March 7, 2017 § 1 Comment
One of the choices given to us bloggers is to offer a “Parishioner Interview or Reflection.” In past years, I have alternated between interview and reflection. This year, I’m attracted to one of the interview question possibilities: “What is your favorite Lenten practice and why?” For many years, I have chosen a mixture of practices during Lent, seeking to balance “giving up” with “giving out.” In recent years, the “giving out” side has become more predominant for me. Last year, when I wrote here about thinking of Lent as being about Love, the “giving out” aspect was one thing that made that paradigm shift possible.
This year, I have added a new practice to my mix, courtesy of a suggestion from my long-time friend Ronald. Though I doubt any of the blog readers actually know Ronald, and I got his permission to write about this particular practice with credit to him for the idea, I am limiting myself to first name only for privacy. The practice in question is simple, can easily be combined with whatever else you’re doing to observe Lent, and has many permutations, limited only by the limits of your imagination. Ronald worded his challenge to his friends this way: “Instead of giving up something for Lent, do something for someone. It could be making a donation to a charity, or volunteering, or maybe spending more time with an elderly relative or neighbor.” Ronald’s own example of what he did last year was to put aside $2.00/day during Lent, and at the end of Lent use the money to buy socks for a homeless shelter in his area to distribute to its guests. The shelter director had told him that for that shelter, a priority donation other than money was socks. I’ve since read several articles in which other shelters report the same need. That’s just one example of how this practice can work.
This is how I’m doing the practice this year. I am putting daily money aside, and will reflect during Lent on where and how to best deploy the donation at the end of Lent. I’m leaning toward a struggling local not-for-profit that provides food and services to the homeless in my increasingly gentrifying neighborhood. It’s symbolic for me to put the money aside each day, not just in weekly chunks, so that I reflect each day on the needs of so many, sort of like the old mite box tradition that some may remember from childhood. In this year in which there are so many competing needs at every level, taking time each morning to think beyond myself seems particularly relevant to the idea of Lent as being related to love, and to Lent as a time of penance and sacrifice in memory of Jesus’s sacrifice and subsequent resurrection.
If you feel moved to do so, choose your own option for giving out during Lent, either instead of or in addition to giving up. Think of “giving out” as spreading a bit of sorely needed kindness in the world.
– Julia Alberino
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.
March 4, 2017 Comments Off on Lenten Quote of the Week: Martin Luther
“I have so much to do today that I’m going to need to spend three hours in prayer in order to be able to get it all done.”
– Martin Luther
March 3, 2017 Comments Off on Composer Spotlight Lent I: Cristobal de Morales
The choral music scheduled at St. Luke’s for the First Sunday in Lent (March 5th) will be:
- The Great Litany in Procession
- Cristobal de Morales – Missa Si bona suscepimus (Kyrie)
- Manuel Cardoso – Angelis suis
- Cristobal de Morales – Parce mihi
We will be using this space in Lent to highlight a composer from the upcoming Sunday’s schedule of choral music. This week’s composer spotlight is Cristobal de Morales.
‘No Spanish composer of the sixteenth century was more lauded during his lifetime and for two hundred years after his death than Morales.’
So writes the leading modern expert on the subject – a remarkable claim when one considers the talent and number of Spanish composers in the High Renaissance, not least Victoria. For someone as culturally Spanish as Morales, writing music meant more than just borrowing from the prevailing Franco-Flemish or Italian styles. Morales, like Victoria, never lost that mystical intensity of expression which found its roots in Spanish Catholicism.
Cristóbal de Morales (c.1500-1553) spent the beginning and end of his career in Spain, with a crucial ten years in the middle singing with the Sistine Chapel Choir in Rome. He was appointed to the Papal Choir on 1 September 1535 by Pope Paul III, the same day that the Pope commissioned Michelangelo to paint The Last Judgment. Since Morales did not return to Spain until 1545, and Michelangelo finished his great work in 1541, the composer would have had the privilege of watching The Last Judgment come into existence, more or less day by day. In fact there was little chance of his being influenced by Michelangelo’s almost- baroque Italian style: Morales was sufficiently proud of his origins, especially of Seville where he was born, to follow his own muse.
Although his Missa Si bona suscepimus was almost certainly written in Rome, and shows something of the consummate smoothness of the international polyphonic idiom Rome hosted during the papacy of Paul III (1534-1549), it is not an Italianate work.
