Monday, 1 December 2014

Liturgy 9.2 (2014-2015): Seminar: Spirituality of ministry;
readings on the minister as person, private, public and holy

The Revd Eugene Griffin after his ordination as priest in Christ Church Cathedral in September … at their ordination, priests are told they “are to lead God’s people in prayer and worship” (Photograph: Olive Casey Conroy, 2014)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 14:00 to 16:30, Mondays, Hartin Room:

[3 p.m., Monday 1 December 2014]

9.2:
Seminar: Spirituality of ministry; readings on the minister as person, private, public and holy.

Selected readings:

Christopher Cocksworth and Rosalind Brown, Being a priest today (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2nd ed, 2006), Chapter 7 (pp 129-153). Published in the US as: Rosalind Brown, and Christopher Cocksworth, On being a priest today (Cambridge MA: Cowley 2002).

The Right Revd Dr Christopher Cocksworth has been Bishop of Coventry since 2008 and is a former Principal of Ridley Hall, Cambridge (2001-2008).

Canon Roslaind Brown is a renowned hymn writer and Canon Librarian of Durham Cathedral, with responsibility for the public face of the cathedral’s life including visitors, education, the Library, pastoral care and relationships with the wider community.

Malcolm Grundy, What they don’t teach you at theological college (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003), Chapter 16 (pp 162-172), ‘Spirituality and a Rule of Life.’

Canon Malcolm Grundy has been Archdeacon of Craven in the Diocese of Bradford (1994-2005) and Director of the Foundation for Church Leadership (2005-2009).

Sister Barbara June (Kirby) SLG, ‘Simple Gifts: Priesthood in a Praying Community,’ (Chapter 5), pp 62-71 in George Guiver et al, Priests in a People’s Church (London: SPCK, 2001).

The Revd Sister Barbara June (Kirby) is a member of the Community of the Sisters of the Love of God in Fairacres, Oxford, and has been an NSM curate in Saint John’s, Cowley.

Michael Ramsey, The Christian Priest Today (London: SPCK, new ed., 1992), Chapter 9, ‘The Ordination Gospel’ (pp 61-67).

Archbishop Michael Ramsey (1904-1988) was the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury (1961-1974). After a curacy in Liverpool, he became a lecturer to ordination candidates at the Bishop’s Hostel, Lincoln, when he published The Gospel and the Catholic Church (1936).

His parish postings included Saint Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge, before he became a canon of Durham Cathedral and Van Mildert Professor of Divinity at Durham. He then became the Regius Professor of Divinity in Cambridge (1950), Bishop of Durham (1952), Archbishop of York (1956) and Archbishop of Canterbury (1961).

This book started life in 1972 as a series of sermons to ordinands by Archbishop Ramsey. These 15 succinct essays, updated in 1985, provide timeless theology and practical advice that are just as relevant today

Introduction:

Prayer is both an individual and a collective action, and even when we pray individually, we are praying for ourselves and we are praying on behalf of others. The Caroline Divine, Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), wrote in his Latin Devotions that “he who prays for others, labours for himself.”

In prayer, we need to be mindful of the needs of others, and in ordained ministry we have a responsibility to help and to teach others to pray. To do this, we need to develop our own prayer lives, so that praying does not become a neglected activity and a forgotten part of our lives.

Fixing a pattern for regular prayer could include using the office (Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer), valuing silence, being regular at the Eucharist, and praying as you read Scripture, and not just studying it.

But what about being priests at prayer?

Being priests at prayer

In his Letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul tells the Church in Philippi: “I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you …” (Philippians 1: 3-4).

In preparing for ordination, most ordinands realise that prayer – their own prayer life, praying for others and being a person of prayer – is a major expectation in our vocation and ministry.

My experience is that whatever else people want of us, as priests or clergy, they want us to pray for them and to pray with them. However, Rosalind Brown and Christopher Cocksworth say that “almost without exception” prayer is the one area that clergy admit to feeling they are failing to meet their own expectations and hopes, quite apart from the expectations of those we minister among.

Too often, as clergy, we end up with feelings of failure and guilt, feelings of being unable to pray as we wish to. Many clergy know what it is to wonder whether their parishioners or members of the congregations would lose all trust for and respect in them if they only knew the paucity of their prayer life.

The other side of these feelings of guilt and failure, is the feeling that comes when we are spending time in prayer and keep getting the nagging feeling that the time would be better spent “doing” something more productive.

The call to a life of prayer

Prayer is at the heart of our ordained ministry.

At your ordination, you will be reminded in the words of the ordinal that as deacons you are called to “strengthen the faithful” and to “lead the people in intercession” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 555), and that as priests you “are to lead God’s people in prayer and worship, to intercede for them … ” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 565).

Bishops too are to “pray for all those committed to their charge … and to lead the offering of prayer and praise” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 576, 577).

All of us in ordained ministry – deacons, priests and bishops – are asked at our ordination by the bishop: “Will you be diligent in prayer …?” The response is: “With the help of God, I will” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 556, 566, 578).

Archbishop Rowan Williams writes of “three-ness” of prayer for those who have been ordained: “If you have the charge of priesthood laid upon you, then the Sunday liturgy, the Daily Office and private prayer are simply there, and there is no way around them, even if you should want one. They are part of the bargain, and they grow on us as we increasingly sense in them something of the sovereignty of God. In this way, they become both a commitment and a joy, even if there are times when we would rather be doing something else. The ‘three-ness’ is not a matter of law or rules, but a part of the essence of being Christian.” (Rowan Williams, A Ray of Darkness: Sermons and Reflections).

Finding the strength to pray

At the opening of the prayers at the ordination service, the candidates for ordination are reminded that “none of us can bear the weight of this ministry in our own strength …” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 557, 567, 578).

So, where do we go to seek and draw the strength to pray? Despite those prayers at ordination, we do not suddenly become paragons of prayer when we are ordained. Indeed, whether or not you have disciplined prayer life, you know by now that you do not pray and cannot pray on your own strength.

In that weakness, I find it reassuring when the Apostle Paul reminds me: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8: 26-27).

The ordination charges to be diligent in prayer, to intercede for the people, to lead the people in prayer and worship, and to teach them by word and example are possible to fulfil only because of the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

The priority of prayer

Archbishop Michael Ramsey once said that “the prayer of the priest is … supremely important as the source of his ability to train the people in the way of prayer.”

A daily rhythm of prayer creates a growth that may remain imperceptible to us individually. But others know whether we are people of prayer. We do not have to tell them.

Prayer should be and must be at the heart of our ordained ministry. Being a priest is not simply an occupation, but is a vocation, a calling. And our prayer is not one more function or part of the job description. We are called to be people of prayer, people for whom prayer is not just something we do. Rather, prayer must be the environment in which we live because we live in God.

The poet John Donne (1572-1631), who was once Dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, wrote: “[Prayer] may be mental, for we may think prayers. It may be real, for we may speak prayers. It may be actual, for we may do prayers … So then to do the office of your vocation sincerely is to pray.”

But how do we work at making and maintaining prayer as the priority it should be in our ministry?

Everyday prayer

The Irish hymn writer James Montgomery (1771-1854), in a well-known hymn (Church Hymnal 625), wrote:

Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire,
unuttered or expressed,
the motion of a hidden fire
that trembles in the breast.

