The Angelus


The Rood Beam at Saint Mary's (1912) by Johannes Kirchmayer (1860-1930). At the foot of the Cross stand the the Blessed Virgin and Saint John the Evangelist, flanked by two angels.
Photo: Brian Kutner


Stabat Mater is a thirteenth-century hymn, the text of which consists of a meditation on Mary’s experience of the suffering and death of her Son. Its author may be either the Franciscan friar Jacopone da Todi (1230–1306) or Pope Innocent III (1161–1216). Here at Saint Mary’s we mostly associate the hymn with the season of Lent, when we sing the hymn on Fridays as we walk the Stations of the Cross.

The Descent from the Cross (1435-1438). Rogier van der Weyden (c. 1399-1464). El Museo del Prado, Madrid.

I discovered this week, as I worked on our website’s list of concerts for the coming season, that Stabat Mater has been set to music by a surprisingly—at least to me—large number of Western composers over the course of many centuries, among them Pierluigi da Palestrina (c. 1525–1594), Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757), Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901), Francis Poulenc (1899–1963), Ennio Morricone (b. 1928), Arvo Pärt (b. 1935), and James MacMillan (b. 1959). The hymn continues to attract a great deal of attention on the part of musicians and music lovers around the world, not all of them Christian, or even particularly religious. It turns out that there is a website—The Ultimate Stabat Mater Site—at which one can find an enormous amount of information about this single Christian hymn and its history. The website has been funded in part by the Dutch Stabat Mater Foundation, which, since 1985, has produced an annual concert, just before Easter, in the Dutch town of Oirschot. At these concerts, different settings of the Stabat Mater are always featured.

This autumn, Stabat Mater appears on the program of several music ensembles performing here in New York. On Saturday, October 19, at 8:00 PM, here at Saint Mary’s, the Belgian early-music group, Vox Luminis, sings Domenico Scarlatti’s setting of the hymn, composed around 1715, along with a number of other works whose theme is Christ’s Passion. The members of Vox Luminis write, “This signature work anchors a collection of powerfully moving compositions depicting the suffering of the Mother of God at the foot of the cross, fittingly performed at the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin.”

The members of New York Polyphony.
Photo: Chris Owyoung

On November 7, 2019, at 7:30 PM, in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, the Britten Sinfonia, and the choir known as The Sixteen, will perform a contemporary Stabat Mater by the Scottish composer James MacMillan.This work, composed in 2016, has been described as “monumental” and a “masterpiece.” It was the first musical work ever performed live from the Sistine Chapel. On Saturday, November 9, at 8:00 PM, also here at Saint Mary’s, our good friends, the members of New York Polyphony, will sing Pedro de Escobar’s setting of the hymn, composed around 1500, during a concert entitled “Gothic Polyphony.” On Thursday, November 21, at 7:30 PM, also in Alice Tully Hall, the Orchestra of the Enlightenment performs a setting of the hymn by Giovanni Pergolesi (1710–1736), created at the very end of that composer’s tragically short life.

None of this loving attention to the Stabat Mater will come as a surprise, I suspect, to Dr. Hurd, Dr. Risinger, or to the other members of the parish choir. But it came as a surprise to me. What motivates it, I wonder?

I heard a TED talk recently by the atheist philosopher Alain de Botton. In the talk, Botton yearns for “a religion for atheists— call it Atheism 2.0—that incorporates religious forms and traditions to satisfy our human need for connection, ritual and transcendence.” But this religion is emphatically to be a religion without “all the doctrine.” It is dogma, Botton suggests, that causes all the problems.

The Entrance Procession on the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost.
Photo: MaryJane Boland

However, as I think of Stabat Mater, that deeply emotional, passionate lament, faithfully sung in a variety of ways for hundreds of years, it seems to me that such a religion already exists. Those who have loved the hymn may, or may not, also concern themselves with the abstract, cerebral doctrines of the Atonement set out by the Church’s theologians. But, in the end, they have insisted on also doing a theology of the body and of the heart, using poetry, music, drama, liturgy, ritual, pilgrimage, and song. They have recognized that the Christian faith is founded on a story, a divine story to be sure, but a deeply human story as well, a story filled with joy and triumph, but also with terror, suffering, death, and a terrible sort of grief; and that story has always invited believers—and non-believers as well—to enter into its details, its characters, and its emotions. Each of us stands at the foot of the cross at some point in our life, sometimes more than once. And, with the Spirit’s gracious help, each of us is invited to think and to feel our way to some new way of seeing: how are we go on, what do we make of this painful vigil, and do we dare believe that a thing so grievous can also give us life? —Jay Smith

YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Chris, Linda, Gene, Marie, Jon, Sharon, Gary, Rita, Paige, Pat, John, Esther, Bryan, Dianna, Beulah, Cyrisse, Wendell, May, Willard, Alexandra, Karen, Carolyn, Ivy, Marilouise, Takeem, Carmen, Michael, and Burton; for Horace, Gaylord, Louis, Edgar, priests, and James, bishop; for all the benefactors and friends of this parish; and for the repose of the soul of James Cronen, OSB, monk and priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE: September 1: 1890 Rosetta Ann Wright; 1905 John W. Horton.

