Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Mark 10: 17-31, a Bible study in
preparation for Sunday week

Kerry Crescent in Calne, Wiltshire, recalls a FitzMaurice family title and a story told by Charles Gore (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Mark 10: 17-31

17 Καὶ ἐκπορευομένου αὐτοῦ εἰς ὁδὸν προσδραμὼν εἷς καὶ γονυπετήσας αὐτὸν ἐπηρώτα αὐτόν, Διδάσκαλε ἀγαθέ, τί ποιήσω ἵνα ζωὴν αἰώνιον κληρονομήσω; 18 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Τί με λέγεις ἀγαθόν; οὐδεὶς ἀγαθὸς εἰ μὴ εἷς ὁ θεός. 19 τὰς ἐντολὰς οἶδας: Μὴ φονεύσῃς, Μὴ μοιχεύσῃς, Μὴ κλέψῃς, Μὴ ψευδομαρτυρήσῃς, Μὴ ἀποστερήσῃς, Τίμα τὸνπατέρα σου καὶ τὴν μητέρα. 20 ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ, Διδάσκαλε, ταῦτα πάντα ἐφυλαξάμην ἐκ νεότητός μου. 21 ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐμβλέψας αὐτῷ ἠγάπησεν αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Εν σε ὑστερεῖ: ὕπαγε ὅσα ἔχεις πώλησον καὶ δὸς [τοῖς] πτωχοῖς, καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανῷ, καὶ δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι. 22 ὁ δὲ στυγνάσας ἐπὶ τῷ λόγῳ ἀπῆλθεν λυπούμενος, ἦν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά.

23 Καὶ περιβλεψάμενος ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Πῶς δυσκόλως οἱ τὰ χρήματα ἔχοντες εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελεύσονται. 24 οἱ δὲ μαθηταὶ ἐθαμβοῦντο ἐπὶ τοῖς λόγοις αὐτοῦ. ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς πάλιν ἀποκριθεὶς λέγει αὐτοῖς, Τέκνα, πῶς δύσκολόν ἐστιν εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν: 25 εὐκοπώτερόν ἐστιν κάμηλον διὰ [τῆς] τρυμαλιᾶς [τῆς] ῥαφίδος διελθεῖν ἢ πλούσιον εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ εἰσελθεῖν. 26 οἱ δὲ περισσῶς ἐξεπλήσσοντο λέγοντες πρὸς ἑαυτούς, Καὶ τίς δύναται σωθῆναι; 27 ἐμβλέψας αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγει, Παρὰ ἀνθρώποις ἀδύνατον ἀλλ' οὐ παρὰ θεῷ, πάντα γὰρ δυνατὰ παρὰ τῷ θεῷ.

28 Ἤρξατο λέγειν ὁ Πέτρος αὐτῷ, Ἰδοὺ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν πάντα καὶ ἠκολουθήκαμέν σοι. 29 ἔφη ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐδείς ἐστιν ὃς ἀφῆκεν οἰκίαν ἢ ἀδελφοὺς ἢ ἀδελφὰς ἢ μητέρα ἢ πατέρα ἢ τέκνα ἢ ἀγροὺς ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ καὶ ἕνεκεν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, 30 ἐὰν μὴ λάβῃ ἑκατονταπλασίονα νῦν ἐν τῷ καιρῷ τούτῳ οἰκίας καὶ ἀδελφοὺς καὶ ἀδελφὰς καὶ μητέρας καὶ τέκνα καὶ ἀγροὺς μετὰ διωγμῶν, καὶ ἐν τῷ αἰῶνι τῷ ἐρχομένῳ ζωὴν αἰώνιον. 31 πολλοὶ δὲ ἔσονται πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι καὶ [οἱ] ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι.

Mark 10: 17-31 (NRSV):

17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 18 Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother”.’ 20 He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27 Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’

28 Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ 29 Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age – houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’

Introducing Bible studies in tutorial groups

In these tutorial groups in the previous years, Bible studies have looked at different themes, including:

● The readings in the Revised Common Lectionary, not for the following Sunday, but the Sunday after, so that any of us who are preaching have opportunities to reflect on the readings before beginning to write a sermon.

● The Johannine readings, including Saint John’s Gospel, the Johannine Letters, and the Book of Revelation, in various combinations.

● The Pastoral Letters, which are appropriate studies in ministry.

Heroes of the Bible and heroes of the faith.

The choice is yours, but while you think about this, I have prepared a short study for this morning [30 September 2015].

Looking at the Gospel reading:

Bishop Charles Gore was the son of Irish-born parents. His statue stands at the west entrance of Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sunday week [11 October 2015] is the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity. The readings provided in the Revised Common Lectionary are: Job 23: 1-9, 16-17; Psalm 22: 1-15; Hebrews 4: 12-16; and Mark 10: 17-31.

When I was preaching on these readings three years ago, I recalled a story told about Charles Gore (1853-1932), who was one of the great, almost formidable, theologians at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. He was the editor of Lux Mundi (1881), an influential collection of essays; the founder of the Community of the Resurrection (1892); and the first Bishop of Birmingham (1905). He was also from a well-known Irish family; his brother was born in Dublin Castle and his father was born in the Vice-Regal Lodge, now Arás and Uachtarain.

But formidable theologians are also allowed to play pranks on the unsuspecting. And it is told that Charles Gore loved to play a particular prank on friends and acquaintances when he was a canon of Westminster Abbey.

He would enjoy showing visitors the tomb of one of his collateral ancestors, the 3rd Earl of Kerry, with an inscription that ends with the words, highlighted in black letters and in double quotation marks: “hang all the law and the prophets.”

On closer inspection, he would point out, the words are preceded by “... ever studious to fulfil those two great commandments on which he had been taught by his divine Master ...” “…hang all the law and the prophets.”

Francis Thomas FitzMaurice (1740-1818) was a rich young man, for he was a child of only seven when his father died and he inherited not only the family title as the 3rd Earl of Kerry but also vast estates, including 20,000 acres in Lixnaw, Co Kerry, which he sold off when he was still in his 40s. A widowed and a sad man, he spent the rest of his days in London. When he died in 1818, he was buried in Saint Andrew’s Chapel in Westminster Abbey, and his family’s connections with Lixnaw, dating back to the 13th century, came to an end.

He had no sons, and his titles and any remaining estates were inherited by a cousin, the son of the Dublin-born British Prime Minister who gives his name to places in Dublin such as Lansdowne Road and Shelburne Road.

The FitzMaurice arms, recalling the Kerry and Lansdowne families, decorate the Lansdowne Strand Hotel in Calne, Wiltshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The rich young man who comes to Christ at the beginning of the Gospel reading for Sunday week may lack nothing, has perhaps inherited a vast amount in his youth, but now wants to inherit eternal life.

He wants eternal life, he says, but he fails to realise he has met the living God face-to-face, and he turns away.

The rich young man keeps all the commandments that are about loving my neighbour. When a similar episode occurs involving a scribe or a lawyer, the commandments are summarised in the two great commandments, about loving God and loving our neighbour referred to on that tomb in Westminster Abbey (Matthew 22: 34-40; Mark 12: 28-34; Luke 10: 25-28).

However, when this young lawyer tests Christ, we get a very different set of references to the commandments. And when the real challenge is put to him, he may as well have answered: “Hang all the law and the prophets.”

Christ has set out on the journey, on the way to Jerusalem, and Saint Mark’s Gospel is a challenge to follow him on that way, the way to the Cross, the way of discipleship.

As the journey begins, this rich young man runs up to Christ and bows down before him – kneels before him, almost like an act of adoration – and asks what he must do. But the rich young man is not willing to follow Christ on that way.

This is a sad story of a “failed vocation,” the only example we have of a potential disciple who comes on his own initiative and not at the call of Christ.

Did you seek your vocation or were you called? Truth to tell, it was probably a mixture of both for you.

But if you rush to Jesus, knell down before him and ask what you should do, do not be shocked or dismayed by the demands he can make on you.

This man would follow Jesus. This man would knell down before Jesus. This man, when he hears a select listing of commandments from Jesus, thinks he is doing it all. Perhaps, like James and John in the following Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mark 10: 35-45), he even thinks at the back of his mind: “I’m such a good catch, Jesus should be happy to have me as one of his disciples. After all look at how generous I am: I don’t murder, I don’t commit adultery, I don’t steal, I don’t bear false witness, I don’t defraud, I honour my parents” (verse 19-20).

But it is an interesting selection from the Ten Commandments. Did you notice, in this Gospel reading, which ones are missing?

This list is the list traditionally placed on the second tablet, the six about our relationships with one another, the ones that depend on loving our neighbour.