Prayer is the burden of a sigh,
the falling of a tear,
the upward glancing of an eye,
when none but God is near.

Prayer is the simplest form of speech
that infant lips can try;
prayer the sublimest strains that reach
the Majesty on high.

Prayer is the Christian’s vital breath,
the Christian’s native air,
our watchword at the gates of death,
we enter heaven with prayer
.

In this hymn, Montgomery suggests that prayer is our natural environment, not something that we do under duress at certain times, because it is a task or burden, or because it is one the obligations imposed on us as a condition for ordination.

Prayer is the intimacy of our life in God. Prayer is being “lost in wonder, love and praise.” Prayer is the short glance in God’s direction. Prayer is the awe and wonder felt at a beautiful sunset. Prayer is the pain or the pleasure as we listen to news. Prayer is the cry of help when there are no words to express those feelings and no words to describe that need. Prayer is the silence of being in God’s company in sorrow and in joy. Prayer knows nothing too high to be too majestic or too low to be too mean for bringing before God. Prayer, like breathing, is the underlying rhythm and pulse of life.

Or as Michael Quoist says in one of his books: “Everyday life is the raw material of prayer” (Prayers of Life, 1966).

But how do we work to overcome those difficulties that sometimes stop prayer from being the soul’s desire, that stop prayer from coming from our heart as easily as the simplest form of speech, that stop prayer from being as natural as breath?

Difficulties in prayer

When we are full of joy, prayer may come easily in terms of words and actions. But when we are broken-hearted, bruised, tired or confused, we may find that all we can do is present ourselves, physically, in our place of prayer without finding words.

Some of the weaknesses in prayer that each of us is familiar with include not having enough time, and being distracted constantly by other thoughts in our minds or other events taking place around us. When we find difficulties in prayer are crowding around us, and the words cease, the thoughts wander, and we want to escape from the place of prayer, it is worth remembering that at times our presence alone is sufficient prayer.

Saint Theophan the Recluse: an inspiring and great Russian teachers on prayer

Among the inspiring and great teachers on prayer is Saint Theophan the Recluse (1815-1894). A persistent theme in his writing was the task of developing an interior life of continuous prayer, learning to “pray without ceasing,” as the Apostle Paul teaches (I Thessalonians 5: 17).

He wrote: “Prayer is the test of everything; prayer is also the source of everything; prayer is the driving force of everything; prayer is also the director of everything. If prayer is right, everything is right. For prayer will not allow anything to go wrong.”

Priestly ministry calls on us to live on the boundary between earth and heaven, to be at home in both worlds, to be able to speak of each in and to the other.

But how do we ensure that we have an interior life of continuous prayer that is the driving force for everything in ministerial life?

Prayer at the heart of ministry

Some advice that may help people in ordained ministry who find that their commitment to prayer is becoming difficult would include the following: do not worry, slow down, be disciplined, keep priorities in focus, do not get too upset or worried about techniques of prayer, do not try to be perfect.

Do not worry?

You know the saying, “It could happen to a bishop.” Bishop Alan Abernathy has conceded: “I must say that I still find prayer very difficult. There are days when I cannot pray. There are days when I do not want to pray. There are days when I wonder if am living a lie” (Fulfilment & Frustration, p. 120).

When you face difficulties, remember that you are not alone. Everyone in ministry has these feelings at different times. Indeed, everyone has these difficulties.

Slow down?

Kenneth Leech has written: “There is no need to rush around feverishly looking for a prayer life: we need to slow down and look deeply within. What is the point of complaining that God is absent if it is we who are absent from God, and from ourselves, by our lack of awareness … At heart, prayer is a process of self-giving and of being set free from isolation. To pray is to enter into a relationship with God and to be transformed by him” (Kenneth Leech, True Prayer).

Be disciplined?

In the canon law of the Church of England, Canon C26 reminds all clergy – bishops, priests and deacons – of our call to and duty of daily prayer: “Every bishop, priest, and deacon is under obligation, not being let by sickness or some other urgent cause, to say daily the Morning and Evening Prayer, either privately or openly; and to celebrate the Holy Communion, or be present thereat, on all Sundays and other principal Feast Days. He is also to be diligent in daily prayer and intercession, in examination of his conscience, and in the study of the Holy Scriptures and such other studies as pertain to his ministerial duties.”

This is not a canonical requirement for us in the Church of Ireland. But it is a good and useful, tested discipline.

Keep priorities in focus?

You will be under pressure to do, rather than be. Being a priest is much more important than doing the things that people think we should do as priests. We are ordained to be ministers of word and sacrament and to be people of service and prayer. But you will constantly under pressure to do things – under pressure from parishioners, from other clergy, even from your bishop do so many things that you were not ordained for. At times, that pressure may be so great that you are finding there are unacceptable pressures on your prayer life and the time you give to prayer.

That pressure was recognised over 60 years ago by Evelyn Underhill when she wrote: “We are drifting towards a religion which … keeps its eye on humanity rather than Deity, which lays all the stress on service, and hardly any of the stress on awe: and that is a type of religion which in practice does not wear well. It does little for the soul in those awful moments when the pain and mystery of life are most deeply felt. It does not provide a place for that profound experience which Tauller called ‘suffering in God’. It does not lead to sanctity, and sanctity after all is the religious goal.” (Evelyn Underhill, Concerning the Inner Life with The House of the Soul, p. 4).

Do not get upset about techniques of prayer?

Almost 100 years ago, the great pioneering spiritual director, Somerset Ward (1881-1962), warned: “It is a common reason for failure in prayer, that we are more aware of the subject of our prayer rather than its object; we are apt to think more of what we shall pray for than of how we shall pray” (Somerset Ward, To Jerusalem, p. 111).

There may be times when the words of the Daily Office, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, pass you by and you cannot find words for prayer. But your presence is prayer itself. There may be times when the words and actions of the Eucharist or Holy Communion pass you by. But you can be assured that you are caught up in the timeless prayer of the Church, present with all the saints, and the angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven.

Do not try to be perfect?

Because of the images and expectations that people will project onto you, it becomes easy to forget that we are called not be priests who are perfect, in perfect places and parishes. No. We are called to be priests and people of prayer as we are, in the lives we live today. Learning to deal with and to dismiss unnecessary guilt is an important discipline in the priestly life.

Do you remember how Eli upbraided Hannah for her apparently unseemly behaviour as she prayed in the Temple? He accused her of being drunk and making a spectacle of herself. But she replied bluntly: “I have been pouring out my soul to the Lord,” or, as the Jerusalem Bible translates that verse: “I have been speaking to God from the depth of my grief and resentment” (I Samuel 1: 16).

We do not need to feel holy as we pray, or to worry whether others will regard us holy as we pray. God meets us where we are, not where we think we should be, where we are pretending to be, or where others think we should be.

Conclusions

You may find devising a rule of prayer is helpful. You may, perhaps, want to consult a spiritual director about this. But I repeat, in the words of Saint Theophan the Recluse: “Remember, all of this is a guide. The heart of the matter is: Stand with reverence before God, with the mind in the heart, and strive toward Him with longing.”

Whatever you do, do not worry, slow down, be disciplined, keep priorities in focus, do not get too upset or worried about techniques of prayer, do not try to be perfect.

