Monday, 30 April 2018

We are counted in when
others would count us out

Saint Philip (left) in a stained glass window in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Monday, 30 April 2018,

Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway.

3.30 p.m.:
The Eucharist,

Readings: Acts 8: 26-40; Psalm 22: 25-31; I John 4: 7-21; John 15: 1-8.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

We have come to the end of our road trip as priests and readers in the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe, visiting the three working, functioning, cathedrals in the diocese.

It has been a long road trip, we have learned a lot on the journey, and now it seems appropriate to celebrate the Eucharist together at the end of our journey together.

The readings we have shared are those for yesterday [29 April 2018], the Fifth Sunday of Easter, and in the reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 8: 26-40) we are reminded of two other great Biblical journeys:

The journey the unnamed Ethiopian eunuch is making from Jerusalem back through Gaza and Egypt to his home in Ethiopia; and the journey the Apostle Philip (tomorrow is the feast of Saint Philip and Saint James) is told to make from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is out of his way, quite a diversion on the road to Caesarea.

If you have used your ‘sat navs’ to get to Limerick, then to Killaloe, and finally here to Clonfert, you have probably been told a few times that your ‘sat nav’ needs to ‘recalculate’ or ‘recalibrate.’ Image how confused ‘sat navs’ would have been trying to make sense of the journeys these two men were making!

If there is a lesson in this reading that has meaning this afternoon, it is not to travel like either of these two men. Nor is it to drive like the Ethiopian, reading and leaving the work to some modern-day horses, automatic drivers, without keeping our eyes on the road (see verse 28).

But the Ethiopian is an important figure in the New Testament story of the mission of the Apostolic Church.

There is no reason to assume that he was a Gentile. He may well have been a Jew. There was a group of black Ethiopian Jews, the Falasha or Beta Israel, who migrated en masse to Israel from 1979 on.

But he could not worship fully in Jerusalem, despite his best intentions (see verse 27), because he was eunuch. He could never have been what some people describe as a ‘muscular Christian.’

In addition, he may have been discriminated against because he was black and because he was a court official – in an occupied country, the people could see any foreign courtier as a collaborator with the occupying power.

We are not told what happened to the Ethiopian court official afterwards. We are not even told his name.

What is important is not his present, nor his past. What is important is what happens now: he is baptised, he is grafted onto the vine that is Christ, he is counted in.

We matter to Christ not because of who we are or how others see us, but because we abide in Christ and because he abides in us.

Christ is Risen!

John 15: 1-8

[Jesus said:] 1 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.’

Liturgical colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter V):

Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
Grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post-Communion Prayer:

Eternal God,
in word and sacrament
we proclaim your truth in Jesus Christ and share his life.
In his strength may we ever walk in his way,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

or:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

This reflection was prepared for Monday 30 April 2018.

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

A day trip to the cathedrals in
Limerick, Killaloe and Clonfert

Inside Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick … marking its 850th anniversary this year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford; click on image for full-screen vision)

Patrick Comerford

Introduction:

The Ministry Education programme is visiting the three functioning cathedrals in the United Dioceses of Limerick and Killaloe today [30 April 2018]. In all, the diocese incorporates eight territorial names from ancient Irish dioceses: Limerick, Killaloe, Clonfert, Ardfert, Aghadoe, Emly, Kilfenora and Kilmacduagh.

This is a united diocese that spreads through three geographical provinces, Munster, Leinster and Connaught, from Laois, Offaly and East Galway on the banks of the Shannon to west Clare and the tips of the Kerry peninsulas.

However, only three cathedrals have diocesan functions today: Daint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare, and Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway. There is one cathedral chapter for all three cathedrals, and the chapter consists of: the Dean of Limerick and Ardfert (Very Revd Niall Sloane), the Dean of Killaloe and Clonfert (Very Revd Gary Paulen), Precentor (Canon Patrick Comerford), Chancellor (Canon Robert Hanna), Treasurer (Canon Jane Galbraith), the Archdeacon of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe (the Ven Simon Lumby), the Archdeacon of Killaloe, and Clonfert (the Ven Wayne Carney), and the Prebendaries of Saint Munchin's and Tulloh (vacant), Iniscattery (Canon Ruth Gill), and Athnett (vacant, but by tradition the bishop). In addition, there is the unfilled position of Dean of Kilfenora and Provost of Kilmacduagh.

1, Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick

Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick stands on the site of the O’Brien palace and the Viking meeting Thingmote (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, which is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, was founded 850 years ago in 1168 and is the oldest building in Limerick that remains in continuous daily use. But the Diocese of Limerick predates the cathedral by more than half a century.

The cathedral stands on a hill on an island that is the oldest part of Limerick. This is the much older site of the former palace of the O’Brien Kings of Thomond. The palace, in turn, had been built on the site of the Viking meeting place, or Thingmote – the Vikings’ most westerly stronghold in Europe. The Thingmote had been the centre of government in the early mediaeval Viking city when it was captured by Brian Boru. The O’Briens moved their centre of power from Killaloe to Limerick.

A century later, Bishop Gilbert of Limerick (1107-1140), as the Papal Legate, presided at the Synod of Ráth Breasail in 1111. The Diocese of Limerick was formally recognised at that synod, and it was agreed that Saint Mary’s Church would become the cathedral.

However, building work on a new cathedral did not begin until 1168, and Donal Mór O’Brien, who was fifth in descent from Brian Boru and the last King of Munster, founded the cathedral on the site of his palace on King’s Island. King Donal also built the cathedral on top of the Rock of Cashel in Co Tipperary, Saint Flannan’s Cathedral in Killaloe, and Holy Cross Abbey, Co Tipperary.

Parts of the O’Brien palace may have been incorporated into the new cathedral in Limerick, and tradition says the Romanesque great west door was the original main entrance to the O’Brien royal palace.

Most of the building work was carried out between 1180 and 1195. The cathedral was enlarged by Donat O’Brien about 1200, was completed about 1207, and was further adorned by Bishop Eustace de l’Eau (1312-1336) in the early 14th century.

Saint Mary’s Cathedral is 51.8 metres long from east to west and 27.4 metres wide from north to south (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Mary’s is 51.8 metres long from east to west, and 27.4 metres wide from north to south, measuring through the transepts. The original plan of the church was in the form of a Latin cross. Additions were made two centuries later when Stephen Wall was Bishop of Limerick (1360-1369).

The tower and stepped battlements give the cathedral a castellated appearance (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The tower, which was added in the 14th century, rises to 36.58 meters. The tower and stepped battlements give the cathedral the appearance of a castle from some angles. The design has strong indications of both Romanesque and Gothic styles of architecture with Romanesque arches and doorways and Gothic windows. But the cathedral is not pure in any one style, and the plan and elevation give the impression that the design was altered during the course of building.

The interior of the cathedral, with its thick walls and piers supporting the wooden roof, retains many mediaeval features. The walls are relatively plain, with a rubble stone surface. Yet, despite the thickness of the walls, the cathedral is remarkably bright inside, mainly because of the larger windows inserted during various Victorian restorations.

The carved misericords are a unique feature in the cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Perhaps the most famous features in Saint Mary’s are the carved misericords that were once in the choir. These misericords are unique in Ireland and are the only surviving pre-Elizabethan carvings. They probably date from 1480-1500, perhaps from the restoration work carried out by the last pre-Reformation Bishop of Limerick, John Folan (1489-1522).

In the early Church, priests stood for most service, and sitting was prohibited. The lip on the edge of each of these seats allowed the clergy to rest while the seats were tipped up, so that they appeared to be standing but were allowed to sit in act of mercy – hence misericords.

Of the 21 carvings, 16 are different, with mediaeval emblems such as a two-legged one-horned goat, a griffin, a sphinx, a wild boar, an angel, a head resembling Henry IV, a dragon biting its tail, antelopes with inter-twined necks, a swan, an eagle, the Lion of Judah with a dragon, as well as a human head wearing a ‘chaperon’ under the stall reserved for the Dean, a cockatrice or two-headed lizard holding its tail the Archdeacon of Limerick, a wyvern or two-legged dragon biting its tail for the Canon-Precentor, another wyvern for the Canon-Chancellor – the seat for the Canon-Treasurer is broken.

