March 14, 2017 Comments Off on Lenten Reflection: Letter and Spirit
Bless all those whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he loves us.
The above are two of prayers of the people on the last Sunday after the Epiphany. These are two petitions I find not only to be dear but linked. I have a short story to tell that points toward the linkage. Roughly twenty years ago, I spent Thanksgiving with my friends, Jay and Warren, in Massachusetts. At the dinner table I sat next to Warren’s cousins. They were a lovely young couple who owned a dairy farm. Since cows never take a holiday, they needed to leave the festivities early. I was thrilled when they invited my hosts and me to visit the farm on the next day. I had another friend, Harry, who always said that if he was ever reincarnated he wanted to come back as a cow. He loved their sweetness and their calm demeanor. Touring the farm, I understood what Harry meant. I had never been so up close and personal with cows; it was a treat.
My friends led me to a part of the farm that looked like a quaint miniature village. A series of individual plastic huts housed the calves. Talk about up close and personal, the calves came right up to me and began to chew my knees. Because it didn’t hurt, I found It sweet and a little bit icky. In my naivety I took their approach to be a friendly, puppy dog kind of greeting.
In the sermon on the last Sunday after the Epiphany, Fr. William told his own story about living in a charming cottage with one major drawback: a dark, dank cellar. He confessed to going down to the cellar as infrequently as possible. But, since the Christmas decorations were stored there, come December it was necessary to take the plunge. He prefaced the next part of the story by telling us how much he hates spiders. When he turned on the light to the cellar, he caught sight of an unwelcome, very spidery guest.
Fr. William connected his experience to Lent. When the light shines on our own dark cellars, we often see the things we need to work on, things we would rather not see. Lent is the season we set aside for letting in God’s light and praying for understanding of what we see.
It took many years before the light shone on what I thought was my playful introduction to the calves. The truth is, on a dairy farm calves are separated from their mothers at birth. They are deprived of their mother’s milk and given a substitute (most likely corn based and grown in a monoculture). The calves were not greeting me, they were trying to use my knobby knees as a pacifier. It didn’t work out well on either side.
In Genesis 1:26, God says that humans are made in her image, and that we have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, cattle and wild animals, and everything that creeps upon the earth. Dominion implies stewardship. As Mother Stacey said in her sermon on Ash Wednesday, humans have proven to be very bad at reverencing the earth and using its resources rightly. In fact, we are so bad at it that we make continued human existence on the planet look like a very short term affair.
Part of the problem, I believe, is the notion established in Genesis, and continued throughout the Bible, that we are at the pinnacle of life’s hierarchy. It causes us to ignore animal life when we are blessing lives connected to our own and serving Christ in them. I don’t think I need to tell you that the cruelty I witnessed when I met the calves is mild compared to what else happens on factory farms (chicks ground up live, animals raised in their own waste, animals kept in spaces that prohibit movement, etc.).
I love the parts of the New Testament where Jesus goes against what is proscribed to establish what is compassionate. He flouted the Sabbath laws in order to heal and feed the hungry. Maybe it is time to rethink the hierarchy to arrive at a model that incorporates compassion. Since all creatures are created by God, maybe we can view ourselves as part of a connected community, part of an ecosystem instead of lords of the pyramid.
Animal production is the largest human made cause of greenhouse gases, and takes up roughly a third of the planet’s land. It is a major cause of deforestation, and therefore a major factor in pollution and climate change. A larger amount of land is needed to produce a meat-based diet. Therefore, population growth renders a meat-based diet unsustainable.
So, I’m wondering if in this time of the gift of Lent, we might let a little of God’s illuminating light fall onto our plate?
– Suzanne Pyrch
March 11, 2017 Comments Off on Lenten Quote of the Week: Desiderius Erasmus
March 8, 2017 § 1 Comment
This week I want to explore Luke the evangelist through the symbol of the ox.
