06 November 2016

Four brothers from Co Cork
who made their name
on the ground and in the air

The Market Square, Dunmanway, Co Cork … the home town of the Beamish brothers and Sam Maguire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Ireland this year, we have been remembering those killed in both the Easter Rising in 1916 and those killed in some of the major battles during World War I 100 years ago.

Many of the commemorations tried to strike a note of balance and to avoid, which may help to shape a more balanced approach to the Remembrance Day commemorations later this month [13 November 2016]. But in some parts of Ireland there may be reluctance to recall the Irish men and women who played key roles in World War II.

In Crete a few months ago, I was reminded of the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Crete and of the role played by Sir George Beamish from Dunmanway, Co Cork, who was the senior RAF officer on Crete during that battle in May 1941.

In an unexpected coincidence, I was also in Dunmanway in May 2016, and I realised the unique contribution of the four Beamish brothers – Victor, George Charles and Cecil – who were accomplished sportsmen and who had distinguished careers in the Royal Air Force.

These four Beamish brothers were the sons of Francis George Beamish and Mary Elizabeth Beamish of Dunmanway.

Saint Mary’s Church, Dunmanway, where the Beamish brothers and Sam Maguire were baptised (Photograph: Panormio/Corkperson)

The Beamish family has lived in that part of Co Cork from before 1688. Francis George Beamish was appointed the principal of the Model School in Dunmanway in 1903. One of the most famous pupils there was the Irish republican, Sam Maguire (1877-1927). Like the Beamish brothers, Sam Maguire was baptised in the Church of Ireland, but had left the Model School by the time the Beamish family arrived.

The Model School in Dunmanway, where Francis George Beamish was the principal and Sam Maguire went to school (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Sam Maguire is said to have recruited Michael Collins into the IRB while they were both working in the post office in London. He later took the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War, and lost his post in the Civil Service. The GAA gave his name to the All-Ireland Football Cup.

Meanwhile, Frank Beamish left Dunmanway in 1912, becoming a school inspector, first in Dublin, then in Co Derry (1914) and finally in Co Antrim.

Battle of Britain ace

Wing Commander FV Beamish (right), with Squadron Leader EM Donaldson after a combat over Dunkirk on 30 June 1940

The eldest of these four brothers, Group Captain Francis Victor Beamish (1903-1942), was an RAF fighter pilot and flying ace during World War II. Victor was born in the headmaster’s residence at the Model School in Dunmanway on 27 September 1903. He attended Coleraine Academical Institution and then entered the RAF in 1921.

During his pre-war career in the RAF in India and as a flight instructor in England, Victor played rugby for Harlequins, Leicester, Hampshire, the RAF and Irish Trials for several years. When he was admitted to hospital with TB in 1933, it seemed his RAF career had come to an end. He resigned his commission and in 1936, he moved to a civilian post at RAF Aldergrove, near Belfast. When his health recovered later, he returned to Aldergrove and became an honorary aide-de-camp to the Governor of Northern Ireland.

Group Captain Francis Victor Beamish (1903-1942)

At the outbreak of World War II, after a short time in Canada, Victor returned to England and became a Wing Commander. As a fighter pilot, he quickly claimed up to a dozen German Messerschmitts and many other German and Italian planes. During the Battle of Britain, from 10 July to 31 October 1940, he claimed at least 12 German planes and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC).

However, on 7 November 1940, while he was on patrol, Victor collided with another RAF plane and made a forced-landing at Leeds Castle in Kent. By March 1941, he was unable to fly regularly but he still flew occasionally over occupied Europe and received a Bar to the DSO that September.

Victor and Wing Commander RF Boyd were on a reconnaissance flight on 12 February 1942, when they sighted the German Fleet making its ‘Channel Dash.’ Then on 28 March 1942, Victor sighted a German formation just south of Calais. In the battle that followed, he was attacked and was last seen entering a cloud near Calais. He was 38.

Hero of the Battle of Crete

Air Marshal Sir George Robert Beamish (1905-1967)

The second brother, Air Marshal Sir George Robert Beamish (1905-1967), was a senior RAF commander until his retirement in the late 1950s. Before World War II, George too was a keen rugby player, playing for Leicester and he was capped 26 times for Ireland. In 1930, he was selected for the Lions tour.

