The Angelus

Volume 14, Number 9


During the run up to Christmas, a remark at the beginning of Raymond Brown’s The Birth of the Messiah [Updated edition, 1993] caught my attention, “I see no reason why a Catholic’s understanding of what Matthew and Luke meant in their infancy narratives should be different than a Protestant’s” (8).  I marked it.  I knew I would be writing in January about The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, and we are in it from January 18, The Confession of Saint Peter, through January 25, The Conversion of Saint Paul.  I thought Brown’s remark might be a starting point for an article about how different Christian churches are moving forward together in witness to Christ.

As I continued I came across a footnote in Brown—a Roman Catholic priest—about why the Roman Catholic’s New American Bible translates the Hebrew word for “young woman” in Isaiah 7:14 as “virgin.”  Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 as saying “a virgin will conceive and bear a son.”  But that’s not what the Hebrew text of Isaiah said, in Jesus’ day or now; “virgin” and “young woman” are different words in Hebrew.  In a footnote, Brown stated that the American Roman Catholic bishops “imposed” the word “virgin” on Isaiah 7:14 (146).

I have seen a television commercial by an organization called “Catholics Come Home.”  At first I thought I hadn’t heard the words correctly, “guided by the Holy Spirit, we compiled the Bible . . . we are the Catholic Church . . . the Church started by Jesus.”  But I had heard it right.  There was more along these lines on their web site.  In another commercial Peter is even called “the first pope.”  The list of theological advisers for this enterprise begins with the cardinal archbishop of Boston.  To borrow a phrase, it all makes the heart very sad.

Brown wrote his words about the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke in 1976.  That date is important.  Paul VI is bishop of Rome.  Karol Wojtyla is archbishop of Krakow; Joseph Ratzinger has just been appointed archbishop of Munich.  There were many theologians in the Roman Church who could see new ways forward ecumenically; but they were to remain in the minority.

On June 16, 2000, John Paul II essentially redefined the ecumenical movement for a generation or more with a “declaration” written by Cardinal Ratzinger.  The document is known by its Latin beginning, Dominus Iesus, that is, “Lord Jesus.”  It makes clear how one is to read and understand the Vatican II decree on ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, that is, “restoration of unity.”  Anglicans and other Protestants are not members of a “church in a proper sense.”  Instead, we are members of “ecclesial communities.”  This language isn’t new; but the restatement by a current bishop of Rome was significant.

Before continuing, let’s all be clear about three things that are historical fact: (1) the apostle Peter was not a “pope”; (2) Jesus did not “ordain” anyone; and (3) Jesus did not found the “Catholic Church.”  To speak in these ways is anachronistic, that is, reading future events into the past.  If there is a way forward for the ecumenical movement, it includes telling the truth about what the Bible says and doesn’t say, about what the historical record is and what it is not.

Surprisingly, the origins of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are in the Anglo-catholic tradition of the Episcopal Diocese of New York.  The Reverend Paul Wattson and Sr. Lurana White were co-founders in this diocese of Franciscan religious orders.  Christian reunion was on the minds of many in the American Church in the nineteenth century.  Anglo-catholics like Wattson and White saw that unity in reunion with the Roman Church.  In 1908, Wattson started the “Church Unity Octave” (that is, “eight” days of prayer).  They and their religious communities became Roman Catholics in 1909.

It is telling that the octave was renamed by Wattson in 1931 as the “Chair Unity Octave,” the chair being the bishop of Rome.  The octave seemed to gain a new direction after Vatican II.  Since 1966 the observance has been a joint project of the World Council of Churches and the Roman Church.  It was given the name we now have.  But, as Dominus Iesus made very clear, little has changed.

No church is perfect.  But I choose to belong to a church where telling the truth about what we know and don’t know, what we hope and what we don’t hope, is crucial.  We seek to know the truth and then move in that direction—and to be honest about what we don’t know.  In John’s gospel Jesus says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32).  If there will be unity among us, it starts and ends with truth, that is, with Jesus Christ.  Stephen Gerth


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Mary, Andrew, Michael, Arpene, Susan, Lawrence, Paris, Chandra, John, Ann, Ruth, Dorothy, Richard, Peter, Linda, Odin, Jim, Dorothy, Gert, Rick, James, religious, and Deborah Francis, religious; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Matthew, Mark, John, and Rob . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 22: 1882 Elizabeth L. Kintzing; 1890 Maria Maduro Van Epp; 1903 Mary A. Glover; 1918 Beatriz Mallet-Prevost Murphy; 1983 Faith Trumbull Cleveland.


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 . . . On Sunday, January 22, at 10:00 AM, Father Jim Pace will continue his three-part series, Comfort and Suffering.  Father Pace is an assisting priest here at Saint Mary’s.  He also serves as associate dean for Undergraduate Programs at New York University’s College of Nursing . . . Wednesday, January 25, The Conversion of Saint Paul, the End of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Mass at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Father Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, January 21. Father Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, January 28.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . Altar flowers are needed for January 29 (Epiphany 4), February 12 (Epiphany 6), and March 14 (Rose Sunday).  If you would like to make a donation, please contact Aaron Koch in the Finance Office . . . Father Jay Smith will be on retreat and away from the parish between Wednesday, January 18, and Saturday, January 21.  He returns to the parish on Sunday, January 22 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 244.


