FROM THE RECTOR: WELCOME LENT
Easter Day is April 21 this year. Ash Wednesday is March 6. Largely secular Easter decorations are already for sale in stores. Our paschal candle has arrived. The Mass lessons for Ash Wednesday and the Sundays in Lent have been given a careful look and are posted on the parish website. A lot of preparation for Holy Week and Easter Day is already underway. That said, there are traditions that make Lent a relatively straightforward season for a parish like ours.
Except for five Sundays and two feasts (Saint Joseph, Tuesday, March 19; and the Annunciation, Monday, March 25), every other day from Ash Wednesday until Palm Sunday is a “Weekday of Lent.” Saint Joseph (a “Major Feast”) and the Annunciation (a “Feast of Our Lord”) have extra services. As is our custom, on Annunciation there will be a Sung Mass at 12:10 PM and an organ recital at 5:30 PM before the 6:00 PM Solemn Mass. On Friday evenings in Lent, Stations of the Cross will be prayed at 6:30 PM following 6:00 PM Daily Evening Prayer.
Four Eucharists are celebrated here on Ash Wednesday. Said Masses with brief homilies will be at 7:00 AM and 8:00 AM. The parish choir will be present for the 12:10 PM Sung Mass and the 6:00 PM Solemn Mass. At both services, during the imposition of ashes, the choir will sing Miserere mei by Gregorio Allegri (1582–1652). The imposition of ashes will be available from 7:00 AM (with ashes reserved from last year) until 8:00 PM. Ash Wednesday is a day when the liturgy calls us to fasting and prayer and to think about how we will prepare for the celebration of Holy Week and Easter Day.
When I was in elementary school, the school cafeteria always served fish or something like grilled cheese sandwiches on Fridays. Roman Catholics did not eat meat on Fridays. Since 1969, Roman Catholics have observed meatless Fridays for Lent. We Episcopalians have this as our guide:
The following days are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial: Ash Wednesday and the other weekdays of Lent and of Holy Week, except the feast of the Annunciation. Good Friday and all other Fridays of the year, in commemoration of the Lord’s crucifixion, except for Fridays in the Christmas and Easter seasons, and any Feasts of our Lord which occur on a Friday. (Book of Common Prayer, 17)
Our Episcopal approach respects tradition, and it invites each of us to take responsibility for how we will mark Lent in our own lives. Sundays are not days of Special Devotion for us.
Most years on Ash Wednesday, between fifteen hundred and two thousand people will present themselves to receive a mark of penitence and to hear the words, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Many will be here only for a short time. Others will linger for prayer in the pews or at one of the shrines. Some will discover that a Mass is being offered and will stay for the service and to receive Communion. That said, volunteer ushers are needed all day to guide people to ashes (at the high altar except when Mass is celebrated; in the Chapel of Our Lady of Mercy during Masses—all of which take place at the high altar). Father Smith has been in touch with the members of the Ushers’ Guild and is preparing a schedule for the day. Members of the Guild who have not responded to Father Smith’s call for ushers, and others who can give some time on Ash Wednesday, should be in touch with Father Smith no later than Monday morning, March 4.
Finally, this Sunday, March 3, is the Last Sunday after the Epiphany. The gospel is Luke’s account of the Transfiguration. Great hymns at the Solemn Mass and at Evensong. Except on the Fourth Sunday in Lent, the parish choir will again be in the chancel for the Solemn Mass, and the organ will not be used on Sundays. The human voice is the ancient and fundamental instrument, as it were, of Christian worship. This is not the only way to do Lent. It’s one way we that we remind ourselves that we are in Lent. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Julia, Robert, Shirley, Gary, May, John, Eric, Vince, Ethelyn, Henry, Alexandra, Kyle, Carolyn, Ivy, Jondan, Eloise, Michael, Karen, Susan, Marilouise, Carol, Takeem, David, Sandy, Bill; Matthew, Horace, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; for all the benefactors and friends of this parish; and for the repose of the soul of Shelley Preston Storm.
IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Shelley Preston Storm, the cousin of parishioner Mark Risinger, died suddenly on February 25, 2019. Please keep Shelley, Mark, and members of their family—Jan, Cynthia, Terry, Todd, Steve, and Logan—in your prayers. May Shelley rest in peace and rise in glory.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 3: 1878 Josephine Wright; 1910 Cassius Clay Caswell; 1923 John Ross; 1929 Haley Fiske; 1940 Philip John Smith, Sr.; 1941 Cromwell Childe; 1959 Emily Schneider.
ASH WEDNESDAY IS A DAY OF FASTING. The other weekdays of Lent and Holy Week are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the Lord’s crucifixion.
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.)
AROUND THE PARISH . . . On Sunday, February 24, at 1:00 PM, Lillian Rose Slusky-Sterbin received the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Her parents are Reha Sterbin and Ben Slusky. Her brother is Jacob Slusky-Sterbin. Please keep Lilly and her family in your prayers . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 185 . . . Parishioner Bob Picken fell and suffered a fractured hip this week. He is now receiving treatment at Lenox Hill Hospital. Please keep him in your prayers . . . On Monday, February 18, former parishioner, Julia Heard, was involved in a serious car accident in Atlanta, Georgia, where she now lives. Hit head-on by a drunk driver, she sustained bruises and facial fractures, which required surgery to repair. She is expected to make a full recovery. Please keep Julia and her family in your prayers . . . Atlas Obscura is, among other things, a publisher, online and in print, of “stories about hidden places, incredible history, scientific marvels, and gastronomical wonders.” Its first book, Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders, was a bestseller. Atlas Obscura has published a list, “An Explorer’s Guide to Hidden Times Square,” on their website, and Saint Mary’s is included on that list. Visit their website and see what caught their attention . . . Father Matthew Jacobson celebrates an anniversary this week. He was ordained to the diaconate on March 4, 2017 . . . Father Jay Smith will be away from the parish on retreat from Friday, March 8, until Sunday, March 10. He returns to the office on Monday, March 11.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, March 3, The Last 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 . . . March 6, Ash Wednesday, Mass 7:00 & 8:00 AM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM. Ashes are offered either in the church or in the Mercy Chapel from 7:00 AM to 8:00 PM. . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Ash Wednesday, March 6 . . . Friday, March 8, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM, Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM.
NEWS OF DEACON REBECCA WEINER TOMPKINS . . . On Tuesday, March 5, at 5:00 PM, Rebecca will be at Brooklyn Roasting Company, 25 Jay Street, Brooklyn, reading from and signing her new book of poems, King of the Fireflies. All are welcome. Rebecca would be happy to see Saint Marians at this event.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The setting of the Mass on Sunday morning is Missa Aeterna Christi Munera by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525–1594). Palestrina is often regarded today more as a source and inspiration for many of the composers who followed him than as a practitioner of already established musical practice. However, it may be said that Palestrina stood on foundations largely laid by the Netherlandish composers Guillaume Dufay (c. 1397–1474) and Josquin des Prez (c. 1450–1521). He is responsible for setting the canons for renaissance polyphony and the standards for Catholic liturgical music which pertain even in our time. Among his hundreds of compositions are 105 masses, most of which were published in thirteen volumes between 1554 and 1601. The Missa Aeterna Christi Munera is based upon the plainsong melody for the hymn for the commemoration of Apostles and Martyrs attributed to St. Ambrose (340–397). A translation of this Ambrosian hymn appears at 233 and 234 in The Hymnal 1982, but with different music. At 132 in The Hymnal 1940 one finds both the translated Ambrosian hymn and the plainsong melody on which Palestrina based his four-voice mass. As one often finds in renaissance polyphonic masses, an additional voice is added for the final Agnus Dei.
Sunday’s Communion motet was composed by Tomás Luís de Victoria (c. 1548–1611). Victoria is considered the most important Spanish composer of Renaissance polyphony. Born in Avila, the seventh of eleven children, he began his musical education as a choirboy at Avila Cathedral, and began his classical education at San Gil, a Jesuit school for boys founded in 1554. By 1565 Victoria had entered the Jesuit Collegio Germanico in Rome, where he was later engaged to teach music and eventually named maestro di cappella. Victoria knew and may have been instructed by Palestrina, who was maestro di cappella of the nearby Seminario Romano at that time. During his years in Rome, Victoria held several positions as singer, organist and choral master, and published many of his compositions. Victoria’s Resplenduit facies ejus is a setting for five voices of a vespers antiphon for the feast of the Transfiguration (6 August). The text is Matthew 17:2-3. In this motet the two soprano voices sing throughout in canon at the unison.
