Saturday, 15 April 2017

A dark night of waiting has been
turned into morning (Easter 2017)

Mary Magdalene at Easter … a sculpture by Mary Grant at the west door of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford/Lichfield Gazette)

Patrick Comerford

The Easter Vigil, Saturday 15 April 2017

8 p.m., Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Pallaskenry, Co Limerick.


Readings: Exodus 14: 10-31, 15: 20-21; Psalm 114; Romans 6: 3-11; Matthew 28: 1-10.

In the name of + the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

How many of you find it difficult to get up early in the morning?

I used to find it difficult to get up early on two different types of mornings. There were those mornings when I was a schoolboy and I knew I had not done my homework. I found it difficult not so much to wake up as to get up: to face up to my responsibilities, and to take the consequences of not meeting my own responsibilities.

And there were those mornings I found it difficult to get up because I had been allowed to stay up too late the night before. I was not in trouble, but my body sure was.

But, looking back on my childhood, there were mornings when it was not difficult to wake up early in the morning at all. What about you?

● Christmas morning was an easy morning to wake up early. Perhaps looking for Santa’s presents. It was exciting. There was a lot to look forward too.

● Your birthday: birthdays are always full of surprises when you are young and full of life.

● The morning of a big football or hockey match, or a music competition you had entered: and your stomach was full of butterflies.

● There was the morning when we were starting our holidays: when I was at the beginning of an exciting time, setting off on a journey, somewhere wonderful, when I knew it was going to be exciting and I was going to have a great time.

And then there are times of sadness, times when you have slept uneasily because of what lies ahead:

● Being woken up in the dark, fearing what is happening outside, or even in the house inside, those nights when you are unable to get back to sleep, wondering and worrying about what has happened.

● Before going into hospital to have a test or an operation.

● The night before a funeral, especially the funeral of someone you love and who has been close to you.

These are sad times to remember, although years later we are glad those doctors operated, glad to look back with fond memories on members of our family, because long after they have died we still love them and their love for us is still real.

In our Gospel reading this evening, we are told how Mary Magdalene was up while it was still dark, long before morning had broken. It was Passover. But her reasons for being awake while it was still dark and for rising early are not because of any holiday excitement or expectation. She could not sleep the night before because someone very precious – the most important person in her life – had died.

And yet this story moves from one that begins with being one of the saddest reasons for getting up so early, to being one of the most joyful reasons for being up early in the morning.

At the beginning, it is as though she was going through the worst of times in her life.

But then the story suddenly changes. It is as though all her Christmases, all her birthdays and all her holidays have come together, and much, much more.

Jesus has died, died in the most awful way, late on Friday, and he was buried late on Friday evening, just as it was getting dark.

Then, Saturday was a day when no-one in the Jewish world could do anything. You could not open the fridge, turn on the light, cook the dinner. The small group of people who had buried Jesus had to wait until early on Sunday morning to go and sort out things at the grave.

Well, the two Marys did not get to sort them out. Because it had been such a hurried burial, things would have been in a mess. He would not have been put in a proper shroud. His eyes would not have been set closed ... all those messy things that most of us do not have to even think about these days, thanks to the professionalism of funeral directors.

And Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb, probably bringing with them spices and nice clothes, and things like that … things that remind me of the swaddling clothes that Jesus was wrapped in as a baby, and the spices the Wise Men brought to him as his first birthday presents on that first Christmas.

And when they get to the grave, there is a greater shock waiting for them. The stone has been rolled away, and the body is missing.

Could someone have been there before her?

So, as tomorrow morning’s Gospel story (John 20: 1-18) she runs back and tells Simon Peter and John the Beloved Disciple.

Now, I have to admit, we men are not very good at making deductions – at looking for the whole picture. When these two men look inside the tomb, at first they take everything at face value. They see the neatly-folded linen wrappings and the head cloth in the grave.

We are told that they see and believe. But belief does not lead to faith or action. Instead of looking around to see where Jesus might be, what do they do? They return to their homes.

If we had relied on what they had done after what they had seen, would we have ever realised the significance of that first Easter?

They look inside, they see an empty gave, and then they go home again.

