FROM FATHER SMITH: THE BOOK OF LIFE
The members of the noonday congregation have heard me talk more than once about the four barbers who work in the shop on Forty-sixth Street, across the street from the church. Eleazar, Sergei, and Raphael were all born in the former Soviet Union and emigrated to the United States after 1989. Ray is the youngest of the four. He was born in the States, I think, but he has also lived in Israel. (This is a polyglot bunch. On any given day, one might hear Russian, Uzbek, or Hebrew being spoken in the shop, in addition to English.) All four of my barbers are Jewish. I enjoy talking to all of them, though I talk about different sorts of things depending on whose chair I’m sitting in. Eleazar is the owner of the shop, and so we talk about the neighborhood. “When are you taking the scaffolding down?” he asks. “Soon!” I reply. Sergei and I talk about language. Raphael is quiet, focused on his work. Ray is the most religiously observant, and so we talk about religious customs and about the Bible.
A few weeks ago I went to get a haircut on a day between Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I’d done a bit of research ahead of time because I wanted to be able to say something to Ray that would be appropriate for the High Holy Days, also known as the Ten Days of Repentance. A friend told me that I could say, “May you be sealed and inscribed in the Book of Life.” She explained that observant Jews believe that God opens the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah. Then, while the Book is open, God inscribes therein the names of the righteous. On Yom Kippur, God’s judgment is “sealed” or confirmed by the Heavenly Court—though not really, not quite. Since the Holy One is merciful and compassionate, the Book remains open till the end of Succoth, about a week later, allowing more time for reflection and repentance.
So, after Ray finished trimming my beard and I was getting ready to leave, I said to him, “I did some research because I want to get this right. I know it’s the High Holy Days . . .” (At this point, all of the guys stopped work, looked up, thinking no doubt, “What’s this crazy Gentile up to now?”) But I forged ahead and said, “Gentlemen, my prayer is that all of you may be sealed and inscribed in the Book of Life.” As I stood there in the midst of the shop and awkwardly delivered my good wishes, Ray’s expression subtly changed. He stood up a bit straighter. He got serious and paid close attention to what I was saying; and when I was finished he whispered, “Amen.” In that moment, I understood that, for Ray, those words were not casual. This was not just another way to say goodbye. It was a prayer. I realized, standing there in the middle of the hair trimmings and the shaving cream, that we really were praying and that Ray not only believed that the Holy One was listening to our prayer, but that our prayer would make a difference; and, it seemed to me, Ray’s face was filled, not with fear or anxiety, but with hope.
For Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Protestants, the church year is slowly drawing to a close. Advent is only five weeks away. In the readings, both at Mass and at the Daily Office, we are starting to hear more language about watchfulness, endurance, readiness, and judgment. Some of this language is vivid, to say the least. The readings make this a time for reflection and even for repentance. But I don’t think this should be a fearful time. It is a time for hope, because the Lord is merciful and full of compassion, because the Lord has come and one day he will come again, because the “one who calls you is faithful and he will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). And so this is my prayer: may you all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life this year, next year, and for all the years to come. —Jay Smith
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR John, George, Francesca, Theodore, Patsy, Robert, Lisa, Mazdak, Babak, Barbara, Pauline, McNeil, Takeem, Rick, Jack, Linda, Arpene, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for all the members of our Armed Forces on active duty; and for the repose of the souls of Keith St. Clair, Helen Fitzgerald, Cristóvão Ribeiro, John Andrew, priest; and Thomas Shaw, bishop. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . October 26: 1918 Vivian Lureo; 1937 Harriet Bullock Purdy; 1945 Mattie Cornell Lewis; 1965 Raymond Leggett; 1967 Harold H. Jacocks; 1974 Olive Middleton; 1987 Dorothea Waters Moran.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR . . . are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
FROM FATHER SMITH: STEWARDSHIP 2015 . . . A wise priest of my acquaintance recently had this to say about stewardship, “Real stewardship is a life-long process as we continually evaluate how much of ourselves and our resources we are able to give to God.” I like that: the long view. We are all in different places when it comes to stewardship. For some, it is a new concept, not something we grew up with. For some of us, the word “stewardship” triggers strong emotions, because money makes us anxious, and we know that stewardship has something to do with money. For some people, stewardship is an important part of their lives, becoming something like “prayer in action.” Some people tell me that they are praying about stewardship this year, which seems like a pretty good idea to me. It couldn’t hurt to sit down and ask, “Where am I this year? How are things going? What are my resources? What can I give? What can I do? How can I share? What does it mean to be generous when it comes to God?” Of course, we should try not to get too overwhelmed by all those questions. We have to begin somewhere. It’s a very good thing when discernment can lead to decision and then, finally, to action. There is relief, even joy, when we are able to say, “This is how I want to be generous this year; this is what I can do, what I can give; this is one way I can live out my commitment to the church and, most important, to God.” —J.R.S.