The Angelus

Volume 16, Number 37

FROM THE RECTOR: ASSUMPTION STUDY

I wake up very early most Sunday mornings to rework my sermons. On Sunday, June 29, when I got up I turned on the broadcast of the papal Mass at Saint Peter’s Basilica. It was the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. I caught the very end of it. A patriarch, perhaps Russian, was a guest—later I couldn’t discover online who it was. At the end of the Mass he accompanied Pope Francis to the statue of Peter in the nave. It’s thought to be from the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century. Though dressed in the style of his own time, the statue depicts Peter giving a blessing with his right hand, held in the manner of bishops in centuries to come, and holding two keys in his left. It’s traditional for pilgrims to touch Peter’s feet, and they show the marks of centuries of devotion.

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Volume 16, Number 36

FROM THE RECTOR: TRANSFIGURATION

When I was in seminary the standard thinking about the transfiguration, recounted in Mark, Matthew and Luke, was that it was a post-resurrection appearance that had come to be a part of the pre-passion narrative in the telling of the story of Jesus. It turns out that while I was learning one thing the scholarship was heading in a new direction, more faithful to the text and more convincing.

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Volume 16, Number 35

FROM THE RECTOR: CROWDS OF DISCIPLES

Last week I was working on the lectern texts we use for the readings for weekday Eucharists and I realized again the importance of us carefully reviewing and editing the readings we use during worship.

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Volume 16, Number 34

FROM THE RECTOR: FRESH LOOKS

This spring and summer I’ve been working with two small leadership groups in the parish that I haven’t written much about, a Capital Campaign Committee and a Music Search Committee. Both committees have started their work, but there’s not a lot to tell yet. The members of the Capital Campaign Committee are MaryJane Boland, Steven Heffner, Clark Mitchell and Mark Risinger. The members of the Music Search Committee are Grace Bruni, James Dennis, Robin Landis, Mark Risinger and Geoffrey Williams. (Mark, who serves on both committees, is vice president of the board of trustees.)

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Volume 16, Number 33

FROM THE RECTOR: PATH OF LIFE

Many of the parish community remember the Reverend John Beddingfield who served here as curate before accepting a call to be rector of All Souls’ Memorial Church, Washington, D.C. For All Souls’ weekly announcements for June 29, 2014, he wrote a short and powerful essay, “Why Does Church Matter?” These words from the essay have continued to turn over in my mind:

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Volume 16, Number 32

FROM THE RECTOR: GOD AND COUNTRY

The Prayer Book permits Independence Day to be celebrated on Sunday. That’s not our tradition, but I can certainly understand that there could be times when it would be appropriate here for us to celebrate Independence Day on a Sunday and that there are places where it is always appropriate. That said, on the Sunday nearest Independence Day we have sung two hymns every year since I arrived, “Lift every voice and sing” at the preparation and “God of our fathers” as the final hymn. These hymns help us, not only to praise God, but to call to mind, to borrow a phrase, “our American journey."     

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Volume 16, Number 31

FROM THE RECTOR: PETER AND PAUL

In the older Prayer Book tradition there were many fewer holy days. If a holy day fell on a Sunday, during most of the year it was celebrated in some way on a Sunday. A generation ago, for example, Saint Michael and All Angels—especially with its great hymns—was a popular celebration throughout the Episcopal Church in the years it fell on a Sunday.

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Volume 16, Number 30

FROM THE RECTOR: WITNESS OF SOUND

Extraordinary devotion to the Eucharist arose in the Western Church in the early Middle Ages, a devotion completely unknown to the church of earlier centuries—or to the Christian east even to today. During the Middle Ages the Eucharist continued to be celebrated in Latin, a language understood only by an elite few. This Christian community lost its experience of the Eucharist as spiritual food. Here’s an excerpt from the “confession” which the theologian Berengarius of Tours was forced to make in Rome in 1059:

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Volume 16, Number 29

FROM THE RECTOR: POWER OF IDEAS

Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi are the earliest of what Adolf Adams (1912-2005) called the “idea feasts” in his book The Liturgical Year (1981). Both were introduced to the “universal” calendar of the Western Church by bishops of Rome in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. For several hundred years before, their predecessors had resisted the introduction of what had been local commemorations in Spain and France (Trinity Sunday) and in Liège (Corpus Christi). They resisted because the church’s liturgy had always been rooted in the actual life and teachings of Christ. The church was already proclaiming the Trinity at every Mass, was already celebrating the Body and Blood of Christ at every Mass.

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Volume 16, Number 28

FROM THE RECTOR: DAYS OF PENTECOST

Here’s a very brief, but I hope faithful, summary of some things Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell Johnson tell us about Easter and Pentecost in their book The Origins of Feasts, Fasts and Seasons in Early Christianity (2011), especially chapters five through eight:

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Volume 16, Number 27

FROM FATHER SMITH: A SABBATICAL

I write this late on Thursday evening, the sounds, sights, and scents of this evening’s Solemn Mass still very clear in my mind. As I walk to the laundry room on the fourth floor of the Parish House, I can smell the incense lingering in the building. This is an odd benefit of living here at Saint Mary’s: sacred things often gently insinuate their way into everyday things, blurring the distinction. The building is quiet now, the streets less so. A jackhammer vibrates relentlessly nearby. The crews in the garbage trucks have begun to make their nightly rounds. The haulers whistle sharply to the drivers, signaling to them to move on to the next stop. Those guys work hard. Whistles are more efficient than words. This is my neighborhood. These are the sights and the sounds and the smells.

