FROM FATHER SMITH: THE CHANGES AND CHANCES OF THIS LIFE
I returned from a three-month sabbatical last Saturday. I came downstairs around 11:00 AM and entered the church through the Forty-sixth Street doors. I was greeted warmly by sexton Stefano Esposito and parishioner Dick Leitsch. We talked for several minutes, catching up on things. I told them about my time in Mexico. They told me what had been going on here at the parish. A lot can happen in three months.
Before I went back to the sacristy, I stood there in choir for a few minutes and looked around. It was nice to see so much that was familiar: the high altar, the rose window, Saint Columba in his boat, still heading off to Britain from on top of one of the pulpit’s newel posts. Not everything seemed familiar though. As I walked around the church, I saw many things as if for the first time. The stone floors were so shiny (good work, brother sextons!); the width of the crossing seemed immense. In fact, the entire nave seemed large to me. Has Saint Mary’s always been this big? Oddly enough, the interior of the church seemed fairly sober to me, its decoration rather restrained, after my month of worshipping in a wildly Baroque colonial church in southern Mexico. Such things are relative, I suppose.
I thought a lot about change during my time away. To say that one is “thinking about change” is a bit of a cliché, except that doing so is inevitable, whether one likes it or not. Human beings have been thinking about these things for a very long time. The pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus helped get the Greeks thinking about things that change—and things that don’t—some 500 years before Christ’s birth. The philosopher is supposed to have said, “No one ever steps in the same river twice.”
The bishops who gathered at Nicea in AD 325 thought about God in the Greek way; and so it is that every Sunday we proclaim our belief that the Son of God is “one in being with the Father.” Here, the Nicene Creed is trying to say, among other things, that God and God’s Son in his divinity are Being itself. They never change. They never become something else. That way of thinking inspired the following collect appointed for Compline, “Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hours of this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes and chances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Book of Common Prayer 133).
During my sabbatical, certain things at Saint Mary’s changed in ways both large and small. Two beloved parishioners died, one in her early forties and the other at the age of 101. New ways of serving emerged while I was away: we have new proofreaders, new acolytes, new readers. The guild of acolytes came together in a remarkable manner to support Sharon Singh in her final illness. The parish witnessed the importance of diaconal ministry as Rebecca Weiner Tompkins and Anthony Jones stepped up to visit the sick and help those in need in very important ways. Father Pace, Father Powell, and Father Bodie took on new responsibilities and served the congregation in new ways. A lot of extra work fell to Father Gerth, and he, the sisters, and the office staff were all eager to tell me how new solutions to old problems had emerged while I was away. The stewardship committee began its work this summer, doing quite well without me. A ritual crisis was narrowly averted when several volunteers learned how to mix incense, keeping us going until our very able incense expert is able to return to New York. Mark Peterson told me with great excitement about the new piano recital series scheduled for 2014–15. On my first day back in the office, I met with the rector and he told me about plans for the coming year and brought me up to speed on the progress of the capital campaign. And, of course, in the midst of all this change there was continuity. The people, staff, the sisters and the clergy of the parish did what they always do: work hard to serve God, each other, and our brothers and sisters in the world.
It’s good to be back. I am immensely grateful to the rector, the board of trustees, the Louisville Institute, the parish clergy, the sisters, my fellow staff members, and the people of Saint Mary’s, who made it possible for me to take the sabbatical. I am aware of how many sacrifices you all made so I could be away. I hope I will be able to find ways to repay you.
I spent the month of June in Oaxaca, one of the Americas’ older cities. There were people living and working in Oaxaca long before Europeans landed in Vera Cruz, to the northeast, in 1519. Oaxaca is a beautiful colonial city. It seems as if there is a church on every other corner. It is a city filled with history. Benito Juarez was born there and so was Porfirio Diaz. It is a center for Mexican arts and crafts. It’s a city filled with families and young children. Living for a month in a place so different from New York made me think a lot about cities, about our city, and about our neighborhood. Times Square and the neighborhood to the south and west of us are going through a period of rapid change. The future of the neighborhood is not entirely clear. Still, one of the graces of my time away was to realize that change is not just something to fear or resist. Change also means opportunity. That is because, as the Benedictines have taught us, time is a gift, an opportunity for service, for blessing, and for grace. I look forward to working with all of you to figure out what God has in store for us at Saint Mary’s this year and in the years to come, as we face the changes and chances of this life, as we move toward the One who is love itself, now and forever, and to the ages of ages.—James Ross Smith
