FROM THE RECTOR: THE LIGHT
This week we will celebrate the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple. As is our custom when “Major Feasts of Our Lord” fall on Saturdays, the principal celebration will be Friday evening, February 1. Dr. Timothy Pyper, interim director of music, Church of the Holy Apostles, New York City, will play a recital at 5:30 PM. It will be great to have Tim back with us. He is a very fine musician and a great friend of the parish. The traditional liturgy for this feast, Blessing Candles, Procession & Solemn Mass, begins at 6:00 PM. A reception will follow in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Great music, great worship, and great fellowship.
I think it is correct to say that the proclamation of Jesus as “the light” begins not in the earlier letters of Paul or the gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke but in John. In the First Letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, considered the earliest of his letters, Paul writes, “For you are all sons of light and sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness” (5:5). Here he is speaking of believers sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians Paul writes concerning, “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (4:6).
Mark doesn’t use the word “light” to refer to Jesus. Matthew introduces Jesus’ ministry following John’s arrest by quoting Isaiah, “the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned” (4:16). In the sermon on the mount he tells his soon-to-be-persecuted disciples, “You are the light of the world” (5:14). He tells them, “Let your light so shine before women and men” [Greek is inclusive here], “that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (5:16).
Though the words of the Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:68–79) describe Zechariah’s infant son John as one who will “give light to them that sit in darkness” (Book of Common Prayer, 51; also Revised Standard Version of the Bible) are not incorrect, the contemporary versions are a better translation since there is a Greek verb here (ἐπιφαίνω: to cause something to be seen—not the noun “To shine on those who dwell in darkness” (BCP, 51). In the gospel appointed for the Presentation we will hear, “For these eyes of mine have seen thy salvation . . . a light to lighten the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32). But here salvation is “a light,” not “the Light.” (Note: I quote the traditional version of the Song of Simeon (BCP, 66) because it is a more accurate translation of the Greek than the Roman Catholic translation adopted by the International Consultation on English Texts).
So, it is John the Evangelist (who may or may not have been named “John” as none of the evangelists identifies himself [or herself?])—misidentified since the late-second-century as John the son of Zebedee; he is mentioned in this gospel only in what we call chapter 21, canonical, but regarded as an appendix to the original text—who proclaims Jesus is the Light: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . In him was life, and the life was the light of women and men” [again, the Greek here is inclusive] (John 1:1, 4). And in John, Jesus declares, “I am the Light of the world; one [again, inclusive Greek] who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
“I am the Light” is one of the many “I am” expressions. “I am” is the way we understand God’s response when Moses asks God what he should tell the Israelites if they ask who has sent him. God replies, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And [God] said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ ” (Exodus 3:14). The Word, the Light, is with us always. As Saint Paul wrote, “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR José, Dorothy, Carlos, Paula, John, Alexandra, Kyle, Carolyn, Ivy, Jondan, Eloise, Michael, James, Karen, Susan, Marilouise, Robert, May, Takeem, Kenny, David, Sandy; for Aidan, religious; Matthew, Horace, Daniel, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; for all the benefactors and friends of this parish; and for the repose of the souls of Betsy Brown, Camilo Estremera, Enid LeBron, and Dianne Weyers.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 27: 1873 Amelia Vanette Dubois; 1918 William Campbell; 1919 Elizabeth Reiner Anderson; 1925 Helen Ladd Williams.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Betsy Brown, the mother of parishioner Penny Allen, died on Sunday, January 20, in South Charleston, West Virginia. She was ninety-two years old. Mrs. Brown taught young children in the public schools of Wood County, West Virginia, for many years and was an active and faithful member of local parishes of the United Methodist Church. She is survived by her son David, Penny, and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren . . . Camilo Estremera, the cousin of parishioner Luis Reyes, died suddenly on Sunday, January 20, in North Carolina. He is survived by his partner and their newborn daughter. Please pray for Betsy, Camilo, Penny, Luis, their families and friends, and for all who mourn.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the Lord’s crucifixion.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, January 26, Eve of the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Evening Prayer 5:00 PM, Vigil Mass 5:20 PM . . . Sunday, January 27, The Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Adult Education 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Solemn Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM . . . Wednesday, January 30, Sung Mass 12:10 PM; Wednesday Night Bible Study Class 6:30 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. . . Thursday, January 31, Mass with Healing Service 12:10 PM . . . Friday, February 1, The Eve of the Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Temple, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Saturday, February 2, The Presentation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Said Mass 12:10 PM.
