FROM THE RECTOR: HISTORICITY
The General Convention in 2006 revised the “Guidelines and Procedures for Continuing Alteration of the Calendar in the Episcopal Church.” The first of ten “Principles of Revision” is “Historicity”:
Christianity is a radically historical religion, so in almost every instance it is not theological realities or spiritual movements but exemplary witness to the Gospel of Christ in lives actually lived that is commemorated in the Calendar (Lesser Feasts and Fasts 2006, 491).
I read the phrase “theological realities” to refer to Trinity Sunday or to the Feast of Christ the King, the twentieth-century commemoration of the Lordship of Christ that has crept into our calendar. (It is worth noting that the Church already had a celebration of Christ’s kingship in its calendar, namely The Epiphany). I’m not sure I understand what is meant by the phrase “spiritual movements.”
I am aware that there are many historical questions when it comes to the Bible, including the naming of Jesus’ apostles in the synoptic gospels. That said, Western Christianity had a Reformation in part to distance Christianity from pious legends. (The Roman Catholic Church can also point to the association of Bollandists and its Acta Sanctorum, a project dedicated to producing lives of the saints that are based on a scholarly analysis of the sources.) All such efforts have been inspired by the fact that, as the “Principles of Revision” so succinctly puts it, “Christianity is a radically historical religion.”
Quite a while ago, I realized that the current “trial-use” version for calendar revision called, Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (HWHM), includes a commemoration for “Cecilia, Martyr at Rome, c. 280” (November 22)—for whom no reliable historical record exists. My hunch is that Cecilia survived Roman Catholic calendar revision in 1969 because, unlike Saint Christopher—whose image always adorned the dashboard of my Roman Catholic grandfather’s car, she was named in the historic eucharistic canon of the Roman Church.
HWHM includes Cecilia with this explanation, “Many of the details of her life are unknown and much of what we do know comes from later periods” (694). That’s not quite accurate. None of the details of her life are reliably known, and everything that we “know” about her comes from later periods.
That’s also the problem with the HWHM proposal to name the parents of Mary for their commemoration on July 26. Heretofore the commemoration has been called simply, “The Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” There’s just no reliable historical foundation for the traditional names for Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim.
More recently, I realized HWHM even includes “George, Soldier and Martyr, c.304” (April 23). In their commentary to the Church of England’s Alternative Service Book 1980, co-authors Ronald C.D. Jasper (1917-1990) and Paul F. Bradshaw wrote, “It has to be admitted that one day in the list of Lesser Festivals which causes some misgiving is one which would produce consternation if it were omitted, namely, that of St George, the Patron Saint of England. He is a shadowy figure, and the circumstances surrounding his acceptance as patron saint are also obscure” (A Companion to the Alternative Service Book  63). Of course, we aren’t English. And again, there is no reliable historical record of his existence. I wonder why it was felt necessary to include this commemoration in HWHM?
Regular readers of this newsletter may know that I have been trying to work through what principles we should use at Saint Mary’s to determine what we celebrate on any given day, given the fact that we have so many, many options available to us.
For many, if not most, people in the Church, I suspect this really won’t matter very much. As a clergy colleague pointed out to me, no one is required to celebrate any of the lesser feasts, and certainly not the non-historical ones. That said, HWHM represents a real diminution in our standards—and don’t get me started on its ecumenical implications. The volume would also drive the copy editors in our parish crazy if they were to have a go at it.
I hope the leadership of our Episcopal Church is not neglecting what has always been our greatest resource for growth, mission and evangelism: Prayer Book worship. One of the many reasons I am a convinced Episcopalian is that this church, as much as any I know, has always been clear that we don’t have any need to make things up. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Jananie, Noël, Sharon, Chandra, Linda, Phillip, Ben, Autumn, Sandor, Elise, Janet, Rita, Robert, Janice, Casey, Angeline, George, Anna, Wayne, Barbara, Joseph, Arpene, Joyce, Dorothy, and Panteleimon, priest and religious; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Elizabeth, Nicholas, and Matthew; and for the repose of the soul of Robert Pierce . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . August 19: 1887 Edward Joseph Meehan; 1896 Mary Moore; 1927 Frances Elizabeth Barker.