Additional reading

Abernathy, Alan, Fulfilment & Frustration: Ministry in today’s Church (Dublin: Columba, 2002).
Bloom, Anthony, Practical Prayer (Ben Lomond CA: Conciliar Press, 1989).
Bloom, Anthony, and LeFebvre, Georges, Courage to Pray (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1973).
Christou, Sotirios, The Priest & the People of God (Cambridge, Burlington Press, 2003).
Leech, Kenneth, True Prayer (London: Sheldon Press, 1980).
Quoist, Michael, Prayers of Life (Dublin: Gill and Sons, 1963).
Redfern, Alistair, Ministry and Priesthood (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1999).
Underhill, Evelyn, Concerning the Inner Life with The House of the Soul (London: Methuen, 1947).
Ward, R. Somerset, To Jerusalem (ed. Susan Howatch, London: Mowbray, 1994).
Williams, Rowan, A Ray of Darkness: Sermons and Reflections (Cambridge MA: Cowley, 1995).

Reminder: Essays.

End-of-module visit: Irish Jewish Museum (8 December 2014).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is based on notes prepared for a contribution to a seminar on 1 December 2014 in the Module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.

Liturgy 9.1 (2014-2015): Rites of passage,
including Marriages and Funerals

‘Hatch, Match and Dispatch?’ … setting the tone for rites of passage includes many liturgical considerations, including the use of colour and space (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 14:00 to 16:30, Mondays, Hartin Room:

1 December 2014

This afternoon:

9.1:
Rites of passage, e.g., Marriages, Funerals.

9.2: Seminar: Spirituality of ministry; readings on the minister as person, private, public and holy.

Liturgy 9.1: Rites of passage, e.g., Baptisms, Marriages, Funerals

‘Hatch, Match and Dispatch?’

The three rites of Baptism, Marriage and Funeral are sometimes referred to in a jocular way by clergy as the rites of “Hatch, Match and Dispatch.”

But, at times, I think this is unfair to the people involved in these rites. These are crisis moments, the most sacred moments in life, and they note merely rites of passage, when people publicly declare the most important stages of life in front of God and in front of the community they most value … even when they are not regular churchgoers.

They are not moments for evangelisation, but they are sacred moments, moments of grace, moments of joy and sorrow, moments that will most surely test your ministry.

People will forgive you a badly-prepared or badly delivered Sermon every now and then; they may not notice or may soon forget when you make what you regard as major mistake in my eyes on an occasional Sunday; and they may forget who baptised their child, forget to thank you for your part at their wedding or at the burial of one of their parents … if all goes well.

But they will never, ever forget, and perhaps never forgive you if you get it wrong at a baptism, wedding or funeral.

For that reason alone, but also because we all realise how sacred these moments are, most new curates, and even most new rectors fret for the first years when it comes to Baptisms, Marriages and Funerals.

We fret so much that we often concentrate or energies on the minute details, and forget that it all takes part within the context of the worship and the liturgy of the Church, and that we ought not be the centre of attention. We are the facilitators, the enablers, the “liturgical midwives,” but we should never be the centre of attention, or do anything that makes us so.

1, Baptism:


In recent weeks, we have looked at the origins and early understandings of Baptism. But do you feel liturgically literate when it comes to taking part in a baptism?

Like our other services, the Church of Ireland has revised the service of Baptism in recent years. And these revisions, like all others, have been informed by the insights of the modern liturgical movement.

For example, as long ago as 1968, the Anglican bishops agreed at the Lambeth Conference that “confirmation is not a rite of admission to Communion.”

The International Anglican Liturgical Consultation said as long ago as 1985 in Boston that “since baptism is the sacramental sign of full incorporation into the church, all baptised persons [should] be admitted to communion …”

Some of the understandings incorporated into the writing of Holy Baptism Two (The Book of Common Prayer, the Church of Ireland, 2004) include:

● there should be one baptism for all ages;
● Baptism should be the main service when it takes place, and not tagged on as an added extra, a sideshow or an appendix to the main service;
● Baptism comes as a response to the Word of God.

What do you think is the theological underpinning of these insights?

The Baptismal font in Saint Edan’s Cathedral, Ferns, Co Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

These insights are reflected in the outline of the Baptismal Rite:

1, The presentation (p. 371):

Candidates are presented;

Questions are put to Parents and Godparents of those who cannot answer for themselves;

2, The Decision (p. 372):

(Testimony);

Questions to candidates’ sponsors; questions to the congregation;

The signing with the Cross (here or after the Baptism);

(Hymn);

3, The Baptism (p. 373):

Water poured into the font;

The Thanksgiving Prayer over the Water,

including prayer of blessing and sanctification (see pp 363-364);

Questions about the Christian faith to the candidate or sponsors;

Interrogatory Apostles’ Creed;

The Baptism (dipping or pouring, but not sprinkling, see p. 174; this does not exclude immersion);

The signing of the Cross (if this has not already taken place);

Welcome;

The Peace.

The Baptismal Font in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Some observations and questions:

Note how the Baptismal Rite follows the sermon (see p. 376).

Who should be sponsors?

What are the responsibilities of godparents?

What about “private baptisms”?

What about family requests for a different time?

Be aware too of the need to make connection between Baptism and the other rites that are part of Christian Initiation (see p. 346 ff), including:
● Receiving into the Congregation (p. 377 ff),
● Confirmation (p. 382 ff),
● the Renewal of Baptismal Vows (p. 398 ff),
● Thanksgiving after the Birth of a Child (p. 402 ff).

2, Marriage:

A wedding in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge … how is the theology of matrimony reflected in the marriage rites? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The traditional Anglican understanding of matrimony is that Holy Matrimony is the blessing of a union between a man and woman, acknowledging the presence and grace of God in the life of the couple. The form is manifested as the vows.

Despite popular belief and imagination, the blessing and exchanging of the rings is only customary, and neither is necessary for the rite of matrimony to be valid.

In marriage, the husband and wife seek God’s blessing, and through the mediation of the priest, the prayer is answered.

The couple are thus generally regarded as the ministers of the sacrament or the rite through their voluntary exchange of vows. And for this reason they should face each other during the marriage, and not the officiating minister.

However, in the traditional Anglican understanding, the sacrament or rite must be celebrated before an ordained priest (or, in exceptional circumstances, a deacon), who witnesses and mediates the prayers. The priest or deacon has been described by Michael Perham as the “chief witness” or “the master of ceremonies,” and only takes over, so to speak, when the couple are married, in order to pronounce God’s blessing on the couple.

For those who count seven sacraments, then matrimony was the last of the seven to be added to the list.

Its origins can be found in the civil necessity that arose in the Middle Ages to regularise intimate relationships and to legitimise children.

As Bishop Harold Miller points out, the Church of Ireland has always recognised the total validity of civil marriage services, as marriage is essentially an ordering of society. But it is also a “holy mystery” and a sign of the “mystical union … betwixt Christ and his Church...” (The Book of Common Prayer (1960), p. 266; The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 406).

In these islands, the “Form of Solemnisation of Matrimony” remained almost entirely unchanged from 1662 until the 1980s.