The organ voluntaries on Sunday are compositions of Max Reger taken from his Opus 59, one of his several collections of twelve pieces. Reger (1873–1916) was an extremely prolific composer both in terms of the volume of music he composed in relatively few years, and in the density of that music from the standpoint of harmony, counterpoint and sheer number of notes to the page. His music paid a great debt to counterpoint of Bach yet stretched forward to a powerful post-romantic expressiveness. Toccata, today’s prelude, is the fifth piece of the Opus 59. It is a brash and dramatic piece with fiery episodes alternating sharply with reflective interludes. Fugue, today’s postlude, is the sixth piece of the collection. It is unambiguously in the key of D Major and moves in a constant crescendo through rich chromatic harmony, to a powerful finish. These two pieces, framing Sunday’s Solemn Mass, are well able to stand alone, but are often performed together in concert. —David Hurd
STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN 2018–2019 . . . Our campaign and pledge drive continue. Some statistics may be helpful. We mailed packets to 124 households that pledged last year and to 673 households that have expressed an interest in supporting the parish. We also, for the first time, sent a separate appeal to 157 households that have made donations in the past, but have not made a pledge. We have asked those donors to consider making a regular, periodic sustaining donation to Saint Mary’s. Once again this year, our goal for the campaign is $425,000. As of February 27, we have received $362,147 in pledges from 114 households, 85% of our goal. We still have a ways to go, but our goal is in sight. Our needs are urgent. Our mission is clear. We welcome your support. We are very grateful to all those who have made a pledge for 2019 and to all those who continue faithfully to make regular payments on their pledge.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . On Sunday, March 3, Father Borja Vilallonga concludes his series on Roman Catholicism in the era of Pope Pius IX and the First Vatican Council . . . 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. Father Powell writes, “We begin our Lenten study of the Elijah/Elisha cycle at an auspicious moment. Elijah ascends into heaven and Elisha’s story begins. While Elijah gets remembered better, Elisha actually does twice as much! Some Christians today are convinced that it is the role of the church to support the state, and they quote Romans 13 to prove it. There we learn that every person should place themselves under the authority of the government. There isn’t any authority unless it comes from God, and the authorities that are there have been put in place by God. So anyone who opposes the authority is standing against what God has established. People who take this kind of stand will get punished. The authorities don’t frighten people who are doing the right thing. Rather, they frighten people who are doing wrong. Would you rather not be afraid of authority? Do what’s right, and you will receive its approval. It is God’s servant given for your benefit. But if you do what’s wrong, be afraid because it doesn’t have weapons to enforce the law for nothing. It is God’s servant put in place to carry out his punishment on those who do what is wrong. That is why it is necessary to place yourself under the government’s authority, not only to avoid God’s punishment but also for the sake of your conscience.
“If we look at the context our time and political situation seems much more like that of Elisha than that of Paul. Paul was speaking to a small powerless group trying to survive in the Roman Empire. We speak to a country which continues to believe it is Christian, and many Christians believe that the State is a forceful way to further the mission of the church.
“The Elijah/Elisha cycle in 1 and 2 Kings is an interesting story as literature. But of course we don’t read the bible for literature. We read it to discover how God works in our world. Elijah and Elisha prophesied to Israel when it was ruled by Israelite kings. Their relationship to the kings of Israel has much to teach us about how the religious community relates to power. The kings despised Elijah and Elisha for the way they spoke truth to power. They saw the demands of God to be in conflict to the accumulation of power. Perhaps there is a message for the twenty-first century here? You may know Elijah from the references in the New Testament to him. He’s one of three men in heaven, Moses and Enoch are the other two. The New Testament wonders if John the Baptist is the new Elijah? Or perhaps Jesus is? We will only touch on the New Testatment questions. Our focus will be the fascinating and relevant stories of them in a time when Israel ruled itself” . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class, led by Father Jay Smith, will not meet on March 6 or 13. The class resumes on March 20, when we will start reading the Passion Narrative in the Gospel of Luke, which we hear this year on Palm Sunday.
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 thermal underwear 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, March 6, 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