04 November 2016

Liturgy 2016-2017 (Part Time) 7.2: Seminar,
the ‘Word’ expressed in music and the arts

Stained glass windows in the chapel of Gormanston College, Co Meath ... inspired by the architecture and art of Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year III-IV, part-time mode:

Liturgy 7.2: 4 November 2016

Seminar: the ‘Word’ expressed in music and art.

For this seminar, linking the word, in its liturgical context, with music and art, I have chosen some of my favourite examples from paintings, architecture, music and poetry.

1, Paintings:

My two chosen paintings are Holman Hunt’s Light of the World and Stanley Spencer’s The Resurrection, Cookham (1923-1927).

1.1: Holman Hunt, The Light of the World

‘Be like those who are waiting for their master ... that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks’ ... Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World

One of the earliest images I have of Christ is William Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World – it was the first image of Christ I remember being shown to me by my grandmother as a small boy in her house in West Waterford.

There are two original copies of this famous painting. The first painting was moved to Keble College, Oxford, and became so popular that Holman Hunt was asked to paint a larger copy. This second version was sold on condition that it toured the world to preach the Gospel and the purchaser would provide cheap colour reproductions. After travelling the world, this second version of The Light of the World was presented to Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, in 1904. There it remains to this day as ‘a painted text, a sermon on canvas.’

There are countless copies of this painting in vestries and vestries, rectories and vicarages, and homes throughout the Anglican Communion.

Despite the popularity of this great work of art, few people know what the artist was trying to say, or the spiritual depths he searched, as he worked on this painting. Yet it remains one of the great artistic expressions of Anglican spirituality.

Holman Hunt was a founding member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood – those young artists and poets of the Victorian era who reacted vigorously against ‘the frivolous art of the day.’ They included Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his sister, the poet Christina Rossetti. Their paintings of religious or romantic subjects were clear and sharply focused. They believed that art is essentially spiritual in character and that mediaeval culture had a spiritual and creative integrity that was lost in later eras.

William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) received his middle name through a clerical error at his baptism in 1827 in Saint Mary’s, Ewell, near Epsom. He was raised in Cheapside in an evangelical family, where he spent much time reading the Bible. He left school at 12, but he persuaded his parents to send him to the Royal Academy Schools to train as a painter.

Holman Hunt began painting The Light of the World in 1851. When it was displayed in 1853, it was harshly criticised. But John Ruskin defended Holman Hunt, and curiosity about the painting reached such a pitch that it went on a national tour by demand.

Holman Hunt later recalled: ‘I painted the picture with what I thought, unworthy though I was, to be by Divine command, and not simply as a good subject.’

To achieve realism, Holman Hunt did much of this painting at night by the light of a lamp in Ewell, where he was baptised.

The work is full of symbolic meaning, with the contrasts between light and dark, and between luxuriant, abundant plants and the thorns and weeds. The painting shows Christ, the Light of the World (John 8: 12), knocking on an overgrown and long-unopened door: ‘Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you, and eat with you, and you with me’ (Revelation 3: 20).

In his painting, Christ’s head bears two crowns: the earthly crown of shame and his heavenly crown of glory. The thorny crown is beginning to bud and to blossom. These are not thorns from a hawthorn hedge, or briars from an overgrown garden in England. These are thorns from branches thrown by soldiers in Palestine on a barrack-room brazier, with spikes three to four inches long, twisted into a rough-and-ready crown set firmly on Christ’s head, each sharp spike drawing blood.

Christ’s loving eyes look directly at you wherever you stand to view this painting. But the sadness on his face is painful. His listening aspect shows that even at the eleventh hour he knocks, hoping for an answer. His hands are nail-pierced, his half-open right hand is raised in blessing, but his feet are turned away, as if he is about to go. For he has been knocking, and he has been left waiting.

For Christ’s royal mantle, Holman Hunt draped his mother’s best tablecloth around his model, but the symbolism was lost on many. Christ who knocks at the door invites us to his table and to the heavenly banquet. The mantle might be a liturgical cope, linking this scene with the eschatological promise in the Eucharist. This cope or mantle is secured by the Urim and Thummim, clasped by the Cross in a symbol of Judaism and Christianity being brought together.

Christ’s robe is seamless, symbolising the unity of the Body of Christ.

Christ’s lantern lights up his features, the doorway, and the way ahead. ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119: 105). To those living in darkness, Christ is waiting to enter their lives. The cords of the lamp, twisted around Christ’s wrist, symbolise the intense unity between Christ and the Church.

The shut door has no latch, no handle, no keyhole – it can only be opened from inside. But the iron-work is rusted, for it is a long time since this door has been opened. The door to our hearts has to be opened from within, through repentance and faith, faith that flowers and bears fruit.

The door is overgrown with the dead weeds and trailing ivy that choke up flowers and any fruit. They would not be there had the door been kept open. All the plants have been overtaken by brambles, because this a place to which the gardener has not come.

Above flies a bat, blind and unable to see in the darkness, long associated with ruin and neglect. Below, the fruit has fallen to the ground and some are rotten. Yet the light from the lamp shows this fruit has come from a good tree.

I think of the Advent theme of Christ coming to usher in his kingdom, and wonder when Christ comes knocking at your door, whether those in the house will be prepared and ready?

Will Christ be welcome to sit down and eat?

Will he find the fruits of faith are flowering?

Or will they be crushed and scattered on the ground beneath him?

1.2: Stanley Spencer, ‘The Resurrection, Cookham’ (1923-1927):

Stanley Spencer, ‘The Resurrection, Cookham’ (1923-1927)

This painting hangs in the Tate Gallery in London and I have been intrigued by it long before it was used to illustrate a major feature of mine in The Irish Times.

Stanley Spencer (1891-1956) believed that the divine rested in all creation. His earthy Christian faith and his preoccupation with death and resurrection are reflected in many of his works. His mural for the Sandham Memorial Chapel in Burghclere, dedicated to the dead of World War I, has an altarpiece depicting the Resurrection of the Soldiers.

Stanley Spencer was born in and spent most of his life in the Thames-side village of Cookham in Berkshire, about 30 miles west of London. One of 12 children, he seems to have had an enchanted childhood. Perhaps this explains why he saw his home town of Cookham as a paradise in which everything is invested with mystical significance.

Characters and stories drawn from the daily Bible readings with his father inspired his future work. Much of his greatest work depicts Biblical scenes, from miracles to the Crucifixion. However, they are set not in the Holy Land, but – like this painting, The Resurrection, Cookham (1923–1927) – are set in Cookham, which he referred to as ‘a village in heaven.’ Cookham and its familiar figures became the ingredients for most of his paintings, with actual villagers depicted as Biblical characters.

The Resurrection, Cookham is the first of a great series of resurrection paintings. The entire population of the village – including Spencer – is seen popping out of their graves in the churchyard in Cookham, looking as dapper as ever, squinting in the sunlight of bright sunny day.

Christ is enthroned in the church porch, cradling three babies, with God the Father standing behind. Spencer himself appears near the centre, naked, leaning against a grave stone. His fiancée Hilda Carline – whom he married in 1925 while working on this painting – lies sleeping in a bed of ivy. At the top left, we can see risen souls being transported to Heaven in the pleasure steamers that then ploughed along the River Thames.

But do you notice anything odd here? This is a resurrection without a last judgment. It seems everyone in Cookham is to be forgiven their sins.

Some questions:

Do you think either of these artists is trying to say something about liturgy of word and liturgy of sacrament in these paintings?

What connection is Holman Hunt’s image of Christ making with Eucharistic symbolism?

How is he trying to make visual connections between the Eucharist and the Word?

What is Stanley Sepncer saying about the goodness of people and the way we conduct funerals, preach at funerals, or preach about the resurrection?

2, Architecture:

Once again, I have two choices this evening. But instead of choosing two Gothic revival churches designed by Pugin, I have chosen two works of modern architecture, one Anglican and one Roman Catholic: Coventry Cathedral in the English Midlands, and the Church of the Sacred Heart in Laytown, on the coast of Co Meath.

2.1: Coventry Cathedral

John Hutton’s ‘Screen of Saints and Angels’ at the entrance to Coventry Cathedral, reflecting the ruins of the old, bombed cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In a national poll in Britain in the 1990s, Coventry Cathedral was elected Britain’s favourite 20th century building. It never fails to move, excite and delight all who visit and worship here, and it had a remarkable influence on church architecture from the 1950s on, influencing even the design of my own school chapel in Gormanston, Co Meath.