George Beamish was born in Dunmanway on 29 April 1905. He went to school in Coleraine before joining the RAF, and he was commissioned in 1924. Later he became a Flight Commander, and then a Squadron Leader, and in 1939, he was posted to the Middle East.

On 17 May 1941, he was appointed senior RAF officer on Crete, overseeing the arrival of units being withdrawn from mainland Greece. However, following the German invasion of Crete later that month, this action turned into the defence of the island.

When Crete fell, George ordered the RAF squadrons to withdraw to Egypt, but he remained on Crete with General Bernard Freyberg. Both men eventually escaped from Crete in late May 1941, and he spent the rest of World War II in North Africa.

After the war, George held senior positions in the RAF and was knighted (KCB) in 1955. He retired back to Ireland in 1958, and in 1962 he was appointed High Sheriff of Co Derry.

George Beamish won his first international cap for Ireland in 1925 at the age of 19, playing in the Home Nations Championship in a 6-6 draw against England. At the time, he was playing for Coleraine at club level. He played in the remaining games of the tournament, with a home loss to Scotland and an impressive 19-3 win over Wales. Later, when he was playing club rugby for Leicester, George was invited to play for the Barbarians.

The green of Ireland

In 1928, nearly three years after his last international game, George was recalled to the Ireland team, and he was seldom out of the Irish squad from 1928 to 1933. In 1930, he was selected for the Lions tour of Australia and New Zealand. He played in all five Tests and 17 of the regional matches, scoring two tries.

After the tour, George returned to the Ireland squad for the 1931 Championship, playing in all four games. He was the captain of the Ireland team against the touring South African team in Dublin in 1931. He remained captain for the 1932 Home Nations Championship, and led Ireland to the first Championship win for 20 years.

The 1933 championship was his last for Ireland, playing in all three games and as captain of the team that defeated Wales. George also played club rugby for London Irish and was captain of the RAF rugby side.

George was responsible for getting the green of Ireland represented in the kit worn by the Lions. During the 1930 tour of New Zealand, the Lions wore their then standard blue jerseys. But this caused controversy because New Zealand, by then known as the ‘All Blacks,’ played in an all-black kit that clashed with the blue. New Zealand changed for the Tests, and for the first time the ‘All Blacks’ became the ‘All Whites.’

George also led a delegation that complained that the blue of Scotland, white of England and red of Wales was represented in the strip without the green of Ireland. A green flash was added to the socks, and in 1938 this became the green turnover that has been part of the strip ever since.

He died on 13 November 1967 in Castlerock, near Coleraine, Co Derry.

Pilot and prop

Group Captain Charles Eric St John Beamish (1908-1984)

The third Beamish brother, Group Captain Charles Eric St John Beamish (1908-1984), was also an Irish rugby international and an RAF pilot in World War II. He gained 12 caps for Ireland as a prop forward and also played for the Lions in the 1936 tour of Argentina.

Charles Beamish was born in Dunmanway on 28 June 1908. He played his first international match for Ireland against Wales in the 1933 Home Nations Championship. He was then playing at club level for North of Ireland FC, and when he joined the Ireland squad he came in at prop, with his elder brother George at No 8 and team captain. Ireland won 10-5, and Charles was re-selected for the final match of the tournament against Scotland in April. By then, he had switched clubs to Harlequins.

Although missing the opening and losing game against England, Charles was back in the Ireland squad for the second game of the 1934 Championship, playing against Scotland. By then, he was playing with his brother George for Leicester. Charles also played against Wales in the final game in 1934. It was a poor year for Ireland, which finished bottom of the table without a win. In 1934-1935, he toured with the Barbarians, and he played nine matches with them in 1934-1938.

In the 1935 Championship, Charles Beamish played for Ireland in all three matches, and despite a bad loss against England in the opening game, victories over Scotland and Wales secured the title for Ireland. Later that year, when played against the touring New Zealand team in Ireland, he scored his only international try, although it was not enough to stop the All Blacks. In 1936, he toured Argentina with the Lions.

Charles also retired to Northern Ireland, and he died in Templemore, Co Antrim, on 18 May 1984, at the age of 75.

The golfing dentist

Air Vice Marshal Cecil Howard Beamish (1915-1999)

The youngest of the Beamish brother, Air Vice Marshal Cecil Howard Beamish (1915-1999), was a practising dentist, a well-known rugby player and an RAF officer during World War II. He was born on 31 March 1915, and also played rugby for London Irish, the Barbarians and the RAF. Although he was never capped for Ireland, he was an Irish International golfer (1950-1956). He died on 21 May 1999. He was the last surviving Beamish brother.

