Sunday, 26 June 2016

Doing good to neighbours, or
being strangers to the Lord

Saint Irenaeus of Lyons: ‘As long as anyone has the means of doing good to his neighbours, and does not do so, he shall be reckoned a stranger to the Lord’

Patrick Comerford

The saints who were named in the intercessions at the Choral Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, this morning [26 June 2016]. Included Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, whose feast day in the Anglican calendar is commemorated on Tuesday [28 June].

Many people realised the humorous coincidence that Saint Irenaeus was Bishop of Lugdunum or Lyon in Gaul, and that later in the afternoon the Republic of Ireland was playing in the European Championship in Lyon against the host nation, France.

Saint Irenaeus was an early Church Father or Patristic writer who came from Smyrna, on the west coast of Anatolia, known today as Izmir on the Aegean coast of Turkey.

He was a disciple of Saint Polycarp, who in turn was a disciple of Saint John the Evangelist. In his writings, he emphasised Scripture, the episcopate, and tradition. He set out the foundations for the orthodoxies of Christian faith and the Church.

Among my favourite quotes, Saint Irenaeus says: “As long as anyone has the means of doing good to his neighbours, and does not do so, he shall be reckoned a stranger to the Lord” (Against Heresies, IV).

Saint Irenaeus is a saint in both the Western and Eastern traditions of the Church. His life story, embracing East and West and traversing the European continent from west to east, makes him an interesting saint from the past to consider in a week when Europe is facing into a future of great uncertainty.

Our lectionary readings and our hymns this morning were comforting as I sought consolation for my soul amid the disturbing events that are unfolding in Britain at the moment.

In the New Testament reading (Galatians 5: 1, 13-25), the Apostle Paul writes:

1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

It struck me this morning how much the racist rhetoric of those who directed the ‘Leave’ campaign stirred up “enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy …,” instead of showing “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

The whole ‘Leave’ campaign depended on hated of immigrants, yet Saint Paul reminds us the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’

The Gospel reading (Luke 9: 51-62) was even more direct. When the disciples visit a Samaritan village, James and John suggest burning down the town. It is an horrific attitude to those we see as different, as other, because of their social, religious or ethnic background. Replace the name ‘Samaritan’ with labels such as ‘immigrant,’ ‘Muslim’ or ‘Syrian refugee’ and Christ’s rebuke to two of his closest and most trusted friends in the Gospel this morning becomes a rebuke to all who sow the seeds of hatred and bigotry in our society today.

And there was comfort too in some of our hymns, including our processional hymn:

Through all the changing scenes of life,
In trouble and in joy,
The praises of my God shall still
My heart and tongue employ.

O magnify the Lord with me,
With me exalt his name;
When in distress to him I called,
He to my rescue came.

The hosts of God encamp around
The dwellings of the just;
Deliverance he affords to all
Who on his succour trust.

O make but trial of his love,
Experience will decide
How blest are they, and only they
Who in his truth confide.

Fear him, ye saints, and you will then
Have nothing else to fear;
Make you his service your delight;
Your wants shall be his care.

To Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
The God whom we adore,
Be glory as it was, is now,
And shall be evermore. Amen.



And then, at the Offertory, we sang Horatio Bonar’s hymn set to the tune Kingsfold adapted by Ralph Vaughan Williams from an English folk tune:

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Thy head upon my breast.’
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary, and worn, and sad;
I found him in a resting-place,
And he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘Behold, I freely give
The living water, thirsty one,
Stoop down, and drink, and live.’
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘I am this dark world’s Light:
Look unto me; your morn shall rise,
And all your day be bright.’
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk
Till traveling days are done.

The tune ‘Kingsfold’ is also associated with the ballad, ‘The Star of the County Down.’ But some scholars believe the tune dates back to the Middle Ages. This folk tune is set to many texts in England, Scotland and Ireland, including ‘Divers and Lazarus,’ ‘The Murder of Maria Martin,’ and ‘Claudy Banks.’

The oldest copy of the tune is ‘Gilderoy,’ which appears in Musick for Allan Ramsay’s Collection of Scots Songs (Tea Table Miscellany) by Alexander Stuart (ca 1726). Gilderoy appeared earlier in Thomas D’Urfey’s Pills to Purge the Melancholy III (1707), although that version is less recognisable as this tune.

The tune was published with the words for ‘Dives and Lazarus’ in English Country Songs, an anthology co-edited by Lucy Broadwood (1858-1929) and J Alec Fuller Maitland, in 1893. The tune had been submitted to Lucy Broadwood by Alfred James Hipkins (1826-1903), who worked for John Broadwood and Sons, the piano-making company run by Lucy’s family. Hipkins heard the tune being sung on the streets of Westminster, but was familiar with it for many years under the name of ‘Lazarus.’

The words published with it were found by Lucy Broadwood in Notes and Queries, although she comments in English County Songs that the last verse was published by William Hone in The Every-Day Book, and was sung in Warwickshire in the late 1820s. At this point, then, the song and the tune were not a complete entity, but the marriage of two individual parts.

Vaughan Williams would have been familiar with this tune and the words associated with it in English County Songs, as he used many of the tunes in the book as illustrations in his talks on English folk songs around 1902.

However, he first noted the tune on 23 December 1904, when he heard it in the Wheatsheaf, a pub in the village of Kingsfold in Sussex, where a man named Booker was singing the broadside murder-ballad ‘Maria Martin’ to this tune. Booker’s variant of the tune was published in the Journal of the Folk Song Society (Vol 2, No 7) in 1905, along with other versions found both with that song and with ‘Come all ye Worthy Christian Men,’ ‘Dives and Lazarus,’ and so on.

After he heard the tune in Kingsfold, Vaughan Williams used it as a hymn tune in the English Hymnal (1906), where it is his setting for Horatius Bonar’s ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say.’

According to Colm O Lochlainn, ‘The Star of the County Down’ was written by Cathal McGarvey, in the early 20th century, before he died in 1927. Sometimes, a similar piece, ‘Flower of the County Down,’ is put forward as the “original” form of ‘Star.’ But this may be a bit of an urban myth based on sleeve-notes for modern recordings.

Later, Vaughan Williams composed Five Variants of Dives and Lazarus, a work for harp and string orchestra and based on ‘Dives and Lazarus,’ one of the folk songs quoted in Vaughan Williams’s English Folk Song Suite. The others are ‘The Star of the County Down’ (Ireland), ‘Gilderoy’ (Scotland), ‘The Thresher,’ ‘Cold blows the wind’ and ‘The Murder of Maria Marten’ (Norfolk).

He composed the work on commission from the British Council to be played at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. The first performance was by the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall on 10 June 1939, conducted by Sir Adrian Boult, who also conducted the first British performance that November in Bristol.

The author of this morning’s hymn, the Revd Dr Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), was born in Edinburgh, and this is his best-known song. Its focus is on the call of Christ to come to him, look to him, drink, and rest, and the simple call to obey and to find in him all that he has promised.

In one tune and one hymn, the folk and religious traditions of Scotland, England and Ireland are brought together. There is more that unites on these islands than divides us, there is more in our shared Europe that should unite us than divide us.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
‘I am this dark world’s Light:
Look unto me; your morn shall rise,
And all your day be bright.’
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk
Till traveling days are done.


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