February 23, 2018 Comments Off on We Have Moved!
Wondering where the the 2018 Lent Blog is? We’ve moved! Please go here to follow us this Lent: https://stlukeinthefields.org/our-2018-lent-blog/
April 11, 2017 Comments Off on Lenten Reflection: Searcher of the Heart
As we near the end of Lent 2017, we offer you this sermon from Fr. William from Ash Wednesday 2016. How has our Lent been this year and where has it led us? Let’s carefully read this sermon in the light of preparing ourselves for the Triduum this week.
– Blog Editor
✠ In the Name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. It is a solemn day that invites and propels us into prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Lent is a time for us to reflect on our lives and to examine the things that get in our way of turning towards God. It is a time to look at how we can redirect and reorient ourselves away from our selfishness, from our self-centeredness and towards God as the center.
At the beginning of most services of Holy Eucharist, we pray the Collect for Purity: “Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
This beautiful prayer reminds us that God is the searcher of the heart. In it we ask that God would purify our hearts that we may love God and praise him perfectly. This is a summary of what Lent is all about. It is about being open to God, the searcher of our hearts, that we may, as Reinhold Neibur says, “have the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” That is what purification is all about.
When something is purified, something is removed…something is taken away. During Lent, God calls us to examine what needs to be purified in our lives that we may be reconciled to God, as Paul commands us in our lesson from 2nd Corinthians. If we are to be reconciled to God, we must first confess our sins. Before we can confess our sins, we have to figure out what they are. Lent is a time for us to spend time doing the challenging work of genuine self-examination.
Self-examination is best achieved through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. In prayer, we can be our truest selves to God, because from him, there are no secrets hidden. We don’t have to worry about the facades we put up for each other and we don’t have to worry about the walls we build up to protect ourselves from other people’s criticism and judgment. In prayer, we can just pray to God as we are and know that we are loved without condition.
Fasting and self-denial are not meant to harm us. They are meant to make us more keenly aware of what basic things we need, especially when we live in such a consumerist-centered world. Fasting reminds us that our daily bread is a gift from God – and is also reminds us of what the poorest among us endure daily. As the Gospel lesson reminds us, the intent of our fasting is everything. If we do it for show and to attempt to impress others with our piety and devotion, God is not honoured. If we fast and deny ourselves in order to become closer to God, then we honour him. People may see your piety, but if your intent is pure, then God is still honoured.
With intents oriented towards God and away from ourselves, we are then provoked to almsgiving. Giving of our time, our gifts, and our abundance to God’s service in this world reminds us that all we have is not ours, but is Gods. It keeps us from storing our treasures in places “where moth and rust consume.” If we give back to God of the goodness we have been given, we bless God as God has blessed us. This reinforces our knowledge that God’s love for us is everlasting.
And if our love for God is genuine, and the acknowledgement of our sins is thorough, then we will truly be contrite for the things that get in our way towards God. When we are truly sorry for the grievous things that get between us and God, we can only then be truly reconciled. It is also important to note that this is not something we could ever achieve on our own, but has been shown us in love of Jesus on the Cross. It is through Jesus that we are reconciled to God.
Today we will receive ashes as a sign of our mortality and of our sin, the things that keep us from loving God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind – and our neighbor as ourselves. “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” These words are a reminder of what we all as humans fear most: death. Being a Christian is not an easy thing. But nothing easy is ever worth it. Anything that promises you something easy will always let you down. Lent teaches and reminds us that we do not live for ourselves alone, but for Jesus, who lives for us.
Lent is a time for us to draw nearer to God and to be reconciled to God and to each other. May our self-examination, self-denial, and our heartfelt desire to be God’s beloved children bring us closer to God, the searcher of hearts — that we may be purified in the fire of God’s love.
