FROM THE INTERIM MUSIC DIRECTOR: MUSIC AS GIFT
Every church-going Christian has heard repeatedly the scriptural imperatives to “make a joyful noise before the Lord,” and to “sing a new song unto the Lord.” We are told in the Second Book of the Chronicles, “to make one sound of music to be heard in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord” (5:13). This passage is contained within a description of the great service of consecration held in Israel’s first Temple, a service that involved cymbals, harps, 150 trumpets, and a sufficient number of singers to balance it all! No mention of the budget for this event is given! Exactly what form this music took we do not know precisely, but, that music was an essential element of Temple worship, we know absolutely.
Much of Western Christianity is informed by Benedictine spirituality or by its theological tenets. Saint Benedict put particular emphasis on the creation story and especially on that crucial verse, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Benedict believed that it was essential for Christians to realize that we resemble God most because we share with Him the potential for wanton creativity. Benedict maintained that of all the creatures of earth, human beings alone are endowed with both the intelligence and the spark for complete creativity; and because of that creative spark, we have the power to restore creation to its divine origin and end. But that’s the stuff for another article.
For Saint Benedict it followed that the only gift fit for God, the only offering of worship that was truly acceptable, was the best of that creative energy: the “cream” of our creative spirit. In our time, the idea of worship as offering in and of itself is difficult for some to grasp, but we are told explicitly in Scripture that the praise of God should be our “duty and delight” (Psalm 92:1; Colossians 3:16), and that “praise is for the upright of heart” (Psalm 119:7). Saint Luke tells us that we must learn how to give good gifts, and, for the Benedictine ideal, that included the best writing, the best preaching, the best instruction, the best art and architecture, and the best music that men and women, in their graced state, could muster.
Every element of scripture and our own liturgical tradition tell us how important musical worship is. The Psalms command us to “Praise the Lord with timbrel and harp, with strings and pipe” (Psalm 150:4). Saint Augustine reminds us that “Those who sing, pray twice”; and nowhere does it say that these words are meant only for those who are particularly talented, specially trained, or uniquely motivated to do so. These are the activities of the faithful people of God, if indeed we are faithful.
Think for a moment about any of the intimate relationships in your life. How often do you find yourself doing something other than what your first preference might be, not because it necessarily means much to you, but because it means so very much to someone else. That, I would suggest, is the nature of love and the prime act of gift-giving. The question might be asked then, how can we possibly fail or refuse to offer the Creator of the Universe and the Source of our Salvation less than that which we can reasonably afford one other?
The amazing thing about giving good gifts is that it generally benefits the giver nearly as much as the recipient. I think of the congregational singing that punctuated our great celebration of the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary last month, and I recall the astounding “voice” of praise that nearly lifted the vault off the church that evening. I also remember experiencing the transcendence that comes but infrequently, and then only when fully engaged as part of the people of God in worship.
I love the music of the church, this sacred art. I love every place where the importance of this music is understood and actively fostered. I love music for offering me a foretaste of that great reward which I believe awaits every one of us. Most of all, I love music for giving me a larger voice of praise in this life, in this place, and in ways I can sometimes hardly imagine possible. I will look forward to hearing a measure of your love of God next Sunday. Mark Peterson
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Charles, Barbara, Linda, Vincent, Albert, Sean, James, Ella, Ida, Babak, Tyler, Mary, Casey, Eloise, Sharon, Arpene, and Paulette, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Alex, Elizabeth, Ben, and Daniel . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 8: 1872 Susan Amelia Barras; 1914 Theresa Edna Laverty; 1935 Lillian Carolyn Lowell; 1989 Ruth M. Hinckley.
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 . . . Wednesday, September 11, 12:10 PM Sung Requiem Mass, offered for the repose of the souls of the victims of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 . . . Friday, September 13, the Eve of Holy Cross Day, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Saturday, September 14, Holy Cross Day, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, September 7, by Father Stephen Gerth, and on Saturday, September 14, by Father Jim Pace.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins returned to Saint Mary’s last Sunday after some time away while she recuperated from surgery. She is feeling much improved and it was very good to have her back with us at the Solemn Mass . . . The Reverend Patrick J. Williams will be ordained priest at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine on Saturday, September 7, at 10:30 AM. Patrick was a member of our noonday congregation before he went to seminary. He remains a good friend of Saint Mary’s. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Because of complications in the parish calendar this year, Oktoberfest and Hymn Sing will not take place. If all goes well, it will return next year . . . Altar flowers are needed for most Sundays in September. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . The Rector will be away from the parish from the evening of Sunday, September 8, until, Thursday, September 12. He returns to the office on Friday, September 13 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 179.
