Sunday, 11 December 2016

A walk on the beach in Skerries at sunset,
enjoying ‘a grand stretch in the evening’

Sunset at Skerries Harbour this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

This has been a busy weekend, following a busy week.

Between a full working week and a full working weekend, the only break I had was, sadly, attending the funeral of Declan Burke-Kennedy, who, for many years, was a colleague on the Foreign Desk of The Irish Times.

I went back to lectures on Friday and Saturday, and then had the privilege of presiding at the Eucharist in the chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute this morning.

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent [11 December 2016], or Gaudete Sunday, and there is much to rejoice about and to celebrate on this day, at this time of the year.

A friend who lives in the Cathedral Close in Lichfield pointed out on Facebook earlier in the day how this is a special day. He noted that on 11 December the sun sets at its earliest time. From tomorrow [Monday] it slowly starts to set later.

However, the sun rises later until 31 December. Therefore the shortest daylight day is 21 December, halfway between today and 31 December. By Christmas Day, the sun will be setting about five minutes later than it set today.

As it is said in Ireland, we shall soon be able to say: ‘Sure there’s a grand stretch in the days.’

I thought that this afternoon it would be good to take advantage of the clear skies, the crisp weather, and the soon-to-arrive stretch in the days.

Walking on the South Strand in Skerries late this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016; click on image for full-screen view)

It was six months since I had been in Skerries. How did I let that time slip by so quickly? And so, as the part-time students were heading home this afternoon, two of us went to Skerries for a long walk on the beaches and around the harbour.

The tide was out, and dusk was beginning to fall as we went for a long walk on the South Strand. From there, we climbed the steps to the Martello Tower and Red Island.

There is now a public park and open space on Red Island that gives panoramic views south to the long stretch of the South Strand, south and east to the islands off Skerries, and north to the Mountains of Mourne.

But in the 1940s and the 1950s, the Quinn family built a holiday camp on the island, which is connected to the rest of Skerries by a narrow isthmus at the harbour.

Red Island was typical of holiday camps at that time, with 250 rooms housing about 500 guests a week. At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, it employed over 110 people. Although I went to school nearby in Gormanston, and my grandmother was from Portrane, we never had a holiday there as a family.

I believe most of the guests came from the North of England. with smaller numbers from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. From the late 1960s, the camp went into decline because of the rise in popularity of package holidays on the Spanish Costas, and the beginning of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. There was a substantial drop-off in visitors from the UK, and the same phenomena hit other places such as Butlins in Mosney.

Red Island closed in the late 1970s and was demolished a few years after. Today, most of the site is a public park.

At the harbour in Skerries this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016; click on image for full-screen view)

From there we walked around the harbour. There was a long queue outside ‘Storm in a Teacup,’ and so we did not stop there this afternoon. But it is good to see the business has recovered from a recent nasty episode.

As the sun set behind the harbour, we returned to centre of Skerries, and had a late lunch in Olive. And yes, they still serve the best double espresso in Fingal there.

I crossed the street to Gerry’s, one of my favourite shops for buying wine, and picked up this weekend’s Economost, the latest edition of Private Eye, along with two bottles of .

Back outside, the moon was bright and almost full, glistening across the clam waters. I had to go for another walk on the beach in the moonlight.

Soon, there’ll be a grand stretch in the evenings, and there will always be time for more walks on the beach.

Moonlight on the South Beach in Skerries this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

A note on this morning’s Eucharist
and hymns for Gaudete Sunday

‘The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist’ Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1608), Saint John’s Co-Cathedral, Valetta, Malta

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Third Sunday of Advent or Gaudete Sunday [11 December 2016], and later this morning [11.30 a.m.] I am presiding at the Community Eucharist in the Chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and David McComb, an MTh student, is preaching.

This image of Carravagio’s ‘The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist’ (1608) and these notes are included in this morning’s chapel booklet:

A note on this morning’s Eucharist and hymns:

This morning is the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. On this Sunday we remember Saint John the Baptist and rejoice in his anticipation of the coming of Christ. On the Advent wreath, the rose-coloured or pink candle is lit alongside the two violet or blue candles, which represent the first two Sundays of Advent, symbolising the Patriarchs and the Prophets. The readings emphasise the joyous anticipation of the Lord’s coming, yet in our anticipation we sing no Gloria in Advent, waiting instead for the angelic Gloria that is to announce Christ’s birth.