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 . . . There will be a meeting of the Board of Trustees on Monday, August 20, at 6:30 PM, in the Mission House . . . Friday, August 24, Saint Bartholomew the Apostle, Mass at 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Father Jay Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, August 18. Father Stephen Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, August 25. If you do not see a priest in the church at the appointed times for confession, please speak to the sexton on duty and he will call the priest on duty; or you may call the parish office ahead of time to make an appointment.
HOSPITALITY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We are still receiving gifts to help cover some of the costs of the reception on August 15 and are hoping to receive donations for the reception on November 1. Please contact the parish office. We are also happy to receive donations to support our hospitality efforts on Sundays! Thank you to all who have made contributions to this very important ministry!
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Thank you to all those who did so much to make the Feast of the Assumption such a glorious day here at Saint Mary’s . . . Bob Picken and Rita Johnson continue to recuperate at home. Please keep them in your prayers . . . Donations are needed for altar flowers for the following Sundays and holy days: September 9 and 23; October 21 and 28; and All Saints’ Day, November 1. If you would like to donate flowers on one of those dates, please contact the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 189; Assumption 348.
HAPPY AND SAFE DELIVERIES . . . There were two additions to our parish family this week. Jananie Nair gave birth to a baby girl on Wednesday, August 15. Autumn Marton gave birth to a daughter, Elise, on Monday, August 13. Parents and daughters are doing well. Please keep them in your prayers.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The cantor at the Solemn Mass is Emily Werne, soprano. The prelude before the Solemn Mass is an improvisation on the tune Hyfrodol, sung as the hymn at the Preparation of the Gifts. At the ministration of Communion, Emily and I will sing the duet Domine Deus from Gloria in excelsis of the Messe in h–Moll (Mass in B minor), BWV 232, by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750). Parishioner and ‘cellist Grace Bruni plays continuo for the Bach. James Kennerley
A CALL FOR DONATIONS . . . The Inpatient Detoxification Program at St. Luke's Hospital is always in need of Bibles (editions with both the Old and the New Testaments), new basic personal items (especially t-shirts, socks, and small backpacks/totes), and ink pens for journaling (bank pens, hotel pens, all are fine). If you are willing and able to help, a box will be available in St. Joseph's Hall on Sunday mornings. If you have any questions, please contact Deacon Mary Jett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We are beginning now to gather toys and other gift items for children of all ages. They will be donated in November to the New York Foundling Hospital and AIDS Action International. Donations can be left, with a note on them explaining what they are for, in the parish kitchen or you may give the items to Father Jay Smith . . . We are also receiving donations of small- or medium-sized luggage to be used by children in foster care. The luggage is given to the Foundling Hospital. Please speak to Father Smith . . . 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 contact Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., or Father Jay Smith . . . Saint Mary’s assisting priest Father Pete Powell served for many years as executive director of Westport, Connecticut’s Homes with Hope, an organization that works with, and serves as advocate for, the homeless in Fairfield County. On Sunday, August 19, 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, Homes with Hope will be the sponsor and beneficiary of the Westport Antiques & Vintage Market, at Luciano Park, Franklin and Charles Streets, Westport, CT. The market will also take place on September 2, 16, and 30; and on October 14 and 21. Visit www.hwhct.org for more information. Jay Smith
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, September 3, Labor Day (Federal Holiday Schedule) . . . Friday, September 7, Eve of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary . . . Friday, September 14, Holy Cross Day . . . Friday, September 28, Eve of Saint Michael and All Angels . . . Wednesday, October 3, The Ordination of a Priest . . . Saturday, October 13, 6:00 to 9:00 PM, Oktoberfest & Hymn Sing.
HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE . . . Father Matthew Mead, rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Granite Springs—who served here as curate from 2004 to 2009—will be leading a pilgrimage to the Holy Land June 28 to July 8, 2013. The pilgrimage is open to anyone, and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to visit the Holy Land with a great group of Episcopalians. Please feel free to contact Father Mead at email@example.com. There will also be information about the pilgrimage on the table in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Sunday morning.