FROM FATHER SMITH: “GOD IS NOT OUR SERVANT”
On June 12, Naftali Fraenkel, a sixteen-year-old yeshiva student, was kidnapped, along with two friends, while hitchhiking on a road in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. The three teenagers were later murdered by their abductors. Their bodies were found on June 30 in a field near Hebron. On July 2, just hours after the three Israeli teenagers were buried, Mohammed Abu Khdeir, a sixteen-year-old Palestinian boy was abducted and killed in Jerusalem. His murder was apparently a revenge killing in response to the murder of the three Israeli teenagers. The cycle of blame, reprisal, and violence continued in the days that followed. Rockets aimed at Israeli towns were launched from Gaza. On July 8, Israel began a military operation in and against Gaza that involved both bombardment and the use of ground troops. The operation lasted fifty days and claimed the lives of seventy-two Israelis and more than 2,100 Palestinians. The destruction in Gaza was extensive. The process of rebuilding and humanitarian assistance in Gaza begins again, not for the first time. Peace in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank seems as distant and elusive as ever.
One of the Palestinian and Israeli voices calling for peace and an end to the cycle of violence during this time was Naftali’s mother, Rachelli Fraenkel. Fraenkel, now forty-six, was born in Israel. She is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors who moved to the United States after World War II. She is a scholar and a student of both Bible and Talmud. Though apparently from a religiously conservative background, she has taken an active role in opening the field of Torah study to Israeli women. She teaches at two centers for women in Jerusalem. She is a mother. Naftali had six brothers and sisters, who survive him.
When Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped and brutally murdered, Rachelli Fraenkel called the boy’s parents to offer her condolences, while she herself was still sitting shiva. She also published a public letter condemning Mohammed’s murder. An article in a well-known Israeli newspaper described Fraenkel as “a light to many here who are searching for a way out of a very dark place.”
The eighteen days following her son’s abduction were no doubt dark days for Mrs. Fraenkel. During that time, she prayed for the safe return of her son and his friends. However, as an article in the Jewish Daily Forward suggests, “Fraenkel seemed to grasp the possibility, early on, that her son might not come back. At a prayer session at the Western Wall after the kidnappings, she told a group of girls that ‘God is not our servant’ and that ‘prayer is worthy no matter what the outcome’” (November 14, Section C, p. 30; I am dependent on the article in the Forward for much of the background information contained in this essay).
I found those words striking and very powerful. I was reminded of something that Father Pete Powell once said in a sermon here at Saint Mary’s—he noted that many of us spend a fair amount of time telling God in prayer “how disappointed we are in him.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing that. The psalmist himself expresses his disappointment in God from time to time (“How long, O Lord? will you forget me for ever? / how long will you hide your face from me?”—Psalm 33:1). Still, it’s possible to get stuck in that disappointed place. Then, all too easily, we turn away, we give up, and we forget to pray. Rachelli Fraenkel seems to understand this. “God is not our servant.” God is not at our beck and call. God is not our employee. We do not always get what we want, simply because we want it; and yet, all “prayer is worthy no matter what the outcome.” Perhaps Mrs. Fraenkel is urging us not to give up or turn away from God. She invites us to enter more deeply into the sort of relationship with God in which we are able to name our greatest fears, our most terrible pain, and our deepest hopes, while remaining open to graces which we can neither predict nor control.
As Advent, that great season of waiting, approaches, perhaps it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to pray for and about those things in our lives that feel most difficult, most hopeless, most impervious to change—and then to wait and see what happens; and, to be sure, let us not forget to pray “for the peace of Jerusalem” and for all who dwell therein.—Jay Smith
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Barbara, John, Celia, Jake, Lorna, Brian, Francesca, Pat, Peggy, Don, Mazdak, Babak, Pauline, McNeil, Takeem, Rick, Jack, Linda, Arpene, Claude, Paulette, priest, and Harry, priest; for the repose of the soul of Harriet Spoonley; and for all the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . November 16: 1874 William Shannon Elliott; 1963 Carolyn Jeanette Whiteley.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR . . . are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
STEWARDSHIP 2015 . . . The 2015 Stewardship Campaign is well underway. Pledge packets were mailed on October 15. As of Wednesday, November 12, we have received pledges from 74 households (the number of pledges received was reported incorrectly in last week’s newsletter; as of November 5 we had received pledges from 65 households). $229,953.00, 54.1% of our $425,000.00 goal has been pledged to date. The month of November is a crucial time for the pledge campaign. We need to maintain the momentum of the campaign’s first two weeks. Commitment Sunday is November 23, and we hope to receive the majority of pledges by that date.
