Monday, 22 January 2018

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 28 January 2018
and Holocaust Memorial Day

‘Arbeit macht frei’ … the sign at the entrance gate to Auschwitz. It is appropriate next Sunday to mark Holocaust Memorial Day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Next Sunday [28 January 2018] is the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany. The readings in the Revised Common Lectionary are: Deuteronomy 18: 15-20; Psalm 111; I Corinthians 8: 1-13; and Mark 1: 21-28.

There is a connection to the readings HERE.

Next weekend, many churches throughout the Anglican Communion are also marking Holocaust Memorial Day, which falls the day before, on Saturday 27 January.

This posting includes preaching and liturgical resources for next Sunday, based on both Sunday’s Lectionary readings and on resources that have been produced for Holocaust Memorial Day.

The rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer also suggest the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (2 February) may be observed on the Sunday falling between 28 January and 3 February, which is next Sunday, 28 January. There are notes on the provisions for the Presentation at the end of this posting.

‘I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people’ (Deuteronomy 18: 18) … Patrick Pye’s Triptych in Saint Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Making connections:

Last Wednesday [17 January], the calendar of the Church of England commemorated Bishop Charles Gore (1853-1932), founder of the Community of the Resurrection, the first Bishop of Birmingham, and the Editor of Lux Mundi. The story is told that Charles Gore loved to play a particular prank on friends and acquaintances.

As a canon of Westminster Abbey, he enjoyed showing visitors the tomb of one of his ancestors, the Earl of Kerry, with an inscription that ends with the words (in double quotation marks): ‘Hang all the law and the prophets.’

On closer inspection, he would point out, the words are preceded by ‘... ever studious to fulfil those two great commandments on which he had been taught by his divine Master ...’ (see Matthew 22: 40).

Sometimes, I wonder, whether might want to hang some of those who think they are modern-day prophets when they preach the Word of God as if these are not the two commandments on which depend all the law and the prophets.

‘Hang all the law and the prophets’ … the statue of Bishop Charles Gore at the west entrance of Birmingham Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Deuteronomy 18: 9-14:

In the verses immediately preceding this Old Testament reading (Deuteronomy 18: 9-14), the people are warned against false religion in the form of worshipping false idols, false gods, divination, magic, sooth-saying, sorcery and child sacrifice.

At the time, this must have been seen as weird, every other religion and culture in the region engaged in these practices, and hardly saw them as superstitious.

Then, having dismissed all that, Moses talks about how to tell if a prophet is a true prophet of the Lord. A true prophet is like Moses, conveying ideas and principals consistent with God’s commandments. False prophets are those who intentionally, through deceit, or unintentionally, because of self-delusion, preach false teachings or offer inaccurate predictions.

The people have the laws and instructions from God that are the measure of truth for them. They stand for something so they are not to fall for just anything – in theory, anyway.

If we see the Old Testament reading in these readings for next Sunday as being concerned with the law in terms of the Old Testament code repeated in Deuteronomy, we may get bogged down. But we know what the summary of the Law is: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength … You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12: 30-31; see Matthew 22: 34-40; Luke 25-28).

If we approach this reading in the context of the difference between knowledge and love, then we may find a more useful, reflective and pastoral way of approaching this passage.

Here we find a good antidote to those who preach, and who know their Bible, but who impose their own rules and regulations on people, without taking any account of the scope of God’s love, which is seen in the life, passion, death, resurrection, ascension, and coming again of Christ.

Sometimes, listening to them, or hearing about them, can be a deadening experience. If they put their preaching into practice, it might be a very love-less world indeed, and may indeed want to hang all the law and the prophets.

Some years ago, as I was preparing to preach in three churches on a Sunday morning, I was asked by a student how many sermons did I normally preach.

I replied: ‘Three.’

And she asked: ‘Every Sunday?’

No, I said. I only have three sermons to preach, and humorously summarised them as:

1, Love God.

2, Love one another.

3, Love God, and Love one another.

And if that is at the heart of our preaching, we find we are preaching with knowledge and with love, perhaps even with authority.

Psalm 111:

The Psalm (Psalm 111) tells us how great the works of the Lord are, and ends with that wonderful verse (10):

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
Those who act accordingly have a good understanding;
His praise endures for ever.


