Thursday, December 1, 2016

Advent I

Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb…
the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
                                                                                   Isaiah 11:6

This time of year reminds me of the story of a father who spies his 5 year old daughter standing next to his infant son’s crib.  As the father stands quietly and unnoticed in the doorway he hears the girl whisper to her baby brother, “Billy remind me where we came from, I’m beginning to forget
Today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah foretells 
the birth of the Christ-childThis child, born 2000 years ago reminds us not only from where we come but to where we are going.  Isaiah goes on to describe the Christ-child’s kingdom as God’s holy mountain; a place of radical hope and peace.  

The church calls us to look for signs of and participate in the fulfillment of this kingdom.  You will see signs of this all around you; if you know where to look.  They can be seen in the youth who serve at St. Mary’s in peer leadership, music ministry, altar servers and care kitchen, to name a few.  They can be found in those who serve the community either through school or civic organizations. The spirit of these young people is energizing.  As the girl in the opening story suggests; they remind us from where we come.  

This child-like enthusiasm is not limited to children.  Ministry happens because of the work of people of all ages.  The challenge is for each of us to add our voices to the one Matthew describes as “a voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord.”

In January St. Mary’s will be forming a social concerns team.  We will be looking for ways that we can actively work toward the building of Christ’s kingdom here in Nutley and beyond.  

As you hear and sing Isaiah’s words in today’s offertory song (found on page 6 of the advent booklet) please consider reaching out to me via e-mail or at the parish center to be part of thissocial concerns effort.

Grateful to be in ministry at St. Mary’s,


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Christ the King

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King; the final Sunday of the liturgical year. 

A few weeks ago I described this day as a hinge connecting the last Sundays of ordinary time with the coming liturgical year. 

(You can find all past articles at

Today, I'd like to speak a little more about the idea of the church or liturgical year.  As in the calendar year we travel somewhat cyclically in that we  revisit various days and seasons.  The difference is that in the church year we also journey outward moving closer to the fulfillment of God's kingdom.  If you're a visual learner; the calendar year would be a circle and the church year a spiral.  

As we get ready (God willing) to  take another trip around this spiral, may we:

*  Look at the past with gratitude

Let us be grateful even for our struggles as they have helped create the person we are today.

*  Look at our present with gratitude.     

Eckhart Tolle writes "Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation for all abundance."

* Look towards the future with gratitude

Jesus tells the repentant thief that he will be with Him in paradise.  Let us be grateful that we have a God who looks at us through the eyes of mercy.

See you around in the new year,


I am grateful to have spent this past year and the coming year serving at St. Mary's.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Lo, the day is coming      or         The Big Reveal

On October 23rd I began writing a series of articles focused on the coming last Sundays in ordinary time.  This first article spoke of the apocalypse as more than just an end but as a revealing.  Today’s readings offer two images to make this point.

In the first reading the Prophet Malachi speaks of a fire that will leave neither root nor branch from which will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.

In the gospel Jesus uses an image that will resonate with the Jewish people to whom he was preaching.  He speaks of the destruction of the temple so complete that each ornamental stone will be separated from the next.

So……    If the apocalypse is a (sort of) ending; what does it reveal?

The answer can be found in next week’s gospel.  Luke 23:35-43

Take a look by clicking the link.  Go ahead, you’re allowed.  (I’ll wait.)

The sort of ending is the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.  The big reveal is that Jesus’ death, the death of the repentant thief and you and me is not the end. 

Todays music attempt to capture the multiple threads of the readings and the time of the liturgical year.  Several songs have been repeated throughout these last Sunday to help build our parish repertoire.

One new song; Refiner’s Fire Purify My Heart  relates directly to the words of the prophet Malachi and Jesus.   May we all strive for holiness and readiness to do the will of God.

In gratitude,



On Monday November 21 at 7:30 St. Mary’s hosts the Nutley/Belleville Ecumenical Service.  Leave the turkey to defrost and start Thanksgiving Week off on a great note. (pun, somewhat intended)

Saturday, November 5, 2016

We Give (You) Thanks

Let's begin with a quick recap: 

Today is the second of three “Last Sundays of Ordinary Time.” These Sundays are connected by the Solemnity of Christ the King to the new liturgical year which begins on the first Sunday of Advent. 

During this time we are pointed in a particular way to Christ’s promised return and the fulfillment of the kingdom. 

Two recent days highlight this focus. 

On All Saints day we celebrated those who the church has officially named as saints. 

On All Souls Day we remembered and prayed for our faithful departed. 

So how does Thanksgiving fit in? 

