FROM THE RECTOR: CHRISTMASTIDE
This is my fifteenth Christmas at Saint Mary’s and it has been a very happy one for me and, I think it’s fair for me to say, the parish community. So much of what makes Saint Mary’s special is on offer at this time of the year, along with unexpected challenges and joys. As rector, I would like again to say thank you to all who made it possible for so many to worship here. From the first sounds of brass and organ before the 5:00 PM Christmas Eve Mass through the Angelus at the crèche at the end of the Solemn Mass on Christmas Day the joy, beauty and glory of God’s people were everywhere. And there’s more to come.
This Sunday is the First Sunday after Christmas Day. In addition to the regular Sunday morning services, it’s been our custom to offer what we call “Christmas Lessons and Carols” on Sunday evening at 5:00 PM. This is the famous and familiar service which King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, United Kingdom, offers at 3:00 PM (GMT) on Christmas Eve. The service booklet from King’s states, “Sometime in the early 1930s the BBC began broadcasting the service on overseas programmes.” More than anything since, the music from this service has shaped Christmas music throughout the world. Quite marvelously, the service’s origins were in the wooden shed which served the congregation of the then new diocese of Truro while construction of its cathedral was underway. Truro’s first bishop, Edward Benson White (1829-1896), later archbishop of Canterbury (1883-1896), created the service.
This week also brings the Feast of the Holy Name, January 1. That the Mass of the day makes no mention of the New Year is a reminder that the civil year did not always begin on January 1. Massey Shepherd (1913-1990) wrote, “In England March 25th was observed as New Year’s Day from the time of the Norman Conquest down to the year 1752—hence the comment of Richard Hooker in his famous Ecclesiastical Polity (1594): ‘We begin therefore our ecclesiastical year with the glorious annunciation of his birth by angelical embassage’” (The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary  235).
For American Episcopalians the Christmas Season still lasts twelve days. This year we will have two Sundays after Christmas Day. For us, January 6 is always the Feast of the Epiphany and the beginning of the Epiphany Season. It turns out, there may be more variation at Christmastime among Western Christians than at any other time of the year—especially in the gospels appointed for the main services. It’s been problematic for a long time, even before the liturgical revisions of the 1970s, and I’m not at all sure why. (I hope to do some more research in this area and write about it in a future newsletter article.)
Here is a sampling of current Christmastide variations: If there is a first Sunday after Christmas Day, Roman Catholics keep it as a “Feast of the Holy Family”—a popular nineteenth-century devotion that was first celebrated by them on the third Sunday after the Epiphany in 1893 (Adolf Adam, The Liturgical Year  143-44). This year in the United States, Roman Catholics will celebrate Epiphany on Sunday, January 5—as churches may also do in the Church of England.
Let me return to where my thoughts began with the joy that seemed to gather us in this year at Saint Mary’s. I’m so thankful for my colleagues and for all who stepped forward to make Saint Mary’s so welcoming to so many. I hope many will be able to be with us for Christmas Lessons and Carols Sunday night—all of the services together during Christmastide really do give Saint Marians the chance to sing lots of Christmas carols without invading Advent! Merry Christmas. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Dick, Jonathan, Margaret, Michelle, William, Sharon, Kayleigh, Rick, Rob, Pierre, Takeem, Linda, Babak, Casey, Eloise, Arpene, Dominique, Stephen, John, priest, and Paulette, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark, Alex, and Elizabeth . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 29: 1912 Josiah Millspaugh; 1949 John Joseph Gordon.
THE COMPLETE SCHEDULE FOR THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS and the Epiphany has been posted on the parish webpage.
THE FRIDAYS OF CHRISTMASTIDE are not observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial. Friday abstinence resumes on January 10, 2014, the first Friday after the Epiphany.
