The Angelus


The High Altar, Eve of the Presentation, Friday, February 1, 2019, Blessing of Candles, Procession & Solemn Mass.
Photo by Brendon Hunter


The ancient posture for prayer is to stand with hands raised. It’s called “orans,” a Latin word that means “praying.” It’s been a long time since Christian congregations prayed in this way. But orans has continued to be used in the West by those who preside at worship. It’s the way the Hebrew people prayed in Jesus’ time. Christian art shows us that early Christian communities prayed this way. I don’t think that means that everyone needs to pray that way today. But I do think it’s important to appreciate what the posture represents—and why it drives me crazy when I see bishops and priests who faithfully use this gesture when reading the prayers of the presider, but fail to do so when the people join in, for example, when both presider and people say or sing the Lord’s Prayer together. (Dare I mention that bishops and priests sometimes ask congregations to hold hands during the Lord’s Prayer?)

The celebrant, in this case Father Jay Smith, is the last of the clergy to reverence the altar at the beginning of the Solemn Mass. Photo from Sunday, February 3, 2019.
Photo by MaryJane Boland

The laying-on of hands is another New Testament gesture. It is associated with the presence of the Holy Spirit for healing, blessing, and setting apart ministers. Another is the washing of feet, mentioned not only in John’s gospel (13:1–17), but also in the First Letter of Paul to Timothy (5:9–10).

The Prayer Book requires that I touch or hold the bread and the wine during what we call the words of institution, and I have always done so. Always. But I have come to think that behind these gestures lies an ill-considered and unbiblical clericalism that lives on among all of us.

I wish we Episcopalians had the rubric that the Church of England’s Common Worship (2000) has. It’s this: “In Holy Communion the Church, following the example of the Lord, takes, gives thanks, breaks and gives. The bread and wine must be taken into the president’s hands and replaced upon the table either after the table has been prepared or during the Eucharistic Prayer” (page 333). That’s a change to the Prayer Book I could welcome. Even when a deacon assists at Saint Mary’s, it is the celebrant who places the bread and the wine on the corporal, a gesture designating over what we, the congregation, are giving thanks. If we had this permission, I would not touch the bread and wine during what we call the words of institution.

The Roman Catholic Church understands their bishops and priests to be standing at the altar “in persona Christi”—in the place of Christ himself. Anglicans rejected that kind of thinking at the Reformation. The congregation is the Body of Christ, the New Testament’s royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). The congregation of the baptized is the great and primary sign of God’s real presence among us. The Eucharistic Prayer is not complete until the congregation says, “Amen.”

I’ve been working to stop bowing my head at the name of Jesus in the course of praying if my hands are in orans—but it’s hard to stop. But I think there is a priority to orans. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he did not ask them to kneel and to fold their hands. Especially at Mass when we are singing the Lord’s Prayer to the ancient music, I can lose myself in the words that come down to us from Jesus Christ and the ancient music, uniting us to him and to the unending days of the world to come. —Stephen Gerth

YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Ethelyn, Flor, Al, Lars, Linda, Henry, Dorothy, Dennis, Paula, John, Alexandra, Kyle, Carolyn, Ivy, Jondan, Eloise, Michael, Karen, Susan, Marilouise, Robert, May, Takeem, David, Sandy; Aidan, religious; Horace, Daniel, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; and all the benefactors and friends of this parish.

After the opening acclamation, the opening song of praise, always Gloria in excelsis except in Advent and Lent, is sung. Incense is prepared and the altar is censed.
Photo by MaryJane Boland

GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 10: 1895 Francis Jacob Dominick, Margaret Jane Cochrane; 1896 Elizabeth Lander; 1918 Clara Howard Robinson; 1934 Richard Ellis Jones; 1956 James Harvey Carll, Jr.; 1968 John E. Mery Lees; 1983 Constance R. Earle.

 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! . . . If you have not yet completed a pledge card for 2019, we encourage you to do so as soon as possible. Our needs are urgent. Our mission is clear. We welcome your support, and we are grateful to all those have supported Saint Mary’s so generously in the past.

THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, February 10, The Fifth 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, February 13, Sung Mass 12:10 PM; Wednesday Night Bible Study Class 6:30 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. . . Thursday, February 14, Mass with Healing Service 12:10 PM . . . Friday, February 15, Centering Prayer 6:30–8:00 PM, Atrium, Parish House, 145 West 46th Street.

As Father Smith sings the Collect of the Day: Marie Postlewate (L), Father Jim Pace, Julie Gillis, and Marie Rosseels.
Photo by MaryJane Boland

AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Ethelyn Bader is receiving treatment at home while preparing for a surgical procedure in about a month’s time. Please keep her in your prayers . . . We are happy to report that parishioner Gladys Ramos-Reyes recently completed her undergraduate degree at the Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College. She is now applying to master’s programs in social work here in the city. Gladys managed to complete her degree while working full-time. Her hard work, discipline, and commitment are inspiring. Please keep Gladys, and her equally hard-working and supportive husband, Luis Reyes, in your prayers . . . We are also happy to report that longtime parishioner and incense maker, Kenny Isler, has returned to the metropolitan area. Kenny recently sold his home in Arizona and took some time to visit the southwestern and southeastern United States. He has finally decided to settle down in the historic Hudson Valley town of Cold Spring, about an hour and a half north of the city. He has been back to Saint Mary’s to refresh his recent batch of incense, and he served at the altar on Sunday. We hope to see him often here at the parish. He looks forward to meeting those who have come to Saint Mary’s while he has been living in Arizona . . . It is always nice to be able to welcome good friends who live out of town back to Saint Mary’s. Last Sunday, several members of the Brotherhood of Saint Gregory were with us for the Solemn Mass and for Coffee Hour. Others joined us for the Vigil Mass on Saturday evening and for Evensong on Sunday. The brothers are all kind, friendly, and willing to share good stories about their lives and ministries. Those ministries are many and varied. For more information about the Brotherhood and the work of the brothers, visit their website . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 155.

