FROM THE RECTOR: THE EPIPHANY
The Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, falls on Sunday this year. It is one of the principal feasts of the church year. Our celebration begins with Evening Prayer and the Sunday Vigil Mass on Saturday evening and continues with the regular schedule of Sunday services. Monday, January 7, will be the beginning of the Epiphany Season. Lent begins on Wednesday, March 6, 2019.
After Easter, which came first, and then Pentecost, Epiphany is the third most ancient celebration of the Christian year. Its origins are complicated. I continue to refer to Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell Johnson’s The Origins of Fasts, Feasts and Seasons in Early Christianity (2011) to remind myself about what we know about the Epiphany and about Christmas Day. Another very helpful resource for understanding how, for Western Christians, the Epiphany came to be mostly about the wise men is Ulrich Luz’s Matthew 1–7: A Commentary (2007).
In Matthew (1:18–25), Joseph and Mary are not in Bethlehem because of a census—that is Luke’s narrative. In Matthew they live there. In Matthew there is no manger, and there are no shepherds, no flocks, and no angels singing in the heavens (Luke 2:1–20). There is in Matthew something else entirely: magi from the east have seen a star and have come to Judea to worship the newborn king of the Jews. Their journey doesn’t lead them directly to the child, but to Herod. After honoring the child with their gifts, they receive “divine instructions in a dream” to avoid Herod on their way home.
Early Christian writers debated the origin of the magi. Justin Martyr (c. 100–c. 165) argued for Arabia based on Psalm 72:10 (“The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute, and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts”) and Isaiah 60:6 (“A multitude of camels shall cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba shall come. They shall bring gold and frankincense, and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord.”) But “magi” were associated with Persia—and Persia wins (Luz, 115–16). Origen (c. 185–c. 254) is credited with coming up with their number as three (page 116 n.)—but the Syrian church made their number twelve (page 116). Names and descriptions (Caspar, “a beardless young man”; Melchior, “a bearded old man”; and Balthazar, a “dark” man) appear in the sixth century—and by the fifteenth century Balthazar is “black” (page 108). Their supposed relics, that made their way from Constantinople to Milan and finally to Cologne in 1164, survive in the cathedral there.
In the Christian East, Epiphany celebrated both Jesus’ natural birth and his baptism—and his birth in the waters of the Jordan River (Origins, 156). As Christmas became established in the East, in the shadows of the great theological controversies of the fourth century, the focus at Epiphany on Jesus’ baptism remained for Eastern Christians, as it does for them today (Origins, 150–51). The presence of Jesus’ baptism in early creeds (Origins, 145) and its absence in the creeds that we know is very much worth remembering.
I don’t remember when I first came across the text known as the “Proclamation of the Date of Easter,” but I liked it from my first reading. When I was a rector in Indiana, it was printed in the bulletin for our Epiphany service. I think I can recall pretty clearly my first Epiphany at Saint Mary’s. The text was new for this congregation; then-Father, now Bishop, Allen Shin chanted it. As he continued, one could see smiles spread through congregation as Saint Marians recognized the chant: it’s the same music as Exsultet, the proclamation sung at the beginning of the Great Vigil of Easter. In the end, of course, Christmas, Epiphany, and all the rest of our days are about Christ’s Easter. Happy Epiphany 2019. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Paula, John, Colin, Chuck, Bert, Emil, Alexandra, Kyle, Carolyn, Ivy, Jondan, José, Eloise, Michael, James, Karen, Susan, Marilouise, William, May, Heidi, Takeem, David, and Sandy; and Horace, Daniel, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; and all the benefactors and friends of this parish.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . December 30: 1931 Lela Thuresson Brown; 1937 Josephine Theresa Gunther Horvath; 1977 Josephine Frances Thompson.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the Lord’s crucifixion.
WE LOOK FORWARD TO RECEIVING YOUR PLEDGE CARD! . . . We encourage all friends and member of the parish to return their pledge cards as soon as possible so that the Budget Committee may begin their work, planning for 2019. Our needs are urgent. Our mission is clear. We welcome your support, and we are grateful to all those who have supported Saint Mary’s so generously in the past . . . Our campaign and pledge drive is well underway. Once again this year, our goal for the campaign is $425,000. As of December 18, we have received $331,567.00 in pledges from 94 households, 78% of our goal.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Saturday, January 5, Eve of the Epiphany, Evening Prayer 5:00 PM, Vigil Mass 5:20 PM . . . Sunday, January 6, The Epiphany, Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Solemn Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM . . . Wednesday, January 9, Sung Mass 12:10 PM. The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on January 9. The class resumes on Wednesday, January 16 . . . Thursday, January 10, Mass with Healing Service 12:10 PM . . . Friday, January 11, Centering Prayer Group 6:30–8:00 PM, Atrium, Parish House 2nd Floor . . . Sunday, January 13, The Adult Forum resumes at 10:00 AM in Saint Benedict’s Study.
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 . . . Parishioner Bill Poston was recently admitted to the New Jewish Home, a rehabilitation center on West 103rd Street, where he is doing physical and occupational therapy. We expect that he will be there for another couple of weeks. Please keep him in your prayers . . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowers for the following dates: Sunday, January 13, February 10, 17, 24, March 3 and 31, and April 14 (Palm Sunday). Donations for Easter flowers and decorations are also welcome. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 164, Holy Name 54.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The choral setting of the Mass on Sunday morning is Mass in the Dorian Mode by Herbert Howells (1892–1983). This posthumously published work of Howells was his first to receive a professional London performance when it was sung at Mass in Westminster Cathedral in November 1912 under the direction of Sir Richard Terry, just six months after Howells became a student at the Royal College of Music. Over the next four years Howells composed several more pieces in Latin for the liturgy at Westminster Cathedral, all of which soon slipped into obscurity and none of which was published in his lifetime. Fortunately these remarkable earlier pieces subsequently have been published and are taking their place along with Howells’s many later beloved settings for Anglican services. Howell’s Dorian Mass is clearly a product of the resurgence of Renaissance polyphony which the papal Motu Proprio of 1903 had encouraged and which Dr. Terry’s work at Westminster Cathedral had anticipated. Almost a decade later Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Mass in G minor (1921) would similarly reflect the inspiration and influence of Renaissance church music in early twentieth-century England.