A sign of the seriousness with which Morales approached the composition of his six-voice Missa Si bona suscepimus is the way it is introduced in the source – the Missarum Liber Primus, published in Rome in 1544 under his direct supervision. Before the first stave of music is a woodcut of the Prophet Job naked, with the motto spread around him ‘The Lord has given, the Lord has taken away’. This is a quotation from Job (1:21) which Verdelot included in his motet Si bona suscepimus, which Morales in turn very deliberately chose as his parody model. Verdelot’s text continues from Job in this despairing state of mind, including the remark (Job 2:10): ‘If we have received blessings from the hand of the Lord, why then should we not endure misfortune?’ Obviously something in these challenging words and in Verdelot’s sparse setting of them appealed strongly to Morales, who anyway considered Mass composition to be the most important aspect of all his work. With this material as his starting-point he produced his most substantial and arguably his most heart-felt composition.
Parce mihi is the first lesson in Morales’s setting of the Officium defunctorum, The Office for the Dead. The motet acquired some notoriety when it was included in the album Officium, released in 1994 by Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek and the early music vocal group The Hilliard Ensemble. The album sold more than 1.5 million copies.
You will see from the note that the Morales Parce mihi was on a recording that was an unexpected hit. There are three versions on the recording, one voices a cappella and two with a saxophone improvisation on top of the choral music.
With saxophone (this is pretty cool…):
This is good introduction to his choral music:
This is the Sanctus from the mass for Sunday.
– David Shuler, Director of Music
March 2, 2017 Comments Off on The First Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death
Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
-Matthew 27: 22-24
Condemnation is a choice, an action. Yet Pilate washed his hands of his political action. Pilate had the power of his Roman position, prophecy from his wife having been warned in a dream of Jesus’ innocence, and truth in knowing the motives of the chief priests who brought Jesus to trial. However, Pilate chose political expediency over truth. Furthermore, he relieved himself of the consequences in condemning an innocent person by shifting blame to those over whom he had power. We do not need to look far to see political parallels in our own time.
In this Lent, what will we choose? We might look to Jesus as an example of how we choose to radically love. Jesus rejected the violence of the Roman state by becoming love in action event to the point of death. How might we imitate that radical love this Lent? Perhaps when it seems as though injustice, oppression, and death are winning, we might choose to speak truth to power, courage over comfort, love rather than fear so that, as Lutheran pastor Tuhina Verma Rasche writes, “in this true abiding with God, death can go to hell.” We shall overcome.
– Nicole Hanley
March 1, 2017 § 3 Comments
Luke, actually, is all around
During this Lenten season, I’d like us to take a look at some of the images of our patron saint and his symbol on different sacred objects from the parish.
Who is Saint Luke?
The children’s prayer goes, “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Bless the bed that I lie on,” which leads some people to think that Luke is one of the Apostles, but he’s not; he was a companion of Paul. We also know him as the author of one of the Gospels (an account of the life of Jesus, the Christ), and of the Acts of the Apostles, which tells the story of the founding of the Christian church and the spread of its message to the Roman Empire. We hear Luke’s lesson of Christ’s birth every Christmas Eve, and The Revised Common Lectionary of the Church uses The Gospel of Luke throughout “Year C” for the Sunday Gospel lessons; look for it in 2019!
So, Luke’s Gospel is well known to us. During the Great 50 Days of Eastertide, we often listen to lessons from the Acts of the Apostles during the First Lesson on Sundays in Easter. Luke is a wonderful storyteller. He knows how to weave a narrative, he is able to develop interesting characters, and he creates places and settings which work together to draw the reader into the story. Jesus, as described by Luke, has a special concern for women, children, the sick, even tax collectors, and only Luke has the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Lost Sheep, and the Prodigal Son, as well as the narratives of the Annunciation, Visitation, the birth of John the Baptist, even the road to Emmaus. Some traditions say that Luke is one of the unnamed disciples from that very story.
Luke is known as a doctor. This tradition comes from Paul writing to the Colossians (4:14) that Luke, the beloved physician, is with him and sends greetings along with Demas. Luke’s Gospel is the only Gospel that recorded Jesus’ statements about physicians: “Physician, heal yourself!” (Luke 4:23); and “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Luke 5:31). Our parish was founded by devout Episcopalians who wanted to escape the unhealthy conditions of 19th century New York City and spend time in what was then the country, all the way out at St Luke in the Fields. You can find hospitals and medical centers today are named for him.