✠ In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
– The Rev. William Ogburn
March 31, 2017 Comments Off on Composer Spotlight Lent V: Arvo Pärt
The choral music scheduled at St. Luke’s for the Fifth Sunday in Lent (April 2nd) will be:
- Thomas Stoltzer – Judica me, Deus (Introit)
- Arvo Pärt – De profundis
- Iain Quinn – O esca viatorum
- Richard Proulx – We adore you, O Christ
- Arvo Pärt – Pari intervallo
– Blog Editor
The music of Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt is unique in the contemporary music world and has attracted a substantial following in recent years. Pärt’s early music was solidly in the atonal serial idiom. By the early 1970’s he had reached a dead end compositionally. At about this time, he converted to Orthodoxy, and also discovered the power of Gregorian chant and early Renaissance polyphony. His response was to develop a tonal idiom based on a mixture of scales and triads, a style that he calls “tintinnabuli”. Listening to this music is similar to viewing an icon: the music does not “go” anywhere but rather “exists”, emerging out of silence and receding back into silence.
Pärt left his native Estonia in 1980 and subsequently settled in Berlin. De profundis was composed in the same year. A setting of Psalm 130, it is one of his most impassioned vocal works. The relatively simple material unfolds in an unwavering manner, adding voices in a single dynamic arch.
Pari intervallo was originally composed for four wind instruments, though the organ version is the more familiar. The title describes the musical material: a pair of voices moves in strict parallel, with a second pair of voices filling in the music. The piece was composed in 1976 ‘in memoriam’ for a friend who had died.
Iain Quinn was born in Cardiff, and began his training as a chorister at Llandaff Cathedral. He subsequently studied at The Juilliard School, Larry Allen at The Hartt School, the University of Hartford and at the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University. In 2013 Mr. Quinn was appointed Assistant Professor of Organ at Florida State University. The recipient of several awards Mr. Quinn was awarded a Fellowship by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, an award from The Prince’s Trust and is the recipient of an ASCAPlus award from The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. His motet O esca viatorum was commissioned by the Concert Choir of the University of New Mexico. The text is an anonymous hymn first published in Mainz in 1661.
Richard Proulx was a prolific composer with more than 300 published works, including congregational music in every form, sacred and secular choral works, song cycles, two operas, and instrumental and organ music. A Roman Catholic church musician, he served on the core committee for such hymnals as The Hymnal 1982, New Yale Hymnal, the Methodist Hymnal, Worship-Second and Third Editions. Proulx was a member of The Standing Commission on Church Music of the Episcopal Church and was a founding member of The Conference of Roman Catholic Cathedral Musicians. He may be best known to Episcopal congregations for his setting of the Sanctus & Benedictus, S125 in the Hymnal 1982.
Spotlight on Arvo Pärt:
Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten (orchestral)
– David Shuler, Director of Music
March 24, 2017 Comments Off on Composer Spotlight Lent IV: Johannes Ockeghem
The choral music scheduled at St. Luke’s for the Fourth Sunday in Lent (March 26th) will include:
- Johannes Ockeghem – Missa Cuiusvis toni
- Pierre de Manchicourt – Hic est panis
– Blog Editor
Johannes Ockeghem was the greatest musician of the late fifteenth century. On this judgment both the modern historian and the composer’s contemporaries concur, for no one enjoyed greater prestige among practitioners, patrons and students of music in the Renaissance. To Desiderius Erasmus, the greatest of the northern humanists, Ockeghem was the “Prince of Music”. To Antoine Busnois, foremost composer at the court of Burgundy, he was to be compared only with Pythagoras, the legendary inventor of the art. To a whole generation of Netherlandish musicians – Josquin, Brumel, La Rue among them — he was the “Maistre et bon Pere”, in some cases a teacher, and for all a model.
Ockeghem’s greatest achievement as a composer was the unprecedented feat of creating extended polyphonic compositions that were not based on a discernible pre-existent scaffold, whether Gregorian chant of secular song. The absence in some of his works of a so universally relied-upon structural device as a cantus firmus has made Ockeghem’s music difficult to analyze. To compose music so “free” and “inspirational” is a task of great difficulty, demanding an inexhaustible richness of invention and technique. As a result, Ockeghem’s music is unique in the body of Renaissance polyphony.
