The Angelus

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 33

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 33

FROM FATHER SMITH: WE MAKE OUR SONG

During my sermon at the Solemn Mass last Sunday, I talked a bit about James Weldon Johnson's great anthem, "Lift every voice and sing," which we then sang at the Offertory. At Coffee Hour, I spoke with Gregory Eaton, who was visiting with us that day. Gregory was the greatly respected director of music and organist at the Church of Saint Ann and the Holy Trinity in Brooklyn Heights for twenty-one years, between 1993 and 2014. He now serves as organist-choirmaster at All Saints' Church, Austin, Texas. Gregory is a good friend of Saint Mary's, and he knows the parish well. While we drank our coffee, Gregory and I were joined by two or three parishioners, and we ended up sharing with each other what we knew about the brilliant African-American author, composer, and activist, James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938) and his iconic hymn. At one point, Gregory reminded me that Johnson is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. (Father Thomas McKee Brown, first rector of Saint Mary's, is also buried there.)

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 32

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 32

FROM THE RECTOR: NEGLECTED TEXTS

Last week I came across two biblical narratives that I would call “neglected texts”—at least from the point of view of worship. I came across a reference to Judges 19. In a note, the editors of The New Oxford Annotated Bible: Revised Standard Version (1973) call this chapter, “The appalling crime of the Benjaminites” (pages 319–20). Judges 20 is “The punishment of Benjamin” (pages 320–23) and  Judges 21 is entitled, “Two devices to secure wives for the Benjaminites” (pages 323–24). While reading through Judges 21, it suddenly occurred to me that I had learned about this narrative while reading Phyllis Trible’s Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives [(1984), 65–92.] It’s a horrific tale of domination of women by men. It is never appointed to be read in worship. That’s why I would consider it a “neglected text.”

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 31

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 31

FROM THE RECTOR: PRIDE

A year ago, two events occurred very close to each other, united in different ways to “pride.” On June 28, 2018, we celebrated the Burial of the Dead for Richard Joseph “Dick” Leitsch. In the early hours of June 28, 1969, what came to be known as the Stonewall Uprising began. I did not know until I saw the movie Stonewall Uprising with Dick Leitsch and Father Edgar Wells, that Dick was presiding at the meeting at which it was decided to have the first Pride March.

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 30

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 30

FROM THE RECTOR: CORPUS CHRISTI 2019

During the Middle Ages in the Christian West, lay people attended the Eucharist but received Communion very infrequently, usually only at Easter. The feast of Corpus Christi developed in this context as seeing --- --- not eating --- --- the Eucharistic Bread became the focus of devotion and blessing in the thirteenth century (Adolf Adam, The Liturgical Year [1990], 169 --- 74). Somehow, the Anglo-Catholic revival, which brought so much renewal to so many areas of Anglican tradition, latched on to this medieval development that was unknown to the early church: Masses where Communion would not be received by anyone but the celebrant. On Sunday, May 5, 1965, Saint Mary's new rector, Father Donald Garfield (1924 --- 1996; rector 1965 --- 1978) offered communion to everyone at the main Sunday service, Solemn Mass, for the first time. It marked a new beginning of our common life and witness.

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 29

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 29

FROM FATHER SMITH: GOD'S GRANDEUR

Last week, Father Matthew Jacobson and I attended a conference at Fordham University, Lincoln Center. The conference was organized by the university's Orthodox Studies Center, and its topic was a grand and unabashedly theological one, "Faith, Reason, and Theosis." Theosis is a Greek word, sometimes translated as "deification," or "divinization." The word refers to an ancient teaching concerning the nature, and possibilities of, the Christian life. Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215) defined theosis in this way, "Deification is the attaining of likeness to God and union with him so far as possible" (Exhortation to the Greeks I.3).

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 28

FROM THE RECTOR: ON WAITING

In Luke’s account of Jesus’ Ascension, forty days after his resurrection, the Risen Jesus tells his apostles, “Before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5b). But they did not know how long that wait would be. In Acts, the gathered community waited a full ten days before the Holy Spirit “came upon” them. With respect, the Holy Spirit moved, and still moves, much faster than does New York City’s process for granting construction permits. The goal of this process is positive and much to be desired: to assure that everything is done safely. Still, the wheels of the bureaucracy move slowly, and, inevitably, there are delays.

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 27

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 27

FROM THE RECTOR: NEW UNDERSTANDING

The title page of my copy of Prayer Book Studies 29: Introducing the Draft Proposed Book: A Study of the Significance of the Draft Proposed Book of Common Prayer for the Doctrine, Discipline and Worship of the Episcopal Church (1976) has my signature and a date: 1977. It's by Charles P. Price (1920 --- 1999), a priest of the church, chairman of the Standing Liturgical Commission's Theological Committee, and professor of theology at the Virginia Theological Seminary.

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 26

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 26

FROM BROTHER DAMIEN SSF: CHAPTER IN ARIZONA

Last week, Brother Thomas and I joined the other brothers of the Society of Saint Francis in the Province of the Americas for our annual Chapter in Scottsdale, Arizona. "Chapter" is the decision-making body of the community, or it is a meeting of that body.