THE VISUAL ARTS PROJECT (VAP) . . . We are very pleased, and honored, to be able to show some of the work of Toussaint Auguste in the Gallery in Saint Joseph’s Hall beginning on Sunday. Mr. Auguste, who regularly worships with us here at Saint Mary’s, was born in Léogâne, Haiti, in 1925. He was active in the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti (L’Eglise Episcopale d’Haiti) as a lay reader and a teacher before becoming a painter in the late 1940s. He was among the early painters working at the Centre d'Art in Port-au-Prince. Mr. Auguste is considered to be one of Haiti’s “First Generation Masters.” Examples of his work can be found in many museums, including the permanent collections of the Musée d'Art Haitien du College Saint Pierre in Port-au-Prince, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, and the Davenport Museum of Art in Iowa. Mr. Auguste also painted two of the murals in the Episcopal diocese’s Cathédrale Sainte Trinité in Port-au-Prince, “The Flight into Egypt” and “The Temptation of Adam and Eve.” (In the latter image, the serpent was depicted in semi-human form, with “Medusan” hair and serpentine legs.) The cathedral murals were executed in 1950 and 1951 and Mr. Auguste moved to the United States shortly thereafter. All of the cathedral murals were painted in an indigenous style and used Haitian people, scenery, vegetation, furniture and architecture as models to depict the Biblical scenes. The murals, an important part of Haiti’s cultural patrimony, were tragically destroyed, along with much of the cathedral itself, in the earthquake of January 12, 2010. (Léogâne, Mr. Auguste’s birthplace, was also badly damaged in the earthquake.) Readers of the Angelus can find out more about the murals here and here (the download times on the latter website are slow, but the images are particularly clear); the terrible destruction caused by the 2010 earthquake is described in a New York Times article still available online. Information about the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti—the largest diocese in the Episcopal Church—is available here, in both English and French. The work of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) in Haiti is described here. José Vidal
THE COMMUNITY OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST . . . Sister Laura Katharine, C.S.J.B., will celebrate an anniversary this coming Sunday. Sister made her life profession in the Community of Saint John Baptist on September 8, 1970. Happy anniversary, Sister . . . Sister Deborah Francis, C.S.J.B., was recently appointed assistant superior of the Community of Saint John Baptist. She will assist and advise the community’s superior and serve as a member of the community’s consultative council. However, she will continue to live and serve here at Saint Mary’s, for which we are grateful.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Two continental composers grace the Solemn Mass this Sunday. Antonio Francisco Javier José Soler Ramos (c. 1729–1783), known universally as Antonio Soler, was the most important composer of instrumental and church music in Spain in the late eighteenth century. At an early age he was made chapel master at Lérida Cathedral. In 1752 he joined the Order of Saint Jerome (the members of which are known as “Hieronymites”) and became organist at the Escorial Monastery. As one of the most notable keyboard performers of his time, he taught both organ and harpsichord to members of the royal family. He was himself a student of the great Domenico Scarlatti, whose influence may be perceived in the lively keyboard technique, the form, and the frequently unexpected harmonic progressions of Soler’s numerous harpsichord sonatas and also in some of his organ works. He wrote much church music, in which he often indulged a taste for intricate canons and involved counterpoint. André Campra (c. 1660-1744) was a French composer and conductor. He was a choirmaster of the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris for a time, and later became one of the leading French opera composers in the period between Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau. He wrote several tragédies en musique, but his chief claim to fame is as the creator of a new genre, opéra-ballet. He also wrote a good deal of religious music including three books of cantatas, a requiem Mass, and motets for the Chapel Royale. At the ministration of Communion, baritone Mark Risinger sings the Marian hymn, Inviolata, integra et casta es Maria. The setting is by French composer, Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921). M.P.
ADULT EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class resumes on September 18, at 6:30 PM, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. The class, which is led by Father Jay Smith, will be reading the Acts of the Apostles this year. The class will not meet on October 16 or November 6.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . 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 . . . We are already gratefully accepting donations of warm clothing, as well as new, unopened packets of underwear and socks, especially white cotton socks. We send some items of clothing to the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Other items are kept here for distribution to those in need.
HOSPITALITY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . As many of our members and friends know, we try to offer a particularly festive reception following Solemn Mass on feast days. These receptions have proven to be happy events and have given us the opportunity to greet our many visitors on those occasions. The financial costs, however, are significant. The next reception will take place on Friday, November 1, All Saints’ Day. Other receptions will be offered in 2013-2014 on December 9, the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (transferred); January 6, the Epiphany; March 25, the Annunciation; April 19, Easter Eve; and May 29, Ascension Day. If you would like to make a donation to help support our efforts on any of those days, or if you would like to volunteer to help with hospitality, please contact José Vidal, Aaron Koch, or Father Jay Smith.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Church of Saint Malachy, 239 West 49th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, Monday, September 16, 7:30 PM, a concert of Russian-Orthodox sacred music, “Their Sound Hath Gone Forth,” performed by The Patriarch Tikhon Choir. The choir is an ensemble which includes professional singers from both Russia and the United States. It is directed by Vladimir Gorbik, choirmaster at Moscow’s Representation Church of the Holy Trinity–Saint Sergius Monastery. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit the choir’s website.