Their sisters, Katherine and Eileen Beamish, served as Dental Officers with RAF squadrons.

Another teacher at the Model School was Trevor Sargent, who spent two years there (1981-1983) before returning to Dublin, first as a teacher in Balbriggan and later as a Green TD and Cabinet Minister. He is now an ordinand from the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

A statue commemorating Sam Maguire in the Market Square in Dunmanway, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Today, Sam Maguire is remembered throughout Dunmanway with signs, monuments, and a statue in the Market Square. But, while members of the Beamish family still live in the same house where these ‘high-flying’ brothers and their sisters were born, there is no public monument in Dunmanway to remember their feats in the air and on the ground.

Trevor Sargent … also a teacher in Dunmanway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Canon Patrick Comerford lectures in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This feature was first published in the ‘Church Review’ (Dublin and Glendalough) and the ‘Diocesan Magazine’ (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory), in November 2016.

‘Five centuries and the series of fathers in
that period’: introducing Patristic Spirituality

Seven Fathers of the Church carved above the south porch of Lichfield Cathedral (from left): Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, Saint Ambrose, Saint Gregory, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Athanasius and Saint Basil (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Church of Ireland Theological Institute,

6 November 2016:

Spirituality: Introducing Patristic Spirituality

Opening hymn: 262: ‘Come ye faithful, raise the strain,’ by John of Damascus (ca 675-ca 750).

Opening Reading:

Revelation 5: 11-14


The Church Fathers … in a Greek Orthodox icon

There was a time when a course in Patristics would have been one of the core First Year modules for ordinands in an Anglican theological college. Scholars like Bishop JB Lightfoot (1828-1899) and Bishop Brooke Westcott (1825-1901) placed Patristics at the heart of Anglican theology from the late 19th century on, for many generations.

Today, there is may be less enthusiasm for Patristics, and Professor Alister McGrath, looking at the obstacles to our understanding of Patristics in the 21st century, identifies four reasons why understanding Patristics can be difficult today:

● Some of the debates appear to have little relevance to the modern world;
● The use of classical philosophy;
● The doctrinal diversity;
● The divisions between East and West, or between Greek and Latin methods of theology, and the extent to which they use classical philosophy.

He might have added that some of them think in ways that are totally alien to us today, such as Saint Simeon the Stylite (ca 390-459), who achieved fame as an ascetic because he lived on a small platform on the top of a pillar near Aleppo in Syria for 39 years.

But do not be frightened by this topic. Already, through the Liturgy module, some of you are familiar with the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermas, anonymous works dating from the same period as the Apostolic Fathers, and perhaps with the Apostolic Constitutions, important texts in understanding the Liturgical practices and beliefs of the Early Church. And most of you recall the teachings of the later Church Fathers, in the debates over the Canon of the Bible and the formulation of the Creed of Nicaea and Constantinople.

The Patriarchal Institute of Patristic Studies in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626), one of the principal theologians among the Caroline Divines, summarises Anglican doctrinal authority in memorable form: ‘One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries and the series of fathers in that period – the three centuries, that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith.’

‘Five centuries and the series of fathers in that period’ … those five centuries and those fathers are the people and the period covered by the whole area of Patristics.

The field of Patristics is that of the Early Christian writers known as the Church Fathers and their writings. The name comes from the Greek πατέρας (pateras) and the Latin pater (father). The period is generally considered to run from the end of the New Testament period or the end of the Apostolic Age (ca 100 AD) to either the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD, or even to the Second Council of Nicaea in the eighth century.

Many scholars today would prefer to refer not to Patristics or Patristic Studies but to Early Christian Studies. But Patristics is more than the study of historical figures and historical writers. It is not merely an exploration in antiquity that has the church as its main field of interest. It is the very study in which we come to understand how the continuity of the Apostolic and the post-Apostolic Church in prayer life, in spirituality, in sacramental life, in trying to hold together our unity as the Body of Christ, and in a spirituality that found its expression too in our Creedal and Trinitarian formulas.