We ask all members and friends to return their pledge cards as soon as possible, either by mail or by placing your pledge card in the collection basket at Mass on Sunday morning. You may also call the finance office to discuss your pledge. The staff will be happy to fill out a pledge card for you. If you have already returned your pledge card, we thank you. If you have not done so yet, we ask you to seriously and prayerfully consider how you can support the mission of the parish. Our needs are many; many of you have expressed a desire to maintain and even expand our presence and ministry in Times Square. That can only happen if all of our members and friends support that ministry. If you have questions about stewardship, please ask to speak to a member of the Stewardship Committee.
Listening Session Report . . . After the Solemn Mass on Sunday, November 16, the Planning Committee will hold a brief session in the Mission House Arch Room to report on this past month’s listening sessions. We’ll convene around 1:00 PM and a light lunch will be provided. If you were able to participate in the sessions, come hear what other people said; if you were unable to make it to one, come see if you agree with what was said. The Planning Committee is anxious to share what it has heard already and anxious to hear new things, too! Join us.—MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, Clark Mitchell, and Mark Risinger
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Friday, November 14 & Saturday, November 15, Diocesan Convention, Westchester Marriott, Tarrytown, NY . . . 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, 6:30 PM, Meeting of the Board of Trustees . . . 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 viola. A donation of $10.00 to support the parish’s music program is requested . . . November 19, Wednesday Evening Bible Study Class, Saint Joseph’s Hall, 6:30 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, November 15 by Father Jim Pace, and on Saturday, November 22 by Father Stephen Gerth.
ADVENT QUIET DAY . . . Saturday, December 6, 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM: Seeing Clarely: A Quiet Day based on Clare of Assisi, led by Father John Beddingfield. Clare of Assisi (1194–1253), friend and follower of Saint Francis, sometimes used the image of a mirror to express aspects of faithful living. Through prayer, words, and silence, our Quiet Day will gaze with Clare into various spiritual “mirrors” so that we might come to a deeper understanding of how to live as reflections of Christ. The day will include a simple lunch following the Noon Mass. We will conclude with a simple Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament at around 3:00 PM. Lunch and beverages are provided. A freewill donation to cover the costs of the day may be offered. Please RSVP if you would like to attend so that we can make plans for lunch.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Barbara Klett returned home this week, where she will continue physical therapy. Please keep her in your prayers . . . We are grateful: thank you to all those who volunteered to serve as acolytes and ushers at John Knight’s funeral last Saturday morning; thank you to Dick Leitsch, who, among other things, has been repairing seat cushions in the church this week; thank you to Clint Best and Gypsy da Silva, who continue to volunteer their time in the parish office . . . We learned this week that the Preservation League of New York State has presented its most prestigious commendation, the Pillar of New York Award, to parishioner Thomas Jayne and his design studio. Since 1992 the Preservation League has given this award to individuals and organizations whose work in the field of historic preservation makes them role models for others throughout the state and nation. Thomas is a member of the Saint Mary’s board of trustees. He continues to advise the rector and the board on matters related to the parish’s buildings. Congratulations, Thomas! . . . Flowers are needed for November 23 and for Sundays in January. We also hope to receive donations to defray the costs of the reception following the Solemn Mass on December 8. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Father Gerth returns from his mission trip to Haiti on Thursday, November 13. He will be out of town, attending to parish business, from Tuesday, November 18, until Friday, November 21. He returns to the office on Saturday, November 22 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 213.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . David Hurd (b. 1950) is a great friend of Saint Mary’s. He has played here on numerous occasions, covering several weekends in Mark Peterson’s absence. He recently played a brilliant recital program before Solemn Mass on the Eve of All Saints’ Day. Dr. Hurd has written a wide array of pieces, including some seminal works for choral forces, and his Missa brevis is one of two Mass settings in his catalogue. The Missa brevis, which we will hear at the Solemn Mass on Sunday, was composed in 1991 to honor the Reverend R. DeWitt Mallary, Rector of All Saints’ Church, New York City, in recognition of his more than thirty years of ministry to that congregation. It was first performed on Ascension Day 1991 under the composer’s direction. The thematic material for the Mass’s four movements was generated from the letters of Father Mallary’s name, similar to the way in which Maurice Duruflé derived his theme for the “Prélude and Fugue on the Name of Alain.” “R DEWITT MALLARY” yielded the pitches B DEGADD EADDABA. (This scheme departs slightly from Duruflé’s. R, which translates as B, is rendered as B-natural rather than B-flat.) Following a traditional intonation of the Gloria in excelsis, the pitches sung by the sopranos and altos for the text “et in terra pax hominibus” taken together spell out the entire name thus:
