FROM THE RECTOR: BURYING FATHERS
Some years ago now, while reviewing the Daily Office readings, I realized that the lectionary omitted the account of Abraham’s death, along with his second marriage, to Keturah, after the death of Sarah. It also omits the account of the arrangements he made for the sons of his concubines (Genesis 25:1–8). The greater surprise for me was the omission of the very next verse from the lectionary: “Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field which Abraham had purchased from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife” (25:9–10). The only other time Isaac and Ishmael are mentioned together is when Sarah observes her young son Isaac and Ishmael playing together. She then demands that Abraham send Ishmael and his mother Hagar away. Abraham gives Hagar only “bread and a skin of water” (21:9–14). God intervenes to save the lives of Hagar and her son in the wilderness.
Genesis identifies Ishmael’s twelve sons, unlike the sons of Isaac, as “princes” (Genesis 17:20; 25:16). Muslims identify as descendants of Abraham through Ishmael, Jews through Isaac. In the brief mention of them in Genesis, the descendants of Ishmael receive their own blessings. There is no record of enmity between the boys (playmates) or men (together only to bury their father). I think it is correct to say there is no reason in Genesis for us not to think that a good relationship existed between Abraham’s sons.
I came across a similar surprise a week ago while reviewing the Daily Office lessons for the Week of the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, which this year began on Sunday, February 17. The first lesson for Evening Prayer on Saturday, February 23, is Genesis 35:1–20. The lectionary omits the rest of the chapter, 35:21–29. I’ve added those verses to the passage we’ll read on Saturday evening.
In this omitted passage we learn that at the end of his life, Isaac journeys away from his son Jacob (35:21) and ends up in Hebron. We also learn why Isaac’s eldest son does not inherit the position due the first born: “Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine; and Israel heard of it” (35:22). Finally, we learn that not only does Jacob come to visit Isaac at the end of Isaac’s life, but Esau comes too: “And Isaac breathed his last; and he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him” (35:29).
Walter Brueggemann writes: “Most important, the burial is conducted by both sons, Esau and Jacob, even named in that order. When the brothers had separated (33:16–17), it was not clear whether this was a reconciliation or a truce. But this text makes clear that there was a reconciliation. Even in this Jacob-oriented tradition, the older brother is remarkably valued” (Genesis , 285).
Beginning this Sunday, the first reading at Evening Prayer will be from Proverbs. We will continue to read Proverbs at Evening Prayer (except on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany) until the first week of Lent, when we will return to Genesis. In the fourth week of Lent, we will move on to Exodus in preparation for Easter. Proverbs is not a book that I have studied. Wisdom is one of the themes of that book, as is folly. This is a note in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha: Revised Standard Version, Expanded Edition (1977): “An attitude of reverent obedience toward God is the necessary preliminary and first state of enlightenment” (770 n.). God is always present in every human life. The stories of Ishmael and Isaac and of Esau and Jacob burying their fathers help me to remember that the challenges of family relationships invite us to reconciliation, and to wisdom. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR John, Eric, Vince, Lillian, Ethelyn, Henry, Alexandra, Kyle, Carolyn, Ivy, Jondan, Eloise, Michael, Karen, Susan, Marilouise, Carol, May, Takeem, David, Sandy, Abraham; Horace, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; and all the benefactors and friends of this parish; and for the repose of the soul of Barbara Sletten.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 24: 1989 Betsy Louise Humphrey; 1949 Emily Copeland; 1962 Willis O. Warren; 1967 Morton Presting.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Barbara Sletten, the aunt of parishioner Ingrid Sletten, died this week in Minnesota. Please keep Barbara, Ingrid, their family and friends, and all who mourn in your prayers.
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 . . . Sunday, February 24, The Seventh 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 . . . Monday, February 25, Saint Matthias the Apostle (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Wednesday, February 27, Sung Mass 12:10 PM; Wednesday Night Bible Study Class 6:30 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. . . Thursday, February 28, Mass with Healing Service 12:10 PM . . . Friday, March 1, Centering Prayer 6:30–8:00 PM, Atrium, Parish House, 145 West Forty-sixth Street.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Two good friends of Saint Mary’s, Bishop William Franklin and Bishop Allen Shin, came to Mass at noon on Monday, February 18. It was good to see them again here at the parish . . . Last Tuesday, Father Smith traveled to the Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY, in order to attend the Mass in which Brother Aidan William Owen, OHC, made his final profession of the monastic vow. Many Saint Marians will remember Brother Aidan, who visited us last year and taught a class in the Adult Forum. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Father Gerth will be away from the parish from Friday, February 22, until Wednesday, February 27. He returns to the office on Thursday, February 28 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 205.
GALLERY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . A new exhibition in Saint Joseph’s Hall opened on Thursday, February 21. The exhibition was organized by gallery curator, José Vidal, and curated by Dominican ceramicist, Ezequiel Taveras. Ezequiel was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in 1965. He studied fine arts, sculpture in particular, at the National School of Fine Arts in Santo Domingo. He has taught in the Dominican Republic, as well as in the United States. His work has been shown in exhibitions in the Caribbean, South America, the United States, as well as in Europe and Asia. He is currently an artist-in-residence in the Hunter College Ceramics Department and is also the curator of the Julio Valdez Project Space here in Manhattan. For this exhibition, which first took place in Washington, D.C., before coming to Saint Mary’s, Ezequiel invited accomplished ceramicists working in South America and the Caribbean to produce a 6” x 6” ceramic tile to be exhibited in a group show. The artists have responded to that challenge, and those restrictions, in enormously creative ways. Each work is unique. The size of the tiles invites close and careful viewing. We think that the members and friends of Saint Mary’s, as well as our visitors, will enjoy looking at the work. For more information, please contact José Vidal.
