The Angelus

Volume 15, Number 16


Patrick Regan is a senior liturgical scholar in the Roman Catholic Church. He is a Benedictine monk and served as abbot of Saint Joseph’s Abbey in Covington, Louisiana. Since his retirement he has taught at the Pontifical Athenaeum of Saint Anselm in Rome. I had the privilege of meeting him some years ago. For the last month I’ve been reading his book published last fall, Advent to Pentecost: Comparing the Seasons in the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite. It’s very much about his ecclesial community, but as we share a common heritage there’s a lot there for us.

There are many reasons why most Christians think of Palm Sunday as two things: Palms and Eucharist. These are, in fact, two major and distinct worship traditions on the Sunday before Easter that we Episcopalians now call “The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday”—for the record, this Sunday has had a lot of names through the centuries in our own and in other denominations. About what we have come to know and expect on Palm Sunday Regan writes, “Each part originated independently of the other at roughly the same time but at different places in the ancient Christian world: the procession at Jerusalem, the Mass at Rome” (Advent to Pentecost [2012] 106). The services come to be joined together first in Spain, then Gaul, then Germany. In the 1100s the combined services arrive in Rome and from there spread everywhere in the West.

Beginning in the Middle Ages, the liturgy of the palms will be turned into something of a “mini-Solemn Mass.” To use a phrase I learned from my liturgics professor Louis Weil, the ceremonies of the Medieval Solemn Mass “bled” into the liturgy of the palms. It became about the palms and the palms became special—not to mention relics of the donkey (Ulrich Luz, Matthew 21-28: A Commentary [2005] 17). Regan’s work confirms what I learned from Weil: in Jerusalem it was about the people of God “imitating” the words of the gospel. The crowds acclaimed Jesus and welcomed him to the city he loved most of all, the city where he would die, rise and ascend to glory.

In the late fourth century, the Jerusalem liturgy was simple—and clear—compared to what would come later. The people gathered with their bishop and clergy on the Mount of Olives in the evening on the Sunday before Easter. They heard the account of Jesus’ entrance and then they processed into the city—everyone, young and old. There is no blessing of branches—because it’s not about the branches; it’s about welcoming the Lord. There is no Mass of the Passion—again it’s Sunday night. In Jerusalem, the passion is commemorated on Friday (John Wilkinson, Egeria’s Travels to the Holy Land [1981] 133).

Rome has a different tradition. We know that in fifth century Rome, the Sunday before Easter is Rome’s “Good Friday.” The gospel is Matthew’s passion. The Prayer Book collect for the day is essentially Cranmer’s translation of the collect used in Rome in the seventh century, found in the text called the “Gelasian Sacramentary.” The prayer is about God sending his son in “great humility” to suffer. It asks that “we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection.” Cranmer added one phrase to the original prayer which is very wonderful: “God who of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son”—the “tender love towards mankind” is Cranmer. Massey Shepherd wrote about this prayer, “This Collect is the nearest thing to a statement of the doctrine of the Atonement in the Prayer Book, and it is significant that it associates it with Christ’s Incarnation no less than his Passion” (The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary [1950] 134).

I think it’s worth stating that Saint Mary’s is an urban parish community. Our buildings and our worship are shaped by the reality that we live in a city as much as anything else. As it is, we have no practical way of gathering outside of our church on Palm Sunday morning at 11:00 AM to hear the gospel and to process with song to the church. But, we do have a place to gather (the church!) and we do have a place that invites all of us to move and welcome Christ the Lord: Times Square. After the procession, we enter the church to celebrate Christ’s humility, death, resurrection, ascension, and, above all, his tender love. Stephen Gerth


YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Eloise, Sharon, Cheryl, Christopher, Jane, Scott, Eleanor, Casey, Charles, Jake, Diana, Kathy, James, Chelsea, Tiffany, Wendy, Stephen, Dolores, Wayne, Eileen, Linda, Arpene, Rowan, priest, Paulette, priest, and Christopher, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially John, Elizabeth, and Nicholas . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 17: 1911 Mary Egan; 1932 Elizabeth Oget; 1949 Karen Marie Tyler.


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.


THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Church School for younger children meets this Sunday at 9:45 AM in the Parish House . . . The Adult Forum continues this Sunday at 10:00 AM, in the Mission House . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on Wednesday, March 20, at 6:30 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Tuesday, March 19: Saint Joseph’s Day. Mass at 12:10 PM and at 6:20 PM . . . Stations of the Cross, Friday, March 22, 6:30 PM . . . Father Jim Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, March 16. Father Stephen Gerth will hear confessions on Saturday, March 23.


AROUND THE PARISH . . . The complete service list for Holy Week and Easter Day is available on the parish webpage . . . Father Smith returns to Saint Mary’s on Sunday, March 17 . . . Congratulations to Mother Mary Julia Jett, who is one of four accepted to the Ph.D. program at the Union Theological Seminary for the fall of 2013 . . . The Right Reverend Michael Marshall, interim rector, the Church of the Heavenly Rest, New York City, will be preacher for the 6:00 PM Solemn Mass on the Annunciation, celebrated this year on Monday, April 8 . . . The Right Reverend Geralyn Wolf, XII Bishop of Rhode Island, will be celebrant and preacher for the 6:00 PM Solemn Mass on Ascension Day . . . Copies of Pater Seraphicus: David Enlow Plays César Franck, recorded on Saint Mary’s organ are available from James Kennerley . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 198.


FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . “I'm...on to the Missa Brevissima,” William Walton (1902–1983) remarked to a friend in 1965. “I doubt if there will be more than eight to ten minutes of it. Remembering the boredom I suffered as a dear little choirboy, I've made it a point of making it as brevissima as possible.” In his characteristically self-effacing and irreverent tone, Walton's remark referred to the Missa Brevis (literally “Short Mass”), which had been commissioned by the Friends of the recently-built Coventry Cathedral. Walton, a versatile composer who wrote in many genres, was an important part of England’s musical establishment during his life, chronologically between Vaughan Williams and Britten. The Communion motet is the setting by Kenneth Leighton (1929–1988) of Phineas Fletcher’s (1582–1650) poem, Drop, drop slow tears. It is taken from a larger work, Crucifixus pro nobis (1961), and is a setting of the hymn usually sung to Orlando Gibbons' tune Song 46. James Kennerley


AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Up to Jerusalem: A Day’s Retreat with Barbara Crafton, Saturday, March 23, 9:00 AM–3:00 PM, The Community of Saint John Baptist, Mendham, NJ. Cost for the day (lunch included) is $65.00. Please call 973-543-4641, ext. 9, for more information. A deposit of $20.00 is required to reserve a place.


OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . 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 speak to Mother Mary Julia or Jake Miller about our efforts here at the parish. 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 very much appreciated . . . Donations to the Bishop Sisk Fund for the Care of Children in the Diocese of New York may be made here.