In the Acts of the Apostles and the Letters of Paul it seems that an “evangelist” was, in the early days of the Church, a traveling missionary who went about preaching the Gospel, the account describing the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. They often had a certain talent in preaching, and so would bring people to the faith and, once in the Christian community, the teachers and pastors would take on the work of explaining the mysteries of the faith. By the 2nd century, an “evangelist” came to mean what it means today – one of the writers of the four canonical Gospels.
In the first chapter of the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, and the fourth chapter of the Revelation to John, we can find the description of a vision of the Holy One. In the vision from Ezekiel, there are four living creatures who draw the chariot of God and have fantastic form: human, but with four wings and four faces: a human face, a lion’s face, the face of an ox, and the face of an eagle. In the vision from Revelation, the four living creatures have one face, and six wings with eyes all around, even under the wings. The Christian community took these four living creatures as symbols of the four evangelists and their associated Gospels. In the Christian West, these symbols for the Evangelists were well established by the 4th century since St Jerome speaks of them in his Commentary on Matthew; although not everyone agrees with Jerome’s symbols, they are the most accepted interpretation.
The four living creatures are also symbolic of the message of the specific Gospels for which they have become the symbol: The human as a symbol for the Gospel of Matthew suggests that this Gospel stresses Christ’s humanity with its genealogy and its Jesus who reacts in very human ways. The lion associated with the Gospel of Mark is appropriate since this Gospel begins with a “voice crying in the wilderness,” just a a lion would roar, and it also speaks to resurrection. There was an ancient belief that lions were born dead and brought to life by the growling and caresses of their mothers, and the Gospel of Mark concludes with the resurrection of Jesus. The ox associated with the Gospel of Luke fits well since it speaks to the great sacrifice of Jesus, and the ox was an important animal for sacrifice as required in the Torah. The eagle associated with the Gospel of John speaks to the heavenly Jesus that has come from the Father to dwell on earth and who will one day return to the Father
There is another traditional way to look at the four symbols of the evangelists, where the symbols are the height of creation in their different species: human beings are made in the image and likeness of God and so are the height of creation; the lion is the best of the wild animals and often called the King of Beasts; the ox is the beast of sacrifice and the most revered of the domestic animals; and the eagle is the best of the bird kingdom.
At St Luke’s we have St Luke’s ox on many of our sacred objects. Many of the oxen are very small and might never be noticed with a casual glance. Some are big and bold – the St Luke’s banner is the image of a gold-winged ox and is very large; we use this banner on St Luke’s Day.
The processional cross used during Lent has the symbols of the evangelists on the ends of the bars of the cross. We never really see these, as it is always covered by the Lenten Array when used at services. The large silver salver that we use to bring the offerings to the altar during the 11:15 Rite II Choral Eucharist on Sundays and on major feast days has the evangelists symbols on the rim (ask one of the ushers, but you’ll have to wait until Eastertide as we do not use this plate during Lent).
The festive Gospel Book cover (it shines like gold!) also has the four evangelists’ symbols on it, and we use this on feast days and the Great 50 Days of Easter (something else to look forward to seeing!).
The symbols of the evangelists also appear on the John Walsted icon processional cross we use during most of the year, Luke’s ox is right below Christ’s left hand (and again, you will have to wait until the Sunday after Ascension Day to see this ox).
Stay tuned and WATCH THIS SPACE for more tales of our patron Saint! We’re going to have a walk around the chapel next time! For Luke, actually, is all around.
– Sean Scheller
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 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
February 20, 2016 Comments Off on Lenten Quote of the Week: Ephrem of Edessa
“We give glory to You, Lord, who raised up Your cross to span the jaws of death.”
– St. Ephrem of Edessa
February 11, 2016 Comments Off on Composer Spotlight Lent I: Thomas Tallis
The choral music scheduled at St. Luke’s for the First Sunday in Lent (February 14th) will be:
- The Great Litany in Procession
- Cristóbal de Morales – Missa Mille regretz (Kyrie)
- Cristóbal de Morales – Inter vestibulum et altare
- Thomas Tallis – Absterge Domine
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 Thomas Tallis.