The chapter once consisted of the Dean, Precentor, Chancellor, Treasurer, Archdeacon, and the 11 prebendaries of Sain Munchin, Donoghmore, Ballycahane, Kilpeacon, Tullabracky, Killeedy, Dysert, Ardcanny, Croagh, Athnett or Anhid, and Effin.

The Pery arms on the stall once reserved for the Earl of Limerick as Prior of Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At the west end of the cathedral, beside the West Door, is another unusual stall, once reserved for the Earls of Limerick who also hold the anomalous and unusual title of Prior of Limerick.

The first member of the Pery family to settle in Ireland was William Pery, who died ca 1635. His descendants intermarried with the family of Edmond Sexten, Mayor of Limerick in 1535, one of the principal figures in the dissolution of the monasteries at the Reformation.

In 1543, Edmund Sexten secured a royal grant of Saint Mary’s Abbey or Priory in the Englishtown of Limerick. His grandson, also Edmund Sexten (died 1637), also a Mayor of Limerick, spent much of his life fighting battles with the city corporation. He claimed immunity from the lands of two dissolved abbeys from the jurisdiction of the mayor and corporation and claimed to two votes in elections for the mayor and councillors because he was the successor to the priors of Saint Mary’s. These grants were confirmed in a royal patent in 1609.

His only daughter, Susannah Sexten (died 1671), married Edmond Pery of Croom, Co Limerick (d.1655). Their son, Colonel Edmond Pery, successfully claimed the right as Prior of Saint Mary’s to have two votes in the common council of Limerick City.

His descendant, Edmund Sexten Pery, was Speaker in the Irish House of Commons (1771-1785) began to lay out Newtown Pery, which forms the nucleus of the modern city of Limerick. His brother, William Cecil Pery (1721-1794) was Dean of Killaloe (1772-1780), Dean of Derry (1780-1781), Bishop of Killala (1781-1784), and Bishop of Limerick (1784-1794), as well as receiving the title of Baron Glentworth (1790). His son, Edmund Pery (1758-1844), was given the additional titles of Viscount Limerick (1800), Earl of Limerick (1803), and Baron Foxford (1815).

The striking, large statue of Bishop John Jebb in the Jebb Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The cathedral is entered through the south porch, with the Pery or Glentworth Chapel belonging to the family of the Earls of Limerick on the left side and on the right the Consistory Court, which was once laid out as a mediaeval hall.

In the nave and aisles are several recesses, formerly endowed as chapels by powerful local families. These include the O’Brien Chapel, the Jebb Chapel, the Holy Spirit Chapel, the Saint James and Saint Mary Magdalene Chapel, and the former Baptistery.

The Jebb Chapel has a striking, large statue of Bishop John Jebb (1823-1833), who is regarded as a forerunner of the Oxford Movement. The Chapel of the Holy Spirit in the North Transept, has a ‘Leper’s Squint’ in the north wall.

The reredos and original high altar in the Lady Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At the East End of the Cathedral, beyond the Glentworth Choir Screen, the Lady Chapel has a redredos carved in 1907 by James Pearse, father of the 1916 rebel Patrick Pearse.

The altar in the Lady Chapel is 4 metres long (13 ft), weighs three tons and is the cathedral’s original, pre-Reformation High Altar from the cathedral. In 1651, after Oliver Cromwell captured Limerick, his parliamentary army used the cathedral as a stable – a fate suffered by other cathedrals during the Cromwellian campaign in Ireland. His troops also removed the altar and dumped it in the River Shannon. But it was recovered from the riverbed in the 1960s and was reinstated.

The altar is carved from a single block of limestone and is said to be the largest such altar in Ireland and Britain. The beautiful pale blue frontal was woven by Anglican nuns in Dublin who were inspired by motifs in the Book of Kells.

On the north side of the Lady Chapel is a large monument with effigies of Donough O’Brien, 4th Earl of Thomond, and his wife, Elizabeth FitzGerald. This monument was also badly vandalised by Cromwell’s troops. This splendid tomb is composed of three compartments, of marble of different colours, and is surrounded and supported by pillars of the Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite orders, and decorated with his arms and various trophies. Below it is the coffin lid of the founder of Saint Mary’s, Donal Mór O’Brien, who died in 1194.

The Glentworth Screen invites the visitor into the Lady Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Like many mediaeval cathedrals and churches in Ireland, Saint Mary’s benefitted or suffered – depending on your point of view – from heavy restoration work in the Victorian era. In 1856-1863, the English architect William Slater restored the east end, adding a new east window as a memorial to Augustus O’Brien Stafford. One of the many subscribers to the window was Florence Nightingale.

The Romanesque doorway at the west side is an impressive carving of chevrons and patterns, but it was severely damaged in restoration work carried out in 1895, so that only the hood and the innermost of the four orders are original.

Local tradition says that during the many sieges of Limerick soldiers used the stones around the west door to sharpen their swords and arrows, and that they left the marks that can be seen in the stonework to this day. But looking down on the river from the West Door, I could understand the strategic position of this ancient building above the banks of the River Shannon.

The Romaneque doorway at the west end of the cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

2, Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare

Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare, stands near the River Shannon on the southern end of Lough Derg (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Flannan’s Cathedral stands on Royal Parade in the centre of Killaloe, Co Clare, near the banks of the River Shannon and on the southern end of Lough Derg. It is one of the three cathedrals in the United Dioceses of Limerick and Killaloe. The Dean of Killaloe, the Very Revd Gary Paulsen, is also Dean of Kilfenora and both Dean and Provost of Kilmacduagh.

Saint Flannan’s Cathedral has been in continuous use since the 12th century, and the cathedral dates from the transition between the Romanesque and Gothic periods car 1200.

A Romanesque cathedral was built in the 1180s by Donal Mór O’Brien, who also built Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick. However, this first cathedral was destroyed soon afterwards by forces under Cathal Carrach of Connaught in a revenge attack in 1185.

A new cathedral in the Gothic style was completed on the same site, and the nave was completed ca 1225. The Romanesque doorway of the original cathedral is preserved in the south wall of its successor.

The bridge over the Shannon, linking Ballina in Co Tipperary and Killaloe in Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

However, the story of the Diocese of Killaloe predates the cathedral, and the story of Christianity in this area dates from a time long before modern diocesan boundaries were shaped.

Killaloe takes its name from Saint Molua (554-609), who is said to have founded a monastery here in the 6th century. But the cathedral is dedicated to Saint Flannan, a member of the same family as Donal Mor O’Brien, and reputedly the first Bishop of Killaloe in 639 AD.

The earlier monastic settlement founded by Saint Molua stood on a small island in the Shannon, about a half-mile downstream from the Killaloe-Ballina bridge. Later the monks moved to more spacious ground on the mainland. This monastic centre was called Cill Dálua (Killaloe), or the Church of Saint Lua.

Saint Molua was born in Ardagh, Co Limerick, where the parish church is called after him. On a visit to Munster, Saint Comhghall, Abbot of Bangor, found him asleep in a field where he was tending his father’s flocks. Recognising the boy’s holiness, he took him with him to Bangor. There he studied for the religious life and was ordained a priest.

Saint Molua is said to have founded monasteries in Ardagh, Co Limerick, at Killaloe, at Friars’ Island near Ardnacrusha, which was covered in 1930 by damming for the hydroelectric scheme, and at Cluain Fearta Molua (Kyle), north of Borris-in-Ossory, Co Laois, on the border of Leinster and Munster.

His successor, Saint Flannan, is said to have been the son of Turlough, King of Thomond. He was also Saint Molua’s nephew and his first disciple.

There is a story that one day, after he had been baking continuously for 36 hours, a heavenly light shone through the fingers of his left hand. It lit up the darkness to allow him to continue baking. On learning of this, Saint Molua decided to retire and appointed Saint Flannan as abbot in his place.