But Mary comes back to the garden, and decides it is worth hanging on to see what has happened. And because she waited, because she wondered, because she questioned, she was there to have first encounter with Jesus as the Risen Lord.

She now realises what it was all about. What those past three years with Jesus were all about. What Jesus was trying to say to them all the time as he preached, as he told them parables, as he healed, as he went fishing, as he had meals with them and as he fed them all.

Can you imagine her excitement? A dark night of waiting is turned into the most glorious morning. The spices and clothes they were bringing are no longer needed. Instead, here is the most wonderful present possible. Human hate been defeated by God’s love.

She is so excited that she cannot help herself from hugging onto Jesus so tight that he has to tell her, not ‘Do not hold onto me,’ as it is translated so often in an insipid way, but in the original Greek Μή μου ἅπτου, which might be better translated as ‘stop holding onto me,’ or ‘stop clinging onto me.’

Oh that we would all want to cling onto the Risen Christ so tightly. Oh that we were all filled with such joy in Christ, not just on Easter morning, but every morning.

Because nothing can ever be that bad any more. Because God loves ... you.

Easter means that all the fears we have in the middle of the night, all the fears you have early in the morning, are nothing compared to how God wants to take care of you, mind you, love you, to have you cling on to Christ and for Christ to cling onto you.

God has rolled away all the big stones that get in the way between you and him, between me and him, between us and him. We only have to look for ourselves and to believe. And that is why Easter should be better, is better, that all the Christmases and all the birthdays and all the other special treats rolled together.

And so, may all we think, say and so be to the Glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

‘Noli Me Tangere’ (ca 1500), an icon in the Museum of Byzantine Icons (Museo dei Dipinti Sacri Bizantini), next to San Giorgio dei Greci in Venice)

Matthew 28:1-10

1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’

‘Noli me Tangere’ (1524), by Hans Holbein the Younger

Greeting:

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Collect:

Lord God,
you have brightened this night with the radiance of the Risen Christ:
may this light so shine within the Church
that we may be renewed in mind and body and serve you with all our being;
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said,
Peace be with you.
Then were they glad when they saw the Lord.
(John 20: 19, 20)

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord, the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post Communion Prayer:

Living God,
for our redemption you gave your only-begotten Son
to the death of the cross,
and by his glorious resurrection
you have delivered us from the power of our enemy.
Grant us so to die daily unto sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal:

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Mary Magdalene and the women at the tomb on Easter morning ... a sketch for an icon of the Resurrection by the Monk Gregory Kroug, iconographer

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes and Canon Precentor in the cathedral chapters of Limerick, Killaloe and Clonfert. This sermon was prepared for the Easter Eucharist in Castletown Church on Saturday night, 15 April 2017.

Irish Protestants in
2017: Far from the
stereotypically aloof,
rich Anglophiles...

This four-page feature was published in The Irish Independent Review on Saturday 16 April 2017:

Irish Protestants in
2017: Far from the
stereotypically aloof,
rich Anglophiles...


The census shows the Church of Ireland population has dropped slightly – after steady increases in recent decades. An influx of immigrants and disenchanted Catholics has helped steady the ship. In the second part of our series on faith, Kim Bielenberg reports on a more assertive Protestant community

Maria Jansson, Dean of Waterford, at the Church of Ireland, Cathedral Square, Waterford City. Picture: Patrick Browne

There are still plenty of stereotypes about Protestants in Ireland. Many of them grew up being told that they were not Irish enough.

There is an assumption that they must be rich and live in big houses, and there is even a belief in certain quarters that southern Protestants pay homage to the Queen of England.

They are also said to be accomplished at home baking and jam-making, and skilled at growing daffodils and making meals from meagre leftovers.

The Rev Patrick Comerford, Church of Ireland parish priest in Rathkeale, Co Limerick says: “I don’t think the stereotypes are as strong as they once were, but sometimes they are perpetuated by RTÉ.

“When they cast a Church of Ireland figure in a TV programme they always have a plummy Anglo-Irish accent, like George or the rector’s wife in Glenroe.”