The Church Fathers

The prominent early Church Fathers whose writings form the basis for Patristics include Justin Martyr (ca 100-ca 165), Irenaeus of Lyons (ca 130-ca 200), Clement of Alexandria (ca 150-ca 215), Cyprian of Carthage (died 258), Athanasius of Alexandria (ca 296-ca 373), Gregory of Nazianus (329-389), Basil of Caesarea (ca 330-379), Gregory of Nyssa (ca 330-ca 395), Theodore of Mopsuestia (ca 350-428), Augustine of Hippo (354-430), Vincent of Lérin (died before 450) and Cyril of Alexandria (died 444).

Their thinking and their writings are found in epistles or letters, apologetics or defence of the developing and unfolding doctrine of the Church, in sermons, in accounts of their saintly lives and their martyrdom – for it was said in those days the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church – in philosophical writings, and in accounts of pilgrimages, particularly to Jerusalem.

Their concerns include the Liturgy, personal and corporate prayer, how to live an ascetic life that remains appropriate, penance, the corpus of scripture, schism and heresy, creation and ethics.

The Church Fathers are generally divided into the Ante-Nicene Fathers, who lived and wrote before the First Council of Nicaea in 325, and the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, who lived and wrote after 325. In addition, the division of the Fathers into Greek and Latin writers is also common.

Some of the most prominent Greek Fathers are: Justin Martyr, John Chrysostom and Cyril of Alexander. The Latin Fathers include Cyprian, Jerome, Ambrose of Milan, Gregory the Great and Augustine of Hippo. They lived and wrote across the Mediterranean world, in Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Rome and the area of north Africa around Carthage, as well as Milan.

The view of the Coliseum from the Irish Dominican church at San Clemente in Rome (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Apostolic Fathers

The Apostolic Fathers, who are a small number of Early Christian writers, lived and wrote in the second half of the 1st century and the first half of the 2nd century. They are acknowledged as leaders in the Early Church, and although their writings are not included in the New Testament, many are regarded as contemporaries of or students and followers of the Apostles, the generation that had personal contact with the Disciples. In this way, they are seen as the link between the Apostles, who had personal contact with Christ, and the later generations of Church Fathers.

The Apostolic Fathers include: Saint Clement of Rome, who was alive around 96 AD; Saint Ignatius of Antioch and Saint Polycarp of Smyrna.

Saint Clement of Rome was the author of the epistle known as I Clement (ca 96 AD). This is generally considered the oldest surviving Christian epistle outside the canon of the New Testament. In this letter, he calls on the Christians of Corinth to maintain harmony and order.

A colonnade of 14 Corinthian columns on the west side of the Stoa of Smyrna, the only surviving classical site in Izmir. Saint Ignatius of Antioch wrote four of his letters, including one to the Church in Smyrna, while he was a prisoner in Smyrna (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Ignatius of Antioch (ca 35-110) is said to have directly known Saint John the Evangelist. On his way to martyrdom in Rome, he wrote a series of letters that provide an example of the theology of the early Christians. In his letters, he discusses ecclesiology, the sacraments, and the role and authority of bishops.

He identifies a local church structure of bishops, priest and deacons, with the bishop in the place of God, the priests in the place of Apostles, and the deacons serving as Christ served: ‘Let the bishop preside in the place of God, and his clergy in the place of the Apostolic conclave, and let my special friends the deacons be entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ, who was with the Father from all eternity and in these last days has been made manifest’ – To the Magnesians, 6 (Andrew Louth).

Hear how Ignatius weaves together, in one of his letters, his Trinitarian faith, his understanding of the threefold order of bishop, priest and deacon, and links his Christology with his Ecclesiology: ‘Do your utmost to stand firm in the precepts of the Lord and the Apostles, so that everything you do, worldly or spiritual, may go prosperously from beginning to end in faith and love, in the Son and the Father and the Spirit, together with your most reverend bishop and that beautifully woven spiritual chaplet, your clergy and godly minded deacons. Be as submissive to the bishop and to one another as Jesus Christ was to his Father, and as the Apostles were to Christ and the Father; so that there may be complete unity, in the flesh as well as the spirit.’ – To the Magnesians, 13 (Andrew Louth)

Ignatius claims to have spoken in some of the Churches through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In an early Patristic poem, he teaches the deity of Christ and his human and divine natures:

‘There is only one Physician –

Very Flesh, yet Spirit too;
Uncreated and yet born;
God-and-Man in One agreed;
Very-Life-in-Death indeed;
Fruit of God and of Mary’s seed;
At once impassible and torn
By pain and suffering here below:
Jesus Christ, whom as Lord we know.’
To the Ephesians, 7 (Andrew Louth).