But what about the ones on the first tablet, the four that concern loving God? The ones about the Sabbath Day, the Lord’s name, idols, and recognising God and no other gods?

He gets it right about those commandments that depend on – that hang on – the second great commandment, loving our neighbour. But he gets it wrong when it comes to those commandments that depend on – that hang on – the first great commandment, loving God.

He almost gets the point, he almost hits the mark. But missing the mark is missing the mark completely, is missing the mark full stop.

He kneels before the Lord, but cannot work out his relationship with God. Christ is a “Good Teacher” for him (verse 17), but is just not good enough for him. No matter how he turns, where he turns, he does not realise he has come face-to-face with the living God, and he does not love him enough to follow him.

This is a story about priorities, and the young man who comes to Christ in this reading has chosen the priory of wealth, position and privilege, is not willing to pay the Cost of Discipleship.

There is nothing wrong with, power, privilege and position if we use them to serve our values. But we get it wrong when we put our values in second place to power, privilege and position. Christ gets to the heart of the matter, knowing immediately that the young man does not know the difference.

The young man’s claim is not proud. He shows an almost disarming keenness and even an endearing naivety (verse 20). He is shocked by the Cost of Discipleship and he turns away, shocked; he turns away from Christ. There is a choice to be made, and he chooses to turn away, and turning away is the very opposite to conversion (verse 22).

He finds, as it says in the epistle reading that goes with this Gospel reading, that God’s word is like a two-edged sword, cutting through to the heart of the matter, laying bare the real intentions of our hearts (Hebrews 4: 12-13; see Revelation 1: 16). And in his choice to turn away he misses an opportunity of realising what it is to come face-to-face with the living God.

We get it wrong when we judge our successes against the images others project on us rather than seeking to be shaped in the potential we have because we are made in the image and likeness of God.

Where do you turn to find the Living God? The opening chapter of the Letter to the Hebrews says Christ “is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word …”

Saint Paul puts it more succinctly when he says Christ is “the image of God” (II Corinthians 4: 4; Colossians 1: 15); the Greek word he uses is εἰκών (eikón, icon).

The King of Kings and Great High Priest ... an icon from Mount Athos on the wall of my study (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I have a small collection of icons on the wall above my desk in my study here. They represent different phases and aspects of my ministry. One is an icon from Mount Athos of Christ, the King of Kings and the Great High Priest, who I hope sets my pattern – who should set the pattern for each and every one of us – in ordained ministry.

We are told in the epistle reading: “Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4: 14-16).

Christ comes into the world as the King of Kings and as the Great High Priest. But he comes not as the sort of king that we would expect a king to be, nor as a great high priest full of pomp and self-importance, not as a rich young man.

When you have been ordained as priests for a few years, when you have served your first curacy and come to move to your first or second parish as rector, you will be in danger of slipping into habits that you do not realise have been formed slowly and invisibly.

You will be the centre of attention. Nominators who want to attract you to their parish will tell you how wonderful and how talented you are; people will praise your sermons and how well you perform at Christmas and Easter, at baptisms, weddings and funerals.

You may delight in being at the centre of attention; your photographs will appear in the Church of Ireland Gazette beside bishops and in the local newspaper beside mayors and celebrities. You may be interviewed on television and write books that received critical acclaim.

And all in a very good cause, no doubt.

But once we are on a career path, we are in danger of forgetting that priesthood is not a professional option, we are in danger of forgetting the first reasons why we started to explore the idea of ordained ministry, why we first set out on the way of discipleship with Christ.

It was in humbling himself as a servant that Christ truly became the role model for all in ordained ministry.

This story of the rich man carries three warnings:

1, As Christ points out, we should be aware of the gap between aspirations and reality as we work out our vocations. In a very penetrating and discerning way, like a sharp, two-edged sword, Christ’s words show the man that he is not really as “Gospel hungry” as his initial words and actions seem to show.

2, It is a warning against the hindrance of riches, which come in a variety of tempting ways, and not just the temptation of money.

3, It is a warning that our vocations can get side-lined and can be betrayed by other priorities, not just the trappings of wealth, but also of power, promotion, priestly privilege, and even the feeling that I am so good that everyone should want me.

Model yourself on Christ, and Christ then will not be hidden from you. When you go forward, he will be there, when you go backward, you will perceive him; you will find him on your left side and on your right (see Job 23: 8-9).

Collect:

O God,
without you we are not able to please you;
Mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit
may in all things direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Holy and blessed God,
you feed us with the body and blood of your Son
and fill us with your Holy Spirit.
May we honour you,
not only with our lips but in lives dedicated
to the service of Jesus Christ our Lord.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This Bible study was prepared for a tutorial group with MTh students on 30 September 2015.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Being ‘brought … near to an
innumerable company of angels’

The Archangel Michael … an icon by Adrienne Lord in an exhibition in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

Today in the calendar of the Church is the Feast of Saint Michael and all Angels [29 September].

The churches in the Church of Ireland dedicated to Saint Michael include Saint Michael’s, Athy, Co Kildare (Diocese of Glendalough), Saint Michael and All Angels, Clane (Diocese of Kildare), Saint Michael and All Angels, Abbeyleix, and Saint Michael’s, Aghold (both in the Diocese of Leighlin), Saint Michael and All Angels, Whitegate (Cloyne), Saint Michael and All Angels, Waterville, and Saint Michael’s, Killorgin, Co Kerry (both in Ardfert and Aghadoe), Saint Michael’s, Craven Street, Belfast (Diocese of Connor), Saint Michael’s, Blackrock (Cork), Saint Michael’s, Ballina (Killala), Saint Michael’s, Derrybrusk (Clogher), Saint Michael’s, Clonoe and Donoghnore (both in the Diocese of Armagh), Saint Michael’s, Ballina (Killala), and Saint Michael’s in Limerick.

But many of the old mediaeval parishes dedicated to Saint Michael in old towns such as Wexford, Waterford and Dublin have long disappeared from memory.

Saint Michael’s Church in Wexford was of Danish origin but stood outside the town walls. It was situated in Castle Hill Street and gives its name to the Cemetery in that street which was used until the opening of Saint Ibar’s Cemetery in Crosstown in 1892.

The dedication of this little church to Saint Michael the Archangel had a peculiar significance, for the Vikings regarded Saint Michael as the protector of those at sea. They built churches dedicated to him near their port towns, always on high ground overlooking the sea, often with a beacon beside the church was a beacon, which was the last speck to disappear from their view as their ship moved beyond the horizon and the first sign on land that greeted them as they were homeward bound.

However, like the Church of the Holy Trinity, the ruins of Saint Michael’s in Wexford were used to repair the damaged castle walls.

In Waterford, Saint Michael’s Church is remembered in the name it has given to a street and a parish. This too was possibly a Viking church, because of its dedication to Saint Michael the Archangel. But the earliest documentary reference to the church is 1449. A large cemetery attached to Saint Michael’s was used long after the church fell into ruins until the closure of the city’s cemeteries in 1860, perhaps even beyond that date. The campanile is all that remains of the church

Interestingly, the preacher at the Ordination of priests in Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday [27 September 2015] was Canon David Moynan, who retires as Rector of Kilternan and Prebendary of Saint Michael’s tomorrow [30 September 2015].

Earlier in the day, at the Cathedral Eucharist on Sunday morning, the Cathedral Choir sang a Communion Motet that recalled the story of Saint Michael, anticipating today’s feast day:

Factum est silentium in coelo dum committeret bellum draco, cum Michaele Archangelo audita est vox milia milium dicentium. Salus, honor et virtus, omnipotenti; Deo. Alleluia.

“There was silence in heaven whilst the dragon joined battle with the Archangel Michael. A cry was heard – thousands of thousands saying: ‘Salvation and honour and power be to almighty God’. Alleluia.”

This Antiphon to Benedictus at Lauds on Michaelmas Day was sung to a setting by the English Renaissance and Baroque composer Richard Dering (ca 1580-1630). Despite being English, he lived and worked most of his life in the Spanish-dominated South Netherlands owing to his Roman Catholic faith.

Dering earned a BMus at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1610, and became a Roman Catholic during a visit to Italy in his early 30s. In 1612-1616, he travelled with the British ambassador to Venice, and in 1617 he was the organist to the community of English Benedictine nuns in Brussels. He returned to England in 1625 as organist to Queen Henrietta Maria, the Catholic wife of Charles I, and “musician for the lutes and voices” to Charles I.

Dering wrote three books of motets with continuo, two of canzonets and one of continuo madrigals. His music shows varying degrees of Italian influence. Much of it was brought out by an Antwerp publisher, Pierre Phalèse the Younger, between 1612 and 1628. Some of his composition sung in Queen Henrietta’s chapel were used for private devotion during the Commonwealth, and, ironically, were reputedly Oliver Cromwell’s favourite music.

