Monday, 20 January 2020

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 26 January 2020,
Third Sunday after Epiphany
and Holocaust Memorial Day

‘Immediately they left their nets and followed him’ (Matthew 4: 20) ... fishing boats and nets by the harbour in Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Next Sunday, 26 January 2020, is the Third Sunday after Epiphany.

The readings in the Revised Common Lectionary, as adapted for use in the Church of Ireland, are:

The Readings: Isaiah 9: 1-4; Psalm 27: 1, 4-12; I Corinthians 1: 10-18; Matthew 4: 12-23.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

Nets and fishing boats in a small harbour at Agios Georgios on the Greek island of Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Introducing the readings:

Darkness and light ... oppression and liberation ... slavery and walking in freedom ... schism and church unity ... boats and nets ... Peter and Andrew ... James and John ... the ways of this world and the call of the Kingdom of God ... prophecy and the fulfilment of God's promises ... old ways and new beginnings.

Next Sunday’s readings challenge us to look at the world in a new light, and to look at discipleship and following Christ in a new light. Are we prepared to give up our old ways, to rake the plunge, to risk all for the sake of the kingdom?

We are also approaching the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and Birkenau and the beginning of the end of the Holocaust, marked by Holocaust Memorial Day.

These resources offer introductions to reflecting on the readings, but also link the readings with commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day and this landmark, 75th anniversary.

‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light’ (Isaiah 9: 2) ... lights at a house shrouded in darkness in Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Isaiah 9: 1-4:

The first reading includes a passage that is quoted in a different format in the Gospel reading.

The Prophet Isaiah is writing after the conquest by Assyria in the year 733 BC of three northern regions of Israel, the northern kingdom – Dor, Gilead and Galilee. Isaiah tells these people that their current anguish will end in the latter time, in God’s own time in the coming future.

The people will move from a time of darkness to a time of great light; those who have been plundered will return to great joy; those who are oppressed will be freed.

The verses that follow this reading are familiar at Christmas: ‘For a child has been born to us ...’ (verses 6-7). They were originally written to prophesy the restoration of the house of David, but were later read as foretelling the birth of Christ.

‘One thing have I asked of the Lord ... to behold the fair beauty of the Lord and to seek his will in his temple’ (Psalm 27: 4-5) ... the dome inside a church in Panormos, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 27: 1, 4-12:

The psalmist sees God as his light,’ his salvation, his strength and his life, driving away all his fears.

His true desire is to worship God in the Temple for as long as he lives, and to ‘behold the fair beauty’ of God, to seek God’s will.

He seeks to see God’s face, praying that God will not hide from him, leave him, or forsake him.

'For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God' (I Corinthians 1: 18) ... a cross on the sandbanks in Laytown, Co Meath, looking out onto the Irish Sea (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

I Corinthians 1: 10-18:

At the beginning of this letter to the Church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul addresses divisions in the church the Greek city, which has heard about from Chloe’s people.

They have been divided into three or four factions that are quarrelling with one another, proclaiming their loyalty to different leaders, including Paul, Crispus, Cephas (Peter) and, perhaps, Gaius, instead of emphasising their shared loyalty to Christ and to the Church.

Then, with biting sarcasm, Saint Paul then asks three rhetorical questions, to which he expects only No as an answer: Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptised in the name of Paul? (verse 13).

To put loyalty to a leader above fidelity to Christ is unacceptable. We are all baptised in the name of Christ, so we all belong to him, to the Church, and – by implication – to one another.

The Cross of Christ is not about power or holding power over others. If this seems foolish, we should remember that Christ on the cross has saved us and shows us how powerful God is.

‘Immediately they left their nets and followed him’ (Matthew 4: 20) … fishing nets at the harbour in Howth in north Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Matthew 4: 12-23:

When Christ heard about the arrest of Saint John the Baptist, he withdrew to the Wilderness, where he was tempted by the Devil in the wilderness. However, he refused to use his divine powers to his own human ends.

In this reading, he now moves from Nazareth to Capernaum, so he can begin his mission. Saint Matthew also interprets this move as fulfilling the prophecies of Isaiah that are included in the first reading.

At the launch of his public ministry, Christ calls on people to repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.

He then calls his first four disciples: Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, and the brothers James and John, the sons of Zebedee. He invites them to follow him, and to ‘fish for people.’ They give up their trade immediately, leaving their nets (verse 20) and their boats (verse 22), beginning a radically different way of life.

Christ continues his ministry, travelling throughout Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, and proclaiming the good news in both word and deed, through his preaching and his healing.

‘Immediately they left the boat … and followed him’ (Matthew 4: 22) … a boat in a small bay on the island of Paxos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 4: 12-23 (NRSVA):

12 Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the lake, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali,
on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles —
16 the people who sat in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death
light has dawned.’

17 From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake — for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

A fisherman takes care of his nets in the harbour in Rethymnon on the Greek island of Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A reflection on the Gospel reading:

One of my true pleasures in life is walking on the beach, along the banks of rivers, along the piers of harbours, and by the sea. So this Gospel reading has a particular attraction, with Christ walking by the shores of the sea or lake, meeting people, getting into conversation with them, and inviting them to journey with him.

I imagine, as people listen to this Gospel reading, a number of phrases jump out immediately:

● ‘the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light’ (verse 16; cf Isaiah 9: 2);
● ‘for those who sat in the region and the shadow of death light has dawned’ (verse 16);
● ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near’ (verse 17);
● ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people’ (verse 19);
● ‘Immediately they left their nets [or the boat] and followed him’ (see verses 20, 22).

Despite the familiarity of these phrases, I am sure these are images and quotes that still leap out as people listen to this passage afresh.

And some come back in the more familiar language of other translations and versions, such as:

● ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (verse 17, RSV); or
● ‘Follow me, for I will make you fishers of men’ (verse 19, RSV).

In popular newspaper cartoons, humorous office absences are often indicated by a sign hung on the door declaring: ‘Gone Fishin’.’

Fishing in our culture is often seen by non-fishers as idleness, a sedentary past-time, taking it easy, doing nothing.

I cannot imagine it was like that for the first disciples. It was a tough career choice when you think of the night shifts, the storms, and the difficulties in finding a catch that occur time and again in the Gospels.

I do not know which was a more difficult and demanding task: being a fisher on the Sea of Galilee, or being a Disciple of Christ … especially when the call comes from someone who has withdrawn to Galilee after the arrest of his cousin, the one who publicly baptised and acclaimed him in last Sunday’s Gospel reading, Saint John the Baptist (John 1: 29-42).

Either way, the four first disciples were going to have no lazy day by the river bank, or by the shore, or for that matter as followers of Christ.

Becoming ‘fishers of men,’ ‘fishing for people,’ is going to bring these Galilean fishers into a relationship not only with Christ, but with their families, with their neighbours, with the tax collectors, with Pharisees, Sadducees and Zealots, with the powers of this world, with Gentiles, with the people who sat in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death.

Sometimes, in the Church, we do not cast our nets far enough or deep enough. No wonder then that most of the time, when we pull in those nets, we find them empty.

There is saying that fish come in three sizes, small ones, medium ones and the ones that got away.

Too often in the Church, we know about the small ones, we are good with the medium ones, but we pay little attention to going after the ones that get away.

The image of patient fishing is worth working with. Ernest Hemingway, in The Old Man and The Sea, says ‘Il faut (d’abord) durer … It is necessary, above all else, to endure. It is necessary to endure.’

The great Anglican writer Izaak Walton (1593-1683) was known not only for his biographies of John Donne, George Herbert and Richard Hooker, but also as the author of The Compleat Angler.

In The Compleat Angler, Izaak Walton points out that fishing can teach us patience and discipline. Fishing takes practice, preparation, discipline; like discipleship, it has to be learned, and learning requires practice before there are any results. And sometimes, whether it is fishing in a river or fishing in the sea, the best results can come from going against the current.

Walking along the piers in north Dublin or on summer holidays on Greek islands, I sometimes watch the careful early morning work of the crews in the trawlers and fishing boats, and I am reminded that good fishing does not come about by accident. It also requires paying attention to the nets, moving them carefully, mending them, cleaning them after each and every use, hanging them out to dry.