BISHOPS AT SAINT MARY’S IN FEBRUARY . . . The Right Reverend Mark S. Sisk, bishop of New York, will be celebrant and preacher for Blessing of Candles, Procession & Solemn Mass on the Feast of the Presentation, Thursday, February 2, at 6:00 PM . . . The Right Reverend C. Franklin Brookhart, Jr., the bishop of Montana will ordain Mary Julia Jett deacon on Monday, February 6, at 6:00 PM . . . The Right Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, will be celebrant and preacher for the Solemn Mass on the First Day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, February 22, at 6:00 PM.


SUPER BOWL PARTY . . . This year’s party will take place in Saint Joseph’s Hall on Sunday, February 5, beginning at 6:00 PM, after Evensong and Benediction.  Kickoff is at 6:30 PM.  Grace Bruni is organizing the event.  If you would like to bring something to eat and to share, please speak to Grace.  Beverages are provided.  This is always a good opportunity to bring friends or those looking for a parish home to Saint Mary’s.


PALM SUNDAY BRASS . . . It is a fact of life: music costs money.  Brass players for our procession on Palm Sunday through Times Square will cost $1,750.  Contributions are needed and will be received with great thanks.  No other service of the year reveals Saint Mary’s vocation as a liturgical, urban parish more than this one does.  Please make your gifts payable to Saint Mary’s and indicate it is for “Palm Sunday Brass.”  This is the second time of asking.  S.G.


THE 235th CONVENTION OF THE DIOCESE OF NEW YORK . . . Convention took place last Saturday, January 14, at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. Saint Mary’s was represented by Father Gerth and Father Smith, as well as by Dr. Leroy Sharer and Dr. Mark Risinger.  A summary of most Convention business is available on the diocesan website.  The website does not yet seem to provide information about those who were elected to diocesan-wide offices.  Mother Kathleen Liles, a good friend of Saint Mary’s and rector of the Church of Christ and Saint Stephen, was elected to a term on the Standing Committee of the Diocese.


(In every diocese, there is a “standing committee” comprised of clergy and laypersons, generally half priests and half laypersons.  In the absence of a bishop, the standing committee acts as the “ecclesiastical authority,” unless otherwise provided by the canons of a diocese—that responsibility could be given by canon to a suffragan bishop.  No church or institution of the diocese may sell or mortgage property without the permission of both the bishop and the standing committee.  The bishop cannot ordain anyone without the permission of this committee.  When a diocese elects a bishop, in addition to the permission of a majority of the bishops with jurisdiction, a bishop may not be consecrated without the permission of a majority of the standing committees.  Standing committees may act as consuls of advice for a bishop when he or she seeks such advice.)


CONFIRMATION & RECEPTION . . . If you believe that the time has come for you to make an adult affirmation of faith by getting confirmed or being received into the Episcopal Church, please speak to Father Gerth or Father Smith.  Bishop Charles E. Jenkins, X Bishop of Louisiana and a great friend of Saint Mary’s, will preside and preach at the Easter Vigil, on Saturday, April 7.  This is a wonderful time for confirmation, reception, and, of course, for baptism!


FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The prelude this Sunday is the second movement (Andante) from Sonata in G, Opus 28, for organ by Sir Edward Elgar (1857–1934).  The setting of the Mass ordinary is Missa Cantate domino by Alonso Lobo (c. 1555–1617).  Lobo was an important Spanish composer of the generation following Francisco Guerrero (1528–1599), whom he served as assistant at Seville Cathedral.  Many years later he was Guerrero’s successor there.  At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the anthem Here is the little door, a setting of words by Frances Chesterton by Herbert Howells (1892–1983).  It forms one of a set of three carol-anthems composed between 1918 and 1920, a time when the composer was still developing his very personal style.  James Kennerley


OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to collect non-perishable food items and cash donations for our outreach partner, the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry.  Please look for the collection basket in the back of the church on Sunday mornings.  We are grateful to all those who continue to support the Food Pantry so generously.  Your gifts are exceedingly important at the moment due to state and local budget cuts.  Jay Smith


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.  Father Beddingfield, formerly a member of the clergy of the United Presbyterian Church, was sponsored for ordination by this parish.  He worked here as the parish administrator before his ordination and as curate thereafter.  We are very happy, and grateful, that he has agreed to be with us in March.


CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . On Sunday, January 22, Father Pace continues with the second of his a three-part series, Comfort and Suffering.  Newcomers are welcome . . . . On Sunday, February 5, Father Jay Smith will begin a three-part series entitled What Do Episcopalians Believe?  For this series, Father Smith will be working with a new book, What Episcopalians Believe: An Introduction (Morehouse Publishing, 2011), written by Samuel Wells, the Dean of the Duke University Chapel and Research Professor of Christian Ethics at Duke Divinity School.  Copies of the book can be purchased at or in the parish gift shop.  There are now several copies of the book in the Gift Shop and more have been ordered . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will resume on February 8 at 6:30 PM in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House.  The first 4 sessions of the class will take place on February 8, 15, 29, and March 7.  We will be reading the Letter to the Hebrews this semester.  J.R.S.


AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . December 7, 2011–May 14, 2012, Transition to Christianity: Art of Late Antiquity, 3rd-7th Century AD, at the Onassis Cultural Center, Olympic Tower, 645 Fifth Avenue, entrances on 51st and 52nd Streets, between Madison and Fifth Avenues.