FROM THE RECTOR: PATRONAL FEAST
Saint Mary’s opened the doors of its first church on December 8, 1870. Since then, December 8 has been one of the most important days of the year in our common life. Our patronal celebration begins, as is our custom, on the eve, Wednesday, December 7, with Solemn Evensong at 6:00 PM. A quartet from the choir will sing a setting by Orlando Gibbons at this service. On Thursday, December 8, the principal Mass of the day will be at 6:00 PM. James Kennerley will play a recital at 5:30 PM. A reception follows the evening Mass. It’s a day when many friends from the wider parish community are able to be with us. The Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is always a great day here.
In November 1867, the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown and Henry Kingsland Leonard found three city lots on the west side of Longacre Square. The lots were owned by John Jacob Astor, Jr., who donated them on the condition that the parish be a “free” congregation, that is, its seats would be open to all without charge. On December 5, 1868, “The Society of the Free Church of St. Mary the Virgin” was incorporated and there was a new parish for the diocese of New York in this part of the city. It took two years for the parish to build its first church home, at 228 West Forty-fifth Street, just west of Longacre Square. On December 8, 1895 our second and present church opened on this side of what was still Longacre Square (Newbury Frost Read, The Story of St. Mary’s [New York, 1931], 16-21).
The choice to open the doors of the parish on December 8 and to observe the day with a commemoration not in the American Prayer Book, but in the Church of England’s calendar, was an Oxford Movement statement – the Oxford Movement is the name given to the nineteenth century revival of catholic tradition in the Anglican Church. The Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is still not in the American Prayer Book calendar. As late as 1957 there was a stated theological objection by the Episcopal Church’s Standing Liturgical Commission to its inclusion: the conception and nativity of Mary, unlike the stories of John and Jesus, are not part of the New Testament narrative (Prayer Book Studies IX: The Calendar, The Standing Liturgical Commission of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America [New York: The Church Pension Fund, 1957], 85-6, 127.)
Father Brown’s instincts were better than he knew. More recent research confirms that Marian devotion, like the cult of the saints, shaped the life of the Church from the second century onward (Paul F. Bradshaw and Maxwell E. Johnson, The Origins of Feasts, Fasts and Seasons in Early Christianity [Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2011], 172.) The celebration of Jesus’ annunciation and nativity led to the commemoration of these events in the life of his human mother (Ibid., 209-10.) The celebration of these events in Mary’s life arose from the mystery of the Word made flesh – and leads us back to Him. For my part, I would add that their celebration proclaims the mystery of God’s presence and call in the lives of all people.
Of the many expressions used to describe this parish over the years, my favorite for some time has been “Saint Mary’s opens her doors to all people.” It doesn’t say it all, but I know all are welcome here and the community of our time tries in every way to signal all are welcome. This hasn’t always been the case. Our parish historian Dick Leitsch discovered a letter from Elliot Daingerfield (1859-1932) – the trustee and artist who painted the famous murals in the Lady Chapel – that complained about the seating of an African-American on the main aisle of the church. It took Saint Mary’s awhile to embrace the ordination of women, but women have frequently been at the altar of Saint Mary’s, beginning with the Right Reverend Catherine Roskam, who preached and celebrated here on the Feast of the Presentation in 1996, just five days after her consecration. The parish welcomed its first partnered curate in 1996. Although the first two rectors of the parish were married, our community finally welcomed its first married curate in 1999. Saint Mary’s has grown to be a place where we rejoice in and reflect the diversity of God’s call to all.
The journey is not over. The parish will change in the years to come. One should expect at least as much change in the coming century as there has been in the past. Should people look back at our time, I hope they will see that you and I have tried to be faithful to Jesus Christ – and that we were good stewards of the gifts God has given us as members and friends of Saint Mary’s in our time. Stephen Gerth
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2012 . . . We have received 111 pledges so far, 16 of them new pledges or pledges from households that were not able to make a pledge for 2011. Our goal for the campaign this year is $425,000.00. $328,477.00 has been pledged to date, which is 77% of our goal. We still have a ways to go, but we are very encouraged. Last year, 177 households made pledges to the parish. At this point in the campaign, 54% of those households have made a pledge for 2012. We are very grateful to all those who support the parish so generously.
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Susan, Ivan, Michael, Lawrence, Paris, Chandra, Ann, Ruth, Dennis, Dorothy, Richard, Peter, Linda, Jim, Sylvia, Janice, Donald, Bob, Dorothy, Gert, Rick, and Deborah Francis, religious; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew, Mark, John, and Rob; and for the repose of the soul of Kevin Bell and Gilbert Merenda . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 4: 1893 Margaret Elizabeth McGowan; 1900 Matthew William Carswell; 1917 Albert Komp; 1935 George Westock; 1960 Bruce Cuthbert Peterson, Sr.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Gilbert Merenda, the brother of Michael Merenda, died at his home in Larchmont, New York, on Monday, November 28, after a long illness. Please keep Gilbert, who was known throughout his life as Jim, Mike, their family, and all who mourn in your prayers.