The priest says that in reality most of his parishioners have accents and jobs no different to those of their Catholic or non-religious neighbours. The backbone of the community in rural parishes is typically made up of small farmers, shopkeepers and people with a wide variety of backgrounds.

Dublin once had a strong working class Protestant tradition, but in popular culture Protestant invariably means posh.

The latest census shows a slight drop in the number of people declaring themselves as Church of Ireland. Numbers have fallen by 2 per cent to 126,000 over the past five years, but leaders of the biggest Protestant denomination are hardly likely to panic.

The Church of Ireland has suffered calamitous falls in its population before. In the 26 counties in the late 19th century, there were 340,000 members of the church, but by the early 1980s the population had fallen to 95,000. It then started to recover.

Since the 1950s there have been hundreds of closures of Protestant churches across the country. But a number of influences have helped to steady a ship that was in grave danger of sinking.

An increase in the number of Protestant immigrants, particularly from Africa and India, has helped to re-energise some parishes, and there has also been an influx of worshippers who grew up as Catholics.

One parishioner from Lucan estimates his local church-going population as 50pc traditional Church of Ireland, 25pc African or Indian, and 25pc people who were baptised as Catholics.

“There are a number of people from a Catholic background who feel more comfortable in the Church of Ireland at the moment, but I would not see this as a form of competition,” says Patrick Comerford.

The Church of Ireland is facing some similar challenges to the Catholic church. There is an enormous legacy of buildings that have been handed down through generations. The clergy have to try to maintain them, and more importantly, fill the pews.

Priests, many of whom have second jobs, have to cover sprawling groups of parishes over large areas, and in some of the churches the attendance is tiny.

As a priest on the Iveragh peninsula in Kerry, the Rev Michael Cavanagh covers an area from Kenmare to Waterville and Valentia Island. He says at some services in the winter, only four people might show up at some of the services.

“I still think it is very important that we do those services, because it means so much to the parishioners,” says the priest, who grew up as a Catholic before becoming an Anglican in his early twenties.

Like the other well-established churches, the Church of Ireland could have been accused of a certain complacency in the past.

It was unwilling to go out there and compete aggressively in the marketplace for the souls of the faithful.

But Canon Ian Ellis, editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, says the traditional churches are less complacent now.

“As they see themselves less at the centre of things, the more aware they are becoming of the need to reach out.”

Overall, attendance figures in the Church of Ireland are estimated at 15pc. Just as there are ‘à la carte Catholics’, there are also ‘à la carte Protestants’.

Like the Catholic church, the church has a huge contingent who only attend for big family events, having been educated at Protestant schools.

Ronan Scanlan, an IT consultant who organises scripture readings at the church in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow says: “For christenings, weddings and funerals, and at Christmas and Easter, the church is bursting at the seams. But for the rest of the year these people are nowhere to be seen.”

Numbers at church on a Sunday may be small in many parishes, but the Bishop of Limerick Kenneth Kearon believes the flock that does turn up regularly is perhaps stronger in its faith.

“People are less likely to go to church purely for social reasons, as they often did in the past,” says the Rt Rev Kearon.

“There may be fewer going but they are more committed. That commitment shows itself in Sunday worship, but also increasingly in daily bible study and regular prayer.”

Patrick Comerford says there are still parishioners who grew up with the idea that you should pray at the start and the end of the day.

He says prayer is less formal than it used to be, and the saying of Grace before meals is not as common as it once was. But there is still a strong faith. He says groups of worshippers have turned out every night in small parishes in his area during Holy Week.

In the Church of Ireland, we see ourselves as Catholics too’

“You would get a dozen people in these parishes who would rather come to church in Holy Week than sit at home watching Coronation Street or Eastenders.”

As the country has become more secular, Christian churches have discovered that they have more in common.

Kenmare priest Michael Cavanagh says there is now a superb ecumenical relationship between the churches. In his area, Christians of all denominations get together for bible study.

The main Protestant church, the Church of Ireland has tended to identify with the other main reformed churches, the Presbyterians and Methodists.

The Presbyterian population, which has also fallen in the census, is clustered along the border in Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan.