Saint Flannan was noted for his hospitality and the people of Thomond agreed that he should become their bishop. He is said to have visited Rome where he was consecrated bishop by Pope John IV (640-642).

The view of the River Shannon and the bridge from the tower of the cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

However, a former diocesan historian, Father Ignatius Murphy, who died in 1993, discussed the abundance of legends about Saint Flannan. He dismissed the mediaeval life as historically valueless and said we have very little hard information about him. He argued that Saint Flannan lived in the eighth century, possibly in West Clare, and that the prominence given to him was due to family pride and propaganda on the part of the kings of the Dal gCais in the 11th and 12th centuries.

There is no mention of Killaloe in the Irish annals until an ambitious Brian Boru made it the capital of his kingdom in Co Clare. Whatever the historical truth, the new kingdom needed its own patron saint, and Saint Flannan emerged to fill this need.

The royal patronage of the O’Brien family ensured recognition of the new diocese at the Synod of Rath Breasail in 1111, with Máel Muire Ua Dúnáin as the first Bishop of Killaloe. To make the diocese viable it incorporated at least three, earlier separate dioceses that had been founded around three abbeys: Killaloe, under Saint Molua and Saint Flannan, Roscrea, founded by Saint Crónán, who died in 665, and Scattery Island (Inis Cathaigh), founded by Saint Senan.

Portraits of former Bishops of Killaloe line the walls of the cathedral vestry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The cathedral was restored in the early 17th century by Bishop John Rider (1613-1632), and further restoration works were carried out in 1676 and 1707-1711. Bishop William Knox (1794-1803) continued these restoration projects.

The central tower was raised in the 18th and 19th centuries when the belfry and castellations were added. The turrets and battlements were added in the 1790s and a further elevation to create the belfry was made in the 1890s.

Inside Saint Flannan’s Cathedral on a Sunday morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Killaloe Cathedral is a cruciform-shaped building, with an aisleless nave, transepts, chancel, and central tower. It is 47.7 metres long, 9.15 metres wide and 11.7 metres high.

The 11 metre high three-light East Window contains stained glass by Warrington of London and shows Christ surrounded by his 12 disciples. The window dates from 1865 and commemorates Ludlow Tonson, 3rd Lord Riversdale, a Victorian Bishop of Killaloe (1839-1861).

The chancel and the nave are divided by an elaborate Gothic oak screen, with a rose window, erected in 1885. The north transept is now used as the cathedral vestry on the ground floor, with the chapter house in the room above, and stairs that lead to the tower.

Until the 19th century, the South Transept was used as the Bishop’s Court, where pleas for marriage licences were heard and penalties for many offences were pronounced. The South Transept is screened off and is now used as a side chapel and on Sunday morning for coffee after the Cathedral Eucharist.

The features in the nave of the cathedral include the Romanesque doorway, the Kilfenora High Cross, a Rune Stone and a beautifully decorated stone font.

The Romanesque doorway in the south-west corner of the nave in Saint Flannan’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The 12th century Romanesque doorway, with its richly decorated carvings, has been inserted in the south-west corner of the nave. The arch has four richly-carved orders decorated in a typical Romanesque style, with chevrons, beads, an array of animals with their tails wrapped around the hair of human heads, and fine honeysuckle ornaments. It has over 130 patterns of plants and animals, with no two alike.

There are two grave slabs at the base of this decorated doorway, reputedly marking the grave of Muircheartach O’Brien, King of Munster and self-declared High King of Ireland, who died on a pilgrimage to Killaloe in 1119. He was the great-grandson of Brian Boru, and the last of his descendants to be High King of Ireland.

The Kilfenora High Cross in the nave in Saint Flannan’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The imposing 12 ft-high 12th century High Cross was moved from Kilfenora in north-west Co Clare to Killaloe in 1821 by Bishop Richard Mant (1820-1823), an amateur archaeologist. The cross was embedded in the walls of the Gothic cathedral in the 1930s. It is free-standing once again and stands in the nave of the cathedral.

The small stone with inscriptions in Runes, a Scandinavian script, and Ogham, an old Gaelic form of lettering, was discovered 100 years ago in 1916 and dates from ca 1000. This is the only example in Ireland of a stone with both Runic and Ogham inscriptions. It may have been carved by a Viking who converted to Christianity. The Viking Runic inscription reads: Thorgrim carved this cross; the Ogham, which is on the side of the stone, reads: A blessing on Thorgrim.

The carved mediaeval stone font in the nave in Saint Flannan’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The rectangular stone font is elaborately decorated and dates from the 13th century. It is decorated with arabesque-style ornaments and on one side atypical cross and foliage design.

The font was originally a ‘table’ or ‘polypod’ font, and would have been mounted on five legs and a plinth. These are now lost, and the font was set on its present base in 1821 by Bishop Mant, at the same time as he brought Kilfenora High Cross to Killaloe.

Saint Flannan’s Oratory, seen from the top of the tower in Saint Flannan’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

On the north side of the cathedral is a small 11th century oratory or chapel that predates the cathedral. Saint Flannan’s may have been the original sanctuary of the holy abbot. Its roof is very steep, and made entirely of stone. It has a belfry, and two doorways to the east and west.

The oratory is one of a small number of Irish churches with a stone roof and is possibly the oldest surviving church in Ireland built in the Romanesque style.

The ‘No Surrender’ bell in the cathedral tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The cathedral tower houses a chime of eight bells which are rung every Sunday and regularly throughout the week. The chime of bells was installed in 1869 and was cast by M. Byrne of Saint James’s Street, Dublin.

There is also a single call bell by Fogarty of Limerick, bearing the inscription ‘No Surrender.’

The cathedral organ, with a staggering total of almost 1,500 pipes, is by Nicholson and Lord of Worcester and dates from 1900. It was restored 50 years ago in 1966, and again in 2001-2002.

A £200,000 restoration project including the repair of the Romanesque doorway and the reconstruction of the Kilfenora High Cross, was completed in 2001.

The cathedral is normally open from about 9 am until 6 pm, or until dusk in winter. There are Sunday services at 11.30 am every week. The Holy Communion is celebrated on the second and third Wednesday of each month at 10.30 am, and on saints’ days. The bells are rung every Sunday, and tours of the tower are available by prior arrangement.

The bells in Saint Flannan’s Cathedral are rung every Sunday morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

3, Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway

The west doorway of Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert ... the crowning achievement of Hiberno-Romanesque architecture (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway, is the cathedral of the Diocese of Clonfert, now part of the Dioceses of Limerick and Killaloe.

It is difficult to find the way there and the signposts to Clonfert are totally inadequate for an important site in Irish architectural and ecclesiastical heritage. Apart from the cathedral, there is nothing in Clonfert that testifies to its fame and reputation in the past.

Some say this was once a city with a celebrated school and more than 3,000 learned monks, and that it was the site of a proposed university; today, Clonfert is little more than a townland.

Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert ... stands in the grounds of a monastery founded in 563 by Saint Brendan the Navigator (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The cathedral stands in the grounds of the monastery founded in the year 563 by Saint Brendan the Navigator, who is said to be buried in Clonfert. His monastery flourished for many centuries, even through times of great Viking raids – it was burnt down in 1016, 1164, and again in 1179. Despite these raids, Clonfert was one of Ireland’s great monastic schools and it became the launching pad for some of some of the great Irish missionary endeavours in Europe.

Despite its early foundations, the earliest part of the cathedral dates from around 1180, and most authorities now agree that the present building dates from the close of the 12th century when the church was rebuilt as a small Romanesque Cathedral.

The west doorway is the crowning achievement of Hiberno-Romanesque architecture. It is in eight orders, and has a sturdy variety of motifs, including animal heads, foliage and human heads. Many authorities have said that no other doorway exhibits such ‘fertility of invention and beauty of design.’