HOSPITALITY MINISTRY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We hope to receive donations to help pay for the holy-day receptions on February 1 (Eve of the Presentation), March 25 (Annunciation), April 20 (Easter Eve), and Thursday, May 30 (Ascension Day). If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office. The total cost of each reception is around $500.00. We appreciate all donations in support of this important ministry. Any and all donations are always used to make up the deficit each year we normally experience in the hospitality budget. When making a donation, please make a note that it is for the Hospitality Ministry, and we thank you.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Saint Mary’s AED (Automated External Defibrillator) lives in the sextons’ lodge, off the narthex, at the Forty-sixth Street entrance to the church. It is to be used should someone experience sudden cardiac arrest. It is a device that can save lives, since it makes it possible to provide immediate emergency assistance while waiting for emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to arrive. Our certification for the use of the AED is about to expire. A number of parishioners and members of the staff have been trained to use the AED. If you would like to attend a half-day refresher course and renew your certification, thus allowing Saint Mary’s to receive recertification please contact Chris Howatt in the parish office . . . Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins’ book, King of the Fireflies, was recently published by Sensitive Skin Press and is available for sale at a number of online retailers. From the publisher’s website, “Sensitive Skin is proud to present King of the Fireflies, acclaimed writer and musician Rebecca Weiner Tompkins’s first full-length collection of poetry. The poems in King of the Fireflies lead the reader on a journey through a world of landscapes: urban; rural; mythological; emotional; erotic; cultural; political; and spiritual, and the borders between them. The voice throughout is of a figure in those landscapes, struggling to navigate love, loss, and mortality while juxtaposing natural and human-made environments. Her language is both visual and musical (as well as a writer, she is also a lifelong working musician), and the poems range from lyric to narrative, but always with a strong sense of location and a precision of detail, even when the speaker is conveying questions or doubt. These poems explore the edges and the depths of dark places—but possibility, anticipation, and even humor are present. The exploration leads forward, and the promise of renewal rings true” . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 174.
THE SOCIETY OF SAINT FRANCIS . . . Brother Ambrose Cristobal SSF spent some days of vacation this past week here in New York, staying with his brothers in the friary in the Mission House. Brother Ambrose made life profession in the Society of Saint Francis in 2017. He lives and works at the Cathedral Center of Saint Paul in Los Angeles. He is also engaged in the ministry of Saint Mary’s, Mariposa, and is active in Asian-American ministries and interfaith dialogue . . . There is a new resident in the Mission House friary. Her name is Annie. She is a rescue dog, part boxer. The brothers adopted her this month. She is a sweet and calm dog and seems to have taken to her new home in Times Square very quickly . . . Save the Date: Saturday, September 14, 2019, Celebration of the Centenary of the Society of Saint Francis. Mass, 11:00 AM: The Most Reverend Michael Curry, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, celebrant and preacher. Luncheon, 1:30 PM. Sister Ilia Delio, OSF, well-known theologian, teacher and scholar of Franciscan thought and spirituality, is the keynote speaker. The title of her address is, “What Franciscan life has to offer to the Church and the world in the twenty-first century, particularly in light of the teachings of Blessed John Duns Scotus.”
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The musical setting of the Mass on Sunday is Music for Celebration by David Hurd, organist and music director at Saint Mary the Virgin. This setting was composed in 1976 for use at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan, where Dr. Hurd served on the faculty for nearly four decades. Since the seating in the seminary’s chapel was mostly choir-wise, the community was naturally divided into two equal choirs. This accommodated the alternation between sides in reading and singing which is traditional in monastic and academic settings. Therefore, the Gloria and Sanctus of Music for Celebration embraced this antiphonal opportunity by presenting much of the text as canons in two voices to be sung across the aisle. The Mass setting’s key center is E. The Gloria is in the minor mode. The Sanctus moves from the relative major of G to its conclusion in E Major, which is also the tonality of the Agnus Dei. Music for Celebration uses Rite II language, which at the time of its composition was relatively new to the church. Organ accompaniment is integral to the setting.
The Communion motet on Sunday is a five-voice setting of O sacrum convivium by Thomas Tallis (c. 1505–1585). The text O sacrum convivium, often attributed to the great theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274), found a home in the Roman liturgical cycle as the antiphon for Magnificat at second Vespers of Corpus Christi but is very much at home in any Eucharistic celebration. It has been set in Latin, as well as in vernacular translations, by distinguished composers of every generation. Tallis was one of the foundational composers of English church music. His long life and musical career included service under four English monarchs—Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth I— with all the shifts in the church’s liturgical and institutional life which these different reigns occasioned. Along with William Byrd, Tallis enjoyed an exclusive license to print and publish music which was granted by Elizabeth I in 1575. While he was one of the first musicians to compose for the new Anglican rites of the mid-sixteenth century, Tallis retained an affection for the Latin forms and continued to compose extensively for them.