For starters what we do in worship is an act of Thanksgiving. Let me explain. Our liturgy (what we often refer to as the mass) is made up of the Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist. The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” 

During this month of November I’ve chosen Marty Haugen’s “We Give You Thanks” as a gathering song. The text lifts up many things for which we can and should be thankful. The last two phrases of the first verse for the faith of those around us, for the dead and all those here captures the focus of All Saints and All Souls: 

My hope is that our praying these words as we gather will transition us from the cares, needs and anxiety of our daily lives to a spirit of gratitude. 

Grateful to be making music here at St. Mary’s, 


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Last Sundays of Ordinary Time

Today begins the first of the three Sundays known as the last Sundays in ordinary time.  These Sundays are used “as needed” based on how many Sundays fall between Easter and Advent.  This year we will use all three (31, 32 and 33) leading up to the Solemnity of Christ the King; the last Sunday of the church year.

In last week’s article I wrote about the theme of these weeks and their connection to the upcoming season of Advent. You can find this and previous bulletin articles at

Two upcoming liturgical feasts provide additional insight into the connection between these last Sundays and Christ’s second coming.

On Tuesday November 1 the church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints.  On this day we remember and celebrate those who have been named by the church as saints.

While many of our beloved deceased may already be saints, we remember them in a particular way on in The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed on Wednesday November 2.  This day is commonly called All Souls Day. 

One way of connecting these Last Sundays with all Saints and All Souls day will be through the use of John Becker’s “Litany of the Saints” (#727) at communion.

My hope is that you will get “caught up” in the prayer by responding “pray for us” as the cantor invokes God’s blessings through the intercessions of the Saints.

In loving memory of my Dad, Grandparents and mentors,


p.s. Be sure to put the Nutley/Belleville ecumenical service on your calandar.  November 21st at 7:30
at St. Mary's

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The End Is Near

What is the first word that comes to mind when you hear or read the word apocalypse?  

I had assumed that everyone would say for "end" until my Catholic School educated teenager proved me wrong (once again) by responding; Zombies."   I added the picture to lead you to me desired response. (and because Homer makes me smile.)

Apocalypse comes from the Greek meaning “an uncovering.”  A more useful translation might be “to reveal” as this shows the connection between the apocalypse and the end times described in the Book of Revelation.

Next week begins the part of the liturgical year known as the last Sundays in ordinary time.  The reading for these Sundays focus on themes that relate to Christ's return at the end of time.

I think of these three Sundays as the left side of a hinge which are connected to the right side of the hinge i. e. Advent (the first Sundays of the new church year.)  The hinge itself is the Sunday in between the two:  The Solemnity of Christ the King.  (The hinge itself.) 

While the entire 8 week period may be spread across two different liturgical years each are located in the period of time in which we await Christ's second time.

The themes of judgement and salvation over these next weeks are highlighted by the Solemnity of All Saints and the Commemoration of All Souls, both of which occur during within last Sundays of ordinary time.

More on both of these next week.

Blessed to be serving at St.  Mary's,


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Beautiful Savior

I'd like to continue a thought from last week and say more about hymnody. 
Let's begin by taking a look at the fine print below our recessional hymn #200
(If you didn't read last week's article explaining the fine print, you can find it at or on this blog.)

Beautiful Savior is a translation of the of the hymn Schonster Herr Jesu which was first found in a German hymnal in 1677.  The  name of the hymnal provides a few more clues as to it's origin.  Gesangbuch is the German word for hymnal and Munster is an area in north Germany.  (From which the cheese is named.)

The writer of the original German text is unknown and noted as anonymous.  The translation is attributed to a Lutheran pastor, theologian and author named Joseph A Seiss.  The text is derived from the third verse of psalm 45.  (Frankly, it took me a while to see this connection).

 Gird your sword on your side, you mighty one 
clothe yourself with splendor and Majesty.

 St. Elizabeth, the hymn tune to which Seiss' translation is set is a folk-tune from the same general area.  Schlesische Volkslieder is a book of Silesian folk-tunes published  in Leipzig; the city where Bach lived and worked about 100 years previously.

You will notice a strong German influence in many of the hymns we sing.  One main reason is that in the years after the reformation the German church developed hymnody (four part singing congregational singing in the vernacular) as a  primary form of liturgical music.  On the other hand, the Roman church emphasized plainsong chant sung by the choir in Latin.  

Beautiful Savior and Now Thank We All Our God (the hymn I wrote about last week) are examples of German hymns translated into English.

Blest to be serving and singing at St. Mary's,



Beautiful Savior holds a special place for me as it was a staple at Wagner College where I sang in the choir and received my undergraduate degree.  While it's affiliation with the Lutheran Church was severed well before I arrived, Wagner retained many ties to it's beginnings as a Lutheran Seminary.