Wednesday was the Feast of the Epiphany, when we celebrated Christ the hope of all the nations with the visit of the Magi and their gifts filled with precious meaning. There is an ancient tradition of marking Twelfth Night (The Eve of the Epiphany) or the Feast itself by marking the entrance door of a home with a series of numbers, letters, crowns, and crosses. Some churches even distribute chalk, charcoal, incense, and holy water to congregants for this very purpose. The numerals represent the current year and the crosses Jesus Christ. Some people add crowns for the the three kings. The letters C, M, B stand for the traditional names of the three Magi (or kings) Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar, but also represent the Latin phrase Christus Mansionem Benedicat – May Christ bless this house. I am told that this tradition has become suddenly very popular in England because of the latest lockdown.
That same day, many of us were horrified by the scenes that were unfolding before our eyes on Capitol Hill. As a European, those scenes were terribly reminiscent of the storming of Eastern European Parliament Buildings at the end of the Cold War and caused alarm around the world. However, it also caused an overwhelming outpouring of support and encouragement from all parts of the political spectrum. The Capitol Building features on the Chancel screen in our Church and above it, those famous words of Ulysses S. Grant from his presidential campaign, “Let us have Peace.” The Capitol Building is a potent symbol of what all Americans cherish – true democracy and the voice of the People. Although Wednesday’s scenes will be remembered in history, so will the resolute desire of the members of Congress to (as Vice President Pence put it) ‘get back to work.’ So, on a day when we pray a blessing on our homes, let us also pray a blessing on the house of our democracy. Here is a prayer from our Prayer Book for all who serve in Congress:
O God, the fountain of wisdom, whose will is good and
gracious, and whose law is truth: We beseech thee so to guide
and bless our Senators and Representatives in Congress
assembled, that they may enact such laws as shall please thee,
to the glory of thy Name and the welfare of this people;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
On Thursday, the Vestry had a special meeting and we discussed the matter of in-person worship in light of the alarming rise in the rate of COVID-19 infections, the discovery of a more contagious variant of the virus in New York, the strain being placed on volunteers as well as staff, and the plans that need to be made to welcome back a limited number of choristers. The Vestry has unanimously agreed that we will cease in-person worship on Sundays and at choral services during the week, beginning January 17. For the time being, Weekday Shrine Prayers and Mass will continue to be open to the congregation Monday to Saturday. I know that this will be a great disappointment to many of you but we feel that this is by far the safest course of action, particularly when the boys return to school. Services will continue to be livestreamed. We will continue to monitor the situation and give further updates as the Pandemic continues and the vaccination program is rolled out.
I want to pay tribute to our Head Usher, Edie Morrill, and to Tom Dean, Assistant Head Usher, for their unstinting commitment to our church. Thank you to our loyal Ushers who have been essential to the safety of the congregation over these past months, and especially to those young adults and other members of the community who have stepped up to assist them. Their volunteering means that our sextons and security staff have had the support that they need. May God bless all of you.
Your Priest and Pastor,