FROM THE RECTOR: BEFORE THERE WAS EASTER
There is a great deal we just don’t know about the origins of Christian worship. The witness of the New Testament and other early Christian writings is not, in fact, as explicit as is often thought. Since the post-apostolic period, influential voices in every generation have tended to read the practices of their own era back into earlier texts. That said, we actually do know many important things about the worship of Christians in the first and second centuries. We know that before there was Easter, Christians assembled every week for community meals and for worship.
At first, this happened on the Jewish Sabbath. Saturday would eventually give way to Sunday. The focus of early-Christian worship-meals also changes. At the first, believers gathered to prepare themselves for Christ’s return in their own lifetimes. When Christ doesn’t return when expected, weekly worship takes on faith in the resurrection as its central focus. Sunday begins to be spoken of as “the eighth day” and as “the first day of the new creation.” Christian life and faith continue to be shaped by its weekly gatherings; more change is to come.
In the second century, an annual commemoration of Jesus’ death begins to be celebrated. This celebration of his death is the origin of what will come to be a celebration of his resurrection that we know as Easter Day. (Get that: Easter starts as a “Good Friday.”) In the beginning this celebration of the crucifixion didn’t happen on a Sunday. It was commemorated on Passover as that festival fell in the Jewish calendar year to year.
A celebration on the Sunday after Passover will overtake this earlier practice pretty completely in the fourth century. At the same time, Easter, now always a Sunday, will shift its focus to the resurrection as the Church now has both a Sunday of the Passion and a Good Friday to celebrate Jesus’ death. Easter will remain about the resurrection, but in the centuries to come, the weekly experience of Sunday as a day of resurrection will be replaced by an experience of Sunday as a memorial of Christ’s passion and death—and for most people, it probably still is.
Reading about the history of Sunday worship (Paul F. Bradshaw and Maxwell E. Johnson, The Origins of Feasts, Fasts and Seasons in Early Christianity [Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2011]), along with preparations for Holy Week and Easter, has me thinking about my own spiritual life. I don’t think very much about Christ’s coming again—that’s what “end-of-the-world” preachers do. Yet, I live in Times Square. Since last summer there have been police all day on West 47th Street to inspect vehicles for bombs—maybe not a sign of the Second Coming, but a daily reminder of the transitory nature of this life. As I grow older and as I begin to face the death of friends and acquaintances of my generation, the gifts of life and time seem more precious than ever before.
Last week at Morning Prayer I happened to be the reader for the story in Genesis where Joseph reveals himself to the brothers who had sold him into slavery. They don’t recognize him. When he can stand it no longer, Joseph sends his servants away and says, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” To this question a Christian can always answer, “Yes,” because Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Sunday was never a “little Easter.” Sunday still gives Holy Week and Easter its true meaning—not the other way around. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Tatiana, Leroy, Kenneth, Alvina, Scott, Gayle, Kean, Helen, Joyce, Susan, Mary, Lee, Wayne, Betty, Gerald, Amy, Gilda, Gloria, Jim, Barbara, Odin, Chandra, Sharon, Arpene, Ann, Ruth, Dorothy, Richard, Linda, Gert, Rick, James, RELIGIOUS, Ronald, RELIGIOUS, and Robert, PRIEST; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Gene, Matthew, Mark, and Rob; and for the repose of the souls of Christopher and Mary Ellen . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 25: 1883 Eliza V. Leverich; 1897 Isabella Jackson; 1964 Robert Edward Cerra.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Christopher Rhodes, the brother of Father Rob Rhodes, died on Thursday, March 15. He is survived by his wife Heather and his four sons. Please keep Christopher and his family, Father Rhodes, and all who mourn in your prayers . . . Mary Ellen Smith, wife of the Right Reverend Dabney Smith, bishop of Southwest Florida, died on Tuesday, March 20. In addition to Bishop Smith, she is survived by her three children and three grandchildren. Mary Ellen worshiped last with us at Saint Mary’s on All Souls’ Day 2010. May her soul, and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God rest in peace.