Patrick Comerford likes to emphasise the close similarities between the Church of Ireland and the Catholic church.

The Rathkeale priest says: “In the Church of Ireland, we see ourselves as Catholic too.

“We are both Catholic and Protestant, we confess the same Creeds – the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed. We are not a different faith, and we do not see ourselves as having broken away from Catholicism.”

In the decades after independence, there was a perception that Protestants kept their heads down and quietly got on with business.

But in recent decades, the community has been much more assertive in public life. In politics, prominent Protestants have included David Norris, Ivan Yates, Jan O’Sullivan and Heather Humphreys, who is a Presbyterian.

U2 was conceived in a Protestant school, Mount Temple. Two band members, Adam Clayton and the Edge, are from a Church of Ireland background, while Bono’s mother was also Protestant.

Fifty years ago Protestants may have led separate lives, but that is no longer the case. Patrick Comerford says: “There is now an acceptance that this is our State and we are responsible for it just as everybody else is. We play our part.”

I’d do 60 hours a week
quite easily, but in the past
it used to be up to 100 hours


Maria Jansson (61), Dean of Waterford
Church of Ireland Cathedral


In 1957, the marriage of a Catholic and Protestant in Fethard-on-Sea, Co Wexford, caused social unrest – and a priest-led boycott of local Protestant business. It’s a notorious sectarian incident that is still talked of today, but not all of those in ‘mixed marriages’ experienced such problems.

Maria Jansson’s Swedish Lutheran father and Donegal Catholic mother married that very decade and theirs was a union that attracted no animosity. The family moved to Cork when she was eight and she remembers going to Mass every Sunday while being acutely aware of her father’s staunch Protestantism. “There was no alcohol in the house, card games,” she says. “We kept our heads down.”

Since her school days she was intrigued by both philosophy and religion and her becoming a religion teacher was a perfectly natural career move. She taught at schools in Cork and Dublin.

Although she had been raised Catholic, she found herself drawn more to the Protestant tradition, especially when she started attending Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in the 1980s. “But the prospect of being a priest wasn’t in my head at all,” she says, recalling how her father, though devout, had little time for clergy.

A life of academia beckoned, but the sudden deaths of two close family members within six months of each other caused her to reassess her life. Ministering in the Church of Ireland would give her true purpose, she believed, and with women priests part of the Church since 1990, there was no longer a gender impediment.

“It has been a great joy,” she says. “You meet so many people who inspire you, especially older people who have great wisdom. It’s almost as though they are ministering to me.”

But the hours are punishing. “I’d do 60 hours a week quite easily,” she says, “but in the past it used to be up to 100 hours. You have to cut back on that because it’s so detrimental to your health” – she suffered a stroke a few years ago – “and you need the head space too. You really have to look out for yourself.”

John Meagher

In the Harrowing of Hell, Christ reaches down
and lifts us up with him in his Risen Glory

The Harrowing of Hell … a traditional Orthodox icon

Patrick Comerford

Giorgios Koros (1923-2014), who died recently, was one of the finest Greek solo violinists of our time. He was born on the island of Evia in Greece. He started playing the violin at the age of eight, when his father – who was a church cantor and a teacher of Byzantine music – decided to replace the mandolin with a violin and a bow without strings.

His professional career began a year later, when he began playing at weddings and feasts with his father, and he began appearing on stage in 1947, collaborating with many famous Greek folk musicians.

His mother spurned the opportunity for him to have a classical musical education. But George Koros later revolutionised Greek folk music through the introduction of the fiddle as an accepted instrument. He became an acclaimed, self-made musician, who has composed about 2,000 songs, and he was awarded many gold and platinum discs for his albums.

But, despite his reputation in Greek folk music, for me he is stands out for his Byzantine hymns. In these hymns, he returns to his roots in Byzantine music and with his violin he recreates the tradition of the early hymns he learned from his father in church as a boy. In one such hymn, he uses his violin to plaintively recall the sorrow of the tomb: I see thy resting place and Life in the Holy Sepulchre.