And fishing is also about noticing the weather, watching the wind and the clouds. Good fishing takes account of contexts … it is incarnational.

Time and again in the Gospels, the Kingdom of God is compared to a huge net cast over different numbers of people and species. We are the ones called to cast that net, and we cannot hang any sign outside on our office or rectory doors saying: ‘Gone Fishin’.’

Nor can we stand by the bank or on the shore, content with two sizes of fish. We are called to go after the ones that others let get away, not just those who come to Church regularly, but also those people who sit in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death.

When they take a break from their fishing in this reading, the disciples follow Jesus, and he goes into both the places of worship and ‘among the people’ (verse 23). The word used here for the people – the people who live in darkness and the people Jesus journeys among – is the word λαός (laós), and it means not just the people, but the rowdy, the masses, the populace; sometimes it even has vulgar connotations.

So we, me and you, are here for our neighbours, those around us.

We are here to walk by the waterside, to walk with the people, to cast our nets, but to cast them with those people. Who knows what we can do as we walk together in the time ahead of us.

There will be days when the fishing seems pointless. There will be days when we are happy with our work together. And as we work together, hopefully, there will be days when we are surprised with what we can achieve together, all in Christ’s name and all for the sake of the one that otherwise might get away.

'Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues' (Matthew 4: 23) ... inside the Nuova or New Synagogue, the only surviving synagogue in Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Holocaust Memorial Day

The Gospel reading tells us: ‘Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues’ (Matthew 4: 23). This sharp reminder that Jesus was a practicing Jew, worshipping regularly in synagogues, comes a day before Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January.

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place each year on 27 January and is a time to remember the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and in the genocides that followed in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. To paraphrase the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading next Sunday, the people who walked in darkness needed to see a great light.

Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) 2020 marks 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. HMD 2020 also marks the 25th anniversary of the Genocide in Bosnia. The 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau is a landmark anniversary. The theme for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is ‘Stand Together.’ Community groups are being encouraged to create their own Memorial Flame to respond to this day.

The National Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration takes place in Dublin every year on the Sunday nearest to 27 January, in the Round Room at the Mansion House, and takes place this year on 26 January.

It is organised under the auspices of Holocaust Education Trust Ireland in association with The Department of Justice and Equality and Dublin City Council.

The Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration cherishes the memory of all who perished in the Holocaust. It recalls six million Jewish men, women and children and millions of others who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis because of their ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, political affiliations or their religious beliefs. The ceremony includes readings, survivors’ recollections, candle-lighting and music. It is attended by people from all walks of life and is a moving and dignified event.

Holocaust Memorial Day is a time to learn the lessons of the past and recognise that genocide does not just take place on its own – it is a steady process that can begin if discrimination, racism and hatred are not checked and prevented. We are fortunate here in Ireland; we are not at immediate risk of genocide.

However, discrimination has not ended, nor has the use of the language of hatred or exclusion. There is still much to do to create a safer future and HMD is an opportunity to start this process. The lessons of the past can inform our lives today and ensure that everyone works together to create a safer, better future.

Each year thousands of activities mark HMD, bringing people from all backgrounds together to learn lessons from the past in creative, reflective and inspiring ways. From schools to libraries, workplaces to local authorities, HMD activities offer a real opportunity to honour the experiences of people affected by the Holocaust and genocide, and challenge ourselves to work for a safer, better future.

The BBC is marking Holocaust Memorial Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau with a special televised Holocaust Memorial Day event, as well as a range of content across TV and radio.

Olivia Marks-Woldman, chief executive of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, says: ‘At a time when identity-based prejudice and hostility is worryingly prevalent in the UK and internationally, HMD is an opportunity to learn about the consequences of hatred when it is allowed to exist unchecked. At this important moment, 75 years after the liberation of Auschwitz, we are asking people to Stand Together against prejudice, and in memory of those who were murdered during the Holocaust, under Nazi Persecution and in genocides which have taken place since.’

‘Don’t be content in your life just to do no wrong, be prepared every day to try and do some good.’ – Sir Nicholas Winton, who rescued 669 children from Nazi-occupied Europe.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2020 on 27 January 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical resources:

Liturgical Colour: White

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
the wonder of your saving presence:
Renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect of the Word:

Lord God,
your loving kindness always
goes before us and follows us.
Summons us into your light,
and direct our steps in the ways of goodness
that come through the cross of your Son,
Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Almighty Father,
your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
May your people,
illumined by your word and sacraments,
shine with the radiance of his glory,
that he may be known, worshipped,
and obeyed to the ends of the earth;
for he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The fence at Auschwitz-Birkenau (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Resources for Holocaust Memorial Day 2020:

These resources have been prepared with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on 27 January 1945 in mind, and the Presidents of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) have asked churches to join in the use of these prayer on the Sunday closest to Holocaust Memorial Day 2020.

A prayer for Holocaust Memorial Day:

God of the past, present, and future, we remember today, 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz, the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust, the millions of other victims of Nazi persecution, and all those who have been targeted and killed in subsequent genocides.

We remember those who, having survived genocide, share their stories with us:
We give thanks to You for the lessons of human stories, both in their suffering and in their joy.

We remember those who stood up against injustice and saved lives:
We give thanks to You for their example.

Together we acknowledge the sacrifice of those that stood together with those who suffered during the Holocaust and other genocides.
And we affirm that every life is loved by You and sacred.

Yet, during the Holocaust too many failed to stand together with their neighbours. Oppression stains Your world and contradicts Your love.

So we pray that You will inspire us now as we stand together on this day in the love that we know of God in Christ Jesus.

Let us commit to remembering:

And glorify God in our words and actions.

We make these prayers in the name of Christ Jesus who, through His life, death, and resurrection, journeys with us into the eternal hope of Your truth and light.
Amen.

An opening prayer:

God of all people everywhere,

You reveal yourself in myriad ways, speaking through different voices to enlighten our world and enrich our lives.

All are created in your image but, in the face of prejudice and persecution, too often we fail to stand together.

So we gather today in memory:

We remember the lives of those who were murdered in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.

We give thanks for those who have courageously shared their stories.

We recommit ourselves to transform the world through your love.

Silence

A Prayer of Confession:

For too long:
We walked different ways.
For too long:
We let what separates us define us.
For too long:
We turned a blind eye.
For far too long.

When it mattered so much, we did not stand with you.

We did not see the sights you saw, hear the sounds you heard, or feel the pain you felt, through persecution and hardship and unprecedented levels of brutal inhumanity.

But now we have listened:

We have come to walk more closely,
And we commit to a new relationship.

We are here to remember.

We recall the longed-for liberation, and now we seek justice and truth.

We did not walk with you into those dark places but we walk together now, we stand together now.

For it matters still.

We will stand together.

Jesus calls us to Stand Together: A Litany

In the face of the classification of people as ‘other’,
Jesus calls us to stand together

In the face of people being singled out by labels,
Jesus calls us to stand together

In the face of discrimination,
Jesus calls us to stand together

In the face of human beings being treated as less than human,
Jesus calls us to stand together

In the face of extremism,
Jesus calls us to stand together

In the face of the polarisation of cultures with the intention of creating opposition,
Jesus calls us to stand together

In the face of incitement to hatred,
Jesus calls us to stand together

In the face of persecution,
Jesus calls us to stand together

In the face of genocide,
Jesus calls us to stand together

In the face of denial of such atrocities as the Holocaust,
Jesus calls us to stand together

We stand together with Jesus, who came into the world so that everyone might have life in all its fullness.

Amen.

A prayer for use with young people:

God of justice and of peace,
You call your people to stand together, in solidarity with those who suffer;
We remember before you in sorrow:
all who perished in the horror of the Holocaust,
all who were persecuted, and all whose suffering continues;
Turn the hearts of all who persecute and oppress,
and of all who seek to divide;
Open our own hearts and minds,
when they are closed in fear and hatred,
So that all your peoples may stand together and reflect your image
Amen

Notes for an all-age address:

The theme of standing together offers a potential action as well as an attitude of the heart. An all age context invites us to start with acknowledging what the congregation has in common despite its variety. What does the unity of a church community look like and what does it mean?