Luke is also the patron saint of artists. According to tradition, Luke was able to visit with the Virgin Mary and, during that time, she told him the infancy stories we find in Luke’s Gospel. Luke was also rumored to have painted her portrait as they met. This tradition began in the Byzantine era in the east, spread to the west, and by the tie of the Renaissance there were many icons of the Virgin and Child attributed to St. Luke throughout Christendom. I have seen two, one in Rome at Santa Maria Maggiore and the other at the Kykkos Monastery in Cyprus. These icons are considered so holy that you never can really see them because of the elaborate frames and the veils that cover them. It is only at certain great festivals that the icon is shown completely unadorned to the faithful.
More about St Luke next Wednesday.
– Sean Scheller
March 25, 2016 Comments Off on Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The story of the last words of Jesus to his mother and the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross is, for me, one of the most moving and intriguing within the passion narratives. Every time I read this passage I cannot help but to be genuinely touched by this scene, by this image of our savior, of God incarnate, showing genuine love for his earthly mother. But despite these powerful images, is this the reaction that the Gospel writer wanted to encourage? Was John concerned with presenting to his community the humanity of Jesus and his love for his earthly family?
The value of the biological family is a complicated subject within the life and teachings of Jesus. On the one hand, the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke highlight the value of the holy family and commend both Joseph and Mary for their faith, courage, and virtue. On the other hand, Jesus’ teachings tend to highlight the importance of the “family of disciples” over that of traditional kin relationships. Given the complexity of Gospel attitudes regarding the concept of “family,” scholars debate the meaning and relevance of this Johannine passage. Some argue that Jesus’ words in his final moments of earthly existence demonstrate his genuine concern for the welfare of his mother, hence showing that Jesus valued familial relationships. Others point out, however, that because Mary often represented the church in late antique theology, and the beloved disciple, John, symbolized gentile Christians, Jesus’ words demonstrate his final teaching: that gentiles were to care for the Church, the “new family” of disciples.
At this point in my study of the Gospels, it is quite apparent that Jesus was creating a new kind of community, a community in which all people are seen as children of God, and hence as siblings of one another. Yet, when Jesus is looking down upon his grieving mother and turns to the beloved disciple for her care, I find it difficult to believe that Jesus, in this moment, is not looking upon Mary as his beloved mother, as the woman who raised him and loved him as her son. Perhaps, then, as Jesus utters his final teaching upon the cross, he is demonstrating that the earthly family and the spiritual family are not necessarily at odds with one another; but rather, that the earthly family is to be embraced by the spiritual family – the Church. And in doing so, the earthly family is transformed as it lovingly embraces new brothers and new sisters in accordance with the teachings of our savior. And maybe, when the earthly and spiritual come together as a single family, all shall indeed be “finished.”
– Alexander Herasimtschuk
March 25, 2016 § 1 Comment
Today is the Third Sunday in Lent, and I am preparing my spirit, heart, and mind to write my Lenten reflection. I am sitting in the chancel across from the painting from which I am supposed to write a meditation. I sit with it, and let my senses tell me what they experience.
I feel weight,
being pulled down,
and darkness on darkness.
The white elements of the painting
are pregnant with darkness,
wounded with death and dying ̶
brutal death, bloody dying.
The dark skin of Jesus is a painful reminder of who gets killed in our society, and I think to myself: “Black lives matter!” The dead, black body of Jesus comes to the forefront of the painting, and the white spectral figure of the mother moves to a second plane. How can this possibly be, painting-wise?
I tell myself,
There is more there to see.”
Besides the excellence of artistry of the painter, there is a socio-political-spiritual statement pointing out to us the poignancy of this moment.
The dead body of Jesus is being dropped
on Mary’s arms ̶
not carefully arranged ̶
with all its weight.
Yet, this is the Jesus story:
He died on the cross to redeem our sins and save the world. Meanwhile, the countless dead bodies of our black and brown brothers and sisters have been left on the streets for hours, have been hidden in a jail cell, or have been hung in the trees, as our shameful history of the lynching era reports.
This modern day Jesus,
with his Hanes underwear and a white mother, makes me think of our brother President Barack Obama and the irrational hate and rejection he continues to receive from those who are so afraid of losing their privilege, and, who like the Romans in Jesus’ times, want everything just for the 1% only.
This cross, made out of modern day’s regular lumber and the hanging sign with the star of David and the note “King of the Jews,” written with a modern day marker, make me think of the horrors of the Holocaust, and the constant attacks I hear day after day against immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community, and my black and brown brothers and sisters.