Saint Ignatius of Antioch ... referred to the Church as a ‘Eucharistic community’ which realises its true nature when it celebrates the Eucharist, and defined the Church as the local community gathered around its bishop, celebrating the Eucharist

He is the second writer after Clement to mention Saint Paul’s Epistles, and he is also responsible for the first known use of the Greek word katholikos (καθολικός), meaning ‘universal,’ ‘complete’ and ‘whole’ to describe the Church, writing:

‘Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as wherever Jesus Christ is present, we have the catholic Church. Nor is it permissible to conduct baptisms or love-feasts [the Eucharist] without the bishop. On the other hand, whatever does have his sanction can be sure of God’s approval too.’ – To the Smyrnaeans 8 (Andrew Louth).

Ignatius is also the first of the Church Fathers to speak about the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. He thought of the Church as a Eucharistic society which only realised its true nature when it celebrated ‘the Supper of the Lord, receiving His Body and Blood in the Sacrament.’ [Ignatius, quoted in Metropolitan Kallistos (Timothy) Ware, The Orthodox Church, p 242.]

The 42-hectare Kültürpark was laid out on the ruins of the Greek quarter of Smyrna ... Saint Polycarp was Bishop of Smyrna and was martyred there (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Polycarp (ca 69-ca 155) was the Bishop of Smyrna (present-day Izmir in western Turkey). Irenaeus says ‘Polycarp also was not only instructed by the apostles, and conversed with many who had seen the Lord, but was also appointed bishop by apostles in Asia and in the church in Smyrna.’ (Adversus haereses, 3.3.4).

According to the early Church historian, Eusebius, Irenaeus says that as a boy he had listened to accounts by Polycarp of his friendships with ‘John and with the others who had seen the Lord.’ Polycarp died as a martyr in Smyrna in 155 AD.

The Greek, Latin and Desert Fathers

The dome inside the Daniel Pantanassa Church with frescoes of the Ascension in Cappadocia … the Cappadocian Fathers made major contributions to the creedal definition of the Trinity (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

The Apostolic Fathers were followed by the Greek Fathers, including: Irenaeus of Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, Athansius of Alexandria, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, the Cappadocian Fathers (Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzus, Peter of Sebeste and Gregory of Nyssa), Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus.

Irenaeus, who was a disciple of Polycarp, wrote that the only way for Christians to retain unity is to humbly accept one doctrinal authority – episcopal councils, and he proposed that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John should all be accepted as canonical Gospels.

Clement of Alexandria united Greek philosophical traditions with Christian doctrine.

Athanasius of Alexandria is remembered for his role in the conflict with Arianism and for his affirmation of the Trinity. At the First Council of Nicaea (325), he argued against Arius, who said Christ is of a distinct substance from the Father.

The Cappadocian Fathers made major contributions to the definition of the Trinity, finalised at the First Council of Constantinople in 381 and the final version of the Nicene Creed, which was agreed there.

Among the Latin Fathers of the Church were Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Saint Hilary of Poitiers, Saint Ambrose of Milan, Saint Jerome, Saint Augustine of Hippo, Saint Gregory the Great.

The Desert Fathers were early monastics in the Egyptian Desert. Although their writings are not as extensive, their influence was immense. They include Saint Anthony the Great and Saint Pachomius. Many of their short and pithy sayings are collected in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.

A small number of Church Fathers wrote in other languages: Saint Ephrem the Syrian and Saint Isaac the Syrian, for example, wrote in Syriac, although their works were widely translated into Latin and Greek.

An icon of the Church as a boat, including Christ, the Apostles and the Church Fathers

In patristic writings, we find a non-negotiable concern for the poor, the sick, and those in prison, balanced with demands for personal responsibility, honest work, and an orderly social life.

Saint Basil the Great wrote: ‘The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.’

The Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos has the skull of Saint John Chrysostom (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint John Chrysostom, the great conscience of the Church on these matters, closed his second sermon on Lazarus and the Rich Man, preached in Antioch in the late 4th century, imploring his congregation to keep one main thing in mind: ‘I beg you, remember this without fail, that not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life. We do not possess our own wealth but theirs.’