One aspect of the variety may be their different experience and knowledge of persecution, hostility, and divisions within a community. Some will know about the Holocaust and some may know next to nothing. All, however, will know the feelings of being excluded or isolated, and the power of standing together (physically and symbolically).

Focus on what those feelings are – both when you are the victim and when you are the perpetrator – and encourage the congregation to own the darkness in all our hearts.

There are numerous stories of Jesus siding with the excluded (those with leprosy, tax collectors, the poor, for example) and of course being the excluded Himself, in lonely death on the cross. Share true stories about the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. Use these stories to grow empathy and see the Christian imperative to stand together.

You might return to the examples of isolating others and being isolated, and ask ‘what would Jesus do?’ Explore what practical steps a Christian might be called to take in such situations.

Further resources for Holocaust Memorial Day, produced by the Council for Christian and Jews, are available HERE.

‘Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim’ (Hymn 484) … the rood beam in Saint Ia’s Church in St Ives, Cornwall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Suggested Hymns:

Isaiah 9: 1-4:

52, Christ, whose glory fills the skies
324, God, whose almighty word
43, Holy is the seed–time, when the buried grain
192, How brightly beams the morning star!
362, O God, beyond all praising
306, O Spirit of the living God
199, The people that in darkness walked

Psalm 27: 1, 4-12:

87, Christ is the world’s light, he and none other
501, Christ is the world’s true light
431, Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour
362, O God, beyond all praising
620, O Lord, hear my prayer
557, Rock of ages, cleft for me
20, The King of love my shepherd is

I Corinthians 1: 10-18:

86, Christ is the King! O friends, rejoice
318, Father, Lord of all creation
478, Go forth and tell! O Church of God, awake!
479, Go, tell it on the mountain
520, God is love, and where true love is, God himself is there
523, Help us to help each other, Lord
421, I come with joy, a child of God
522, In Christ there is no east or west
525, Let there be love shared among us
484, Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim
438, O thou who at thy Eucharist didst pray
486, People of God, arise
507, Put peace into each others’ hands
485, Rise up and serve the Lord!
488, Stand up, stand up for Jesus
528, The Church’s one foundation
490, The Spirit lives to set us free
530, Ubi caritas et amor
491, We have a gospel to proclaim
531, Where love and loving kindness dwell
492, Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim

Matthew 4: 12-23:

52, Christ whose glory fills the skies
549, Dear Lord and Father of mankind
460, For all your saints in glory, for all your saints at rest (verses 1, 2s, 3)
219, From heaven you came, helpless Babe
584, Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
591, O happy day that fixed my choice
593, O Jesus, I have promised
197, Songs of thankfulness and praise
199, The people that in darkness walked
395, When Jesus taught by Galilee
605, Will you come and follow me

‘Immediately they left the boat … and followed him’ (Matthew 4: 22) … a boat on a small beach near the harbour at Skerries, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

The hymn suggestions are provided in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling. The hymn numbers refer to the Church of Ireland’s Church Hymnal (5th edition, Oxford: OUP, 2000).

‘Immediately they left the boat … and followed him’ (Matthew 4: 22) … small boats in the small harbour of Gaios on the island of Paxos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Preparing for Lent 2020
and preparing Bible studies,
workshop for clergy and readers

‘The Fight Between Carnival and Lent,’ by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1559)

Patrick Comerford

Preparing for Lent 2020
and preparing Bible studies,
workshop for clergy and readers


Tuesday 14 January 2020

Saint Mary’s Rectory,
Askeaton,
Co Limerick


Opening Prayers:

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reading:

Mark 1: 14-20 (NRSVA), the Gospel reading in the Church of Ireland Directory for Holy Communion today):

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, 15 and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.’

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake – for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fish for people.’ 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him. 19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.

‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent’ … an icon from Mount Sinai based on the work of Saint John Klimakos … Saint John Klimakos refers in ‘The Ladder of Divine Ascent’ to the ‘bright sadness’ of Lent

Introduction, Preparing for Lent 2020

I sometimes think that the misrepresentation and misinterpretation of Lent has, in turn, deprived many of its true meaning and significance.

The Orthodox theologian Aaron Taylor wrote in the Guardian ten years ago [2010] of how he hoped that the Lenten fast ‘must never become a source of pride on the one hand, or something oppressive on the other. It is a measuring stick for our individual practice … [it] is primarily about obedience, and thus humility. But it also creates a sense of need and sobriety. It teaches us to seek our consolation in things of the spirit rather than of the flesh.’

He pointed out that fasting ‘is merely a physical accompaniment to the real heart and joy of Lent: the prayer and worship that are intensified during this season …’ and he referred to the ‘joy-making mourning’ recommended by an early writer, Saint John Klimakos, in The Ladder of Divine Ascent, to the ‘bright sadness’ of Lent.

At Lent, we should remind ourselves that we have all fallen short, so that we are not the people we should be. We all too easily focus on ourselves. But true Lenten fasting allows us to experience a sense of freedom as we relinquish our self-centredness and can produce joy in our hearts – just what we pray for in the Collect of Ash Wednesday.

And Aaron Taylor added: ‘If we do not to some extent attain to this joy-through-mourning, we have entirely missed the point of Lent.’

He concluded his ‘Face to Faith’ column in the Guardian by saying: ‘As long as there is evil in the world, we can be sure that some of it still lies hidden in our hearts. And as long as we are able to shed tears over our condition, there remains hope that we will one day see the glorious day of resurrection.’

The Liturgical colour in Lent is Violet (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Part 1: Liturgical resources for Lent 2020:

The Lectionary:

Ash Wednesday, 26 February 2020: Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58: 1-12; Psalm 51: 1-17; II Corinthians 5: 20b to 6: 10; Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21.

First Sunday in Lent, 1 March 2020: Genesis 2: 15-17, 3: 1-7; Psalm 32; Romans 5: 12-19; Matthew 4: 1-11.

Second Sunday in Lent, 8 March 2020: Genesis 12: 1-4a; Psalm 121; Romans 4: 1-5, 13-17; John 3: 1-17 or Matthew 17: 1-9.

Note: The second, optional Gospel reading is used when Option B has been taken on the Sunday before Lent. As this is an account of the Transfiguration, it is not used when the Sunday before Lent has been observed as Transfiguration Sunday.

Third Sunday in Lent, 15 March 2020: Exodus 17: 1-7; Psalm 95; Romans 5: 1-11; John 4: 5-42.

[Saint Patrick’s Day, 17 March 2020: Tobit 13: 1b-7 or Deuteronomy 32: 1-9; Psalm 145: 1-13; II Corinthians 4: 1-12; John 4: 31-38.]

Fourth Sunday in Lent, 22 March 2020 (Laetare Sunday): I Samuel 16: 1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5: 8-14; John 9: 1-41.

or:

Mothering Sunday: Exodus 2: 1-10 or I Samuel 1: 20-28; Psalm 34: 11-20 or Psalm 127: 1-4; II Corinthians 1: 3-7 or Colossians 3: 12-17; Luke 2: 33-35 or John 19: 25-27.

[Wednesday 25 March 2020, The Annunciation of our Lord: Isaiah 7: 10-14; Psalm 40: 5-10; Hebrews 10: 4-10; Luke 1: 26-38.]

Fifth Sunday in Lent, 29 March 2020 (Passiontide begins): Ezekiel 37: 1-14; Psalm 130; Romans 8: 6-11; John 11: 1-45.

Sixth Sunday in Lent, Palm Sunday, 5 April 2020:

Liturgy of the Palms:
Matthew 21: 1-11; Psalm 118: 1-2, 19-29.

Liturgy of the Passion: Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Psalm 31: 9-16; Philippians 2: 5-11; Matthew 26: 14-27 or Matthew 27: 11-54.