Medieval statue of Our Lady in the crypt of Mount Saviour Monastery, Pine City, NY.

IN THIS TRANSITORY LIFE . . . Brother James Cronen, OSB, monk of Mount Saviour Monastery, Pine City, New York, died peacefully in his sleep on August 24, 2019, in Rochester, New York. He was ninety-two years old. He made his first profession of the monastic vow at Saint Paul’s Monastery in September 1948. He was ordained priest in 1954. He was allowed to transfer his vow of stability to Mount Saviour Monastery in 1967. While at university, Father Jay Smith met Brother James while on retreat at Mount Saviour. He has remained grateful all these years to Brother James for his kindness and pastoral care. Parishioner Penny Allen met Brother James in 1995. She is an oblate of Mount Saviour and came to know Brother James very well. Brother James is survived by his brother monks, two sisters-in-law, and many nephews and nieces. He will be remembered with respect and great affection by those who visited the monastery over the years and had the opportunity to meet him and speak with him. Please keep Brother James, his brothers, his 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.

SEPTEMBER 1, 1939 . . . On September 1, 1939, eighty years ago this coming Sunday, Germany launched an unprovoked attack on the sovereign nation of Poland. Great Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later, and so World War II began. That conflict was the deadliest war in human history. Between seventy and eighty-five million people died during World War II, either directly or from war-related disease and famine. Let us pray for an end to violence, hatred, and warfare. Let us pray for reconciliation among nations, religions and peoples.; and let us pray for the repose of the souls of all those who died during that terrible and violent time, 1939–1945.

Font Cover (detail). Baptistery, Church of Saint Mary the Virgin. Carved by Johannes Kirchmayer (1922).
Photo: Brian Kutner

WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE BAPTIZED OR CONFIRMED? . . . The Right Reverend Andrew M. L. Dietsche, the bishop of New York, will be the celebrant and preacher for our patronal feast, the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, on Monday, December 9, at 6:00 PM. If you have been thinking about baptism, confirmation, or about being received into the Episcopal Church, we would be glad to help. If you would like to be baptized, confirmed, or received on December 9, please speak to Father Gerth or Father Smith or call the Parish Office.

THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Friday, August 30, The Centering Prayer Group, 6:30 PM in the Atrium in the Parish House, Second Floor . . . Sunday, September 1, The Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost, Summer Worship Schedule: Morning Prayer 8:30 AM; Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM; Solemn Mass 11:00 AM; Evening Prayer 5:00 PM . . . Monday, September 2, Labor Day, Federal Holiday Schedule, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM. The church opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 2:00 PM. The parish offices are closed . . . Wednesday, September 4, Sung Mass 12:10 PM; Clothing Ministry: Grab and Go, 2:00–3:00 PM, Narthex . . . Thursday, September 5, Mass and Healing Service 12:10 PM . . . Friday, September 6, The Centering Prayer Group, 6:30 PM in the Atrium in the Parish House, Second Floor . . . Sunday, September 8, The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM, Sung by the Chapel Choir of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, UK . . . Monday, September 9, Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary (transferred), Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM, and Sung Mass 6:00 PM.

46TH STREET FAÇADE RESTORATION . . . Instead of meeting on Thursday, August 29, there was a conference call to update progress. Milan Restoration now expects that the Department of Buildings will issue the work permit next week. A few minor jobs that do not require the work permit were completed this past week. I remain hopeful for good news about the permit early next week. —S.G.

LOOKING FOR A FEW FRIENDLY WOMEN AND MEN . . . Two of our faithful ushers have had to leave the Guild of Ushers in recent weeks. They hope to return, but they are not sure when that will be possible. The ranks of our ushers were already a bit thin, and so we are feeling these recent losses in the ranks rather keenly. We hope that some of our friends and members might feel called to this very important ministry. If you would like to find out more about what’s involved, please speak to one of the ushers, or to Father Jay Smith or Father Gerth. We need you! And we thank all those who have served in this ministry over the years. —J.R.S.

