FROM THE RECTOR: ASCENSION 2012
Ascension Day is a feast day I associate with being Episcopalian. When I started to go to the Episcopal Church in the 1970s, lots of parishes still had celebrations on this day—as Saint Mary’s always has had. Ascension Day is always forty days after Easter Day. It’s a “principal feast”—and we keep it that way. This year we are honored that the Right Reverend Richard F. Grein, XIV Bishop of New York will be preacher for the Solemn Mass.
The celebration of principal and major feasts begins with Evening Prayer the day before. Solemn Evensong will be celebrated on Wednesday, May 16, at 6:00 PM. A quartet from our choir will sing canticles from the Short Service in F Major by John Blow (1649–1708). The anthem will be Ascendens Christus by Jacob Handl (1550–1591). The service lasts about forty-minutes. The congregation will get to sing and chant too. These Evensongs on the eves of principal feasts are very special and I commend this service to you.
On Ascension Day, Morning Prayer is sung at 8:30 AM. Following the Noonday Office at 12:00 PM, there is a simple Sung Mass at 12:10 PM. Father Smith will be celebrant and preacher for this service. Matthew Phelps, minister of music, The Reformed Church of Bronxville, New York, will play an organ recital at 5:30 PM. The Solemn Mass will be at 6:00 PM—with glorious hymns and music, of course. A reception will follow the evening service in Saint Joseph’s Hall.
Because of the scholarship that has been coming at us in the last few years, I hesitate to say too much about the history of this festival. The diversity in worship in the first three centuries of the Christian era makes it difficult to give a description that is both short and accurate. One might say the history of early Christian worship is as rich and as ambiguous as the New Testament itself. The question of Jesus’ ascension is not simple. The risen Jesus was with and then gone from his disciples many times between the day of resurrection and forty days later when he seemed to have left for good. But, then he came back to meet Paul on the road to Damascus.
What we call Jesus’ ascension is recorded twice by Luke—at the end of his gospel and at the beginning of Acts. Luke’s gospel concludes with Jesus ascending on the evening of the first Easter Day. The fortieth-day ascension begins Luke’s story in Acts. Paul Bradshaw writes that the feast of the Ascension begins in the fourth century and becomes “almost universal in the fifth century” (The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship, 2nd ed,  183).
One can say this: the risen Jesus went to heaven and disciples saw him leave—and more than once. The New Testament’s interest in the particulars of Jesus’ ascension are even less than its interest in Jesus’ resurrection. The risen Lord changed the lives of those who met him and everything humankind would know about itself. It was the reality of the Lord’s resurrection that was and is at the heart of it all. Resurrection is what we celebrate Sunday by Sunday, day by day, as God’s kingdom—remember that in the Greek “kingdom” means “sovereign power,” not a place—continues to unfold in the world God has made. Happy Easter. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Pearl, Joseph, Chesley, Jan, Andrew, Sean, James, Al, Gail, Helen, Joyce, Wayne, Betty, Gerald, Arpene, Sharon, Chandra, Dorothy, and Robert, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Elizabeth, Nicholas, and Matthew; and for the repose of the souls of James Gardner, George Handy, Patrick Higgins, Russell Lenahan, Voizell Winborn, and Mary-Marguerite Kohn, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 13: 1881 Mary Louise Margaret Brown; 1898 Augustus Knoflach; 1928 Joseph Baldwin Seaman; 1940 Frank West; 1960 Carl J. Schmidlaff..