There is hardly a square inch of this unique doorway where the sculptor’s tool has not been at work. The variety of animals’ heads would suggest Scandinavian and Norman-French influences. Above the doorway, a pointed hood encloses triangles alternating with bizarre human heads, and below is an arcade enclosing more human heads.

The early 13th century east window in the chancel are said to be among the best late Romanesque windows. This window is described in Brash’s Ecclesiastical Architecture of Ireland, which says ‘the design of this window Is exceedingly chaste and beautiful, the mouldings superior to anything I have seen either of ancient or modem times.’

A bare-breasted mermaid carrying a mirror and combing her hair ... a figure in the 15th century chancel arch in Clonfert Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

During 15th century restoration work, the present Gothic chancel arch took the place of the original transitional arch and the Gothic windows were inserted in the chancel walls. This 15th century chancel arch is decorated with angels, a rosette and on the south side with a bare-breasted mermaid carrying a mirror and combing her hair – a reminder of the story that Saint Brendan, on one of his voyages, preached to the creatures of the sea. On the opposite side of the arch is a Celtic sculpture showing a Celtic knot like an anchor chain.

The supporting arches of the tower at the west end of the church are also decorated with 15th century heads, and the innermost order of the Romanesque doorway was also inserted at this time. The sacristy also dates from the 15th century.

Other features include the cathedral’s large 15th century carved stone font and a number of gravestones, some with marks of great antiquity and one bearing Celtic lettering in Latin across a Celtic cross.

Originally there were two transepts; the Romanesque south transept has long been in ruins and is roofless, while the north transept has disappeared altogether.

After the Caroline restoration, the cathedral was restored by Bishop Edward Wolley in 1664. The bishop’s throne of carved oak recalls Bishop Matthew Young, Bishop of Clonfert 1799-1800. The figures in the carved oak pulpit represent the Four Evangelists; the Communion Rail commemorates Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee; four stained glass windows in the chancel represent the Four Evangelists, a pair of stained glass windows represents Saint Peter and Saint Paul, a two-light window portrays King David and King Solomon, and a single-light window represents the Good Shepherd.

When the Revd Robert McLarney became Rector of Clonfert in 1882, he said: the cathedral was ‘literally the abode of the rat, the bat and the beetle. Noisome insects crawled all over the place. The walls were covered with ugly modem plaster and were reeking with damp; the atmosphere of the cathedral resembled that of a charnel house. The floor was greatly decayed. Small trees and shrubs grew on the roof which leaked badly.’

Clonfert Cathedral was included in the 2000 World Monuments’ Watch by the World Monuments’ Fund, which says the soft sandstone structure had weathered severely, and prior conservation efforts, which did not fully address all the building’s problems, as well as substantial biological growth, have compounded the deterioration.

The five other cathedrals in the dioceses

4, Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Ardfert, Co Kerry:

Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Ardfert, Co Kerry … a 12th century cathedral with a story dating back to the sixth century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Ardfert, Co Kerry, the seat of the Diocese of Ardfert from 1117, was destroyed by fire in 1641.

Saint Brendan is said to have founded a monastery at Ardfert in the sixth century. Although the Synod of Ráth Breasail in 1111 had designated Ratass Church, near Tralee, as the cathedral for a diocese in Kerry, it was moved to Ardfert by 1117. The diocese later renamed Ardfert and Aghadoe, although it is not clear whether Aghadoe was ever a separate diocese with its own cathedral.

The site at Ardfert, near Tralee, has three mediaeval church ruins, the main and earliest building dating from the 12th century. In the churchyard are two other churches, Temple Na Hoe dating from the 12th century and Temple Na Griffin dating from the 15th century.

The main church has an ogham stone and a number of early Christian and mediaeval grave slabs. In the 15th century, a small transept was added and battlements were built.

The cathedral roof was destroyed during the 1641 Rebellion, but the south transept was re-roofed and extended later in the 17th century. The Diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe was united with the Diocese of Limerick from 1663 and the former cathedral became a parish church.

A new Church of Ireland parish church opened in 1871, when the cathedral’s roof was removed again. With the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland that year, Ardfert Cathedral was among the disused historic sites transferred to what is now the Office of Public Works. Part of the transept has been restored, and houses the entrance and a gift shop.

5, Aghadoe, Co Kerry

The church ruins at Aghadoe overlook the Lakes of Killarney and stand less than 5 km north-west of Killarney, Co Kerry. Aghadoe may have been the site of a church as early as the seventh century, but the surviving remains of a stone structure date from the 11th and 12th centuries.

The site has also been associated with the fifth century missionary Saint Abban, but seventh century ogham stones are the first evidence of Aghadoe being used as a church site. According to legend, Saint Finian founded a monastery at Aghadoe in the sixth or seventh century.

The first written record of a monastery dates from 939 AD in the Annals of Innisfallen, which refer to Aghadoe as the ‘Old Abbey.’ The O Dononoghue clan tried to forcible move the centre of the diocese in Kerry from Ardfert to Agahadoe in 1158, but this was a military and political disaster, and there is no historical reason to refer to the ruins at Aghadoe as a cathedral. Aghadoe served as a parish church and the archdeacon was the rector. The annals record that the High Cross of Aghadoe was blown down by a strong wind in 1282.

The town of Aghadoe was sacked by Cromwellian forces in the 1650s forces. By 1740, Aghadoe was no longer listed as an active parish and had ceased to function.

6, Saint Alibeus’s Cathedral, Emly, Co Tipperary:

The Cross of Saint Ailbe in the churchyard at Emly, which marks the site of the former Cathedral of Saint Alibeus, which was dismantled by the Church of Ireland in 1877 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

In classical times, the geographer Ptolemy referred to Emly Imlagh as one of the three principal towns of Ireland in the second century. Saint Ailbe of Emly, or Saint Alibeus, was one of the four reputedly pre-Patrician saints in Ireland, alongside Saint Declan of Ardmore, Saint Ciaran or Abban of Seir Kieran, and Saint Ibar of Wexford. In the life of Saint Declan, Saint Ailbe is secundus Patricius et patronus Mumenie, ‘a second Patrick and Patron of Munster.’

Saint Ailbe, the first abbot, was buried in the abbey. His successors obtained many privileges for the inhabitants. The monastery at Emly became the seat of the Diocese of Emly in 1111 at the Synod of Ráth Breasail, and Emly was the metropolitan see for the Province of Munster until it was supplanted by Cashel in 1152 at the Synod of Kells.

The last Bishop of Emly, Raymund de Burgh, died in 1562, and the see remained vacant until 1568, when Emly was united the Diocese of Cashel. The cathedral was rebuilt in 1611-1615.

But the cathedral was abandoned in 1821, and services were then held in the rectory until a new cathedral was built by the Pain brothers in 1824-1827. In the 19th century, the cathedral still had a full panoply of chapter members, including a Dean, Precentor, Chancellor, Treasurer, Archdeacon and four prebendaries (Dollardstown, Killenellick, Doon and Lattin).

The cathedral was dismantled in 1877, and part of the stonework was used to build a new church at Monard.

7, Saint Fachan’s Cathedral, Kilfenora, Co Clare:

The East End of Saint Fachan’s Cathedral in Kilfenora, Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Fachan’s Cathedral, Kilfenora, is in the Burren in Co Clare, about 28 km from Ennis and 15 km from Ennistymon. Saint Fachan founded a church at Kilfenora in the sixth century. The first stone church was burned down in 1055 by Murchad O'Brien.It was rebuilt in 1056-1058, was plundered in 1079 and was destroyed by an accidental fire in 1100.

In 1152, the Synod of Kells established the Diocese of Kilfenora, corresponding to the ancient territory of Corcomroe, although a bishop is not recorded until 1189. The present cathedral dates from 1189-1200. It was built in the so-called transitional style with a nave and a chancel. The nave and chancel in the cathedral were later separated and by 1839, ‘36 feet of the east end’ were roofless.

