FROM THE RECTOR: CANDLEMAS 2012
The Right Reverend Mark S. Sisk, bishop of New York, will be at Saint Mary’s on Thursday, February 2, the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, commonly called “Candlemas.” He will be celebrant and preacher for the principal service of the day at 6:00 PM: Blessing of Candles, Procession & Solemn Pontifical Mass. February 2 is forty days after Christmas Day. According to the chronology of Luke’s gospel, the baby Jesus was brought to the temple on this fortieth day and recognized as the Savior.
When I became rector of Saint Mary’s on February 1, 1999, Bishop Sisk had been bishop coadjutor of the diocese since his consecration on April 25, 1998. He and Mrs. Sisk were very helpful to me in my early years here. He has been bishop of New York since September 29, 2001. I suddenly realized with the election of his successor, we should take advantage of the opportunity to have him with us as much as we can. His calendar was open for Candlemas and I am delighted he will be here.
Like much of our liturgical heritage, the liturgy for the principal service on the Presentation has a rich and complicated history. Part of the history lies in the Christian East, where celebrations of events in Jesus’ life begin to take place on fixed days in fourth-century Jerusalem. In the sixth century, if not before, the Presentation was being celebrated in Rome. In addition, Pope Sergius I (687-701) instituted public processions on three feasts, Presentation, Annunciation and Assumption, during his episcopate. These started from a parish in the Forum and went to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major.
The blessing of candles comes about later. It can be dated to the eleventh century. For reasons I haven’t yet discovered, before 1960 the blessing of candles and the procession were celebrated in purple vestments, the Mass in white—perhaps because it was thought to be more about the purification of Mary than the presentation of Jesus (Massey Hamilton Shepherd, Jr., The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary  231-233; Adolf Adam, The Liturgical Year  149-152).
Liturgical processions and ceremonies like the blessing of palms and candles were reintroduced to Anglican worship in the nineteenth century. The February 1892 issue of Saint Mary’s monthly newsletter The Arrow has this announcement:
ACCORDING to a custom in this parish candles to be used at the Altar during the year are blessed on Candlemas Day, (Purification, Feb. 2.). Offerings of candles (or money for their purchase) should be sent to the Rector at least the day before.
Presentation is one of the two days when we retain the tradition of a procession through the inside of the church with stations for prayers at the beginning of Solemn Mass—the other being the 11:00 PM service on Christmas Eve.
Our celebration of Candlemas begins on eve, Wednesday, February 1, with Solemn Evensong. A quartet will sing Magnificat and Nunc dimittis from The Dorian Service by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585) and the anthem Hodie beata virgo by William Byrd (1543–1623). This service lasts a little less than forty minutes—no sermon, but great Evensong! On Thursday, February 2, Morning Prayer and the 12:10 Mass will be sung. James Kennerley is playing a recital at 5:30 PM. A reception will follow the Solemn Mass.
On a personal note, my first service was as celebrant and preacher for the Solemn Mass on the Presentation. I want you to know that I continue to be deeply thankful for the confidence the leadership of the parish and Bishop Richard Grein had in calling me to Saint Mary’s. I knew when I was called here I would grow and change. I had no idea how hard it would be to be rector of Saint Mary’s and how marvelous it would be. When I stop to think of the privilege of being here, my mind becomes very quiet and takes me to that place in my soul where I can be still. Thank you for the support and understanding you have given me. I hope I will continue to be worthy of it in the years to come. Thank you so very much. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Gerald, Mary, Michael, Helga, Kyle, Kellie, Jim, Odin, Arpene, Chandra, John, Ann, Ruth, Dorothy, Richard, Peter, Linda, Dorothy, Gert, Rick, James, religious, Deborah Francis, religious, and Lawrence, deacon; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew, Mark, and Rob; and for the repose of the soul of Russell Frink . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 29: 1873 Myra Alberta Burckmyre; 1881 Julia Tidjien; 1902 Elizabeth Littell; 1909 Wilhelmina Stadler; 1935 Willard Augustine Baldwin; 1937 Cora Ethel Stevenson; 1943 Robert Howard Hirsch.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Russell Frink, the husband of Deacon Lawrence Schacht, has died. His funeral will be held at Saint Michael’s Church, New York City, on Saturday, February 4, at 2:00 PM. Please keep Russell, Deacon Schacht, their friends and families, and all who mourn in your prayers.