Clemens non Papa (c. 1500–1556) was a prolific composer who is said to represent the northern European dialect of the Franco-Flemish style. Jacobus Clemens non Papa was particularly known for his polyphonic settings of the psalms in Dutch. Many of the details of his life remain unknown—including the origin of the “non Papa” suffix traditionally appended to his name—but he was succentor (assistant precentor) at the Cathedral of Bruges in 1544 and, shortly thereafter, became associated with the Antwerp instrumentalist and publisher Tielman Susato (c. 1510–c. 1570). His compositional output is mostly of sacred music and includes fourteen parody Masses and a requiem, fifteen settings of Magnificat, and well over two hundred motets. His motet Magi veniunt ab oriente, sung during the ministration of Communion on Sunday, is a four-voice polyphonic setting of Matthew 2:1–2.
The organ prelude on Sunday morning is Prélude sur l’Introït de l’Épiphanie by Maurice Duruflé (1902–1985). Duruflé distinguished himself as organist and teacher and was titular organist at the church of St. Etienne-du-Mont from 1930 until his death. He probably will be remembered best for his relatively small number of compositions, which are works of remarkable distinctiveness and refinement. His Prélude sur l’Introït de l’Épiphanie was first published in Orgue et Liturgie, Volume 48, Schola Cantorum. As its title suggests, this piece is based upon the plainsong melody of the Introit for the Feast of the Epiphany. Its flexibly changing meters gently reflect the movement of the chant and its harmonies emerge through a well-woven five-voice texture. The organ postlude will be improvised. —David Hurd
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Adult Forum began its Christmas break on Sunday, December 16. Classes will resume on Sunday, January 13, at 10:00 AM . . . On January 13, John Basil, former artistic director of the American Globe Theater, begins a four-part 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. Workshops begin on January 13, at 10:00 AM in Saint Benedict’s Study, and classes are fifty minutes long.” John will lead the class on January 13, 20, 27, and February 3 . . . On Sunday, February 10, parishioner Mary Robison will make a presentation to the class on an important archival project here at the parish . . . On Sunday, February 17 and 24, Father Borja Vilallonga will lead the class in a discussion of his doctoral research done at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. Father Vilallonga was ordained in the Roman Catholic Church and is now a priest of the Old Catholic Church, which is in full communion with the Episcopal Church. He is currently a research scholar at Columbia University, working with Prof. Carmela Vircillo, a great friend of Saint Mary’s, who recommended us to Father Vilallonga. His research is centered on nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century European Christianity—the Oxford Movement, Gallicanism, early liturgical reform, Pius IX, the First Vatican Council, and the transformation of Roman Catholicism between Vatican I and Vatican II . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on January 9. The class is reading the Letter of James and is led by Father Jay Smith. Class will resume on January 16, when we will begin reading at James 4:1.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We have begun our annual winter “Take One, Leave One” Project of placing a basket with woolen scarves, hats, and gloves near the ushers’ table at Forty-sixth Street. These are made available to those in need. We welcome donations of such woolen items. If you are a knitter—or a shopper!—and would like to make a donation, simply place the item in the basket; and we thank you for your generosity . . . Donations and volunteers will be needed for our next Drop-in Day on Wednesday, January 16, and for the many requests for assistance between Drop-in Days. We are in particular need at the moment of packs of new, clean underwear for both men and women. Please contact Brother Damien Joseph, SSF, if you would like to volunteer for this important ministry or if you would like to make a donation . . . We continue to receive nonperishable food items for our outreach partner, Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please place those items in the basket near the ushers’ table at the Forty-sixth Street entrance to the church. We are very grateful to all those who continue to support this ministry with their time, talent, and treasure.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Sunday, January 13, The First Sunday after the Epiphany: the Baptism of Our Lord . . . Friday, January 18, The Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle (Said Mass at 12:10 PM and Sung Mass at 6:00 PM) . . . Monday, January 21, Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday Schedule . . . Friday, January 25, The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle . . . Friday, February 1, The Eve of the Presentation . . . Wednesday, March 6, Ash Wednesday.
AT THE GALLERIES . . . At the Frick Collection, 1 East Seventieth Street, until January 13, 2019, The Charterhouse of Bruges: Jan van Eyck, Petrus Christus, and Jan Vos. From the museum website, “This exhibition brings together two masterpieces of early Netherlandish painting commissioned in the 1440s by the Carthusian monk Jan Vos, reuniting them for only the second time in their history. The panels—the Frick’s Virgin and Child with St. Barbara, St. Elizabeth, and Jan Vos, by Jan van Eyck and his workshop, and The Virgin and Child with St. Barbara and Jan Vos by Petrus Christus, now in the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin—were commissioned by Vos during his tenure as prior of the Carthusian monastery (or charterhouse) of Bruges. The panels are presented with Carthusian objects that place them in their rich monastic context, offering a glimpse into the visual environment of the charterhouse and highlighting the role that images played in shaping devotional life and funerary practices in Europe during the late Middle Ages.”