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, October 26, The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Sermon by the Very Rev. Dr. Robert Willis, Dean of Canterbury . . . Tuesday, October 28, Saint Simon & Saint Jude, Apostles: Mass will be celebrated at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Wednesday, October 29, Bible Study Class: Saint Joseph’s Hall, 6:30 PM . . . Friday, October 31, The Eve of All Saints’ Day, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Sunday, November 2, 2:00 AM, Daylight Saving Time ends . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, October 25, by Father Stephen Gerth, and on Saturday, November 1, by Father Jay Smith.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The Annual All Souls’ Day Appeal was mailed last week. Please return the enclosed prayer-request forms as soon as possible, either by mail or by placing the form in the collection basket at Mass. Additional forms, and donation envelopes, may be found on the ushers’ table near the Forty-sixth Street entrance to the church. Names may also be sent to the parish office by e-mail. The Parish Requiem Masses will be said on November 4, 5, and 6 (12:10 PM and 6:20 PM), and on November 8 (12:10 PM only) . . . Flowers are needed for November 9, 16, 23; and December 14. We would also be pleased to receive donations to defray the costs of the reception following the Solemn Mass on December 8 (we happily, and gratefully, received a generous donation this week to underwrite the costs of the reception on October 31). Please contact the finance office if you would like to make a donation . . . Father Gerth will be away from Saint Mary’s next week on parish business. He will be gone from the afternoon of Sunday, October 26, until Thursday afternoon, October 30. He returns to the office on Friday, October 31 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 210.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION & SPIRITUALITY . . . Sunday, October 26, 10:00 AM, Mission House, Second Floor: “For All the Saints”—The Origins & History of the Veneration of the Saints, led by Father Jay Smith . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class continues on October 29 at 6:30 PM. The class, which is led by Father Jay Smith, is normally held in Saint Joseph’s Hall, 145 West Forty-sixth Street. This week we will be reading Isaiah 2–3 . . . Sunday, November 2, 9, 16 & 23, 10:00 AM, Mission House, Second Floor: The Gospel According to John, led by Father Peter Powell.—J.R.S.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958), the son of an Anglican clergyman, was a giant among English composers of the last century. Vaughan Williams’ mother was a cousin of naturalist Charles Darwin, and the influences of science, religion, and the realities of post-war England are all evident in his astounding catalogue of works. He wrote massive symphonic works, operas, chamber works, and much choral music. The Mass setting at Solemn Mass on Sunday is his Communion Service in D minor, written for the chapel choir at the Christ’s Hospital School. At the ministration of communion on Sunday we will hear the quintessential Anglican motet, Beati quorum via, by Irish composer, Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924). A notable figure in the nineteenth-century renaissance of English music, Stanford was less a Victorian, or even an Edwardian, composer, than were many of his contemporaries. Stanford’s popularity didn’t really survive him, and it’s only been in recent years that so much of his choral music has come back into active performance. Surely one of his greatest contributions to the world was the influence he had on a large and varied group of students. Among the most notable of these were Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Herbert Howells, Frank Bridge, George Butterworth, Arthur Bliss, and Percy Grainger. It’s a lovely thing to be able to hear great works by these two brilliant musicians within the context of a single liturgy . . . On Sunday afternoon, at 4:40 PM, the organ recital will be played by Eric Birk. The recital program includes music by J. S. Bach (1685–1750), Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847), and Herbert Howells (1892–1983).—Mark Peterson
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, November 15, 8:00 PM, New York Polyphony: Celebrations from the Mediterranean, music by Guerrero, Victoria, Morales, and Palestrina. This concert is part of the Miller Theater at Columbia University’s Early Music Series. Tickets may be purchased online . . . Monday, November 17, 8:00 PM, Saint Joseph’s Hall, Saint Cecilia Chamber Music Series, Lucia Stavros, harp. Along with colleagues, Ms. Stavros will play a program of works for solo harp and ensemble pieces with flute and cello. Admission is free. A donation to support the parish’s music program may be made . . . Saturday, December 13, 8:00 PM, The Tallis Scholars: Sacred Muses, music by William Byrd, Edmund Turges, and Josquin des Prez. This concert is part of the Miller Theater at Columbia University’s Early Music Series. Tickets may be purchased online.