Processional Hymn: ‘Long ago, prophets knew’ (Church Hymnal, 133) was written in 1970 by the Methodist hymnwriter the Revd Fred Pratt Green (1903-2000). The tune Personent Hodie is from Piae Cantiones (Griefswald, 1582), which in 1853 came into the hands of the Revd Thomas Helmore (1811-1890) and the Revd John Mason Neale (1818-1866). It was arranged in 1925 by Gustav Holst (1874-1934), who was a student of the Irish-born Sir Charles Villiers Stanford.

Gradual: ‘On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry’ (Church Hymnal, 136) was written in French in 1718 by Charles Coffin (1676-1749), Rector of the University of Paris, and translated by the Revd John Chandler (1806-1876). The melody, from George Wittwe’s Musikalisches Hand-Buch (Hamburg, 1690), was adapted as the tune ‘Winchester New’ by Canon William Henry Havergal (1793-1870).

Offertory: ‘Of the Father’s heart begotten’ (Church Hymnal, 175) is the oldest hymn in the Church Hymnal. It was written by Marcus Aurelius Clemens Prudentius (ca 343-413), a judge in the Roman imperial court, as a challenge to Arianism. It was translated by John Mason Neale and the Revd Sir Henry Williams Baker (1821-1877). The tune is a later form of a plainsong melody in Piae Cantiones (1582), and was arranged as the tune Corde natus (Divinium mysterium) by Sir David Wilcocks of King’s College, Cambridge.

Communion Hymn: As we receive Holy Communion, we sing ‘Jesus, remember me’ (Church Hymnal, 617), by Jacques Berthier (1923-1994) and the Taizé Community. Berthier, in collaboration with Father Robert Giscard and Father Joseph Gelineau, developed the ‘songs of Taizé’ genre. He composed 284 songs and accompaniments for Taizé, including Laudate omnes gentes and Ubi Caritas.

Post Communion Hymn: ‘Hills of the north, rejoice’ (Church Hymnal, 128) by the Revd Charles E Oakley (1832-1865) and the editors of English Praise. The tune Little Cornard was written for this hymn by Martin Shaw (1875-1958) while he was the organist at Saint Mary’s, Primrose Hill, where the Vicar was Canon Percy Dearmer (1867-1936), co-editor of the English Hymnal with Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). The tune takes its name from the Suffolk village where the composer spent his honeymoon.

Praying in Advent with USPG,
(15): 11 December 2016



Patrick Comerford

This is the Third Sunday of Advent, and later this morning I am presiding at the Community Eucharist in the Chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute.

This Sunday is often known as Gaudete Sunday, and this morning we light the Third Candle (Pink) on the Advent Wreath, which represents Saint John the Baptist.

Third Sunday of Advent: Sunday 11 December

Saint John the Baptist:


Lord Jesus, your cousin John
prepared the way for your coming.
Inspire your church across the world,
like John, to speak out against injustice:
that the world may become
a fairer and just home for all.

Praying through Advent:

Throughout this time of preparation for Christ’s coming at Christmas, I am praying each morning and using for my reflections the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel). This week, the prayers focus on the needs of the Church of Ceylon, the Anglican Church in Sri Lanka.

The USPG Prayer Diary this morning includes an article by teachers at the USPG-supported Saint Andrew’s Little Flower Nursery School in Templestowe. The school looks after the children of marginalised tea plantation workers:

‘Durga is five years old. When she came to school for the first time nine months ago she didn’t know how to hold a pencil, but now she can write everything. She likes dancing and shows leadership qualities. She studies hard, and one day she would like to be a teacher.

‘Durga lives on the Templestowe tea estate in a small mud house. Her mother works on the estate, while her father works in a rice mill. [At least one parent must work on the estate for the family to have a house.]

‘When her mother goes to work, she takes Durga to school and Durga’s three-year-old sister to the Child Development Centre, which is run by the Church of Ceylon.

‘Sabish is also five years old. He walks half-a-kilometre from Injara tea estate to school. His father works on the estate, while his mother works at home making clothes then selling what she can. Sabish’s grandmother also lives in their small house.

‘Sabish is clever and talkative. He likes drawing, singing and football, and his dream is to become a doctor and help his community.’

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Sunday 11 December 2016:


Loving Lord, as we look forward to celebrating your birth, we pray especially for children, babies and families. Bless them, their homes and communities. Let them know the fullness of your love and purpose.

‘Inspire your church across the world, like John, to speak out against injustice: that the world may become a fairer and just home for all’

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

Isaiah 35: 1-10; Psalm 146: 4-10, or the Canticle Magnificat; James 5: 7-10; Matthew 11: 2-11.

The Collect of the Day:

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer:

Father,
we give you thanks for these heavenly gifts.
Kindle us with the fire of your Spirit
that when Christ comes again
we may shine as lights before his face;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Continued tomorrow