03 February 2013

‘I have walked many years in this city ...’

The Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple ... a window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

We celebrated Candlemas this evening [3 February 2013] in Christ Church Cathedral with the Candlemas Procession at 5 p.m.

The evening began in darkness with the choir singing as the Vigil Videte miracularum matris Domini by Thomas Tallis (1505-1585) from his Respond at First Vespers, Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

There was music too by John Sheppard, Herbert Howells, David Willcocks, Charles Wood, Johannes Eccard, and hymns by Caroline Noel (‘At the name of Jesus’), John Keble (‘Hail, gladdening Light’), Henry J Pye (‘In his temple now behold him’), and translations of the early mediaeval Latin hymn ‘Sing how the age-long promise of a Saviour’ and – during the final procession to the Baptismal Font – ‘Of the Father’s heart begotten’ by Prudentius.

In Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, today (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

The service was led by the Dean, the Very Revd Dermot Dunne. I was deacon, reading the Gospel reading for the Presentation in the Temple (Luke 2: 22-40), Canon Ted Ardis was subdeacon, and the Revd Garth Bunting also took part in the readings and intercessions.

Earlier in the morning, I was in the cathedral for the Choral Eucharist, greeting people at the door and taking my place in the chapter stalls beside the preacher, Canon John Clarke of Wicklow.

After lunch in Beirut Express on Dame Street, I strolled through North King Street, looking for – and failing to find -- a 19th century building said to have been designed by James Comerford.

A Georgian doorway in Henrietta Street ... is this Georgian heritage about to be lost? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

But the probable loss of this building is nothing compared to the loss I felt when I ended up in Henrietta Street, which was the location for Bryan Murray’s recent television series on the slums of inner city Dublin.

If these houses were in Fitzwilliam Square, Merrion Square or some other part of Dublin 2 or Dublin 4, there were would be outrage and public anger at the neglect, decay and wanton loss of such a major part of our Georgian architectural heritage.

It is a saddening sight – and yet these buildings are still not beyond being saved and restored.

If these Georgian houses in Henrietta Street were about to be lost to Dublin 2 or Dublin 4, there would be justifiable outrage (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

I thought of those lines from TS Eliot, ‘I have walked many years in this city,’ as I strolled back to see if I could find the remains of Saint Mary’s Abbey in Meetinghouse Lane, only to be disappointed to see what little is left is railed off and blocked up, despite publicity a decade or so ago that the restored remains of this 11th century Cistercian abbey, including the Chapter House, were going to be a major tourist attraction.

‘I have walked many years in this city ...’

I strolled back through O’Connell Street and into Trinity College Dublin for a little personal quiet time in Front Square on this, the Second Sunday before Lent.

Front Square in Trinity College Dublin this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)


Almighty God,
you have created the heavens and the earth
and made us in your own image:
Teach us to discern your hand in all your works
and your likeness in all your children;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who with you and the Holy Spirit
reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever.

On my way back to Christ Church Cathedral, as I prepared my thoughts for the Candlemas Procession, I thought of a previous Candelmas sermon I was invited to preach in Christ’s College, Cambridge. And I thought too of TS Eliot’s poem:

A Song for Simeon (TS Eliot)

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season had made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have given and taken honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.
Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word.
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).
I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, shortly before the Candlemas Procession this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and a canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

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