Saint Francis of Assisi says (in Admonition 27): ‘Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.’

‘Food will not bring us close to God’ (I Corinthians 8: 8) … eating out in Hamsa, a Jewish restaurant in Krakow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I Corinthians 8: 1-13:

In the New Testament reading next Sunday, the Apostle Paul reminds us of the difference between knowledge and love.

There is a difference between knowing who God is, and loving God, just as there is a difference between knowing who someone is, and loving that person. Discipleship, ministry, and Christian life are less about knowing, and all about loving.

‘When the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught’ (Mark 1: 21) … the Old Synagogue in Krakow, built in 1407, is the oldest Jewish house of prayer in Poland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 1: 21-28:

The Gospel reading is the story of Christ’s visit to Capernaum, where he preaches and teaches in the synagogue. All are astounded at his teaching, but when he actually puts it into practice, they are all amazed. He not only teaches, but he puts it into practice, he teaches not just with knowledge, but with authority; not only can he say, but he can do.

In the previous Sunday readings, we heard how Christ has called his first disciples, Simon Peter, Andrew and the sons of Zebedee. Now this passage tells how his authority, both in word and deed, are first recognised.

Christ and his disciples go to Capernaum, a prosperous town on the Sea of Galilee. In the synagogue it was the practice on Saturdays for the scribes, who specialised in the interpretation and application of Mosaic law to daily life, to quote scripture and tradition.

On this Saturday, however, Christ does not follow this practice. Instead, he speaks directly, confident of his authority and of his very essence. The Greek word here, ἐξουσία (exousía), has the same roots as the word in the Nicene Creed that is translated as ‘being’ or ‘substance’: ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί (‘of one substance with the Father’).

The ‘man with an unclean spirit’ (verse 23) was, we might say, possessed, or under the influence of evil forces. In Jewish terms, he was under Satan’s direction, separated from God. The devil, speaking through this man (verse 24), asks what Christ is doing meddling in the domain of evil. He recognises who Christ is and that his coming spells the end of the power of the devil. He understands the significance of the coming Kingdom. Wonder-workers of the day healed using ritual or magic, but Christ exorcises simply through verbal command (verse 25), so clearly he is divine.

Verse 27, on the lips of the crowd, acknowledges Christ’s ‘authority’ in word and deed.

The parallel reading of this pericope in Saint Luke’s Gospel is Luke 4: 31-37, but it is preceded by the story of Christ preaching in the synagogue in Nazareth (Luke 4: 16-30), when he proclaims the foundational text for his ministry, almost like a manifesto:

18 ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’


These are high ideals and, if put into practice, threaten social stability and the ordering of society. This threat is realised by those who hear him, and they drive him out of the synagogue.

Driven out of the synagogue, Christ has three options:

1, to allow himself to be silenced;

2, to keep on preaching in other synagogues, but to never put into practice what he says so that those who are worried have their fears allayed and realise he is no threat;

3, or to preach and to put his teachings into practice, to show that he means what he says, that his faith is reflected in his priorities, to point to what the kingdom of God is truly like.

Christ takes the third option. He brings good news to the poor, he releases this poor captive, he can now see things as they are and as they ought to be, the oppressed man goes free and all are amazed.

There is a saying attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi: ‘Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.’

Christ preaches with authority in the synagogue. But in this Gospel reading we are not told what he said. We are only told what he did.

In his actions he demonstrates the love of God and the love of others that are at the heart of the Gospel, that should be at the heart of every sermon that we preach. For the love of God and the love of others are the two commandments on which hang all the law and the prophets.

Hillview on Wolfe Tone Street … once a synagogue in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Holocaust Memorial Day and Sunday’s readings

On Sunday next you may prefer to reflect on readings in the light of Holocaust Memorial Day, which falls on Saturday, 27 January. This day recalls the millions of people killed in the Holocaust, the Nazi Persecution and in later genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur. The date was chosen because 27 January marks the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp.

The theme for Holocaust Memorial Day this year is ‘The Power of Words.’ Its focus is helping people to reflect on the role words play, both to harm and to heal, to destroy and to build. Many organisations will be holding events to mark the day, ranging from simple candle-lighting ceremonies to postcard-writing activities, conferences, concerts, plays, reading events and exhibitions.