The Wedding at Cana ... a modern icon

The introduction to the marriage service in that older form says quite quaintly that marriage is “for the increase of mankind … and for the due ordering of families and households; … for the hallowing of the union betwixt man and woman, and for the avoidance of sin; [and] … for the mutual society, help and comfort, that the one ought to have for the other, both in prosperity and adversity.” (The Book of Common Prayer (1960), p. 266; The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 406).

However, things changed with the introduction of the Alternative Service Book (Church of England, 1980, pp 283-304). However, the Alternative Prayer Book (Church of Ireland, 1984) did not include a revised marriage service, and this only came about with the publication of the “White Booklet” in 1987 and the Alternative Occasional Services in 1993.

We now teach that marriage is about love, comfort, “living together in plenty and in need, in sorrow and joy,” that it is about knowing each other in love “with delight and tenderness,” about a bodily union that strengthens the union of hearts and lives,” and – only later its – about “the children they may have” (The Book of Common Prayer 2004, p. 417). So the flesh, love, comfort, delight, tenderness, bodily union, are all stressed before we even mention children, and there is no mention in this second form (pp 416-430) of the “increase of mankind,” the “due ordering of families and households” or the “avoidance of sin.”

A little more adult and mature an approach, I should suggest; certainly a reflection of how society has changed, and a realisation that not every couple can have or choose to have children.

But the wording of the services continue to agree that the Church teaches that marriage should be monogamous, life-long and between one man and one woman.

In the section on Marriage Services (pp 405-438), The Book of Common Prayer (Church of Ireland, 2004) includes two marriage services, a traditional rite from The Book of Common Prayer 1926 (see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 406-413), with an option for “Holy Communion at the Time of Marriage” (pp 414-415), and a revised, contemporary rite (pp 416-427), with extensive notes on many of the legal requirements (see p. 413, and pp 428-430). In addition, there is “A Form of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage” (pp 431-438), again with a number of notes and guidelines on how this service is to be used.

There are legal requirements that are going to concern you, and they vary between jurisdictions and may change even before you are priested. There are also canonical requirements that you need to be aware of too.

For example, when it comes to a couple where one or both have been previously married and divorced, the clergy involved must, under the provisions of legislation passed by General Synod in 1996, apply to the diocesan bishop first of all for permission, and listen carefully to the advice the bishop gives in reply.

If the ceremony goes ahead, the couple are required to go through a service of preparation, which has been devised by the Liturgical Advisory Committee but is not in The Book of Common Prayer (2004), although it is included by Bishop Miller in The Desire of our Soul (see pp 250-253).

From a pastoral point of view you will also need to learn how to prepare a couple properly and appropriately for both the wedding ceremony itself and for future married life.

All these you will learn as you go on. But of course they also impinge on how you behave at a wedding itself.

And it is important to know why you are doing something, so that by understanding what you are doing you are doing it properly. If the couple are not married according to rites and customs of the Church of Ireland, there may be serious consequences for your actions.

But this afternoon we are looking at the marriage rite itself, from the point of how you prepare yourself for it, what you do within your understanding of the liturgy and common prayer of the Church, and how you relate in that to the life of the Church and to those for whom you provide this office – and they are not just the couple being married!

The outline of the service is:

1, The Entry (p 416 ff):

(Greeting of the Bridal or Marriage Party);

(Hymn or Music);

Greeting;

The Introduction: Introduction;

The Collect.

2, Proclaiming and Receiving the Word (p. 418):

Reading(s);
Sermon;

3, The Marriage (p. 419 ff):

Questions to the congregation;

Words to the couple;

The Consent;

The Vows;

Giving and receiving of a ring;

The Declaration, including the joining of hands;

The Blessing of the Couple;

Affirmation by the People;

The Acclamations;

(The Registration of the Marriage);

(A Psalm or Hymn).

4, The Prayers (p. 423 ff):

Intercessions;

(Silence);

(Prayer by the couple);

The Peace;

(Hymn);

The Lord’s Prayer;

(The Grace or the Blessing).

Exchanging the στέφανα or wedding crowns as the Gospel story of the Wedding at Cana is read … not part of the Church of Ireland tradition

What is missing?

Is there a place for giving away the bride? Or for saying: “You may now kiss the bride”?

Who chooses the readings and the hymns?

How suitable are the Wedding March (Mendelssohn) – written for Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

How suitable is the Bridal Chorus (Wagner) – sung after the wedding in the opera Lohengrin by the women of the wedding party as they accompany the heroine Elsa to the bridal chamber?

Ave Maria (Bach and Gounod or Schubert)?

Which customs and traditions do you accept?

Separate sides of the church for the families of the bride and groom?

The bride being walked up the nave (aisle) by her father?

The bride’s white dress?

The “giving away”?

Signing the register in the vestry?

When are these meaningful?

When do they perpetuate the myth that the church sanctions patriarchy?

When do they become “liturgical” and sideline the liturgy itself?

What about the way the pledge to “obey” has been dropped?

Who should lead the prayers and intercessions?

Would you be embarrassed by the prayer giving thanks for the gift of sexual love (see p. 426)?

Michael Perham says that at a marriage, more than at one other service, it is right to let the participants have a say in the form that it takes, “and the wise minister will not make too many rules about what will or will not be allowed to be said, sung, or done.”

Should there be a sermon (see p. 418)?

The sermon gives the minister the opportunity to say something about marriage and about the Gospel in a less formal way than the words of the liturgy provide.

But we need to take care not to repeat what has already been said, and not to end up repeating what has been said at every previous wedding we have been involved in.

When and where do you allow photographs?

Should there be a celebration of Holy Communion (see p. 428, note 5)?

Do you accept an invitation to the reception and to say grace?

Some dioceses, particularly in the US Episcopal Churches, allow for the blessing of same-gender marriages. How do you respond to this?

Services of Prayer and Dedication:

In many parts of the Anglican Communion, there is a provision to bless civil marriages. This rests on the understanding that a couple cannot be married twice.

Some Anglican provinces allow the marriage of divorced people, others do not, still others require the permission of the diocesan bishop.

We often think of Services of Prayer and Dedication as option for people who have already been married and divorced, and for whom a church wedding may pose problems or difficulties.

But there are other reasons for choosing this option:

A couple who have been married in a civil ceremony, which is a legal requirement in many other countries, may then want a Church occasion in Ireland.

A couple who not legally resident in terms of marriage legislation, but would still like what they will see as a “church wedding” in Ireland for family, romantic or sentimental reasons.

Although we ask God’s blessing on the new marriage, notice how this ceremony is not called a “blessing” and should not be referred to as such. It is really a form of prayer and dedication.

Nor is it a wedding, so there is a stipulation (p. 438) that no rings should be given or received during it – even if it happens that the woman who has already been married wants to arrive in a veil and white dress, and with sisters or friends she may call “bridesmaids.” This ceremony does not repeat what has already happened, and in the pastoral preparation beforehand this should be explained clearly.

3, Funerals

If it be your will ... (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Eventually you are going to accumulate a collection of unusual stories about Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals. To make the connection between Weddings and Funerals, I heard once of an elderly rector who came out to meet the bride as she arrived at the church, and led her up the aisle, reading the words: “Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live …”

But I also heard the distressing story of a rector who would meet the funerals of the landed gentry at the lych gate entering the churchyard; the middle class coffins were met at the steps before the church door; and he waited at the top of the chancel steps for the coffins of working class parishioners to be brought into his church.