The Missa Cuiusvis toni is a work of compositional brilliance in another respect as well. The mass is intended to be sung in any of the four modes. (A rough analogy would be a piece of nineteenth-century music that could be played in either C major or C minor.) There are no clefs in the part books, so it is up to the performers to sort out the tonality.
Pierre de Manchicourt was born in Béthune in about 1510. Most of what we know of his early years comes from title pages of his publications. He became director of the choir at Tours Cathedral in 1539, master of the choirboys at Tournai Cathedral in 1539 and maître de chapelle there later that year. Manchicourt was appointed to the coveted position of master of Philip II’s Flemish chapel in Madrid in 1559 and remained there until his death in 1564. Manchicourt’s early motets show the influence of Ockeghem and Josquin; his mature style is close to that of Gombert and Clemens non Papa, combining eloquent and finely wrought melodies with constantly varying imitative techniques. St. Luke’s Choir released a recording of the music of Manchicourt, including this motet, on the MSR label in November. The recording is available on our website and at the Parish Office.
For additional listening on Johannes Ockeghem:
Here is link to the Kyrie from his Missa Prolationem
The Sanctus from the Missa L’homme arme
This is an interesting video about Ockeghem:
– David Shuler, Director of Music
March 15, 2017 Comments Off on A View from the Sacristy: St. Luke’s Chapel Altarpiece
In many churches, the chapel behind the high (main) altar is often called “The Lady Chapel” and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. We do not have that tradition at St. Luke’s, but perhaps we should!
This week I want to explore the altarpiece in our chapel.
“An altarpiece is an artwork such as a painting, sculpture or relief representing a religious subject made for placing behind the altar of a Christian church. Though most commonly used for a single work of art such as a painting or sculpture, or a set of them, the word can also be used of the whole ensemble behind an altar, otherwise known as a reredos, including what is often an elaborate frame for the central image or images. Altarpieces were one of the most important products of Christian art especially from the late Middle Ages (5th to 15th centuries) to the era of the Counter-Reformation (beginning with the Council of Trent in 1545 and ending with the close of the Thirty years’ War in 1648).” [wiki]
St. John of Damascus called an icon a “channel of divine grace,” the place where heaven and earth meet, so that we can have a glimpse of heaven. Iconographer John Walstead, late of Staten Island, created our altarpiece in the traditional style of the Eastern Orthodox church. The altarpiece is a series of five icons with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary as recorded in both the Gospel of St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. These five events are only found in Luke’s Gospel: (1) The central panel is a depiction of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:22-40); (2) the scene on the upper left is a scene from the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38); (3) below this is the Visitation (Luke 1:39-57); (4) on the upper right is the scene of the Disputation (a.k.a., The Finding in the Temple, and also called “Christ among the Doctors”) (Luke 2:41-52); and (5) the lower right is a scene from the Pentecost (Acts 2:1-11). Let’s press in and take a closer look.
(1) Traditionally, the Feast of the Presentation is kept on February 2nd. At St Luke’s we celebrate it on the first Sunday of February since that is also the date of our parish’s annual meeting. Luke weaves a story of Mary and Joseph as faithful parents who bring their infant son to the Temple in thanksgiving to God for the safe delivery of the child. The Holy Spirit has moved two elderly people, Simeon and Anna, who spent their whole life in and around the temple in Jerusalem waiting for what Simeon called the consolation and redemption of Israel, to meet Mary and Joseph in the temple where the two aged prophets say amazing things about the baby to his parents. (I always try to figure out which moment from the Presentation is portrayed.) In our icon we see the moment when “[Simeon] took [Jesus] up in his arms and blessed God and said…” (Luke 2:28) and will soon praise God with the words of the Nunc Dimittis (“Now you dismiss…”), which is also called The Song or Canticle of Simeon:
Lord, you now have set your servant free * to go in peace as you have promised; For these eyes of mine have seen the Savior, * whom you have prepared for all the world to see: A Light to enlighten the nations, * and the glory of your people Israel.