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Volume 16, Number 26

FROM THE RECTOR: ASCENSION 2014

Bishop Allen Shin’s ordination last Saturday at the cathedral made me very aware of how many lives are touched over time by the ongoing life of our parish community. We were well represented by members of the congregation and our clergy. I suspect that there were others there who have been connected with Saint Mary’s that I do not know. It was a day to be happy, proud and, above all else, to be thankful for God’s presence and work in the life of Allen Shin. The new bishop will be with us as celebrant and preacher for the Solemn Mass on Ascension Day, Thursday, May 29, at 6:00 PM. I’m sure there will be a large congregation—so come early for the organ recital at 5:30 PM.

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Volume 16, Number 25

FROM THE RECTOR: ANGLICAN EASTER

Just after writing about the fifty-day length of the Easter Season of the first centuries for last week’s Angelus, I again picked up my copy of liturgist Patrick Regan’s book Advent to Pentecost (2012) to read a bit more on the subject. The first thing I came across was his statement that, when there was a fifty-day celebration, it was not known as the “Easter Season.” The whole period was known as “Pentecost.”

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Volume 16, Number 24

FROM THE RECTOR: RENEWING EASTER

That the Risen Jesus did not appear in the gospels for the Easter Vigil or Easter Day until the reforms of the 1970s continues to surprise me. Quite honestly, it leaves me speechless. How was this possible? How has this been shaping Christian life for 1400 or more years in the Western church? It’s worth noting that the word “alleluia” does not appear in its Latin or Hebrew form in our Prayer Books before 1979. Just because the Risen Jesus is now with us, a lot of things have not changed. Roman Catholics still never hear from him on Easter morning. It will be a long time before Western Christians, Protestant or Roman Catholic, experience their faith as being about not just a crucified Jesus, but a crucified and Risen Lord.

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Volume 16, Number 23

FROM THE RECTOR: EASTERTIDE CHANGE

On May 2, 1965 the new rector of Saint Mary’s, the Reverend Donald Garfield, decided that communion would be offered to congregation at the 11:00 AM Sunday Solemn Mass. In 1965 this was “Good Shepherd Sunday,” the Eastertide Sunday when the gospel was John 10:11-16. This is from the note he wrote in the bulletin:

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Volume 16, Number 22

FROM THE RECTOR: EASTER LEARNING

As I worked on my sermons for the Easter Vigil and Easter Day last week I discovered that until the lectionary reforms of the 1970s the gospel lessons for the Sunday of the Resurrection (Vigil—Matthew 28:1-7; Sunday—John 20:1-10; Mark 16:1-8) never included the appearances of the Risen Jesus. There was only an empty tomb, confusion and sadness. It sounds unbelievable, but it’s true.

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Volume 16, Number 21

FROM THE RECTOR: JOYFUL TRIDUUM

Father Jay Smith and I went out into Times Square about twenty minutes before 11:00 AM on Palm Sunday. There’s construction everywhere, lots of equipment in the roads. The procession made it into and around the square thanks especially to a few of our fearless ushers. The more limited space wasn’t a problem, perhaps it even helped. I can’t remember a more joyful Palm Sunday.

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Volume 16, Number 20

FROM THE RECTOR: HOLY WEEK 2014

Holy Week begins at Saint Mary’s on Saturday evening, April 12, with the Sunday Vigil Mass at 5:00 PM. On Sunday morning, there are two Eucharists: Liturgy of the Palms & Sung Mass at 9:00 AM and Liturgy of the Palms, Procession through Times Square & Solemn Mass at 11:00 AM. The Communications Office of the Episcopal Church will be filming the 11:00 AM Liturgy of the Palms & Procession through Times Square—it should be online sometime on Palm Sunday afternoon.

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Volume 16, Number 19

FROM THE RECTOR: APPROACHING HOLY WEEK

While working on the sermon for last Sunday I realized that one of my favorite prayers is not as true to scripture as it probably should be. It’s the prayer we use at Mass at the conclusion of the prayers of the people when there is no confession of sin (during Eastertide and on principal and major feasts). It’s so familiar that I’ve never really given it a second thought—I’ve just enjoyed it. This is the prayer:

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Volume 16, Number 18

FROM FATHER PACE: STATIONS

Last week as a member of the congregation I attended Stations of the Cross, which is offered here during Lent on Friday evenings at 6:30 PM. I have been present at many Stations of the Cross services during Lent over the years both as officiant and as observer; but, for several reasons that I will explain below, the service really moved me on this particular evening.

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