But every funeral is different, every funeral is important for everyone involved, and everyone involved is important.

Who do you think “owns” a funeral?

It is not a sacrament, when you consider Baptism, nor is it sacramental in the way that a wedding is. Nor is it merely yet another rite.

But where and when it takes place, and how it is conducted is more than providing the pastoral care of the church at a moment of crisis.

A church and churchyard on Achill Island, Co Mayo (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A Christian funeral has several purposes, which are difficult to achieve in an hour in a church or in 20 minutes at a crematorium.

A Christian funeral seeks to bring a community together:

● to honour a life;
● to commend the dead to God;
● to give space for grief and yet to move people on;
● to express the love and compassion of God to the bereaved;
● to proclaim the Gospel message of Christ’s death and resurrection;
● to warn of the inevitability of death and to encourage them in walk in this with an eye to eternity;
● to take leave of the body and to say farewell;
● to dispose of the body reverently.

How are these objectives fulfilled in the Funeral Services in The Book of Common Prayer (2004)?

A grave in Kerameikós, Athens … what is customary and what is liturgical at a funeral? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The structures of the funeral service are like this (see p. 481):

A, The Funeral Service:

1, Gathering in God’s Name, p. 482):

Receiving the coffin at the door;

Sentences of Scripture;

Greeting;

Introduction;

Prayer;

(Hymn).

2, Prayers of Penitence (p. 483):

The Penitential Kyries;

(Absolution).

3, The Collect (p. 484):

(Silence);

The Collect.

4, Proclaiming and Receiving the Word (p. 484):

(Old Testament or New Testament reading);

Psalm;

New Testament reading (always a Gospel reading when there is Holy Communion).

The Sermon.

The Apostles’ Creed or Te Deum Part 2 (but the Nicene Creed when there is Holy Communion).

5, The Prayers (p. 486):

Thanksgiving for the life of the departed;

Prayer for those who mourn;

Prayer for readiness to live in the light of eternity.

Other prayers, including the Lord’s Prayer.

6, The Farewell in Christ (p. 487):

Silence by the coffin;

The Easter Anthems;

‘Leaving’ Prayers.

7, The Committal (p. 488):

Sentence of Scripture;

The Committal;

Prayers when the body has been lowered into the grave, or at a cremation;

Sentence of Scripture (Revelation 14: 13);

(The Lord’s Prayer).

8, The Dismissal (p. 489):

The Dismissal;

The Grace or a blessing.

B, The Funeral Service with Holy Communion;

1, Gathering in God’s Name;

2, Prayers of Penitence;

3, The Collect;

4, Proclaiming and Receiving the Word;

5, The Prayers;

6, The Peace;

7, The Great Thanksgiving;

8, The Breaking of the Bread;

9, The Communion;

10, The Farewell in Christ;

11, The Committal;

12, The Dismissal.

Note the resources and prayers that are also offered (pp 491-497).

A sculpted gravestone in Kerameikós, Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Two of the most difficult situations you may face are the Funeral Service for a Child (pp 504-513), and the funeral of someone who has completed suicide.

Other resources and options include a Form for Use in the Home, Funeral Home or Crematorium (pp 514-516).

Like weddings, there are customs and traditions associated with funerals that are not necessarily part of the funeral service:

● members of the family carrying the coffin;
● bringing up personal mementoes of the dead person;
● throwing clods of earth into the grave on top of the coffin;
● draping the coffin in a purple pall;
● sprinkling the coffin with the water of baptism.

The Raising of Lazarus, Juan de Flandes, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Some questions:

Who chooses the hymns and readings?

What prayers should you use when you arrive at a house or in hospital to find the person has just died?

What prayers do we say at an evening removal before a morning funeral (see p. 498 ff)?

Are we providing two funeral services?

What if the person who died had no apparent faith?

What if the person who died had faith, but none of their friends or family members has?

Should the funeral service take place in the home?

In the undertakers’ chapel?

What makes a crematorium chapel different?

Who chooses the readings and the hymns?

What about secular readings, poems, songs?

Is a eulogy or address appropriate? And, if so, when?

Do you have another funeral service when it comes to the burial of ashes returned from the crematorium? (see p. 501.)

Are you aware of the differences in funeral customs in different parts of Ireland?

What about memorial services?

What about general memorial services in November?

What do you do when it comes to a miscarriage or stillbirth? (see p. 512.)

4, Other rites

At another stage, I hope we shall look at the theology and rites of ordination; and issues in debates about ordination, including gender (for the Ordinal, see pp 517-590).

But you will also need to be familiar with the Confirmation services, even if you are never elected a bishop, for you will be involved in preparing candidates for Confirmation, and be involved in many ways in Confirmation services.

Some of the other liturgical resources provided in The Book of Common Prayer include the Service of Ash Wednesday (p. 338), Harvest resources, Ember and Rogation prayers, and Ministry to those who are Sick (pp 440 ff).

Reading:

Michael Perham, New Handbook of Pastoral Liturgy (London: SPCK, 2000).

Next:

9.2: Seminar: Spirituality of ministry; readings on the minister as person, private, public and holy.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture on 1 December 2014 was part of the Module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course.

‘Walking backwards to Christmas’
… finding a Spirituality for Advent

Christ in Majesty ... John Piper’s window in the Chapel of the Hospital of Saint John Without the Barrs, Lichfield ... Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ in Majesty

Patrick Comerford

The Chapel, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute

9 a.m., 1 December 2014


The Lord be with you,
And also with you

O Come O Come Emmanuel (Irish Church Hymnal, 135), Part 1:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear:

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.


O come, thou Wisdom from above,
who ord’rest all things through thy love;
to us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go:Refrain

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
in ancient times once gave the law
in cloud, and majesty, and awe:Refrain

O come, thou Rod of Jesse, free
thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
from depths of hell thy people save,
and give them vict’ry o’er the grave:Refrain

Opening Prayer:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen

Reading:

Matthew 21: 12-22 (the Church of Ireland Lectionary reading for Morning Prayer tomorrow).

A time of preparation:

I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas by Spike Milligan and the Goons reached No 4 in the charts ... in June 1956

It is almost 60 years since Spike Milligan and the Goons recorded a hit single, I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas. It was originally sung by Spike Milligan in the show to fill in during a strike by musicians, and was one of the 14 singles released by Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan from June 1956 on.

It was released on 25 June 1956, quickly reaching No 4 in the UK singles chart. I am barely old enough to remember it, but I think it was so crazy that it inspired the title of a new Advent book by the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell: Walking Backwards to Christmas: An Advent journey from light to darkness (right).

Most people have learned the Christmas story from school nativity plays and carols, some adults think they know it, but only know because of the libretto of Handel’s Messiah. But most of the familiar tellings of the Christmas story are more concerned with light than darkness.

The backwards approach taken by Bishop Cottrell in his new book takes the journey in the opposite direction, as he explores the Advent story through the eyes of a variety of characters. He begins by seeing through the eyes of Anna, the prophetess who encounters Jesus in the Temple; followed by Rachel, who weeps for her children in Bethlehem; King Herod; the wise man Casper; a shepherd named David; Martha, the name he gives to the innkeeper’s wife; Joseph; Elizabeth; Mary; Isaiah and, finally, Moses.

