Because it was Palm Sunday, the 11 a.m. service differed from the norm. It began with an elaborate procession that included children; a gospel reading; and the blessing of palms. And, as the rector, Fr. Andrew Mead, noted in his sermon, the Solemn Eucharist of the Passion that followed omitted the usual bidding prayers—that is, the prayers of intercession—and ended in silence. The purpose of the silence was to signify our need to contemplate Christ’s Passion as Holy Week began.
Fr. Mead’s sermon was shorter than usual because of the unusual length of the service, but his message was as rich in traditional doctrine and practical spirituality as his sermons always are. Referring to the day’s long passage from Isaiah, the rector identified the reading’s “man of sorrows” with Jesus Christ. By “plumbing the depths of human suffering” and, indeed, “becoming sin” for us (2 Corinthians 5:20–21), Jesus is present for us as a “savior for all seasons” who releases us from bondage to our fallenness. For that reason, we remember the ugly details of Christ’s Passion, as recorded in St. Matthew’s narrative, precisely in light of the Resurrection that will follow.
As at other churches with a relatively “high church” liturgy, the size of the congregation was larger than the Sunday norm. What was unusual was the combination of beauty and solemnity with joy and pastoral concern. This is also apparent at the regular—and justly famous—Choral Evensong held at Saint Thomas every Sunday at 4 p.m. and streamed live on the church’s website. Fr. Mead’s sermons are also posted on the site as podcasts within a few days of their delivery. On this Palm Sunday morning, the rector’s called-for silence was duly observed at service’s end, at least by most in attendance, and made a fitting counterpoint to the liturgy’s memorable music.
City: New York
Address: Fifth Avenue at Fifty-Third Street
Main Service: 11 a.m., Sunday
Pastor: The Rev. Andrew C. Mead, O.B.E., D.D., Rector