The cathedral’s international work, through its Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation and the Community of the Cross of Nails, has provided spiritual and practical support in areas of conflict throughout the world, and has made Coventry Cathedral known internationally.

The story of Coventry dates back for more than 1,000 years, and includes the story of the 12th century Priory Church of Saint Mary, the mediaeval Parish Church Cathedral of Saint Michael and the modern Coventry Cathedral, also named after Saint Michael.

Saint Mary’s, the earliest cathedral in Coventry, was founded as a Benedictine community in 1043. The modern Diocese of Coventry was formed in 1918, and Saint Michael’s Church became its cathedral. On the night of 14 November 1940, Coventry was destroyed by German bombs, and along with it the cathedral was burned down.

The decision to rebuild the cathedral was taken the next morning. But rebuilding was not to be an act of defiance; rather, it was to be seen as a sign of faith, trust and hope for the future. The vision of the Provost at the time, the Vey Revd Dick Howard, led the people of Coventry away from feelings of bitterness and hatred and led to the cathedral’s Ministry of Peace and Reconciliation.

Instead of sweeping away the ruins or rebuilding a replica of the former church, the leaders of the cathedral community took the courageous step to build a new cathedral and preserve the remains of the old cathedral as a moving reminder of the folly and waste of war.

Sir Jacob Epstein’s bronze statues of Saint Michael and the Devil on the wall outside Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The foundation stone was laid on 23 March 1956 and the new cathedral was consecrated on 25 May 1962, and Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem was written to mark the occasion. The ruins remain hallowed ground and together the two create one living Cathedral.

The new cathedral was an inspiration to many fine artists of the post-war era. The architect Sir Basil Spence commissioned works from Graham Sutherland, John Piper, Ralph Beyer, John Hutton, Jacob Epstein, Elisabeth Frink and others.

The modernist design of Coventry Cathedral caused much controversy at the time, but it rapidly became a hugely popular symbol of reconciliation in post-war Britain. The interior is notable for:

Facing the world ... the Gethsemane Chapel in Coventry Cathedral

● The large tapestry of Christ, designed by Graham Sutherland.
● John Bridgeman’s emotive sculpture of the Mater Dolorosa in the East end.
● John Piper’s Baptistery window that fills the full height of the bowed baptistery; it is made of 195 panes, ranging from white to deep colours.
● The stained glass windows in the Nave, by Lawrence Lee, Keith New and Geoffrey Clarke, facing away from the congregation, the opposite pairs representing a pattern of growth from birth to old age, and culminating in heavenly glory nearest the altar, with one side representing Humanity, the other side representing the Divine.
● The Great West Window known as the Screen of Saints and Angels, engraved directly onto the screen in expressionist style by John Hutton.
● The foundation stone, the ten stone panels inset into the walls of the cathedral called the Tablets of the Word, and the baptismal font, designed and carved by Ralph Beyer, a German émigré.
● The Chapel of Christ in Gethsemane, at the end of the liturgical south aisle (to the right of the altar and tapestry), featuring a striking gold mosaic of a Byzantine-like angel, offering the chalice. The angel was designed by Stephen Sykes, and the chapel is separated by a bronze screen in the shape of a crown of thorns.

2.2: The Church of the Sacred Heart, Laytown, Co Meath:

The East Window of the parish church in Laytown looks out onto the beach and across the Irish Sea (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Laytown is one of the locations for my regular beach walks. But, from an architectural perspective, the most captivating building on the shoreline at Laytown is the Church of the Sacred Heart. The first church on this site was built in 1879, but was demolished in the 1970s to make way for the new parish church. The façade from the original 19th century church has been retained, but the new building is a 1970s circular-plan single room.

Light shafts in the walls and the ceiling illuminate the interior of church. Behind the altar, a large window looks out to the sea, with a 20-ft wooden cross on the hill behind the window.

The foundation stone for the new church was blessed by Pope John Paul II at Knock in September 1979, and the church was blessed and opened in October 1979. But the architects incorporated into the new church the façade of the earlier church, with its yellow brick gable-fronted entrance and buttresses, set on a rock-faced limestone plinth. It has a pointed arch door opening and triple lancet windows with a limestone dressing.

They must be deeply spiritual moments when the rising sun shines in from the Irish Sea through the large east window during early morning Masses, or the sea outside is wild and the waves are high on a winter’s Sunday morning.

The façade of the 19th century church has been retained as part of the modern parish church in Laytown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

3, Music:

Vaughan Williams co-edited the English Hymnal with Percy Dearmer, and wrote the scores for many of our popular carols

Secular understandings of ‘Anglican culture’ include shared music from Henry Purcell to John Rutter. I have already mentioned Benjamin Britten in the context of Coventry Cathedral, but think too of composers like William Byrd, Edward Elgar, Orlando Gibbons, Herbert Howells, John Ireland, John Marbeck, Hubert Parry, Charles Villiers Stanford, Thomas Tallis, Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Wood, to name but a few.

Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), one of the greatest English composers of the last century, was the musical editor of The English Hymnal, which he co-edited with Percy Dearmer. He wrote symphonies, chamber music, opera, choral music, and film scores, arranged a number of hymns, adapting them to popular melodies, and collected English folk music, folk dance and songs.

I was first introduced to the music of Vaughan Williams 45 years ago when I was 19 and I was staying in Wilderhope Manor on the slopes of Wenlock Edge. It was 1971 and I was walking through Shropshire, visiting small towns and villages such as Much Wenlock, Church Stretton, Longville and Shipton. Appropriately, the warden of the youth hostel suggested I should listen to Vaughan Williams’s On Wenlock Edge.

Six settings of poems from AE Housman’s A Shropshire Lad make up On Wenlock Edge, which is Vaughan Williams’s first totally characteristic work. The landscape inhabited by Housman is that of a mythical, idealised Shropshire, similar to the Wessex evoked in the novels of Thomas Hardy. His dominant themes are love, and a post-industrial pastoral nostalgia, infused with expressions of disillusionment at the sacrifice of the young soldiers going to war, never to return.

His other works include In the Fen Country (1904), Norfolk Rhapsody No. 1 (1906, revised in 1914), The Wasps, based on the play by Aristophanes (1909), On Wenlock Edge (1909), Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910, revised in 1913 and 1919), Fantasia on Greensleeves (1934) and The Lark Ascending (1914). In all these works, Vaughan Williams is characteristically English, and Bishop Edward Darling and Donald Davison, in their Companion to Church Hymnal, say: ‘Many would claim he was the greatest 20th century English composer.’

A vicar’s son, Vaughan Williams was born in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire. His father, the Revd Arthur Vaughan Williams, who died in 1875, was the Vicar of Down Ampney, while his mother, Margaret Susan Wedgwood (1843-1937), was a direct descendant of the Staffordshire potter Josiah Wedgwood, and was related to the Darwin family – Charles Darwin was a great-uncle and Tony Benn is a distant cousin. With a background like that, it is little wonder that Vaughan Williams grew up with life-lasting democratic and egalitarian ideals – a socialist who refused all honours except the Order of Merit, which he accepted after the death of Elgar in 1935.

Vaughan Williams studied at the Royal College of Music under the Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford. Later, as he read history and music at Trinity College, Cambridge, he became friends with the philosophers George Moore and Bertrand Russell.

During World War I, he was a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps. His war-time experiences eventually led to his complete deafness in old age, but his Pastoral Symphony (Symphony No. 3) draws on his experiences as an ambulance volunteer. During World War II, he spoke up for his fellow composers Britten and Tippett who were conscientious objectors.

When he died in 1958, he was buried in Westminster Abbey. His second wife, the poet Ursula Wood, claimed he was an ‘atheist … [who] later drifted into a cheerful agnosticism.’ But he is a deeply mystical and spiritual composer, and many of his works have religious subject-matters.

His hymn settings include To be a pilgrim, based on John Bunyan’s hymn Who would true valour see, using the traditional Sussex melody Monk’s Gate; the tune Sine Nomine which we sang recently with William Walsham How’s For All the Saints; the tune Forest Green for the carol O Little Town of Bethlehem by Phillips Brooks; and his setting for Come Down, O Love Divine, named Down Ampney after his birthplace. He wrote settings for canticles, carols and masses, and composed a Te Deum in G for the enthronement of Cosmo Lang as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1928.

