FROM THE RECTOR: ALREADY HERE
Last Sunday, as I was working on my sermon, I was surprised to discover that the appointed gospel now heard on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, John 14:23-29 (“If anyone loves me, he or she will keep my commandments . . . ”) used to be part of the gospel passage Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Roman Catholics all read on Pentecost before the revisions of the 1970s. The historic reading for Pentecost, it turns out, is not the one most of us are used to: John’s account of Jesus’ appearance to his disciples on the evening of Easter Day and the gift of the Holy Spirit to them to forgive sins (John 20:19-23).
The traditional Pentecost reading was a longer passage, John 14:23-31, from John’s account of the supper before the Passover. It is about the love Jesus and the Father have for the disciples and about how they will send the “Helper, the Holy Spirit” to be with them. Jesus tells them these things so that when they happen, the disciples may believe—belief being the heart of the matter in this gospel. Liturgical scholar Patrick Regan prefers the Easter Day reading for Pentecost because it connects the gift of the Spirit to the resurrection (Advent to Pentecost  292). I can’t say he’s wrong, but I’m not sure this passage really does push back very much against the disassociation of the gift of the Spirit from the Paschal mystery that has happened over time.
Father Regan is certainly right that Pentecost is more about the Paschal mystery than the gift of speaking in tongues (Pentecost’s first lesson, Acts 2:1-11)—and blessed are you if you have never had to endure a Pentecost Sunday without the nonsense that can be had by playing with language or flying doves or people and churches decked out in red. (Balloons for a while were an Ascension Day fad.)
The late Raymond Brown associated the gift of the Spirit in John not just with the appearance on Easter Day (“[Jesus] breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’" (John 20:22-23). Jesus had told his disciples the Spirit would be given to those who believed when he had been “glorified” (John 7:39). And from the cross John says, “When Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’; and he bowed his head and gave up his Spirit” (John 19:30). Jesus’ glory is his death and resurrection (A Crucified Christ for Holy Week  66).
As I write on the morning of Ascension Day, I am very aware that the liturgies for the rest of the Easter Season are still marked by a sense that Jesus is going away today and God won’t be back until Pentecost. What happened is this: Luke’s chronology in the Acts of the Apostles about Jesus’ ascension on the fortieth day (Acts 1:1-11) overtook Luke’s own chronology about an Easter Day ascension in his gospel (Luke 24:50-53).
Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell Johnson in their recent book note that the fifty-day season, we know as Easter, originally called Pentecost, probably has its origins in the second century, but is not “widely attested” until the fourth century (The Origins of Feasts, Fasts and Seasons in Early Christianity  72). In the end, this fifty-day season didn’t endure, when the Day of Pentecost and then Ascension Day evolved into celebrations in their own right. My hunch is that this was possible in part because the church in the fourth and fifth centuries still had a lively sense that every Sunday was a celebration of the resurrection. When that broke down, the early Christian community’s instinct about the essential unity of Jesus’ resurrection, ascension, and the gift of the Spirit began to fade.
I don’t think we need to have less Ascension Day or less of the Day of Pentecost, but I think worship and preaching should help us remember that resurrection, ascension and the gift of the Spirit are aspects of God’s plan for humankind—and not conclusions, endings, things in themselves. We should not think we are more of this world—left alone, waiting, than we are of the world to come. We have been reborn in baptism through the power of the Spirit. God has already brought us eternal life by faith. We pray that he may keep us in this new life. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Peter, Penny, Charles, Ethelyn, Casey, Jack, Richard, Trevor, John, Kelli, Nancy, Ruth, Eloise, Sharon, Linda, Cheryl, Wayne, Christopher, Jane, Diana, Dolores, Eileen, Arpene, Lura Grace, religious, Rowan, priest, Paulette, priest, and John, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Marc, John, Elizabeth, and Nicholas; and for the repose of the souls of Mary Dawson and John Evans Owen, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . May 12: 1898 Elizabeth Clarke; 1905 Mary J. Scofield; 1922 Ina Thomas; 1924 Alice D. Raymond.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and the Adult Forum meet for the last Sunday of this academic year . . . The installation of the new sound system for the church begins on Monday, May 13 . . . On Saturday, May 18, the New York Repertory Orchestra will have its final performance of the season here at 8:00 PM.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Donations for altar flowers are needed for two Sundays during the month of June: June 9 and 16. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . The Institute of Classical Architecture & Art recently announced its Arthur Ross Awards for 2013. Parishioner Thomas Jayne was given the award for interior design . . . The Rector will be away from the parish from Friday, May 10, until Sunday evening May, 12. He will be preaching at Trinity-by-the Cove Church, Naples, Florida . . . Father Jay Smith will be away from the parish next week at a Leadership in Ministry Conference. He returns to the parish on Saturday, May 18 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 268.