Friday, 31 October 2014

‘By thy Cross and Passion,
Good Lord, deliver us’

‘By thy Cross and Passion, Good Lord, deliver us’ (Litany 1) … a carving at the end of a prayer desk in the Church of Saint Michael and All Angels, Penkridge, Staffordshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

This morning in the Chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, we are using the modern-language version of the Litany in the Book of Common Prayer (2004) of the Church of Ireland.

The Litany has the advantages of both simplicity and of praying for everything, including those things we are likely to leave out of our prayers.

The Church of Ireland Directory is mistaken when it comes to the Psalms for this morning, and repeats yesterday’s appointed Psalms. But the appointed readings being used this morning (Psalm 90, Revelation 13: 1-10) are reminders that in the Calendar of the Church we are preparing for All Saints’ Day (1 November), All Souls’ Day (2 November), and Remembrance Sunday (9 November).

Of course many people who are celebrating Hallowe’en this evening will have no idea of how this day has deep roots in the Christian calendar. When he was Dean of Liverpool, Archbishop Justin Welby designed a service to appeal to a new generation that is not associated with church-going, and called it ‘Night of the Living Dead.’

It was an inventive, creative and appropriate title, for Hallowe’en ought not yo be about ghouls and ghosts but instead ought to be the evening of preparation for All Saints’ Day. Then, if we truly believe that those who have died in Christ are alive in him, an evening preparing for remembering all the saints would be appropriately a joyous night for celebrating and remembering the living dead.

Many of the verses in Psalm 90 which we are parying this morning are incorporated into the traditional biddings and prayers for Remembrance Day, and the reading from the Book of Revelation concludes with the verses:

Let anyone who has an ear listen:
If you are to be taken captive,
into captivity you go;
if you kill with the sword, with the sword you must be killed.
Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints (Revelation 13: 9-10).

I am speaking tomorrow afternoon [1 November 2014] at the autumn conference of the Church of Ireland Historical Society in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, on ‘The Archbishops of Dublin and the Deanery of Penkridge: a mediaeval peculiar in the Diocese of Lichfield.’

In preparing my PowerPoint illustrations for this paper, I came across a photograph from Penkridge Church that I have used on the cover of the brochure for this morning’s service.

It is a carving on the end of a prayer desk and has a simple quotation from the traditional version of the Litany in the Book of Common Prayer.

The Collect of the Day:

Blessed Lord,
who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
Help us to hear them,
to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them
that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
we may embrace and for ever hold fast
the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Collect (All Saints’ Day):

Almighty God,
you have knit together your elect
in one communion and fellowship
in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
Grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect (All Souls’ Day, Common Worship):

Eternal God, our maker and redeemer,
grant us, with all the faithful departed,
the sure benefits of your Son’s saving passion
and glorious resurrection
that, in the last day,
when you gather up all things in Christ,
we may with them enjoy the fullness of your promises;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.