The diocese was one of the poorest in Ireland, with only 13 parishes. In the Church of Ireland, Kilfenora was merged in turn with the Diocese of Limerick (1606-1607), the Diocese of Tuam (1617-1742), Clonfert (1742-1752), Killaloe (1752-1976) and again with Limerick (since 1976).

The Dean of Kilfenora is also the Provost of Kilmacduagh.

8, Saint Colman’s Cathedral, Kilmacduagh, Co Galway:

The ruins of Saint Colman’s Cathedral, Kilmacduagh, are about 6 km south-west of Gort, Co Galway, beside a 34 metre tall round tower. The monastery was founded by Saint Colman in the seventh century, and the cathedral dates from the 11th and 12th centuries.

The Diocese of Kilmacduagh was established at the Synod of Kells in 1152. The cathedral had fallen into ruins in by the mid-16th century. In the Church of Ireland, the Diocese of Kilmacduagh was united with Clonfert in 1625. Under the Church Temporalities (Ireland) Act 1833, the united see became part of the Diocese of Killaloe and Clonfert in 1834. Since 1976, Kilmacduagh has been part of the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe. The Dean of Kilfenora is also the Provost of Kilmacduagh.

In the Roman Catholic Church, Kilmacduagh continued as a separate diocese until 1750, when Pope Benedict XIV decreed that it to be united with Kilfenora. Since Kilmacduagh was in the ecclesiastical province of Tuam and Kilfenora was in the Province of Cashel, it was arranged that the ordinary of the united dioceses was to be alternately bishop of one diocese and apostolic administrator of the other. The first holder of this unusual arrangement was Peter Kilkelly.

In 1883, Kilmacduagh was united with Galway. Since that date, Kilfenora has been administered by the Bishop of Galway as Apostolic Vicar, directly under the Pope.

Updated: 23 July 2018 (with image of Kilfenora Cathedral and link to posting on Kilfenora Cathedral); 24 September 2018 (with image from the site of Emly Cathedral and link to posting on Emly Cathedral).

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 6 May 2018,
Sixth Sunday of Easter

‘Almighty God, whose will it is that the earth and the sea should bear fruit in due season’ … spring fruit ripening on the trees in Thessaloniki earlier this month (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Next Sunday, 6 May 2018, is the Sixth Sunday of Easter.

The Readings in the Revised Common Lectionary are: Acts 10: 44-48 or Isaiah 45: 11-13, 18-19; Psalm 98; I John 4: 7-10; John 15: 9-17.

There is a direct link to the readings HERE.

Next Sunday is also known as Rogation Sunday. This is the day when the Church has traditionally offered prayer for God’s blessings on the fruits of the earth and the labours of those who produce our food. The word ‘rogation’ comes from the Latin rogare, ‘to ask.’

Historically, the three Rogation Days, the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Day, were a period of fasting and abstinence, beseeching God’s blessing on the crops for a bountiful harvest. Many people in our parishes today still directly derive all or part of their livelihood from the production of food, and it is good to be reminded of our dependence on them and of our responsibility for the environment.

The traditional collect on Rogation Days prays:

Almighty God,
whose will it is that the earth and the sea
should bear fruit in due season:
Bless the labours of those who work on land and sea,
grant us a good harvest
and the grace always to rejoice in your fatherly care;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This posting looks at the first set of Lectionary readings for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, as well as offering liturgical resources and suggestions for hymns for next Sunday.

The White-Robed Army of Martyrs on the walls of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna … from left to right, Cornelius is the fifth white-robed figure (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Acts 10: 44-48:

The Apostle Peter has been told to visit Cornelius, a Roman centurion in the Cohors II Italica Civium Romanorum, stationed in Caesarea. Both men have had visions. In Saint Peter’s case, he has been advised not to worry about what meat a Jew can eat according to the Mosaic law, and not to worry whether he can visit a Gentile home.

We have been told Saint Peter has visited Cornelius and his household, where ‘many had assembled’ (verse 27). There Peter tells Cornelius that God has shown him not to distinguish between Jews and Gentiles (verse 28).

For his part, Cornelius, we are told, is a God-fearing man who prays and is full of good works and deeds of alms. Cornelius becomes one of the first Gentile converts to Christianity.

In his vision, an angel tells Cornelius his prayers have been heard, and tells him to send the men of his household to Joppa, where they will find Simon Peter, who is living there with a tanner named Simon (Acts 10:5 ff).

Saint Peter accompanies Cornelius’s men back to Caesarea, a distance of 60 or 70 km. There, when Cornelius meets Simon Peter, he falls at his feet, but Simon Peter raises the centurion and the two men share their visions.

Cornelius tells Saint Peter of his vision, and of the angel who told him to send for Saint Peter. He says: ‘So now all of us are here in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has commanded you to say’ (verse 33).

Saint Peter summarises Christ’s earthly ministry: at his Baptism, the Father anointed [Christ] ... with the Holy Spirit and with power’ (verse 38); the apostles witnessed ‘all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem’ (verse 39), he was crucified, but the Father ‘raised him ... and allowed him to appear’ (verse 40) in the flesh to those chosen by God. Christ commanded them to spread the good news, and to testify that he is to judge the living and the dead (verse 42), that he is the one of whom the Old Testament prophets spoke: ‘everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins’ (verse 43).

Now, in this reading, the Holy Spirit comes as a gift on all present, ‘even on the Gentiles.’ This is to the surprise of the Jewish Christians ‘who had come with Peter.’ The pouring out of the Spirit and Baptism are closely associated in Acts, and Baptism follows the coming of the Spirit. Saint Peter points out how the Jewish Christians received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, so now that these Gentiles have received the Spirit, surely they too should be baptised. And so, they are baptised, though not by Saint Peter but under his authority (verse 48).

During his stay, Saint Peter also presumably ate with these Gentile. In the passage that follows (Acts 11:1-18), Saint Peter returns to Jerusalem, where he defends his actions. He recalls how Christ had told them that they would receive the Holy Spirit. God has given the Gentiles ‘the same gift that he gave us when we believed,’ so who was he to stand in God’s way? Those present praised God, saying, ‘Then God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that leads to [eternal] life.’

The baptism of Cornelius and his household is an important event in the history of the early Church, along with the conversion and baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch, which we read about the previous Sunday. The controversy about Gentile conversion is discussed later at the Council of Jerusalem, where the Church agrees that Gentiles who become Christians do not need to conform to Jewish requirements, including circumcision (see Acts 15).

Saint Peter takes many risks in deciding to accept Cornelius and his household into the family of faith and to eat with gentiles. Later, when Saint Peter appears to step back and decides not to eat with Gentiles in Antioch, the Apostle Paul publicly rebukes him for hypocrisy that led Barnabas astray (see Galatians 2: 11-14).

Traditions say Cornelius later became the first Bishop of Caesarea or the Bishop of Scepsis in Mysia. But he too took risks in being baptised.

What risks does Cornelius take in this reading?

The symbol of office of a centurion was the vine staff. Centurions were not only professional military officers, but also law enforcers and tax collectors.

In the early Church, a Christian was prohibited from being in the army. Cornelius now risks losing his position, his social status, and his income. All his family are put at risk too, and so this conversion has implications for his household, his family and for generations to come.

What risks are we being challenged to take in the Gospel reading, in our own Baptismal promises?

The Baptismal font in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 98:

Many of the themes in the reading in Acts can be found in Psalm 98. In this Psalm, we are invited to sing ‘a new song’ marking new evidence of God’s rule. With truth, or his right hand, and power, he has won the victory for his people Israel. Note how the word victory word occurs three times in the first three verses.

God has triumphed over all who seek to overthrow his kingdom. All peoples can see that Israel is right in trusting him. Then, as when the people groaned in their oppression in Egypt (see Exodus 2: 24), he recalls his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and his promise to lead them and protect them. All peoples will see his saving acts.

The earth, sea, floods, hills and all creation are to acknowledge God’s rule and be joyful. People of all lands are invited to join in. God’s coming to judge the world will be a truly marvellous event. He will judge us, but his judgement will be perfectly fair and equitable, for he is righteous.