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The setting of the Mass ordinary this Sunday is the Communion Service in B–flat, Opus 10/4, by Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924). The Irish–born Stanford composed a large output of varied music, though he is remembered best, perhaps, for his many contributions to Anglican Church music. His Opus 10, composed in 1878, contains music for the Morning, Evening and Communion Offices. It lacks a setting of the Agnus Dei, so we are singing Stanford’s own setting from the Communion Service F. The Communion motet is Ave Maria by Anton Bruckner (1824–1896). Bruckner wrote this seven-part setting in 1861, making it the first major composition that he completed after five years of arduous study with Simon Sechter at the Vienna Conservatory. Bruckner was very much involved with the Cecilian Movement. The movement was a reform of the Roman church during the nineteenth century that attempted to restore Gregorian chant, as well as the works of Palestrina, Lassus and Victoria to the liturgy. Contemporary composers also adopted Renaissance techniques for their compositions. Hence Bruckner scores this work for unaccompanied voices, and he employs counterpoint between the lower and upper voices
. . . At 4:40 PM on Sunday, Iain Quinn will play the organ recital. Dr. Quinn has recently been appointed to the position of Adjunct Professor of Organ at Florida State University. James Kennerley
JUST PUBLISHED . . . A new book by the Reverend Dr. Louis Weil, Liturgical Sense: The Logic of Rite (New York: Church Publishing, 2013) is now available. Father Weil is the James F. Hodges and Harold and Rita Haynes Professor Emeritus of Liturgics at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. He is a great friend of Saint Mary’s, a parish he has known since his days at the General Theological Seminary. He and his work are well-known to many in this parish. My copy of the book has just arrived and I hope very much you can see his work reflected in our own common life. S.G.
AIDS WALK 2013 . . . The AIDS Walk is on Sunday, May 19, and Saint Mary’s team is coming to Solemn Mass, then walking along behind the crowd of 40,00+ walkers. Our walk is one of Saint Mary’s major outreach efforts. In 2012, the Saint Mary's AIDS Walk Team ranked 23rd among the 3,410 teams that walked. We are slow walkers and determined fundraisers. Our 2013 goal is to raise $20,000. The money we raise is used by Gay Men’s Health Crisis in the fight against AIDS and to provide education, treatment, and care for people who are at risk of infection, are HIV-positive, or have AIDS. Fifty percent of last year’s Maundy Thursday offering was contributed to our AIDS Walk. Won’t you make a contribution to our team? A link to our team’s web page is here. Copies of our informational flyer can be found on the table near the church entrances or downloaded from the parish website. You can also contact Father Jay Smith or MaryJane Boland, the team coordinator. Thank you so much to all those who have supported the team this year. We’ll keep you posted on how we do!
VISUAL ARTS PROJECT (VAP) . . . A new exhibition of work by the photographer and artist Máximo Colón was installed in Saint Joseph's Hall this week. The exhibition is called Devoción. Colón is working here within the “found-object” tradition, discovering and re-using materials and objects to create a new aesthetic. The centerpieces of the works are a collection of santos (“saints”), produced by Latin American artists and artisans, many of which have been housed here in wooden boxes called nichos. Such nichos were traditionally placed in the home, and were used as shrines and altars for prayer, veneration, and devotion. The nichos are complemented in the exhibit by Colón’s photographs, each of which, in its own way, represents an act of devotion. In this exhibit, the artist has blended the religious with the secular, the private with the public, childhood memories of his native Puerto Rico along with a seasoned, political worldview. Devoción runs from May 1 until the beginning of June. The opening reception is on Ascension Day, May 9, at 7:30 PM. For more information, or to view the work on weekdays and Saturdays, please contact me. José Vidal
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . On Sunday, May 12, at 10:00 AM, Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will conclude her three-part series in the Adult Forum, Angles of Anglican Poetry: Clerics, Converts, Contrarians, and Crossovers. Rebecca will be discussing the work of Donne, Herbert, Hopkins, Rossetti, and Eliot, among others. This will be the final class in the 2012-2013 adult-education series. Classes will resume in October, after the summer break. Saint Marians owe a debt of gratitude to all of our fine teachers who volunteered their time and shared their knowledge and expertise with us this year . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study met for its last class this season on May 8. The members of the class will gather one more time, on Wednesday, May 22, at 6:30 PM, for dinner at a local restaurant. If you would like to come along, just let me know. James Ross Smith
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Electronic versions of the New York City Coalition Against Hunger’s Guide to Free Food and Assistance are available here . . . We continue to gather non-perishable food items for Saint Clement’s Pantry. Please contact Sister Deborah Francis for more information about the Pantry’s work.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . May 26, Trinity Sunday, Solemn Mass and Te Deum, 11:00 AM . . . Monday, May 27, Memorial Day. Federal Holiday schedule . . . June 2, The Body & Blood of Christ: Corpus Christi, Solemn Mass, Procession to Times Square, and Eucharistic Benediction, 11:00 AM.
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, May 18, 2013, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra. Airi Yoshioka, violin soloist; David Leibowitz, music director. Music by Mauer, Sibelius, and Debussy. Admission is free. For more information, please visit the NYRO website.