Leroy Sharer was reader on Sunday. Members of the congregation and vested servers share in the ministry of reading at Mass.
Photo by MaryJane Boland

FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The setting of the Mass on Sunday morning is the four-voice Missa octo vocum of Hans Leo Hassler (1564–1612). Born in Nuremberg and baptized on October 26, 1564, Hassler’s musical career bridged the late Renaissance and early Baroque periods. His initial musical instruction was from his father, Isaak Hassler (c. 1530–1591). Hans Leo left home in 1584 to study in Venice with Andrea Gabrieli (c. 1532–1585) and become a friend of, and fellow pupil with, Gabrieli’s nephew Giovanni (c. 1554–1612). Thus, Hassler was one of the first of a succession of German composers to experience in Italy the musical innovations that were shaping what would later be identified as baroque style. Hassler was recognized in his day not only as a composer, but also as an organist and a consultant on organ design. Although he was a Protestant, Hassler’s early compositions were for the Roman church. His Missa octo vocum, Mass for eight voices, was first published in Nuremberg in 1599. It is organized largely as a dialogue between two four-voice choirs which sing in antiphonal alternation, but then come together strategically in the splendid richness of eight parts. The established Venetian polychoral style is evident in this Mass setting, along with the harmonic clarity characteristic of the emerging baroque style in Hassler’s time. 

The Motet sung during the Communion on Sunday is a setting of Psalm 133 for five voices (SATTB), also by Hans Leo Hassler. The style of the music is more chordal than polyphonic, with voices often singing text in rhythmic unison. Imitative passages along the way suggest the Venetian polychoral style for which Hassler was also known.

The organ music of Jan Zwart (1877–1937) holds a special place in Dutch organ culture from the late nineteenth century forward. Zwart was the first organist in the Netherlands to make live radio broadcasts. He was also the first cantor-organist in the Lutheran Church in the Netherlands. He taught a generation of leading Dutch organists, including four of his sons who became professional organists. Although his sons are now deceased, his grandson, Everhard Zwart (b. 1958), continues the family organ tradition in his performing and recording. Jan Zwart’s music is rich in chromatic harmony and dramatic expression.  Many of his organ works are based upon chorale melodies or metrical psalm tunes. Een Vaste Burg begins with an introduction which strongly suggests the first phrase of the well-known chorale melody for Luther’s paraphrase of Psalm 46. In the course of the piece are three distinctly different variations on the well-known chorale. The first is light and charming with the melody in the top voice; the second is lush and expressive with the melody in the tenor; and the third is strong and commanding with the melody returned to the soprano voice. Sunday’s prelude comprises the first two variations. The postlude comprises the introduction and final variation. —David Hurd

CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . 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! . . . Coming Up, Save the Dates: On Sunday, February 17 and 24, 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 six Sundays of Lent—March 10–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, will meet on February 13 at 6:30 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. The class will begin its reading of the Letter of Jude.

The Retiring Procession: The Rector and Father Matt Jacobson were concelebrants.
Photo by MaryJane Boland

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. —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 THE DIOCESE . . . At the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, Amsterdam Avenue and 112th Street, Thursday, February 14, 6:00–9:00 PM, Opening Event: The Value of Sanctuary: Building a House Without Walls. From the diocesan website, “Opening of the latest in a series of Cathedral-wide initiatives focused on the intersections between spirituality, contemporary social issues, and human rights and dignity. Beginning with the historic framework of the Cathedral as a site of welcome and refuge, this multidisciplinary exhibition explores the question of sanctuary through the work of modern and contemporary artists. Using the Cathedral’s sacred space as a canvas, these works illuminate the intersections between spiritual and social identity, and the ways in which personhood and community cohesion speak to and are formed by notions of dignity, inclusion and exclusion.”

There were many smiles at the end of the liturgy on the Eve of the Presentation.
Photo by Brendon Hunter

AT THE GALLERIES . . . At the Africa Center, 1280 Fifth Avenue at 110th Street, Victor Ekpuk: Harlem Sunrise, through April 2019. From the newly opened Center’s website, “In his drawings, paintings, and sculptures, Victor Ekpuk (b. 1964, Nigeria) reimagines archaic graphic symbols as expressions of contemporary life. Reducing forms to their linear, abstract essence, Ekpuk’s work criss-crosses the boundary between writing and art. Ekpuk is especially fascinated by nsibidi, an indigenous Nigerian writing system that uses symbols to convey ideas, and has used it as a starting point for creating his own distinctive ‘script.’ In Harlem Sunrise, a new installation commissioned by The Africa Center, Ekpuk weaves symbols and fleeting impressions of New York City into a large-scale wall drawing that playfully connects the Center with its surrounding neighborhood. Overseeing it all is a proud rooster, heralding a bright dawn and fresh beginnings. The work is ephemeral and will be painted over at the end of the exhibition, its traces lingering in memory even as it makes way for something new.”

CLICK HERE for this week’s schedule.

CLICK HERE for the full parish calendar.