Worship

Sermon Archive

Friday, December 25, 2015

CHRISTMAS DAY

A bit on the history of the development of the feast called Christmas, in which the Church sets aside a day and season to celebrate the incarnation of God in Jesus:

About 1,700 years ago the Church settled on December 25 as Jesus’ birth date for the Christian Year. It seized upon the pagan feast of Natalis Solis Invictus, which among other things marked the lengthening of the light at the winter solstice. The Church appropriated this feast for the Nativity of Christ, baptizing it and reasoning that the Lord’s Incarnation was the beginning of the lengthening of the light of the Sun of Righteousness. So our feast of Christmas began by rubbing shoulders with secular or pagan festivals. Some writers of Antiquity complained that the new rising Christian movement was weakening the Roman Empire and that before long the old gods of Rome would be pushed out. The Emperor Constantine the Great, whose mother Helena was a devout Christian, had already ascribed his military ascendancy to the throne to a vision he had of the cross of Christ; and he had issued an Edict of Toleration for the formerly persecuted faith. Christianity now enjoyed imperial favor, and the celebration of Christmas adorned the Church’s new position.

One very good effect of Christmas in modern times has been the increased American Jewish observance of Hanukkah, which celebrates the victory of Judas Maccabeus over the pagan tyrant Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 BC. Antiochus was a king in one of the Hellenistic empires stemming from the conquests of Alexander the Great. He had ordered an altar to Zeus built in the Jerusalem Temple and had swine sacrificed on the Jewish altar. Hanukkah, or the Feast of Lights, celebrates the cleansing and dedication of the temple – it is the Feast of Dedication referenced in St. John 10:22-23 when Jesus walked in the temple in winter. You may find the original Hanukkah story in I Maccabees, chapters 1-4, in the Apocrypha. It is not only a Jewish feast; it is an important antecedent to the time of Christ.

By no means are all modern developments with regard to Christmas reason to lament, O tempora, O mores! The centennial observance of our current church building in 2013 shed light on the influence of the twentieth century on the way the Church celebrates Christmas – a very good influence indeed. In September 2013 we had our parish Hymn-Sing, featuring hymns that were sung a century ago in 1913. The surprise: not one Christmas hymn from that year would be familiar to us today.

The twentieth century has made all the difference. What happened?

The fact is, Christmas as we know and love it is largely the product of the great English choral foundations – collegiate chapels such as King’s College, Cambridge, and great churches such as Westminster Abbey and Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. Particularly through the development and ensuing popularity of the services of Nine Lessons and Carols led by Boris Ord and David Willcocks at Kings, the beautiful carols, hymns and anthems we cherish made their way across the Atlantic and around the world – thanks in no small measure to recordings.

Before the twentieth century, Protestantism, deeply influenced by its puritan strain, regarded Christmas with suspicion as “popish.” In the nineteenth century, the Oxford and Anglo-Catholic movements promoted the liturgical celebration of Christmas. Pioneering hymnals such as Hymns Ancient and Modern brought the hymnody promoted by English High Churchmen to the pews; but this did not reach the United States and the Episcopal Church’s hymnal until our Hymnal 1916, which was only a beginning. Hymnal 1940 and Hymnal 1982 fully adopted the work of Anglo-Catholic musicians and hymnologists. It is hard to believe, but in 1913 they did not sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing or O Come All Ye Faithful at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue.

What Saint Thomas has now is in many people’s opinion as good as it gets for Christmas music and liturgy. But we are deeply indebted to the Church of England’s great choral foundations, which we both emulate and rival, for this wonderful repertoire.

Collect:

Almighty God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that we, being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

11:00 am Solemn Eucharist of the Nativity

Thursday, December 24, 2015

CHRISTMAS EVE

A bit on the history of the development of the feast called Christmas, in which the Church sets aside a day and season to celebrate the incarnation of God in Jesus:

About 1,700 years ago the Church settled on December 25 as Jesus’ birth date for the Christian Year. It seized upon the pagan feast of Natalis Solis Invictus, which among other things marked the lengthening of the light at the winter solstice. The Church appropriated this feast for the Nativity of Christ, baptizing it and reasoning that the Lord’s Incarnation was the beginning of the lengthening of the light of the Sun of Righteousness. So our feast of Christmas began by rubbing shoulders with secular or pagan festivals. Some writers of Antiquity complained that the new rising Christian movement was weakening the Roman Empire and that before long the old gods of Rome would be pushed out. The Emperor Constantine the Great, whose mother Helena was a devout Christian, had already ascribed his military ascendancy to the throne to a vision he had of the cross of Christ; and he had issued an Edict of Toleration for the formerly persecuted faith. Christianity now enjoyed imperial favor, and the celebration of Christmas adorned the Church’s new position.

