FROM THE RECTOR: LENT IS UPON US
The English word “Lent” derives from Old English lencten, that is, “lengthen”—in other words, the part of the year when the days are getting longer. We call it spring. The Latin name for this season is “Quadragesima,” that is, “forty.” Many may remember that in previous Prayer Books the three Sundays before Ash Wednesday were known as Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima for—respectively and approximately—seventy, sixty and fifty days before Easter. At the time of Pope Leo the Great (c. 400-461), Quadragesima is the Sunday that is actually forty full days before Good Friday. But it doesn’t stay that way.
When it is decided in seventh century Rome that Sundays can’t be days of fasting (in Rome they were never days of fasting before then), the Wednesday before Quadragesima takes on the role of the first day of Lent. Ashes for everyone, not just penitents, gets going in the eighth and ninth centuries in the West. One notes, the historic gospel for the day is the one we still use. In this passage from Matthew, Jesus says, among other things, “When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:17-18). Ashes did not make an official appearance in the Episcopal Prayer book until 1979.
In the twentieth century, the Roman Catholic Church took the lead in restoring the integrity of the ancient fifty days of Eastertide and the Easter Triduum. The Roman Church decided not to give up Ash Wednesday for pastoral reasons and the rest of the Western churches followed its lead.
As the fourth century began the last great persecution of the Christian community in the Roman Empire was about to start. But within not much more than a decade, Constantine will be emperor and Christianity will be legal in the Mediterranean world. When I read the history of this period the words “improvisation” and “change” keep popping into my head. Across the fourth and fifth centuries, the Christian community will grow tremendously. It adapts, it does new things, to respond to the work God was doing in it its time.
Christians in the first centuries usually fasted for one or more days before being baptized. Three-week periods of preparation before baptism at Easter were known in Rome. A forty-day post-baptism fast, in imitation of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness after his baptism, was practiced in parts of the East. By the end of the fifth century, infant baptisms are normative everywhere. Babies don’t fast. Instead, the various practices are transformed into a season of preparation for celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Before the Church could figure out what we know as Lent, it had to figure out the prior question of what and when Easter would be. When Christians only met on Sundays, the first Easter seems to have been a celebration of Jesus’ death—the original Good Friday. Another problem was when to have this celebration. There was an early and not insignificant group of Christians who celebrated what we know as Easter on the day of Passover itself. It wasn’t until the Council of Nicaea in 325 that Easter Day settles on Sunday everywhere.
The first day of Lent this year is Wednesday, February 13. The Episcopal Church asks its members to observe Ash Wednesday (and Good Friday) as a day of fasting and to observe with “special acts of discipline and self-denial” the ordinary weekdays of Lent (but never Sundays or Saint Joseph’s Day and the Annunciation when they fall during the season.)
I confess that sometimes it drives me crazy that our church has so few rules, but most of the time I know that this is its honest genius. The work God is doing in any of our lives is often most fruitful when we as individuals take responsibility for our part in this relationship, for our own actions—in contrast to a man named Adam who tried to blame his eating of an apple on someone else. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Krisleah, Sharon, Michael, Cheryl, James, Cheryl, Robert, Errol, Diana, Tiffany, Wendy, Stephen, Dolores, Donna, Judy, Philip, Barbara, Eileen, Linda, Arpene, Joshua, Rowan, priest, and Paulette, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially John, Elizabeth, Nicholas, and Matthew . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 10: 1895 Francis Jacob Dominick, Margaret Jane Cochrane; 1896 Elizabeth Lander; 1918 Clara Howard Robinson; 1934 Richard Ellis Jones; 1956 James Harvey Carll, Jr.; 1968 John E. Mery Lees; 1983 Constance R. Earle.
THE WEEKDAYS OF LENT are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. The Fridays of Lent are also traditionally observed by abstinence from flesh meats.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS are offered on all Fridays in Lent at 6:30 PM, immediately following Evening Prayer.
