04 December 2016

‘O pray for the peace of Jerusalem,
they shall prosper that love thee’

The Armenian Choir singing in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

The Archbishop of Jerusalem, the Most Revd Suheil Dawani, his wife, Shafeeqa and his chaplain, Canon David Longe, are currently visiting the Dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough [1-7 December 2016]. This visit is part of the Jerusalem Link partnership between the dioceses and the programme has been put together by the Diocesan Council for Mission.

They took part in an ecumenical service in Christ Church Cathedral yesterday [Saturday 3 December]. Bishop Hovakim Manukyan, Primate of the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church of the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, also sent greetings to the service at which Archbishop Suheil gave a reflection, and a member of the Armenian community in Dublin read a reflection from Bishop Manukyan.

The Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem has 27 parishes spread through the five political regions of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. He is a strong advocate of peace and reconciliation and is engaged in many ecumenical and interfaith projects, and he works closely with the Archbishop of Canterbury on Anglican and interfaith issues. He is one of the 13 recognised Heads of Churches in Israel.

In referring to the importance of Jerusalem, Archbishop Suheil emphasises that he sees it as his duty, and that of all Christians, to make Jerusalem a model for peace between the three Abrahamic faiths. He says, ‘It is our task to give hope to the hopeless. In our daily lives, may we be guided by the star of God’s love.’

The Most Revd Bishop Suheil Salman Dawani was consecrated as Bishop Coadjutor of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in 2006, and he was installed as the diocesan bishop and the 14th Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem in 2007.

Dr Dawani was born in Nablus on the West Bank in 1951, studied at the Near East School of Theology in Beirut, and was ordained deacon in 1976 and priest in 1977. He served at Saint George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem, Saint Andrew’s, Ramallah, and Saint Peter’s, Bir Zeit, in the West Bank. He then studied at Virginia Theological Seminary in the US, and in 1987 he became priest in charge of Saint John’s, Haifa.

He then served again in Ramallah and Bir-Zeit until 1997, when he was elected the General Secretary of the Diocese of Jerusalem and returned to Saint George's Cathedral, Jerusalem, as the canon pastor of the Arabic-speaking congregation. There he was engaged in ecumenical and interfaith work, organised summer camps for Muslim and Christian children, and led a visit by a Jewish-Arab group to the US under the name ‘Kids for Peace.’ He returned to Ramallah, until 2007, when he became diocesan bishop.

The Introit at yesterday’s service, sung by the cathedral choir, was a setting of an Armenian Vesting Hymn by the late Theo Saunders (1957-2016), who died earlier this year:

O mystery deep, unknowable, without beginning,
thou hast decked thy supernal realm as a chamber,
unto the light unapproachable,
hast adorned with splendid glory the ranks of the fiery spirits.
With ineffably wondrous power,
didst thou create Adam the Lordly image,
and didst endue him with a gracious glory,
in the paradise of Eden, in the place of delights.
Through the passion of Thine holy only begotten Son,
all creation hath been renewed,
and man hath again been made immortal,
apparelled in garment indespoilable,
Heavenly King, preserve thy Church unshaken,
and keep the worshippers of Thy name in peace.

With Archbishop Suheil Dawani of Jerusalem in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin

The theme of peace in Jerusalem returned in the anthem by Herbert Howells (1892-1983) sung by the cathedral choir:

O pray for the peace of Jerusalem, they shall prosper that love thee.
Peace be within thy walls, and plenteousness within thy palaces.

The words are drawn from Psalm 122: 6-7.

The Armenian Choir in Dublin also sang the hymn ‘How Great Thou Art’ in Armenian, Arabic and English.

The service, supported by the Dublin Council of Churches, was followed by a candle-lit walk to Khachkar, the memorial in the cathedral grounds to the people who were killed in the Armenian Genocide that began in 1915. Wreaths were laid by the Archbishops of Dublin and Jerusalem and by a representative of the Armenian community in Dublin.

This morning [4 December 2016], Canon David Longe is preaching at the Cathedral Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, and the celebrant is the Dean of Christ Church, the Very Revd Dermot Dunne.

Once again I have been invited to join the choir at the Cathedral Eucharist ... and, No, they are not asking me to sing.

The invitation this morning is similar to the invitation I received two months ago [16 October 2016].

The Mass setting is the Missa Rigensis (2002) by the well-known Latvian composer Uǧis Prauliņš. The compositional style of this Eucharistic setting is very striking: lively in the Sanctus and Benedictus and intensely intimate and devotional in the Agnus Dei.

The Agnus Dei has a spoken part and Ian Keatley, the Organist and Director of Music in Christ Church, has invited me to take the speaking part as the choir sings.

The spoken part accompanying the Agnus Dei with the choir is:

Domine Deus, amo te super omnia et proximum meum propter te, quia tu es summum, infinitum, et perfectissimum bonum, omni dilectione dignum. In hac caritate vivere et mori statuo. Amen.

This prayer by Cardinal Pietro Gasparri is found in the Catechismus Catholicus (1931) and translates: ‘O Lord God, I love you above all things, and I love my neighbour on account of you, because you are the highest, infinite and most perfect good, worthy of all love. In this love I stand to live and die. Amen.’

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