Each imaginative reflection is prefaced by a Bible reading and followed by a prayer, to set it in context, as we are invited to step imaginatively into the Advent Story.

It is certainly a very different approach to preparing for Christmas this year. It us very difficult to prepare for Christmas when Santa has already arrived in every shopping centre, when the Christmas lights are already strung across the Main Street in every town and village, and many of our parish choirs are already singing Christmas carols. Indeed, it is hard to distinguish between Advent and Lent when you find Cadbury’s crème eggs are already on sale.

But even in the Church we often manage to confuse Advent and Lent, probably because they are both seasons of preparation when we change the liturgical colour from Green to Purple or Violet.

The word Advent, from the Latin word adventus, means “coming.” That Latin word is simply a translation of the Greek word παρουσία (parousía), used for the Second Coming of Christ.

This season is a reminder of the original waiting for the coming of the Messiah. But more especially it is a reminder of our waiting for Christ at his the Second Coming. This season, which began yesterday, the First Sunday of Advent [30 November 2014], is the season when the Church marks a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of Christ, not just as a cuddly child in Christmas crib, but his coming in glory and as king.

Throughout the next four weeks, our readings, collects, post-communion prayers and the other seasonal provisions in our liturgies try to focus us – yes on Christ’s incarnation, but more particularly (if less successfully) to focus us – on Christ’s coming judgment and reign.

Because of that, the “Four Last Things” – Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell – have been traditional themes for Advent meditation. The characteristic emphasis in Advent, therefore, is expectation, rather than penitence.

Purple is not a penitential colour ... it is a rich, royal imperial colour, originally derived from a very rare source. Πορφύρα (porphyra), the rare purple dye from Tyre, could command its weight in silver and was manufactured in classical antiquity from a mucus secreted by the spiny dye-murex snail. As a seller of purple, Lydia was a wealthy woman of independent means. And as Judith Herrin points out in her beautiful book on the powerful woman of Byzantium, Women in Purple, a child born to a reigning emperor was πορφυρογέννητος (porphyrogénitos), “born in the purple.”

So, we change our liturgical colour in Advent to purple to signify we are preparing for the coming of Christ as the King of Kings, the ruler of all, in all his royal, imperial, majesty, splendour and glory.

Although comparisons are too often made with Lent, Advent is a time of preparation rather than a time of penitence, Lent too is a time of preparation for the completion of Christ’s majestic task, seen in his passion, death, burial and Resurrection. It was a time too, in the Early Church, of preparation for baptism, which required penitence and repentance and μετάνοια (metánoia), conversion, turning round to face Christ.

Today’s office parties, Christmas lunches, early Santas, hastily-planned carol services, and bringing the last posting day forward to the week before Advent, make it difficult to sustain this sense of being alert and watchful. Yet, can’t you remember with glee and warmth the child-like waiting and watching you experienced during the build-up for Christmas? In the cold and dark of winter, can you remember that warm glow you felt as you anticipated such a wonderful festival?

In recent times, the most common, popular observance of Advent is the use of the Advent Calendar, with one door being opened in the calendar, or one new candle being lit, on the Advent Wreath each day or each week leading up to Christmas Eve.

So I’d like to suggest customs that we can use in the Church to help restore and built-up that sense of anticipation, of watching and waiting, to cheerfully inviting people into a time and space for praying in joyful anticipation, and one event this year that can be adapted too for our prayerful preparation:

1, the Advent Calendar;
2, the Advent Wreath;
3, the Jess Tree;
4, Christingle services;
5, the Advent Prose;
6, Advent carols;
7, good old Saint Nicholas.
8, ‘Prepare a Place,’ the Advent Appeal in the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough.

1, The Advent Calendar

The Advent Calendar … a choice between Christ and chocolates?

As children, many of us have watched the progression of Advent through the doors of an Advent calendar. I remember once looking for an advent calendar for our children in a shop one year and being asked cheerfully: Do you want one with the chocolates or one with the child?

You know what an Advent calendar is: it allows us to count or celebrate the days of Advent, and to build up an anticipation of Christmas. Today, most Advent calendars are made for children. But why can’t they be for adults too?

Advent Calendars do not have to be filled with chocolates and sweets. You can make a simple one in your parish, using a large rectangular card, cutting out the right number of windows, so that one can be opened each day during Advent, revealing an image, a poem, a Scripture text or part of a story related to the Nativity.

The Advent Calendar has its origins among German Lutherans, and may have been a family practice in German-speaking places from the 17th century on. From perhaps the beginning of the 19th century, many German families counted down the 24 days of Advent physically: at first, this meant simply drawing a chalk line on the door each day from 1 December. Some families had more elaborate ways to mark each day – lighting a new candle or hanging a little religious picture on the wall.

The first known Advent Calendar was handmade in 1851, the first printed Advent calendar was produced in Hamburg in 1902 or 1903, and the first commercially produced Advent Calendar, produced in Munich in 1908, had 24 little coloured pictures that could be affixed to a piece of cardboard.

The custom spread from Germany after World War II. Even though you may have put your childhood behind you, you may find an Advent Calendar a source for inspiration for prayers and intercessions over the next few weeks.

Members of all Anglican Churches are being invited to mark Advent through prayer, meditation and by contributing to a global Advent calendar on Instagram. The Anglican Communion Office and the Society of Saint John the Evangelist (SSJE) are teaming up to offer Anglicans and Episcopalians around the world a daily word, meditation and beautiful image sent to their e-mail inboxes.

These Anglican monks are using technology that allows their daily Advent e-mail to arrive in inboxes at 5 a.m. wherever in the world the recipient is, so that “it’s there when you wake up.”

After reading the meditation, the monks are inviting people to take a photograph with their phones or tablets to share their interpretation of the word for that day – such as #Abide, #Thrive, #Become, #Imagine – and to post the picture to Instagram adding the day’s tag plus #Adventword.

You too can be part of this global Advent initiative. Sign up at http://www.aco.org/adventword.cfm. The initiative started yesterday [30 November]. To learn more about SSJE visit www.ssje.org/adventword.

In a similar vein, the Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber, has produced a calendar of Advent Devotionals for Advent this year, allowing readers to spend five minutes a day in appropriate reflections. It can be accessed here.

2, The Advent Wreath

The Advent Wreath in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin ... the first purple candle, which was lit yesterday, recalls the Patriarchs (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This morning we lit the first of the candles on our Advent Wreath. Traditionally, a new candle is lit in church each week, followed by a Bible reading or selected prayers. Some say the circle symbolises the eternal cycle of the seasons while the evergreens and lit candles signify the persistence of life in the midst of winter.

The Advent wreath is said to have been the idea of Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808-1881), a German pastor and a pioneer in urban mission work among the poor in Hamburg. In December 1838, he made a large wooden ring from an old cartwheel, with 19 small red and four large white candles. A new small candle was lit each weekday in Advent, and a large white candle was lit on Sundays. The custom spread in Germany and evolved into the smaller wreath with four or five candles. The custom spread to Britain in the 19th century, and to North America in 1930s, so that it has global appeal today.

In most Anglican churches today, there are three purple candle and one pink candle in a ring, with a white or gold candle in the centre.

The purple candles reflect the liturgical colour of the season, while pink marks the Third Sunday of Advent, when that colour change briefly to pink.