In the Western tradition of the Church, at this time of the year, we have traditionally contemplated the cross, and then the empty tomb. As the Irish writer and journalist John Waters pointed out recently, the deep joys of the Resurrection have often been overshadowed in the Western Church by the way of the Cross, as though the Cross leads only to death. We have neglected Christ’s resting place, his tomb, and given little thought to what was happening in the Holy Sepulchre on this day.

Holy and Great Saturday is observed solemnly in the Orthodox Church, with hymns and readings that truly explore the theme of the Harrowing of Hell in depth. For this Saturday is the day on which Christ’s body lay in the tomb, this is the day on which he visited those who were dead.

The icon of the Harrowing of Hell reminds us that God reaches into the deepest depths to pull forth souls into the kingdom of light. It reminds us how much we are unable to comprehend – let alone take to heart as our own – our creedal statement about Christ’s descent into Hell – ‘He descended into Hell.’

The Resurrection … an Easter scene in a stained glass window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Christ’s descent into Hell is captured in Peter’s Pentecost sermon in Acts 2. In I Peter 3: 15b to 4: 8, we are told that when Christ died he went and preached to the spirits in prison ‘who in former times did not obey … For this is the reason the Gospel was proclaimed even to the dead, so that … they might live in the spirit as God does.’

In the NRSV, I Peter 4: 6 reads the gospel was ‘proclaimed even to the dead …’ reflecting the original Greek: ‘εἰς τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ νεκροῖς εὐηγγελίσθη …’ The New International Version, however, says the Gospel ‘was preached even to those who are now dead …’ But the word ‘now’ is not in the Greek text. It was inserted to rule out the idea that Christ preached to those who were dead when they were preached to, and instead it says that he brought his good news to people who were dead at the time I Peter was written. If you remove the word ‘now,’ the English becomes ambiguous on that point, just like the Greek is ambiguous there.

The women at the tomb … a stained glass window in Saint Ann’s Church, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Early Church taught that after his death Christ descended into hell and rescued all the souls, starting with Adam and Eve, who had died under the Fall.

The Harrowing of Hell is intimately bound up with the Resurrection, the Raising from the Dead, for as Christ is raised from the dead he also plummets the depths to bring up, to raise up, those who are dead. The Harrowing of Hell carries us into the gap in time between Christ’s death and resurrection.

In Orthodox icons of the Harrowing of Hell, Christ stands on the shattered doors of hell. Sometimes, two angels are shown in the pit binding Satan. And we see Christ pulling out of hell Adam and Eve, imprisoned there since their deaths, imprisoned along with all humanity because of sin. Jesus breaks down the doors of hell and leads the souls of the lost into heaven.

It is the most radical reversal we can imagine. Death does not have the last word, we need not live our lives entombed in fear. If Adam and Eve are forgiven, and the Sin of Adam is annulled and destroyed, who is beyond forgiveness?

In discussing the ‘Descent into Hell,’ Hans Urs von Balthasar argues that if Jesus’ mission did not result in the successful application of God’s love to every intended soul, how then can we think of it as a success. He emphasises Christ’s descent into the fullness of death, so as to be ‘Lord of both the dead and the living’ (Romans 5).

However, in her book Light in Darkness, Alyssa Lyra Pitstick says that Christ did not descend into the lowest depths of hell, and only stayed in the top levels. She finds untenable his view that Christ’s descent into hell entails experiencing the fullness of alienation, sin and death, which he then absorbs, transfigures, and defeats through the Resurrection. Instead, she claims, Christ descends only to the ‘limbo of the Fathers’ in which the righteous, justified dead of the Old Testament awaited the coming of the Messiah.

Her argument robs the Harrowing of Hell of its soteriological significance. For her, Christ does not descend into hell and experience the depths of alienation between God and humanity opened up by sin. She leaves Christ visiting an already-redeemed and justified collection of Old Testament saints to let them know that he has defeated death.

The Empty Tomb … a fresco in Saint John’s monastery, Tolleshunt Knights, Essex (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

However, Archbishop Rowan Williams has written beautifully in The Indwelling of Light on the Harrowing of Hell. Christ is the new Adam who rescues humanity from its past, and who starts history anew. ‘The resurrection … is an introduction – to our buried selves, to our alienated neighbours, to our physical world.’ He says: ‘Adam and Eve stand for wherever it is in the human story that fear and refusal began … (This) icon declares that wherever that lost moment was or is – Christ (is) there to implant the possibility … of another future.’