NEWS OF A GOOD FRIEND . . . The Reverend Deacon Anthony Jones is known to many many members of Saint Mary’s. He was a parishioner here for many years and was a faithful member of the Saint Vincent’s Guild of Acolytes during that time. Anthony is to be ordained priest on Saturday, September 14, 2019, at 11:00 AM, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation, 50 Cathedral Avenue, Garden City, New York. That day, Holy Cross Day, will be a busy one for many members of the parish this year. Anthony knows and understands this. Still, he invites any who are able to be with him in Garden City that morning, and, if you cannot be there, to keep him in your prayers as he begins this new ministry. —J.R.S.

Father Gerth prepares to chant the dismissal last Sunday.
Photo: Mary Jane Boland

AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Marie Postlewate traveled back to Texas this week for the funeral of her brother, Charles Postlewate, who died unexpectedly on July 13, 2019, in Fort Worth. Before she left New York she received news that her brother, Eugene, had suffered a stroke. Please keep Charles, Eugene, Marie, and their family in your prayers . . . Parishioner Terry Carlson returned to his hometown, Minneapolis, Minnesota, some years ago. He continues to support the parish in a number of ways. If you’ve wondered this year where all the very fine cookies at Coffee Hour and holy-day receptions were coming from, the answer is this: Terry has been sending them. He’s a great supporter of our hospitality ministry. Terry is a designer and artist, and he recently announced that his new website is now live. Terry has designed, created, and is now offering for sale a number of items. We invite you to take a look at his website. He’s clearly been hard at work; and thank you, Terry, for your generosity . . . We spoke to longtime parishioner, and former vice president of the Board of Trustees, Bob Picken, this week. He is getting settled in his new home in Port Washington, New York. He enjoys the community there, travels back to Queens twice per week to visit friends, and has found a parish in Port Washington which he likes. He misses Saint Mary’s and hopes to visit before too long. We also spoke to parishioner Abe Rochester this week. He was in good spirits and reminisced about his life in St. Kitts, his arrival in New York City after World War II, and the excitement, and the unpredictability, of his life as an investigator. He misses driving. He misses Saint Mary’s. He laments his reduced mobility. He is well-cared for by his wife Suzanne. He hopes to visit soon. Please keep Bob and Abe in your prayers . . .  The Chapel Choir of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, UK, will sing the service on Sunday, September 8, 2019, at 11:00 AM. We are looking forward to welcoming them to the parish. We urge all our members and friends to mark the approaching end of summer by attending church that day in order to worship with, and to welcome, our British guests . . . A Friendly Reminder: In order to prevent cash-flow problems, we ask all those who have made a financial pledge for 2019 to try to stay up to date with their pledge payments during the summer months. We are grateful to all those who continue to support the parish so generously . . . We will be selling blank greeting cards at Coffee hour on Sunday. Brother Damien SSF designed the cards, each of which includes one of his color photographs. Proceeds, minus sales tax, will be used to support the Franciscans’ ministry . . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowers for the following Sundays: September 8 and 22; October 20, and, especially, Friday, November 1, All Saints’ Day. If you would like to make a donation, please contact our parish administrator, Chris Howatt, in the parish office . . . Father Jay Smith will be away from the parish on vacation between Sunday, September 8, and Sunday, September 29. He will also be in Boston between Monday, September 30, and Wednesday, October 2, attending a Leadership in Ministry Conference. He then returns to the parish on Thursday, October 3 . . . Attendance at the Masses and Offices of the day: Last Sunday 129.

Last Sunday the flowers on the altar and in the church were given by Margaret Malone in memory of members of her family and a close friend. Design by J. Grace Mudd.
Photo: Mary Jane Boland.

A NOTE FROM THE RECTOR . . . Hurricane Dorian rescheduled my planned time away from Labor Day weekend until Columbus Day weekend. Friends in Florida agreed that I have made a wise decision. As I write, it’s going to be a great weekend weatherwise here in the city. —S.G.