It is a common Patristic saying that of the two, schism is worse than heresy. Behind this thinking is the presumption that a heretic is sincere in his belief – however erroneous – and so it could be that God may at least judge him on the basis of his sincerity, his personal integrity, and his consistency of action in regard to his principles. The schismatic, on the other hand, has wilfully separated himself from others who share the same beliefs, thus denying the truth that unity and communion exist in the very confession of the same truth. Heresy might be seen as a sin of error, while schism is a sin against truth itself.

If I ever had any doubts about the potential for humour among the Early Fathers, my misgivings were dispelled a few years ago by Dr George Bebabwi, an Egyptian scholar now living in Indianapolis.

In the course of a lecture in Cambridge, he told a story from the Abbot Sophronius of a desert monk who was called on for an exorcism. The monk slowly took out the scroll of the Book Genesis and started to read methodically and carefully at Chapter 1, Verse 1, not verse-by-verse, or even word-by-word, but letter-by-letter: ‘I-N T-H-E B-E-G-I-N-N-I-N-G, G-O- …’

Before he got any further, the Devil interrupted the monk, demanding in an outraged voice: ‘This is an exorcism – aren’t you supposed to be reading the Psalms.’

‘I’ll get to them, in my own good time,’ the monk replied nonchalantly.

‘I can’t wait that long,’ was the impatient response. ‘I’m out of here now.’

If you are in danger of thinking the Desert Fathers are concerned only with their own personal salvation, and not with the salvation of the whole world, then they also warn against what may be described as ‘learning wisdom.’ The Egyptian Desert Father, Abba Poemen, said: ‘A man who teaches without doing what he teaches is like a spring which cleanses and gives drinks to everyone, but is not able to purify itself.’

There was a monk in Egypt who wanted to be martyr. His abbot warned him against false heroism and told him it was easy to be unusual. True heroism, the abbot said, is found in daily life, looking for reality and finding God’s will there. The monk persisted in his quest for martyrdom, however, and headed off to an area controlled by nomadic tribes, and he demanded to become a martyr.

But once the nomadic people captured the monk, he was unable to resist, and rather than accept the pain of martyrdom he worshipped their idols. He returned to the monastery, where the abbot reminded him that true heroism often lies in dealing with daily realities rather than seeking to be dramatic or unusual.

If your image of the Early Fathers, particularly the Desert Fathers, is of humourless men stuck on the top of pillars or columns, sending down baskets with human waste and hauling them back up again full of food and drink, then think again of Saint Anthony, the founder of monasticism, saying: ‘Joy and not fear are the signs of the holy.’

When we look at the spirituality of the Church Fathers we should also remember those who were later regarded as heretics, including Tertullian (ca 160-ca 225), Origen (ca 185-ca 254), Pelagius and Nestorius (died ca 451). Although they never came to be regarded as Church Fathers, their writings help us to understand what the Church Fathers were countering, and who they were debating with. Indeed it was Tertullian who first said: ‘The blood of the martyrs is seed of the Church.’

Nor were all the Patristic writers men, either. One of the greatest descriptions of pilgrimage we have at time is by Egregia, who travelled from Gaul (France), spending three years in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, and Asia Minor, describing the churches and the liturgies, and seeking out healing centres such as that of Saint Thecla in Isauria, an inland district in south-central Anatolia

The rediscovery of Patristic texts and writings in the 15th and 16th centuries, following the exodus of Greek scholars with the fall of Byzantium is a major factor in understanding the Reformations, in particular the Anglican Reformation. And so, I conclude this part of our session this morning with the ‘Prayer of Saint Chrysostom’ introduced to Anglicanism by Thomas Cranmer:

‘Almighty God, you have given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplication to you; and you have promised through your well-beloved Son that when two or three are gathered together in his Name you will be in the midst of them: Fulfil now, O Lord, our desires and petitions as may be best for us; granting us in this world knowledge of your truth, and in the age to come life everlasting. Amen.’

As you bring your desires and petitions before God in our time of silence, take with you the collection of prayers attributed to Saint John Chrysostom, or meditate on some of the quotations included in the hand-out. We come back together at about 9.50 for a closing prayer and hymn.

Closing Prayer:

Let us pray, in the words of the Collect of the Day:

Almighty Father,
whose will is to restore all things
in your beloved Son, the king of all:
Govern the hearts and minds of those in authority,
and bring the families of the nations,
divided and torn apart by the ravages of sin,
to be subject to his just and gentle rule;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Closing Hymn: 446, ‘Strengthen for service, Lord the hands’, from the Liturgy of Malabar and attributed to Saint Ephraim the Syrian (ca 306-373).