Holy Week:

Monday in Holy Week, 6 April 2020: Isaiah 42: 1-9; Psalm 36: 5-11; Hebrews 9: 11-15; John 12: 1-11.

Tuesday in Holy Week, 7 April 2020: Isaiah 49: 1-7; Psalm 71: 1-14; I Corinthians 1: 18-31; John 12: 20-36.

Wednesday in Holy Week, 8 April 2020: Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12: 1-3; John 13: 21-32.

Maundy Thursday, 9 April 2020: Exodus 12: 1-4 (5-10), 11-14; Psalm 116: 1, 10-17; I Corinthians 11: 23-26; John 13: 1-17, 31b-35.

Good Friday, 10 April 2020: Isaiah 52: 13 to 53: 12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10: 16-25 or Hebrews 4: 14-16; 5: 7-9; John 18: 1 to 19: 42. In the evening: John 19: 38-42 or Colossians 1: 18-23.

Holy Saturday, 11 April 2020: Job 14: 1-14 or Lamentations 3: 1-9, 19-24; Psalm 31: 1-4, 15-16; I Peter 4: 1-8; Matthew 27: 57-66 or John 19:38-42.

Other Liturgical resources for Lent 2020:

Liturgical Colours:

The Liturgical Colour for Lent in Violet.

17 March, Saint Patrick: White.

19 March, Saint Joseph: White.

22 March, ‘Laetare Sunday’: Violet, but there is a traditional option of using Rose (Pink).

25 March, The Annunciation: White.

5 April, Palm Sunday: Red or Violet.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in Holy Week: Red or Violet.

Maundy Thursday: Red or Violet, but White at the Eucharist.

Good Friday and Saturday: there is no provision for a liturgical colour, and there is no celebration of Holy Communion.

Discussion:

How do we find a common thread in these readings to provide continuity in Lent?

Could we organise a weekly Bible study around these common threads?

Could we provide continuity, including reflections, sermons, hymns and intercessions, parish study groups throughout Lent this year?

Would we use these Gospel readings as topics for weekly Bible studies in Lent this year?

‘Still Life With Bible,’ Vincent van Gogh

Part 2: Organising a Bible Study:

1, Choose your theme with care: I once decided to lead a series of Bible studies on the Book of Revelation. I had very good reasons to do so, but there were too many chapters, and eventually it petered out. Nor did I consult with other members of the group about what they wanted or needed.

If you chose one book of the Bible, you – and everyone else too – may get bored before half-way through, apart from the fact that the five or six weeks of Lent does not give the opportunity to get through your chosen book.

Think of a theme or a topic: the Prophets, Women in the Bible, Heroes and Saints, and the Parables are themes that have worked for me in the past, and allow a variety of leadership and in-put.

2, Fix a venue, day and time: go ahead even if only one person turns up. On the other hand, know when to quit.

3, Prepare. Read the passage carefully and thoughtfully yourself well in advance of the group meeting; do not leave it until the day you are meeting. Have Bibles ready for those who forget them, check whether you need to provide pens and paper. Do not plan a PowerPoint presentation unless you through the whole process yourself long enough beforehand.

4, Open with prayer: keep it short, keep it snappy, make it simple, but remind people that this is not just another social gathering. On the other hand, resist the temptation to allow this to replace the Sunday intercessions or the weekly prayer list: focus it on one topic you expect to be the focus of discussion.

5, Try to rotate the leadership: you don’t have to provide leadership all the time; every parish has more than enough people with skills of teaching and leading, and it may help and encourage new skills in the parish.

6, Encourage everyone to take part: allow discussion, but be firm and gentle at one and the same time. At times it will go off track; this may be important, but it may also frustrate those who want to learn more.

7, Encourage different opinions and questions: diversity is an integral part of Anglican identity, and needs to be encouraged and affirmed in parish life too. People like to share their experiences and their opinions, and should be encouraged to ask questions.

8, Do not pretend to have all the answers: we don’t need to know it all, and we should not pretend to know it all.

9, Finish on time: make sure people know that their commitment is respected, and that they can get home on time; make sure they know what next week’s topic, passage or theme is.

10, Make sure tea/coffee/refreshments are available at the end of the evening. Parish life should be fun, and in Lent too.

USPG’s Lenten study course, ‘Living with a World of Difference,’ looks forward to the Lambeth Conference later this year

Part 3: Four examples of Lenten Study Resources:

Four examples of Lenten studies and themes may help organising a Lenten study in parishes or provide Lenten resources for Lent 2020: 1, USPG; 2, BACI; 3, Christian Aid, 4, Diocese of Meath and Kildare.

1, USPG: Living with a World of Difference – Lent 2020:

The Anglican mission agency United Society Partners in the Gospel (USPG) has produced a five-session study Lenten study course, ‘Living with a World of Difference,’ celebrating diversity within the Anglican Communion ahead of the Lambeth Conference later this year.

The Anglican Communion is the world’s third largest Christian community, a worldwide family of tens of millions of Christians, from more than 165 countries around the globe. Within the Communion there is an enormous breadth of cultural diversity. Hundreds of languages are spoken. Anglicans and Episcopalians live in modern cities and rural heartlands. And yet, in spite of this wealth of difference and diversity, the Communion shares many aspects of its life and faith in Jesus Christ.

USPG offers these guidelines which are helpful in using this resource for five sessions during five weeks in Lent this year:

1. Commit to attend all five sessions. The more you are able to attend, the more you will benefit and the more it will maintain the continuity of the group. Give yourself permission to refuse any other engagements or invitations that might arise at your regular study time.

2. Begin each study with a short time of silence to help centre the group and recall God’s presence, and then pray together the prayer at the beginning of each session.

3. Commit to sharing honestly and to listening without judgement or trying to ‘fix’ someone else’s life for them. Seek to create a safe atmosphere in which people feel able to share openly. Remember that none of us has all the answers; our aim is to be real, authentic and whole – not perfect!

4. Acknowledge that everyone’s experience of life and faith is unique and valuable. Seek to accept one another just as we truly are, just as God accepts each one of us.

5. Give space for everyone to speak, although no-one needs to feel obliged to speak. If you are someone who tends to share a lot, remember to leave space for others who find it harder to share.

6. Read the material in advance and spend time allowing the content to sink in – not necessarily needing to find the answers. Note that some of the articles are printed in the original language of the contributor as well as in English translation. This in itself reflects something of the diversity of language within the Anglican Communion. If a member of your group speaks that language, please use both languages in the study.

7. Remember that religious and theological words can mean different things to different people. Share your perspective and allow others to hold different perspectives.

8. Close each session in prayer. Pray the Lord’s Prayer aloud, inviting each person to choose their preferred language. For some groups this will make for something of a cacophony of language (cf Acts 2); celebrate this diversity, it is reflected across the Anglican Communion.

All prayers used in the study course are from the USPG book ‘Praying with the World Church’, and may also be found at www.uspg.org.uk/pray

The BACI Lent Study 2020 focuses on the climate crisis

2, BACI Lent Study 2020, ‘Caring for the Garden of the Earth’

The BACI Lent Study 2020 – ‘Caring for the Garden of the Earth’ – is produced by the Biblical Association of the Church of Ireland and focuses on the climate crisis.

This study is being launched this day week [Tuesday 21 January 2020]. Given the crisis of climate change facing the world, BACI has invited the noted scripture scholar Margaret Daly-Denton to present a series of Bible Studies on the theme of ‘Caring for Creation.’

Margaret Daly-Denton introduces the reader to creation-centred scriptures that would have been familiar to Christ and that she sees as underlying Saint John’s Gospel. In this Gospel, she points out: ‘We find the story of Jesus doing the work of God in the world and inviting his disciples to share in that work.’

Her book, John: An Earth Bible Commentary (Bloomsbury T&T Clark 2017), will prove helpful anyone who wishes to go into further detail.

Multiple copies of the BACI Bible studies will be available at a special price at next week’s launch in Church of Ireland House, Dublin, at lunchtime on Tuesday 21 January.

Further copies can be bought at €3.00 or £2.50 from BACI treasurer Barbara Bergin, but these will incur a postage charge. It is expected that the Bible Studies will also be available for download from the BACI website (bibliahibernica.wordpress.com) eventually.