SAINT MARY’S AIDS WALK TEAM SAYS THANK YOU . . . Our team wishes to report our extraordinary success in the 2019 AIDS Walk and to thank all the friends and parishioners who supported us. Our team ranked Number 4 of all the teams walking, and we raised a total of $62,757 of the more than $4 million raised overall. We’d like to share some facts and figures: 16 people were on our team; 257 people supported us—parishioners and friends of the team; our donors live in 23 states and 2 countries; and 9 of our walkers raised more than $1,000 each. This was a Saint Mary’s event, and we couldn’t do it without you. We will walk again on May 17, 2020. —MaryJane Boland & Clark Mitchell

FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The cantor on Sunday morning is bass-baritone Joe Chappel, a regular member of the Choir of Saint Mary’s.  During the communion he will sing Christos voskres by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943). Rachmaninoff was born into a musical family and was a graduate of the Moscow Conservatory. He was a conductor at the Bolshoi Theater for sixteen years and subsequently relocated to Dresden, Germany, before settling in New York City in 1918 where he continued to perform extensively as a concert pianist and conductor. He is best known as a composer of virtuosic and richly expressive music for piano solo and piano and orchestra.  Of note is that Rachmaninoff was approached in the early 1940s by the makers of the British film Dangerous Moonlight to compose music for use in the film. He declined, and the commission was awarded to the English film composer Richard Addinsell (1904–1977) who composed the Warsaw Concerto, his most well-known work, a piece clearly in imitation of Rachmaninoff’s distinctive melodic and harmonic idiom. Rachmaninoff’s Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, Opus 31 (1910) and his All-Night Vigil, Opus 37 (1915), both completed while he was still in Russia, are his principal sacred choral works. In 1942, for his health’s sake, Rachmaninoff left New York and settled in the friendlier climate of southern California although he continued to concertize until his health failed entirely. Hardly a month before his death, Rachmaninoff and his wife became naturalized American citizens. Christos voskres, sung this morning, is the sixth of Rachmaninoff’s Fifteen Romances (Songs) dating from 1906. 

Dr. David Hurd plays the service at the downstairs console.
Photo: MaryJane Boland

Sunday’s organ voluntaries conclude a series, begun three weeks ago, of the eight “Little” Preludes and Fugues, traditionally attributed to J. S. Bach (1685–1750). These pieces are now widely believed to have been composed by one of his pupils, possibly Johann Tobias Krebs (1690–1762), or his son Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713–1780). Of these eight preludes and fugues, four are in major keys of C, F, G and B-flat, and the remaining four are in their relative minors of A, D, E, and G. The standard ordering of these eight pieces begins with BWV 553 in C Major and progresses up the scale to BWV 560 in B-flat. This morning’s prelude will be BWV 558 in G minor, and the postlude will be BWV 560 in the relative major key of B-flat. BWV 558, for the prelude, begins with a clear harmonic plan, almost suggestive of a chaconne, simply and directly stated. Its accompanying fugue has a charmingly delicate quality. BWV 560, the last of the collection and played for the postlude, is probably the most extraverted of the eight preludes and fugues. Its prelude includes a distinctive pedal solo, and its fugue is angular and emphatic. —David Hurd

Brother Damien Joseph SSF chants the prayers at Solemn Mass.
Photo: MaryJane Boland

OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Our next Drop-in Day will take place this coming Wednesday, September 18, from 2:00 to 4:00 PM, in the Mission House basement. On those Wednesdays when a Drop-in Day does not take place, we continue to offer our Grab-and-Go days—from 2:00 to 3:00 PM—in the former Gift Shop off the church Narthex. On those days, basic, even emergency, items can normally be provided—socks, underwear, toiletry articles, and, in the winter months, cold-weather clothing. Please contact Brother Damien if you would like to donate cash, clothing, or toiletry articles, or to volunteer for this important ministry. We have a special need at the moment for women’s underwear, including brassieres, in a variety of sizes, boxer shorts and briefs for men in a variety of sizes, white and black socks for men, disposable razors, and sneakers in a variety of sizes . . . We continue to receive donations of canned goods and other nonperishable food items for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Donations may be placed in the basket next to the Ushers’ Table at the Forty-sixth Street entrance to the church.

LOOKING AHEAD . . . Friday, September 13, Eve of Holy Cross Day, Sung Mass 6:00 PM . . . Saturday, September 14, Holy Cross Day, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass 12:10 PM . . . Saturday, September 21, Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM and Mass 12:10 PM . . . Sunday, September 29, Saint Michael and All Angels . . . Thursday, October 3, Eve of the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, Transitus Service 6:30 PM, Lady Chapel . . . Friday, October 4, Saint Francis of Assisi, Mass 12:10 PM . . . Sunday, October 6, The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Beginning of the 2019–2020 Choir Season: Sung Matins 8:30 AM, Mass 9:00 and 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass with Choir 11:00 AM, Evensong and Benediction 5:00 PM.

CLICK HERE for this week’s schedule.

CLICK HERE for the full parish calendar.