I PUBLISH THE BANNS OF MARRIAGE for Alan Wong of West New York, New Jersey, and Audrey Xin Lee of West New York, New Jersey. 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 first time of asking. S.G.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . On Sunday, January 29, at 10:00 AM, Father Jim Pace will continue his three-part series, Comfort and Suffering . . . Friday, February 3 is Saint Blase’s Day. The Blessing of Throats will offered during the 12:10 PM Mass and after Evening Prayer at 6:00 PM . . . Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, January 28, and on Saturday, February 4.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Gerald McKelvey is at Mount Sinai Hospital. Please keep him in your prayers . . . On Sunday, January 8, Harper Louise Savage was baptized at the Solemn Mass. It was a joyous occasion. Harper is the daughter of Obadiah Savage and Christi Spain-Savage . . . On January 18, at the Annual Board Meeting of Episcopal Response to AIDS (ERA), parishioner P. Wayne Mahlke was elected ERA’s Chair. ERA is an organization which serves the dioceses of New York, Long Island, and Newark and it is the largest community partner with AIDS Walk New York (AWNY) . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 188.
ORDINATION OF A DEACON . . . The bishop of Montana will ordain Mary Julia Jett as a deacon on Monday, February 6, at 6:00 PM at Saint Mary’s. Mary is in her second year at the General Theological Seminary. She will be an assisting deacon here until graduation in May, 2013. Many know her from her service at the altar. On Sunday mornings she also assists Deacon Weiner Tompkins in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. New York Polyphony will sing the ordination Mass. All are invited to attend the service and the reception which follows. S.G.
CONFIRMATION . . . If you believe that the time has come for you to make an adult affirmation of faith by getting confirmed or being received into the Episcopal Church, please speak to Father Gerth or Father Smith. Bishop Charles E. Jenkins, X Bishop of Louisiana and a great friend of Saint Mary’s, will preside and preach at the Easter Vigil, on Saturday, April 7. This is a wonderful time for confirmation, reception, and, of course, for baptism!
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The setting of the Mass ordinary on Sunday is Missa sopra “l'aria della Monica” a 8 by Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643). Frescobaldi was one of the most significant composers of keyboard works during the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods. Because of the wide-ranging influence of Frescobaldi’s keyboard works, his vocal compositions have received less attention than they perhaps deserve. The Missa sopra “l'aria della Monica” is scored for two choirs of four voices, plus continuo. Even though it was common for composers to base sacred settings on secular tunes, it would seem as though this setting was never intended for formal services: it was likely created as court entertainment. The aria on which the Mass is based is a mildly anti-clerical pop tune in which a girl begs her parents not to send her to a convent; she further wishes that the mother superior would "drop down dead." At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Magi veniunt ab Oriente by Clemens non Papa (1510/15–1555/56) . . . On Sunday at 4:40 PM, I will play the organ recital before Evensong & Benediction. . . At Solemn Evensong on the Eve of Candlemas, the choir will sing The Dorian Service evening canticles by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585). The anthem is Hodie beata virgo by William Byrd (1543–1623) . . . On Thursday, February 2 (Candlemas), I will play Sir Edward Elgar’s (1857–1934) magnificent Sonata in G at the 5:30 PM recital. At the Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM, the setting of the Nunc dimittis and the Mass ordinary are from the “Collegium Regale” settings, composed for the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, by Herbert Howells (1892–1983). At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Salve Regina, the last of Four Anthems of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Howells. The motets, along with a number of other works, were composed as a result of Howells’ close relationship with R.R. Terry, music director at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of Westminster in London. James Kennerley
SUPER BOWL PARTY . . . This year’s party will take place in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Sunday, February 5, beginning at 6:00 PM, after Evensong and Benediction. Kickoff is at 6:30 PM. Grace Bruni is organizing the event. If you would like to bring something to eat and to share, please speak to Grace. Beverages are provided. This is always a good opportunity to bring friends or those looking for a parish home to Saint Mary’s.
