FROM THE RECTOR: GO TO THE TABLE
On Ash Wednesday, during the 6:00 PM Solemn Mass at the high altar, I was on duty in the Mercy Chapel to impose ashes for those who came for ashes and a moment or more for prayer but not for Mass—a New York City phenomenon. More people enter Saint Mary’s and other churches in this city on Ash Wednesday than on any other day of the year. Ashes, for whatever reason, are big here. We respond to that pastoral reality.
I like being on duty during this Mass, as it is the only time during the year when I can be an observer from the nave at Solemn Mass. It gives me a chance to think critically about our ceremonial pattern of worship and how it is to pray and sing as a member of the congregation. This year a moment that surprised my soul was watching the congregation respond to the invitation to come to the table: “The Gifts of God for the People of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving” (The Book of Common Prayer, 365). Almost as one, the greater part of the congregation stood and began to move forward. No ushers needed to get them started—although ushers are very helpful in the chancel directing and assisting our many visitors to and from the altar rail! The forward movement was a beautiful, a powerful moment.
Last year, Dr. Margaret Daly-Denton, an Irish liturgical music scholar—and, I think, an Anglican—published an article in the journal Worship, “There’s Always Room at the Table” (92, July 2018, 292–97). Her article was about the problem of the ministration of Communion away from the altar table (that is, communion stations)—and making an argument for the reordering of church interiors so that people can come forward. We are fortunate that even on feast days when Saint Mary’s is full, we have the space and number of ministers of the Sacrament so that all who are able can come forward.
In that same issue of Worship was the second of the Reverend Dr. Steven R. Shaver’s two-part article, “A Eucharistic Origins Story: Part 2: The Body and Blood of Christ” (298–317). (The first article, “A Eucharistic Origins Story: Part 1: The Breaking of the Loaf,” was published in the May 2018 issue [204–21].) In his concluding remarks in the second article he writes, “We can in fact draw at least two lines from earliest Christian meals to the later Eucharist: the first is the tradition of sharing a common loaf (and sometimes cup), and the second is the tradition associating the meal with Jesus’s body and blood. Neither of these two strands was universal, but both date from the beginning of the Christian movement, and both would eventually be adopted so widely as to be normative” (316–17).
“Come, risen Lord, and deign to be our guest” (The Hymnal 1982, 305, 306) is a favorite communion hymn among Episcopalians. It was written by George Wallace Briggs (1875–1959), a priest of the Church of England. His inspiration was Luke 24:13–35, the account of Jesus’ appearance to two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus on of the day of resurrection. The hymn is all about the unity we share in Christ and that the Eucharistic Sacrament is that Christ’s gracious gift to us—“let us be thy guest; the feast is thine”—and that is, Christ’s.
On Thursday, the second day of Lent, a friend of mine told me he felt guilty because he hadn’t gone to church to get ashes on Wednesday. I said something like, “There’s no obligation in tradition to get ashes on Wednesday. Go to Mass on Sunday. Go to the Table.” —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Carmen, Daniel, Michelle, Michael, Robert, Julia, Selwyn, Cynthia, Brian, May, John, Alexandra, Kyle, Eloise, Karen, Susan, Marilouise, Takeem, David, Sandy, and William; and Horace, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests; and all the benefactors and friends of this parish.
GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 10: 1916 Clara Van Riper; 1962 John S. Jarvis Beach; 1989 Marion Campbell, Jr.; 1994 Virginia Greene.
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 . . . Father Gerth and Father Smith are grateful to the acolytes, ushers, choristers, members of the staff, and all who worked so hard here at the parish on Ash Wednesday. The day is the busiest day of the year at Saint Mary’s—doors open just before 7:00 AM and close at 8:00 PM. Over 1000 people came to the church on Wednesday to begin the season of Lent. It was good to have them here. We wish all of them, and all of you, a joyful and holy Lent . . . We are looking for donations for altar flowers on March 31, The Fourth Sunday of Lent and the Sundays of Eastertide . . . 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. Mass Attendance: Last Sunday 179, Ash Wednesday 253.
ECCLESIASTICAL DIARY . . . (Overheard Ash Wednesday afternoon by an usher, as the mostly local office worker crowd comes and goes during “Ashing Hours”): Three young guys in their power suits are leaving by a side door. “Hey!,” wonders the first one in a puzzled voice. “You sure this is a Protestant Church?” “Oh yeah” says the second, with some apparent pride. “They do it ALL here.” Finally, the third, not to be outdone, adds admiringly. “And they do a whole lot of outreach too!”