There are many traditions about the meaning or theme of each candle. But Common Worship and Times and Seasons suggest these five themes:

Advent 1: The Patriarchs (Purple);
Advent 2: The Prophets (Purple);
Advent 3: John the Baptist (Pink);
Advent 4: The Virgin Mary (Purple);
Christmas Day: The Christ (White or Gold).

Each of those Sundays then reminds us of those who prepared for the coming of Christ. ‘The Patriarchs’ can naturally focus on Abraham, our Father in faith, and David, the ancestor in whose city the Christ Child was born. ‘The Prophets’ invites us to reflect on the way Christ’s coming was foretold. And then we recall John the Baptist, who proclaimed him as Saviour; and the Virgin Mary, who bore him in her womb and gave birth to him.

The pink candle on the Third Sunday comes from the mediaeval tradition of adopting a splash of colour on this Sunday, Gaudete Sunday or ‘Rose Sunday,’ reflecting the traditions surrounding Laetare Sunday (Refreshment Sunday), the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

In others traditions, the first candle is called the prophet’s candle and is meant to signify the hope of Christ’s coming. The second is called the Bethlehem candle in honour of the city of Christ’s birth. The third candle is the shepherds’ candle. The final candle is the angels’ candle, symbolising the angelic proclamation of joy at Christ’s birth.

In either case, the accumulation of light is an expression of the growing anticipation of the birth of Christ, the light of the world. The circular wreath represents God’s eternity and unity. Evergreens are a symbol of enduring life.

A number of carols have been written for use with the short liturgy as the Advent candles are lit. A common format is to add an extra verse each week, relating to the symbolism of that week’s candle.

3, The Jesse Tree

The West End windows in Christ Church Cathedral are another way of illustrating the Jesse Tree (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

At times, we have had a Jesse Tree in this chapel during Advent, and it has become a popular teaching aid in many Anglican parishes, although the earliest example probably dates from the 11th century.

The Tree of Jesse depicts the Ancestors of Christ in a tree that rises from Jesse of Bethlehem, the father of King David. The earliest example dates from the 11th century. But it is also inspired by that passage from Isaiah: “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots,” (Isaiah 11: 1), which is the Old Testament reading in the Church of Ireland lectionary for Holy Communion tomorrow (2 December 2014: Isaiah 11: 1-10).

The lineage of Jesus is traced by two Gospel writers, Matthew and Luke. Saint Matthew’s Gospel opens with the words: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” With this beginning, Matthew makes clear Jesus’ whole lineage: he is of God’s chosen people, by his descent from Abraham, and he is the “shoot of Jesse” by his descent from Jesse’s son, King David. Saint Luke describes the “generations of Christ,” beginning with Jesus himself and tracing backwards through his “earthly father” Joseph back to Adam (see Luke 3).

The figures in a Jesse Tree are drawn from the genealogies in the Gospels, although usually showing only a selection. In many churches, the traditional Jesse Tree is decorated over the course of Advent with symbols representing stories leading up to the Incarnation – for example, a burning bush for Moses, a ram for Isaac or a crown for David.

4, Christingle Services:

Christingle services … a good resource for Advent

The Moravian custom of a Christingle service was introduced to these islands in the late 20th century, and resources are available through the Children’s Society (in the Church of England). Christingle services may take place before or after Christmas, but they are a good resource for Advent.

5, The Advent Prose

The ‘O Antiphons’ … detail from the Ghent Altarpiece, by Jan Van Eyck, 1420s

In Advent, we often sing the Advent Prose or the Advent Antiphons, an antiphonal plainsong. The “Late Advent Weekdays,” 17 to 24 December, mark the singing of the Great Advent “O Antiphons.”

These are the antiphons for the canticle Magnificat at Evensong, Evening Prayer or Vespers day and mark the forthcoming birth of the Messiah. They form the basis for each verse of the popular Advent hymn, O come, O come, Emmanuel.

These antiphons, all beginning with “O ...,” were sung before and after the Canticle Magnificat at Vespers from 17 to 24 December, the seven days before Christmas.

They are addressed to God, calling on him to come as teacher and deliverer, and woven through with scriptural titles and images describing God’s saving work in Christ. This tradition was developed in the Sarum Rite in mediaeval England, and was reflected in The Book of Common Prayer, where the Anglican Reformers retained the title O Sapientia (‘O Wisdom’) as the designation for 16 December.

6, Advent carols

The Advent Carol Service in Lichfield Cathedral last year … appropriate Advent carols are not the same as Christmas carols

It is from this tradition that we have derived one of the best-known Advent carols, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Irish Church Hymnal, 135), which we are signing this morning.

But there are other special Advent carols and hymns for this season. See Irish Church Hymnal, Nos 119 to 145.

7, Saint Nicholas

Santas and choristers preparing for Advent ... Saint Nicholas robed in green and other figures in the shop in the crypt in Christ Church Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

It is worth reminding ourselves that Saint Nicholas is commemorated not on 25 December but on 6 December [next Saturday], even if he does not make an appearance in the Calendar of the Church of Ireland Calendar.

Saint Nicholas was such a favourite saint in mediaeval Ireland that many our principal ports and towns have large churches named after him, including Carrickfergus, Co Antrim; Dundalk, Co Louth; Dublin (two churches); Galway; Cork; and Adare, Co Limerick.

He is an important figure, not because of the roly-poly figure hijacked by Coca-Cola and advertising.

His willingness to travel, even when his own life was at risk, makes him a role model for the church in mission.

As Bishop Nicholas of Myra, he was a key defender of Trinitarian dogma at the Council of Nicaea (325).

The stories of his bringing the victims of murder back to life is a reminder that Christmas is without meaning unless it is related to and connected with Good Friday and Easter Day, that the significance of the Incarnation is to be found in our Redemption and the Resurrection.

As a bishop who was the protector of vulnerable children and teenagers to point of risking his own place in society, he is an important challenge to some of the ways the whole church has handled some recent difficulties; as the free-giver of gifts, without expecting anything in return he is a reminder that God’s love is given freely and unconditionally at the Incarnation in his Son, Christ Jesus ... and what better sermon could we preach in the Season of Advent.

Chocolate Santas on shelves in a supermarket in Bettystown, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

8, ‘Prepare a Place,’ the Advent Appeal in the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough

‘Prepare a Place’ is the Advent Appeal in the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough in support of al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza. It was launched in Church House, Dublin, five days ago [25 November 2014] by Archbishop Michael Jackson, and is the initiative of the Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan Council for Mission, in partnership with the Church of Ireland Bishops’ Appeal, Us (the new name for USPG), and Friends of Sabeel.

Archbishop Jackson also introduced a prayer he has written for use throughout the Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough to accompany this Advent appeal:

God,
throughout human history you have heard the cry of your people
when they turn to you for help and healing, for merciful belonging and for new life.
Bless those who today tend the flames of witness
To your kindly presence in the Land of the Holy One.
Give grace and protection to the bishop, the clergy and people
in the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and The Middle East
who heed your command to love God and neighbour with courage and generosity.
Bless those who in the United Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough
build partnership, solidarity and friendship with the peoples of the Middle East
at this time of harrowing and of hope.
We ask this in the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.