PALM SUNDAY BRASS . . . We have received $405.00 so far for Palm Sunday brass players. Your rector is still begging. Music costs money. Palm Sunday is one of the great days of public witness for our community. During the procession through Times Square we offer palms to those who want them. Please make your gifts payable to Saint Mary’s and indicate that it is for “Palm Sunday Brass.” This is the third time of asking. S.G.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Book Sale continues on Sunday in Saint Joseph’s Hall. All donations are used to serve those in need . . . We continue to collect non-perishable food items and cash donations for our outreach partner, the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please look for the collection basket in the back of the church on Sunday mornings. We sent a check for $250.00 to the Food Pantry last week and we hope to be able to continue to make such donations on a regular basis. We are grateful to all those who continue to support the Food Pantry so generously. Your gifts are exceedingly important at the moment due to state and local budget cuts . . . On Wednesday, January 25, Father Gerth and Father Smith attended the regular meeting of the Episcopal clergy who serve parishes in Midtown Manhattan. The meeting was held at the Church of the Holy Apostles on Ninth Avenue and 29th Street. Holy Apostles’ rector, Father Glenn Chalmers, explained the work of the parish’s well-known Soup Kitchen, its use of volunteers, and the impact of the recent government budget cuts. Jay Smith
LENT AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Ash Wednesday is February 22. Masses will be said at 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM. There is a Sung Mass at 12:10 PM. The Right Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal church, will be celebrant and preacher for Solemn Pontifical Mass at 6:00 PM. Ashes will be distributed in the church from 7:00 AM until 8:00 PM. On Fridays during Lent, Stations will be offered at 6:30 PM.
LENTEN QUIET DAY . . . Led by Father John Beddingfield, Saturday, March 3, 10:00 AM-3:00 PM, The Fear of God: Our Troubles Transformed—Proverbs says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10), but what does it mean to “fear” God? How does our relationship with God affect other parts of our life in which fear plays a part? Are faith and fear connected, or are they opposed to each other? Using scripture, tradition, story, and silence, this year’s Lenten Quiet Day will allow us to reflect on these questions together. Father Beddingfield will offer three meditations. There will be opportunities for quiet, prayer, and silent meditation. Those attending are invited to celebrate the Eucharist together at noonday. Coffee and tea will be served in Saint Joseph’s Hall beginning at 9:30 AM and a simple lunch will be provided following Mass. Please send an e-mail to Father Jay Smith if you think you would like to attend so he can make plans for lunch. Father Beddingfield, formerly a member of the clergy of the United Presbyterian Church, was sponsored for ordination by this parish. He worked here as the parish administrator before his ordination and as curate thereafter. We are very happy, and grateful, that he has agreed to be with us in March.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . On Sunday, February 5, Father Jay Smith will begin a three-part series entitled What Do Episcopalians Believe? For this series, Father Smith will be working with a new book, What Episcopalians Believe: An Introduction (Morehouse Publishing, 2011), written by Samuel Wells, the Dean of the Duke University Chapel and Research Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke Divinity School. Copies of the book can be purchased at amazon.com or in the parish gift shop. There are now several copies of the book in the gift shop and more have been ordered . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will resume on February 8 at 6:30 PM in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. The first four sessions of the class will take place on February 8, 15, 29, and March 7. We will be reading the Letter to the Hebrews this semester. J.R.S.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . December 7, 2011–May 14, 2012, Transition to Christianity: Art of Late Antiquity, 3rd-7th Century AD, at the Onassis Cultural Center, Olympic Tower, 645 Fifth Avenue, entrances on 51st and 52nd Streets, between Madison and Fifth Avenues.