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, March 10, The First Sunday in Lent, 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 13, Sung Mass 12:10 PM; The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will not meet on Wednesday, March 13 . . . Thursday, March 14, Mass with Healing Service 12:10 PM . . . Friday, March 15, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM, Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM; Centering Prayer Group, 6:30 PM in the Atrium in the Parish House, Second Floor.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The musical setting of the Mass on Sunday morning is from the traditional plainsong Mass XVII In Dominicis Adventus et Quadragesimae designated for use on Sundays in Advent and Lent. This setting, as presented in the Graduale Romanum, includes three options for Kyrie, the first two of which are in mode I. All three are set forth in the traditional nine-fold format with an extended final iteration. The first, Kyrie salve, dates from the tenth century while the second and third (in mode VI) may be of somewhat later origin. The second option, Kyrie B, will be sung today. The Sanctus and Agnus Dei—both in mode V—are dated from the eleventh and thirteenth centuries respectively.
The Communion motet on Sunday is Angelis suis mandavit de te by the Portuguese composer and organist Manuel Cardoso (c. 1566–1650). Cardoso was born in Fronteira and was probably a student of Manuel Mendes and Cosme Delgado at the choir school of Évora Cathedral around 1574. He entered the Carmelite order in 1588 and was professed a year later. He served there as mestre de capela and, eventually, as sub-prior. He was highly regarded both for his musical gifts and his religious devotion. Beginning in 1605 he published three books of Masses and motets. He enjoyed the patronage and generosity of Philip IV of Spain. Cardoso is considered to represent the golden age of Portuguese polyphony, his compositions being comparable to the works of Palestrina. Unfortunately many of Cardoso’s compositions, including many of his more daring works, were lost in the Lisbon earthquake and fire of 1755. Today’s motet is Cardoso’s four-voice setting of Psalm 91:11-12. It evidences the expressive chromatic usage commonly encountered in Iberian and English music of the time. —David Hurd
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . Beginning this Sunday, and on all the five Sundays of Lent and Palm Sunday—March 10 to April 14—Father Peter Powell will continue 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 with 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 Testament 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 13. The class resumes on March 20, when the class will start reading the Passion Narrative in the Gospel of Luke, which is heard at Mass this year on Palm Sunday.
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.
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 13, 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
AROUND THE CITY . . . Wednesday, March 27, 3:00–5:00 PM, 241 West 72nd Street, New York, NY, National Council of Jewish Women New York presents “Ten Women of Valor.” The NCJW NY Eleanor Leff Jewish Women’s Resource Center Steering Committee is pleased to welcome author Anne Hosansky and invites you to become reacquainted with ten biblical heroines through her book, Ten Women of Valor. In dramatic monologues, the women reveal how they managed to triumph in a male-dominated world. Ranging from indomitable Sarah to legendary Esther, they confide frank feelings of faith, ambition, passion, and sibling rivalry. They emerge as women coping with many of the same issues women face today. This program is free, but RSVPs are recommended. Light refreshments will be served. RSVP here. Anne Hosansky is the author of Widow’s Walk and Turning Toward Tomorrow. Her articles and short stories have been published in the United States, Canada, England, and Australia. A former actress, she currently leads workshops in memoir writing . . . At the Neue Galerie, Eighty-sixth Street and Fifth Avenue, “The Self-Portrait, from Schiele to Beckmann,” through June 24, 2019. This is an unprecedented exhibition that examines works primarily from Austria and Germany made between 1900 and 1945. This groundbreaking show is unique in its examination and focus on works of this period. Approximately seventy self-portraits by more than thirty artists—both well-known figures and others who deserve greater recognition—will be united in the presentation, which is comprised of loans from public and private collections worldwide. Admired for their revelatory nature, self-portraits yield insight into both the appearance and the essence of the artist, in some cases providing almost confessional portrayals, sharing profound insights regarding their self-image as a maker, and their perceived relationship to society. On a more universal level, they can also expose deeper truths about the human condition. During the first four decades of the twentieth century, the self-portrait, a genre that has transcended the ages, reached new heights in Germany and Austria.