BACI exists to serve as a ‘bridge’ between clerical and lay, academic and faith-based approaches to the Bible within the Church of Ireland and in conversation with ecumenical partners.

Climate Justice is Christian Aid’s theme for Lent 2020

3, Christian Aid: Climate Justice

Christian Aid Ireland also has Climate Justice as its theme for Lent 2020.

Christian Aid is encouraging its supporters, both individuals and churches, to give, act and pray in response.

The world’s poorest people have long been living with the impacts of climate breakdown; families are torn apart by disaster, crops are ruined by drought and people’s homes and livelihoods are lost to rising seas. For many of our friends and neighbours around the world, further inaction is a matter of life and death.

The climate crisis has become a headline issue and many Christians and churches are wrestling with how they can meaningfully engage as Christians. This year, 2020, is a moment of urgent opportunity; and the church’s response is vital to be a prophetic voice on this issue.

Christian Aid sees prayer as integral to this, and is calling on the Church to pray for Climate Justice. ‘The Lenten Journey’ reflections give one way to pause and reflect on justice issues. These reflections, drawing on the daily lectionary readings, are available by text or email each morning in Lent from Christian Aid.

Christian Aid is also encouraging a year of non-stop prayer focussed on this issue, leading up to the Climate Summit, COP Glasgow, in November 2020.

Christian Aid is hoping that individuals sign up to pray alone (climate prayer points will be provided on registering); that churches will sign up to run a block of climate prayer sessions or a climate themed prayer space; and also suggests that churches could integrate a climate prayer station into activities already happening.

Alongside prayer, Christian Aid is encouraging churches and individuals to give donations that could help provide practical solutions for communities adapting to the worst of the climate crisis in places like Kenya and Bangladesh, is encouraging supporters in the Republic of Ireland to take action with Stop Climate Chaos and Eco-Congregations Ireland, and is encouraging supporters in Northern Ireland to speak out for justice by signing a petition to the British government calling for a New Deal for Climate Justice.

Christian Aid Ireland is the international development agency for seven sponsoring churches, including the Church of Ireland.

For the Christian Aid Ireland Lent Appeal 2020 Focus story, find out more at caid.ie/lent or Helen Newell, Senior Church and Community Officer at Christian Aid Ireland.

The Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission also provide an opportunity for Lenten discussion groups or sermons

4, The Five Marks of Mission

In the Diocese of Meath and Kildare, Bishop Pat Storey is encouraging parishes to focus on the Five Marks of Mission, which express the Anglican Communion’s common commitment to, and understanding of, God’s holistic and integral mission.

These five marks are:

1, To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
2, To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
3, To respond to human need by loving service
4,To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
5, To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth

These Five Marks of Mission could provide a focus for the first Five Sundays of Lent, affirming different aspects of discipleship, summarised by the ‘5 Marks Challenge’ of the Come&C programme in the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough:

Tell: to Proclaim God’s Kingdom
Teach: to Teach, Baptise and Nurture
Tend: to Respond to Human Need
Transform: to Transform Unjust Structures
Treasure: To Safeguard Creation

The Five Marks of Mission … this CartoonChurch.com cartoon by Dave Walker originally appeared in the Church Times

Part 4: Open Discussion

Sunday themed sermons?

Mid-week study groups?

Single theme?

A window ledge in the chapel in Dr Miley’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Part 5: Additional Resources for Lent:

Ash Wednesday

Ideas for Ash Wednesday include a parish quiet day, an away day or a retreat.

The ‘Service for Ash Wednesday, the Beginning of Lent’ in the Book of Common Prayer (pp 338-343), is the only service in the book which is to be used on a specific day in the Christian Year.

It dates back to the Commination Service in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, which was altered in the Church of Ireland in 1926 with the Penitential Service.

The present service is derived from one approved by the House of Bishops in 1990, which drew on earlier services and on material in the Church of England book, Lent, Holy Week, Easter (1996).

Bishop Harold Miller points out in The Desire of Our Soul that ‘one of the quirky things about this service, in the context of the wider church throughout the world, is that it is an Ash Wednesday service without ashes! That is faintly ridiculous …’

He goes on to point out that ‘in parts of the church, over recent years, the use of ashes has proven to be a highly effective symbol both of our mortality and of our penitence, with words such as:

You are dust, and to dust you will return.
Turn from your sins and follow Christ.

A rubric allows for local customs to be observed, which Bishop Miller points out ‘could include, for example, the imposition of ashes’.

The traditional Ash Wednesday invitation or exhortation in the Book of Common Prayer begins:

‘Brothers and sisters in Christ: since early days Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord's passion and resurrection. It became the custom of the Church to prepare for this by a season of penitence and fasting.

‘At first this season of Lent was observed by those who were preparing for baptism at Easter and by those who were to be restored to the Church’s fellowship from which they had been separated through sin. In course of time the Church came to recognize that, by a careful keeping of these days, all Christians might take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord.

‘I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Lord to observe a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.’

Silence may be kept.

Then the priest says:

Let us pray for grace to keep Lent faithfully.

Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This collect may be said after the Collect of the Day until Easter Eve.

Post Communion Prayer:

Almighty God,
you have given your only Son to be for us
both a sacrifice for sin and also an example of godly life:
Give us grace
that we may always most thankfully receive
these his inestimable gifts,
and also daily endeavour ourselves
to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Last Supper … a fading work once seen on Quonian’s Lane in Lichfield but now missing (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Holy Week

A valuable, recent resource book is Week of All Weeks by Bishop Harold Miller, a prayer book for Holy Week and Easter (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2015).

Maundy Thursday:

The liturgical colour changes on this day from the Violet of Lent or the Red of Passiontide to White, and the Eucharist or Holy Communion is to be ‘celebrated in every cathedral and in each parish church or in a church within a parochial union or group of parishes.’

It is traditional in the dioceses too to have a celebration of the Chrism Eucharist in a cathedral or church in the diocese, when the bishops, priest, deacons and readers renew their vows.

Christ washing the disciples’ feet … a fresco in Saint John’s Monastery, Tolleshunt Knights (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Other possible resources for Maundy Thursday include foot-washing, which I use in Castletown Church, Kilcornan (Pallaskenry). There are full resources for this in Bishop Miller’s Week of All Weeks.

Good Friday:

There is no provision for a liturgical colour, and there is no celebration of Holy Communion on Good Friday or on the Saturday.

You may never even contemplate going as far as some of the Good Friday processions I have seen in Spain, Italy, Greece and Cyprus. But planning a Procession of the Cross, or ecumenical Stations of the Cross, on the streets in a parish can be a powerful public witness.

Other creative options include a service based on the Seven Last Words (see Bishop Miller’s Week of All Weeks, pp 51-57), and a service with Tenebrae (see Bishop Miller’s Week of All Weeks, pp 58-61).

The Seven Last Words traditionally are:

1, Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing

2, Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise

3, Here is you son … here is your mother

4, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

5, I am thirsty

6, It is finished

7, Father, into your hands I commend my spirit

Each passage here has a link to a reflection from a service in All Saints’ Church, Grangegorman, Dublin, on Good Friday 2015.


Preparing for the Easter Vigil at Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick

The celebration of Easter may begin after sundown with the Easter Vigil or the Midnight Eucharist on what is liturgically Easter Sunday, although it is still Saturday evening in calendar.

Traditionally, the Easter Vigil consists of four parts:

● The Service of Light

● The Liturgy of the Word

● The Liturgy of Baptism, which may include the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation for new members of the Church and the renewal of Baptismal Promises by the rest of the congregation

● The Eucharist

The Liturgy begins after sundown as the crowd gathers inside the unlit church, in the darkness, often in a side chapel of the church building, but preferably outside the church. A new fire, kindled and blessed by the priest, symbolises the light of salvation and hope that God brought into the world through the Resurrection of Christ, dispelling the darkness of sin and death.