We pray the Nunc Dimittis, appropriately, at the end of Compline (bedtime prayer) every day, and also as a choice of one of the 19 canticles recited at Evening Prayer. One of these canticles is said or sung after each reading.
(2) The next scene, the Annunciation, is the story of the Angel Gabriel coming to visit the Virgin Mary to announce to her that she has been chosen to be the mother of Jesus. This Feast is kept on March 25th every year. It is appropriately nine months before Christmas and always falls during Lent. In Western Europe until the 15th Century, March 25th was New Year’s Day! We see the Virgin busy spinning yarn, being startled, and dropping her spindle in response to the words of the Angel Gabriel as he approaches from behind and says, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” (Luke1: 28). Many devotees of the Virgin Mary would argue that she was accustomed to visits by angels and it wasn’t the angel that startled her but the message the angel gave. In our icon, the response of Mary to the words of the angel is so human. I often think, does one hear an angel as he approaches? Or do angels just appear and that’s why their first words are always, “Fear not!”
(3) Our eye travels downward and we see the scene of the Visitation. As the story goes, after the Annunciation, the Virgin Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth who herself is pregnant with her first child, even well after the time she should be able to conceive. (Elizabeth’s son will be John the Baptist.) Tradition tells us that the Virgin left right away, going “into the hill country…into a city of Judah”. The journey from Nazareth to Hebron is about 81 miles in a direct line, which is about 21 hours of easy walking. Elizabeth was in her sixth month before Mary came (Luke 1:36). The Feast of the Visitation is of medieval origin and was promoted by the Franciscans. It is now kept on May 31st, but for many years was held on July 2nd and in some places is still celebrated on that day. In most icons of this scene the two women are standing and greeting each other, but in our icon the Virgin is sitting and Elizabeth comes in to greet her. Perhaps our icon shows that moment in the story where Luke writes, “And Mary remained with her about three months” (Luke 1:56). Elizabeth does not hold a baby so we can assume that John the Baptist has not been born, and most scholars hold the Virgin stayed with Elizabeth through the birth of John. In this lovingly depicted scene, we have two very human mothers-to-be keeping each other company. Perhaps they are exchanging the miraculous stories of how each found her self to be a mother for the first time.
(4) The Disputation, or the Finding of the Boy Jesus in the Temple, has no appointed Feast day on the church calendar. It is, however, the Gospel lesson for the Feast of St. Joseph which occurs on March 19th, and one of the suggested Gospel lessons for the Second Sunday of Christmas (which, because of the calendar, happens rarely, so this is not a story we hear very often). Jesus is 12 years old and comes to Jerusalem with his family for Passover. As Jesus’ parents are on the way back home, they realize that Jesus is not with them. (This does not make them bad parents, it’s just that villagers often walked in packs, visiting here and there along the way, going from one group to another; we presume the kids would gambol and play, rushing ahead and lagging behind.) They return to Jerusalem and “After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2: 46). This is the scene we see in our icon. The icon writer has used the traditional depiction of figures in the Byzantine style where the more important figures are larger, so the boy Jesus looms over the adult scribes. There is no confusion about the figure in the doorway since she has a halo and is identified as the Virgin above her head with the Greek letters “Mρ ΘY,” an abbreviation of Meter Theou (Μήτηρ Θεοῦ) – in Greek, the Mother of God. It is interesting that the icon writer uses perspective so that figures closer to the horizon appear smaller, as we see the Virgin coming through the doorway to find her son.