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Former parishioner Patrick Higgins died at his home in New Jersey early Sunday morning after a long illness. There will be a viewing on Friday, May 11 at Norman Dean Home for Services Funeral Home, Denville, New Jersey, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM and from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. A Requiem Mass will be celebrated at Grace Church, Madison, New Jersey, at 11:00 AM on Saturday, May 12. A reception at the church will follow. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Grace Church or to Saint Clare's Hospital Foundation, Denville. Please keep Pat, Sean, their families and all who mourn in your prayers . . . George Handy died Wednesday morning. He was ninety-three years old. Mr. Handy grew up at Saint Mary’s and was confirmed here on May 6, 1927. For many years, he was the director of the Saint Raphael’s Guild of Ushers. As we go to press, the funeral has been scheduled for Saturday, May 19, at 10:00 AM. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Adult Forum will not meet on Sunday, May 13. The class will meet on Sunday, May 20, and on Sunday, May 27, which will be the final class of the academic year. The Adult Forum will resume in the fall . . . Wednesday, May 16: Eve of Ascension Day, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, May 17, Ascension Day: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, and Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on May 16 . . . Father David Sibley will hear confessions at 11:30 AM on Saturday, May 12. Father Jay Smith will hear confessions at 4:00 PM on Saturday, May 12. Father Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, May 19.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . At the Annual Meeting of the Congregation on Sunday, May 6, Brother William Jones, BSG, and Dr. Mark Risinger were elected to represent the parish at Diocesan Convention in the fall. Wayne Mahlke and Marie Rosseels were elected to serve as alternates. We are grateful to them for agreeing to serve in this way . . . Parishioner Wayne Mahlke had surgery on Wednesday, May 9, at New York Downtown Hospital. He expects to be recuperating at home beginning next week. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Father Smith will be attending a Leadership in Ministry workshop in Newton, Massachusetts, next week. He leaves on Sunday afternoon, May 13, and returns to the parish office on Thursday, May 17 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 254.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude before Mass this Sunday is Adagio in E, and the postlude is Allegro con spirito in B–flat. Both works are from Three Pieces (1905) by Frank Bridge (1879–1941). The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa pater peccavi by Andrea Gabrieli, (c. 1510–1586), uncle of the more famous Giovanni Gabrieli. The work first appeared in Gabrieli’s Primer Liber missarum, published in Venice in 1572. It is a “parody” Mass, in that it is based on the opening melodic motif of Gabrieli’s own motet, Pater peccavi, published in 1565. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Haec dies by William Byrd (1540–1623), a six–part setting of the joyful Eastertide text first published by the composer in 1591 . . . Before Sunday Solemn Evensong & Benediction, Terrance Flanagan will play a recital. Mr. Flanagan is organist and music director at the Presbyterian Church of Mount Kisco, Mount Kisco, New York . . . At Solemn Evensong on the Eve of Ascension Day, a quartet sings the canticles to the setting from the Short Service in F Major by John Blow (1649–1708). The anthem is Ascendens Christus in altum by Jacob Handl (1550–1591) . . . At Solemn Mass on Ascension Day, the setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass by Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971). Stravinsky, who was born in Russia and lived in New York for many years, was one of the twentieth century’s most important composers; his works span a wide variety of styles. The Mass was composed in 1948, partly as a result of the composer’s desire to produce a truly liturgical piece using instruments, the use of which was banned in the Orthodox Church (the original score is for voices and double-wind quintet; on Ascension Day it will be played on the organ). The communion motet is O clap your hands together by Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625). Gibbons probably wrote the work as his doctoral exercise for Oxford University in 1622. James Kennerley
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . The Day of Pentecost, Sunday, May 27 . . . Monday, May 28, Memorial Day. The parish will observe its federal holiday schedule . . . Thursday, May 31, The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mass 12:10 PM & Mass 6:20 PM.
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. The date of the Walk is fast approaching and we still have a ways to go to meet our goal. We invite all members and friends of the parish to support this ministry and to be generous. Every donation counts and helps us to meet our goal! 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.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . 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. If you would like more information about how the Food Pantry works or if you would like to volunteer, please speak to Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., or Father Smith . . . Father Smith resumes his Book Sale on Sunday. All proceeds are used to benefit the Food Pantry and others who are in need.
WEDNESDAY NIGHT BIBLE STUDY CLASS . . . The class, which is reading the Letter to the Hebrews will meet on May 23 at 6:30 PM. The class will not meet on Wednesday, May 16. On May 23, the final class of the 2011-2012 academic year, the members of the class will share a potluck supper. All are invited to join us for this final class—and for the potluck! Jay Smith
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Illuminated: The Art of Sacred Books. April 6–September 3, 2012. At the Rubin Museum, 150 West 17th, New York City. “[This exhibition] explores the aesthetic and technological approaches used in creating and adorning sacred books from a variety of cultures [while] presenting Tibetan sacred books in a broad cross-cultural context. Among featured objects are several never before displayed illuminated Tibetan manuscript pages and complete books dating as early as the thirteenth century and written in gold and silver on dark blue and black paper of various sizes in the traditional Tibetan book format.”