The Angelus

Volume 14, Number 38

FROM THE RECTOR: SAINT MARY THE VIRGIN

Wednesday, August 15, is the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin. At Saint Mary’s it has long been observed as the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but it was not until 1972 that it was observed with Solemn Mass. This is the announcement as it appeared in the Sunday bulletin for August 13, 1972:

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Volume 14, Number 37

FROM THE RECTOR: ALWAYS SOMETHING

Many readers of this newsletter will not know that I wasn’t able to be at church on Sunday, July 29. Sometime late Saturday afternoon, I became aware I wasn’t feeling well; by early evening I knew I was not going to be better anytime soon. Father Jay Smith and Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins were both away. I called Father Jim Pace. He and Deacon Mary Jett had a very busy Sunday. They took care of all of the services and I want to thank them for handling it all by themselves.

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Volume 14, Number 36

FROM THE RECTOR: LOOKING AT JULY

I think of July and October as easy months, liturgically speaking. Apart from three “Major Feasts,” two of which get an additional celebration of the Eucharist after Evening Prayer, there are no weekdays observed by an evening sung or solemn Mass. As I have written recently, I’m trying to look at our principles for sorting through the hundreds of optional commemorations now available to us. As part of that work, I thought it might be helpful to write about the calendar at Saint Mary’s for July.

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Volume 14, Number 35

FROM THE RECTOR: LITURGICAL NOTES AND THOUGHTS

The General Convention has approved the use of the original 1979 Prayer Book lectionary by parishes and institutions who have their bishop’s permission to use it. Bishop Sisk has given his permission, effective immediately, for the use of the 1979 lectionary in our diocese. We will return to the original lectionary beginning this Sunday, July 22.

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Volume 14, Number 34

FROM THE RECTOR: ACCIDENTAL CHURCH

“Accidental church” is a phrase that came to my mind this week as I followed the reports of the General Convention, the governing body of our Episcopal Church. I’ve just about finished reading Lawrence Powell’s The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans (2012). Powell’s book is a reminder that cities and institutions, like human beings, can be said to have something like a genetic makeup that predisposes, but does not predetermine, their development over time.

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Volume 14, Number 33

FROM THE RECTOR: MARRIAGE IN THE CHURCH

As I write, the General Convention of the Episcopal Church is meeting in Indianapolis. It will surely make headlines, one way or another, because the convention is going to vote on whether to authorize a service for “Blessing Same Gender Relationships.” (The entire report from the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music is available in the convention’s Blue Book.) If press reports are to be believed, the service will be authorized for use, but I don’t think its adoption will solve anything. Its passage will create disaffection among those who oppose same-sex relationships; it will be disheartening to those who believe in marriage equality.

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Volume 14, Number 32

FROM THE RECTOR: CITIES OF FORTUNE

Gertrude Stein famously wrote of her native Oakland, California, “There is no there there” (Everybody’s Autobiography [1937] 289). But I’ve been to Oakland, and there’s very much a there there. I spent two months living in downtown Oakland while I was on sabbatical in 2009. The city is full of beautiful and remarkable buildings and neighborhoods, full of potential. It’s on the San Francisco Bay. It’s well-connected by the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. Sadly, it’s one of too many American cities that lost its way in the middle of the twentieth century. It’s surprising to me that it hasn’t found its way back.

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Volume 14, Number 31

FROM THE RECTOR: WHAT WE ARE DOING TODAY

Thomas Cranmer famously complained in the “Preface” of the first Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, “that many times, there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out.” I’m a great fan of the regularity and structural simplicity he gave to our tradition, not only for its spiritual benefits, but for the practical realities in the daily worship of the Church.

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Volume 14, Number 30

FROM THE RECTOR: SUMMER AT SAINT MARY’S

We believe in open doors and daily worship at Saint Mary’s. Not much changes during the summer months. The church itself is open on the same schedule as during the rest of the year and the regular daily services are offered. Every day people who come into the church at service times may join in our worship or simply witness the church at prayer.

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Volume 14, Number 29

FROM FATHER SMITH: THE BREAD OF LIFE, THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD

On Wednesday evenings after Bible study, I walk through the narthex of the church, headed home to our apartment on the fourth floor of the parish house. I almost always look through the open doors at the head of the center aisle.

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Volume 14, Number 28

FROM THE RECTOR: TRINITY AND CORPUS CHRISTI

The High Middle Ages gave the Western Church two new feasts, Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi. The development of these feasts was part of larger theological and cultural shifts that took place during this period. From the fourth century onward, how Christians understand the Three Persons of the Trinity and how Christians understand the Eucharist reshape how Christians believed and prayed. We pray to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Corpus Christi was the fruit of a period when the consecrated Bread had become the object of intense devotion, instead of being experienced, for the most part, as spiritual food.