This hanging sign, and this dead body, remind me of the many unnamed Trayvor Martins, Michael Browns and Eric Gardners of our most recent collective sorrows and social wounds. My heart breaks open and a river of despair and sadness comes out of it as I remember the unnamed Matthew Shepards and Sakia Gunns of the past twenty years or so.
This modern day sign is hanging with the same disdain, hatred, and scorn as the one directed at Jesus when he was hung on the cross. This modern day disdain, hatred, and scorn are the same as the one directed at Jesus when he was hung on the cross. This modern day madness is leaving me speechless, almost paralyzed.
The man in the back, holding the ladder used to untie Jesus right hand as he is about to untie the left hand, reminds me of today’s mobbing as I watch on TV during the mockery of primary elections for presidential nominees ̶ all those angry faces with angry slurs and angry thoughts.
The man in the background who is about to untie Jesus’ left hand is not a friend, he is not Joseph of Arimathea; he is rather someone saying to his mother: “Here is the dead body of your son; here is the body of a thug; here is the body of a transgressor; here is the body of your black son whose black life does not matter to me.” All the life that was there is now shattered; all the dreams and hopes are crashed forever.
The woman in the background to the left is crying. She is the real deal, yet, she is ignored ̶ she is sobbing and she is small like our outcry for justice and peace.
I see all of this and I tremble.
I am frightened.
is not a day
in which I can think of
the upward movement of the resurrection.
I face the brutality
of an unjust world
that grows even more unjust
by the minute.
I go down
to the depth of Hades;
today there is
no notion of hope.
I only see the blood shed:
I am stuck
in this everyday
– Anahi Galante
March 23, 2016 Comments Off on A View from the Sacristy: Maundy Thursday
On Maundy Thursday, we gather to remember the Lord’s last night on earth before his Passion. The liturgy of this night has some very special moments that we only perform on this night. One of the more dramatic is called the “Stripping of the Altar.” This comes at the very end of the service when all the ornament of the church is removed. At St Luke’s, where we cover our images throughout Lent, it makes the church very bare.
There are many explanations of why we do this: some say that we remember the Lord’s Passion by removing all the symbols of His joyful presence; others say that we join symbolically with the disciples in deserting the Lord during His Passion; some also say the Church is preparing to mourn the Lord’s death.
After the altar is left bare, the sacred minister, usually the rector, washes the altar. In some traditions a mixture of water and wine is used, at St Luke’s we use a mixture of Holy Water and Sacred Chrism. Chrism is made of olive oil and is scented with a sweet perfume, usually balsam. We use this sacred oil when anointing the newly baptized, the newly confirmed, and during our weekly healing service.
We use all the Holy Water and all the Sacred Chrism we have left since last year so that, at the Great Vigil of Easter, our bishop will bless new Holy Water and consecrate new Sacred Chrism. Holy Water is a living sign of Christ’s presence among use, as the Prayer Book says “the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.” The consecration of the Sacred Chrism invites us to join with Christ in his ministry “those who are sealed with it may share in the royal priesthood of Jesus Christ.” The water and the oil are used to welcome people into the Christian family so it seems right that we use these two sacred elements to wash the altar that is the center of our common life together.
We not only pour the two sacred elements over the altar but then we use palm from Palm Sunday twisted into a knot to scrub the altar. If you remember during the blessing of the palm this past Sunday, we asked that the palm be a sign for us of Christ victory. So, even at the darkest time in the life of Christ we remember his Passion by using the signs and symbols of the Risen Christ; Holy Water, Sacred Chrism and blessed Palm.
– Sean Scheller
March 23, 2016 Comments Off on For the Golden Halo: Julian of Norwich vs. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Yesterday’s results and today’s match up for the Golden Halo from Lent Madness:
We embarked upon this Lent Madness journey over five weeks ago on “Ash Thursday.” With your help we have narrowed the field of 32 saints down to just two: Julian of Norwich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who edged Sojourner Truth yesterday 52% to 48%). Who will win the coveted Golden Halo of Lent Madness 2016? Only 24 hours and your voting participation will reveal this holy mystery.
We also gave Bonhoeffer the win with a whopping 83% of the vote!
Remember: vote at Lent Madness here AND ALSO below the saint bios here so we see how the readers of the St. Luke in the Fields blog compare! Results of this match up will be reported the next day.
Julian of Norwich
“It appears to me that there is a deed that the Holy Trinity shall do on the last day…and how it shall be done is unknown to all creatures under Christ…This is the great deed ordained by our Lord God from eternity, treasured up and hidden in his blessed breast…and by this deed he shall make all things well.”
“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes.”