With Percy Dearmer and Martin Shaw, Vaughan Williams can be credited with the revival and spread of traditional and mediaeval English musical forms. Without Vaughan Williams, it is impossible to imagine the English Hymnal (1906), for which he was the musical editor and in which he collaborated with Percy Dearmer.

In collaboration with the organists of Saint Mary’s, Primrose Hill, Martin and Geoffrey Shaw, Vaughan Williams and Percy Dearmer later produced two more hymnals, Songs of Praise (1925) and The Oxford Book of Carols (1928). These hymnals have been credited with reintroducing many elements of traditional and mediaeval English music into the Church of England, as well as carrying that influence into the rest of the Anglican Communion.

Without Vaughan Williams, where would Anglican liturgy, hymnody, music and spirituality be today? As David Johnson said in an essay in The Tablet eight years ago (23 August 2008): ‘The preoccupation with the journey of the soul shines through the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams. His music is the enduring legacy of one of the most insightful and visionary of pilgrims.’

4, Poetry:

The Presentation of Christ in the Temple, Andrea Mantegna, 1460, Staatliche Museen, Berlin

Much of the language of The Book of Common Prayer (2004) draws on the cadences and rhythms of English poetic forms. Perhaps, it was this lack of literary grace that made the Alternative Prayer Book less popular.

The poet TS Eliot saw a deep connection between his poetry and his liturgical life. But perhaps one poem more than other, A Song for Simeon, which is based on the canticle Nunc Dimittis (Luke 2: 29-32), links Eliot with the tradition of Anglican canticles and the tradition of Choral Evensong, and with the Anglican tradition of liturgical preaching:

Nunc Dimittis

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace;
according to thy word.
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
To be a light to lighten the Gentiles
and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Eliot titles his poem A Song for Simeon, rather than A Song of Simeon, which is the English sub-title of the canticle in The Book of Common Prayer.

A Song for Simeon (TS Eliot)

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season had made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have given and taken honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.
Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word.
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).
I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.

This is one of four poems by Eliot published between 1927 and 1930 and known as the Ariel Poems.

TS Eliot (1888-1965) is as one of the great poets of Anglican spirituality – indeed he was one of the major Christian poets of the 20th century – and his Ash Wednesday (1930) was written to mark his baptism and confirmation as an Anglican in 1927.

In Journey of The Magi and A Song for Simeon, Eliot shows how he persisted on his spiritual pilgrimage. He was baptised and confirmed in the Church of England on 29 June 1927. Journey of the Magi was published two months later, in August 1927, and a few months later Faber, for whom he worked, published A Song for Simeon as part of a series of Christmas booklets.

Both Journey of The Magi and A Song for Simeon draw on the journeys of Biblical characters concerned with the arrival of the Christ-child. Both poems deal with the past, with a significant epiphany event, with the future – as seen from the time of that event, and with a time beyond time – death. The narrator in Journey of the Magi is an old man, with the first two stanzas recalling the journey from the East to Bethlehem through ‘cities hostile and towns unfriendly’ – perhaps reflecting a difficult period of Eliot’s own journey.

In that poem, Eliot draws on a sermon from Christmas 1622 preached by the Caroline Divine, Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626): ‘A cold coming they had of it, at this time of the year; just the worst time of the year, to take a journey, and specially a long journey, in. The ways deep, the weather sharp, the days short, the sun farthest off in solistitio brumali, the very dead of winter.’

Eliot wrote:

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.

A Song for Simeon is also put in the mouth of an old man, the prophet Simeon in the Temple in Jerusalem. Here too, Eliot draws on a Christmas sermon by Andrewes: ‘Verbum infans, the Word without a word, the eternal Word not able to speak a word.’ In Eliot’s words, the old man sees a faith that he cannot inhabit in ‘the still unspeaking and unspoken Word.’

In both poems, Eliot uses images that are significant for those exploring the Christian faith, images that are also prophetic, telling of things to happen to the Christ Child in the future. For example, in Journey of the Magi, we are told of ‘three trees on the low sky’ – the three crosses that will erected on Calvary, and of ‘hands dicing’ and pieces of silver’ – the Roman soldiers throwing dice for Christ’s clothes and the thirty pieces of silver paid to Judas.

So too, there are several examples of prophetic imagery in A Song for Simeon:

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation …
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow …

These refer to the scourging of Christ at his crucifixion and his mother weeping as he was crucified.

This poem starts with a winter scene:

Lord, the Roman’s hyacinths are blooming in the bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season had made stand.

In this poem, Eliot confines his comments on things of the past to four lines in the second stanza. In contrast to Journey of the Magi, which concentrates more on a physical journey, Eliot here places his emphasis on the time that has been spent making an inner journey of faith:

I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have given and taken honour and ease.

We are aware too, that Simeon is very old. He is hanging on, waiting for God’s promise, so that he can die:

My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.

Just as Eliot had his inner searches and wanderings, in which he moved about from one place to another. The difficulties with his wife Vivien’s illness contributed to a separation and the complete breakdown of their marriage, adding to Eliot’s sense of disillusion with life. In both these poems, Eliot focuses on an event that brings about the end of an old order and the beginning of a new one.

Eliot structures A Song for Simeon around lines from the prayer spoken by the priest Simeon as recorded in Luke 2: 29-32:

Master, now you are dismissing
Your servant in peace,
according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation …

Simeon too was a witness. Although he was not present at Christ’s birth, he witnessed the presentation of the Christ-child when he was brought by his parents to the Temple as an eight-day-old. Yet Simeon did more than just witness the child, ‘Simeon took him in his arms’ (Luke 2: 28) as he prayed. In his blind faith, he comes to hold the Body of Christ, and to see the child for who he really is. As Joseph and Nicodemus do when they take him down from the Cross, and as we do at the Eucharist, he becomes a bearer of Christ as he holds the Body of Christ in his hands and so becomes too part of the Body of Christ at one and the same time.

Three times in the poem, Simeon asks for peace. Is he referring to the peace that will come with his own death? Or the peace of Christ that passes all understanding? As Christians, we don’t believe that death is the end of our journey. Even before death, Eliot marks his baptism and confirmation as, if not the end of, then a triumph on, his spiritual journey. He has come to a place of faith, and now he is encouraged to continue on his spiritual journey.

The poem can be read as a song for Simeon to sing, or as a song to be sung for Simeon. We can imagine ourselves listening to Simeon’s prophetic voice, or imagine the voice of a poet singing on Simeon’s behalf or in his honour at a later age, from a viewpoint and with insights denied to Simeon himself.

In the Canticle Nunc Dimittis, the old Simeon in prayer in the Temple in Jerusalem prays: ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.’ By contrast, Eliot’s speaker sings: ‘Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls.’ This is not prayer at all. Instead, it sets an unexpected scene. The flowers, protected from the winter cold, are Roman, the property and pride of the pagans. Hyacinths were named after Hyacinthus, the youth killed by mistake by Apollo when his rival, Zephyrus, turned the flight of a discus.

The winter sun creeps by the snow hills as the speaker waits for the death wind. Pagan flowers and the pagan myth of a young man’s death flourish in the world of Eliot’s speaker and provide the language for speaking of life and death and life beyond.

Voices are heard from the Christian future, which the blind Simeon will not see. He is still waiting for the wind to blow, imagines only the death wind that will bear him away.

‘Grant us thy peace’ – the speaker evokes the Agnus Dei from the liturgy. Here we have a prayer for the peace that the Eucharist will offer, although Simeon will never share in the Eucharist.

In the first stanza, he tells of his own death.

In the second stanza, he speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem, decades later, by Rome’s armies. We are pointed towards New Testament images of the foxes that have holes, while the Son of Man has nowhere to rest; of the speaker’s descendants, in flight from Jerusalem from foreign faces and swords, and who will have to occupy the foxes’ homes.

In the third stanza, that flicker of light becomes a blaze of allusions. The Christ will tie cords to drive the traders from the Temple, will be whipped and scourged, and hear the lamentation of the weeping women of Jerusalem on the way to his death on a hill, above the ‘abomination of desolation,’ and to his mother’s sorrow: Stabat mater dolorosa.