In Ireland, the National Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration will take place on Sunday 28 January from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Round Room in the Mansion House, Dawson Street, Dublin.

The Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration is firmly established in the national calendar and takes place in Dublin every year on the Sunday nearest to 27 January, the date of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. The event cherishes the memory of those who perished in the Holocaust and recalls the millions of men, women and children and others, who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis because of their ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, political affiliations or religious beliefs.

In the run-up to Holocaust Memorial Day, Dr Barbara Warnock is speaking in the Linen Hall Library, Belfast, at 1 p.m. tomorrow [23 January 2018] telling the story of Britain and the Kindertransport, which brought children to places of safety nine months after the Nazi occupation of Austria.

Anglican churches throughout the world are marking Holocaust Memorial Day. For example, the Primate of the Church in Wales, Archbishop John Davies, is encouraging churches, parishes and chaplaincies to mark Holocaust Memorial Day.

‘The Holocaust is certainly one of the most vile and shameful examples from the catalogue of events which disfigure the history of the human race,’ says Archbishop John, who is Bishop of Swansea and Brecon. ‘Commemorating both it and its victims, whilst also recognising the terrifying perversity of those human minds which enabled such an atrocity to be devised and implemented is something which I wholeheartedly support.’

The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI) have produced a resource pack of liturgical and homiletic material for use in worship for this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day, based on the theme ‘The Power of Words.’ This pack is available HERE.

Words can make a difference – both for good and evil. ' Anne Frank wrote in her diary on 5 April 1944: ‘I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I am so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s in me. When I write I can shake off all my cares; my sorrow disappears; my spirits are revived.’

Holocaust Memorial Day is an opportunity to reflect on issues raised by the Holocaust and all genocides, and to reflect especially on the fate of European Jewry. Christians have also been among the perpetrators of genocide, as well as among the bystanders, and indeed the victims.

Holocaust Memorial Day can give us cause to remember the reality that evil is still powerful in our world. It can strengthen our resolve to protect every community from discrimination, intimidation and violence.

These reflections draw on the resource pack prepared by the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) and Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), using the lectionary readings for Sunday 28 January (Fourth Sunday of Epiphany).

Deuteronomy 18: 15-20

Here we see Moses’s last words to the people of Israel, which were also intended to guide them in the future. His are words of power and hope that call the hearer to belief and a life lived according to God’s instruction.

Prophets were chosen to speak God’s words. How do we know if someone speaks for God? Is an individual promoting their own social or political agenda? These are age-old questions.

A few verses earlier (verses 10-11), the prophets of the Lord are described as the mouthpieces for God. Their proclamations are made without the common acts of divination or speaking to dead spirits. The key role of the prophet was to declare the word of God to the people.

The power of words is such that in the wake of events in Paris, Barcelona and Manchester last year, slogans like I ♥ Manchester caught the public imagination. Words have the power to make or break people in an instant. One only has to think of how words were used in the Rwandan genocide to initiate crimes against neighbours.

Prophets, as we read, are selected by God for the sake of the people (verses 15, 18). They answer to God, not to the people, so they are free to speak the truth. But note the prophets come ‘from among their own people’ (verse 18). These home-grown speakers know the ways and the hearts of their people and can connect with them. There words have power to build up or destroy. We should nurture and encourage one another to speak powerful words of peace that reflect love and hope and that challenge injustice.

But how do we know who is speaking God’s words? Prophets speak of issues that are eternal and face every generation in times of crisis and challenge. The truth of words may not be known in this life. Perhaps, this is where faith comes to the fore. We can all be led astray by words. Often the vulnerable and weak can be exploited and great evil can be perpetrated as a result. Our challenge is to listen to God and act on his words faithfully.

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

I Corinthians 8: 1-13

People generally feel much safer with boundaries. These may be cultural, religious or national boundaries, or rules that make for peaceful living in our homes. We know what we find ‘acceptable’ and what is forbidden. When we become adults, these boundaries are so ingrained that we often find it difficult to cross them. We feel safe with what we ‘know’ is right.

These boundaries become barriers that are difficult to cross, so difficult that we may not even attempt to breach the boundary of talking to someone from a different faith or community. Barriers can isolate and reinforce stereotypes, cutting us off from the rich diversity and endless opportunity of the world beyond ourselves.