OUTREACH . . . Mother Yamily Bass-Choate is the vicar of the Church of San Andres in Yonkers, NY. She is a good friend of Saint Mary’s. Every year her parish’s Food Pantry holds a Thanksgiving Turkey Drive to help purchase turkeys for the many families who depend on the Pantry’s assistance each week. Last year San Andres was able to provide over 200 turkeys to the hard-working families of the Yonkers community with the help of parishes like Saint Mary’s. Once again this year, the parish will be making a donation to San Andres for this outreach effort. If you would like to make a donation yourself, please send a check to: San Andres Episcopal Church, 22 Post Street, Yonkers, NY 10705. $20.00 purchases a turkey for a single household . . . The spread of the Ebola virus in Liberia and in other parts of West Africa has been rapid in recent months, and, according to recent news reports, the numbers of those affected continues to mount. We have received requests from Liberian clergy working in our diocese to publicize ways that New York Episcopalians can help. You may visit the website of the Liberian Episcopal Community USA (LECUSA) to obtain more information.
MIGHT God BE Calling You to be a Priest or Deacon? . . . If so, you are invited to join a conversation on Vocations, Discernment, and Ministry with the Right Reverend Andrew M. L. Dietsche, bishop of New York, on Saturday, November 8, 2014, 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM in Diocesan House on the cathedral close. Pre-registration is required.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, November 3, All Souls’ Day (transferred), Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Solemn Mass & Blessing of the Vault 6:00 PM . . . Tuesday, November 4, Election Day . . . Friday, November 14 & Saturday, November 15, Diocesan Convention, Westchester Marriott, Tarrytown, NY . . . November 23, The Last Sunday after Pentecost: Christ the King and Commitment Sunday, Sermon by the Rt. Rev. Geralyn Wolf . . . Thursday, November 27, Thanksgiving Day . . . November 30, First Sunday of Advent . . . Sunday, December 7, 6:00 PM, Legacy Society Reception, following Evensong & Benediction at 5:00 PM . . . Monday, December 8, The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Bay Street Theater, corner of Bay and Main Streets,
Sag Harbor, NY, November 5–29, To Kill A Mockingbird, based on the novel by Harper Lee, and newly adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel. Saint Mary’s parishioner Cooki Winborn plays the role of Calpurnia. Tickets may be purchased online . . . Monday, November 10, 7:00 PM, The Peccadillo Theatre at Saint Clement’s, 423 W. Forty-Sixth Street, The-Plays-You-Should-Know-But-Probably-Don’t Reading Series: Clash by Night by Clifford Odets. Tickets may be purchased online . . . At the New York Solo Theater Festival, Saint Mark’s Gospel: The Inspiration Begins, solo theater piece performed by Tom Bair and directed by Kathleen Conry, on Saturday, November 15, at 4:00 PM, at the United Solo Theatre Festival at Theatre Row, 410 West Forty-second Street. Call Telecharge at 212-239-6200 or 800-447-7400 for reservations and tickets. Tom Bair, the husband of Bishop Geralyn Wolf, is a good friend of Saint Mary’s and worships with us frequently.