2013 STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . As of February 5, we have reached 90% of our goal of $450,000.00. We still very much hope that we will receive pledges from those who are new to the parish or who have never pledged before. We invite all friends and members of the parish to make a pledge for 2013. As the Stewardship Committee has written, “All of Saint Mary’s members and friends can help us provide a spiritual home at the Crossroads of the World. Saint Mary’s exists to heal the spiritual wounds inflicted by an indifferent and sometimes cruel world. We offer our building, our music and our clergy and parishioners as a living presence of spiritual healing in Times Square.” We invite all the readers of the newsletter to join our efforts to balance our budget and fulfill our mission. We are very grateful to all those who have made a pledge for 2013. If you have questions, or if you would like to receive a pledge card, please contact the parish office.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Church School for younger children meets this Sunday at 9:45 AM in the Atrium on the second floor of the Parish House . . . The Adult Forum continues on Sunday, February 10, at 10:00 AM, in the Mission House . . . February 13, Ash Wednesday, Mass 7:00 AM, 8:00 AM, 12:10 PM, and 6:00 PM. Ashes will be distributed throughout the day, 7:00 AM-8:00 PM . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Ash Wednesday. The class resumes on February 20 . . . Friday, February 15, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross . . . Father Stephen Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, February 9. Father Jay Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, February 16.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Thank you to all those who worked so hard to make Candlemas such a wonderful day, and such a fine celebration, here at the parish. Thank you also to all those who helped organize the Super Bowl Party last Sunday. We had a large turnout, which capped off a very busy weekend here at the parish. We are grateful to all those who worked hard to make it all happen . . . Attendance: Candlemas 168, Last Sunday 226.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . On Sunday the setting of the Mass ordinary at the Solemn Mass is Missa brevis (1977) by Jackson Hill (b. 1941), professor of music at Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. This setting for unaccompanied choir was written for Louise Basbas and her choir at Corpus Christi Church, New York. The piece reflects a variety of moods, and the composer shows himself remarkably sensitive to the texts of each movement. The composer of the Communion anthem, A New Song (1997), is James MacMillan (b. 1959), a Scottish-born Roman Catholic who has become one of Britain’s finest living composers of liturgical music. His music is always eloquent and deeply prayerful, and his elegant and striking setting of a portion of Psalm 96 causes the text to be heard in a new way . . . Colin MacKnight, The Juilliard School, will play the organ recital at 4:40 PM on Sunday. Music is by William E. Krape and Max Reger (1873–1916) . . . On Ash Wednesday, during the imposition of ashes, the choir sings Miserere mei, Deus by Gregorio Allegri (1582–1652), the famous setting of Psalm 51 that for years was only performed on Good Friday at the Vatican (the score was kept secret). The version we know today, however, including the notoriously high soprano part, largely comes from ornamentation added in the nineteenth century. The setting of the Mass ordinary is Mass for Five Voices by William Byrd (c. 1540–1623). The choir also sings the motet Civitas sancti tui for five voices, also by Byrd. It is the second part Ne irascaris, domine, and was published as part of Byrd’s 1589 Cantiones sacrae collection . . . A reminder: on Saturday, February 9, I will perform Joseph Jongen’s magnificent organ concerto, Symphonie Concertante, with the New York Repertory Orchestra here at Saint Mary’s. Admission is free. James Kennerley
HOSPITALITY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Donations are most welcome for the receptions following our feast-day Masses this year. We are still looking for help with our receptions after the Easter Vigil (March 30) and on the Feast of the Annunciation (April 8). We also welcome donations to assist with our hospitality efforts on Sundays. Hospitality is a crucial part of both outreach and evangelism at Saint Mary’s. The Budget Committee and the Board of Trustees has allocated additional funds this year for this ministry. We ask for your help with this ministry and we thank all those who have made donations to our hospitality fund. If you have questions, please speak to Father Gerth, Father Smith, or parish treasurer Steven Heffner.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . The Adult Forum continues on Sunday, February 10, at 10:00 AM, in the Mission House. This week we will conclude our three-part Faith and Work series. Two members of the parish will discuss the intersection of faith, prayer, spirituality, society, and work in their lives. Our discussions thus far have been lively and provocative. We invite you to join us. Father Jay Smith will moderate the discussion . . . On Sunday, February 17, the First Sunday of Lent Father Peter Powell will resume his series on Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans . . . On Wednesday, February 20, at 6:30 PM, Mother Mary Julia Jett will take over the leadership of the mid-week Bible Study Class. This class will begin a discussion of the Book of the Prophet Zechariah . . . The Sunday-morning Adult Forum takes place in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class is held, when possible, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Newcomers are always welcome at all of our adult-education classes. James Ross Smith
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . The Metropolitan Japanese Ministry invites you to a Silent Auction and Concert to support the Wakamatsu Sei Ai Kindergarten and the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Sunday, March 10, 3:30-6:30 PM, the Church of Saint James the Less, 10 Church Lane, Scarsdale, NY. Admission $20.00. For more information: 914-723-6118 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, February 9, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra, David Leibowitz, music director & James Kennerley, organ soloist. Music by Hovhaness, Jongen and Busoni. Admission is free . . . Saturday, April 6, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra. Music by Guzzo, Smetana, Bottesini, and Elgar. Admission is free.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Donations to aid in the post-Hurricane Sandy relief effort within the Diocese of New York continue to be handled by Episcopal Charities of the Diocese of New York . . . For information about how to volunteer for post-hurricane relief efforts in Brooklyn and Staten Island, please visit the website of the Hurricane Sandy Relief Kitchen . . . We continue to gather warm clothing—socks, coats of all sizes, sweaters, and sweatshirts—and blankets for distribution to the homeless in our neighborhood. Some of those items, as well as non-perishable food items, will be sent to the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please contact Sister Deborah Francis for more information about the Pantry’s work . . . The Book Sale continues on Sunday. All proceeds benefit those in need. Thank you to all those who have donated books for the sale. Your generosity is most appreciated.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, February 18, Washington’s Birthday (commonly known as “Presidents’ Day”), Federal Holiday schedule . . . Monday, February 25, Saint Matthias (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Sunday March 10, Daylight Saving Time begins.