Sunday, 31 January 2016

‘For those who walk in darkness
and in the shadow of death’

Walking on the beach in Loughshinny this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

We celebrated Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation a little early this evening with the Candlemas Procession in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

Earlier in the day, I had presided at the Cathedral Eucharist, and at the Candlemas Procession this evening I led the intercessions:

In peace let us pray to the Lord.

By the mystery of the Word made flesh
Good Lord, deliver us.

By the birth in time of the timeless Son of God
Good Lord, deliver us.

By the baptism of the Son of God in the river Jordan
Good Lord, deliver us.

For the kingdoms of this world,
that they may become the Kingdom of our Lord and Christ
We pray to you, O Lord.

For your holy, catholic and apostolic Church,
that it may be one
We pray to you, O Lord.

For the witness of your faithful people,
that they may be lights in the world
We pray to you, O Lord.

For the poor, the persecuted, the sick and all who suffer;
that they may be relieved and protected
We pray to you, O Lord.

For the aged, for refugees and all in danger,
that they may be strengthened and defended
We pray to you, O Lord.

For those who walk in darkness and in the shadow of death,
that they may come to your eternal light
We pray to you, O Lord.

Father, source of light and life,
Grant the prayers of your faithful people,
and fill the world with your glory, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Between these two celebrations, two of us went for a short walk on the beach in Skerries and for lunch in the Olive, accompanied by the best double espressos served in Fingal.

Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk on the tiny, secluded horseshoe-shaped beach in Loughshinny, halfway between Skerries and Rush.

Watching the tide flow into the bay at Loughshinny in the dimming lights of the evening, and as I prayed this evening “for refugees and all in danger” and “those who walk in darkness and in the shadow of death,” it was impossible not to think about and pray for those who are caught in the waters of the Aegean Sea between the coast of Turkey and islands of Greece, or the refugees from Syria who became the victims of racism and Islamophobia when they reach other countries in northern Europe.

Good Lord, deliver us …

We pray to you, O Lord …

‘Let us pray that we may know
and share the light of Christ’

The Presentation depicted in a stained glass window in the north ambulatory in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, and I am presiding at the Sung Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral later this morning [31 January 2016] at 11 a.m.

This morning’s preacher is the Rector of Rathfarnham, Canon Adrienne Galligan, and the setting is Missa Brevis S. Johannis de Deo by Franz Josef Haydn (1732–1809), sung by the Cathedral Choir.

The readings are: Jeremiah 1: 4-10; Psalm 48; 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13; and Luke 4: 21-30. The New Testament reading is familiar to many because part of it so popular as a reading at weddings:

1 If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends.

Our hymns this morning are: Processional Hymn: ‘Of the Father’s heart begotten,’ by Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (ca 348-413) and translated by RF Davis (1866-1937); Offertory Hymn: ‘Sing how the age-long promise of a Saviour,’ by the editors of the New English Hymnal and based on a ninth century Latin text; Communion Hymn: ‘Faithful vigil ended,’ by Timothy Dudley–Smith; and Post-Communion Hymn: ‘Christ, whose glory fills the skies,’ Charles Wesley (1707-1788).

The Motet is by William Byrd (1539/40-1623), and is his ‘Magnificat Antiphon’ in his ‘Presentation Vespers’:

Hodie beata Virgo Maria puerum Jesum praesentavit in templo,
On this day, the Blessed Virgin Mary took the child Jesus when she went to the temple,
Et Simeon, repletus Spiritu Sancto, accepit eum in ulnas suas,
And Simeon, being filled with the Holy Spirit, receiv’d him in his arms,
Et benedixit Deum in aeternum.
And blessed God in eternity.

These hymns and the motet anticipate the Feast of the Candlemas, which falls on Tuesday [2 February] but, because of the Diocesan Clergy Conference in Kilkenny later this week, is being marked in the cathedral this evening at 5 p.m. with the Candlemas Procession sung by the Cathedral Choir.

The service sheet for this evening introduces the Candlemas Procession in these words:

Candlemas is the climax of the Christmas and Epiphany season. It is a feast rich in meaning, with several related themes running through it – presentation, purification, meeting, and light for the world. The various names by which it has been known in Christian history illustrate just how much it has to teach and to celebrate. But the true meaning of Candlemas is found in its ‘bitter-sweet’ nature. It is a feast day, and the revelation of the child Jesus in the Temple, greeted by Simeon and Anna, calls for rejoicing. Nevertheless, the prophetic words of Simeon, which speak of the falling and rising of many and the sword that will pierce Mary’s heart, lead on to the passion and to Easter. Coming at the very end of the Christmas celebration, with Lent nearly always nearby, Candlemas is a real pivot in the Christian year.

The Bidding Prayer says:

Dear friends, forty days have passed since we celebrated the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now we recall the day on which he was presented in the Temple, when he was offered to the Father and shown to his people. His mother was purified according to the custom of the time, and we now come to him for cleansing. In their old age Simeon and Anna recognised him as their Lord, as we today sing of his glory. We celebrate both the joy of his coming and his searching judgement, looking back to the day of his birth and forward to the coming days of his passion. So let us pray that we may know and share the light of Christ.