2013 DONATIONS . . . All donations, including cash gifts, must be postmarked by December 31, 2013, or received in the finance office by noon on December 31, to qualify as a deduction for 2013 tax purposes. Likewise, gifts of stock must be received in the church’s investment account by December 31, 2013. For stock-transfer instructions or other questions, email Aaron Koch or call him at (212) 869-5830, ext. 14.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, December 28, is the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The regular noonday services will be held. Evening Prayer at 5:00 PM will be for Holy Innocents Day. At 5:20 PM the Sunday Vigil Mass will be for the First Sunday after Christmas Day . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd will meet on Sunday, December 29 . . . The church will close at 2:00 PM on New Year’s Eve because of the celebrations in Times Square . . . Wednesday, January 1, is the Feast of the Holy Name: Sung Mass 11:00 AM. The church will open at 10:00 AM and close at 2:00 PM . . . Confessions are not heard except by appointment during the Christmas Season.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Donations are requested: for altar flowers for Sundays in January; we also hope to receive donations to help defray the costs of the reception after the Solemn Mass on Monday, January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the Finance Office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 211; Christmas 884.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Solemn Mass: Healey Willan (1888–1968), the great Canadian composer and organist, is responsible for fourteen Missae breves (“short Masses”), and a wide array of choral motets, hymns, and anthems. The setting of the Mass this Sunday is the fourth in his set and is based on the Christmas sequence, Corde natus ex parentis (the tune Divinum mysterium in our hymnal at number 82). Willan was of the conviction that the Gloria in excelsis Deo was a primary hymn of praise, and as such should always be sung by the congregation and not by the choir alone. None of his 14 Missae breves, therefore, has a written Gloria included. In keeping with Willan’s wishes, we will be singing the Gloria in excelsis from the Missa de Sancta Maria Magdalena, a congregational setting written during the years Willan served the great Anglo-Catholic Church of Saint Mary Magdalene in Toronto. This was the “preferred” congregational setting in the Hymnal 1940, and is one which many of us learned from our earliest years in the Episcopal Church. At the ministration of Holy Communion we will hear one of Willan’s most beloved motets, Fair in Face, a motet on a text from the responsories for an Office of Our Lady (eighth century) . . . Lessons & Carols: The nine lessons read in the service tell of the fall of man beginning with Adam’s disobedience to God, and the promise of salvation with the coming of the Lord Jesus. The carols that alternate with the readings reflect on these themes, and include works ancient and modern. Since 1982, a new carol has been commissioned for each of the Nine Lessons at King’s College, and two “new” carols will be presented here at Saint Mary’s on Sunday evening. The English composer, John Tavener, and the American composer, Conrad Susa, died this past November within weeks of each other. Tavener, known as an Orthodox mystic and minimalist, wrote The Lamb on the poetry of William Blake (1757–1827), and this carol has become a staple of Christmas celebrations around the world. Susa wrote Three Mystical Carols on the poetry of priest-poet, George Herbert (1593–1633), and it is the first of these, The Shepherds Sing, that will be presented on Sunday. We would like to dedicate the service of Lessons & Carols this year to the work and memory of these two remarkable composers. Hymns at the service are sung by the congregation and choir. Carols are sung by the Choir of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. The lessons are read by representatives of the congregation, choir, sisters, and clergy. The organ will be played by Mark Peterson, interim organist and music director, and Ruaraidh Sutherland, organist and director of music at Christ’s Church, Rye. The postlude will be played by Mr. Sutherland Mark Peterson
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . Christian Education on Sunday, December 29: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, 9:45 AM, The Atrium; Church School for Older Children will not meet; The Adult Forum will not meet on December 29 or January 5. The Forum will resume on Sunday, January 12 . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet January 1. The Bible Study Class will resume in the new year on Wednesday, January 8.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . New York Cares Coat Drive: We are collecting coats for the annual drive here at Saint Mary’s until the end of January. For some reason, donations of coats here in the city are down 35% this year. Large men’s coats and children’s coats are always in high demand. Coats may also be delivered directly to sites around the city. Visit the New York Cares website for more information . . . The New York City Coalition Against Hunger is in the midst of its Annual Appeal for donations. From the Coalition’s website, “On November 1st, 48 million Americans–including 1.8 million New Yorkers–had their SNAP benefits (the new name for food stamps) cut due to federal reductions. A family of three lost $29 per month, equaling about twenty-two fewer meals to fill their grocery carts. This winter, your donation can make the difference for a low-income family between a full cart of groceries and an empty one. Your gift will support our innovative advocacy and direct service programs that are dealing with the root causes of hunger.” Please visit the Coalition’s website for more information or to make a donation . . . We are gratefully accepting donations of warm clothing, as well as new, unopened packets of underwear and socks, especially white cotton socks. We send some items of clothing to the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Other items are kept here for distribution to those in need. We also continue to collect non-perishable food items and cash donations for the Food Pantry
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . New York Polyphony at the Twelfth Night Festival, Thursday, January 2, 2014, 7:00 PM, at Trinity Wall Street, Broadway & Wall Street (74 Trinity Place). Visit Trinity’s website for more information and to buy tickets.