The Synod Hall (left), to the west of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (right), stands on the site of Saint Michael’s Church and incorporates the church tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Michael’s Church on High Street, Dublin, which gave its name to one of three prebendal stalls in Christ Church Cathedral, was originally the domestic chapel of Bishop Donogh, who is traditionally said to have founded Christ Church Cathedral.

Saint Michael’s became a parish church in 1417. From 1541, the Rectors of Saint Michael’s were Prebendaries in Christ Church Cathedral and they were also Dean’s Vicar in the cathedral from 1541 to 1604.

Saint Michael’s was rebuilt in 1676, but in 1807, the Visitation Book describes Saint Michael’s as being in ruins, and the parish services were being held in the Lady Chapel in Christ Church Cathedral.

The rectors and prebendaries of Saint Michael’s in the 18th century included the Canon Robert Law (1730-1789), whose son the Revd Francis Law (1768-1807), married Belinda Isabella Comerford, daughter of Patrick Comerford of Summerville, Cork, and was the father of the Revd Patrick Comerford Law.

The church was rebuilt yet again in 1815. When the Church of Ireland was disestablished, the rectors of Saint Michael’s ceased being prebendaries in the cathedral, although their title has been retained in the chapter.

Rectors and prebendaries of Saint Michael’s in the 19th century included Canon Thomas Percival Magee (1797-1854), father-in-law and uncle of Archbishop William Magee of York; the hymn-writer Thomas Bewley Monsell; and Canon William O’Neill, 1st Baron O'Neill (1813-1883), who was at Saint Michael’s from 1845 to 1859.

O’Neill was born William Chichester, a younger son of Canon Arthur Chichester, Chancellor of Armagh. He changed his surname to O’Neill in 1855 when he succeeded to the large O’Neill estates in Co Antrim at the death of his distant cousin John O'Neill, 3rd Viscount O’Neill. The O’Neill title was revived in 1868 when he was made a peer as Baron O’Neill, of Shane’s Castle, Co Antrim.

Two of his descendants were prominent in politics in Northern Ireland. His grandson, Robert William Hugh O’Neill, was Speaker of the Northern Ireland House of Commons and was given the title Baron Rathcavan. His great-grandson Terence O'Neill was Prime Minister of Northern Ireland and became Baron O’Neill of the Maine in 1970.

When Christ Church Cathedral was being rebuilt in 1870-1878, Saint Michael’s Parish was amalgamated with Saint Audeon’s in 1872, the church was demolished, and the Synod Hall was built on the site. The new Synod Hall incorporated parts of the later church, including the church tower.

The last Rector of Saint Michael’s in Dublin was Canon Edward Seymour, who held office until 1872. He later became Precentor of Christ Church Cathedral.

Saint Michael’s Churchyard in Lichfield is one of the largest and one of the oldest burial grounds in England (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Earlier this year, during one of my frequent return visits to Lichfield, I revisited Saint Michael’s parish church on Greenhill, which is believed to be one of the oldest and one of the largest burial grounds in England.

Although much of the present church dates from rebuilding projects in the 1840s, there has been a church on this high ground since at least 1190, and the church stands on the site of one of the earliest settlements in Lichfield, and on a significant burial ground.

There is a legend that this was the burial place of 999 early Christian martyrs who were the followers of the legendry Saint Amphibalus, who had converted Saint Alban to Christianity in the third or fourth century. There is no evidence to support the legend of those martyrs in the year 300 during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. But the legend became so popular that it was often said that the name Lichfield actually means “field of the dead.”

This tradition develops a mediaeval story created by Geoffrey of Monmouth, and was exaggerated from the 12th century on after Lichfield became an important stopping place on pilgrim routes.

The legend was largely been forgotten by the 1500s, but it was revived later that century when Lichfield was incorporated as a borough in 1548. The new civic council needed an image for its seal but wanted to break with the pre-Reformation image of Saint Chad. The corporation decided to use the story of the 999 martyrs on its seal, and so gave new life to a dead and unfounded story.

It may be that this legend led to George Fox, the founding Quaker, to cry out in the Market Square, as he stood barefoot in the snow: “Woe unto the bloody City of Lichfield.”

Fox later said he had a vision of a channel of blood running through the streets of Lichfield and that the market place was a pool of blood. He said later he believed that God wanted him to preserve the memory of the thousand Christians martyrs from the reign of Diocletian.

A few decades later, the Staffordshire historian Robert Plot claimed the nearby area now known as Christian Fields was the site of their martyrdom and it has borne the name ever since. Of course, no archaeological evidence was ever found to support these stories from Geoffrey of Monmouth and Robert Plot. Today Christian Fields is a nature reserve south of Eastern Avenue, between Dimbles Lane and Curborough Road.

The legendary story of the Lichfield martyrs inspired the design for a seal of Lichfield, illustrated on a carving on the Guildhall, restored in Beacon Park in 2010 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Despite the false foundations for this legend and the religious impulses it has inspired, Saint Michael’s and its churchyard were still worth revisiting earlier this year.

Local legend also says the first church on the site was consecrated by Saint Augustine. Other accounts say it was because the site was so well known that Saint Chad was attracted to Lichfield, making it the centre of his new diocese in Mercia.

However, the first church at Saint Michael’s is not recorded until 1190, and the oldest remaining parts of the church date from the 13th century.

From the late 17th century, Saint Michael’s was associated with the family of Lichfield’s most famous writer, Samuel Johnson (1709-1784). Dr Johnson visited Lichfield for the last time in the autumn of 1784. He returned to London on 16 November, and composed an inscription for a floor slab in the centre of the nave to commemorate his immediate family.

On 2 December, he wrote two letters to Lichfield giving explicit directions for epitaphs to be placed over the middle aisle of Saint Michael’s Church, where his father Michael Johnson (died 1731), his mother, Sarah Johnson (died 1759), and his brother, Nathaniel Johnson (died 1737), were buried.

Within a fortnight, Johnson died quietly on 13 December 1784. He was buried not in Saint Michael’s but in Westminster Abbey on 20 December.

The original stone Johnson commissioned was removed when Saint Michael’s was repaved in the late 1790s, and much of the mediaeval fabric of the church was lost when the church was restored in the 1840s by a local architect Thomas Johnson and the London-born architect Sydney Smirke.

Johnson’s stone, with the same inscription, was replaced in 1884 to mark the centenary of Samuel Johnson’s death. The church we see today includes further architectural renovations designed in the 1890s by John Oldrid Scott.

The graves in the churchyard include an unusual “saddle-back” tomb and the graves of members of the family of the poet Philip Larkin.

Inside Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield … the interior has been altered radically in the last two centuries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Readings: Genesis 28: 10-17; Psalm 103: 19-22; Revelation 12: 7-12; John 1: 47-51.

Collect

Everlasting God,
you have ordained and constituted the ministries
of angels and mortals in a wonderful order:
Grant that as your holy angels always serve you in heaven,
so, at your command,
they may help and defend us on earth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord of heaven,
in this Eucharist you have brought us near
to an innumerable company of angels
and to the spirits of the saints made perfect.
As in this food of our earthly pilgrimage
we have shared their fellowship,
so may we come to share their joy in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Monday, 28 September 2015

An interview with ‘Soul Waves Radio’
about ‘Understanding Islam’

Understanding Islam … my photograph on the ‘Soul Waves Radio’ website

Patrick Comerford

Soul Waves Radio supplies over 30 local and community radio stations throughout Ireland with news, reaction stories and features. Each week, three interviews, edited and ready for transmission, are broadcast and posted to their website, reaching an estimated audience of 300,000.

The topics are of a religious and social nature and can fit into a number of categories: Church Year, Calendar Year, Faith/Spirituality, Current Topics, Social Issues, Third World Issues, Human Interest Stories.

In the latest set of interviews, Miriam Gormally talks to me on the topic of “Understanding Islam.”

She interviewed me in my office late last week, and the Soul Waves Radio website says today [28 September 2015]:

“The Islamic religion has come under increasing scrutiny as the rise of the extremist group Isis are causing more and more people to flee Syria and come to Europe. Canon Patrick Comerford is a lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History in The Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

“His research interests include Christian–Muslim relations, and has published, Reflections of the Bible in the Quran: a comparison of Scriptural Traditions in Christianity and Islam.

“Here he talks with Miriam Gormally about the rise of ISIS and some of the confusion and misunderstandings that have arisen about Islam as a result. Miriam began by asking him if there is great distrust towards Islam than there has been in the past.”
The interview was originally posted on 24 September 2015, in three cateogories: Immigrants, Islam, Media.

