FROM THE RECTOR: EASTER FAITH IN LENT
No priest is at all prepared to face the First Day of Lent in New York City, unless perhaps he or she grew up here. It really is “Ash” Wednesday for the huge number of people who present themselves in churches to be marked with the sign of the cross in ashes and to hear the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” More people enter churches in this city on Ash Wednesday than on any other day of the year. It’s a day when our parish is, with respect, “among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).
I think it is important for us to respond to people who come to us on Ash Wednesday. There are very few human beings who don’t need to have and hear a simple reminder of their mortality. To use the language of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the parish church is an environment where a person can work on his or her relationship with God. I’m not inclined to make judgments about why people come to us or about the way in which the Holy Spirit may be working among any of us. People come, and our doors are open.
There will be an enormous gift of time and energy by members and friends of this parish community, not to mention our church staff, to make this possible. Father Pace and Father Smith are taking, respectively, the 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM Masses. I’m taking the Sung Mass at 12:10 PM. The Right Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop & Primate, will be with us as celebrant and preacher for the Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM, when the full choir will sing—I am still in awe that you and I have the privilege of being a part of a parish where Allegri’s Miserere, mei, Deus will be sung as ashes are administered at Solemn Mass. In addition to these four services, a member of the clergy or one of the sisters will be on duty from the opening of the church at 7:00 AM until it closes at 8:00 PM for those who come only for ashes.
Paul Bradshaw’s and Maxwell Johnson’s The Origins of Feasts, Fasts and Seasons in Early Christianity (2011) is the best survey of current scholarship on the beginnings of what would come to be called in the late sixteenth century, as the authors note, “the liturgical year” (p. xiii). This week I’ve been reading through it again. A lot of what we know has changed since I went to seminary in 1980.
Lent, as a forty-day preparation for Easter, certainly has roots in the period before Christianity’s legalization at the beginning of the fourth century, but the development is indirect. In the classical age, across the Mediterranean world, fasting in preparation for baptism was common, but the number of days or weeks varied greatly. Fasting for forty days after baptism, following the example of Jesus, was also known. Things change in the fourth century after Christianity becomes legal. I wonder if the forty-day pre-Easter preparation evolved for a very practical reason: to meet the need of a suddenly legal and growing Christian community—and then, like so many things, it took on a life of its own. People simply didn’t remember it was for people who were going to be baptized. For the record, ashes make their appearance in the rites in Rome beginning in the ninth century (Marion J. Hatchett, Commentary on the American Prayer Book , 218). I know I have more reading to do.
That said, it may be a helpful and natural development that we have come to connect Lent with the celebration of Easter. Bradshaw and Johnson point out the obvious: the development of a rich liturgical year led to an extraordinary diminution of the importance of Easter (Origins, xiv). For all intents and purposes, early Christianity’s first and most important liturgical commemoration, what we call the Great Vigil of Easter, is only in recent decades beginning a serious period of recovery in the West.
For myself, the almost daily dose of purple for five weeks or so—this year, Saint Matthias (February 24), Saint Joseph (March 19) and the Annunciation (transferred to March 26) are the only breaks until Palm Sunday—makes me look forward to celebrating the resurrection. More important to me than my mortality is God’s call to me to live in eternal life, in this world and in the world to come. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Alan, Audrey, Julie, Pat, Tony, Wayne, Bob, Betty, Gerald, Aston, Amy, Jim, Odin, Chandra, Sharon, Arpene, Ann, Ruth, Dorothy, Richard, Linda, Gert, Rick, and Deborah Francis, religious; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew, Mark, and Rob; and for the repose of the soul of Fred G. Peelen . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 19: 1917 William Woodfin; 1945 William Fred Davis; 1957 Louise Longfellow; 1958 Henry Osmond Weed.
FASTING AND ABSTINENCE IN LENT . . . The ordinary weekdays of Lent are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. Fridays in Lent are observed traditionally by abstinence from flesh meats. The First Day of Lent is a day of fasting and abstinence from meat.
QUESTIONS ABOUT FASTING . . . How does one fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday? A good answer is the thoughtful one every person makes for himself or herself. The point of the fast is to hunger physically to remind oneself of one’s spiritual hunger for the Lord. The point is not to make oneself sick or incapable of work, but to recall that we do not live by bread alone. S.G.
