Friday, 14 February 2014

C. of I./Moravian talks continue

Today’s edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette [14 February 2014] includes the following half-page news report and photograph on page 5:

C. of I./Moravian talks continue

The latest round of official conversations between the Church of Ireland and the Moravian Church was held from 30th-31st January at the Gracehill Moravian congregation’s Cennick Hall in Co. Antrim. Also taking part were representatives from the Moravian Church in England and the United States, the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Church of England. Worship was held in the historic Moravian church nearby.

During discussions, participants explored the two traditions’ understanding of sacramental life, the ordained ministry and Church membership.

A communiqué stated: “We enjoyed the hospitality of the Gracehill congregation and we were introduced to the history of the community in Gracehill. We also shared and enjoyed Eucharistic hospitality. We agreed to report back to the relevant bodies in the Church of Ireland and the Moravian Church. Meanwhile, we continue to work on advancing this process of dialogue.”

Pictured at the C. of I./Moravian talks at Gracehill are (from left): the Revd Dr Callan Slliper (representing the Church of England’s Council for Christian Unity); the Revd Dr Tom Ferguson, Dean of Bexley Hall Theological Seminary, Columbus, Ohio (Episcopal); the Rt Revd John McDowell, Bishop of Clogher; the Right Revd John McOwat, Bishop of the British Province of the Moravian Church; the Rt Revd Michael Burrows, Bishop of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory; the Revd Sarah Groves, Minister of Gracehill and Provincial Elder of the Moravian Church; Canon Patrick Comerford of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute; Canon Ian Ellis, rector of Newcastle, Co. Down; the Revd Philip Cooper, Ecumenical Officer and Provincial Elder of the Moravian Church; the Revd Paul Holdsworth, Chairman of the Irish District of the Moravian Church; Canon Helene Steed, rector of Clones, Co. Monaghan; and the Rt Revd Graham Rights, Bishop of the Southern Province United States (Moravian).

Reflecting on the true meanings
of love on Saint Valentine’s Day

The shrine of Saint Valentine in the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today [14 February 2014] is Saint Valentine’s Day, and doubtless the shrine of Saint Valentine in the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar Street, Dublin, will see a throng of visitors and lovers throughout the day.

Throughout the week I have been reminded of the themes of love, light and love that arise from last Sunday’s lectionary readings.

However, as my thoughts turn to love, I am reminded of the writings on love by Julian of Norwich, best known for saying: “And all shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be exceeding well.”

In the 14th century, Dame Julian wrote her Revelations of Divine Love, which is one of the classical English works of Christian mysticism.

At the age of 30, after a life-threatening illness, she received 16 different mystical revelations or visions of the Passion of Christ on 13 May 1373. Saved from the brink of death, Julian of Norwich dedicated her life to solitary prayer and the contemplation of the visions she had received.

Many years later, near the end of the 14th century, she describes and reflects upon those revelations in her Revelations of Divine Love. The book of is probably the first published book in the English language to be written by a woman. She focuses on the mysteries of Christianity, in particular the vast love of God and the existence of evil.

She describes the “motherhood” of God, depicting how God suffers with his creation as it suffers great and multi-faceted evil. Nevertheless, she also emphasises the need to follow God in order to receive the beautiful vision of God in the afterlife.

Her Revelations of Divine Love continues to astound readers, engulfing them in a powerful revelation of God’s love.

Julian of Norwich ... All shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well

This morning, on this day when we think of love in all its forms, I am reflectin of some of Julian’s thoughts on the love of God:

“The greatest honour we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.”

“If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”

“God loved us before he made us; and his love has never diminished and never shall.”

“... so our customary practice of prayer was brought to mind: how through our ignorance and inexperience in the ways of love we spend so much time on petition. I saw that it is indeed more worthy of God and more truly pleasing to him that through his goodness we should pray with full confidence, and by his grace cling to him with real understanding and unshakeable love, than that we should go on making as many petitions as our souls are capable of.”

“See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally. See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom and love with which I made it. How can anything be amiss?” “Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes a third, a holy and wonderful delight in God, who is love.”

“...we need to fall, and we need to be aware of it; for if we did not fall, we should not know how weak and wretched we are of ourselves, nor should we know our Maker's marvellous love so fully...”

May your day be filled with love – the love of God, the love you have for others, and the love of those who love you.

The reliquary with the remains of Saint Valentine in the Carmelite Church in Whitefriar Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)