FROM THE RECTOR: NATURE AND NURTURE
A week ago an article in the Wall Street Journal caught my attention, “Genes Often Get Shuffled in Our DNA Deck” (October 11, 2013) by Robert M. Sapolsky, a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University. It seems that “strict genetic inheritability” isn’t quite as strict as we thought. He writes, “. . . bacteria and immune systems have gene-transposition races, with the former shuffling genes to come up with means to evade immune systems and the latter shuffling to get the means to destroy novel bacteria.”
Most significantly, gene transposition, it turns out, seems to happen in the human brain. If I’ve read Sapolsky correctly, though we may always have genetic tendencies, we do not always have genetic determinism. It seems that most of us have many choices about how we nurture our biology.
Biological life remains, and I think will always remain for human beings, a mystery. Life itself is the most extraordinary gift that any of us knows. Our human biology hungers, as it were, for more life from the moment of our conception—and not just for life, but for love. I suspect I will learn something more about all of this as I continue to read the late Robert Bellah’s monumental last book, Religion in Human Evolution (2011). Bellah, I think—I’ve just started the book—sees God as the logical understanding of reality. Religion is one way human beings understand life itself.
You and I make choices all of the time about our nurture, and, if not so directly or completely, about our nature. My internist did not like the jump in my cholesterol numbers at my last physical exam—so I’ve gone back to skimmed milk on my cereal and oatmeal instead of scrambled eggs—there’s a retest in six weeks. One of my grandparents had diabetes—and my physician doesn’t want me heading in that direction. But I think I could if I am not careful about my biology. I think of my spiritual life in something of the same way.
At Morning Prayer yesterday (Thursday), Sister Laura Katherine was the reader for the second lesson. It was from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians (14:26-40). But those aren’t the recommended verses. The Prayer Book omits verses 14:33b-36: As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?
Sister read them very well indeed—with no comment or smile in her voice. Only God is perfect, and it’s not easy to hear that when the Word of God is not perfect—we read all of the New Testament in public worship at Saint Mary’s and a great deal of the difficult stuff in the Old Testament (constrained only by its much greater length). But I think and believe that paying attention to truth in scripture helps keep our lives grounded in truth with each other, not to mention truth with God.
Saint Mary’s will soon begin its stewardship campaign for the coming year. As always, there is a real opportunity to make a difference in our nature and our nurture in how we choose to risk and respond to life. And like with the tests my physician wants to run again, the numbers won’t lie about how much we love. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Dick, Sharon, Rob, Carey, Roy, Gloria, Peter, James, Charles, Barbara, Takeem, Linda, Albert, Vincent, Babak, Tyler, Mary, Casey, Eloise, Arpene, Richard, and Paulette, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Alex, Elizabeth, Ben, and Daniel; and for the repose of the soul of Edward Hampson and Ursula Trupiano . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . October 20: 1901 Charles Barnum Jessup; 1918 William Albert Bonaventura; 1918 Marjorie Wilson Gray; 1918 William Arthur Bianco Walling; 1919 Vincent Andres Schineller; 1930 Oscar Marstero Crego; 1936 Anita Linda Morley; 1949 Kate Sibley Shaw.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Ursula Trupiano, mother of our organ curator Larry Trupiano, died on Friday, October 11. She was 91 years old. Please remember her, Larry and all who mourn in your prayers. S.G.