A carved relief of Nike, the goddess of victory, on a paved street in Ephesus … but the author of I John writes to the Church in Ephesus about more important signs of victory (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I John 5: 1-6:

One of the best-known symbols of globalisation is the Nike Swoosh logo. You find it on tracksuits, on sweatshirts, on trainers, on sneakers, on T-shirts, all over the world. There must be very few people who do not recognise the Nike logo, which has been sported by the likes of Michael Jordan, Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova and Venus and Serena Williams.

The company takes its name from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, and the ‘Swoosh’ was designed in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student at Portland State University. She met Phil Knight while he was teaching accounting classes and she started doing some freelance work for his company, Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS). BRS needed a new brand for a new line of athletic footwear it was preparing to introduce in 1972. Knight approached Davidson for some design ideas, and she agreed to provide them – at $2 an hour.

Carolyn Davidson quickly presented Knight and others at BRS with a number of designs, and they finally selected the mark now known globally as the Nike Swoosh – an abstract outline of an angel’s wing that some people think looks more like a checkmark or the tick used on some essays to indicate a positive mark.

The company first used the logo as its brand in 1971, when the word ‘Nike’ was printed in orange over. The logo has been used on sports shoes since then, and is now so well-recognised all over the world, even by little children, that the company name itself is, perhaps, superfluous.

Carolyn Davidson’s bill for her work came to $35. Mind you, 12 years later, in 1983, Knight gave Davidson a gold Swoosh ring and an envelope filled with Nike stock to express his gratitude. It is surprising to realise, therefore, that Carolyn Davidson’s design was not registered as a trademark until 1995.

A logo representing victory is an appropriate and meaningful symbol for a company that manufactures and sells running shoes. The logo is used in tandem with the slogan, ‘Just do it’ and the branding campaign was so successful in communicating to their target market that the meaning for the logo evolved into a battle cry and the way of life for an entire generation. A small symbol has brought victorious success to a once-small company.

What is said to be one of the earliest inspirations for the Nike tick sign is a carved relief of Nike, the goddess of victory, on a paved street in Ephesus.

But when Saint John was writing to the Church in Ephesus, he expressed very different ideas about victory to his company of little children as he discussed love and told them to ‘just do it.’

In this reading (I John 5: 1-16), we are reminded of the connection between faith and love, the two great themes of this epistle, and to victorious faith leading to eternal life. I John talks about a very different type of victory than the victories associated with commercial branding, globalisation and the financial glory associated with brand names and over-commercialised sport. Instead, the writer emphasises the victories associated with faith and love ... faith in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the love of God and of one another that should be the victorious tick sign of Christians.

As we come to the end of reading Saint John’s first letter, we are reminded that everyone who believes in Jesus as Christ and the Son of God is a child of God too. And so, if we believe in God and in Christ as his Son, we should love God and love his children, and this is the imperative for Christians to love one another.

But how do we know that we are doing this and showing that love? We know that know that we truly love the children of God when we love God and obey his commandments. Gestures of charity are simply not good enough – there must be a direct connection between loving others and living a life of holiness and sanctity.

But unlike the traditional observation and codification of the commandments, with their heavy-laden and burdensome listings and enumerations, the author tells us the love of God and love of others is not a great burden for the Christian. On the other hand, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer reminds us, there is no cheap grace, there is a cost to discipleship. Nobody said it was going to be easy being a Christian. But, because we are children of God, we know that our faith is a victory (Nίκη) that conquers the world. Christ has overcome the world, and our faith in him enables us to conquer the world.

The author of I John then refers to the baptism (water) and the death (blood) of Christ, or, perhaps, to both the death of Christ on the cross, when water mingled with his blood as they flowed from his side, and the Eucharist.

But water is also the symbol of the Spirit in the Johannine writings: think of the wedding at Cana or the conversations Jesus had with the Samaritan woman at the Well and Nicodemus.

Raymond Browne suggests that the breakaway group in the Church in Ephesus may have emphasised the baptism of Jesus, where water and the Spirit are so closely linked, as the saving moment in the life of Christ. But here John shifts the emphasis to Christ’s death and Resurrection.

Here I John is returning to the idea that the Spirit, present in us as Christians through our Baptism, is the supreme witness to Christ, present in us as Christians, through our Baptism.

‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend’ … John 15: 13 quoted on the World War I memorial in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 9-17:

[Jesus said:] 9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.’

Sunday morning’s Gospel story is familiar to many of us because of the way one verse in it is often quoted on war memorials in our churches and cathedral: ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friend’ (John 15: 13).

In this Gospel reading, however, Christ is talking about death and victory in a very different context, as he continues the theme of us abiding in him and he abiding in us, which we discussed last week.

We are listening to him these Sundays as he continues to prepare his disciples for his physical departure from them. In the reading on the previous Sunday, he has told us that he is the ‘true vine’ (see John 15: 1), and that we are the fruit and the branches. We are to represent him in the world and to present him to the world, bearing fruit and acting in his name.

Now he tells us that he loves them us the Father loves him. We are to continue to love him, by being obedient to his commandments. He is obedient, even to death on the cross. He continues to be in a loving relationship with the Father. This kind of love leads to joy, ultimate joy. Christ, who is the model for our behaviour, loves us so much that he gave his life for us, his friends.

In the Old Testament, it is an honour to be a servant of God. But a servant is not normally admitted to the counsel of the master, while friends are. Now Christ tells the disciples that they know all that the Father has told him. Christ has taken the initiative in choosing us and he appoints us to seek new disciples who will have a deep and lasting commitment to him.

But this deep and lasting commitment to Christ is best expressed and found in the way that we love one another (verse 17).

‘I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last’ (John 15: 16) … fruit on a market stall in Rome (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Resources:

Liturgical colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (the Sixth Sunday of Easter):

God our redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
Grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us to eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God our Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life:
May we also thirst for you,
the spring of life and source of goodness,
through him who is alive and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

or:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

‘As you have blessed the fruit of our labour in this Eucharist, so we ask you to give all your children their daily bread’ (the Post-Communion Prayer, Rogation Days) … fruit ripening on lemon trees in Platanes near Rethymnon on the Greek island of Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Additional resources (Rogation Days):

The Collect (Rogation Days):

Almighty God and Father,
you have so ordered our life
that we are dependent on one another:
Prosper those engaged in commerce and industry
and direct their minds and hands
that they may rightly use your gifts in the service of others;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Post-Communion Prayer (Rogation Days):

God our creator,
you give seed for us to sow and bread for us to eat.
As you have blessed the fruit of our labour in this Eucharist,
so we ask you to give all your children their daily bread,
that the world may praise you for your goodness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

‘Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody. With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord’ (Psalm 98: 5-6) … a window in the North Aisle of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Suggested Hymns:

The hymns suggested for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year B), in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

Acts 10: 44-48:

298, Filled with the Spirit’s power, with one accord
299, Holy Spirit, come, confirm us
92, How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
456, Lord, you give the great commission
306, O Spirit of the living God

Isaiah 45: 11-13, 18-19:

581, I, the Lord of sea and sky

Psalm 98:

146, A great and mighty wonder
125, Hail to the Lord’s anointed
166, Joy to the world, the Lord is come
705, New songs of celebration render
710, Sing to God new songs of worship
369, Songs of praise the angels sang

I John 5: 1-6:

557, Rock of ages, cleft for me
528, The Church’s one foundation

John 15: 9-17:

515, ‘A new commandment I give unto you’
516, Belovèd, let us love: love is of God
523, Help us to help each other, Lord
421, I come with joy, a child of God
495, Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love
525, Let there be love shared among us
75, Lord, dismiss us with your blessing
456, Lord, you give the great commission
231, My song is love unknown
315, ‘This is my will, my one command’
530, Ubi caritas et amor
451, We come as guests invited
627, What a friend we have in Jesus

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Readings, hymns and
sermon ideas for
Sunday 29 April 2018,
Fifth Sunday of Easter

The True Vine ... an icon in the parish church in Piskopianó in the mountains east of Iraklion in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Next Sunday, 29 April 2018, is the Fifth Sunday of Easter. The readings in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) for this Sunday are: Acts 8: 26-40 or Deuteronomy 4: 32-40; Psalm 22: 25-31; I John 4: 7-21; and John 15: 1-8.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

Like the theme of the Good Shepherd the previous Sunday [Easter IV, 22 April 2018], the theme in this Sunday’s Gospel reading, Christ as the True Vine, may be so familiar to many of us and to many people in church, that it may be difficult to find an original and challenging approach to this Gospel reading.

