FROM THE RECTOR: JUST HUMANITY, NOT AGENDA
Last Sunday I sang the gospel at the Solemn Mass. I don’t get to do that very often. When the choir finished singing the acclamation, I sang the announcement and censed the book in the usual way as the congregation responded, “Glory to you, Lord Christ.” Then, I froze. It took me several moments to recover myself. What I saw printed in the book was clearly wrong. I couldn’t think fast enough to change it—or to recall exactly what I had read when I celebrated the 9:00 AM Mass earlier in the morning. So, I went ahead with it, “The day after John had baptized Jesus . . . ”
The problem was this: the reading was from the Gospel of John and in that gospel Jesus is not baptized by anyone. The Word made flesh has no need to be baptized. Before Mass in the sacristy I had practiced the ending of every sentence I was going to sing—that’s where the tone changes. (There are witnesses to this.) But I hadn’t looked at the beginning of any of the verses. And there hadn’t been any problem with the text when I read it at the earlier Mass.
Lectionary Texts: Year A (1980) that we use for our texts at the lectern and The Book of Gospels (1980) were both published by the Church Hymnal Corporation (now, Church Publishing) the year after the present Prayer Book was adopted. The gospel text I read at 9:00 AM began correctly, “John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’” I hasten to point out that the materials originally prepared to go with the new Prayer Book are usually spot on. Yesterday, with Father Smith in my office and watching me carefully, I took a pen to the gospel book and fixed the text.
Longtime readers of this newsletter know I am no fan of the new Eucharistic lectionary that the General Convention adopted a few years ago and I’m very thankful for the Convention’s permission, and the permission of our bishop, to continue to use the original one. That said, some of the adjustments to the old lectionary are clear improvements. A really important one is the inclusion on Good Friday of the burial of Jesus. Jesus’ burial in John—and it’s always John on Good Friday—is completely different than the burial accounts that we hear in successive years on Palm Sunday from Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Like the absence of a baptism of Jesus in John’s gospel, the difference is theologically significant. John’s Jesus is not buried hurriedly before sunset. The body of the Word made flesh is richly anointed and a new tomb is used. He has reigned from the cross as he will reign over death. In the morning, Mary Magdalene doesn’t need a reason to go to the tomb; she just goes.
The Roman Catholic Church took the lead in the 1960s with the development of a three-year lectionary cycle. Work was being done in other denominations at that time, but the Roman Church gets full credit for this schema. Its theory and structure have been accepted widely by Anglicans, Lutherans and other Protestants. That said, all denominations and their lectionaries have their own agendas. Sometimes these are done to assert a particular point of view, but on reflection, sometimes not. As someone who has worked with lectionary texts for many years now, not every inconsistency or decision reflects an agenda. Scripture, like life, is a really big thing. In the end, those who work with it are very human.
By the time you read this newsletter, the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Saturday, January 25, will be upon us. I confess that sometimes it is far easier to concentrate on what divides us than what unites us and to put what may be unreasonable expectations on our leaders. I don’t think that means we should stop having high expectations of ourselves or others for responding to the grace and goodness of God. I don’t think it means we should ignore injustice and discrimination promulgated by some in the name of Christ. But it does mean for myself that I need to have a little more confidence that God is at work among all people. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Dick, Gypsy, Cintra, Rick, Jack, Barbara, Jonathan, Margaret, William, Sharon, Rob, Takeem, Linda, Eloise, Arpene, Paulette, priest, Clair, priest, and Harry, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark, Alex, and Elizabeth; and for the repose of the soul of Norman Bray, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 26: 1917 Samuel Lenox Tredwell; 1929 Abbie F. Knight; 2012 Charles Weiner.
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2014 . . . Our Stewardship Campaign continues! We received a number of pledges this past week. This was very encouraging news, indeed. We are steadily moving toward our financial goal of $450,000. We invite you to support the mission and ministry of Saint Mary’s. Please help us to keep our doors open. If you haven’t made a pledge for 2014, we encourage you to do so (no pledge is too small and it is never too late to make a pledge!). If you have made a pledge for 2014, we thank you. If you would like to receive a pledge card, please contact the finance office. If you have questions about pledging, please contact a member of the Stewardship Committee: MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, or Marie Rosseels. Jay Smith
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity concludes on Saturday, January 25, with the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd will resume this coming Sunday. Church School for the older children will meet with Peter Secor on Sunday at 10:00 AM in the Morning Room. The Adult Forum will meet on Sunday at 10:00 AM in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House . . . The Board of Trustees will meet on Monday, January 27, at 6:30 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, January 25, by Father Jay Smith, and on Saturday, February 1, by Father Stephen Gerth . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on January 29 at 6:30 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall.