Liturgy 1.3 (2015-2016): Introduction
to liturgy, secular liturgy and ritual

Church and State have their own language, symbols and expectations when it comes to public ritual … so too with theatre, sport and domestic occasions (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

TH8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II (full-time):

Liturgy 1.2: 11.30 a.m., 28 September 2015


Ritual and symbol seen through the eyes of secular liturgy and ritual:

Evaluating experiences, e.g., sports, theatre, &c.

‘Liturgy’ and our expectations

‘Liturgy’ and ritual in the world today:

1, Drama/Theatre (Plays, Opera, Pantomime).
2, Cinema
3, Sport (Soccer, Rugby, Golf)
4, Domestic
5, Political and secular

Five working groups:

1, Drama/Theatre (Plays, Opera, Pantomime)

The Theatre of Dionysus, beneath the slopes of the Acropolis, where the tragedies and comedies of Euripides, Aeschylus and Sophocles, were first performed ... theatre has its own language and rituals (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Special language:

• Shakespeare’s English, silence in Beckett
• Opera: Italian for Verdi or Puccini, German for Wagner
• Rhyming-slang-type names in Pantomime (Stinky-Pooh).

Special Movements:

• Off-stage directions and voices
• Dramatised swooning and dying
• Raising up a dagger
• The final bow and encore

Special clothing

• You know who is the good fairy and who is the wicked step-mother
• Period costume.
• Clothing in opera often a very different cut; this is especially so in ballet
• At the Opera, the audience often dresses very differently too.

Sacred space

• The pit for the orchestra;
• The wings and off-stage;
• Where would we be watching Romeo and Juliet without a balcony?

Where would we be watching ‘Romeo and Juliet’ without a balcony? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Responsorial language

• An important part of drama and opera
• There is a special form in pantomime:
“Look out, he’s behind you.”
“Oh yes he is, oh no he’s not.”

Signs (what do they point to?)

• Curtains close for end of act
• End of scene/end of act differentiated with an inner curtain
• Throwing roses at the diva (smashing plates in Greece)
• Chekov: if a gun on the wall, not for decoration, but symbol of later drama
• Curtain calls symbolise the end, but also invite participation in applause

Roles

• Important to know who is who in a play.
• A programme will name the producer, the director, the lighting team, stage hands ... even if not seen.

Special food?

• Interval drinks?
• People take picnics to the opera in Verona

The Opera at Verona is popular and informal … but often people dress differently for the Opera (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

What is alienating for you as a participant, as part of the audience?

• It is important to see and to hear.
• If you are a child at pantomime, then you need to be engaged, to participate, to enjoy
• What if the programme notes are not good?
• If the lighting is bad?
• If the actors’ movements don’t match the roles they’re acting.

2, Cinema

Special language

• Certainly a special time, not go in the morning.
• But even language can indicate your generational approach:
• Are they films, or movies?
• Are they westerns or cowboys.
• Is it the cinema?

Special Movements

• The blackout has its own ritual symbolism
• The usher’s light
• There is a wonderful Rowan Atkins sketch the illustrates the ritual acts appropriate in a cinema when people are watching a horror movie, and they are quite different to the ones I remember as being appropriate for young boys watching westerns
• What about how people behave at The Rocky Horror Movie or Mama Mia?

Special clothing

• The usherettes in the past
• Special clothing and behaviour for watching The Rockie Horror Movie.
• Special glasses for 3D movies

Sacred space

• Don’t stand up between me, the projector and the screen.

Responsorial language

• Yes actually, watch outside when people are leaving a movie.

Signs (what do they point to):

• How to find the exit, the loo and the food sales point; they too make a difference.

Roles:

• Not just the roles in the movie
• The ticket seller,
• The ticket checker,
• The usher,
• the projectionist
• Each has a role that is different from my place in the audience

Special food?

• Popcorn!

What is alienating for you as a participant, as part of the audience?

• If the lights come on at the wrong time
• If the advertising goes on too long
• If others stand up or talk during the sacred moment.

3, Sports (Soccer, Rugby, Golf)

Villa Park ... like many English football clubs, Aston Villa has its origins in local church activities … but football has evolved its own rituals and language

Special language:

• technical terms:
• I don’t know what a birdie or an eagle is
• “Fore!”
• What does love mean in tennis?
• The referee’s whistle is a special sign language, with different meanings in one or two pips, and a long sharp blast

Special Movements:

• special entrances and exits
• addressing the ball
• lining up the teams at a cup final
• Shaking hands with the President
• The hakka
• The Mexican wave
• Waving bananas

Special clothing:

• Players’ clothing is distinct from the referee’s as well as from each other
• Special kit for the goalkeeper
• Golf!
• Tennis and Cricket whites
• Soccer supporters.

Sacred space

• The umpires behind the wickets
• The penalty box
• The tennis umpire’s chair
• The goal line
• The side line
• For spectators, the difference between terraces, or Hill 16, or The Kop.

Responsorial language

• Football chants and slogans
• “The referee’s a …”
• Where is it appropriate to sing The Fields of Athenry or Ireland’s Call?
• The drums among French rugby supporters
• The Mexican wave?

Signs (what do they point to?):

• Again, the Mexican wave?
• Yellow card, red card
• The flag at the hole on the green
• The goal posts
• The circle, and the penalty box
• The scoreboard in cricket

Roles

• Umpires
• Goalkeepers
• Linesmen
• Ball boys
• Ticket sellers
• Waterboy

Special food?

• Certainly at American football
• Strawberries at Wimbledon
• How often play at a cricket match adjourns for tea
• Captain’s dinner in a golf club
• Champagne, and popping corks at Formula 1

What is alienating for you as a participant or part of the audience?

• Sitting among the wrong supporters, at the Kop, Hill 16 or the Canal End
• Ladies’ day in golf clubs?
• Fixing times of matches to suit television viewers (in China)?
• Flares are a real bugbear at Greek soccer matches.

Cricket has its own clear distinctions when it comes to language, space, roles, signs, clothing and food … Cricket on a Saturday afternoon in Grantchester, near Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

4, Domestic

Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, name days, Sunday dinner:

At our dinner table, even on weekdays, we like to have flowers on table, usually candles, bread, wine, a salad … then we know the table is set and we can begin dinner. We serve each other the food, we raise glasses, καλή όρεξη, bon appetite.
Special language

• Congratulations
• Many happy returns
• Condolences
• Many happy returns

Special Movements

• Blowing out the candles on a birthday cake
• Candles and flowers
• Who carves the Sunday roast

Special clothing

• One of my sons at the age of six started saying he wanted us to dress for dinner.
• Party dress / little black number, and when inappropriate.
• Wedding clothes nothing to do with church tradition

Sacred space:

• The table for a wedding anniversary
• Our dinner table: flowers, candles, a salad, bread, wine, often candles too

Responsorial language

• “For he’s a jolly good fellow ...”
• “Hip, hip ...”

Signs and icons (what do they point to?)

• The birthday cake.
• Birthday cards,
• Clinking glasses

Special food?

• Birthday cake
• Champagne
• The Sunday roast, Yorkshire pud?
• Is Turkey inappropriate outside Christmas/Thanksgiving?

Roles

• You don’t initiate singing happy birthday to yourself
• You don’t pop the cork at your own birthday

What is alienating for you as a participant, in the audience?

• When others don’t sing.
• When others don’t respond
• When others forget your birthday, or gatecrash.

It is alienating when others behave inappropriately, using wrong language, songs, signs, and movements at the wrong times.

How many remember clips of Marilyn Monroe popping up and singing … “Happy Birthday.” But it was inappropriate. She was and still is the focus of attention. Who remembers how old JFK was then?

5, Political and secular

Special language

• The speaker calling the house to order
• Invoking points of order
• Giving way

Special Movements

• The state opening of parliament
• The Lord Mayor’s parade
• Judges processing into court, “Please arise”
• Sitting on different sides of the house (hence, left and right)
• Waving order papers
• Speaking from the dispatch box
• Swearing in the jury/or the jury retiring
• The house adjourning

Special clothing

• Judges’ wigs
• The speaker’s robes
• The way Black Rod or a court usher dresses

Sacred space

• Please approach the bench
• The speaker’s chair.
• At parades, the reviewing platform, and who is seated where.
• The press gallery

Responsorial language

• Order, order.
• Hear, hear.

Signs/icons (what do they point to?)

• The woolsack
• A Mayor’s chain of office
• The keys of the city
• A judge’s wig or black cap.

Special food?

• If you’ve been on a jury you may not like to recall that
• But draw on other ritual food, like birthday cakes, popping champagne, &c
• The members’ bar

Roles

• The court bailiff
• Black Rod
• The Gentlemen Ushers
• The tellers

What is alienating for you as a participant/or in the audience?