Simeon’s death is imminent, but far more is to come, for with the birth of this child a whole world is passing away, ages old and with no tomorrow.

In Nunc Dimittis, Simeon pleads: ‘Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace.’ But the word will be fulfilled in a faith and in an age that Eliot’s speaker can see only in prophecy.

Eliot capitalises ‘Thee’ for the one and only time, as his speaker looks forward to the praise offered by the Church: “They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation …”

Simeon warns Mary: ‘A sword will pierce your own soul also.’ But we might ask whether the heart, Eliot’s speaker says will be pierced is God’s own heart.

The weary speaker concludes by praying:

Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.

At the very end of the poem, we seem to have arrived at the start of Nunc Dimittis. All that we have read so far is now seen in a new light, as a prelude to the canticle. The poet, now baptised, has the hope of a greater hope, having seen his salvation. He is tired of his former life, there is consolation as derision turns to glory. Baptised into the death of Christ, he has been born into new life.

Some links for this seminar:

Keeping score

Douglas Galbraith charts important landmarks in the history of English church music


[The Church Times, 24 September 2010]

Voices raised, hearts lifted

To mark the publication of Sing Praise, the Church Times and the Royal School of Church Music asked people to nominate the best hymns. Jeremy Davies looks at the top five:


[The Church Times, 24 September 2010]

Keeping art and soul together

Pat Ashworth finds that the art of commissioning works for churches has changed a great deal since the swashbuckling days of Walter Hussey


[The Church Times, 19 November 2010]

Let’s have a show of hands

To mark the centenary of the birth of Dean Walter Hussey, Chichester Cathedral commissioned Jaume Plensa’s sculpture Together for its main aerial space. Anthony Cane’s diary tells the inside story of the commissioning process.


[The Church Times, 19 November 2010]



Tomorrow (5 November 2016):

8.1: Baptism and the Eucharist (3), the contemporary life and mission of the Church;
8.2: The theology and rites of ordination: rites of passage (e.g., Marriages, Funerals).

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture on 4 November 2016 was part of the Module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course with part-time Year III and IV students.

Liturgy 2016-2017 (Part Time) 7.1:
The development of the
Liturgical Year and the Daily Office

Candles light up the choir stalls in Great Saint Mary’s, the University Church, Cambridge ... this evening we look at the development of the Liturgical Year and the Daily Office (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

MTh Part-Time mode (Years III-IV):

Liturgy 7: 4 November 2016

Liturgy 7.1:
The development of the Liturgical Year and the Daily Office.

Liturgy 7.2: ‘Word’ and ‘Sacrament’ expressed in music and the arts.

7 p.m., Hartin Room: Liturgy 7.1: The development of the Liturgical Year and the Daily Office.


1, The Liturgical Year
2, The Daily Office (Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer)
3, The Collects and the Lectionary

The beach at Donabate bathed in sunshine … the church calendar, like other calendars, is marked by times and seasons (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(1) The Liturgical Year:

We all function on a secular calendar, beginning on 1 January and ending on 31 December. But we all work with other calendars too. Examples include:

● The Tax year once began and ended on 25 March.
● The Academic year (is it divided into terms or semesters?).
● The football season.
● There is a political year (the opening of parliament).
● A court year (the law year began a few weeks ago).
● A social year, or family year, marks special events, with anniversaries, birthdays. We remember births, marriages and deaths in our own many families, and many regularly take holidays at the same time.
● The working year: the shipyard holiday had an impact on life throughout East Belfast until very recently.

So, the Church Calendar is both important for the life of the Church so that we remember the main events in the story of salvation, so that we do not forget others, and so that we do not forget to prepare for some of these events, marked by days and seasons.

The sources for the Church Calendar

There are two specific calendars for the Church, both working in tandem: the Temporale and the Sanctorale.

The Temporale outlines the Christian Year, from Advent Sunday to the Sunday before Advent. The Sanctorale follows the secular year. This lists the saints’ days, and other key days that fall on the same date each year.

An outline of the Church Calendar:

[handout: Harold Miller, The Desire of our Soul (Dublin: Columba, 1984), p 16.]

For the Temporale, see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 18-19.

All Sundays celebrate the death and resurrection of Christ. On no Sunday should that celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ be overshadowed by any other commemoration. Everything we do in Church on Sunday is done in the light of our Easter faith.

The principal Holy Days are:

● Christmas Day (25 December)
● Easter Day
● The Day of Pentecost

Of these, which are the most important?

1, Easter, which has 40 days of preparation, Lent, and is followed by a continuing Easter focus in the 50 days of Easter until Pentecost

2, Christmas, which also has season of preparation, the four weeks of Advent, followed by the 12 days of Christmas up to Epiphany.

3, Pentecost is the climax of the story of the Risen Christ as the Spirit is poured out on the Church, which is a continuing Pentecost.

Seven other principal days are marked in the Church of Ireland Calendar:

1, Epiphany (6 January)
2, The Presentation of Christ (2 February)
3, Maundy Thursday
4, Good Friday (most traditions say it is inappropriate to celebrate Holy Communion on this day)
5, Ascension Day (The Thursday 40 days after Easter Day)
6, Trinity Sunday
7, All Saints’ Day (1 November)

The Seasons

In a natural year, we have the four seasons of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. There are five seasons in the Church year, named in The Book of Common Prayer (p 19):

1, Advent
2, Christmas
3, Epiphany
4, Lent
5, Easter

Note how we name them:

● the Sundays of Advent, and the Sundays of Christmas;
● the Sundays after the Epiphany, the Sundays after Trinity;
● the Sundays before Lent, the Sundays before Advent;
● the Sundays in Lent; and the Days in Holy Week.

Then, we have separately Ordinary Time, which varies in length – depending on how early or late Easter is, and on when Advent begins.

These seasons explore particular theological themes. They provide us with opportunities to recall, to relive, and to learn afresh from particular parts of the Christian story, the story of salvation, as they are read and reflected on.

These seasons set a special mood for us collectively as the Church.

Apart from the seasons we also have days of special observance (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 20), including Ash Wednesday, the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, and Easter Eve.

The Festivals are not all saints’ days. They include some commemorations of Gospel events, such as events in the life of the Virgin Mary:

1, The Birth of the Virgin Mary (8 September),
2, the Annunciation (25 March),
3, the Visitation (31 May),
4, but not her death (15 August), although this is observed in other parts of the Anglican Communion.

Some events in the life of Christ that are commemorated include:

● His naming or circumcision (1 January)
● His Baptism (Sunday after Epiphany)
● His Transfiguration (6 August)
● His kingship (The Sunday before Advent).

The Saints’ Days [The Sanctorale] are also important reminders of the continuity of the story of salvation. The saints (see pp 20-21) include Saint Michael and All Angels, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, the Holy Innocents, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Mary Magdalene, the Apostles and Evangelists, and the three patron saints of Ireland. Normally we think of the saints’ days as the days on which they died, but we do not commemorate the Virgin Mary on that day, nor is this the case with Saint Michael and the Angels. And we remember two saints on other days too: Saint Paul (conversion, 25 January) and Saint John the Baptist (birthday, 24 June).

On pp 22-23, we have the commemoration of saints and other important figures in our story as the Church. The red letter days are to be observed, but the others follow local custom.

Rules for Festivals

When one of these days falls on a Sunday, in Holy Week or in Easter Week, it is transferred, even though there may be cultural difficulties in maintaining this rule: some years ago, Saint Patrick’s Day fell in Holy Week – how many observed it on the previous Saturday? Or in that year Saint Joseph (19 March) on 1 April?

There is no celebration of a festival in Easter Week either. So this year, e.g., the Annunciation on 25 March fell on Good Friday [2016], and it was transferred to Monday 4 April, the first open day after Easter Week.


These days are usually remembered in their own part of the country (e.g., Saint Laurence O’Toole in Dublin).

Some of the other days in the Church year include:

● Rogation days (asking God for …) are marked as days asking for God’s blessing on fruits of the earth and human labour.
● Ember Days are days set aside for prayers for ordination and ministry. They include the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after the 1st Sunday in Lent, the Day of Pentecost, 14 September and 13 December.

These days are quarterly, so that four times a year we have these prayers before the whole church.

Days of Special Observance:

● Ash Wednesday (see p 338).
● Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of Holy Week, Easter Eve.

Days of discipline and self-denial:

● Lent.
● Fridays.