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 Feast of the Annunciation, March 26 (transferred), is not a weekday of Lent.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . . On Sunday, March 25, at 10:00 AM, Father Peter Powell concludes his Lenten series on Genesis 1-11 . . . Monday, March 26, The Feast of Annunciation: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM. The Right Reverend R. William Franklin, bishop of Western New York, will be celebrant and preacher for the 6:00 PM Solemn Pontifical Mass . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on Wednesday, March 28. The class, led by Father Jay Smith, is reading the Letter to the Hebrews . . . The Stations of the Cross are offered every Friday in Lent at 6:30 PM, following Evening Prayer . . . Father Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, March 24. On March 31, Father Smith will hear confessions at 11:30 AM and Father Gerth will hear confessions at 4:00 PM.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Our young acolyte and “boat person” Jeremiah Burch will be appearing in an Off-Broadway production of Pippi Longstocking: The Musical on the weekend of April 20-22. Performances are at the Theatre at Saint Peter’s, 619 Lexington Avenue at 54th Street. Call 212-935-5824 or visit www.PippiNYC.com for more information or to buy tickets . . . 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 . . . Sponsors are needed for the receptions on Annunciation, Monday, March 26; Easter Eve, Saturday, April 7; and Ascension Day, Thursday, May 17. Please speak to Father Jay Smith or contact the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 237.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The service this Sunday is sung by the female voices of the choir. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Messe Basse by Gabriel Fauré (1845–1924). Composer, organist, pianist and teacher, Fauré was the foremost French composer of his generation. From a young age, Fauré was a student at the École Niedermeyer, which prepared organists and choir directors in Paris. He would later be organist–choir master in several Parisian churches, where sacred texts served as the inspiration for his compositions. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Cantique de Jean Racine, Op 11 by Fauré, heard here in an arrangement for upper voices. . . Before the Solemn Mass for the Feast of the Annunciation on Monday, March 26, I will play the organ recital at 5:30 PM. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa a sei voci ‘In illo tempore’ by Claudio Monteverdi (1567–1643), which is based upon a motet of Nicolas Gombert. This work for six–part choir, published in 1610 along with the composer’s famed Vespro della Beata Vergine, is composed in what is known as stile antico, or a Palestrina–like polyphonic style that by the early seventeenth century was decidedly old–fashioned. The motet is the eight-voice setting of the Marian hymn Ave maris stella, drawn from Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610. It showcases the modern, soloistic style that he pioneered, and contrasts it with textures for full choir, and for instruments (played tonight on the organ). James Kennerley
AIDS WALK 2012 . . . The Saint Mary’s AIDS Walk team is in action again, our seventh year in a row, walking in the 27th AIDS Walk New York on Sunday, May 20. Our team will raise money, and most of us will walk on Saturday, May 19, in order to be in church the following day. We are small but successful: in 2011, there were only 10 of us, we raised over $16,000, and we ranked 32 among 3,641 teams in the walk! We need your help to do even better this year. Join our team or contribute to our team by clicking here. To join, click on “Join our Team.” To contribute, in the Team Members box next to our picture, click on “General Team Donation” (if you prefer to write a check made out to AWNY, you can give it to Father Smith or to MaryJane Boland). Team members raise money from their friends and colleagues. Ask questions of our team by e-mailing the team leader MaryJane Boland or speak to her or Father Smith on Sunday.
SUNDAY ADULT FORUM IN LENT & EASTERTIDE . . . On Sunday, March 25, Father Peter Powell is concluding a five-part series on Genesis 1-11. Father Powell tells us what to expect during class this coming Sunday: “The closing chapters of the primeval history, Gen 9:17-11:32, present us with two stories each of which points out the value of actually reading the Bible. In the first story Noah gets drunk but his grandson, Canaan is cursed. Why? In the second story, the Tower of Babel, we commonly believe that the sin was human pride. But the story never says that. Instead the story is very positive about God’s actions. Both stories are crucial for the light they shine on the entire primeval history. God was working his purpose out. But what was the purpose? Also, please remember: the most important aspect of Bible study is to do it. It is more important to start than to worry about starting in the right place. Therefore, even if you missed the first few weeks of the Gen 1-11 series you are invited to join us this week. Newcomers are always welcome to join the class” . . . The Adult Forum will not meet on Palm Sunday, April 1; on Easter Day, April 8; or on the Second Sunday of Easter, April 15 . . . On Sunday, April 22, Dr. Dennis Raverty, art historian and good friend of Saint Mary’s, will lead a class entitled “Rembrandt and the Jews of Amsterdam” . . . On Sunday, April 29, Father Jim Pace, assisting priest here at the parish, will lead a class on the Rosary. He will discuss the history and practice of this devotion and will look at both the Anglican and Roman Catholic rosaries and will discuss the differences between the two . . . On most Sundays in May, Father Jay Smith will continue his series, “What Do Episcopalians Believe?”
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . 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 Theatre Early Music Series, Treasures of the Renaissance, with Stile Antico.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . December 7, 2011–May 14, 2012, Transition to Christianity: Art of Late Antiquity, Third to Seventh Century AD, at the Onassis Cultural Center, Olympic Tower, 645 Fifth Avenue, entrances on 51st and 52nd Streets, between Madison and Fifth Avenues . . . February 3–May 20, 2012–Walls Speak: The Narrative Art of Hildreth Meière, at the Museum of Biblical Art, 1865 Broadway at 61st Street. This exhibition presents the liturgical work of Hildreth Meière (1892-1961), who was one of the best known and most prolific Art Deco muralists of the twentieth century. Recognized during her lifetime for both her liturgical and secular work, Meière completed over 100 commissions from 1922 to 1961. Though Meière is little known today, her commissions are very well recognized and include several New York City attractions like the Red Banking Room at One Wall Street, the lobby of the Walker Lispenard Building, the 50th Street façade of Radio City Music Hall, and religious art and decoration at the Church of Saint Bartholomew and Temple Emanu-El.