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 . . . The Adult Forum resumes on Sunday, December 4. Deirdre Cornell will talk about her book American Madonna: Crossing Borders with the Virgin Mary. Deirdre’s book is a meditation on Mexican narratives about Mary, such as Our Lady of Guadalupe . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd will meet on Sunday, December 4 . . . Wednesday, December 7, 7:00 PM, Legacy Society Reception in the Rectory . . . The Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: our celebration begins with Solemn Evensong on the Eve of the Conception, Wednesday, December 7, at 6:00 PM. On Thursday, December 8, there will be a Sung Mass at 12:10 PM; the Solemn Mass is at 6:00 PM. James Kennerley will play a recital at 5:30 PM. A reception follows in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study will not meet on Wednesday, December 7 . . . Father Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, December 3. Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, December 10.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., had surgery on Monday, November 21. She is still at Morristown Medical Center (Morristown, New Jersey). We expect that she will be returning to the convent in Mendham shortly. Cards and good wishes may be sent to sister in care of the Community of Saint John Baptist, PO Box 240, Mendham, New Jersey 07945-1257. It is likely that Sister Deborah Francis will be in Mendham recuperating for several weeks. Please keep her in your prayers. We look forward to her return to the parish! . . . On Saturday, December 3, we will remember Timothy Dlugos at Mass in the prayers of the people along with all the members of the parish whose year’s mind falls on that day. Tim, who died in 1990 at the age of 40, was a poet and author. A volume of his poems, A Fast Life: The Collected Poems of Tim Dlugos, was published by Nightboat Books in May 2011. At the time of his death, Tim was a seminarian at the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale . . . Friday, December 9, is the twenty-second anniversary of the ordination of James Ross Smith to the priesthood . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 246.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude before the Solemn Mass on Sunday is Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland by Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637–1707). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa prima sex vocum (subtitled “Domine Dominus noster”) by Leonhard Lechner (c. 1553–1606). Lechner, who often worked under the pseudonym “Athesinus” was an Austro-German composer and music publisher. His musical life began as a chorister at the chapel courts in Munich and Landshut, where his choir master was Orlande de Lassus. Subsequently, he travelled (most probably around Italy), where he assumed many of the compositional traits of the prominent composers of the time. The mass setting offered today was probably composed when he was a Kappelmeister around 1595. The communion song, Jerusalem surge, is sung to the setting by Flemish composer Heinrich Isaac (c. 1450–1517). During the ministration of communion, the choir sings the motet Rorate coeli desuper by William Byrd (1543–1623). The postlude is Praeludium in F-sharp minor, BuxWV 146 by Buxtehude. James Kennerley
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . During November and December, we will be collecting new and gently used coats for the New York Cares Coat Drive. The deadline is December 31. If you would like to donate a coat, please speak to Father Smith or bring the coat with you on Sunday . . . We are also collecting toys and gifts, including gift cards, to donate to the New York Foundling Hospital. The hospital, located on Sixth Avenue in Chelsea, works with children, teenagers, and families in need. The deadline is December 16 . . . We continue to collect non-perishable food items for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please consider making a regular donation to the Food Pantry. Look for the basket in the back of the church or in Saint Joseph’s Hall. You may make a cash donation as well . . . Father Smith continues his Book Sale on Sunday. All proceeds are used to benefit the Food Pantry and others who are in need . . . We recently made a small gift of $100.00 to the Food Pantry of Iglesia San Andres, Yonkers, where the Rev. Yamily Bass-Choate is the vicar. Mother Bass-Choate is a good friend of Saint Mary’s. San Andres raises funds every year to provide turkeys at Thanksgiving for families in need. We are grateful to all those who support our outreach efforts and who make such gifts possible.
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Friday, December 9, 8:00 PM, Magnificat,
New York City Master Chorale, Theo Kano, director . . . Saturday, December 10, 8:00 PM, Miller Theater Early Music Series: Songs of Mary: A Christmas Celebration. The Tallis Scholars, Peter Philips, director . . . Saturday, December 17, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra Annual Benefit. David Leibowitz, music director. Music by Chausson, Wagner, and Tchaikovsky.
AWAY FROM SAINT MARY’S . . . The Peccadillo Theater Company at the Theatre at Saint Clement’s presents a revival of Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman’s classic and very funny play, The Man Who Came to Dinner. Limited engagement, November 25-December 18. Directed by Dan Wackerman. Dan is a good friend of Saint Mary’s and often worships with us on Sunday mornings. For reservations and tickets, call 212-352-3101 or visit www.thepeccadillo.com. The Theater has very kindly offered Saint Marians and their friends discounted tickets. When ordering tickets, use the following code in order to get the discount: PTCCH.