FROM THE RECTOR: CORPUS CHRISTI HISTORY
Nathan Mitchell is a liturgical theologian, now emeritus, at the University of Notre Dame. His book Cult and Controversy: The Worship of the Eucharist Outside Mass (1982) remains the standard work on the subject of Eucharistic adoration apart from Mass.
In his book Mitchell locates the origins of the adoration of the Eucharistic bread and wine in the cultural history of the eleventh and twelfth centuries in Western Europe. Before then, Eucharistic theology had begun to be the subject of bitter controversy beginning in the ninth century. The Eucharistic bread itself will become a focus of intense devotion in a time when Eucharistic reception was rare, probably only at Easter, for Christians who were not priests or bishops.
Before the beginning of the thirteenth century, the congregation saw the bread and wine only at the invitation to receive Communion. Then, a new practice appears: the elevation of the bread and cup after the words over them in the Eucharistic Prayer. Seeing the Eucharist quickly becomes the medieval substitute for receiving the Eucharist—genuflections, bells, incense will follow. Rereading parts of Mitchell’s book, I realized I had forgotten that instead of bringing the Eucharist to the dying, in this period the host would be brought so those near death could see it.
Pope Urban IV instituted the Feast of the Body of Christ in 1264; Pope John XII added a procession to the service in 1316. Eucharistic Exposition—exposing the bread for adoration, and then blessing with the host also becomes a concluding rite to either vespers or compline. (Mitchell, 178-186). Mitchell concludes his survey, “ . . . it must be emphasized that at their origins eucharistic devotions were not designed to eliminate or replace the normative expression of faith [emphasis added] in the celebration of the liturgy . . . devotions are seen as ways to encourage, not inhibit, popular participation in both Mass and the liturgy of the hours” (Ibid., 186). What was this normative expression of faith? Eating and drinking the Body and Blood of Christ.
I think it’s fair to say Eucharistic adoration arrives at Saint Mary’s with the opening of the doors of the first parish church home on December 8, 1870. In addition to the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, Mass is celebrated daily. The parish leadership, clergy and laity, are very much a part of the emerging Anglo-Catholic movement. The rector, Thomas McKee Brown, was one of the founders of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament. The first issue of the parish’s first newsletter, “The Arrow,” for October 1881, lists a meeting for Mass for the confraternity on the fourth Thursday of the month. The newsletter for June 1882 notes, “The members of the Ward of the C.B.S. are reminded that on Corpus Christi, they should attend one of the Celebrations; Fr. Brown will deliver the Address after the High Mass at 9:30, upon the subject of Fasting Communion.”
Newcomers to Saint Mary’s may not realize that Communion was not offered to the congregation at the Sunday Solemn Mass until May 2, 1965. It is remarkable that most Christians still belong to denominations that find ways to avoid following the words of Jesus in whole or in part: “Take, eat; this is my body" and “Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant” (Matthew 26:26-28). There are many reasons of many kinds for this, but I think one of the principal reasons is this: most Christians don’t think of or experience the Eucharist for what it is in its origin: food and drink.
On Sunday, weather permitting, at the conclusion of the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass, the Eucharistic bread will be placed in a monstrance (from the Latin, monstrare, “to show”), a procession will form. The congregation, led by the Eucharist, will process through Times Square. When we return to the church, Benediction will be offered.
Most people in the square will have no idea what we are doing—though many will film it with their phones and cameras. The hymn we sing, “Amazing grace! how sweet the sound,” accompanied by brass, will help to make us welcome and to tell people there are Christians here. (It is a blessing that this hymn is experienced by most Americans, even non-Christians, as friendly Christian religion.)
The dean of my seminary, who now serves in retirement in Virginia, the Very Reverend John Ruef, told the story of how, as a young priest, while bringing the Eucharist to a person who was hospitalized, he realized that the Body of Christ was already in the room before he arrived. I’ve never forgotten that—though it still is hard for me to remember. I hope I will be able to realize at some point in my heart on Sunday that, when we get to Times Square, Christ is already there. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Henrietta, Isabelle, Annie, Sean, John, Pamela, Penny, Peter, Denise, Charles, Casey, Jack, Richard, Tyler, John, Kelli, Nancy, Eloise, Sharon, Linda, Eli, Christopher, Jane, Diana, Dolores, Arpene, Jacob, Gregory, Lura Grace, religious, Paulette, priest, and Thomas, bishop; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Marc, John, Elizabeth, Daniel, and Nicholas . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 2: 1902 Adrian Conover; 1918 John D. Cordes; 1941 Albert Sanford Dodge; 1949 Helen Lathrop Prall; 1957 Krikor Chibouk.
FRIDAY ABSTINENCE . . . 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 . . . June 2, The Body & Blood of Christ: Corpus Christi, Solemn Mass, Procession to Times Square, and Eucharistic Benediction 11:00 AM . . . The Summer Sunday Schedule begins with Evening Prayer on June 2 . . . Byrd Ensemble, Concert, Saturday, June 8, 8 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, June 1, by Father Gerth, on Saturday, June 8, by Father Smith.