• Parliamentary procedures can be alienating
• But look at the number of people who queue up to visit the Dail or Westminster.
• There are people with positive experience of being jurors … justice was done, and they had a good day
• The state opening of parliament.

Summary:

In all of these, body language matters.

If I put out my hand for a handshake and you refuse it, who feels bad?

Do you give each other a kiss? When is it not appropriate?

An example of misinterpreted body language is easily provided by Greek head movements for yes and no, and can have consequences if I am in the line for a loo.

We create ritual and liturgy in every walk of society.

We are alienated when we are counted out, when we fail to understand what’s going on, or when it loses meaning for us.

In all of these, there are essential ingredients to make sure it works, and they usually include:

• Special language
• Special movements (including body language)
• Special clothing
• Special place and space
• Responsorial language
• Meaningful and indicative signs
• Assigned roles
• Perhaps special food.

We are alienated when:

• the wrong language, signs, responses, movements, roles are used
• when the right ones are misappropriated
• when we feel counted out
• when we fail to understand what’s going on
• or when the ritual or liturgy loses meaning for us.

And a good understanding of these social uses of ritual help us to understand when and how good liturgy works for us and for others, and how and why bad liturgy can be alienating for us and for others.

Worksheet for seminar/workshop:

Space and sign, meaning and timing:


Special language

Special Movements

Special clothing

Sacred space

Responsorial language

Signs/Icons (what do they point to?)

Roles

Special food?

Manual/facial actions:

What is alienating for you as participant/audience?

Next:

Liturgy 2.1
: The theology of space, and its implications for church buildings.

Liturgy 2.2: The use of church buildings in relation to the mission of God expressed through the Church (Seminar, based on readings from Richard Giles, Re-pitching the tent, Norwich: Canterbury Press, 3rd ed, 2004).

Chapter 8: pp 53-58.

Chapter 14: pp 103-108.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These notes were shared in a seminar/workshop on the MTh module, TH8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality, with full-time MTh students, Years II, on 28 September 2015.

Liturgy 1.2 (2015-2016): Introduction to liturgy,
ritual and symbol, meanings and language

Patrick Comerford

TH8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

MTh Year II (full-time):

Liturgy 1.2: 10.30 a.m., 28 September 2015

Introduction to liturgy: ritual and symbol, meanings and language

Opening Prayer:


The Lord be with you:
And also with you

O Lord,
hear the prayers of your people who call upon you;
and grant that they may both perceive and know
what things they ought to do,
and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introductions:

Our opening prayer is the collect of Sunday of last week [20 September 2015], the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity. It talks about both perception and knowledge. And this module on liturgy, worship and spirituality is about both knowledge and perception.

In our first hour, I hope we can have:

(a) Introduction to Liturgy;
(b) Signs and symbols in today’s culture;
(c) Introduction to the texts, readings and methodology.

In other words, I want to introduce us to the topics being covered in this module and the methodologies we are using; and in particular, this afternoon, to develop an understanding of liturgical space, place, time and structure, with a critical comparison with secular ‘liturgies’.

(A) Introduction to Liturgy: ritual and symbol, meanings and language:

Some introductory remarks:

• Good and bad experiences
• Liturgy and our expectations
• Liturgy in the world today:

1, Drama (Plays, Opera, Pantomime).
2, The Cinema
3, Sport (Soccer, Rugby)
4, Domestic
5, Political and secular
[Full discussion of Point 5 later in 1.2]

• Liturgy not in The Book of Common Prayer:

Not all liturgy in the Church of Ireland is to be found in The Book of Common Prayer.

Examples include:

• Harvest Thanksgiving
• Remembrance Sunday
• Service of Nine Lessons and Carols
• Christingle Services

Are these domestic/family, secular/political, folk/religious liturgies?

Some of these have been easily adapted in recent years by imaginatively tailoring them to a Service of the Word. But they were there long before we introduced the idea of a Service of the Word. Are these domestic/family, secular/political, folk/religious liturgies?

And there are quasi-religious liturgies too:

• Orange marches
• Remembrance Day services

What do we mean by liturgy?

Liturgy is more than rite and words. The components of all liturgy include an understanding of the role and function of:

• liturgical space,
• liturgical venue,
• liturgical time,
• liturgical structure.

How do we apply this to liturgy of the Church?

What do we mean by liturgy?

The word itself means “the work of the people.”

The Greek word laós (λαός) means the people.

The laós might even mean the rowdy, the masses, the populace.

Liturgy is not necessarily a sacred word. Sometimes it even has vulgar connotations. Some examples include:

Laou-laou (Λαου-λαου): on the sly, sneakingly.

Λαουτζίκος (Laoutzíkos) ... the common people; we are all members of the laity

Laoutzíkos (Λαουτζίκος): the populace, the rabble, the vulgar horde; this use has been current this year during the strikes and protests in Greece about public spending cuts.

And it gives rise to secular words we all understand: the word basileós (βασιλεύς, modern βασιλιάς), for a king, literally means the one who goes before or leads the people.

I was reminded in Crete recently that ‘The Beggars’ Opera’ translates into Greek as Η λαϊκή όπερα (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Greek word leitourgía (λειτουργία) means public duty. We now restrict this to the worship of the church, and even more specifically and restrictively to the ritual worship of the Church. In Greece, essentially, it is the Eucharist.

The word liton for a town hall is derived from λος, los, a dialectal variant of λαός (laós, people), is combined with ἔργον (érgon), work (werg- in Indo-European roots).

So basically liturgy means the “public work of the people”, the masses, all of us, for we are all members of the λαός, laós, the people.

I was reminded in Crete recently that The Beggars’ Opera translates into Greek as Η λαϊκή όπερα.

Liturgy (λειτουργία, leitourgía) is a Greek composite word meaning originally a public duty, a service to the state undertaken by a citizen. Its elements are λειτος, leitos (from leos or laos, people) meaning public, and ergo (obsolete in the present stem, used in future erxo, etc.), to do.

From this we have leitourgós (λειτουργός), “a man who performs a public duty,” “a public servant,” often used as equivalent to the Roman lictor; then leitourgeo, “to do such a duty,” leitourgema, its performance, and leitourgía, the public duty itself.

The word comes from the Classical Greek word λειτουργία (leitourgía) meaning “a public work.”

In Athens, the λειτουργία (leitourgía) was the public service performed by the wealthier citizens of the city state at their own expense (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the Greek city-states, it had a different sense: some public good which a wealthy citizen arranged at his own expense, either voluntarily or by law. In Athens, the Assembly assigned liturgies to the wealthy, and there was a law by which any man who had been assigned a liturgy while a richer man had had none could challenge him either to undertake the liturgy or to exchange property with him.

In Athens, the λειτουργία (leitourgía) was the public service performed by the wealthier citizens at their own expense, such as the offices of:

The Gymnasium at Olympia, where the athletes trained ... the Gymnasíarchos superintended the gymnasium

Gymnasíarchos (γυμνασίαρχος), who superintended the gymnasium.

The Greek chorus in ‘The Bacchai’ at the National Theatre ... the Choregós paid the members of the chorus in the theatre (Photograph: Tristram Kenton)

Choregós (χορηγός), who paid the members of the chorus in the theatre.

The hestiátoras gave a banquet ... and his public service finds a reminder in the modern Greek word for a restaurant, εστιατόριο (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Hestiátoras (εστιάτορας) who gave a banquet to his tribe – the word survives in the modern Greek, meaning a restaurateur (the modern Greek word for a restaurant is εστιατόριο, a place of public service, where the public is served food.

The Triérarchos in Athens outfitted and paid for a warship for the state (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2014)

Triérarchos (τριήραρχος) provided public service to the state in Athens by outfitting and paying for a warship for the state.

How do you see those four roles represented in those who provided the service of the people, the liturgy of the Church, today?

[Discussion]

The meaning of the word liturgy is then extended to cover any general service of a public kind. In the Septuagint, the word liturgy (and the verb λειτουργέω leitourgéo) is used for the public service of the temple (e.g., Exodus 38: 27; 39: 12, etc). It then it came to have a religious sense: the function of the priests, the ritual service of the Temple (e.g., Joel, 1: 9; 2: 17, etc.).

An icon of the Priest Zechariah in the Temple

In the New Testament, this religious meaning has become definitely established. In Luke, 1: 23, Zechariah goes home when “the days of his liturgy” (αἱ ἡμέραι τῆς λειτουργίας αὐτοῦ, ai hemérai tes leitourgías autou) are over. In Hebrews 8: 6 (διαφορωτέρας τέτυχεν λειτουργίας, diaphorotéras tétuchen leitourgías), the high priest of the New Law “has obtained a better liturgy,” that is, a better kind of public religious service than that of the Temple.