‘Tallis is dead, and music dies’: the conclusion of the lament on Tallis’s death set by William Byrd, his devoted pupil. Music died not simply because Tallis was perhaps the greatest English composer of his generation. He was a man of rare integrity, who had weathered the shifting religious and musical currents of the Reformation period and was a living link with the old, settled Catholic orthodoxy which that period had toppled. By the end of his long life he had become a kind of father-figure to church musicians, and his passing seemed to mark the end of an age, like the passing of an Elizabeth or a Victoria.
Tallis was born in about 1505, and we hear of him first in 1532 as organist of Dover Priory. Thereafter he served at St Mary-at-Hill in London, Waltham Abbey in Essex, and Canterbury Cathedral, before being appointed a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal in about 1543, a post that he held until his death in 1585. His life encompassed the reigns of four monarchs, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I, a time of unparalleled change in both the style and the function of English church music. Composers gradually abandoned the extended and brilliantly florid but emotionally detached style of the early Tudor period, and, towards the and of Henry’s reign, they adopted in its place features that had been established earlier on the Continent such as the use of imitation as a structural rather than a merely decorative device, homophony (chordal writing) and a more subjective and expressive response to texts. (These differences can be clearly heard between the earlier Videte miraculum and the later O nata lux and Absterge Domine.)
Early in Tallis’s career, the Votive Antiphon, an extended composition often with a devotional text in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was the major musical form outside the Eucharist or mass. With its decline in Henry’s later years, a new kind of composition began to take its place as. Responds, or Responsories, were sung to plainchant as part of the daily Office. Formally, they are all built round the alternation of sections chanted by soloist(s) and by full choir. The main section, the Respond proper, is begun by soloists and continued by full choir: the soloists then sing a Verse, and the choir responds with a shortened repeat of what it sang before; in the more important examples, the soloists then sing the first half of the Gloria Patti to essentially the same music as the Verse, and there is a final choral reprise of the Respond, which is sometimes further shortened: an ABA, BA form.
Taverner almost certainly invented a new type of Responsory form with his settings of Dum transisset sabbatuum. In these the solo sections which are left in plainchant while the sections assigned to full choir are adorned with polyphony, the chant remaining clearly audible as an equal-note cantus firmus, usually in the tenor. The progressively shorter repeats of the Respond are exploited to give a new kind of formal coherence. This distinctively English style of setting was popular towards the end of Henry’s reign but was also presumably revived under Mary. Tallis, in his Responsory settings of this type, such as Videte miraculum, creates a fundamentally syllabic style by extensive word-repetition, and shows great skill in presenting his ideas in imitation against the cantus firmus. The texture of all these settings is very sonorous, with an atmosphere of solemnity and restraint which is characteristic of most of Tallis’s music. (Tallis at some stage revised one of his own Dum transisset sabbatum settings to work in a compliment to Taverner, taking the means briefly above the trebles in the Alleluia section to sing a short but instantly recognizable quote from one of the older master’s settings.)
The enchantingly simple O nata lux is a setting of two verses from the hymn at Lauds on the Feast of the Transfiguration, but was obviously not designed for the liturgy: it makes no use of the chant, sets only the first two verses, and has an unliturgical repeat of the last two lines. Taking his earlier hymns as its starting point, it is homophonic throughout and perfect in its subtle harmonic and melodic touches and the repeat of the final section is in the manner of Tallis’s English anthems.
Absterge Domine was one of Tallis’s most popular settings appearing in four contrafacta sources as well as the 1575 Cantiones Sacrae. Deeply penitential in character, it falls into a number of short sections some of which are repeated for dramatic effect. Tallis’s sure hand for drama is obvious throughout, allowing the motet to rise and fall, using minor and major modes to heighten and release the dramatic flow.
– David Shuler, Director of Music
February 11, 2016 Comments Off on Lent Madness: Helena vs. Monnica
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.
During her long life, Helena gathered the most-sought-after relics in Christian history, including splinters of what is known as the True Cross.
Helena was born around 246 CE, somewhere in Asia Minor—most likely the city of Drepanum. She grew up as a stable maid, but her fortunes changed radically when she met the emperor, fell in love with him, was whisked away to Rome, and gave birth to Constantine in 272 CE.