The Paschal Candle, symbolising the Light of Christ, is lit from this fire. This tall candle is placed on the altar, and on its side five grains of incense are embedded, representing the five wounds of Christ and the burial spices with which his body was anointed. When these are fixed in it and the candle is lit, it is placed on the Gospel side of the altar and remains there until Ascension Day.

This Paschal candle will be used throughout the season of Easter, remaining in the sanctuary of the Church or near the lectern. Throughout the coming year at baptisms and funerals, it reminds all that that Christ is ‘light and life.’

All baptised people present – those who have received the Light of Christ – are given candles that are lit from the Paschal candle. As this symbolic Light of Christ spreads throughout those gathered, the darkness diminishes and dies out.

A deacon or a priest carries the Paschal Candle at the head of the entrance procession and, at three points, stops and chants the proclamation ‘Light of Christ’ or ‘Christ our Light,’ to which the people respond: ‘Thanks be to God.’

When the procession ends, the deacon or a cantor chants the Exultet, or Easter Proclamation, said to have been written by Saint Ambrose of Milan. The church is now lit only by the people’s candles and the Paschal candle, and the people take their seats for the Liturgy of the Word.

The Liturgy of the Word consists of between two and seven readings from the Old Testament. The account of the Exodus is given particular attention as it is the Old Testament antetype of Christian salvation.

Each reading is followed by a psalm and a prayer relating what has been read in the Old Testament to the Mystery of Christ.

After these readings, the Gloria is sung, and during an outburst of musical jubilation the people’s candles are extinguished, the church lights are turned on, and the bells rung. The altar frontals, the reredos, the lectern hangings, the processional banners, the statues and the paintings, which were stripped or covered during Holy Week or at the end of the Maundy Thursday Eucharist, are now ceremonially replaced and unveiled, and flowers are placed on the altar.

A reading from the Epistle to the Romans is proclaimed, and the Alleluia is sung for the first time since the beginning of Lent. The Gospel of the Resurrection then follows, along with a homily.

After the Liturgy of the Word, the water of the baptismal font is blessed, and any catechumens or candidates for full communion are initiated. After these celebrations, all present renew their baptismal vows and are sprinkled with baptismal water. The general intercessions follow.

The Easter Vigil then concludes with the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This is the first Eucharist of Easter Day. During the Eucharist, the newly baptised receive Holy Communion for the first time, and, according to the rubrics, the Eucharist should finish before dawn.

A poster seen in the front window of a house on Beacon Street, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Collects, Canticles and other Liturgical resources:

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This collect may be said after the Collect of the day until Easter Eve.

Collects and Post-Communion Prayers are provided for each day in Holy Week (see pp 264-271), except Good Friday, when there is a Collect but no Post-Communion Prayer (see p 270).

The Book of Common Prayer recommends the Commandments should be read at the Penitence during Lent.

This canticle Gloria may be omitted in Lent.

Traditionally in Anglicanism, the doxology or Gloria at the end of Canticles and Psalms is also omitted during Lent.

Penitential Kyries:

In the wilderness we find your grace:
you love us with an everlasting love.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

There is none but you to uphold our cause;
our sin cries out and our guilt is great.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed;
Restore us and we shall know your joy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Introduction to the Peace:

Being justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5: 1, 2)

Preface:

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who was in every way tempted as we are yet did not sin;
by whose grace we are able to overcome all our temptations:

Blessing:

Christ give you grace to grow in holiness,
to deny yourselves,
and to take up your cross and follow him:

Passiontide and Holy Week:

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you sent your Son to reconcile us to yourself and to one another.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
you heal the wounds of sin and division.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
through you we put to death the sins of the body – and live.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Introduction to the Peace:

Now in union with Christ Jesus you who were once far off have been brought near through the shedding of Christ's blood; for he is our peace. (Ephesians 2: 17)

Preface:

Through Jesus Christ our Saviour,
who, for the redemption of the world,
humbled himself to death on the cross;
that, being lifted up from the earth,
he might draw all people to himself:

Blessing:

Christ draw you to himself
and grant that you find in his cross a sure ground for faith,
a firm support for hope,
and the assurance of sins forgiven:

Processing the Crucified Christ though the streets of La Carihuela, near Torremolinos in Spain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns for Lent

Three sections in the Hymnal are designed for use during Lent and at Easter:

1, 205-214: Christ’s Life and Ministry, including Lent.
2, 215-249: Christ’s Suffering and Cross, including Passion Sunday, Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Good Friday.
3, Christ’s Resurrection and Ascension.

Lenten Disciplines:

In the Church of Ireland, each day in Lent is marked as ‘Day of Discipline and Self-Denial.’ Note that this does not include any of the Sundays in Lent.

Ash Wednesday, the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, and Easter Eve are ‘Days of Special Observance.’

The Fifth Sunday in Lent marks the beginning of Passiontide.

The Book of Common Prayer says: ‘No celebration of a festival takes place during Holy Week.’

This is difficult in those few years when Saint Patrick’s Day falls in Holy Week. When the Feast of the Annunciation is transferred from 25 March it creates problems for some plans for the Mothers’ Union in some parishes, and for some parishes named Saint Mary’s that mark this day.

‘Saying Yes to Life’ … the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Study Book for 2020

Some additional resources:

Lent as a holy time of introspection, penance and preparation can be further enriched this year with Sacred Space for Lent 2020, a daily prayer experience from the Irish Jesuits and Sacred Space, the internationally known online prayer guide.

This resource, published two months ago [15 November 2019], is designed for use throughout Lent. Each day includes a Scripture reading and points of reflection, as well as a weekly topic enhanced by six steps of prayer and meditation.

Although the Sacred Space website has expanded into many languages and now has a global outreach, the reflections continue to be written by Irish Jesuits.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Study Book for 2020, Say Yes to Life (SPCK, 2019), by Professor Ruth Valerio (London: SPCK, 2019), was published last month (19 December 2019). The author is Global Advocacy and Influencing Director at Tearfund, an environmentalist, theologian and social activist. Dr Valerio is Canon Theologian at Rochester Cathedral and her home church is part of the 24/7 Prayer Network.

Archbishop Justin Welby says in his Foreword: ‘Ruth Valerio’s book is perfect for individuals and groups to think, reflect, pray and be challenged together.’

Saying Yes to Life lifts the focus from natural, everyday concerns to issues having an impact on millions of lives around the world. As people made in the image of God, we are entrusted to look after what he has created: to share in God’s joy and ingenuity in making a difference for good. Ruth Valerio imaginatively draws on the Days of Creation (Genesis 1) as she relates themes of light, water, land, the seasons, other creatures, humankind, Sabbath rest and resurrection hope to matters of environmental, ethical and social concern.

Foundational to Saying Yes to Life is what it means to be human and, in particular, to be a follower of Christ. Voices from around the world are heard throughout, and each chapter ends with discussion questions and a prayer to aid action and contemplation.

Lent, Holy Week, Easter: Services and Prayers (London: Church House Publishing; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; London: SPCK, 1986 edition)

Harold Miller, Week of All Weeks, A prayer book for Holy Week and Easter Day (Dublin: Church of Ireland Publishing, 2015).

Time to Pray (London: Church House Publishing, 2006) – includes Daily Prayer for Lent, Passiontide and Easter.

Closing Prayer

Stations of the Cross in the Franciscan graveyard in Gormanston, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Monday, 13 January 2020

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 19 January 2020,
Second Sunday after Epiphany

John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him’ (John 1: 32)

Patrick Comerford

Next Sunday, 19 January 2020, is the Second Sunday after the Epiphany

The readings in the Revised Common Lectionary, as adapted for use in Church of Ireland, are:

The readings: Isaiah 49: 1-7; Psalm 40: 1-12; I Corinthians 1: 1-9; John 1: 29-42.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

‘This is the Lamb of God’ … Saint John the Baptist (left) with Christ in the centre depicted as the Good Shepherd and the Virgin Mary (right) … a stained-glass window in Saint Mary’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Introducing the readings:

How long does the Season of Christmas last for?

Are the decorations, the cards, and the tree down in your house?

Since when?

