I promised in last week’s special Eblast about our upcoming liturgical experiment that I would provide a theological explanation for the free-standing altar. Here it is. The Mass is one of the Holy Mysteries of the Church, the depths of which can never be fully comprehended by finite human minds, and my meager and paltry explanation in the next 200 words or so can only serve as the barest introduction.
As with all the Holy Mysteries, the best way for us to understand them is through metaphor and analogy, and there are several of these metaphors or models for the Holy Eucharist. Each model There is no time to work through them all here―countless books have been written on the subject, as you can imagine―so I will only offer the one which is most closely with our experimental arrangement of a free-standing altar with the Priest facing the people. Based primarily on the model of The Last Supper at which Jesus instituted Holy Communion by saying “Do this in remembrance of me,” the Eucharist is viewed as a ritual meal celebrated by a community of faith “in remembrance,” that is, a mystically symbolic “remembering” of an Event during which the Event itself is made real again through the actions of the priest and the observance and participation of the faithful. At mass, the priest stands in the place of Christ as the Host of the ritual meal, offering the food of his Body and Blood to the faithful to strengthen them spiritually on their journey through life, not unlike the way in which our “daily bread” strengthens our physical bodies for service to God. This “ritual meal” model naturally evokes the image of a family sitting around the dinner table―the Family of God, his children by virtue of our Baptism, gathered around the Table of God in loving communion with him―so the priest faces the people as the head of a family or host would do at the dinner table. The altar in this model is, in fact, often referred to as a “table” or “table altar,” or even “communion table,” rather than an “altar.” Picture, if you will, Da Vinci’s famous painting “The Last Supper”: Jesus is the Host of the meal, his arms outstretched indicating the food on the table, his Body and Blood; three sides of the table are filled by Jesus and the Disciples; and the fourth side is left open for us: yes, the observers of the painting, but also metaphorically the Family of God, also invited to the table by Christ, to join the meal in our own time and place.
I have already had several conversations with people about our experiment and why we are undertaking it, and I am sure many fruitful conversations are yet to come. I would ask, however, a couple of things of you as we go along. Do your best to avoid knee-jerk reactions for or against. It is important that we allow time to live into the new arrangement, which is why we have chosen to do the experiment for four consecutive Sundays, so that everyone, including the acolytes and servers, has a chance to live with it and experience it, physically, spiritually, and liturgically. To that end, try to attend as often as you can during these four Sundays―one or two Sundays is not enough. And on these Sundays, be aware of your perceptions and engage with the following general questions: How does this arrangement inform and/or change my perception of the worship space? Of the St. Paul’s community? Of the spiritual experience of worship? Of the mass itself? Of God? Of my relationship to God and to St. Paul’s? Of my spiritual life and piety? There is no right answer, and your perceptions may change week to week over the course the experiment.
As I mentioned last week, after the experiment is over, there will be a formal survey and group discussions. This experiment is being undertaken for the benefit of this community of faith. Your reactions, observations, and experiences are the point of it.
See you at Mass,
CONTACTING THE SEARCH COMMITTEE
In the course of the Search Committee presentation on the status and process of the rector search at the parish Annual Meeting on January 27, the Committee offered interested parishioners a tool to reach out to it regarding any concerns they might wish to voice related to the search. If you want to provide your suggestions or comments, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FIRST COMMUNION ANYONE?
If you have a child who is between the ages of seven and eight years old and you think your child is ready to make his/her First Communion, now is the time. We are organizing a First Communion class for this spring. Please contact Fr. Wallace here or Jean Del Colliano here if you are interested in First Communion.
PILGRIMMAGE TO THE HOLY LAND!
January 20th―29th, 2020
St. Paul’s is off to the Holy Land! We announced at the Auction and I spoke about it again in my sermon on Epiphany that we are planning a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, using Nick Mancino’s company Journey’s Unlimited. Please see the poster in the Parish Hall and the flyers on the back table for details. This is an extraordinary opportunity for experience a life-changing event. Please don’t miss it! Ask Fr. Wallace or Nick Gjeca if you have any questions.
PRAYERS FOR ST. PAUL’S DURING THE TRANSITION AND RECTOR SEARCH
As you read the Eblast each week, it is a good opportunity to take 30 seconds and offer a prayer for St. Paul’s during its transition and for the members of the Search Committee. Prayers to that effect will be included each week in the Eblast.
For St. Paul’s:
O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly: Grant us, we beseech thee, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light,, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
For the Search Committee:
Eternal God, the foundation of all wisdom and the source of all courage: enlighten with your grace the Search Committee of this congregation, and so rule their minds, and guide their counsel that in all things they may seek your glory and promote the mission of your Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS
Wednesday, March 6: Ash Wednesday
Masses with Imposition of Ashes at 7:30 am, noon, and 7:00 pm
Sunday, March 10, First Sunday in Lent
THIS COMING SUNDAY: February 10, 2019
The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
Appointed Readings and Sermon
The First Reading—Isaiah 6:1-8, 9-13
Epistle—I Corinthians 15:1-11
The Gospel—Luke 5:1-11
Sermon: Fr. Wallace
Mass Setting: Missa de Sancta Maria Magdalena—Healy Willan
Organ Prelude: Ye Lands, to the Lord Make a Jubilant Noise—Flor Peeters
Entrance Hymn: “O day of radiant gladness,” Hymnal, 48
Anthem: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence—arr. Gustav Holst
Hymn at Communion: “Round the Lord in glory seated,” Hymnal, 367
Hymn after the Dismissal: Thy strong word did cleave the darkness,” Hymnal, 381
Organ Postlude: “Toccata” from Suite Gothique, Op. 25—Léon Boëllman
St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Clinton & Carroll Streets, Brooklyn.
718-625-4126 • email: email@example.com • Donate
The Rev. Dr. Sean M. Wallace, Interim
Alex Canovas, Music Director
Nathan Taylor, Organist