So in Christian use, liturgy meant the public, official service of the Church that corresponded to the official service of the Temple in the Old Law.

In today’s usage, by liturgy we mean the form of rite or services prescribed by the various Christian churches.

The liturgy of the Roman Catholic, the Eastern Orthodox, and some other branches of the Church centres upon the Eucharist.

In the Western Church, the principal services traditionally centred on the Eucharist

In the Western Church, the principal service – in both the Gallican (including Celtic, Mozarabic and Ambrosian) and Roman families of the liturgy – centred on the Eucharist. In the Roman Catholic Church there are nine rites with distinctive liturgies, in various languages. The Orthodox Eastern Church has several liturgies. The ancient liturgies of the East are classified as Antiochene or Syrian, with modern liturgies in Greek, Old Slavonic, Romanian, Armenian, Arabic, and Syriac, and Alexandrine or Egyptian (with liturgies in Coptic and Ethiopic).

But, in a broader sense, liturgy includes the divine office (given in the Breviary) and also services other than the Eucharist.

With the Reformation, the Reformers generally shifted towards the sermon as the focus of formal worship, and adopted vernacular speech.

In the 20th century, the liturgical movement sought to purify and renew the liturgy. This movement is a shared experience for all Western churches. The changes the liturgical movement ushered in include:

• the use of vernacular languages in the liturgies;
• participation of the laity in public prayer,
• a new emphasis on music and song.
• the formulation and reform of services.
• and wider awareness of the value of form itself.

Two factors often lead to confusion:

1, Liturgy often means the whole complex of official services, all the rites, ceremonies, prayers, and sacraments of the Church, as opposed to private devotions.

In this sense we speak of the arrangement of all these services in certain set forms – including the canonical hours, administration of sacraments, etc. – that are used officially by any local church, as the liturgy of such a church: the Liturgy of Antioch, the Roman Liturgy, and so on. So liturgy means rite. We speak indifferently of the Byzantine Rite or the Byzantine Liturgy.

In the same way, we distinguish the official services from others by calling them liturgical. Those services are liturgical that are contained in any of the official books of a rite. In the Roman Church, for instance, Compline is a liturgical service, while the Rosary is not.

2, The word liturgy, now the common one in all Eastern Churches, restricts it to the chief official service only – the Eucharist or the rite we also call the Holy Communion. This is now practically the only sense in which leitourgia is used in Greek, or in its derived forms (e. g., Arabic al-liturgiah) by any Eastern Christian.

(B) Signs and symbols in today’s culture:

In our use of language today, we know the difference between signs, icons, symbols, indices, and what they actually represent or point us to:

Icon:

Icons on computers serve as an international language

On the computer, icons serve as an international language:

• A half-open manila folder allows me to open a document or folder;
• Who remembers floppy discs? A floppy disc is not a floppy disc: it is an iconic sign allowing me to “Save the Present Document”;

These icons have international use and value. A new set of icons is developing for iPhones. But the icons work only if I can grasp the link between the sign and the function being carried out.

Index:

The weather cock on Christ Church Cathedral ... a weather cock on a church is not an icon, it is an index (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Unlike an icon, an index does not look like the concept it is conveying:

• A weather cock points to the direction the wind is blowing.
• An arrow on the road points the direction for traffic – it could be fatal to confuse it with an icon, and think there was a danger of an attack by archers if I continue to drive on.
• A knock on the door: this is not about the sound, but is an indication that someone outside wants to get in. If I attend to the sound and count the rhythm, they may go away.
• Clues point to a criminal, they are not the crime and they are not the criminal.

All of these depend on habit and custom, convention and interpretation. If we use the wrong one, if I am in the wrong place, if we make the wrong use of one or misinterpret an icon or an index, this may be alienating and even life-threatening.

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing ... but they all need to know whether to stop or to go at red and green lights (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

During the Cultural Revolution in China, the colour red indicated revolution and therefore forward thinking. Green turned to red at traffic lights, and red to green. If you misinterpret the colours of traffic lights – in Beijing or in Dublin – you may find yourself in the wrong lane, at best, in the casualty ward or funeral home at worst.

So, I want us to be aware of space and its role in the liturgy: liturgical space as liturgical icon and liturgical sign. Watch next Sunday in your parish churches, or later this week at the Eucharist here, at the ways in which we liturgically use signs, symbols and space.

(C) Introduction to the texts, readings and methodology:

Texts:

The Book of Common Prayer (2004).
The Church Hymnal (5th ed., 2000).

P. Bradshaw (ed), The New SCM Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship (London: SCM Press, 2nd ed, 2002). S. Burns, SCM Studyguide to Liturgy (London: SCM Press, 2006). M. Earey, G. Myers (eds), Common Worship Today (London: HarperCollins, 2001). R. Giles, Creating uncommon worship (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2004). R. Giles, Repitching the tent (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2004). B. Gordon-Taylor and S. Jones, Celebrating the Eucharist, A practical guide (London: SPCK, 2005/2011). C. Hefling, C. Shattuck (eds), The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Oxford: OUP, 2006).
G. Hughes, Worship as Meaning: a liturgical theology for late modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
C. Jones, G. Wainwright, E. Yarnold, P. Bradshaw (eds), The Study of Liturgy (London: SPCK, 1992).
H. Miller, The Desire of our Soul: a user’s guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Dublin: Columba, 2004).
M. Perham, New Handbook of Pastoral Liturgy (London: SPCK, 2000).
R. Thompson, SCM Studyguide to the Sacraments (London: SCM Press, 2006).

Building up your own resources:

G.R. Evans and J.R. Wright (eds), The Anglican Tradition London: SPCK/Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1991).
S. Sykes and J. Booty (eds), The Study of Anglicanism (London: SPCK/Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988).
J.F. White, Introduction to Christian Worship (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 3rd ed, 2000).

Next:

Liturgy 1.3:

Seminar
: Ritual and symbol seen through the eyes of secular liturgy and ritual: Evaluating experiences, e.g., drug culture, sports, theatre, &c.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is based on notes for a lecture on the MTh module, TH8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality, with Year II full-time MTh students on 28 September 2015.

Liturgy 1.1 (2015-2016):
Introducing the Module

Patrick Comerford

MTh Year II

TH8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality:


Module outline, including schedule for lectures and workshops, module content, learning outcomes, teaching and learning methods, learning outcomes, teaching and learning methods, assessment, essay titles.

Schedule of Lectures:

10.30 to 1 p.m., Hartin Room:

Week 1, 28.09.2015:

1.1,
Introducing the Module.
1.2, Introduction to liturgy: ritual and symbol, meanings and language;
1.2, Ritual and symbol seen through the eyes of secular liturgy and ritual: evaluating experiences, e.g., drug culture, sports, theatre, &c.

Week 2, 05.10.2015:
2.1,
The theology of space, and its implications for church buildings;
2.2,The use of church buildings in the mission of God expressed through the Church (Seminar with readings from Richard Giles).

Week 3, 12.10.2015:
3.1,
Creation, Trinity and theologies of worship and prayer;
3.2, Traditions of prayer (1): seminar readings on Benedictine, Franciscan, prayer.

Week 4, 19.10.2015:
4.1,
The development of the liturgical year and the daily office;
4.2, Traditions of prayer (2): seminar, readings on Reformation prayer.

Week 5, 26.10.2015:
Public Holiday


Week 6, 02.11.2015:
5.1,
The nature and theology of sacraments;
5.2, Traditions of prayer (3): seminar, patterns of prayer today (including all-age worship, participation of children in worship, worship and youth).

Week 7, 09.11.2015:
Reading Week


Week 8, 16.11.2015:
6.1,
Baptism and Eucharist (1) from the early Church to the Reformers;
6.2, Seminar: ‘Word’ and ‘Sacrament’ expressed in music and the arts.

Week 9, 23.11.2015:
7.1,
Baptism and Eucharist (2) liturgical renewal among Catholics and Protestants in the 20th century;
7.2, Seminar: homiletics and homiletics in history: readings may include Saint Augustine, Thomas Cranmer, Lancelot Andrewes, John Wesley, Martin Luther King.

Week 10, 20.11.2015:
8.1,
Baptism and Eucharist (3) the contemporary life and mission of the Church. Worship and inculturation.
8.2, Theology of the whole people of God, the theology and rites of ordination; gender and ministry.

Week 11, 07.12.2015:
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.

Week 12, 14.12.2015:
10.1 and 2,
Seminar: Sacred space and public worship in another context -- visit to a public place of worship of another faith.