LENTEN QUIET DAY . . . There will be a Quiet Day here at Saint Mary’s on Saturday, March 16, 10:00 AM–3:00 PM. The day will be led by well-known singer and retreat leader, Ruth Cunningham, and by curate, Father Jay Smith. A donation of $15.00 is requested. Scholarships are available. Please contact Father Smith, if you would like to attend. (All are welcome. We just need to know the approximate numbers in order to plan for lunch.)
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . Sunday’s setting of the ordinary is the Chichester Mass of William Albright (1944–1998). This setting was commissioned for the ninth centenary of Chichester Cathedral and was first performed there on June 14, 1975. Walter Hussey (1909–1985), who was dean of Chichester Cathedral from 1955–1977, was a noted patron of the arts and was the impetus behind the commissioning of an impressive list of choral works, beginning in 1943 with Benjamin Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb which was commissioned while Hussey was vicar of Saint Matthew’s, Northhampton. William Albright was born in Gary, Indiana, attended The Juilliard School, the Eastman School of Music, and the University of Michigan, where he later served on the faculty. He received a Fulbright scholarship in 1968 to study in Paris with Olivier Messiaen, whose influence combined with many others in fueling Albright’s “polystylistic” musical range. The Chichester Mass uses traditional Book of Common Prayer texts. It includes chant-like choral writing reminiscent of Stravinsky as in the Gloria; random as well as highly structured polyphonic elements as in the Sanctus and Benedictus; and cluster harmonies as in the Agnus Dei.
The motet is a setting of Love (III) from George Herbert’s 1633 collection The Temple: Sacred Poems. This musical setting by David Hurd, music director at Saint Mary’s, is for unaccompanied choir. It was composed in 1991 for the fortieth anniversary of ordination to the priesthood of the Rev. Charles W. Scott, who was then an associate priest at All Saints Church, Manhattan. The music is reflective of the syllabic and chordal style which Thomas Tallis and other early Anglican composers were encouraged to adopt to enhance clarity and maximize intelligibility. At the same time, the six-voice texture and harmonic vocabulary of this setting give Herbert’s seventeenth-century poem a twentieth-century expression.
The prelude on Sunday is one of the many organ settings by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) of Allein Gott, the chorale which paraphrases Gloria in excelsis (“Glory be to God on high”). This chorale remains well represented in modern hymnals of various denominations and languages including The Hymnal 1982 (#421). Today’s prelude is one of the three settings of Allein Gott among the “Great Eighteen” Leipzig chorales of Bach’s later years. It is an extended trio for two manuals and pedal, in the key of A Major, in which only the first phrase of the chorale melody is ever quoted in the pedal voice near the end. The postlude is Bach’s Alla breve in D. The French composer and music educator Olivier Alain describes the Alla breve as “written in free, but very elaborate contrapuntal style, a grand Ricercare for full organ, the theme of which already foreshadows the Gratias agimus tibi of the B minor Mass.” —David Hurd
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . On the next two Sundays, February 24 and March 3, Father Borja Vilallonga will lead the class in a discussion of his doctoral research done at the Sorbonne. Father Vilallonga was ordained in the Roman Catholic Church and is now a priest in the Old Catholic Church, which is in full communion with the Episcopal Church. He is currently a postdoctoral fellow 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 . . . On the five Sundays of Lent—March 10 to April 14— Father Peter Powell will resume his series on the Elijah/Elisha cycle in 1 Kings 16:23–2 Kings 13:25 . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class, led by Father Jay Smith, did not meet on February 20, because of the inclement weather. The class meets next on February 27 at 6:30 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. The class will conclude its reading of the Letter of Jude. The class will not meet on Ash Wednesday, March 6.
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 . . . We are very grateful to all those who volunteer their time and make donations to support this ministry. Our guests are grateful, and we are, too . . . Coming Up: Wednesday, February 27, 2:00–4:00 PM: Grab & Go in the former Gift Shop space in the Narthex . . . Wednesday, March 20, 2:00–4:00 PM, Drop-In Day in the Mission House basement. —Damien Joseph SSF
HOSPITALITY MINISTRY AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We hope to receive donations to help pay for the holy-day receptions on 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 TOWN . . . Book Talk: “Force & Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence,” Tuesday, February 26, 6:30 PM. $5 (free for members). From the society’s website, “Kellie Jackson, assistant professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College, examines the political and social tensions preceding the American Civil War and the conditions and that led some black abolitionists to believe that slavery might only be abolished by violence.” . . . At John Jay College, New Building, 524 W. 59th Street, Monday, March 4, 1:30–2:40 PM, “African-American Women Organizers and Educators Who Changed the Position of Women in Color in America.” Presentations by John Jay students. Parishioner Angeline Butler is an adjunct professor in the Department of Africana Studies at John Jay.