The Apostle Paul addresses these issues in the New Testament reading. Saint Paul is addressing the Church in Corinth, living in a city that is filled with a variety of beliefs and lifestyles. As Christians, should we isolate ourselves from the world around us, or do we engage with the richly diverse world that is a melting pot of religions and cultures?

On one hand, Saint Paul agrees with the freedom of engaging with a diverse, pluralistic world. His faith is strong enough to withstand this, rooted in his knowledge that there is only one true and living God, and that Christ frees us from our fear of the world in which we live. Indeed, Christ constantly crosses boundaries and is not afraid to engage with the world around him.

Yet some of those early Christians in Corinth were crossing some boundaries, joining their friends at ritual meals in the temples of idols. For Saint Paul, this is a step too far.

What barriers should we cross, and which ones are taboo from crossing? Should we be all things to all people? How do we listen to, understand and know others, no matter who they are?

The stories of genocide are reminders of how vulnerable people were drawn into carrying out atrocities and how others died. Where do we stand when such events occur? Do we assimilate into what is going on around us and accept the status quo? Or do we engage with diversity and see the need to challenge what needs to be challenged as Christ did?

The message of Epiphany is that God is here with us, drawing us into a life that sets us free from barriers and walls. God does not want us to live in isolation or in communities that do not engage with one another. We are charged to proclaim the message of love, hope and inclusion.

Mark 1: 21-28:

Who do we see as figures of authority today? In this Gospel reading, we see how Christ is recognised for who he truly is. It is an Epiphany moment when he is not only recognised but so too is his authority in his words of power.

In the synagogue in Capernaum, ‘they were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority’ (verse 22). Christ demonstrates that his actions lived up to his words. Can we say that our words match our actions? Do we practice what we preach?

Christ’s powerful words strike to the core of our very being, as shown by the unclean spirit leaving the man. Have any words been so powerful that they have resonated in the core of our very being? Christ’s words are words of life. This is often called the witness of the Spirit where God affirms the word of Jesus.

How often have we been in the presence of someone who speaks with authority? What attributes do they have? What is the difference between those people and the dictators and perpetrators of evil, in the past and present, who demand allegiance by exploiting people’s fear? How do we as Christians respond to authorities that have and still are exterminating thousands of people?

In this Gospel passage, we are confronted with the unclean spirit that can be seen as a metaphor for the presence of evil in human history. Evil today challenges us with the same words in the text ‘What can you do?’ Christ replied: ‘Be silent and come out of him.’ We read that he is not so much meek and mild but speaks with a steely authority.

When we are confronted with evil and it stares us in the face, like those in the Holocaust and subsequent genocides, are we going to allow the evil to continue or are we going to stand and speak out with a moral authority that comes from God?

Children of the Kindertransport ... Frank Meisler’s bronze sculpture at Liverpool Street Station in London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical resources for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany:

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.

Collect:

Creator God,
who in the beginning
commanded the light to shine out of darkness:
We pray that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ
may dispel the darkness of ignorance and unbelief,
shine into the hearts of all your people,
and reveal the knowledge of your glory
in the face of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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:

Post Communion Prayer:

Generous Lord,
in word and Eucharist we have proclaimed
the mystery of your love.
Help us so to live out our days
that we may be signs of your wonders in the world;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Blessing:

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

The train tracks in Birkenau (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical resources for Holocaust Memorial Day:

Opening prayers:

Creator God, in the silence of the beginning:
You spoke and the world awakened.

Companion God, in the chaos of life:
You spoke and lives were healed.

Redeeming God, in the opportunity of today and the hope of tomorrow:
You speak and we are here to respond.

These responses are based on the Jewish blessing on hearing bad news

Blessed are you,
Lord God of all creation.
Through your goodness we have this time
To gather to learn the truth of ourselves.
We cannot always feel joy for this life
We know too much of lives that have been broken.
Give us courage when we hear tragedy, despair and death
To bless you, the one true Judge. Amen.

Living God, you speak through priest and prophet, through friend and stranger, through all of us and in every situation in which we find ourselves. Help us, O God, when we fail to hear the cry of pain or ignore the warning signs of evil. Speak through us O God so that by our words and our actions we may reflect your highest calling and do our utmost for good. Amen.