Dates of Easter and other variables:

These are given up to 2030 in The Book of Common Prayer.

Other dates:

What do we do about other days in the Church year?

When is Harvest celebrated?

What about other dates such as 12 July, Watch Night services, Covenant services, Harvest services, Remembrance Sunday, National Days, &c.?


We always need to remind ourselves that we are incarnational.

A note on Liturgical Colours:

Since fabrics – banners, stoles, vestments &c – have some colour or other, the historic Church has used colour to set the theme of worship. Colour choices were more diverse in the past, for dyes were expensive and it was not as easy as it is today to get fabric in any colour.

In modern times, a consensus has developed about the colours in the western Church: green, purple, white, and red, with gold or ivory as alternatives to white. Some traditions sometimes use blue. Black, for the most part, is no longer used. The Orthodox Churches use colours differently.

Green: Green is the default colour. Green is the colour of vegetation, the colour of life. Green is the colour for the Season of Epiphany and the Season after Pentecost. These two seasons are also called ‘Ordinary Time’ because the Sundays have no names, just ordinal numbers.

Purple: In antiquity, purple dye was very expensive, so purple came to signify wealth, power, and royalty. Therefore purple is the colour for the seasons of Advent and Lent, which celebrate the coming of the King. Since as Christians we prepare for our King through reflection and repentance, purple has also become a penitential colour.

White: Angels announced Christ’s birth (Luke 2: 8-15) and his Resurrection (Luke 24:1-8). The New Testament consistently uses white to describe angels and the risen Lord (see Matthew 17: 2 and 28: 3, Mark 9: 3 and 16: 5, John 20: 12, Acts 1: 10, and throughout Revelation). In the early Church, people were given white robes as they emerged from the waters of baptism. And so, white is the colour for the seasons of Easter and Christmas. White is often the colour for funerals, as the colour of the Resurrection, usually for weddings, regardless of the season, and for secular holidays observed in the Church.

Red: Red is the colour of blood and martyrdom, and so the colour for commemorating the death of a martyr. It is also an alternative colour for the last week of Lent, Holy Week, and also the colour for the Day of Pentecost and for ordinations and installations as the colour of fire and of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2: 3).

Gold: Gold or ivory are alternatives to white, and are designated especially for Christmas Day and Easter Day.

Blue: Blue is an alternative to purple during Advent. Some churches use blue during Advent to avoid the penitential connotation of purple.

Black: Black is the colour of clericals (cassocks are clericals, not vestments). Before modern dyes were invented, all dress clothes were black – look at 19th century formal photographs. Historically, black implied formality. Because we no longer wear black so often, it survives as a formal colour only at the most solemn occasions, such as funerals. For some people today, black immediately connotes a funeral. Black is sometimes, but rarely, the colour for funeral services, Good Friday, and All Souls’ Day (2 November).

Rose: Rose (a shade of pink) was sometimes used on the Third Sunday in Advent (Gaudete Sunday) to signify joy. The use of rose has a strange origin. Mediaeval Popes customarily gave someone a rose on the Fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday). This led the Roman Catholic clergy to wear rose-coloured vestments that Sunday. As this gave some relief to the solemnity of Lent, it became a popular custom.

Originally, Advent was a solemn fast in preparation for Christmas, so the custom was extended to the Third Sunday in Advent to liven it up a little too. And so the third candle in the Advent wreath became pink too. Now, Advent is no longer so solemn … and Popes probably no longer give out roses.

(2) The daily office, including Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer

The chapel in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge ... the daily office dates back to the prayer life of the monasteries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In The Book of Common Prayer (pp 78-153), there are two different orders of service, with different titles:

Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1: ‘The Order …’

Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2: ‘An Order …’

Other names for these services include: Mattins or Matins for Morning Prayer; or Evensong for Evening Prayer.

These names are used especially for choral or sung services.

Choral Evensong is a particularly beautiful piece of art. It was broadcast every Wednesday evening at 4 p.m. on BBC Radio 3, making it one of the longest-running radio programmes.

You can experience it in our cathedrals, including Christ Church Cathedral and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and in the Chapel in TCD.

[Relate personal experience of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, and Lichfield Cathedral]

Matins and Evensong are ancient titles dating back to the monastic offices, which were used for the two services in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer. The titles were changed by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer (right) in the 1552 Book of Common Prayer.

Essentially these are offices of daily prayer, to be used daily throughout the year, but they were never designed as the principal Sunday service.

Their origins are found in the ancient monastic offices used by the monks at different times of the day:

1, Matins,
2, Lauds,
3, Prime,
4, Terce,
5, None,
6, Vespers,
7, Compline.

The monastic idea and ideal was that regular times of prayer lead to a life where prayer is a constant part of our relationship with God. Cranmer brought these monastic offices together, so that there was one simple office for the morning, and one simple office for the evening.

The offices were also planned and structured so people would be instructed by the word of God: the clergy were obliged to say both offices, openly or privately, and to toll the church bell before doing so.

Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are part of the daily cycle of offices in cathedrals and churches throughout the Anglican Communion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer 1:

Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1: This is the 1662 rite in virtually every respect, with a history the goes back to Cranmer’s original ‘A …’ (1552).

Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer were formerly printed as separate rites. They have now been integrated as one office, with variations for morning and evening use.

They were first integrated in 1984 in the Alternative Prayer Book. In The Book of Common Prayer (2004), after the opening prayers and greetings, if we are not following Morning Prayer, we are invited to turn to page 93 for Evening Prayer.

Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer 2:

Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 have a common beginning. Then after the Confession and Absolution, if we are not following Morning Prayer, we are invited to turn to page 109 for Evening Prayer.

What is common to both services?

There is a common approach to both services or offices. Although called “Prayer,” they are centred upon the reading of Scripture, through the Psalms, the Canticles and the Readings. Even the versicles and responses are taken from Scripture.

The different parts:

There are no section headings in Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1, unlike Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2. But it is important to know and identify these sections, so that we can understand the movement taking place:

There are four essential ingredients:

1, The Gathering of God’s People
2, Proclaiming and Receiving the Word
3, The Prayers of the People
4, Going out as God’s People.

The Gathering of God’s People


The opening greeting is more obvious in Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer 2, because it is specified: ‘The Lord be with you …’ (Ruth 2: 4).

Sentence of Scripture (pp 78-83 and at the beginning of Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1).

The provisions of sentences of Scripture are in three different groupings:

● General, focusing on the nature of worship
● Seasonal, related to particular time.
● Penitential.

By getting to know the difference one can be much more appropriate in making choices. If choosing another sentence, one needs to avoid constantly using a favourite verse, carefully selecting one that sets the tone and theme. On the other hand, there is value in learning a variety of these verses off by heart.

Opening hymn:

Where is this placed: is it used as a processional? Is it announced first?

Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 get this right by placing the hymn after the opening greeting and sentences.

Choosing the hymn sensitively and carefully allows one to set the tone for the service and its theme, so it ought to be related to the readings, prayers and address.


This is not a prayer, and it is not addressed to God. In Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 it opens: ‘Dearly beloved …’ In Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 it opens: ‘Beloved in Christ …’

It is like setting out an agenda before a meeting: it tells people why we are here and what we’re going to do, it prepares us for the task ahead.


The invitation comes first.

Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1: This confession was not in the earlier 1549 Prayer Book, and was introduced by Cranmer in 1552.

The general confession has resonances of Romans 7: 8-25, and of the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15). It was probably written by Cranmer, and based on the confession in the Strasbourg liturgy.

In Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2, the confession provides for a time of silence for reflection, personal confession.


In Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 (p 86), this is a vital step after confession. It is not just a declaration or affirmation of pardon and absolution, but it is assurance to a penitent heart of the power of the Holy Spirit, and the gift of the grace to live holy lives. It is a declaratory ‘prayer,’ pronounced by the priest in the name of God, but directed at the people.

The Lord’s Prayer:

Note the different place for the Lord’s Prayers:

In Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1, the Lord’s Prayer follows the absolution. This was the original beginning of the office. But in a service that combined Morning Prayer, the Litany and Holy Communion, the Lord’s Prayer could have been used five times. Now there is provision for using it only twice.

It is an introduction to praise. So, as an introduction to praise, Cranmer added the doxology: ‘… for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, ...’ At other times, when the Lord’s Prayer is used as an introduction to prayer and penitence, the doxology is omitted.