Module Content:

Offering time


1, The relationship between doctrines of creation/Trinity and Christian theology of worship and prayer.
2, The development of the liturgical year and the daily office.
3, Different traditions of prayer, e.g. Benedictine, Franciscan, Reformation, contemporary.
4, Patterns of prayer today (including all-age worship, participation of children in worship, worship and youth).

Means of grace

5, The nature and theology of sacraments.
6, Ritual and symbol.
7, The theology and development of rites of Baptism and the Eucharist in the early Church, the Protestant Reformers, liturgical renewal among Catholics and Protestants in the 20th century.
8, Ecumenical statements, e.g., WCC Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry.
9, Baptism and Eucharist in the contemporary life and mission of the Church. Worship and inculturation.
10, Rites of passage, e.g., Marriages, Funerals.

Making space

11, The Christian theology of space, and its implications for church buildings.
12, The use of church buildings in relation to the mission of God expressed through the Church.

Worship and the Word

13, The Ministry of the Word.
14, A critical grasp of the history of homiletics, including close study of examples, e.g. Augustine, Thomas Cranmer, Lancelot Andrewes, John Wesley, Martin Luther King.
15, Patterns and models of homiletics for the context of 21st century Ireland.
16, The ‘Word’ expressed in music and art.
17, The relationship between Word and Sacrament.

Ministers of faith

18, Theology of the whole people of God, and within that the theology of ordination.
19, How such theology is expressed in rites of ordination, historical and contemporary.
20, The minister as person, private, public and holy.
21, Spirituality for ministry; the practice of spiritual direction, in history and contemporary examples; gender, spirituality and ministry.

Learning Outcomes:

By the end of this module students will be able:

• To understand and appropriate the history, theology and liturgical praxis of Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry;
• To appreciate the significance of both time and place in Christian worship and mission;
• To be able to articulate the way in which liturgies can both reflect and challenge social norms.
• To engage critically with the history of homiletics in the creation and delivery of sermons.
• To display knowledge of the diversity of approaches to spirituality found in the history of the Church; to appreciate the theory and practice of spiritual direction against the background of the history of Christian spirituality; to show awareness of the relationship between different personality types and different paths in Christian spirituality; to demonstrate appreciation of the need for a minister to develop a personal spiritual discipline.

Teaching and Learning Methods:

This module will be taught through a series of lectures and student-led seminars.
Students are required to take part in and lead class seminars and also to take part in collaborative small groups and independent study.

There will be a joint seminar with each of the other two strands – Biblical Studies and Theology.

Semester: 1; Hours: 2 per week; 5 Credits

Assessment: 2,500 words of coursework (e.g. essay or project as agreed by the course leader).

Date for submission: Monday, 21 December 2015, 12 noon.

Essay titles:

1, Discuss the principal institution narratives in the New Testament and explain the liturgical problems and insights that may be gained from the narrative of the Last Supper in Saint John’s Gospel.

2, Identify the principal differences between Order I and II for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in The Book of Common Prayer (2004), and compare the advantages and disadvantages in using them in a contemporary parish setting on Sundays.

or

Discuss the three Eucharistic Prayers for Holy Communion 2 in The Book of Common Prayer (2004), comparing and contrasting the similarities and differences in emphases.

3, Outline the changes and reforms in Anglican rites of the Holy Communion (Eucharist) at the Reformation, and outline how they were influenced by changes and developments in the Continental Reformations.

or

Trace the background to the development of the Sarum Rite or Use of Sarum and discuss its relevance to the development of The Book of Common Prayer (2004) and Anglican liturgy.

4, Discuss the contribution of either John Keble or Charles Gore to the Anglican understandings of tradition and the sacraments, compare them with those of Charles Simeon, and discuss the relevance of their writings today.

or

Outline and compare the contribution to our understandings of Anglican spirituality made by two of the following writers: Evelyn Underhill, Dorothy Sayers, Cecil Frances Alexander or Elizabeth Canham.

5, Explain the importance of the Eucharistic chapters in the Didache and discuss their relevance for thinking about liturgy in the contemporary church.

or

‘The Apostolic Fathers and the Desert Fathers provided the inspiration for Christian spirituality throughout the Middle Ages and beyond.’ Discuss their relevance to the Christian tradition of spirituality.

6, Discuss the Service of the Word as outlined in The Book of Common Prayer (2004) and examine the principal opportunities and difficulties it provides in organising a Sunday service in (a) a traditional parish and (b) a new church plant.

7, Baptism has been described as the foundational sacrament of the church. Discuss how you understand the role of baptism in the life of a parish today.

or

Baptism and confirmation are generally used as two separate rites today. Outline the arguments both for and against maintaining the current practice.

8, Explain the opportunities and difficulties in trying to create a sense of ‘sacred space’ in a contemporary or modern building, discuss the liturgical problems that need to be faced, and explain how you would seek to overcome them.

or

Give three examples of what may be described as public or secular liturgies, draw comparisons between your examples and the conduct of liturgy in the Church, and discuss the lessons that can be learned and shared mutually.

Required or Recommended Reading:

P. Bradshaw (ed), The New SCM Dictionary of Liturgy and Worship (London: SCM Press, 2nd ed, 2002).
S. Burns, SCM Studyguide to Liturgy (London: SCM Press, 2006).
M. Earey, G. Myers (eds), Common Worship Today: an illustrated guide to Common Worship today (London: HarperCollins, 2001).
R. Giles, Creating uncommon worship (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2004).
R. Giles, Re-pitching the tent (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 3rd edition, 2004).
B. Gordon-Taylor and S. Jones, Celebrating the Eucharist, A practical guide (London: SPCK, 2005/2011).
C. Hefling, C. Shattuck (eds), The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Oxford: OUP, 2006).
G. Hughes, Worship as Meaning: a liturgical theology for late modernity (Cambridge: CUP, 2003).
C. Jones, G. Wainwright, E. Yarnold, P. Bradshaw (eds), The Study of Liturgy (London: SPCK, 1992).
H. Miller, The Desire of our Soul: a user’s guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Dublin: Columba, 2004).
M. Perham, New Handbook of Pastoral Liturgy (London: SPCK, 2000).
R. Thompson, SCM Studyguide to the Sacraments (London: SCM Press, 2006).

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This module outline was prepared for Year II students on the MTh course at the start of the Module TH8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality, on 28 September 2015.

The sacred promises made by ministers
and stewards of word and sacrament

Autumn sunshine on the River Liffey on Sunday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

The bright, sunny autumn weather continued on Sunday [27 September 2015], with blues skies and warm sunshine in Dublin for the last of this year’s ordinations in Christ Church Cathedral.

Four priests were ordained this afternoon: the Revd Alan Breen (Greystones), the Revd Cathy Hallissey (Taney), the Revd Ruth O’Kelly (Rathfarnham) and the Revd Abigail Sines (Christ Church Cathedral Group of Parishes).

I am working on the final stages of a chapter on preaching and the Eucharist, and it was heartening to be reminded throughout the afternoon that as priests we are ordained to a ministry of both word and sacrament:

Bishop: In your ministry will you expound the Scriptures and teach that doctrine?

Answer: I will.

And then, soon after:

Bishop: Will you encourage God’s people to be good stewards of their gifts …?

Answer: I will.

I was robed and in my stall in the cathedral as a member of the chapter, and it is very moving to come down during the singing of Veni, creator Spiritus to join the archbishop and the other priests present in laying hands on all the candidates.

After laying hands on the new priests, the bishop then continues:

“Give to these your servants grace and power to fulfil the ministry to which they are called, to proclaim the gospel of your salvation; to minister the sacraments of the new covenant; to watch over and care for your people; to pronounce absolution; and to bless them in your name.

Later, the bishop clearly links that word “steward” with the ministry of sacrament in the words of the Post-Communion Prayer:

Bishop: Almighty God,
you have chosen and ordained these your servants
to be ministers and stewards of your word and sacrament …

In the south ambulatory in Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Earlier in the morning, I was also in the chapter stalls for the Cathedral Eucharist, sung by the Cathedral Choir to Judith Bingham’s Missa Brevis (Awake My Soul).

This setting was commissioned for the fiftieth anniversary of the consecration of Bromley Parish Church, Saint Peter and Saint Paul, in 1957 after it had been razed by the force of one German high explosive bomb in 1941.

“I wanted the dramatic progression of the Mass to be about rebuilding,” she said later. Her Kyrie, she said, evokes “walking amid the ruins of the church, desolation, despair.” Echoing TS Eliot, she headed this Kyrie: “A wasteland: the ruins of a sacred building.”