I ask myself: what’s the difference between the top levels and bottom levels of hell? Is my hell in my heart of my own creation? In my mind, in my home, where I live and work, in my society, in this world? Is hell the nightmares from the past I cannot shake off, or the fears for the future when it looks gloomy and desolate for the planet? But is anything too hard for the Lord?

The icon of the Harrowing of Hell tells us that there are no limits to God’s ability to search us out and to know us. Where are the depths of your heart and your soul – where darkness prevails, and where you feel even Christ can find no welcome? Those crevices even you are afraid to think about let alone contemplate, may be beyond your reach. You cannot produce or manufacture your own salvation from that deep, interior hell, hidden from others, and often hidden from yourself.

Christ breaks down the gates of Hell, and as the icon powerfully shows, he rips all of sinful humanity from the clutches of death. He descends into the depths of our sin and alienation from God; and by plumbing the depths of hell he suffuses all that is lost and sinful with the radiance of divine goodness, joy and light. If hell is where God is not, and Jesus is God, then his decent into hell pushes back hell’s boundaries. In his descent into hell, Christ reclaims this zone for life, pushing back the gates of death, where God is not, to the farthest limits possible.

Christ plummets even those deepest depths, and his love and mercy can raise us again to new life. When we remember Christ lying in the grave, we can ask him to take away all that denies life in us, whether it is a hell of our own making, a hell that has been forced on us, or a hell that surrounds us. Christ reaches down, and lifts us up with him in his Risen Glory.

The Harrowing of Hell in a fresco behind the icon screen in the Chapel of the Resurrection in Saint John’s monastery, Tolleshunt Knights, Essex (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is a lecturer in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin, and Canon Precentor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick

This paper was published in ‘Koinonia’ (Kansas City MO) vol 10 no 33 (Easter 2017), pp 10-13.

Praying in Lent 2017 with USPG,
(49) Holy Saturday 15 April 2017

‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how’ ... Christ is laid in the tomb by Nicodemus, from the Stations of the Cross in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

In our pilgrimage and journey in Lent we have arrived at the end of Lent. Today is Easter Eve, and our sorrows turn to joy later this evening, as day turns to night, and Easter Eve turns to the first Easter celebrations of the Resurrection.

Every evening in Holy Week, there have been special services in the churches in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. Later this evening, I am presiding at the first Eucharist of Easter and preaching in Castletown Church, Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, at 8 p.m.

The Lent 2017 edition of the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) follows the theme of the USPG Lent study course, ‘Living an Authentic Life.’

Throughout Lent, I have been using this Prayer Diary for my prayers and reflections each morning, inviting you to join me in these prayers and reflections, for just a few moments each morning.

In the articles and prayers in the prayer diary, USPG invites us to investigate what it means to be a disciple of Christ. The Lent study course, ‘Living an Authentic Life’ (available online or to order at www.uspg.org.uk/lent), explores the idea that discipleship and authenticity are connected.

This week, from Palm Sunday (9 April) until today, Holy Saturday (15 April), the USPG Lent Prayer Diary has been following the narrative of Holy Week. The topic was introduced on Sunday in an article in the Prayer Diary by Paulo Ueti, a bible scholar and theologian in the Anglican Church of Brazil.

In his article, he recalled how the fourth-century Church Father, Evagrius Ponticus, says we can only encounter God if we are prepared to encounter ourselves in truth. When we can acknowledge and accept our own darkness, then we are able to accept others.

Easter Eve or Holy Saturday:

Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how. Pray for those who watch, wait and weep, that endurance might lead to the resurrection of hope.

The Collect of the Day:

Grant, Lord,
that we who are baptized into the death
of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
may continually put to death our evil desires
and be buried with him;
and that through the grave and gate of death
we may pass to our joyful resurrection;
through his merits, who died and was buried
and rose again for us,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Series concluded.

Yesterday’s reflection.