Proclaiming and Receiving the Word:

Opening Canticles:

There are different canticles for use at Morning Prayer and at Evening Prayer. Most of the Canticles are from Scripture, but some are from the Apocrypha, and others, such as Te Deum, are hymns. They serve as preparation for hearing God’s word, as a response to hearing God’s word, and as a way of using God’s word to praise God.

The word Canticle is Latin and simply means a song. Most of the canticles are known to this day by their Latin names, although Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 attempt to give them simple English names: Venite, Psalm 95; Benedictus, Song of Zechariah.

The little red marks are pointed for Anglican chant. Are they distractions?

The canticles can be sung in a variety of ways, with versions in the hymn book, and other alternatives.

Traditionally, we have used different canticles for the two different offices:

Morning Prayer: Venite and Jubilate.

Evening Prayer: Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis, A Song of the Light, Deus Misereatur (Psalm 67) and Ecce Nunc.

The Easter Anthems are used during both Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer.

The canticles set the scene for hearing God’s word.

Look at Venite: [quote from page 87].

A Song of the Light has a new introduction, but this is an old Greek song, dating from the 3rd century, Phos Hilaron (Φῶς Ἱλαρόν): it is not about the rising sun, and is appropriate for lighting the evening lamps when the dark is closing in.

There are different versions. See: Hail Gladdening Light (Irish Church Hymnal, No 699).

The first reading:

The first reading is placed here in Morning Prayer. This is one of the changes introduced to the traditional language version. In the 1926 edition, the opening canticle was followed by the Psalm(s). Now the Psalm comes after first reading in both versions of Morning Prayer.

This change was introduced because the new lectionary uses the Psalm as a response to the first (normally Old Testament) reading.

Some feel that three readings are too much for a morning service.

The Psalms:

The psalms no longer follow the pattern of day numbers in Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 (c.f. the 1926 version).

Cranmer set a pattern of reading the Psalter through each month. Our Psalmody is a legacy of the monastic offices and tradition. Benedict wanted the psalms read through in a week. So, from an early stage the psalms have been at the heart of daily worship.

Readings after the Psalm:

At Morning Prayer, the second reading and the Gospel reading come after the Psalm. In Evening Prayer, both readings follow the Psalm.

Note how the readings are introduced: Order 2 suggests: ‘A reading from … chapter … beginning at verse …’

How do you conclude the readings? Which version of Scripture can we use?

The second and third canticles:

At Morning Prayer, the second canticle is Te Deum, Benedicite, Urbs Fortitudinis, Laudate Dominum (Psalm 148), or another canticle from pp 117-135, except the Benedictus. The third canticle is Benedictus, Jubilate, or any New Testament canticle on pp 117-135.

At Evening Prayer, the second canticle is Magnificat, Cantate Domino, or any New Testament Canticle on pp 117-135. And the third canticle is Nunc Dimitis, Deus Misereatur, or any New Testament canticle on pp 117-135.

Why are they here?

The major canticles are three from Saint Luke’s Gospel. They look back at and forward to the work of salvation. And they can be used thematically: there are provisions for harvest, for the Christian year (for example, did anyone think there was an opportunity for an appropriate choice of canticle to mark Saint Luke’s Day last month (18 October 2016) or Te Deum on All Saints’ Day this week (1 November 2016)?

The sermon:

These were essentially daily services, so originally there was no place for a sermon. It was only over the course of history that these became regular Sunday services, and so the need arose to provide an appropriate place for the sermon. This office had normally ended with the grace. Now there was a need for another hymn before and after the sermon.

In other churches, including the Methodists and Presbyterians, the idea continues of the sermon coming at the end of the service. Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 retain this traditional place. But Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer 2 place the sermon within the section of proclaiming and receiving God’s word, and before the Apostles’ Creed, a place that is similar to the place for the sermon in Holy Communion. This is the place where the Word of God is broken open.

The Apostles’ Creed:

The Apostles’ Creed is an integral part of the offices in the Anglican tradition, although, in the daily offices in the institute chapel it may be said at Morning Prayer 2 and omitted in the evening.

The Apostles’ Creed, historically, was not part of the offices of the Church until the Reformation. This creed was not written by the apostles, and its general adoption in the Western Church dates from about 1000 AD, when it was simply used as a baptismal confession of faith.

The Prayers of the People:

These take several different types:

● The Lesser Litany and Kyrie

● The Lord’s Prayer (with or without the doxology? At this place it is without the doxology in Morning Prayer 1/Evening Prayer 1, but with it in Morning Prayer 2/Evening Prayer 2, because this is the only place it is used). There are two versions. The modern version comes from the English Language Liturgical Commission (except for the clause ‘and lead us not into temptation,’ which is used instead of ‘Save us from the time of trial.’).

● The use of the Versicles and Responses has its roots in the Sarum Breviary. They are taken from Scripture (Psalm 85: 7; 1 Samuel 10: 24; Psalm 20: 9; Psalm 132: 9; Psalm 28: 9).

● The prayers for rulers, the clergy and people, the collect for peace, and the collect for grace then follow. In Morning Prayer 2/Evening Prayer 2, they are optional. They are best used when they are seen as a scaffolding or framework that allows one to build appropriate prayers.

The Collects:

There is a provision for three collects in Morning Prayer 1/Evening Prayer 1, and for at least two in Morning Prayer 2/Evening Prayer 2, beginning with the Collect of the Day.

Note that the phrase ‘Collect of …’ relates to a particular occasion, while the phrase ‘Collect for …’ relates to subject. So it is not the collect of purity, and is certainly not the collect for the conversion of Saint Paul or indeed, as has been heard, for the Circumcision of Christ. And they are the collects at Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer.

It is worth memorising some of these, and to know the value of being able to call on them as extempore opening and closing prayers.

Occasional prayers:

The occasional prayers are not for use occasionally but for use on particular occasions.

It is important to watch the movement in prayers one writes, who is addressed, and how they are concluded.

Concluding Prayers:

Morning Prayer 1 and Evening Prayer 1 always conclude with the grace. The Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom is seldom used in practice, but its roots are in praying in our dependence on God.

The rubric in Morning Prayer 2 and Evening Prayer for concluding the office is simpler.

Going out as God’s people:

How do you end it? This is a long-standing conundrum. In the 1662 version, it was always with the grace. But then the sermon on Sundays was added on, and other things were then added on to that too: the offertory hymn, the dismissal, the recessional hymn, and the blessing.

Going out needs to be thought through too.

Note that there is an abbreviated form of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer on pp 136-138.

Saint Patrick’s Church, Donabate ... ‘The Book of Common Prayer’ provides a structure or guidelines for the Service of the Word, rather than a full service (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Service of the Word; Compline; LEO; the Litany.

(a) The Service of the Word:

The Book of Common Prayer provides a structure or guidelines, rather than a full service. The service can be put on one page, although the notes to explain how to use this structure take up three pages.

The influences on writing or the sources for the Service of the Word are:

1, The TEC Book of Common Prayer (pp 400-401), which provides an outline for an informal Eucharist.

2, The Church of England’s Lent, Holy Week and Easter (1984): Services and Prayers, which gives the bare-bones outline for Holy Communion and an agape meal.

3, The Church of Ireland, A Service of the Word (1993): this pale green booklet was an experimental form authorised by the House of Bishops. It included an outline form of service, material that could be used in different slots, and four outline services. But the built-in danger was that people could and did opt for four worked-out services and did not work them out for themselves.

In addition to those three influences, there was a growing realisation that many parishes and clergy were devising their own services outside the approved parameters of services within the Church of Ireland … helped by advances in the manufacture of photocopiers and then the discovery of the OHP.

The Book of Common Prayer (2004) provides an outline only, and demands a lot of hard work and preparation on the part by the worship leader. It was not intended to be used straight from the book.

Should we provide service sheets?

Should we use Power Point?

Should we use an Over-Head Projector?

The Structure:

* A Liturgical Greeting

An invitation to worship

A hymn may be sung

* Penitence may be at this part or in Response

* Acclamation and/or A Song of Praise

Metrical forms of Canticles may be used, or a hymn may be sung

* The Collect

Those parts marked * are considered essential to the structure of the service.

Because the service is so flexible, there is an even greater need for attention to detail.

