December 22, 2012 Comments Off on Advent Quote: Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Are we ready to receive Him? Before the birth of Jesus, his parents asked for a simple dwelling place, but there was none. If Mary and Joseph were looking for a home for Jesus, would they choose … your heart, and all it holds?
Let us pray that we shall be able to welcome Jesus at Christmas not in the cold manger of a selfish heart, but in a heart full of love, compassion, joy and peace, a heart warm with love for one another.
– Mother Teresa of Calcutta
December 18, 2012 Comments Off on Third Emmmanuel Station: The Visitation
More years ago than I care to admit, I celebrated the end of my PhD comprehensive examinations by spending a summer in Italy with a fellow graduate student who had just completed his M.A. thesis. Officially, we were there to study Italian, and we did go to classes, but that left us a lot of free time to see the nearby Umbrian towns and travel further afield every weekend. I soon learned that my friend, brought up in no religious tradition, and agnostic at best, had a fascination with representations of the Visitation, whether they be internationally famous paintings or the work of some unknown local artist. I saw more “Visis,” as he called them, that summer than I knew existed in the world. The one above, by Mariotto Albertinelli, painted in 1509, hangs in the Uffizi in Florence, and was one of the last “Visis” we saw, since we ended our trip in Florence. That summer was a kind of out-of-season advent; neither of us had a job to which to return, and we were anticipating new professional and academic adventures upon return to New York. Looking back, it’s amazing that we spent so much of the time looking at paintings that portrayed another kind of anticipation. Ever since that long-ago summer, the Visitation has been a powerful Advent symbol for me, and I have focused on what Mary and Elizabeth may have been expecting.
Elizabeth and Mary, cousins miraculously pregnant at the same time, doing what cousins would naturally do if both were sharing an experience—visiting each other to compare notes. Each knowing that the baby within her would be special, but not knowing in full what lay ahead, may have been filled with a somewhat scary anticipation of the future. I like to imagine that Mary and Elizabeth, willing instruments of God’s will in the world, must have had quite a conversation at that visitation. Did they talk about the future of their unborn sons? Did Elizabeth, further along in her pregnancy, give Mary advice? Luke doesn’t go into the mundane details that would have further humanized these remarkable women. That’s not his purpose. Luke tells us only that “when Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” (Luke 1:41-42). Mary’s response is what we have come to know as the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-56).
It is the Magnificat that endures when most of us think of the Visitation, or at least for those who remember that the Magnificat occurs at that moment in Luke, rather than at the Annunciation. I would like to suggest that what is really important in the Visitation is the sense of cautious yet joyous anticipation that Mary and Elizabeth must have felt. My wish for all of you is that you let yourselves feel that joy this Advent, as we await once again the celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior.
December 17, 2012 Comments Off on From the Altar Guild: The Symbolism of the Cope in the Advent Blue Set Week III
So now it’s the third Sunday of Advent the Sunday called Gaudete (Rejoice), as the Lord’s arrival is near. The Church wears rose-colored vestments as a sign of the joy we feel anticipating the birth of the Savior which is to come very soon. At St Luke’s, we wear what we have of a rose set (a chasuble, pulpit fall, burse, veil and our priests wear rose stoles). We also have rose-colored flowers today in the sanctuary.
In our exploration of the symbols on our Advent cope, we are up to the T for St Thomas whose feast day is December 21st and the sun for the remembrance of the Dayspring on December 22nd. .
December 21 – St. Thomas the Apostle – O THOMAS DIDIME
O Thomas Didymus, through Christ who suffered you to touch him, we entreat, you by your prayers for us on high, to aid us in our miseries, lest we be doomed with the lost when the judge appears.
December 21st is the traditional day of the martyrdom of the apostle. Sacred tradition says that Thomas was martyred in Mylapore, India having a spear thrust through him. The Mar Thoma Church of India is the legacy of the ministry of St Thomas. There is a Mar Thoma congregation in New York who used to meet on Sundays afternoon in the undercroft of Church of the Intercession uptown. I was there once as part of a Churches of New York Architecture Tour just after the Mar Toma congregation finished worship and, boy, could they could teach St Luke’s something about the use of incense. It was so smoky and they had finished the service almost 30 minutes before I was there and the undercroft certainly had an aura of sanctity.
I always find it a bit jarring to be thinking of Thomas, who has such a large a role in the Easter narratives, so close to Christmas. I don’t ever remember anyone named Thomas in any of the Christmas stories I have ever read. You know that the doubting Thomas story is the Gospel for the Sunday after Easter every year. Then again, the Thomas story is focused so much on the physicality of the Risen Jesus, when Jesus invites Thomas to reach in and feel his wounds, that it makes such perfect sense, as we get ready to celebrate the mystery of the Word-made-flesh remembering Thomas’ shining hour. Thomas is our reminder that the babe in Bethlehem grows up to be the Risen Jesus in the upper room who is my Lord and my God for us all.
December 22 – O ORIENS
O Dayspring, brightness of light everlasting and sun of righteousness: come and enlighten him who sits in darkness, and the shadow of death.
Dayspring is not a word that we use in everyday speech. I had to look up exactly what dayspring means. It is the time before the dawn when the horizon can be seen and perhaps the outline of some objects. In the liturgical life of the Church, it is the hour of Prime, the first prayers of the day. It is very early in the day and it can be a magical time when the light overtakes the darkness, the rising sun is anticipated well before it is actually seen or the heat of its rays are felt. It is a time of great possibilities, the day has just begun and anything is possible. This brings to my mind the passages from the Gospels that tell of the first Easter Day “after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning” when the women went to the tomb of Jesus. So, once again, so close to Christmas I have Easter on my mind. I always think of Christmas as the miracle in the middle of the night while Easter is the miracle of the dawn.
Last week I told you one of the secrets of the sacristy that we have a purple low mass set for Advent. I remember many years ago the designer and creator of the set, Graham French, telling me that the set was meant for both Advent and Lent since it was purple with silver trim and so was a penitential set since it had no gold.
Next week we will hear about the last two symbols of the Advent cope.
December 12, 2012 Comments Off on Advent Hymns
The tune Merton, “Hark a Thrilling Voice is Sounding” (#59) is my very favorite tune in our current hymnal, with Bach’s harmonization of Wachet auf ! “Sleepers Wake!” (#61) a close second. What is it exactly about the Advent hymns that many of us regular church goers find so uplifting? Is it simply the music? Or is it the texts that inspire us so? Charles Wesley’s “Lo he comes with clouds descending” is especially pithy, theologically. Or it is a particularly felicitous match of text and music? Each of these aspects adds to the uniqueness of Advent hymnody. And since we only sing most of these hymns during the four weeks of Advent there are all of the seasonal associations that heighten the emotional impact of these hymns.
But when we strip away these sentiments, what we actually have in early Advent are some uneasy texts about universal change. The Second Coming of Christ is good news but also devastating because it heralds the destruction and reformation of all earthly things. I try to remind myself, as I sing along to these early Advent tunes, that Christ in glory and triumph is not manageable or comfortable but the opposite. More like Hurricane Sandy than Anglican worship. More like global warming than Advent Lessons and Carols. So my resolution this Advent is to pay closer attention to the texts while I am singing them, and not to be so absorbed by the soaring melodies and descants of the hymnody that I lose the plot.
– The Rev. Caroline M. Stacey, Rector