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 25

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 25

FROM THE RECTOR: ENVIRONMENT

Before Stephen Curry started playing for the Golden State Warriors, if you heard someone say, "Steph," one assumed someone was asking for "Stephanie." Steph Curry changed all that. Though I fall asleep before most basketball games are over, I've been using an elliptical cross trainer three mornings a week at my gym. I listen to music and watch closed-captioned ESPN. The Warriors are now up two games in the current playoffs. Curry is a player who makes one believe that no shot is impossible.

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 24

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 24

FROM THE RECTOR: WAITING

On Thursday morning, May 9, we had the first of what will, for a time, be a weekly meeting of the building restoration leadership team, the members of which are our contractor, Milan Restoration LLC; our architects, Jan Hird Pokorny Associates, Inc. (JHP); and representatives of the parish. Not long before the meeting was supposed to start, we suddenly learned that our contractor was out of town. I immediately informed board members MaryJane Boland and Clark Mitchell so they wouldn’t have to waste a trip to midtown. As things turned out, however, Marko Golubovic and another representative from Milan, were able to attend. . Our office manager, Chris Howatt, was in the building. Two members of the team from JHP hurried up and arrived. We ended up having a very good meeting.

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 23

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 23

FROM THE RECTOR: TWO ENDINGS

The twentieth chapter of John's gospel recounts three appearances of the Risen Lord. Two were on the day of resurrection, one in the morning at the tomb to Mary Magdalene and one in the evening to the disciples except for Thomas. The following Sunday Jesus returned. He said to all of the disciples, "Peace be with you" (20:26) and to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing" (20:27). Count me among those who think that Thomas believed when he saw and heard the Risen Christ. Then Jesus says to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe" (20:29).

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 22

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 22

FROM THE RECTOR: EASTER JOY

Palm Sunday was a very happy day at Saint Mary’s. The morning dawned cloudy and gray, but the sun came out before the 11:00 AM service. Brendon Hunter and I walked through the square about twenty minutes before that service to finalize the route for our procession. Sunshine seemed to have had a happy effect on everyone. Again, it was a happy day.

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 21

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 21

FROM THE RECTOR:
EASTER SEASON

On Monday morning, April 15, Joe Chappell, a member of our choir and a longtime friend of longtime parishioner, Rick Austill, shared with us the news that Rick had died unexpectedly on Palm Sunday night. Rick was a very talented musician and artist, one of the anchors of our Flower Guild. It was his turn to be in charge of the decorations for Holy Week and Easter Day. I saw Rick a lot last week. He was here for many hours, preparing for the week to come and creating the arrangements for Palm Sunday.

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 20

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 20


FROM THE RECTOR: HOLY WEEK

The Prayer Book makes no reference to “forty days of Lent,” although many of our hymns do. The late Marion Hatchett (1927–2009) in his Commentary on the American Prayer Book (1980) referred to “forty days of Lent” at least once: “The Sundays in Lent are not included in the forty days of Lent, for all Sundays are feasts which commemorate the creation, the resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit” (page 46). But, if you look at the calendar more closely, you have to ask, how did Prof. Hatchett get to forty—and how do we?

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 19

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 19

FROM THE RECTOR: THE SHEPHERD

I’ve written before that, whenever possible, I avoid reading at the Daily Office or Eucharist certain passages of Scripture. The two narratives that are most challenging for me are the Healing of the Man Born Blind (John 9:1–41) and the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1–44). Two years ago, as gospeller on the Fifth Sunday in Lent, I made it almost to the end of the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:1–44). If memory serves, I had to pause after these words, “Jesus said to [Martha], ‘Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’ ” (John 11:40), before I could continue, singing, “So they took away the stone” (11:41a).

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 18

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 18

FROM THE RECTOR: LENT IV

Patrick Regan (1938–2017) in his book Advent to Pentecost (2013) called the Fourth Sunday in Lent the “turning point” of the season (page 86). Current research has shown that in Rome, before the fourth century, there was originally only a three-week season of preparation of those seeking to be baptized at Easter…

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 17

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 17

FROM THE RECTOR: SUNDAYS MATTER

The first draft of our service bulletins for the Feast of the Annunciation, this year celebrated on Monday, March 25, included a note from last year’s bulletin, when March 25 was the Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday. When the Annunciation falls during Holy Week, as it did last year, the church calendar moves Annunciation to Monday of the Second Week of Easter. Last year that Monday was April 9. We caught the error: you will find a different note about the celebration of the feast day in this year’s bulletins.

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 16

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 16

FROM THE RECTOR: LENT WITH LUKE

In the Christian West, the First Sunday in Lent, by long tradition, belonged to the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in Matthew. That changed, of course, when the three-year lectionary, originated by the Roman Catholic Church, was published in 1969. We now hear all three gospel accounts of the temptation, a different one each year. We are currently in the third year of the cycle—Year C—and last Sunday we heard Luke’s version of the temptation (4:1–13). I prefer Mark’s account: Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit, tempted by Satan, with the wild beasts, angels taking care of him, no dialogue (Mark 1:12–13).

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 15

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 15

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.

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VOLUME 21, NUMBER 14

VOLUME 21, NUMBER 14

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.

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