The Preparation must include the following elements:

Some greeting of the congregation: And this should be liturgical. For example: ‘The Lord be with you …’ But it could be a sign of peace.

Penitence: not necessarily in this place. This could be a perfect response to the Ministry of the Word. But it must be included somewhere. There is a variety of possibilities for the form of penitence, including confession and absolution, penitential kyries, and responsorial penitential prayers. But there is room to be imaginative and original.

Acclamation and/or a Song of Praise. Examples include Sursum Corda, Sanctus and Canticles, including Gloria. If a time of praise is being included, this is the place for it.

Then all are drawn together with the Collect, which is about collecting all our thoughts and intentions. That links the Preparation with the Ministry of the Word.

The Preparation is the starter, the Ministry of the Word is the main course – after all, it is the Service of the Word.

The main elements of the Ministry of the Word section are:

Readings from the Bible.

A Psalm or Scripture Song: this may precede or follow the readings. A Bible responsory may follow a reading.

The Sermon.

Then, a Hymn may be sung.

All this may sound very traditional, but it does not mean all must be done in a traditional sort of way … quite the opposite.

Scripture readings could be presented as drama, with many voices reading, with creative interpretations of Scripture (e.g. The Message). But the Word must come across with real power – and must never be omitted.

The place of the Psalm or Scripture Song – before or after a reading – is less important than its inclusion. But there is a variety of ways of singing or saying this: choruses, worship songs, responsorial psalms, solos, items by a music group, congregational parts …

The Sermon could be presented in different ways:

● Dialogue?
● Interview?
● Movie clip?
● Drama?

After the main course, desert is served. This is the Response.

The Response includes:

* An affirmation of faith: the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the renewal of baptismal vows, other creeds (e.g. a creed from Iona Community).

* The Prayers, including intercession, thanksgiving and (if not somewhere else) penitence.

A General Collect.

Then the whole section concludes with The Lord’s Prayer in one of its approved forms.

A Hymn may be sung.

Our response might also include our offering.

Then, after desert, there is the coffee:

*A Dismissal Prayer.

A Blessing.

A Salutation.

In organising and preparing, it is worth remembering:

1, There must be a recognisable structure for worship.

2, The emphasis is on the word: reading scripture, reflecting on it through the Psalms.

3, The use of liturgical words (e.g., responses known to the congregation) … it is not a coming together of individual Christians who happen to be in one place, it is ekklesia – the assembly or gathering of those who are called out.

When should we use the Service of the Word?

When the prescribed services of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Holy Communion may not meet the needs of a particular congregation?

Family services?

All-age worship?

Where people are not book-learned?

When there is a need for a more praise-and-prayer approach?

When there is a need for a more reflective, quiet time of worship?

When there is a need a service with a specific focus, or one that is more innovative?

When it is a service aimed at people who are not regular church goers?

Where there might be a large number of non-Anglicans, or non-churchgoers, without the same liturgical tradition?

As the first part of the Holy Communion? If so, Holy Communion would then follow from the Peace.

But there are dangers.

There is the danger of producing service sheets and then losing flexibility.

There is the danger of using it all the time, and then stop realising that it depends on a liturgical tradition that must be recognised and that must live and grow.

There is the danger of not making full use of the resources available, including:

Service of the Word (Church of England).

New Patterns for Worship.

Times and Seasons.

Resources from the Iona Community, Taizé, Corrymeela … other traditions.

But you will need to look at these sensitively. For example, particular Eucharistic prayers in the Church of England are not authorised for use in the Church of Ireland. What about using the prayers for the departed in New Patterns of Worship? And there is the added problem of making multiple copies and compounding your copyright problems.

(b) Compline:

Compline was added to The Book of Common Prayer in the Church of Ireland in 1933 as an Appendix. By then, it was still not in the offices of the Church of England, although it was in the proposed 1928 revision of The Book of Common Prayer in England.

In 1933, an appendix was added to The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland, in which Compline was described as the “Second Alternative form of Evening Prayer.” The “First Alternative form of Evening Prayer” was sometimes called the “Irish Vigils” and has not been included in the 2004 book.

However, Compline should not be seen as a new service. Compline was one of the offices of the Church until the Reformation. The name comes from Latin completorium or the completion [of the day]. The Rule of Saint Benedict (42: 8), which we looked at during our recent telephone conference [19 October 2016], has the oldest occurrence of the term Completorium.

This office was maintained after the Reformation in a series of private manuals of devotion, beginning with Bishop John Cosin’s Collection of Private Devotions (1627). It was restored to use in the 20th century, first in the US and Canada, in TEC’s Book of Offices (1914) and the Canadian Prayer Book (1918). So, the Church of Ireland was early in the restoration of Compline.

The service has an integral unity of its own, it can be used in small groups and in family groups, and Bishop Harold Miller even suggests ‘by married couples in bed’ [p 98]. It has become so popular that a proposal by the LAC for the revision of this service in the 1970s was rejected by the General Synod.

It is now well-loved, perhaps because of its beautiful imagery: ‘Brethren, be sober, be vigilant …’ ‘O Let no evil dreams be near …’ or asking God to keep me as the ‘apple of his eye’ to ‘guard us while sleeping’ and to ‘let thy holy angels dwell’ in our homes.

Late Evening Office:

This is a totally new office in the Alternative Prayer Book (1984). It did not receive a trial period of use before its introduction. Yet it too quickly became popular. It was written by Dean Gilbert Mayes of Lismore, and is based on an order in use in Taizé, published in French in 1971 and in English in 1975.

It has a simple structure:

● An opening blessing of God.
● A prayer for the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Trisagion or Sanctus, Holy, Holy, Holy, and the Canticle Ecce Nunc (Psalm 134) or another suitable psalm.
● A New Testament reading.
Nunc Dimittis or a hymn.
● Prayer in short litany form, with responses: [note] Lord have mercy and Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.

The introduction of LEO was innovative in a number of ways, including the rubric allowing open prayer and silent prayer. It is an important departure because of its recognitions. But there is a need when you are using it to make clear as leader whether the congregation is entering a time of open prayer or silent prayer.

It concludes with appropriate prayer (Collect, the Lord’s Prayer) and a Blessing.

LEO does not work well if it is stretched out with too many hymns or with a long sermon in the middle.

(c) The Litany:

A litany is a set of short biddings or petitions followed by fixed responses or a series of fixed responses.

There are two forms of the Litany in The Book of Common Prayer: the form found in the 1926 Book of Common Prayer (with revisions to remove political anachronisms) and the form from the 1984 Alternative Prayer Book. But litanies date right back to the early church. Think of: Kyrie Eleison, Christe Eleison …

The earliest litany in the West was translated from the Greek by Pope Gelasius I (492-496). Later forms included the litany of the saints, which became popular in the 7th century.

The following elements of litany are charted by Paul Bradshaw (Companion to Common Worship, 2001):

● An Introductory Kyrie, followed by invocations of the Holy Trinity, with the response ‘Lord have mercy upon us.’
● The invocation of the saints.
● The deprecations: supplications for deliverance through recalling various events in Christ’s life, with the response, ‘deliver us, Lord.’
● The obsecrations – supplications through various events in Christ’s life, with the response, ‘we beseech you to hear us.’
● Concluding devotions to the Cross and to Jesus Christ as the Lamb of God.

The litany was the very first service translated from Latin into English by Cranmer at the Reformation. It was first published in 1544, with a famous prayer for deliverance from the Bishop of Rome and his ‘detestable abnormities’; and with the invocations of the saints reduced in number to three in 1544 and then removed in 1549.

The contemporary language Litany is on p 175 ff, with the main headings and shape preserved in the same order today.

● Section 1: simple invocations to Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the response is ‘have mercy on us’
● Section 2: supplications for deliverance …

The use of the Litany:

The use of the Litany is suggested on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. At one time it was often used once a month on Sundays with Matins or Evensong. But it seemed lengthy and tedious.

The Book of Common Prayer (2004) recommends its use on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, particularly in Advent, Lent and Rogation Days. It is good to use when we take things seriously.

The Mystical Supper by Michael Damaskinos … over 100 pages in ‘The Book of Common Prayer’ are devoted to collects and post-communion prayers

(3a) The Collects:

Over 100 pages in The Book of Common Prayer (2004) (pp 241-337) are given over to the collects and post-communion prayers. They were first published in a small booklet a few years before The Book of Common Prayer was published in 2004.