Some describe Helena as the royal wife, some as the royal concubine, some as the royal consort. What is clear is that after Constantine was born, the emperor sent Helena away. Helena and Constantine were exiled from court in 289 CE.
Monnica, a model of the praying mother and wife, was the mother of Augustine—the father of Western Christian thought. Married to a pagan bureaucrat named Patricius, who would later convert to Christianity under her influence, Monnica was mother to several children; Augustine was the eldest. After her husband’s death, Monnica made fierce and tireless efforts to secure Augustine’s conversion, even going so far as to push the local bishop to track Augustine down and argue with him.
By the time he was twenty-nine, Augustine decided to journey to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monnica, while opposed to the plan, persisted in going with him… Read more here.
February 10, 2016 Comments Off on A View from the Sacristy: Lent Comes to St. Luke’s!
Lent comes to St Luke’s! In my mind, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday are one continuous day, even though each has its own rhythm and focus. On Shrove Tuesday, it’s pancakes and King Cake’s (this year I even stood in line at Randazzo’s in New Orleans and got my own!). Ash Wednesday is all Psalm 51, kneeling and simplicity.
For the altar guild, the liturgical seasons arrive well before the actual day: Christmas arrives on the weekend before December 25th, Easter arrives on the Saturday before Palm Sunday, and Lent begins on the last weekend of the Epiphany season. In those times before for each season, many things happen: at Christmas the Crèche is set up; at Easter the New Fire grill is put back together and the cross used on Good Friday is taken down from the wall; for Lent, pieces of linen are ironed, frontals are put on altars, and cast iron replaces silver and brass.
One of my favorite Lenten traditions at St Luke’s is the covering of the sacred images. Many churches only cover their images during Holy Week, but our tradition is to cover the images for the whole Lenten season. Our sacrisity has a drawer called “Lenten Coverings” and this is where we store all the linen we use to cover all the images. We use coverings in the church that match the color of the walls so that the covering blends into the background. The first image that is covered always seems to be the icon of Our Lady of the Sign. Every Shrove Tuesday I climb up a ladder to place the carefully ironed linen cloth and come face to face with the Virgin Mary. What do you say when you meet the Virgin? I usually say first “Ave Maria!” and then as the cloth covers her face, “See you at Easter!”
The next image is the icon of Christ above the door where our processions begin. This is a difficult icon to see since it is so high but it is very beautiful. We have to use the tall ladder to reach the icon. I am usually trying not to look down or fall off the ladder so I do not have as much of a conversation with Christ but I do say, “See you at Easter!”
The next sacred image that is covered is the Lenten processional cross. We have three processional crosses at St Luke’s: our Icon Cross that we use most of the year, the silver Easter Cross (which seems to weigh a ton), and the brass Lenten Cross. The Easter cross has the Lamb of God at the crossing with the symbols of the Evangelist on the ends of the beams. It’s a very simple design. The Lenten Cross has been with us for over 100 years. It is is need of some TLC but it seems a shame not to use it and so why not use it when it can be covered?
The chapel images are always covered after the burning of the palm and the celebration of the Holy Eucharist before the parish pancake supper. Lent comes to the chapel later than the rest of the church. In the chapel, we have the icon panels of scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, an icon of our patron St Luke, as well as the Rood Cross saved from the fire. We have beautifully crafted coverings that have a purple and ox blood panels down the center. I love how it gives the chapel a quiet dignity during this solemn season.
In Lent I miss seeing these sacred images. They are so much a part of my attending church. They are much like the person who always sits in the second pew on the right but one Sunday morning is not there and you wonder why. Did they go away for the weekend? Are they on the intercession list? I really should ask after them but who would know? Not seeing the images causes me to meditate and ponder them in almost the same way. If they were visible I would most likely give them a second thought but now that they are gone they make their presence know almost in a troubling way. Isn’t that one of the challenges of Lent? To examine ourselves and take notice of those things that we take for granted and to be thankful for them before they go away?
– Sean Scheller