The fact that Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) composed nearly a dozen organ settings of Allein Gott reveals the importance and popularity of this chorale which paraphrases Gloria in excelsis (All glory be to God on High) in the liturgical culture of his time. In fact, long before Bach, the leading German composers had set this melody repeatedly and, in our day, one finds this tune with its translated text in the hymnals of many denominations. Sunday morning’s prelude is one of the three settings of Allein Gott among the “Great Eighteen” Leipzig chorales of Bach’s later years. It is written for two manuals and pedal and features an ornamented version of the chorale melody in the tenor register. The postlude will be another setting of the same chorale found among Bach’s miscellaneous chorales. In this short piece Bach separates phrases of the carol melody, stated in vivid harmony, with free fantasia passages sounding very much like they might have been improvised.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . On January 27, John Basil, former artistic director of the American Globe Theater, continues his series on William Shakespeare, focusing on Hamlet. The series is designed to help us read Shakespeare’s language, while looking at some of Shakespeare’s humanist and religious concerns. John writes, “This will be an introduction to William Shakespeare’s first folio and will provide an approach to the text using methods that Shakespeare and his company utilized. The participant will learn how to uncover the character’s physical life from the language. This gutsy, visceral way to analyze Shakespeare’s language teaches the participant how to use the script as a ‘blueprint.’ The Tragedy of Hamlet will be the text explored. We will also hope to uncover all of the Protestant and Catholic references that are hidden in the text.” . . . On Sunday, February 10, parishioner Mary Robison will make a presentation to the class on an important archival project here at the parish. Mary writes, “On February 10, we’ll look at Saint Mary’s history through its publications, The Arrow (1891–1899) and Ave (1932–2004), now digitized and available for research. What can these documents tell us about our parish and its rectors, from the Gilded Age through World War II? I'll talk about why these publications existed, and discuss how they’re useful for research. I’ll also mention some of the interesting things I found—the more things change, the more they stay the same! . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class, led by Brother Thomas Steffensen SSF, will meet on January 30 at 6:30 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The winter continues to get colder, and we have many requests from unsheltered neighbors for thermal underwear. When you spend many hours outdoors each day, often sitting or sleeping on concrete, dangerous loss of body heat is a constant risk. Donations of thermals such as these, available on Amazon, could literally be a lifesaver. These and other items may be dropped off at the church or shipped directly to the parish office, to my attention. Please note that while we accept gently used items of many kinds, we can only accept new underwear and socks. As always, your monetary contributions will allow us to order items to keep up with changing needs. —Brother Damien Joseph SSF
AROUND THE DIOCESE . . . At Saint Paul’s Chapel, 209 Broadway, Tuesday, February 5, 7:00–9:00 PM, Book Talk: Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. Trinity Church, Wall Street, is hosting a free book talk with David Blight, author of Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom Join the Reverend Phillip Jackson, vicar, Trinity Church, Wall Street, as he hosts a Q&A with David Blight, followed by a reception and book signing. This is one of the author’s only public appearances in New York City. Douglass spent his life working to extinguish racial divisions. He lived to see black emancipation as well as the age of lynching and Jim Crow laws. As one of the greatest orators and writers in American history, Douglass has much to teach us about how he used his powerful voice to challenge inequality.
AT THE GALLERIES . . . At the Morgan Library and Museum, 225 Madison Avenue at Thirty-sixth Street, January 25–May 12, 2019, Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth. From the museum website, “ ‘In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.’ With these words the Oxford professor J.R.R. Tolkien ignited a fervid spark in generations of readers. From the children’s classic The Hobbit to the epic The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien’s adventurous tales of hobbits and elves, dwarves and wizards have introduced millions to the rich history of Middle-earth. Going beyond literature, Tolkien’s Middle-earth is a world complete with its own languages and histories. Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth celebrates the man and his creation. The exhibition will be the most extensive public display of original Tolkien material for several generations. Drawn from the collections of the Tolkien Archive at the Bodleian Library (Oxford), Marquette University Libraries (Milwaukee), the Morgan, and private lenders, the exhibition will include family photographs and memorabilia, Tolkien’s original illustrations, maps, draft manuscripts, and designs related to The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.”