Sunday, 7 March 2010

An Aegean-like Sunday on four Fingal beaches

The sun kissed strand at Skerries on Sunday afternoon (Photograph; Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Patrick Comerford

Over the past few days, I have been feeling a little worse for the wear with the symptoms of sarcoidosis. Although I had good news last month, with the prospect of remission kicking in soon, and despite a welcome break of a few days for quiet time and prayer in Lichfield, I have had little sleep for the past few nights, I have felt the pressure on my lungs with renewed bouts of night-time coughing, and I have been more conscious than usual of the constant pains in my joints, especially in my knees, and of the continuing sensation of “pins and needles” and cramps in my feet.

But there was little time for self-pity over the weekend, and a working, residential weekend with the NSM and part-time MTh students is always filled with joy and delight.

I worked through the weekend, from Friday afternoon until this [Sunday] afternoon. There was the usual round of chapel services each day, a lecture on Spirituality and Prayer on Friday evening, a tutorial group and a Bible study on Saturday, student appraisals, a group photograph, and a lecture on Spirituality on Sunday morning.

The weekend reached a perfect climax with the celebration of the Eucharist at noon today. This is the Third Sunday in Lent, and we opened with a beautiful setting of the Lenten prose. It is always a joy to celebrate the Eucharist, and especially so when you know everyone who is gathered around the Altar.

After a light snack, I headed out to Fingal, and the beaches of north-east county Dublin. This is the sunniest weekend we have had in Ireland since Whit Weekend last year. The summer, autumn and winter here have been bleak for the many months too, with a few breaks, but very little sunshine. Yes, there have been bright days with sunshine, but none as sun-filled as these past few days.

Throughout those wet and overcast weekends, I have continued to walk the beaches of Fingal, knowing that these walks by the sea and on the sand are boosting my feelings of well-being and giving me good opportunities to reconnect with nature, to reach some of the depths of my own spirituality and to give thanks to God for the light and hope I have in my life every day.

A small trawler beached on the sand at Loughshinny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

I went out through Lusk and Rush, and first stopped in Loughshinny, where a small trawler was beached on the sand. A handful of people were on the beach, but no-one was walking out as far as the pier, which gives majestic views across to the islands at Skerries to the north-east and across to Lambay Island to the south-east.

From there, I moved on to Skerries: as the road approaches Holmpatrick, there are eye-catching views across to the islands. A late lunch in Olive is a real pleasure. This is one of the best caf├ęs – not just in Fingal or Dublin but in Ireland. The vegetarian antipasto had a wide selection that included roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, capers, rocket, shaved parmesan, onion, and toasted ciabatta. And they really do know how to make espresso here.

Skerries Harbour from the North Strand (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Strolling up past the North Strand, the bikers were pouring onto the footpath and the road outside Joe May’s. On the North Strand, the tide was out enough to step down and take a short stroll, and enjoy the tranquil view of the Harbour.

Up on Red Island, the sun had brought out families and children in great numbers. How we appreciate sunshine when we are blessed with it in Ireland.

Back down on the South Strand, there were fewer families. But the sand that has been packed and deep-coloured for the past few months was turning to a golden colour in the sunshine.

A view across the South Strand across the sea towards the islands in Skerries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

In Gerry’s, I picked up the Sunday papers, the latest edition of the Skerries News, and a bottle of Barbera d’Asti for dinner later this evening.

And then I remembered that I had not been to the main beach in Rush for perhaps 45 years – since I was a 13-year-old. In recent months, I have been to the North Beach and the Harbour in Rush, to visit the church in Kenure, and to the estuary at Rogerstown.

The first few attempts this afternoon to find this beach each ended in a cul-de-sac. But eventually, when I found my way there, I was rewarded with rediscovering a beach I had enjoyed in my early teens.

Lambay Island ... basking in the sun like an island in the Aegean (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The sun was still shining down brightly, and there was Lambay Island, looking ever so like a Greek island basking in a blue Aegean sea under the sunshine, and – to the south – a clear vista across to Portrane, so that I could clearly pick out the towers of the hospital, the round tower built by Sophie Evans, and – at the end of the peninsula – the Lynders house at the Quay.

I returned home, and enjoyed that Barbera d’Asti as I read the Skerries News and the Sunday papers.

The Third Sunday of Lent

The Veneration of the Cross ... commemorated in the Orthodox Church on the Third Sunday of Lent

Patrick Comerford

This year, the days of Lent and Easter fall on the same dates in both the Western traditions of the Church and in the Orthodox Church. Today (14 March) is the Third Sunday of Lent.

In the Orthodox Church, the Veneration of the Cross is commemorated on the Third Sunday of Lent. In the Western Church, the veneration of the Cross became part of the traditional Good Friday ceremonies. However, in the Orthodox Church, the most ceremonies associated with Good Friday involve the Epitaphios and the procession of the bier of Christ.

Instead, in the Orthodox Church, the Veneration of the Cross takes place on the Third Sunday of Lent because this day is the mid-point of the 40 days of Great Lent.

The services for this day are similar to those on the Great Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on 14 September and the Feast of the Procession of the Cross (1 August).

The Sunday of the Holy Cross is commemorated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, which is preceded by the Matins service.

A Great Vespers is conducted on Saturday evening. Then, after the All-Night Vigil, during Matins, the priest brings the cross out in solemn procession into the centre of the church, where it is censed and venerated by the clergy and faithful, who prostrate themselves in front of the cross and kiss it.

As the priest venerates the Cross, the people chant the hymn:

We venerate your Cross, O Lord,
and glorify your holy Resurrection

At the conclusion of the Matins (the traditional practice in association with a vigil) or of the Divine Liturgy, a special service is held. The Cross is placed on a tray surrounded by basil or daffodils and is taken in solemn procession through the church to the chanting of the Thrice Holy Hymn. The tray is placed on a table before the people, and the hymn of the Feast of the Cross is chanted.

The cross then remains in the centre of the church from today, until Friday of next week, the Fourth Week of Great Lent, and is venerated after each service again with these words:

We venerate your Cross, O Lord,
and glorify your holy Resurrection

The Cross and the Resurrection

The Sunday of the Holy Cross prepares us to recall the Crucifixion, and also reminds us that the whole of Lent is a period when we are crucified with Christ.

As we have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24), and will have mortified ourselves during these 40 days of Lent, the precious and life-giving Cross is now placed before us to refresh our souls and encourage us even though we may be filled with a sense of bitterness, resentment, and depression.

The Cross reminds us of the passion of Christ. By presenting us with his example, it encourages us to follow him in his struggle and sacrifice. The Cross teaches us that through pain and suffering we shall see the fulfilment of our hopes, which is the heavenly inheritance and eternal glory.

Orthodoxy never separates the Cross and the Resurrection, for it is the cross that brings new life, and today’s texts emphasise the new life and renewal that Christ’s death brings to us and to all creation.

The Icon of the Veneration of the Cross

The most common icon associated with this Sunday is the same icon used on the Feast of the Veneration of the Cross on 14 September.

In the icon, the Patriarch Macarius is seen standing in the pulpit elevating the Cross for all to see and to venerate. On each side of the Patriarch a deacon stands, usually holding a candle or candles. The elevated Cross is surrounded and venerated by many clergy and lay people, including Saint Helena and her son, the Emperor Constantine.

In the background, a domed building represents the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. This church was one of the churches built by the Emperor Constantine on the holy sites of Jerusalem.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.