Westcott House, Cambridge … the theological college is named in honour of the great Anglican patristic scholar, Bishop Brooke Westcott (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Selected Reading and Bibliography

SA Harvey, DG Hunter (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies (Oxford: OUP, 2008/2010).
MB Cunningham, E. Theokritoff (eds), The Cambridge Companion to Orthodox Christian Theology (Cambridge, CUP, 2008).
JB Lightfoot, Apostolic Fathers (London: MacMillan, 1891, 1907).
Andrew Louth (ed), Early Christian Writings (London: Penguin, 1987).
Cyril Richardson (ed), Early Christian Fathers (London: SCM Press, 1953).
JWC Wand, The Greek Doctors (London: Faith press, 1950).
Benedicta Ward, The Desert Fathers, Sayings of the Early Christian Monks (London: Penguin, 2003).

Hand-out for a time of meditation:

The Ladder of Divine Ascent … is an icon from Mount Sinai based on a book of the same name on the ascetic and monastic life, written ca 600 AD by Saint John Klimakos

Prayers of Saint John Chrysostom:

Saint John Chrysostom

1. O Lord, deprive me not of your heavenly blessings.
2. O Lord, deliver me from eternal torment.
3. O Lord, if I have sinned in my mind or thought, in word or deed, forgive me.
4. O Lord, deliver me from every ignorance and heedlessness, from pettiness of the soul and stony hardness of heart.
5. O Lord, deliver me from every temptation.
6. O Lord, enlighten my heart darkened by evil desires.
7. O Lord, I, being a human being, have sinned; I ask you, being God, to forgive me in your loving kindness, for you know the weakness of my soul.
8. O Lord, send down your grace to help me, that I may glorify your holy Name.
9. O Lord Jesus Christ, inscribe me, your servant, in the Book of Life, and grant me a blessed end.
10. O Lord my God, even if I have done nothing good in your sight, yet grant me, according to your grace, that I may make a start in doing good.
11. O Lord, sprinkle on my heart the dew of your grace.
12. O Lord of heaven and earth, remember me, your sinful servant, cold of heart and impure, in your Kingdom.
13. O Lord, receive me in repentance.
14. O Lord, leave me not.
15. O Lord, save me from temptation.
16. O Lord, grant me pure thoughts.
17. O Lord, grant me tears of repentance, remembrance of death, and the sense of peace.
18. O Lord, grant me mindfulness to confess my sins.
19. O Lord, grant me humility, charity, and obedience.
20. O Lord, grant me tolerance, magnanimity, and gentleness.
21. O Lord, implant in me the root of all blessings: the fear of you in my heart.
22. O Lord, grant that I may love you with all my heart and soul, and that in all things I may obey your will.
23. O Lord, shield me from evil persons and devils and passions and all other lawless matters.
24. O Lord, who knows your creation and what you have willed for it; may your will also be fulfilled in me, a sinner, for you art blessed for evermore. Amen.

Excerpts from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

1, ‘A hermit said, ‘Take care to be silent. Empty your mind. Attend to your meditation in the fear of God, whether you are resting or at work. If you do this, you will not fear the attacks of the demons.’
2, Abba Moses, ‘Sit in your cell and your cell will teach you all.’
3, ‘Somebody asked Anthony, “What shall I do in order to please God?’ He replied, ‘Do what I tell you, which is this: wherever you go, keep God in mind; whatever you do, follow the example of Holy Scripture; wherever you are, stay there and do not move away in a hurry. If you keep to these guidelines, you will be saved”.’
4, ‘He (Evagrius) also said, “A monk was told that his father had died. He said to the messenger, ‘Do not blaspheme. My Father cannot die”.’
5, Abbot Pastor said, ‘If someone does evil to you, you should do good to him, so that by your good work you may drive out his malice.’
6, An Elder said, ‘A man who keeps death before his eyes will at all times overcome his cowardliness.’
7, Blessed Macarius said, ‘This is the truth, if a monk regards contempt as praise, poverty as riches, and hunger as a feast, he will never die.’
8, ‘It happened that as Abba Arsenius was sitting in his cell that he was harassed by demons. His servants, on their return, stood outside his cell and heard him praying to God in these words, “O God, do not leave me. I have done nothing good in your sight, but according to your goodness, let me now make a beginning of good”.’

