One of Manhattan’s most illustrious Episcopal congregations, Saint Thomas Church is best known for its glorious liturgical music and the stunning architecture of its 1913 church building, in French High Gothic style, on Fifth Avenue at Fifty-Third Street. The church’s choir of men and boys, modeled on that of King’s College, Cambridge, is made up of boys who attend the residential Saint Thomas Choir School and professional adult singers. On Sunday, March 28””Palm Sunday””the musical highlight was Orlandus Lassus’ exquisite Tristis est anima mea, which was sung as the offertory motet.
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….