FROM THE RECTOR: HOLY CROSS DAY
As I write, the cross of Jesus is being carried literally in many places in this world by men, women and children because they confess Jesus as Lord and Savior. For a couple of hours I’ve tried to start to write about Holy Cross Day without starting with a reference to the torture, hunger, and homelessness too many Christians, many Muslims, and members of other faith communities are enduring from Islamic terrorists in Africa and the Middle East. I can’t do it, especially in the shadow of September 11, 2001. I keep waiting for news of the girls kidnapped and put into slavery by the Muslim terrorists in Nigeria. It remains to be seen how far and for how long this eruption of evil humanity will be allowed to continue.
I have many happy memories of my first trip to France in 1999. Among our stops was a trip to Normandy. I’m sure what I felt has been felt by almost every American who has seen the beaches, the cliffs, and the graveyard. We also visited the D-day Museum at Arromanches. There I remember wondering whether the political leadership of our time was more like the leadership of Britain and France under Chamberlain and Daladier or under their successors, Churchill and de Gaulle. In a recent conversation Bishop Charles Jenkins reminded me of the following prayer, and I commend it to you as he commended it to me:
O Lord our Governor, whose glory is in all the world: We commend this nation to thy merciful care, that, being guided by thy Providence, we may dwell secure in thy peace. Grant to the President of the United States, the Governor of this State, and to all in authority, wisdom and strength to know and to do thy will. Fill them with the love of truth and righteousness, and make them ever mindful of their calling to serve this people in thy fear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. (The Book of Common Prayer  820)
Now, Holy Cross Day. For Paul the cross was the great sign of Christian sacrifice and glory. At the beginning of his First Letter to the Corinthians he wrote, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). This apostolic preaching by Paul and others shaped the New Testament and remains at the heart of what it still means to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.
In the first centuries of the Christian Era, confessing Jesus as Lord meant living with the reality that one might suffer punishment and death. Before there was enough of a Christian community to organize anything, Christians treasured the lives and bodies of those who had suffered and died as martyrs. Their bodies were treasured because in them Christ had died and risen to glory.
The Prayer Book permits us to observe “Other Feasts of Our Lord” on Sundays when they fall on Sundays. (For the complete rules see The Book of Common Prayer  15–18). One of these is “Holy Cross Day.” As is our custom, we will keep it on Sunday, September 14, beginning with Evening Prayer and the Sunday Vigil Mass on Saturday, September 13.
We know a lot about the origins of the feast. The empress Helena and her assistants believed they had discovered the cross on which Jesus had been crucified on September 14, 320. The veneration of this cross only grew in importance in the pre-modern era. With the Reformation, devotion to the cross of Christ did not decline, but devotion to the physical relics of the “True Cross” did among Protestants. The practice of veneration of a cross of wood on Good Friday has its origin in the veneration of pieces, large and very small, of this relic.
On Sunday there will be great Scripture at all the Masses—and great hymns at the Solemn Mass of the day. I remember how much this feast meant to those of us who were here in 2001, just a few days after the attack on our city and nation. I invite you to be at Mass this weekend and recall that Jesus died and is risen and it is his risen life we already share in this world as a sign of the life of the world to come.—Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Barbara, Jay, Samantha, Pauline, Suzanne, Rebecca, John, McNeil, Takeem, Sylvia, Rick, Jack, Linda, Arpene, Scott, Phillip, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 14: 1898 Margaret Hammond; 1917 Margaret M. Carswell.
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 second time of asking. James Ross Smith
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, September 14, Holy Cross Day: Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 AM & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Evening Prayer 5:00 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, September 13, by Father Gerth, and on Saturday, September 20, by Father Jay Smith.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . If you would like to be confirmed or received into the Episcopal Church this year, or if you or somebody you know is thinking about being baptized, please speak to Father Gerth or Father Smith . . . Mary Beth Jager, the wife of Father Jedediah Fox, gave birth to a son, Jaeger Miguel Wynn Fox, on Wednesday, September 10. Father Fox, who served at Saint Mary’s as a seminarian, is now on the staff of the Church of Saint Michael & Saint George, Saint Louis . . . Father Gerth will be away from the parish between the afternoon of Sunday, September 14, and Wednesday, September 17. He returns to the office on Thursday, September 18. He will be attending a Leadership in Ministry Conference in Lost River, West Virginia . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 188.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Holy Cross Day, which falls on Sunday this year, celebrates three historical events: the finding of the True Cross by Saint Helena (c. 250–330), the mother of the emperor Constantine; the dedication of churches built by Constantine on the site of the Holy Sepulcher and Mount Calvary; and the restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem by the emperor Heraclius II in 629. In a deeper sense, the feast also celebrates the Holy Cross as the instrument of our salvation. This degrading instrument of execution became the life-giving tree that reversed Adam’s sin when he and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. The great hymn for this feast is the well-known Pange Lingua, written by Venantius Fortunatus (530–609), and again later by Saint Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), extolling the triumph of the Holy Cross. This is one of several hymns by Fortunatus still used extensively and continually in the Church’s liturgy. It is believed that the hymn was written for the procession of the True Cross to Queen Radegunda in 570. At the ministration of Holy Communion at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, we will hear soprano Ruth Cunningham sing the three central stanzas of this venerable hymn, accompanying herself on the Renaissance harp.—Mark Peterson
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, September 22, Saint Matthew, Apostle & Evangelist (transferred): Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Monday, September 29, Saint Michael and All Angels: Mass 12:10 PM and Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Sunday, October 5, 2014: Regular Sunday Schedule Begins! The schedule between October and the feast of Corpus Christi, June 7, 2015, is as follows: Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Organ Recital 4:40 PM, Solemn Evensong & Benediction 5:00 PM.
SAINT MARY’S ON THE WEB . . . T.M. Rives is a writer and photographer. He lives in New York and seems to be endlessly curious about the city and its hidden corners. He is the author of several guides to New York, including Secret New York—An Unusual Guide: Local Guides by Local People (Versailles, France: Jonglez Publishing, 2012), the cover of which features the “Blessing of the Bikes” at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. Some time ago he wandered into Saint Mary’s via the Forty-seventh Street entrance (“It looks like nothing,” he writes). He then entered the church and was amazed. He had the good luck to encounter parish historian and archivist, Dick Leitsch. Dick gave him the deluxe tour. Mr. Rives describes that tour on his blog. The blog entry includes many photographs of the church and its hidden corners. Mr. Rives is a bit of an iconoclast (he apparently doesn’t like crucifixes much), but his point of view is very interesting and his fascination with Saint Mary’s sincere.
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.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Angeline Butler is a good friend of Saint Mary’s, who worships with us frequently. She is a singer who has had a long career, appearing often on The Tonight Show and The Dick Cavett Show, and at a wide variety of concert venues throughout the United States. She was a member of The Pilgrims, along with Robert Guillaume and Millard Williams. She was also an active participant in the civil-rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. On Saturday, September 27, at 8:00 PM, Angeline appears in “A Concert of Precious Memories” at the Ann Goodman Recital Hall of the Kaufman Music Center, 129 West 67th Street. Reservations 212-501-3330.
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.