One very good effect of Christmas in modern times has been the increased American Jewish observance of Hanukkah, which celebrates the victory of Judas Maccabeus over the pagan tyrant Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 167 BC. Antiochus was a king in one of the Hellenistic empires stemming from the conquests of Alexander the Great. He had ordered an altar to Zeus built in the Jerusalem Temple and had swine sacrificed on the Jewish altar. Hanukkah, or the Feast of Lights, celebrates the cleansing and dedication of the temple – it is the Feast of Dedication referenced in St. John 10:22-23 when Jesus walked in the temple in winter. You may find the original Hanukkah story in I Maccabees, chapters 1-4, in the Apocrypha. It is not only a Jewish feast; it is an important antecedent to the time of Christ.

By no means are all modern developments with regard to Christmas reason to lament, O tempora, O mores! The centennial observance of our current church building in 2013 shed light on the influence of the twentieth century on the way the Church celebrates Christmas – a very good influence indeed. In September 2013 we had our parish Hymn-Sing, featuring hymns that were sung a century ago in 1913. The surprise: not one Christmas hymn from that year would be familiar to us today.

The twentieth century has made all the difference. What happened?

The fact is, Christmas as we know and love it is largely the product of the great English choral foundations – collegiate chapels such as King’s College, Cambridge, and great churches such as Westminster Abbey and Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. Particularly through the development and ensuing popularity of the services of Nine Lessons and Carols led by Boris Ord and David Willcocks at Kings, the beautiful carols, hymns and anthems we cherish made their way across the Atlantic and around the world – thanks in no small measure to recordings.

Before the twentieth century, Protestantism, deeply influenced by its puritan strain, regarded Christmas with suspicion as “popish.” In the nineteenth century, the Oxford and Anglo-Catholic movements promoted the liturgical celebration of Christmas. Pioneering hymnals such as Hymns Ancient and Modern brought the hymnody promoted by English High Churchmen to the pews; but this did not reach the United States and the Episcopal Church’s hymnal until our Hymnal 1916, which was only a beginning. Hymnal 1940 and Hymnal 1982 fully adopted the work of Anglo-Catholic musicians and hymnologists. It is hard to believe, but in 1913 they did not sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing or O Come All Ye Faithful at Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue.

What Saint Thomas has now is in many people’s opinion as good as it gets for Christmas music and liturgy. But we are deeply indebted to the Church of England’s great choral foundations, which we both emulate and rival, for this wonderful repertoire.

Collect:

Almighty God, who hast given us thy only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him and as at this time to be born of a pure virgin: Grant that we, being regenerate and made thy children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by thy Holy Spirit; through the same our Lord Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

11:00 pm Solemn Eucharist of the Nativity

Sunday, August 30, 2015

THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST (Pr. 17)

Collect:

Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Proper 17)

Fr Daniels | 11:00 am Choral Eucharist
James 1:17-27 , Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23

Sunday, August 23, 2015

THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST (Pr. 16)

Collect:

Grant, we beseech thee, merciful God, that thy Church, being gathered together in unity by thy Holy Spirit, may manifest thy power among all peoples, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen. (Proper 16)

Fr Turner | 11:00 am Choral Eucharist
John 6:56-69

Sunday, August 16, 2015

SAINT MARY THE VIRGIN

August 15 is a major feast day in both the west and the east. On this date, the Roman Church celebrates the Assumption of Mary, or her bodily ascent into Heaven after her death, while the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the Dormition, or Falling Asleep, of Mary, also referring to the end of her life on earth.

The Episcopal Church and much of the wider Anglican Communion calls this day the Feast of Saint Mary the Virgin, Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. While this title doesn't focus specifically on the end of Mary's life, as the Roman and Eastern feast names do, we still use the same prayers and lessons as these two older traditions.

At Saint Thomas we celebrate this feast twice:

  • August 15: the feast day itself, with services in the Lady Chapel (Chantry Chapel)
  • The Sunday closest to August 15, which includes a Festal Eucharist at 11am.

Collect:

O God, who hast taken to thyself the blessed Virgin Mary, mother of thy incarnate Son: Grant that we, who have been redeemed by his blood, may share with her the glory of thine eternal kingdom; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Fr Turner | 11:00 am Festal Eucharist

Sunday, August 9, 2015

THE ELEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST (Pr. 14)

Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as are right, that we, who cannot exist without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Proper 14)

Fr Turner | 11:00 am Choral Eucharist
John 6:35, 41-51 , Ephesians 4:25–5:2

Sunday, August 2, 2015

THE TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST (Pr. 13)

Collect:

O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church, and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succor, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Proper 13)

Fr Turner | 11:00 am Choral Eucharist
John 6:24-35 , Ephesians 4:1-16

Sunday, July 26, 2015

THE NINTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST (Pr. 12)

Collect:

O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy, that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Proper 12)

Fr Austin | 11:00 am Choral Eucharist
John 6:1-21

Sunday, July 19, 2015

THE EIGHTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST (Pr. 11)

Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, who knowest our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion, we beseech thee, upon our infirmities, and those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask, mercifully give us for the worthiness of thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Proper 11)

Fr Spurlock | 11:00 am Choral Eucharist
Ephesians 2:11-22

Sunday, July 12, 2015

THE SEVENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST (Pr. 10)

Collect:

O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people who call upon thee, and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfill the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Proper 10)

Fr Austin | 11:00 am Choral Eucharist
Mark 6:14-29