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Samantha, Pauline, Suzanne, Rebecca, John, McNeil, Takeem, Sylvia, Rick, Jack, Linda, Arpene, Scott, Phillip, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty; and for the repose of the souls of Rick Kung and Robert Clyde Hirschfeld . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 7: 1883 Eliza A. Byers; 1886 Maria Fling; 1906 Margaret Sheldon; 1940 Harriett M. Chawner.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR . . . are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE between Blair Burroughs of Queens, New York, and Renée Pecquex of Queens, New York. If any of you know just cause why they may not be joined together in Holy Matrimony, you are bidden to declare it. This is the first time of asking. J.R.S.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Monday, September 8, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Monday, September 8, 7:30 PM, Recital in Saint Joseph’s Hall: Robert Cassidy, piano . . . Thursday, September 11, Requiem for the Victims of September 11, 2001, Mass 12:10 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, September 6, by Father Pace and on Saturday, September 13, by Father Gerth.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., celebrates an anniversary on Monday, September 8. Sister made her life profession on the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1970. We are very grateful for her ministry here at the parish . . . Father Gerth has been on vacation this week and away from the parish. He returns on Saturday, September 6, and will be at church on Sunday, September 7. He will be away from the parish between Monday, September 8 and Wednesday, September 10. He returns to the office on Thursday, September 11 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 236.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION & SPIRITUALITY . . . Sunday, October 5, 1:00 PM: A Tour of Saint Mary’s and Its Art & Decoration, led by Dr. Dennis Raverty, with the assistance of parish archivist, Dick Leitsch . . . Sunday, October 12, 19 & 26, 10:00 AM, Mission House, 2nd Floor: “For All the Saints”—The Origins & History of the Veneration of the Saints. This three-part series in the Adult Forum is led by Father Jay Smith . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class resumes on October 15 at 6:30 PM. The class, which is led by Father Jay Smith, is normally held in Saint Joseph’s Hall, 145 West 46th Street. We will be reading the Book of Isaiah this year . . . Sunday, November 2, 9, 16 & 23, 10:00 AM, Mission House, 2nd Floor: “The Gospel of John,” led by Father Peter Powell . . . Saturday, December 6, 10:00 AM-3:00 PM, Advent Quiet Day, led by Father John Beddingfield, rector of All Souls Memorial Episcopal Church, Washington, D.C. Father Beddingfield plans to share his thoughts on Franciscan spirituality, with some particular attention to Saint Clare . . . Sunday, December 7 & 14, 10:00 AM: “Holy Women”. Several members of the parish will discuss saints, ancient and modern, canonized and not, who happen to have been women. These classes are the first in a series of offerings in the Adult Forum focusing on the lives and ministries of Christian women from earliest days to our own time.—J.R.S.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . At the Solemn Mass on Sunday: César Franck (1822–1890) was one of the giants of nineteenth-century music and is still considered to be one of France’s national treasures. He was a Parisian composer whose renown rests on a relatively small number of compositions written in his later years. Franck was largely responsible for rejuvenating the French symphonic tradition among other forms. He also played a central role in renewing French church music in all of its forms (within the Roman Catholic Church). As an organist, Franck was particularly noted for his skill at improvisation. His reputation is based on a relatively small corpus of twelve major organ works. Still, he is considered by many to be the greatest composer of organ music after Bach. His Prelude from the Prelude, Fugue & Variation for Organ is a hauntingly melodic work that we hear at the Prelude before the Solemn Mass, with a Sortie at the Postlude. One of his best-known shorter works is the solo motet, Panis angelicus, which was originally written for tenor with organ and strings but has subsequently been arranged for other voices and instrumental combinations. It is another of his fine solo motets that we hear at the ministration of Holy Communion. Soprano Sharon Harms sings his Ave Maria to the original text . . . Recital in Saint Joseph’s Hall, Monday, September 8, 7:30 PM. Monday evening’s recital is the first event in the Saint Cecilia Chamber Music Series. The recitalist is pianist Robert Cassidy, whose program includes works by Mozart, Debussy, Brahms, and the American composer David Noon. Admission is free; however, there will be an opportunity to make a donation to support the parish’s music program. Dr. Cassidy studied piano at the Manhattan School of Music and at Indiana University. He received a doctor of arts degree from Ball State University. Dr. Cassidy is an active soloist, chamber musician, teacher, and chamber-music coach. His solo recording for Albany Records, which includes music by David Noon, as well as Mozart’s Fantasy in C minor, was released in 2012. At the recital, Dr. Cassidy will be playing Saint Mary’s newly acquired Knabe grand piano. The instrument is a very generous gift from Deborah Wythe. Deborah is married to Larry Trupiano, the parish’s able and faithful organ conservator. All are invited.—Mark Peterson
OUTREACH . . . 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. We are also happy to receive donations of new white socks and underwear, protein bars, hand cleanser, small bottles of shampoo and other toiletries, for distribution to the homeless and others who are in need. This will become increasingly important as the weather grows colder . . . If you would like to know more about the work of Saint Vincent’s School for the Handicapped in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, please speak to Father Gerth . . . If you would like to support the work of the Episcopal Order of the Holy Cross in Grahamstown, South Africa, especially the order’s school, its after-school program, and its scholarship fund, you may send a donation in care of Brother Robert Sevensky, OHC, Order of the Holy Cross, PO Box 99, West Park, NY 12493.
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 David Noon.
Monday, November 17, 8:00 PM: Lucia Stavros, harp
Along with colleagues, Ms. Stavros 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 fundraising event with reception following.