The melodic content is arranged to emphasize upward gestures suggestive of the Ascension. Voices alternatively are independent and recite in rhythmic unison in the Gloria. The Sanctus, like the Gloria, is very compact and set in an energetic triple meter. Also as in the Gloria, rising gestures are featured in the Sanctus, and the Hosanna is quite intentionally in the highest pitches. The Agnus Dei borrows much of its melodic and harmonic content from the Gloria but presents its material in a much more serene and contemplative context. Solo voices complement the four-voice chorus in each of the three short sections of this movement. It is a tremendous honor and pleasure to be able to present this fine work at Saint Mary’s and to be only the second congregation to have experienced this Mass setting within a liturgy. At the ministration of Holy Communion on Sunday, we will hear another seminal work, this time by the great Canadian composer Healey Willan (1880–1968). Lo, in the time appointed, Liturgical Motet No. 7, was written while Dr. Willan was in Toronto in 1929 . . . On Sunday afternoon, November 16, at 4:40 PM, the organ recital will be played by Paul Richard Olson, organist and choirmaster, Grace Church, Brooklyn Heights. Paul’s program includes works by Johan Helmich Roman (1694–1758), Herbert Howells (1892–1983), and Denis Bedard (b. 1950).—Mark Peterson
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . 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.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . Sunday, November 16, 10:00 AM, Mission House, Second Floor: The Gospel of John, led by Father Pete Powell. Father Powell writes, “The Gospel according to John is valuable because it differs so completely from Matthew, Mark and Luke. It is also difficult because it differs so completely from Matthew, Mark and Luke. The value and the problems of John will be part of our discussion on four Sundays in November and all of the Sundays in Lent. John has a unique and important understanding of who Jesus Christ was and is. Much of what we assume we know about Christ is derived from John. In addition, it is the most sacramental of the Gospels and yet it never records the institution of either Baptism or the Eucharist. This will be a provocative and iconoclastic look at John with the hope that we will deepen our faith as we learn to appreciate and understand The Fourth Gospel . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class continues on November 19 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 begin our reading at chapter 6. The class will not meet the following week on November 26, the Eve of Thanksgiving Day.—Jay Smith
OUTREACH . . . We continue to collect nonperishable items for our friends and partners at the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Cash donations are also most welcome.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . 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, The 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 . . . Monday, December 22, Saint Thomas the Apostle (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Sunday, December 28, 5:00 PM, A Service of Nine Lessons & Carols
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Museum of Biblical Art, 1865 Broadway at Sixty-first Street, October 17, 2014–January 11, 2015: Dürer, Rembrandt, Tiepolo: The Jansma Master Prints Collection from the Grand Rapids Art Museum: “Spanning five centuries of printmaking, this exhibition will feature the complete Jansma Collection, including works by Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo, Édouard Manet, and Max Pechstein, as well as a series of twenty-one engravings by William Blake, to underscore the Bible’s enduring influence on Western artists” . . . At the Metropolitan Museum (Gallery 608) and the Frick Collection, November 4, 2014–February 1, 2015, El Greco in New York: “To commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary of the death of El Greco, the Metropolitan Museum and the Hispanic Society of America are pooling their collections of the work of this great painter to provide a panorama of his art unrivaled outside the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The Frick Collection is displaying its paintings contemporaneously.” (The Met is at 82nd Street and Fifth Avenue. The Frick at 70th Street and Fifth Avenue.)