WEST FORTY-SIXTH STREET VEHICULAR CLOSURE . . . Notices have been posted that West Forty-sixth Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, will be closed on Saturday, February 18, and Sunday, February 19, to vehicular traffic.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . On Sunday, February 19, in the Adult Forum at 10:00 AM, on the second floor of the Mission House, Father Jay Smith concludes the first portion of his series “What Do Episcopalians Believe?”. . . Sunday, February 19, at 8:00 PM, New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists 2011 International Performer of the Year Award Concert: Stephen Tharp, organist . . . Monday, February 20, Washington’s Birthday, also known as Presidents’ Day, we will observe our Federal Holiday Schedule with one modification: an afternoon concert. The church will open at 10:00 AM; only the noon services are offered and the parish offices are closed. At 3:00 PM, Rochester High School Music Department Concert. Admission is free. The church will close when the concert ends . . . The Women’s Group meets on Tuesday, February 21 . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on February 22, Ash Wednesday . . . Friday, February 24, Stations of the Cross, 6:30 PM . . . Father Stephen Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, February 18. Father Jay Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, February 25.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . This week, the Feast of Saint Matthias the Apostle is on Friday, February 24. Mass will be said only at 12:10 PM. At 6:30 PM Stations of the Cross will follow Evening Prayer. Stations are offered on every Friday in Lent at 6:30 PM
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., returned to the parish on Thursday, February 16. We are very happy that she is back! . . . Gerald McKelvey continues to do rehabilitation therapy at the Klingenstein Pavilion of Mount Sinai Hospital. Please keep him in your prayers . . . We continue to collect non-perishable food items and cash donations for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please look for the collection basket in the back of the church on Sunday mornings . . . Confirmation and the other rites of Christian initiation will be celebrated at the Easter Vigil. For more information, please speak with one of the parish clergy . . . If you would like to sponsor the reception on Annunciation, March 26, Easter Eve, April 7, or Ascension Day, May 17, please speak to Father Jay Smith or contact the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 213.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude at the Solemn Mass on Sunday is the first movement (Allegro) from the Trio Sonata No. 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). The postlude is Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D Major, BWV 432. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass in G, D 167, by Franz Schubert (1797–1828). The second of six mass settings, the work was composed in less than a week (March 2 to 7, 1815). The anthem at Communion is The heavens are telling, a chorus from The Creation, Hob. XXI:2, by Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), an animated setting of text derived from the Bible and from John Milton (1608–1674) . . . . The organ recital on Sunday will be played by Vaughn Mauren, Bronxville, New York. His program includes music by Felix Mendelssohn and Vincent d’Indy. The recital precedes Evensong and Benediction and begins at 4:40 PM. This is the final recital before Lent. Our organ-recital series will resume on Easter Day, April 8 . . . At Solemn Mass on Ash Wednesday, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa “Aeterna Christi munera” by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525–1594), a “paraphrase mass” first published in 1590. Each movement of the Mass is based upon the plainsong hymn Aeterna Christi munera, the office hymn for feasts of Apostles. During the imposition of ashes, the choir sings Miserere mei, Deus by Gregorio Allegri (1582–1652), the famous setting of Psalm 51 that for years was only performed at the Vatican, and there only on Good Friday (the score was kept secret). The version we know today, however, including the notoriously high soprano part, largely comes from ornamentation added in the nineteenth century. During the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet In jejunio et fletu orabant sacerdotes by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585). James Kennerley
A WOMEN'S GROUP AT SAINT MARY'S . . . You are invited to join the women of Saint Mary's to share a meal and enjoy each other’s company. Women of all ages who value fellowship, we have formed a group so we can get to know one another outside of church and enjoy some social time together with food and drink at a parishioner's home from time to time. Our first meeting was in October, and our second will be on Tuesday, February 21 from 6:00 to 8:30 PM, near Lincoln Square on the Upper West Side. We hope you can make it! Please contact the church office (212-869-5830) or email Mary Robison at email@example.com to RSVP, and we will send you details and directions.
SUNDAY ADULT FORUM IN LENT . . . On Sundays during Lent, Father Peter Powell returns to Saint Mary’s to lead a five-part series on Genesis 1-11, the first part of the Bible’s first book. The class will be asking such questions as “what does the Bible really say about Creation and the Flood?” and “how can thinking Christians claim these stories as their own?”
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.
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, March 3, 8:00 PM, The Dessoff Choirs: Midwinter Festival: Refracted Bach. . . Saturday, March 17, 8:00 PM, Miller Theatre Early Music Series, Tenebrae, with Le Poème Harmonique, Vincent Dumestre, conductor . . . Saturday, March 31, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, music director. Music by Mozart and Shostakovich. Admission is free . . . Saturday, April 21, 8:00 PM, Miller Theater Early Music Series, Treasures of the Renaissance, with Stile Antico.
DONATIONS FOR ALTAR FLOWERS . . . We hope to receive donations for flowers for the Annunciation, March 26, and for Palm Sunday, April 1, as well as for the following Sundays, April 15, 22, and 29. We also welcome donations for Easter flowers. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, March 26, The Annunciation of Our Lord Jesus Christ to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Solemn Pontifical Mass 6:00 PM, the Right Reverend R. William Franklin, bishop of Western New York, celebrant and preacher.