Did you leave the crib in place in your house, or in your church?

If it is still there, did you place the figures of the three wise men in the crib?

How long does the Season of Epiphany last for?

How long should the three kings or wise men remain be in a parish crib?

But the Epiphany season is about more than the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem – an event recorded only in Saint Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 2: 1-12), and one many parishioners will not have heard this year, unless the Epiphany readings were transferred from 6 January to Sunday 5 January 2020.

Epiphany is about the public acknowledgment of Christ Jesus as God incarnate. The three Gospel events that are marked traditionally as part of Epiphany are:

● the Visit of the Magi (Matthew 2: 1-12);
● the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan (Matthew 3: 13-17; Mark 1: 9-11; Luke 3: 21-22); and
● Changing water into wine at the Wedding in Cana (John 2: 1-12).

Saint John’s Gospel has no story of the first Christmas, no child in the crib, and no Visit of the Magi. The manifestation of the Incarnate Christ in Saint John’s Gospel is revealed with the witness of Saint John the Baptist to Christ as the Lamb of God, the one who ‘existed before me,’ and as ‘the Son of God’ or ‘God’s Chosen One.’

In the Fourth Gospel, Christ first walks onto the stage, like the principal character in a Greek drama, as Saint John the Baptist is baptising in the River Jordan and talking about what is to be. And, in good dramatic style, letting us know what to expect as the drama unfolds on this stage, Saint John the Baptist uses three ways to describe Christ. He is:

● ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1: 29 and 36);
● ‘A man … who was before me’ (John 1: 30);
● ‘The Son of God’ (John 1: 34).

That manifestation of the Christ in Saint John’s Gospel will close with the witness of the Beloved Disciple – the other John – to the Paschal Lamb dying on the Cross on the eve of Passover.

‘This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’ … a stained-glass window in Dromcollogher, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Isaiah 49: 1-7:

The first reading (Isaiah 49:1-7) is the Second Servant Song, written by Deutero-Isaiah.

The Servant, speaking in the first person, claims to have been called by God while still in his mother’s womb (verses 1, 5), which could lead us to reflect on Saint John the Baptist leaping in his mother’s womb when he realised he was in the presence of the yet-to-be born Christ (see Luke 1: 41, 44). Though hidden, he has been made a sharp sword and arrow (verse 2), which could draw out some contextual references to the Gospel reading (Luke 2: 22-40) for the Feast of the Presentation (2 February 2020) two weeks later (see Luke 2: 35). Indeed, Simeon’s vision (Luke 2: 29-32) is filled with images from the promises in Isaiah, such as being a light to the nations and salvation to the world (Isaiah 49: 6).

The closing images of kings bowing down (verse 7) might also allow us to recall another Epiphany image, of the wise men kneeling before the Christ child and paying homage (see Matthew 2: 11).

‘Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you’ (Isaiah 49: 7) … detail from a window in Saint Brigid’s Church, Ardagh, Co Longford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 40: 1-12:

The Church of Ireland Directory 2020 provides for Psalm 40: 1-12. However, this appears to be a mistake. The Revised Common Lectionary in every version provides for Psalm 40: 1-11. This is a logical division of the psalm, for Psalm 40 is a composite Psalm, and may originally have been two separate psalms: a psalm of thanksgiving (verse 1-11) and a psalm of lament (verses 12-17).

The compilers may have been following the Book of Common Prayer, where the typographical error may have originated (see p. 30), and it has continued in successive directories.

Once again, this is an example of the need to check the Directory and the Lectionary against each other, and to double check both when you are preparing the psalms and the readings, and the need to check with others involved in a service, including choirs, organists and musicians in the case of the psalm.

This psalm begins with the Psalmist describing his experience of God drawing him up from desolation and hearing his cry (verses 1-2). He is vindicated so that many will put their trust in the Lord rather than turning to the proud, and so will be happy (verses 3-4). He goes on to tell the glad news of deliverance and saving help (verses 9-10). God will not withhold his mercy, for his steadfast love will last forever (verse 11).

‘He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless’ (I Corinthians 1: 8) … the ‘Homeless Christ’ by the Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz in the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin ... (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I Corinthians 1: 1-9:

This is the opening of Saint Paul’s letter from his prison in Ephesus to the church in Corinth (see Acts 18:1- 11).

Could you draw comparisons between the Apostle Paul’s opening declaration of who Christ is for him and the Church, and who Christ is for Saint John the Baptist and the first-called disciples?

‘Behold the Lamb of God’ (John 1: 29) … the Lamb seated on the Throne – a fresco on a ceiling in a Greek Orthodox monastery in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 1: 29-42:

The great Johannine scholar Raymond Brown asks us to imagine a triptych, with the Lamb at the centre, and the two witnesses, the two Johns, on either side – Saint John the Baptist in this scene, and Saint John the Beloved Disciple at the close of the Gospel. Saint John’s Gospel knows truly about how to present us with beginnings and endings.

But some of that drama in Saint John’s Gospel is missed in the paucity of dramatic and poetic presentation in the translations favoured in the NRSV and the NRSVA. The NRSV translation renders Saint John the Baptist’s acclamation in the opening verse as: ‘Here is the Lamb of God.’ I think the sense of the drama of the moment is captured in a more descriptive way in the more familiar RSV rendition: ‘Behold the Lamb of God.’

Saint John’s Gospel alone is without an actual account of the Baptism of Christ. Instead, we have Saint John the Baptist’s recollection of it, and an interpretation of its meaning and its consequences.

In a dramatic and poetic way, the Sunday Gospel reading we are looking at presents us with three descriptions of the newly-baptised Christ by Saint John the Baptist, and three descriptions of Christ by the newly-called disciples.

Saint John the Baptist identifies Christ as:

● ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ (verses 29 and 36)
● the one who existed before John (verse 30)
● and as the Son of God (verse 34)

His description of Christ as the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ presents Christ as the Servant of God described in Isaiah as being led without complaint like a lamb before the shearers, a man who ‘bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors’ (see Isaiah 53: 7-12). But this is also read, with the benefit of hindsight, as a reference to the Lamb sacrificed at Passover – in Saint John’s Gospel, the crucifixion takes place at the same time as the Passover.

But the Lamb of God who is taking away not just my sin, not just our sin, not just the sin of many, of Christians, or those we judge as transgressors – not even the sin of the world, but the sin of the κόσμος (cosmos), which means not merely planet earth, but the whole created order.

In Greek mathematics and philosophy, the κόσμος (cosmos) is understood as the Universe, which regarded as a beautifully arranged system. The concept is beautifully developed by Pythagoras. The significance of this within the Johannine system is worth noting, for Pythagoras was from Samos, which is the larger island merely 54 km and a short sailing distance north of Patmos – today they are both in the same prefecture in Greece.

Pythagoras was probably the first philosopher to apply the term κόσμος (cosmos) to the universe, and he was followed in this by Archimedes and others. The Greek word literally means ‘well-ordered’ or the created order, and is antithetical to the concept of chaos. It gives us words like cosmetic and cosmonaut.

Secondly, Saint John the Baptist describes Christ (verse 30) as the one who ‘existed before me’ (RSV) or who ‘was before me’ (NRSV), which reflects a recurring theme in Johannine literature of the pre-existence of the Word.

Thirdly, Saint John describes him as ‘the Son of God’ or ‘God’s Chosen One’ (verse 34). This is the first time in this Gospel that Christ is given the messianic title of ‘the Son of God.’ This title, ‘The Son of God’ is another reference to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.

We then move on in this reading to find the disciples of Saint John the Baptist turning to follow Christ. While the Synoptic Gospels have telescoped the first call of the disciples into Christ’s Galilean ministry, Saint John’s Gospel gives us greater detail, and tells us the first disciples were called at the River Jordan before Christ returns to Galilee.

So this passage links the baptism of Christ with the call of the Disciples, links seeing and believing, being and doing, baptism and discipleship.