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 . . . Adult Forum, Sunday, October 20, 10:00 AM, Mission House, 2nd Floor, Mother Mary Julia Jett continues her three-part series on “The Poetry and Hymnody of Syriac Christianity” . . . The Board of Trustees meets on Monday at 6:30 PM . . . Wednesday, October 23: The Feast of Saint James of Jerusalem, Mass at 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class meets at 7:00 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, October 19, by Father Stephen Gerth and on Saturday, October 26, by Father Jay Smith.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . As we go to press, parishioner Dick Leitsch is now at Amsterdam House as he continues his recovery. He is able to receive visitors. Please keep him in your prayers . . . The All Souls’ Day Appeal was mailed last week. If possible, please your return your prayer requests to the parish office as soon as you can . . . Congratulations to Father Jim Pace who was inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing during the academy’s annual meeting on October 19, 2013, in Washington, DC . . . . Altar flowers are needed for Sunday, October 27 and for all the Sundays in November after All Saints’ Day. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . If you would like to make a donation to help with the reception following the Solemn Mass on All Saints’ Day, Friday, November 1, please call the parish office . . . The 2014 Stewardship Appeal letter will be mailed to members and friends of the parish on Monday, October 21. If you have questions about stewardship, please speak to one of the priests on staff, or to a member of the Stewardship Committee, MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, or Marie Rosseels . . . Sister Deborah Francis returns to the parish on Friday, October 25 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 253.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Elliot Z. Levine (b. 1948) is a New York composer and vocalist who has appeared with many ensembles in and around New York City, most notably, the Western Wind Vocal Ensemble and Musica Sacra. Having received his education at Queens College and the Manhattan School of Music, Mr. Levine also studied at the Carl Orff School in Salzburg. He has been the recipient of five Meet-the-Composer grants, and has been commissioned for works by a number of institutions including The Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Times Square. He is in demand as a choral conductor and clinician, and is currently represented by six publishing houses. A great American composer of an earlier time, Leo Sowerby (1895-1968) spent most of his adult life in Chicago. He was one of the authentic musical voices of the great American heartland. His violin concerto was premiered in 1913, when the composer was 18 years old and his orchestral works were featured on programs by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from his early 20s on. He went on to produce a catalogue of more than 550 works, including concertos (for piano, organ, cello, and harp), five symphonies, and music in every other genre with the sole exception of opera. He was the first winner of the American Prix de Rome, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1946 for his cantata The Canticle of the Sun, and his orchestral music was played by every major orchestra of the time. His success extended beyond the traditional classical concert stage. He wrote two works for Paul Whiteman's band, one called Synconata and the other called Monotony, a piece for metronome and jazz band. With the sole exception of his pupil Ned Rorem (who was listed here last week), Sowerby was the last American composer with a national reputation in the world of concert music to display any more than a token interest in church music. He was organist of Saint James Cathedral, Chicago, for more than 40 years, and his liturgical music occupies a central place in his life's work and in the history of American church music. He produced a long list of anthems, each of which is a master class in the techniques of writing choral music, and feature organ accompaniments that make integral and idiomatic contributions to the texture of the music. It is his anthem, I will lift up mine eyes, that we hear at Solemn Mass on Sunday. Mark Peterson
IN THE ADULT FORUM THIS SUNDAY . . . Mother Mary Jett will continue a discussion on the poetry of the Syriac Christian tradition. Newcomers are welcome. A summary booklet is available, and you are more than welcome at either or both of the remaining classes on October 20 and 27. This Sunday we will look at several translated poems and hymns on the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. Next Sunday we will look at several different writings about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Mary held a greatly venerated place in the early writings of the Church tradition. The discussion will include several poems exploring her role as the Mother of God, battler of evil, and model for all of humanity. We will also look at a great dialogue poem that includes an argument between Joseph and Mary just after Joseph learns that Mary is pregnant.
THE VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM (VAP) . . . A new exhibition of paintings and sculpture by Julia Rivera has opened in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Rivera, who now lives in New Jersey, was born in the Bronx. She has studied in Paris, Florence, San Juan, and at New York’s Art Students League. In her work, Rivera “creates an attractive, fairy-tale universe where carefully chosen objects–clocks, fruit, little toy cars, [boots, shoes], bottles and elongated chairs–are arranged in order to let us see their essence in a surreal but celebratory manner.” For more information about Julia’s work please contact José Vidal, curator of the exhibition.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Wednesday, October 23, Saint James of Jerusalem, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Monday, October 28, Saint Simon & Saint Jude, Mass 12:10 PM & 6:20 PM . . . Thursday, October 31, Eve of All Saints’ Day, Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Friday, November 1, All Saints’ Day, Sung Mass 12:10 PM & Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Saturday, November 2, All Souls’ Day, Sung Mass & Blessing of the Vault 11:00 AM . . . Sunday, November 3, 2:00 AM Daylight Saving Time ends . . . Parish Requiems: At the Parish Requiem Masses, the prayers will be offered for the departed by the last name of the person making the request, according to the following schedule: Monday, November 4 (A-G); Tuesday, November 5 (H-M); Wednesday, November 6 (N-R); Friday, November 8 (S-Z).
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We are 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.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At The Cloisters, September 10–December 8, 2013, Fort Tryon Park, New York City: The Forty-Part Motet (2001), a sound installation by Janet Cardiff.