Some of this morning’s quotes:

‘Do your utmost to stand firm in the precepts of the Lord and the Apostles, so that everything you do, worldly or spiritual, may go prosperously from beginning to end in faith and love, in the Son and the Father and the Spirit, together with your most reverend bishop and that beautifully woven spiritual chaplet, your clergy and godly minded deacons. Be as submissive to the bishop and to one another as Jesus Christ was to his Father, and as the Apostles were to Christ and the Father; so that there may be complete unity, in the flesh as well as the spirit.’ – Ignatius, To the Magnesians, 13 (Andrew Louth)

“There is only one Physician –

Very Flesh, yet Spirit too;
Uncreated and yet born;
God-and-Man in One agreed;
Very-Life-in-Death indeed;
Fruit of God and of Mary’s seed;
At once impassible and torn
By pain and suffering here below:
Jesus Christ, whom as Lord we know.
– Ignatius, To the Ephesians, 7 (Andrew Louth).

‘Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as wherever Jesus Christ is present, we have the catholic Church. Nor is it permissible to conduct baptisms or love-feasts [the Eucharist] without the bishop. On the other hand, whatever does have his sanction can be sure of God’s approval too.’ – Ignatius, To the Smyrnaeans 8 (Andrew Louth).

‘The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.’ – Saint Basil the Great.

‘I beg you, remember this without fail, that not to share our own wealth with the poor is theft from the poor and deprivation of their means of life. We do not possess our own wealth but theirs.’ – Saint John Chrysostom

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is based on notes used for a lecture on Patristic Spirituality on 6 November 2016 in the Spirituality Programme as part of the Pastoral Formation module on the part-time MTh course.

Taking part in the commissioning
of six new student readers

The Revd Dr Patrick McGlinchey, the Revd Canon Dr Patrick Comerford, Jonathan Brown (Down and Dromore), Jonathan Cockerill (Connor), Karen Salmon (Down and Dromore), Graham Jones (Dublin and Glendalough), Emma Carson (Down and Dromore), Paul Gibson (Connor), Archbishop Michael Jackson, the Revd Canon Dr Maurice Elliott (Photograph: Lynn Glanville)

Patrick Comerford

I am working throughout the weekend with part-time students on the MTh students, with lectures and seminars on the Liturgy module on Friday and Saturday, and a discussion of Patristic Spirituality in the Chapel of CITI later this morning [6 November 2016].

I was the deacon at the Community Eucharist in the Chapel on Wednesday evening [2 November 2016], reading the Epistle and assisting at the Holy Comunion, when six ordinands were commissioned as Student Readers by Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin.

The six students are: Jonathan Brown (Down and Dromore), Emma Carson (Down and Dromore), Jonathan Cockerill (Connor), Graham Jones (Dublin and Glendalough) and Karen Salmon (Down and Dromore).

The six students were presented for licensing by the Director of the institute, the Revd Canon Dr Maurice Elliott, and the Lecture in Missiology, the Revd Dr Patrick McGlinchey, who co-ordinates student placements.

In his sermon, Archbishop Jackson spoke about the ministry to which the students would be ordained. He said that the Gospel reading (Luke 14: 25–33) suggested that weighing up the possible outcomes of a life-choice was liberating.

‘The top and the bottom of these parables is the following: you and I must make up our minds about the most secure of securities as we know them: materialism. Giving up things that delight us is a requirement of discipleship, so it is bound to be a requirement of the ordained ministry that follows from discipleship. Few of us are ready; fewer of us are willing to live immaterial lives. It is a change of spiritual attitude to which we are invited today and its purpose is to lighten our load and to equip us to be more spiritually nimble and more spiritually alert in our personal discipleship and in our ministry for and with other people,’ he said.

The Archbishop went on to speak about the public suffering that is presented every time we switch on the television or surf the news on our mobile phones. He suggested there was now an ‘acceptable level of suffering.’

‘The great hole in our conscience is Aleppo and Damascus; it has been Gaza; it has been Mostar; it has been Kigali; it has been Auschwitz. In all of these situations and circumstances – because human beings suffer by the premeditation of other human beings – everyone is dehumanised and nobody does anything about it while it is happening. And still God restores. This is the glory of grace and the miracle of redemption.’

The full text of the Archbishop’s sermon is available on the Dublin and Glendalough diocesan website here.