(5) The final scene, on the lower right, is an icon of the goings-on from the Day of Pentecost. This is one of the seven major Feasts of the Episcopal Church (see pp. 15 – 17 in The Book of Common Prayer) and occurs 50 days after Easter on a Sunday, so that generally falls in late April or May. Pentecost is the day the Church remembers the arrival of the Comforter, God’s Holy Spirit, which Jesus promised to send to his followers to give them understanding, boldness, and strength to help them spread the Good News. According to the First Book of Acts, the twelve were together in the Upper Room after the Lord’s Ascension and, “devoted themselves to prayer together with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14). Our icon is from the Second Book of Acts: “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them.” (Acts 2:1-3). We can see the flames coming down from the circle of heaven to rest on the heads of the Virgin and the apostles. The Virgin sits in the center of the apostles with six on either side. She is also portrayed a bit lager in size in the Byzantine style, so the viewer knows that she is the most important figure in the scene. The crowned figure in the darkened arch represents the world that sits in darkness waiting to hear the good news.
Well, I hope you had an interesting walk about the alterpiece with me and look forward to seeing it in person when the veils come off after Easter (!) for Luke, actually, is all around.
Next week we will think about St Luke in his role as “the painter”.
– Sean Scheller
March 9, 2017 Comments Off on The Third Station: Jesus Falls the First Time
Recently a wise person gave me advice about writing an application essay: When describing significant issues or struggles, “move quickly to the resolution.” Don’t dwell too long on what has been painful or limiting for you, without putting it in the context of present health and strength.
While this is helpful advice for framing a journey to wholeness, it occurs to me that sometimes we tend to live by it in other moments. We sit with a friend sharing their pain and struggle, and it’s hard to know what to say. We are quick to offer advice. In our discomfort, we turn to reassurances that can grate in the thick of illness, loss, or transition: Be thankful for what you still have, or, God must have given you this struggle for a reason. It is uncomfortable to look directly at pain, our own and certainly others’. It can be uncomfortable to keep listening with full openness, not only for a whole conversation but sometimes over weeks, months, or years.
The passion narrative is practice for this kind of discomfort. It is the kind of story that Jesus’ friends and family must have found hard to talk about. It is hard to remember even now, looking directly at the pain of someone we love deeply. Exhausted and injured, Jesus fell under the weight of the cross. He would get up and continue under that weight. The road was still much longer.
This morning immigrant rights leader and New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC Executive Director Ravi Ragbir faced an ICE check-in and the possibility of immediate deportation or detention. He was accompanied by a crowd of supporters, people who love him and believe in his work. Ravi emerged from the check-in, and there was a collective sense of relief. Yet a month from now, he will be required to re-appear. This morning was part of a much longer road, marked by uncertainty, anxiety, and at times, pain. As Ravi makes us aware, many other undocumented people are on this same road.
In Jesus, we are not alone in struggle, even when it doesn’t move quickly to resolution. God does not turn away from our struggle or our pain, even when we are at our most broken, furthest from health and strength and even from God. God does not turn away from us when the news makes us afraid that we or people we love will be deported, or alternatively, when it forces us to look directly at injustice for which we share responsibility. Instead, God walks with us, bearing our burdens and strengthening us to bear each other’s burdens.
– Aaron Miner
March 6, 2017 Comments Off on The Second Station: Jesus Takes Up His Cross
Nobody meets the man’s eyes as he labors with faltering steps.
It’s hot as the morning wears on; most of the people are gone,
Fleeing the stench of the carcasses hanging in butchers stalls.
Each step is worse than the last, as the soldiers with swords force him on,
Bloodied and bruised and breaking, hardly recognizable,
Just another Jew the Romans have sentenced to die.
Blood and dust and sweat mixing with the smell of the meat
Give a sickening odor to the gut-wrenching spectacle.
All the bystanders hold their noses and try to look away;
Brutal execution is nothing they haven’t seen before.
But what a perverse spectacle as he collapses in front of them, and the
Maker of heaven and earth is unable to bear the weight of a tree!
© 2017 Kyle Rader. All rights reserved.