The Gloria unfolds from the “decision to rebuild – a sense of renewed hope.” Her heading is: “The rebuilding begins.”

Her Sanctus enshrines the solemnity of the new church’s consecration, and is headed: “The consecration of the house.”

Her Agnus Dei, she says, turns to “the forgiveness of enemies,” a process led by the rebuilding of trust and the recognition of humanity’s mutual interdependence. The heading reads: “As we forgive them.”

Two of us went to lunch in Wallace’s Taverna on the north bank of the River Liffey, and as we crossed the river back to Temple Bar, the waters of the Liffey were sparkling the afternoon autumn sunshine.<,br />
I strolled through the second-hand book barrows in Temple Bar before returning to the cathedral, where Judith Bingham’s reflections on her setting echoed through my mind again and again as I listened to the questions put to the four new priests before their ordination:

Bishop: Will you be faithful in visiting the sick, in caring for the poor and needy, and in helping the oppressed?

Answer: I will.

Bishop: Will you p[romote unity, peace and love ….?

These are charges that are not confined to parish ministry, and all priests need to be reminded constantly of those sacred promises.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

A night out under the full
moon in Donnybrook

Animal sculptures under the rising full moon in Donnybrook last night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

The “Indian Summer” we have been blessed with for the past few days on the East Coast was enhanced by a rich full moon last night, so that in the late evening it was like a Mediterranean night under a bright blue sky, with people out strolling in light clothes enjoying the unseasonable balmy weather.

Before the moon had risen fully, two of us went to dinner at Forno in Donnybrook, and were delighted by the Mediterranean fare.

Every time I return to Donnynrook I have mixed but happy memories, remembering days in the early 1970s, when a number of us from Wexford shared a flat in Marlborough Road at weekends, with a social life that included late evenings in McCloskey’s, rugby matches at Old Wesley and parties in the tennis club on Belmont Avenue.

A decade later and I was a post-graduate theology student in the Irish School of Ecumenics, trekking from Bea House on Pembroke Park along Marlborough Road or Belmont Avenue to lecture rooms and seminars in Milltown Park, or going over exam questions in post-mortems in the pubs in Donnybrook.

Inside Forno in Donnybrook last night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

But there were summer memories of Italy and the Mediterranean this evening in Forno, which is a modern Italian café and restaurant right in the heart of Donnybrook, on the bend beside the fire station.

The emphasis in Forno is on great food and friendly service in a casual and relaxed environment. For some reason, it also seemed to me to be like a miniature version of Bill’s on Green Street, just a few steps away from Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge.

The building was originally a brickworks and has been restored and rebuilt to provide a sympathetic backdrop for hearty Italian inspired food. Forno sources the best of local ingredients and combines them with great Italian imports, such as cured meats, cheeses, olive oils and vinegars to produce delicious pizzas and pastas. Where possible, they use free-range and locally sourced produce.

They say their baristas take great pride in their skills and that they use the finest blend of Arabica beans to create their coffees.

Outside, in a green area in front of Forno, there was an array of farm animal sculptures, with an all-too-real-looking fox ready to pounce under the full moon.

Late tonight and early tomorrow morning [28 September 2015], there is a rare opportunity between 2.07 and 5.27 a.m., to see a blood red “super-moon” caused by a lunar eclipse with the moon near to its closest point to the Earth. http://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/in/ireland/dublin

This promises a rare event that has not occurred for 30 years, and it comes less than two months after seeing a “blue moon” in Sicily at the end of July. http://www.patrickcomerford.com/2015/07/just-once-in-very-blue-moon-on-east.html

How does this happen?

When the moon is at “perigee,” or its shortest distance from the Earth, it is 226,000 miles away and appears 14 per cent larger and 30 per cent brighter than when it is at its furthermost point. The last time this coincided with a lunar eclipse, when the moon is covered by the Earth's shadow, was in 1982 and the event will not be repeated until 2033.

During a lunar eclipse, the moon turns a deep rusty red, due to sunlight being scattered by the Earth’s atmosphere.

It should be worth getting up for in the middle of the night.

Late evening in Forno in Donnybrook (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Is Beacon Park in Lichfield
Britain’s favourite park?

Summer flowers in Beacon Park earlier this year (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

When I am back in Lichfield, I often stay in the Hedgehog, or at least have lunch or dinner there. It is a choice that has made Beacon Street feel almost like home, as I walk back and forth between the Cathedral and the Hedgehog.

But it also means I have come to enjoy Beacon Park, with its mature trees, woodland walks, a pool, wide open spaces, woodland, herbaceous garden, and views to Lichfield Cathedral.

Now, I read that Beacon Park is in the running to be named Britain’s favourite park this year. Beacon Park is one among a record-breaking number of 1,582 parks and green spaces that have achieved a prestigious, international Green Flag Award that recognises and rewards the best green spaces.

Woodland walks in Beacon Park, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Beacon Park dates back to the late 1800s, and is set in more than 70 acres of beautiful formal gardens and open spaces. The park underwent extensive renovation in 2010 and 2011. The project, led by Lichfield District Council and Lichfield City Council, helped to restore many of the park’s historic features as well as developing new facilities.

The programmes and events that attract thousands of visitors to the park include the Lichfield Proms in Beacon Park.

The park’s facilities include tennis, bowls, football, and an 18-hole par 3 golf course, as well as a large playground and an enclosed play area for under-11s. In summertime, Beacon Park is alive with activities, including crazy golf, mini cars, inflatables, donkey rides, pedaloes on the pool … and more.

The statue of Captain Edward Smith in Museum Gardens (Photographs: Patrick Comerford)

Museum Gardens is the more formal part of Beacon Park, with classic Victorian features, including flowerbeds that set off the central fountain, and monuments to Captain Edward Smith (1914) of the Titanic (1914), Erasmus Darwin and Edward VII (1908).

Recent new features in Beacon Park include an education hub, a café and a refreshment kiosk, interpretation, and a community gardening area – complete with a greenhouse and a compost toilet.

Museum Gardens were first created as an informal park in the late 1800s. The land was once part of Minster Pool until a causeway was built, on what is now part of Bird Street, and it became known as Bishop’s Pool (or Upper Pool). This pool silted up over time and eventually it was filled in.

Museum Gardens opened as a public park in 1859, during the reign of Queen Victoria. It was developed by Lichfield City Corporation and funded by the Conduit Lands Trust. The gardens, originally incorporating ornamental pools and avenues of trees, were designed to complement the Italianate architecture of the nearby Free Library and Museum.

Local philanthropists and wealthy residents donated items, including the garden’s ornamental fountain which was donated in 1871 by Canon James Thomas Law (1790-1876), Chancellor of the Diocese of Lichfield, Master of Saint John’s Hospital and Warden of Lichfield Theological College.

The figures of the lions surrounding Chancellor Law’s Fountain were given in the late 1880s by Sir Richard Cooper (1847-1913), a Lichfield city alderman. Cooper inherited the business of Cooper and Nephews after the death of his uncle, William Cooper, in 1885. The business manufactured chemicals and exported pedigree live stock. He lived at Shenstone Court outside Lichfield and was a breeder of shorthorn cattle and Shropshire sheep, supplying British livestock to Argentina. Later he became High Sheriff of Staffordshire (1901) and Deputy Lieutenant. In 1892, the Conduit Lands Trust agreed to supply water to the fountain three times a week in summer, without charge.

Beacon Park’s Recreation Grounds were opened in 1891 on nearly five acres of land. The grounds were extended by 12 acres in 1944, thanks to a local benefactor, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Swinfen Broun (1858-1948). The area features now include tennis courts, bowling greens and football pitches.

The Martyrs’ Plaque, removed from the Guildhall in the 19th century, was restored in Beacon Park in 2010 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

This is also the location of the Martyrs’ Plaque representing the seal for the city of Lichfield. There was a popular myth that 999 Christians were martyred in Lichfield by the Romans in the year 288 during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. The carved stone monument decorated the front of the Guildhall from 1744 until it was removed during a Victorian restoration and placed in storage.

The discarded monument was moved to a rockery on the east side of the Museum Gardens, and fell into disrepair until 2010 when it was restored in the Recreation Grounds. Another interpretation of the seal can be seen on the railway bridge at Saint John Street.

Keep Britain Tidy runs the annual People’s Choice award, giving the British public a chance to vote for their favourite park. This year, Lichfield District Council is encouraging local people to back Beacon Park.

You can vote for Beacon Park by going to this page on the Green Flag Award site and clicking the “Vote for this Site” button.

Voting closes at noon on Wednesday [30 September], and the winner of the People’s Choice award will be announced in October.

The statue of Erasmus Darwin in Museum Gardens (Photographs: Patrick Comerford, 2015)