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Volume 14, Number 27

FROM THE RECTOR: MORE THAN A DAY

Until the 1928 Prayer Book, Pentecost was known in The Book of Common Prayer simply by its earlier name, “Whitsunday”—“white Sunday”—referring to white baptismal robes. Whitsunday, in the late spring, was a day when baptisms were celebrated. In 1928, all of the Prayer Book’s collects, epistles and gospels were labeled by seasons: Advent, Christmastide, Epiphany Season, Pre-Lent, Lent, Eastertide, Ascensiontide, Whitsuntide and Trinity Season. In the wake of the liturgical renewal in the last half of the twentieth century, Pre-Lent, Ascensiontide, and Whitsuntide would go; Trinity would get a new name.

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Volume 14, Number 26

FROM THE RECTOR: GEORGE BLACKMORE HANDY, 1918-2012

George Handy died on May 9, 2012 at the age of ninety-three. He was born on June 5, 1918. He had been a member of the parish since his confirmation on May 6, 1927. He always carried with him a picture taken in front of the church that day. George was in knickers. In the picture you can see the stairwells that used to be in front of the parish house for bringing coal into the building—which have long since removed. George will be mourned not only by the local and wider parish community, but by countless visitors who remember his welcome and his smile. George had served as an usher here for more than a generation. He had also served as a member of the board of trustees.

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Volume 14, Number 25

FROM THE RECTOR: ASCENSION 2012

Ascension Day is a feast day I associate with being Episcopalian. When I started to go to the Episcopal Church in the 1970s, lots of parishes still had celebrations on this day—as Saint Mary’s always has had. Ascension Day is always forty days after Easter Day. It’s a “principal feast”—and we keep it that way. This year we are honored that the Right Reverend Richard F. Grein, XIV Bishop of New York will be preacher for the Solemn Mass.

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Volume 14, Number 24

FROM THE RECTOR: A DIFFERENT VISION

Saint Mary’s was organized with a particular purpose and vision. The founding rector, the Reverend Thomas McKee Brown, wrote a short history for the cornerstone of the first church, which was laid on April 6, 1868, just east of what was then Longacre Square, at 228 West 45th Street—two pictures of this church are now on display in Saint Joseph’s Hall. These two paragraphs are worth quoting in full:

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Volume 14, Number 23

FROM THE RECTOR: MEMORY AND KNOWLEDGE

I’m not a diarist, but I often wish I were. I’m pretty sure that sometime in my first years as a rector in Indiana I began to realize that every Holy Week I would be learning something new. This learning would take place not because we were doing something new, but because I was hearing or seeing something familiar in a different way. Sometimes this can make me feel not-so-bright. But knowledge is a grace, and grace has a way of inviting, if not dragging, us forward in life.

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Volume 14, Number 22

FROM THE RECTOR: GOD’S GLORY

In the story of the raising of Lazarus, Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (John 14:40). Martha, and all the others who were with her, saw her brother Lazarus rise from the dead. But Lazarus’ rising is not God’s glory. God’s glory is God himself; God’s glory is Jesus. The word ‘glory’ captures the rich meaning of the Greek word doxa as well as one word can.

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Volume 14, Number 21

FROM THE RECTOR: EASTER WORDS

Jesuit liturgical scholar Robert Taft recounts a conversation between a Russian Orthodox priest and a French Jesuit about the role of teaching for conversion in Christ in an article published last fall that I found myself thinking about more than once during Holy Week. In the conversation, the French priest stressed the role of teaching. The Russian priest replied,

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Volume 14, Number 20

FROM THE RECTOR: A NEW EASTER DAY

The new lectionary has revised the order in which we will hear the four accounts of the resurrection. So, I took a look at the old lectionary, our new lectionary, the official Revised Common Lectionary on which our new lectionary is based, and the present lectionary of the Roman Church on whose 1969 lectionary all of these lectionaries were based. The most surprising discovery: we were never “required” to hear John’s account of the resurrection on Easter Eve or Easter Day—and we still aren’t. That said, John is now always an option on Easter morning and we will have it at all Easter morning Masses this year.

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Volume 14, Number 19

FROM THE RECTOR: A NEW HOLY WEEK

It turns out that “tradition” is a word I haven’t used very carefully for a long time, if ever. Tradition is not just what was done in the past. Tradition is what we are doing today with what has been handed on to us by those who have gone before. I picked this up after reading and rereading the conclusion of an article on daily Mass by the Jesuit liturgical scholar Robert Taft. He writes that tradition is “a living force whose contingent expressions,

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