The first two disciples are called, although they remain unnamed for the moment. They are not just called, but they also decide to follow Jesus (verse 37). They are called in word and action. ‘Come and see’ (verse 39) is a call to personal following. In Saint John’s Gospel, ‘seeing,’ in the true sense, means believing. Think of the later insistence by Saint Thomas that he cannot believe unless he also sees (see John 20: 24-29).

And to come and see is to abide in Christ. Those first disciples come, see and stay (verse 39).

But who do the disciples say Christ is?

They have three very different descriptions from those given by Saint John the Baptist:

● Rabbi or Teacher (verse 38)
● the one to see and follow (verse (verse 39)
● the Messiah or the anointed one (verse 41)

Who is Christ for you?

The Lamb of God on the throne (see John 1: 36) … a stained glass window in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 1: 29-42 (NRSVA):

29 The next day he [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” 31 I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ 32 And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33 I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” 34 And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’

35 The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ 39 He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. 40 One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). 42 He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter).

Robert Spence (1871-1964), ‘Woe to the Bloody City of Lichfield,’ depicts George Fox preaching barefooted in the Market Square in Lichfield 1651 … George Fox challenged his followers to say who Christ is for them (Lichfield Heritage Centre)

Reflecting on the Gospel reading

There is a Gnostic tendency in a particular strain of Christianity that limits Christ to personal knowledge, personal sin and personal salvation. But Saint John’s Gospel and this Gospel reading have none of these limitations or inhibitions.

The Lamb of God is taking away not just my sins, not just our sins, not just the sins of Christians, not just the sins of many, or the sins of those we judge as transgressors – not even the sin of the world, but the sin of the κόσμος (cosmos), the whole created order. The word used here is not sins but the singular sin of the cosmos: ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου.

We are living in very tense and precarious times in the world, a world that is seeing the triumph of fear over trust, hate over love, racism over tolerance, xenophobia over diversity, misogyny and sexism over equality, and lies over truth.

This is the cosmos, and in the midst of our fears, uncertainty and insecurity, Christ walks onto this stage in this Gospel reading, to confront and to take away the sin of, the denial of, the threat to, the destruction of, God’s good created order, the cosmos.

Who is Christ for you?

This is a question each and every one of us must ask ourselves anew time and time again.

He must be more than a good rabbi or teacher, because the expectations of a good religious leader or a good teacher change over time.

Who is the Messiah for you?

Again, many people at the time had false expectations of the Messiah.

We may see the difference between how John, near the end of his ministry, describes Christ, and how the disciples, at the beginning of answering Christ’s call, describe Christ.

But who is Christ for you?

George Fox, the founding Quaker, challenged his contemporaries: ‘You may say Christ saith this, and the apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?”

Who is Christ for you?

Is he a personal saviour?

One who comforts you?

Or is he more than that for you?

Who do you say Christ is?

It is a question that challenges Saint Peter later in Saint Matthew’s Gospel (see Matthew 16: 15, which is part of the reading on 23 August 2020, the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, Matthew 16: 13-20). Not who do others say he is, but who do you say Christ is?

There is a difference in translations that speak of the ‘sins of the world’ and the ‘sin of the world.’

The word in this Gospel reading (see verse 29) is the singular sin of the cosmos: ἁμαρτίαν τοῦ κόσμου. The word indicates being without a share in something, in this case God’s intention or design; or missing the mark.

So often the world has missed the mark in terms of shaping up to God’s plan and intention for the whole creation, the whole cosmos.

Christmas has passed, and the Epiphany season concludes with the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Candlemas, two weeks after this reading (2 February 2020).

The Sunday Gospel reading we are looking is a reminder in the middle of the Epiphany season that Christ has come, not just as cuddly baby at Christmas, not just to give me personal comfort, not just to give me a personal revelation, but to confront the whole created order, and to reconcile the whole created order to God’s plan.

I find it is a beautiful presentation in Saint John’s Gospel that the beginning of Christ’s ministry is set out over six days. And on the seventh day of that new beginning we have a sabbath – God rests; Christ goes to the wedding at Cana, the third of the Epiphany moments. And there we have a sign, a sacrament, a token of the complete transformation of the created order, a sacramental or symbolic token of the heavenly banquet (John 2: 1-12).

The Lamb of God in a Trinitarian depiction in a stained-glass window in a church in Charleville, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Liturgical resources:

Liturgical colour: White

The Penitential Kyries:

God be merciful to us and bless us,
and make his face to shine on us.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

May your ways be known on earth,
your saving power to all nations.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You, Lord, have made known your salvation,
and reveal your justice in the sight of the nations.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
in Christ you make all things new:
Transform the poverty of our nature
by the riches of your grace,
and in the renewal of our lives
make known your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect of the Word:

Almighty God,
whose Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ,
is the light of the world:
may your people, illuminated by your word and sacraments,
shine with the radiance of his glory,
that he may be known, worshipped,
and obeyed to the ends of the earth;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

Our Saviour Christ is the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there shall be no end. (Isaiah 9: 6, 7)

Preface:

For Jesus Christ our Lord
who in human likeness revealed your glory,
to bring us out of darkness
into the splendour of his light:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God of glory,
you nourish us with bread from heaven.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit
that through us the light of your glory
may shine in all the world.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

Christ the Son be manifest to you,
that your lives may be a light to the world:

In addition, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins on Saturday 18 January and continues until 25 January, so prayers for Christian Unity may be appropriate on this Sunday:

Prayer for Christian Unity:

O Lord Jesus Christ, who didst say to thine Apostles, Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: Regard not our sins, but the faith of thy Church, and grant it that peace and unity which is agreeable to thy will; who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end.
(Book of Common Prayer, p 149).

The Collects (Unity)

Heavenly Father,
you have called us in the body of your Son Jesus Christ
to continue his work of reconciliation
and reveal you to the world:
forgive us the sins which tear us apart;
give us the courage to overcome our fears
and to seek that unity which is your gift and will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Or

Lord Jesus Christ,
who said to your apostles,
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you,
look not on our sins but on the faith of your Church,
and grant it the peace and unity of your kingdom;
where you are alive and reign with the Father
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer (Unity):

Eternal God and Father,
whose Son at supper prayed that the disciples might be one,
as he is with you:
Draw us closer to him,
that in common love and obedience to you
we may be united to one another
in the fellowship of the one Spirit,
that the world may believe that he is Lord,
to your eternal glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
(Book of Common Prayer, p 335).

The Lamb of God … a surviving detail inside in the original East End of Saint Senanus Church, Foynes, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Suggested Hymns:

Isaiah 49: 1-7:

685, Blessed be the God of Israel
691, Faithful vigil ended
481, God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year
125, Hail to the Lord’s anointed
192, How brightly beams the morning star
166, Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
706, O bless the God of Israel
595, Safe in the shadow of the Lord

Psalm 40: 1-12:

642, Amazing grace (how sweet the sound!)
597, Take my life and let it be
712, Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord
492, Ye servants of God, your master proclaim

I Corinthians 1: 1-9:

80, Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father
268, Hail, thou once–despisèd Jesus
431, Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour
508, Peace to you
112, There is a Redeemer

John 1: 29-42:

258, Christ the Lord is risen again
295, Come, gracious Spirit, heavenly Dove
332, Come, let us join our cheerful songs
263, Crown him with many crowns
693, Glory in the highest to the God of heaven!
692, Glory to God in highest heav’n
268, Hail, thou once–despisèd Jesus
126, Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding
124, Hark the glad sound! The Saviour comes
584, Jesus calls us! o’er the tumult
587, Just as I am without one plea
652, Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
431, Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour 134, Make way, make way, for Christ the King
136, On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry
200, The sinless one to Jordan came
112, There is a Redeemer
204, When Jesus came to Jordan
395, When Jesus taught by Galilee
492, Ye servants of God, your master proclaim

The Lamb of God depicted in a stained-glass window in Saint Oliver Plunkett Church, Mungret, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

The hymn suggestions are provided in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling. The hymn numbers refer to the Church of Ireland’s Church Hymnal (5th edition, Oxford: OUP, 2000).

The statue of Pythagoras by Nikolaos Ikaris (1989) on the harbour front in Pythagóreio on the Greek island of Samos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)