 compositions written between 1929 and 1939. These works show a maturity and startling innovation that much belie the age of the composer, and put him squarely in a class with such luminaries as Debussy, Roger-Ducasse and Paul Dukas. We presented his hauntingly beautiful Messe Modale on the First Sunday of Advent last year, and it seems fitting that the season should end with his equally moving setting of O Salutaris. Directly inspired by the Gregorian chant hymn, the work displays an amazingly disciplined polyphonic writing style while still portraying the devotional mystery of this great text from the pen of Saint Thomas Aquinas. 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 . . . 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.