Many of the collects in The Book of Common Prayer are popular, and well-loved. They are drawn from a wide range of sources, from Cranmer’s collects to modern collects, including some that were written specially for the Alternative Prayer Book (1984).

What is a collect? A collect is a short prayer, focussing our thoughts on a particular day or a particular theme.

The First Collect is a collect of a particular occasion (e.g. The Collect of the First Sunday of Advent).

The Second Collect usually has a particular focus (The Collect for Purity, the Collect for aid against all perils).

When a collect is described by its place in a service it is the collect at the particular service (e.g., the Second Collect at Morning Prayer).

What is the function of a collect? Most of our Collects frame our prayers in strong Biblical ways, sometimes in direct Biblical language. They can often remind us of the paucity of our own prayers.

If used properly, systematically and regularly, the collects provide memorable prayers. Some examples include: ‘Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee O Lord …’

Or: ‘O God who art the author of peace and lover of concord …’

Or again, the collect of last Sunday: ‘… read, mark, learn and inwardly digest …’ Or, ‘Prevent us O Lord …’

‘Go before us O Lord ...’

What is the structure of a collect?

A collect contains:

1, An address to God
2, A relative or particular clause referring to some attribute of God or to one of his saving acts
3, The petition
4, The reason for which we ask
5, The conclusion

Sometimes, part 2 and/or part 4 are dispensed with, simplifying the structure of a collect. But, whether or not they are omitted, a collect still needs to be well constructed.

An example, at the Collect for Purity at the beginning of the Holy Communion service (p 201):

1, Almighty God: How we address God is worth attending to; we might simply say ‘God,’ or ‘Father’ or ‘Lord.’ We might be more elaborate, addressing him as ‘Almighty God,’ or ‘Heavenly Father.’

Normally collects are addressed to first person of the Trinity, but there are exceptions: for example, the collect of the 3rd Sunday of Advent opens: ‘O Lord Jesus Christ …’ Sometimes the injunction precedes the address to God: ‘Stir up, we beseech thee …’

2, ‘to whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hidden …’ The collect goes on, in this example, to express our dependency on God.

3, ‘cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit …’ This is the petition, the heart of the matter … what we are asking God to do.

4, ‘that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name …’ This is the reason for asking God do the things we have mentioned in the petition.

5, ‘…through Christ our Lord, Amen.’ As we saw last week in our discussion of the Trinity and worship, Christian prayer is supposed to be addressed to the Father, in the power of the Spirit, and in name of Christ. Ideally, and generally, it should have a traceable Trinitarian movement.

Where do our collects come from?

At Holy Communion, Collects 1 and 2 are often a reworking of traditional language collects.

Advent 1: dates to 1549.

Advent 2: traditionally we had used the Collect associated with Bible Sunday on Advent 2. What we now use as the traditional-form collect on Advent 2 is a Collect once used on Advent 4, and that comes from the Sarum Missal. But the new collect comes from Celebrating Common Prayer (1992).

Advent 3: the collect was written for the 1662 Book of Common Prayer by John Cosin (1594-1672), Bishop of Durham.

Advent 4: the traditional-language collect for this Sunday was written in 1549, and was originally used on Advent 3. The contemporary language collect reflects a new focus on Virgin Mary in Advent. The collect comes from the Church of England’s Promise of his Glory (1990).

A page at the end of this section in The Book of Common Prayer gives the sources.

How are collects used in the liturgies?

We use collects in every Holy Communion service, in every service of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and in every Service of the Word.

But they are used in different ways.

In Holy Communion 1, Holy Communion 2 and Service of the Word, the collect acts as a kind of hinge between the Gathering or Introductory material and the Proclaiming and Receiving of the Word. We are now focusing down into prayer and the congregation is preparing for the Ministry of the Word.

It often helps for the congregation to be quiet for a moment before the collect. And so, on occasion, the collect may be introduced with a few carefully chosen, short words.

During the Seasons, there is a general thematic connection between the readings and the collects, with the readings and collects chosen to fit the particular Sunday of the year. In Ordinary Time (Green), the collects and readings run on different tracks, and have no necessary connection with each other.

In Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, the Collect of the Day is used as one of the two or three collects after the Lord’s Prayer and, when they are used, after the Versicles and Responses. The function of the collect here is to begin our prayers, which then widen out to more specific concerns.

In Daily Prayer (Weekdays) [see pp 136 ff], the Collect of the Day is used in a different way. Instead of leading into the intercessions, it becomes the prayer that rounds off the intercessions before the Lord’s Prayer.

Post-Communion Prayers:

Professor David Frost, speaking under a portrait of Archbishop John Bramhall of Armagh in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge … the author of Post-Communion Prayers used by the Church of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The provision of one Post-Communion Prayer for each occasion is relatively new. Previously, there was a very limited selection of Post-Communion Prayers. Then, in 1984, the Alternative Prayer Book provided some Post-Communion Prayers that became very popular. For example, ‘Father of all, we give you thanks and praise …’ This was written by Professor David Frost, until recently the Principal of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Cambridge, who also compiled the Psalter for the Alternative Prayer Book.

Another of these popular Post-Communion Prayers from the Alternative Prayer Book is: ‘Almighty God, we thank you for feeding us …’

These Post-Communion Prayers show a rich and varied way of addressing God, and they are drawn from the rich range of Biblical language:

● Light eternal,
● God of glory,
● Generous God,
● God of tender care,
● God our Creator,
● God of hope,
● God of our pilgrimage.

The sources for these Post-Communion Prayers are varied too. One comes from the liturgy of Malabar (Trinity 8): ‘Strengthen for Service, Lord, the hands that holy things have taken …’

The prayer for Maundy Thursday is associated in the Roman Catholic tradition with Corpus Christi, but its use in the Anglican tradition goes back to the Scottish Prayer Book (1929).

The Risen Christ and the Four Evangelists in John Piper’s window in Saint John’s, Lichfield … the Lectionary provides for readings from all four Gospels in different years and seasons (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(3b) The Lectionary:

[See Harold Miller, Chapter 2 (pp 35-46).]

Why do we use a lectionary? And what are the sources for the Lectionary?

Cranmer was anxious to provide Old Testament and New Testament readings for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer every day.

The Revised Common Lectionary emphasises need to have Old Testament, New Testament and Gospel readings available, along with a Psalm. The roots of the RCL are in a rediscovery of the meaning of the Liturgy of the Word both in the Liturgical Movement of the last century and at Vatican II.

The lectionary is based on having three readings and a psalm, over a three-year period. This is the value of story-telling rather than a thematic approach. You could compare the impact of the lectionary readings with a soap opera. We can enter at any time, and catch on quickly to what the main characters are doing and how they interact with each other.

Year A: Saint Matthew
Year B: Saint Mark
Year C: Saint Luke

Saint John’s Gospel, then, is used for the high points.

In essence, it is a Eucharistic lectionary.

There are exceptions, so that sometimes there is a thematic approach:

● The Second Sunday before Lent: the creation theme is an alternative.
● Sunday before Lent: Transfiguration theme.
● Sunday between 23 and 29 October (last Sunday, 23 October 2016): Bible Sunday theme.
● Sunday between 20 and 16 November: the Kingship of Christ.

Other exceptions and variations include:

● The first reading during Eastertide is from the Acts of the Apostles.
● The major festivals of Christmas are provided with readings not according to Years A, B and C, but Series I, II and III.

Some questions:

How do you feel about readings from the Apocrypha?

Which versions of the Bible can we – and should we – use (p 26 gives a gentle hint that we should use the New Revised Standard Version)?

Why are weekday readings not provided?

The Book of Common Prayer (p 26) allows for occasional diversity from the lectionary during Ordinary Time, but is there a danger or a benefit in allowing variation from set readings?

What are the pitfalls in following the Church of Ireland Directory?

There is not complete ecumenical acceptance of the lectionary, and there are some variations among Roman Catholics, or even between Anglican churches.


Seminar: ‘Word’ and ‘Sacrament’ expressed in music and the arts.

Tomorrow (5 November 2016):

8.1: Baptism and the Eucharist (3), the contemporary life and mission of the Church;
8.2: The theology and rites of ordination: rites of passage (e.g., Marriages, Funerals).

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture on 4 November 2016 was part of the Module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality on the MTh course with part-time Year III and IV students.