This posting looks at the Gospel reading for next Sunday, with reflections too on the other readings that provide context for the Gospel reading and alternative ideas for sermons.

‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower’ (John 15: 1) ... a small vineyard in Platanes, near Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 1-8

[Jesus said:] 1 ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.’

A Chinese Bible open at the beginning of John 15 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Introduction:

The Gospel story talks about Christ as the true vine, and invites us to abide in him as he abides in us. The Prayer of Humble Access prays ‘that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us.’

Communities of faith have often excluded people who are then excluded from worshipping God. The Ethiopian eunuch in the first reading (Acts 8: 26-40) is excluded as a eunuch, but perhaps also because he was black, or a foreigner, or a court official. He can have no heirs, yet he becomes an heir to the kingdom.

The Psalmist (Psalm 22: 25-31) is reminded that no matter how rejected he feels, that the poor shall eat and be satisfied, and all posterity, even those not yet born, will serve God.

In our Epistle reading (I John 4: 7-21), we are reminded that God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God.

The Prayer of Humble Access prays ‘that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us’

Acts 8: 26-40:

As we continue to read from the Acts of the Apostles, we have moved to that part where Saint Luke recounts the spread of the Good News to non-Jews in the Middle East. He has just recalled how the Gospel was brought to the Samaritans, who were rejected because they had a different principal place of worship, scriptural tradition, and a questionable ethnic background (see John 4: 1-42).

This morning, we hear how the Good News is brought to another outcast, a eunuch from Ethiopia.

Ethiopia was then regarded as at being at the extreme limits of the known world. But ‘an angel of the Lord,’ or an agent of God, tells Philip to seek out the eunuch in Gaza, at the edges of the Sinai Peninsula.

Saint Philip has already between an intermediary when some Greeks wish to see Jesus on Palm Sunday, but feel they have been pushed to the margins and excluded by the crowd (see John 12: 20-22).

The eunuch is the trusted court official of Candace, the Queen of Ethiopia, and her finance minister, and now he is on his way home. Like the Greeks who were in Jerusalem for the Festival and who wanted to see Jesus, this Ethiopian has been in Jerusalem to worship. He is probably an admirer of Judaism, perhaps he was even born a Jew or has a Jewish background.

But his physical condition might raise questions about how he managed even to enter the Court of the Gentiles in Jerusalem. Eunuchs could have no heirs and therefore had no loyalties. Because of this, they made good servants, slaves, and advisers. But they were not welcome in the kingdom, even if they worshipped God: ‘No one whose testicles are crushed or whose penis is cut off shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord’ (Deuteronomy 23: 1). Like the Greeks Philip has met, was he too excluded and pushed to the margins at the Festival?

In the ancient world, people always read aloud, so Philip hears the Ethiopian courtier reading part of the Servant Song in Isaiah 53: 7-8, about the Suffering Servant and how the sheep will take on the suffering without a word:

‘Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and like a lamb silent before its shearer,
so he does not open his mouth.
In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.’

Philip rushes up and asks the Ethiopian whether he understands what he is reading. Philip proclaims the Good News to the eunuch by showing how the prophecies in the Old Testament are fulfilled in Christ.

The translation of this passage in the New International Version (NIV) translation infers Isaiah 53 speaks of the suffering one whose unjust death means they leave no descendants. But there is another, later, passage where Isaiah says:

Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,
‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people’;
and do not let no eunuch say,
‘I am just a dry tree.’
For thus says the Lord:
To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give, in my house within my walls,
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off (Isaiah 56: 3-5).

Isaiah’s vision is radical. He says that those people who are not seen as part of the kingdom are counted in when God brings in new kingdom. Creation will be reformed and this reign of God will be universal. All people will worship God, his kingdom will embrace the whole of the cosmos – and even eunuchs, those without heirs, will become heirs of the kingdom themselves.

In this mission story, Saint Philip is sent out and goes where God sends him. Mission involves going outside the Church, to the boundaries of religious norms and conventions. Saint Philip heads out beyond Jerusalem, out into the wilderness. The conversation between Philip and the Ethiopian is between two people on an equal footing, going together in the same direction.

Saint Philip baptises the man, but Saint Luke does not mention the coming of the Holy Spirit on him. For Saint Luke, the Spirit comes in the context of the community, the Church. This is the first individual baptism described after the first Easter, and it is interesting that this reading makes no mention of baptism being an entrance into any community. Rather, it is a pure acceptance of God’s gift through the crucifixion and a part of being sent out to share the good news.

Saint Philip is then spirited away, as was Elijah (see II Kings 2). Philip and the eunuch did not each other again, as far as we know. Philip next finds himself in Azotus or Ashdod, a port and entry point to the wider Roman world. There he proclaims the good news throughout the region, a Greek-speaking Gentile area, until he arrives home in Caesarea.

Psalm 22: 23-31

Psalm 22, as a whole, is a prayer for deliverance from illness. The psalmist, who is gravely ill, feels that God has forsaken him. In the past, God has helped his people (verses 4-5), and now he asks God to help him. He goes on to say that he will offer thanksgiving in assembly of the community, in the Temple (verse 22).

Now God hears the cry of the poor and the afflicted (verse 26). He provides perpetual life for the poor those who live in awe of him. May all people everywhere turn to God and worship him (verse 27). God is Lord of all (verse 28). All mortals, all who die or go down to the dust (verse 29), worship God. The psalmist says he will live following God’s ways, and so will his offspring. They will be God’s for ever, and will tell future generations about God’s saving deeds.

Love is … more than a box of chocolates (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

I John 4: 7-21

God is love, and this is seen in God sending his Son.

Romantic art and literature from the 19th century on, has conditioned us to think of love as a feeling, a heart-felt feeling associated with desire and intimacy. But this is often self-centred, and effectively selfish: what do I want? Who do I want to be with? Who can meet my needs and desires and support my ambitions?

Saint John is talking here about a more profound type of love – a love that is not expressed in Valentine’s cards or in romantic rhymes and songs, in a box of heart-shaped chocolates, a love that is not a mere inner disposition of emotions, but love that is expressed in choice and action, love that is total self-giving. In the incarnation we see God’s total self-giving and self-emptying.

Self-giving love means identifying with people. There is a well-known joke that an Irish way of proposing is to ask: Would you like to be buried with my people? But behind the humour is the truth that love involves complete identification of the lover with the loved. God totally identifies with us to the point that Christ is born among us, lives and dies among us, is buried with us ... and then the triumph of his love is found in the Resurrection.

God totally identifies with us in the incarnation. And the response we are asked to make to the giving of God’s love is love others.

The author of I John vigorously defends the claims of the incarnation against the gnostic teachings of the separatists in Ephesus. Christ is neither an illusion, an appearance or a manifestation, nor is he a great teacher or prophet, but he is the incarnate, only-begotten Son of God. But, by obeying Christ’s command to love one another, we too become the adopted children of God.

The only way anyone can see that we know God is when they see how we love. Our love for others is as close as we can come on earth to union with the God we cannot see.

The group who had broken away from the Johannine community in Ephesus claimed special knowledge (gnosis) and visions of God, and their failure to love the other members of the community showed that they did not love God.

The Holy Spirit testifies that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has revealed his Father as love. When his love is perfected or matured in us, there is no need for fear any more, and all fear is dismissed and cast aside. The gift of the Holy Spirit is our pledge of union with God.