Prayers of confession:

God our Father, you called the world to live in peace and community with each other.
But we lack the courage to challenge injustice.

Lord have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

God our companion, you journey with us through heartbreak and joy.
But we forget your words of peace and despair takes us.

Christ have mercy.
Christ have mercy.

God the Spirit of life, you brought the world to being.
But our actions make life fragile and breaking.

Lord have mercy.
Lord have mercy.

God, the Three in One,
you reveal yourself in our lives
and you show us how far we are from realising God’s desire for the world.
If we confess our sins, you are faithful and just and you will forgive us.
So we offer our confession to you
and pray for forgiveness and healing, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Empty chairs in the Ghetto in Krakow … a memorial to the Holocaust (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Suggested Hymns:

These are among the hymns suggested for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling:

Deuteronomy 18: 15-20:

319, Father, of heaven, whose love profound
92, How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
535, Judge eternal, throned in splendour

Psalm 111:

84, Alleluia! raise the anthem
352, Give thanks with a grateful heart
574, I give you all the honour
130, Jesus came, the heavens adoring
529, Thy hand, O God, has guided
373, To God be the glory! Great things he has done!

I Corinthians 8: 1-13:

518, Bind us together, Lord
103, O Christ the same, through all our story’s pages
529, Thy hand, O God, has guided

Mark 1: 21-28:

211, Immortal love for ever full
99, Jesus, the name high over all
513, O Christ, the healer, we have come
104, O for a thousand tongues to sing
112, There is a Redeemer
514, We cannot measure how you heal

The Jewish Holocaust Memorial on Platia Eleftherias near the port in Thessaloniki ... in July 1942, all the men in the Jewish community aged from 18 to 45 were rounded up in this square for deportation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Additional hymns:

Additional hymns that might be appropriate for Holocaust Memorial Day include:

323, The God of Abraham praise
361, Now thank we all our God.
347, Children of Jerusalem
599, ‘Take up thy cross,’ the Saviour said

Hope against adversity … a fading rose on the fence at Auschwitz-Birkenau; behind is one of the concentration camp watchtowers and a train wagon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Notes on the provisions for the Feast of the Presentation

The rubrics in the Book of Common Prayer also suggest the Feast of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (2 February) may be observed on the Sunday falling between 28 January and 3 February, which is next Sunday, 28 January.

The readings for this feast are: Malachi 3: 1-5; Psalm 24: 1-10 or Psalm 24: 7-10 or Psalm 84; Hebrews 2: 14-18; and Luke 2: 22-40.

Candlemas, which comes 40 days after Christmas, recalls how the Virgin Mary presents the Christ-Child to the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem. And, because of the poverty of this family, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph bring two cheap doves or pigeons as their offering.

It is a feast rich in meaning, with several related themes running through it. We have the contrast between the poverty of this family and the richly-endowed Temple; the young Joseph and Mary with their first-born child and the old Simeon and Anna who are probably childless; the provincial home in Nazareth and the urbane sophistication of Jerusalem; the glory of one nation, Israel, and light for all nations, the Gentiles; the birth of a child and the expectation of death; darkness and light; new birth and impending death.

Candlemas has a ‘bitter-sweet’ nature. It calls for rejoicing with all in the Temple celebrating the hope and the promise that this new child brings. Yet Simeon speaks in prophetic words of the falling and rising of many and the sword that will piece the Virgin Mary’s heart. His words remind us sharply that Christmas is meaningless without the Passion and Easter.

Candlemas is the climax of the Christmas and Epiphany season, the last great festival of the Christmas cycle. As we bring our Christmas celebrations to a close, this day is a real pivotal point in the Christian year, for we now shift from the cradle to the cross, from Christmas to Passiontide – Ash Wednesday and Lent are just four weeks away. Candlemas bridges the gap between Christmas and Lent; links the joy of the Christmas candles with the hope of the Pascal candle at Easter; invites us to move from celebration to reflection and preparation, and to think about the source of our hope, our inspiration, our enlightenment.

