March 1, 2019: Ash Wednesday at the Cathedral

From Fr. Steven

In his biography of the Irish writer James Joyce, first published in 1959, Richard Ellmann tells a famous anecdote about the writer's encounter with an enthusiastic fan:

'When a young man came up to him in Zurich and said, `May I kiss the hand that wrote Ulysses?' Joyce replied, somewhat like King Lear, `No, it did lots of other things too.'

I don't know about you, but there is a part of me that feels this way about my accomplishments. That no matter how much "good" I might do in my life, I am always aware of the "lots of other things" that I've also done--many of them not quite so good. 

It's this lingering sense of guilt and regret that makes me welcome the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday and especially the words, "remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." It feels like a relief to realize that everything, including our great deeds and our worst regrets, returns to the dust of nothingness. 

Maybe you feel this way too. That remembering your mortality in this stark manner (recall that we put ashes on babies too) brings much-needed perspective into your life.

Or maybe the ashes remind you of the death of a family member or a close friend, and for those few seconds when you feel the thumb on your forehead, you enter a more vulnerable space. You allow yourself to let all the pain and hurt come right up to the surface of your being, and it's a relief just to experience those feelings, even for a moment. 

But remembering mortality, whether ours or someone else's, is only part of the message of Ash Wednesday. 

In fact, I think the ashes are secondary to the more important symbol of that day: the tracing out of the figure of the Cross on our foreheads. 

Yes, of course we die, but the good news of the Gospel message is precisely that we do not return to the dust of nothingness, but rather, that the ashes of our mortality are re-formed into the shape of a Cross, through which our death shall lead to new life. This is the source of that "strength beyond hope and despair" which T. S. Eliot described so movingly in his poem Ash Wednesday:

This is the time of tension between dying and birth
The place of solitude where three dreams cross
Between blue rocks
But when the voices shaken from the yew-tree drift away
Let the other yew be shaken and reply.

Blessed sister, holy mother, spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks,
Our peace in His will
And even among these rocks
Sister, mother
And spirit of the river, spirit of the sea,
Suffer me not to be separated

And let my cry come unto Thee.

The Rev. Steven Lee

From Marsha and Tim

First Newcomers Brunch

It was an experiment to help us address the issue of greeting newcomers. We already invite them to Second Sunday, of course.  The food there is great, but it can be a bit intimidating for someone who doesn’t know anyone in our community—and it’s in another building. So the Newcomers committee decided to try dedicating another Sunday—the fourth Sunday—to welcoming these folks.  Anyone who is just dipping a toe in the Cathedral waters is invited, as are those in our community who want to help in reaching out to strangers.  It all happened in the intimacy of Saint Saviour Chapel.

Over bagels and mimosas, members of the vestry and an ad hoc newcomers’ committee spent an hour chatting with strangers.  There were some tourists, including a couple from Minnesota and a professor from Oklahoma.  There were people considering the cathedral as a spiritual home, and even a few who had been coming for months but were only just ready to take the plunge.  The Vicar welcomed everyone and encouraged people interested in joining to meet with him and take the first step.  Kevin de l’Aiglespoke briefly but eloquently on his years as a member of the cathedral’s congregation.  We will continue with this every month through May or June and then evaluate.  Thanks to members Kevin de l’AigleMark DilcomKelly Hadous, Seminarian Peggy Lo, and Hope Chang for the work to put this event together.

It’s Mardi Gras -- Sunday, March 3!  

This is the last Sunday for seven weeks to shout out our Hallelujahs! The Hospitality Committee is putting together a yummy and fun Mardi Gras luncheon (no, we are not going to refer to it as Dimanche Gras …).  It will take place on Sunday, March 3 in Cathedral House. Menu we are told includes two kinds of jambalaya, French toast casserole and desserts.  Mardi Gras will take the place of the March “Second Sunday” lunch.   

Thank you—A Stewardship Campaign wrap-up March 10, 10:00 a.m. Cathedral House
On March 10 we will be thanking all who pledged for the year 2019 with a lovely brunch between the services, from 10 – 11.   Come and celebrate your collective generosity which will make 2019 another banner year for The Congregation of Saint Saviour.  If you haven’t made a pledge, please come anyway.  Stewardship cards will be available. 
Lent—that one season of the church year that the world has not figured out how to commercialize! (Well, here and there a sale on fish, perhaps).  It is that time of lengthening days as we move slowly and deliberately toward Easter.  The Vicar and Vestry are planning ways for you to enter more fully into this holy season.  Here are several options.  In addition to the list in the poster above, consider:

The Way of Love  + The Rule of Life, A Lenten Retreat, Friday April 5 – Sunday April 7  Holy Cross Monastery  

We are returning to our favorite retreat site, Holy Cross Monastery on the Hudson for a weekend retreat led by our seminarian Peggy Lo. Fifteen spots have been reserved with the Monastery.  A fee of $215 covers the cost of a room and six meals.  Sign up by March 15. For more information, email
Return to the Lord Your God  Wednesdays in Lent, March 13 – April  10 7:00 p.m. with the Manhattan North Inter-Parish Council churches

This movable feast takes place at a different church each Wednesday Beginning March 13.  We pray together and then have a light supper.  The first session takes place at St. Andrews Church on Fifth Avenue and 127th Street.  
In addition to all these opportunities, check the weekly service leaflet and the Cathedral’s website for Cathedral events including concerts that can greatly enrich the Lenten season.
May you have a holy Lent.
Marsha and Tim