SUPER BOWL PARTY . . . Sunday, February 2, 6:00-10:00 PM. Admission $5.00. We hope that some of our parishioners will also be able to bring a dish to share at the party. If so, please contact Father Jay Smith and let him know what you will be bringing so he can plan the menu. Beverages will be provided. If you would like to volunteer to provide hospitality (set up begins at 4:00 PM), please contact Father Smith.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . If you would still like to receive 2014 pledge envelopes, please contact the finance office . . . 2014 Episcopal Church calendars are still available for purchase in the Gift Shop after the Solemn Mass on Sunday . . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowers for the following Sundays: February 9, 16, and 23, and March 2. We also hope to receive donations to defray the costs of the reception on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . On Sunday, February 2, the parish choir of our neighbors at the St. Malachy’s Roman Catholic Church will sing the service of Evensong at 5:00 PM. The choir is directed by Mark Pacoe, DM . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 243.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . The Mass setting at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is the Berliner Mass of the Estonian composer, Arvo Pärt (b. 1935). A proponent of the minimalist style of composition, Pärt has written a wide array of classical music, but his music for worship is largely influenced by Gregorian chant. The Berliner Mass was given its first performance in Berlin in May of 1990. Scored for four singers and organ, the Mass has a strictly liturgical function and is in Latin. Pärt subsequently decided to orchestrate the work for strings and chorus, but it is the original setting for four voices that we will hear on Sunday. In structure, the Mass can be compared with the Missa Syllabica of some twelve years earlier (a setting we will hear this year on Maundy Thursday). The Berliner Mass is a far less austere work, due in large part to the addition of passing notes on stressed syllables. At the ministration of Communion, we will hear a familiar and well-loved motet by the Englishman, Henry Loosemore (d. 1670), O Lord, increase our faith. This work, historically attributed to Orlando Gibbons, was discovered anew in a part-book at Cambridge University in recent years. Loosemore served as organist at King’s College, Cambridge, sometime after 1640, the year in which he received his degree, but little else is known about his life prior to that time . . . At 4:40 PM on Sunday, the organ recital will be played by James Roman. James is currently a senior at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey. His program includes works by Franck, Dupré, and Robert Elmore. Mark Peterson
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . Christian Education on Sunday, January 26: Catechesis of the Good Shepherd will resume in the Atrium on the second floor of the parish house at 9:45 AM; Church School for the older children will meet at 10:00 AM in the Morning Room . . . The Adult Forum also resumes on Sunday, January 26, at 10:00 AM on the second floor of the Mission House. Father Jay Smith will lead the class in the second and final part of his discussion of Byzantine iconoclasm, as a way of approaching and trying to understand the veneration of images in both East and West (and here at Saint Mary’s!) . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on Wednesday, January 29. Jay Smith
ART & SPIRITUALITY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . On Sunday, February 2, Dennis Raverty will begin a two-part series, entitled Rediscovering the Spiritual in Early Twentieth-Century Art: A Gentle Soul's Approach to Modernism. Dr. Raverty, a professor of art history at New Jersey City University, writes, “The radical stylistic innovations of early twentieth-century European painters has led most of us to the original mystical intentions of the artists themselves. This two-part series aims at restoring this transcendent dimension to their work. As explorers of interior psychological realms, these self-designated prophets and visionaries were a poignant ‘voice crying in the wilderness’ amid the madness and carnage of the first half of the century with its wars, dictatorships and death camps.” The first session of the series on February 2 is entitled German Expressionism on the Eve of the "Great War": The Artist as Mystic Vessel. During that class, Dr. Raverty will discuss the work of such artists as Vasily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Paul Klee, Otto Dix, Ernst Barlach, Emil Nolde and Max Beckmann. Their work, intended to give concrete expression to the Spirit, will be critically examined in light of their all-but-forgotten sacramental aspirations. The class on February 9 is entitled Surrealism & the School of Paris between the Wars: The Artist as Mediumistic Being.
PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Sunday, February 2, Candlemas, Mass and Blessing of Candles, 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Blessing of Candles, Procession and Solemn Pontifical Mass 11:00 AM . . . Sunday, February 2, 6:00 PM—10:00 PM, Super Bowl Party, Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Monday, February 3, Saint Blase, The Blessing of Throats will be offered during the 12:10 PM and at the conclusion of Evening Prayer . . . Monday, February 17, Washington’s Birthday (also known as “Presidents’ Day”), Federal Holiday schedule.
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. 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. J.R.S.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At Saint Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary: The 31st Annual Father Alexander Schmemann Memorial Lecture titled “On The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church” will be presented by Archpriest Dr. John McGuckin, a leading international commentator on Eastern Orthodox theology and early Christian history. The free public lecture on Friday, January 31, 2014 will be preceded by an academic convocation at 7:00 p.m., at which Father McGuckin will be awarded a Doctor of Divinity degree honoris causa.