SUNDAY SUMMER SCHEDULE . . . From Evening Prayer on Corpus Christi until the first Sunday in October, Morning Prayer is read, not sung, on Sunday mornings. Said Evening Prayer is offered instead of Solemn Evensong & Benediction on Sunday evenings. Except on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, the full parish choir does not sing until October. The appointed liturgical chants for Sunday Solemn Mass are sung by a cantor and congregational settings of the Mass ordinary are used—and Saint Mary’s acoustic makes it all sound wonderful.
A SPECIAL GIFT . . . Mary and Joe Allen, longtime friends of the parish, have given the parish a harpsichord built in the early 1970s by Sabathil & Son, Bowen Island, British Columbia, Canada. It is a wonderful instrument and I am glad it has found a home at Saint Mary’s. I look forward to hearing it played in the church. S.G.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner John Knight was admitted to Methodist Hospital, Brooklyn, for tests and treatment this week. He expects to return home soon. Parishioner Penny Allen continues to recover at home following hip surgery. Please keep them in your prayers . . . The New York Philharmonic’s Concerts in Central Park will take place this year on Saturday, July 13, and Monday, July 15. As in past years, a number of Saint Marians are planning to attend. For more information, you may contact parishioner Grace Bruni . . . The exhibition Devoción, works and photographs by Máximo Cólon, continues in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . We encourage our members and friends who have made a pledge for 2013 to try, if at all possible, to keep up with their pledge payments during the summer months, a time when we sometimes experience cash-flow problems. We are grateful to all those who have pledged for 2013 and to all those who continue to support the parish so generously. . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowers for the Sundays in July and for several Sundays in August. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office. If you would like to sponsor the reception on August 15, please contact Father Smith or Aaron Koch . . . The Rector will be away on vacation from Friday, June 7, through Friday, June 14 . . . Attendance: Trinity Sunday 196.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The Mass ordinary on Sunday is Missa “Bell’ amfitrit’ altera” by Orlande de Lassus (1532–1594). The Flemish–born Lassus was one of the late Renaissance’s most cosmopolitan composers. Much of his training was in Italy; later he worked as Kapellmeister at the court in Munich for almost forty years. This setting is for two choirs of four voices each, and it reflects some influence from the Venetian style of Giovanni Gabrieli and others. A “parody mass,” it is probably based upon an unknown madrigal. At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings Ave verum corpus by Peter Philips (1561–1628). Philips was born in England, and became a chorister at Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, in 1572. In 1582 he fled to the continent, first to Flanders, then to Rome, on account of his Roman Catholic beliefs. He wrote and published a great deal of music for the liturgy. At the preparation for the Exposition of the Sacrament, the choir sings Olivier Messiaen’s (1908–1992) sublime setting of the Eucharistic hymn O sacrum convivium. Before the procession, the choir sings O salutaris Hostia, composed for Saint Mary’s this year by James Kennerley (b. 1984), organist and music director. The setting is based on the traditional plainsong melody associated with the text, Verbum supernum prodiens, which is heard in canon between two of the voice parts. This is the final Sunday that the professional choir will sing until October. The choir sings each Sunday at the Solemn Mass from October to Corpus Christi, in addition to the principal feasts of the church year that fall on weekdays. The choir will sing next on the Feast of the Assumption, Thursday, August 15. James Kennerley
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 . . . Information about disaster relief in the aftermath of the tornadoes in Oklahoma is available on the website of the Diocese of Oklahoma. Information about donating to Episcopal Relief and Development for disaster relief is available here. Red Cross Disaster Relief information is also available here.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Tuesday, June 11, Saint Barnabas, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Monday, June 24, The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, Mass 12:10 PM, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Friday, June 28, The Eve of Saint Peter & Saint Paul, Sung Mass 6:00 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Morgan Library and Museum: “Illuminating Faith: The Eucharist in Medieval Life and Art,” May 17–September 2, 2013. From the Morgan website, “Featuring more than sixty-five exquisitely illuminated manuscripts, Illuminating Faith offers glimpses into medieval culture, and explores the ways in which artists of the [medieval] period depicted the celebration of the sacrament and its powerful hold on society. The exhibition presents some of the Morgan’s finest works, including the Hours of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, one of the greatest of all Books of Hours; the exquisite Preparation for Mass of Pope Leo X, which remained at the Vatican until it was looted by Napoleon's troops in 1798; a private prayer book commissioned by Anne de Bretagne, queen of France, for her son the dauphin, Charles-Orland; and a number of rarely-exhibited Missals. Also on display will be objects used in medieval Eucharistic rituals, such as a chalice, ciborium, pax, altar card, and monstrances.” The Morgan is located at 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street.