The candles of Candlemas link the candles of Christmas with Good Friday and with the Easter hope symbolised in the Pascal candle. And so, to paraphrase the words of Timothy Dudley-Smith’s hymn that draw on Simeon’s prophetic words in the Canticle Nunc Dimittis, as we watch and wait in our faithful vigil for Christ’s glory in that Easter hope, may our doubting cease, may God’s silent, suffering people find deliverance and freedom from oppression, may his servants find peace, may he complete in us his perfect will.

Malachi 3: 1-5:

The Prophet Micah in the Old Testament reading ‘against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow, and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien,’ and do not fear the Lord God (Micah 3: 5)?

But, oh so often, mothers bear their grief in silence, are reluctant to bare their souls to the Church and Church leaders. So often we can pronounce and preach and teach. But do we always know the suffering in the dark behind closed doors? And do we teach and preach in a way that moves beyond being enlightening to actually bringing the light of hope, the light of the Suffering and Risen Christ to the broken-hearted Marys and Josephs all over this land?

Hebrews 2: 14-18:

The Epistle reading is a call not just to all in ordained ministry but to all in the Church to be ‘merciful and faithful’ like Christ the ‘high priest in the service of God,’ to be sacrificial in the service of those who are suffering and ‘are being tested’ (see Hebrews 2: 17-18).

Luke 2: 22-40:

If Mary had known what grief would pierce her soul, would she have said “Yes” to the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation?

And in the midst of all this heartbreak, these mothers still cling on to the edge of the rock of faith by the edges of their fingernails. Wondering who hears their sobbing hearts and souls.

If they had known what grief would pierce their souls they would still have said yes, because they love their children, and no sword can kill that. They know too their children are immaculate conceptions, for their children too are conceived in a love for their world, our world, that is self-giving and sinless, and they continue to see the reflection and image of Christ in their children as they look into their eyes lovingly. Is that too not a truth and a hope at the heart of the Incarnation?

So often it is difficult to hold on to hope when our hearts are breaking and are pierced. So often it is difficult to keep the lights of our hearts burning brightly when everything is gloomy and getting dark. But Simeon points out that the Christ Child does not hold out any selfish hope for any one individual or one family ... he is to be a light to the nations, to all of humanity.

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God, mighty God,
you are the creator of the world.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary,
you are the Prince of Peace.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
by your power the Word was made flesh
and came to dwell among us.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Collect:

Almighty and everliving God,
clothed in majesty,
whose beloved Son was this day presented in the temple
in the substance of our mortal nature:
May we be presented to you with pure and clean hearts,
by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:
and his name is called the Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9: 7)

Preface:

You chose the Blessed Virgin Mary
to be the mother of your Son
and so exalted the humble and meek;
your angel hailed her as most highly favoured,
and with all generations we call her blessed:

Post Communion Prayer:

God, for whom we wait,
you fulfilled the hopes of Simeon and Anna,
who lived to welcome the Messiah.
Complete in us your perfect will,
that in Christ we may see your salvation,
for he is Lord for ever and ever.

Blessing:

Christ the Son of God, born of Mary,
fill you with his grace
to trust his promises and obey his will:

Suggested Hymns:

These are among the hymns suggested for the Feast of the Presentation in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling:

Malachi 3: 1-5:

52, Christ, whose glory fills the skies
634, Love divine, all loves excelling
134, Make way, make way, for Christ the King
640, Purify my heart

Psalm 24: 7-10

696, God, we praise you! God, we bless you!
266, Hail the day that sees him rise (verses 1 and 2)
358, King of glory, King of peace
337, Lift up your heads, O ye gates
131, Lift up your heads, you mighty gates
134, Make way, make way, for Christ the King
488, Stand up, stand up for Jesus
284,The golden gates are lifted up

Hebrews 2: 14-18:

212, Jesus, grant me this, I pray
652, Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us
635, Lord, be my guardian and my guide
108, Praise to the Holiest in the height
114, Thou didst leave thy throne and thy kingly crown
627, What a friend we have in Jesus

Luke 2: 22-40:

119, Come, thou long-expected Jesus
88, Fairest Lord Jesus
691, Faithful vigil ended
191, Hail to the Lord who comes
193, In his temple now behold him
634, Love divine, all loves excelling
472, Sing we of the blessed mother
203, When candles are lighted on Candlemas day

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple ... a window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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