Donations can be made to Bishops’ Appeal either by envelopes that are available in all parish churches in the united dioceses or by electronic transfer to IBAN: IE BOFI 9000 1749 8394 99 BIC: BOFIIE2D (reference Gaza).

Three questions for our time of reflection:

1, Are you ready for the coming of Christ?

2, Is this a time of preparation or celebration for you, your parish?

3, Is Christmas more important than Easter in your parish?

Some resources and reading:

Stephen Cottrell, Walking Backwards to Christmas: An Advent journey from light to darkness (London: SPCK, 2014).

Nick Fawcett, A Chequered Legacy: The good the bad and the ugly: An Advent course. Book 1: The Good (Stowmarket, Suffolk: 2014).

Gordon Giles, O Come, Emmanuel: Reflections on music and readings for Advent and Christmas (Oxford: Bible Reading Fellowship, 2005).

Paul Gooder and Peter Babington, Love Life, Live Advent: Make room for the manger (London: Church House Publishing, 2014).

William Marshall, O Come Emmanuel: a devotional study of the Advent antiphons (Dublin: Columba/APCK, 1993).

Dorothy McRae-McMahon, Liturgies for High Days (London: SPCK, 2006).

Benjamin Gordon-Taylor and Simon Jones, Celebrating Christ’s Appearing: Advent to Candlemas (London: SPCK, 2008; Alcuin Liturgy Guides 5).

Times and Seasons: Services and Prayers for the Church of England (London: Church House Publishing, 2006).

Closing poem

In the bleak mid-winter

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.


(Christina Rosetti, 1830-1893, see Irish Church Hymnal, No. 162)

Closing hymn:

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (Irish Church Hymnal, 135), Part 2:

O come, thou Key of David, come,
and open wide our heavenly home;
make safe the way that leads on high,
and close the path to misery: Refrain

O come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer
our spirits by thine advent here;
disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
and death’s dark shadows put to flight: Refrain

O come, Desire of nations, bring,
all peoples to their Saviour King;
thou Corner-stone, who makest one,
complete in us thy work begun: Refrain

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
and ransom captive Israel,
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear: Refrain

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture, on Monday 1 December 2014, was part of the Spirituality programme in the module Pastoral Formation (TH 8841) with MTh students

Hymns for Advent (2): ‘Jesus calls us!
O’er the tumult’ (No 584, Saint Andrew)

Saint Andrew, carved by Edward Smith, crowns the portico of Saint Andrew’s Church in Westland Row, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

As part of my spiritual reflections for Advent this year, I am looking at an appropriate hymn for Advent each morning. This morning I have chosen one of the hymn ‘Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult’ (no 584, Irish Church Hymnal), which is usually sung to the tune ‘Saint Andrew’ by Edward Henry Thorne.

Saint Andrew’s Day falls on 30 November. However, because 30 November this year [2014] was the First Sunday of Advent, Saint Andrew’s Day has been transferred in the Calendar of the Church to today [1 December 2014].

Saint Andrew’s Day is the first great saint’s day in this new Church Year, which began yesterday, the First Sunday of Advent.

Saint Andrew the Apostle was a fisherman, an every-day ordinary-day commercial occupation, working on the Lake of Galilee in partnership with his brother Simon Peter. He was a disciple of Saint John the Baptist, and it is said that when Saint John the Baptist began to preach, Saint Andrew became one of his closest disciples. The story goes that Saint John the Baptist then sent two of his own disciples, the future Saint Andrew and Saint John the Evangelist, to Christ, declaring Christ to be the Lamb of God.

When he heard Christ’s call to follow him, Saint Andrew hesitated for a moment, not because he had any doubts about that call, but because he wanted to bring his brother with him. He left his nets behind and went to Peter and, as Saint John’s Gospel tells us in another account of his calling, he told him: “We have found the Messiah … [and] he brought Simon to Jesus” (John 1: 41, 42).

As we wait in Advent for the Coming of Christ, are we prepared to leave behind the nets of yesterday and not get caught up in them?

Tradition says Saint Andrew was so obstinate and so stubborn at his martyrdom in Patras, in today’s western Greece, that he insisted on being splayed on an X-shaped cross. He said he was unworthy to be crucified on a cross of the same shape as the one on which Christ had been crucified.

Unlike the other disciples named in the Gospel reading for today (Matthew 4: 18-22) – Peter and James and John, the sons of Zebedee – Andrew never gave his name to an Epistle, never gave his name to a Gospel. But Andrew, the first-called of the Apostles, truly took up his cross and followed Christ. And he called others to do the same.

His stubborn and obstinate commitment to mission, to travelling for the Gospel, has made him the patron saint of mission work and the patron saint of Constantinople, Greece, Romania, Ukraine, Russia and Scotland.

That stubborn and obstinate commitment to Christ, to the point of a martyr’s death, makes Andrew an appropriate saint to start off the Church Year at the beginning of Advent. As yesterday’s Gospel reading (Mark 13: 24-37) reminded us, Christmas is meaningless without looking forward to the coming of Christ again in glory.

This hymn was written in 1852 by Mrs Cecil Frances (‘Fanny’) Alexander (1818-1895). She intended it for use on Saint Andrew’s Day, and in this hymn she takes up many of the questions posed for us by Aaint Andrew’s call, life and mission.

The tune, Saint Andrew, was written by Edward Henry Thorne (1834-1916) for the hymn’s inclusion in the second edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern (1875).
Edward Henry Thorne was born in Cranbourne, Dorset, in 1834, and trained under George Elvey at the Chapel Royal. His time as organist at Chichester Cathedral included the reopening of the cathedral with its rebuilt spire and crossing. His anthem I was glad was composed for the special service marking the re-opening.

In 1870, Thorne moved to Saint Patrick’s Church, Hove, and was later at several London churches, including Saint Anne's Church, Soho, where he continued the revival of Bach’s music initiated by Joseph Barnby. Many of his hymn tunes were included in Hymns Ancient and Modern. He died in Paddington in 1916.

The cloister-like colonnade on the north side of the former Saint Andrew’s Church in Suffolk Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)

‘Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult’ (Hymn 584)

Jesus calls us! O’er the tumult
of our life’s wild, restless sea
day by day his voice is sounding,
saying, ‘Christian, follow me’:

as, of old, apostles heard it
by the Galilean lake,
turned from home and toil and kindred,
leaving all for his dear sake.

Jesus calls us from the worship
of the vain world’s golden store,
from each idol that would keep us,
saying, ‘Christian, love me more!’

In our joys and in our sorrows,
days of toil and hours of ease,
still he calls, in cares and pleasures,
‘Christian, love me more than these!’

Jesus calls us! By thy mercies,
Saviour, may we hear your call,
give to you our heart’s obedience,
serve and love thee best of all.

Saint Andrew’s Church reflected in a shop window in Suffolk Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Readings: Isaiah 52: 7-10; Psalm 19: 1-6; Romans 10: 12-18; Matthew 4: 18-22.

Collect:

Almighty God,
who gave such grace to your apostle Saint Andrew
that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ
and brought his brother with him:
Call us by your holy Word
and give us grace to follow without delay,
and to tell the good news of your kingdom;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Father,
may the gifts we have received at your table
keep us alert for your call
that we may always be ready to answer,
and, following the example of Saint Andrew,
always be ready to bear our witness
to our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow:Long ago, prophets knew’ (No 133)