FROM THE RECTOR: HARD BITS
The Prayer Book permits the lessons at Sunday and feast day Eucharists to be lengthened. This Sunday we will be adding one verse to the story of Jesus telling his disciples that he will suffer, be killed and on the third day rise, Matthew 16:21-27. This is the verse, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew 16:28). This verse also appears in the same context in Mark 9:1 and Luke 9:27. (For the record, the new lectionary includes this verse—if only so many of its other changes had been made with the same care!)
Paul, probably in the mid-50s A.D., wrote about the end of time, “Sisters and brothers, the appointed time has grown very short” (1 Corinthians 7:29). By the time Mark wrote, perhaps fifteen years later, he knew the time was not as short as Jesus was remembered saying. A decade or so after Mark, about fifty years after the Lord’s death and resurrection, Matthew and Luke had an even stronger sense that Jesus had been wrong about his imminent return, about the end of time.
Ulrich Luz notes that Origen (c. 185–c. 254) interpreted the Lord’s words in Matthew 16:28 in a spiritual sense (Matthew 8–20  386). The non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, perhaps from the third century, approached it this way, “These are the secret sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Didymos Judas Thomas recorded. And he said, ‘Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings will not taste death’”—another spiritual approach.
Luz notes Pope Gregory the Great interpreted the word “kingdom” as the church; apologists in the Reformation tradition saw “kingdom” as Jesus’ resurrection or ascension (Luz, 386–87). Many scholars have simply decided Jesus didn’t say these words (Ibid., 387). That said, the explanation for verses like this that I heard in seminary still rings true for me: people remembered that Jesus had said these words, and it was more important to keep what he said than for it to be true. I am far more comfortable living with the reality that Jesus might not have known everything than I am trying to pretend the biblical text as we have it does not say what it says. The ambiguity of life is part of life’s opportunity, an inherent part of our humanity. The words of Jesus in Matthew 16:28 are not the only problematic text in Matthew. Our human lives are not as perfect as that of our God who is in heaven.
I write on Thursday, August 28, the day the church commemorates the great theologian of the western church, Augustine of Hippo (354–430). In his autobiography he recounted how, being in despair about the shape of his life, he overheard children saying, “Pick it up, read it; pick it up, read it” (Augustine, Confessions, 12:29). He got up, got a bible and opened it by grace to Romans 13:13, “Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.” He had tried that life of excess for many years. He wrote that he used to pray to God, “Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet” (Confessions, 7:17). On that day of despair, he was tired of what he had thought he wanted. The words of some children finally moved him to be open to what he knew was right but for whatever reason had been afraid to do: believe in the resurrection of Jesus.
As I write this day, I am thinking a lot about my uncle Donny Matthews, who died a year ago today, about my mother who died last year in April, about my family, and about the members of our parish who have died this summer, Sharon Singh and Charles Arthur Schaefer. I believe I will be with them again. Perhaps it is in the very last moments of human life that we see Jesus coming with his sovereign power, and we know that words of Jesus which matter have always been true.—Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Samantha, Pauline, Rebecca, John, McNeil, David, Takeem, Sylvia, Rick, Jack, Linda, Arpene, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 31: 1905 John W. Horton; 1920 Marie Louise Simpson, Josephine Worth James; 1940 Marion Frances Williams.
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 . . . Monday, September 1, is Labor Day. The church will be open from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM. The noonday services will be celebrated. The parish office will be closed . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, August 30, by Father Smith, and on Saturday, September 6, by Father Pace.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, a mailing from the Music Search Committee with a questionnaire about music in our common life is being put in the mail. Look for it after Labor Day! . . . The Rector will be away from the parish from Saturday, August 30, until Sunday, September 7 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 165.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921), famed French composer, wrote for all genres, including opera, symphonies, concertos, songs, sacred and secular choral music, solo piano, and chamber music. He was conservative when it came to composition. He remained closely tied to tradition and traditional forms. He was also a poet and playwright of some distinction. Saint-Saëns entered the Paris Conservatory in 1848, studied organ and composition, and quickly won the admiration of Berlioz, Liszt, Gounod, Rossini, and other notable figures of the time. From 1853 to 1876, he held church organist posts and taught at the École Niedermeyer (1861–65), a school for the study of church music. He composed much throughout his early years, turning out the 1853 Symphony in F (“Urbs Roma”), a Mass (1855) and several concertos. His personal life was quite tragic, yet he composed some of his most notable works during his darkest hours of greatest loss. The turn of the twentieth century brought a certain condescension toward his work in France, but in England and the United States he was hailed as his country’s greatest living composer well into the century. We hear the last of his Six Organ Fugues as the postlude to Solemn Mass. At the ministration of Communion, Mark Risinger, bass, will sing Inviolata, a hymn in praise of the Blessed Virgin. An original composition, it is one of Saint-Saëns’ finest solo motets.—Mark Peterson
LOOKING AHEAD TO SEPTEMBER . . . September 8 is the Feast of the Nativity of Mary. There will be a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM . . . Holy Cross Day is on September 14, and as is our custom, we will observe it on Sunday, September 14, with the regular schedule of services . . . The Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels is Monday, September 29. There will be a Sung Mass at 6:00 PM. The daily service schedule through December 31, 2015 can be found on our web page at this link.
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 nonperishable 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.
Saint Cecilia Chamber Music Series
The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin
Monday Evenings in Saint Joseph’s Hall
Monday, September 8, 7:30 PM: Robert Cassidy, piano
This is the first recital utilizing our newly acquired Knabe Grand Piano.
In his only New York appearance, Mr. Cassidy will play works of
Mozart, Debussy, Brahms, and Noon.
Monday, November 17, 8:00 PM: Lucia Stavros, harp
Along with colleagues, she will play a program of works for solo harp
and ensemble pieces with flute and cello.
Monday, January 12, 2015, 8:00 PM: An Evening of Victor Herbert
Suzanne Woods, soprano; John Pickle, tenor; and
Boyd Mackus, baritone, will offer a program of favorites
from this master of the American operetta.
Monday, March 16, 2015, 8:00 PM: Art Song
Robin Frye, mezzo-soprano; Robert Mobsby, baritone;
and Douglas Drake, piano,
in a program of art song and treasured favorites.
Monday, May 18, 2015, 8:00 PM: May Daze
May Daze is a musical comedy by Peter Holbrook
on the life of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians and the bewildered.
It is presented in the tradition of the medieval miracle plays,
featuring singers from the Choir of Saint Mary’s.
This is a fund raising event with reception following.