Returning to the supreme example of love, the author of I John testifies to the reality of the sending of the Son as Saviour.

Love originates in God. A failure to love is the visible evidence of a breach with the unseen God, and a violation of his commandments.

Verse 21, which concludes this section, repeats once again the very foundation of the Christian emphasis on the role of love in the spiritual life: if we love God then we must love one another.

‘Fruit of the vine and work of human hands. It will become our spiritual drink’ … grapes ripening on a vine in Platanes, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 1-8

The use of the phrase ‘I AM’ (ἐγώ εἰμι, ego eimi) is distinctive to the Fourth Gospel. It is significant within Jewish theology, for it is the name by which the God of the Exodus reveals himself to Moses as he commissions Moses to set the Exodus events in motion (see Exodus 36).

Ego eimi
(ἐγώ εἰμί), ‘I AM,’ or ‘I exist,’ is the first person singular present tense of the verb ‘to be’ in ancient Greek, and its use of this phrase in some parts of Saint John’s Gospel is rich with theological significance.

When used as a copula, with a predicate, for example ‘I am Patrick,’ then the usage is equivalent to English. When used alone, without a predicate, as in ‘I am,’ ‘he is,’ ‘they are,’ then the usage typically means ‘I exist’ and so on.

In Saint John’s Gospel, Christ says ‘I am’ (eimi) 45 times, including those occasions when other people quote Christ’s words. On 24 occasions, these are emphatic, explicitly including the pronoun ‘I’ (ego eimi), which is not necessary in Greek grammar. These emphatic references can be sub-divided into ‘Absolute’ or ‘Predicate’ statements.

Ego eimi is used with a nominative predicate seven times in the Gospel:

● I am the bread of life (John 6: 35).
● I am the light of the world (John 8:12).
● I am the gate for the sheep (John 10: 7).
● I am the good shepherd (John 10: 11).
● I am the resurrection and the life (John 11: 25).
● I am the way, and the truth, and the life (John 14: 6).
● I am the true vine (John 15: 1).

The number of ‘I AM’ sayings is a literary device, for the number seven was regarded as the perfect number, and so indicates that Christ is the perfect revelation. In a similar way, there are also ‘seven signs’ in this Gospel.

Most of the images in the ‘I AM’ sayings have their roots in the Hebrew Bible, where they are used primarily for God:

The bread of life or bread from heaven (see Exodus 16; Numbers 11: 6-9; Psalm 78: 24; Isaiah 55: 1-3; Nehemiah 9: 15; II Maccabees 2: 5-8).

The light of the world (see Exodus 13: 21-22; Isaiah 42: 6-7; Psalm 97:4).

The good shepherd (see Ezekiel 34: 1-41; Genesis 48: 15; Genesis 49: 24; Psalm 23: 1-4; Psalm 80: 1; Psalm 100: 3-4; Micah 7: 14).

The resurrection and the life (see Daniel 12: 2; Psalm 56: 13; II Maccabees 7: 1-38).

The way (see Exodus 33: 13; Psalm 25: 4; Psalm 27: 11; Psalm 86: 11; Psalm 119: 59; Isaiah 40: 3; 62: 10).

The truth (see I Kings 17: 4; Psalm 25: 5; Psalm 43: 3; Psalm 86: 11; Psalm 119: 160; Isaiah 45: 19).

The vine (see Isaiah 5: 1-7; Psalm 80: 9-17; Jeremiah 2: 21; Ezekiel 17: 5-10).

Poetically, the bread and the vine open and close these seven ‘I AM’ sayings.

In the Cathedral Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in some of the Eucharistic texts in the Church of England, and in other liturgical traditions, there is an adaptation of traditional Jewish table-blessings, drawn in turn from the Bible, that is said at the Taking of the Bread and Wine:

Priest: Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation:
through your goodness we have this bread to offer,
which earth has given and human hands have made (Ecclesiastes 3: 13-14).
It will become for us the bread of life (John 6: 35).
All: Blessed be God forever (Psalm 68: 36).

Priest: Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation:
through your goodness we have this wine to offer,
fruit of the vine and work of human hands.
It will become our spiritual drink (Luke 22: 17-18).

All: Blessed be God forever (Psalm 68: 36).

[See also Common Worship (Church of England), p 291.]

Our openness to Christ present in the bread and the wine of the Eucharist is at the beginning and the end of our acceptance of who Christ is for us.

On the Sunday passed, we have read about Christ as the Good Shepherd. Next Sunday, we hear a theological reflection on God as vine grower.

God in Christ Jesus is the source of living water, he is the bread of heaven that gives life, and he is also the vine and we are his branches.

This passage comes after Christ speaks of his suffering, death and resurrection and promises to return and to not leave his followers alone. This passage, like the good shepherd passage, is a teaching about life in God and in Christ.

The image is of God the vine grower and the gardener. Christ is the vine and we are branches bearing fruit. The vine is trimmed and this has eschatological implications. But this is not the of the teaching here. Instead, the image offered here is one of abiding and remaining. The image of vine grower, the vineyard, the vine and the branches is one about the living Word existing as the life blood of those who belong to Christ.

The Johannine scholar Raymond Brown says this passage is about the disciples remaining in Christ. Many people in the Church talk about following Jesus and leading a virtuous life. However, in Saint John’s Gospel and in Christ words, there is no concept of a personal relationship with Christ that brings about a virtuous life. Instead, the image of abiding is about being, not about becoming. If we are abiding in Christ, then God is central, not the desires of our egos.

’I am the vine, you are the branches’ … late autumn grapes and branches clinging to vines in November at the Hedgehog on the northern edge of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Resources:

Liturgical colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter V):

Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
Grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post-Communion Prayer:

Eternal God,
in word and sacrament
we proclaim your truth in Jesus Christ and share his life.
In his strength may we ever walk in his way,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

or:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

‘I am the true vine, and my father is the vine-grower (John 15: 1) ... vineyards on the slopes of the hills in Tuscany (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Suggested Hymns:

The hymns suggested for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year B), in Sing to the Word (2000), edited by Bishop Edward Darling, include:

Acts 8: 26-40:

390, Baptised into your name, most holy
273, Led like a lamb to the slaughter
435, O God, unseen yet ever near
591, O happy day that fixed my choice
214, O Love, how deep, how broad, how high
306, O Spirit of the living God
239, See, Christ was wounded for our sake

Deuteronomy 4: 32-40:

51, Awake, my soul, and with the sun
325, Be still for the presence of the Lord, the holy one, is here
262, Come, ye faithful, raise the strain

Psalm 22: 25-31:

581, I, the Lord of sea and sky
8, The Lord is King! Lift up your voice
492, Ye servants of God, your master proclaim

I John 4: 7-21:

515, ‘A new commandment I give unto you’
216, Alleluia, my Father, for giving us your Son
218, And can it be that I should gain
516, Belovèd, let us love: love is of God
520, God is love, and where true love is, God himself is there
89, God is love – his the care
3, God is love: let heaven adore him
312, Gracious Spirit, Holy Ghost
125, Hail to the Lord’s anointed
422, In the quiet consecration
495, Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love
525, Let there be love shared among us
634, Love divine, all loves excelling
432, Love is his word, love is his way
229, My God, I love thee; not because
102, Name of all majesty
214, O Love, how deep, how broad, how high
367, Praise him, praise him, everybody praise him
244, There is a green hill far away
315, ‘This is my will, my one command’
373, To God be the glory! Great things he has done!
530, Ubi caritas et amor
248, We sing the praise of him who died
531, Where love and loving kindness dwell

John 15: 1-8:

629, Abide among us with thy grace
39, For the fruits of his creation
311, Fruitful trees, the Spirit’s sowing
422, In the quiet consecration
524, May the grace of Christ our Saviour
451, We come as guests invited
394, We praise you Lord, for Jesus Christ

A Mediterranean village vineyard … grapes ripening in Tsesmes, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.