Sunday, 14 May 2017

Getting lost on the way,
finding what is the truth

‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious’ (I Peter 2: 6) ... a cross carved into a stone in the Franciscan Friary in Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford,

The Fifth Sunday of Easter,

14 May 2017

11.15 a.m.:
Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, Morning Prayer.

Readings: Acts 7: 55-60; Psalm 31; I Peter 2: 2-10; John 14: 1-14.

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

I spent some time in the past week in London, at a meeting of the board or trustees of the Anglican mission agency USPG. It is a good way of keeping in touch with what is happening throughout the Anglican Communion, and because of the one-to-one conversations over lunch and coffee, of keeping in touch with what is happening in the Church of England, in theological education, and other areas.

But these meetings are also good for my health. I catch the Stansted Express into Liverpool Street station, and then I walk to the USPG offices in Southwark.

It seems every time I go on working trips like this, I manage to increase my daily walking averages. This week in London, I walked over 12 km on one day.

It is not that it is such a long walk from Liverpool Street to Southwark. I just find myself taking different routes, setting off in different directions to see different works of architecture, such as Wren churches, guild and city churches, historical and archaeological sites, public sculptures, and to photograph them.

I could easily get lost. No-one else, I am sure, would see the logic to the routes I take. And I have got to bear in mind certain landmarks, be conscious of distances and directions, so that I do not wander, do not lose my way, do not miss my train and do not arrive late for the start of meetings or flights in the evening.

Keeping focussed on landmarks, distances and directions is important. These are not matters of choice. I need to stay focussed in these ways so I do not get lost on my walks and so I do not miss the more important parts of the journey – so that I do not miss my meetings, my trains and my flights.

There is a well-known story in Ireland about a tourist stopping on a road and asking a man for directions to Galway, only to get the answer: ‘Well, if it were me, I wouldn’t start from here.’

So often it is easy to get lost on the way because we start not at the wrong place, but start in the wrong direction.

Many years ago, I was in the middle of Namibia, working with the churches during a difficult time when South African troops were beginning to withdraw.

I was in Windhoek, in the middle of the country, and was to visit a mission station on the border with Angola, where I would stay and meet church people, some returning guerrillas and some Irish peacekeepers from the army and the gardaí.

My colleague filled up with petrol, asked directions and we set off. But I had that sinking feeling we were heading in the wrong direction.

I am good at map-reading, but it was my innate instincts that told me we were heading in the wrong direction.

‘Turn around,’ I suggested.

‘No,’ she replied. ‘This is the road. They told me that in the filling station.’

‘We may be on the right road, but we are heading in the wrong direction.’

The conversation was getting tense. ‘So you’ve been here before then?’

‘No.’ I was trying to hold my patience. ‘But we are heading south. Keep going and we’ll end up in South Africa without being able to explain what we’re doing. North is back there.’

I knew every exchange meant another few miles in the wrong direction.

With an air of disbelief, I was asked: ‘How do you know?’

I spent my early childhood years on my grandmother’s farm. I gave a farm-boy’s answer, with a matter-of-fact confidence:

‘The sun is behind us, we are heading south. In the northern hemisphere, the sun rises in the east, moves south, sets in the west. Here in the south, the sun rises in the east, moves to north, and sets in the west. We should be facing the sun if are heading north.’

The car screeched to a halt. Screeches of laughter broke out.

‘I always took you for a logical person,’ she said. ‘Are you telling me you still believe the sun moves around the earth. What’s even more ridiculous … two suns, one moving in one direction, and the other in another way?’

It must have been my look that won the day.

I agreed we could continue driving, and end up being arrested at the South African border late that night … if we ever got there through the desert. Or we could take my advice, just for an hour, and just see what the next town was.

She believed me, and she believed in me. And yes, we got to the mission station and the Angolan border in time that evening.

Knowing the way is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of truth.

Christ is not just an opinion about how to get there. He is not one of many directions or signposts. He is not a map or a guidebook, or my idea of what might be a good direction to follow.

He is the way, the actual way.

Not the way back, to an imaginary idyll that never existed.

Not the way forward to an imaginary existence that is merely wish fulfilment.

But the Way, the Way into the Kingdom of God, the Way to live out the values of that Kingdom as we journey on in the pilgrimage, the Way to accept and experience the love of God, the Way to accept and experience love one for another.

In our Gospel reading this morning, Thomas says to Christ, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ And Christ says to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

So following Christ is not about guess work. He is the way.

So following Christ is not about opting for one opinion. He is the truth.

And following Christ is not ending up down a dead-end to nowhere. He is life itself.

This is why Christianity was first known as ‘The Way’ (της οδου). This name appears in the Acts of the Apostles (see Acts 9: 2, Acts 19: 9 and Acts 19: 23).

When we follow the way, when we are on the right track, we actually find that the way, the journey, the pilgrimage, has its own purpose.

The Greek poet Constantine Cavafy makes this point about life as the journey, the way, in his poem Ithaka.

Since Homer’s Odyssey, the Greek island of Ithaka in the Ionian Sea has symbolised the destination of a long journey, the supreme aim that everyone tries to fulfil in life, the sweet homeland, the eternal calmness and satisfaction.

In his poem, Cavafy takes the legendary journey of Odysseus as the journey we all make through life and suggests that each of us is looking for our own Ithaka. In the end, however, it is not the goal but the journey that matters, because this journey makes us wise and gives us the rich gifts of experience, knowledge and maturity:

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean
.

So, the way is not an opinion, it is not an option, it is not something to turn our back on. It brings its own rewards in the pilgrimage of life. Christ the Way, the Truth and the Life, brings us to accept, experience, and live the life that is accepting, experiencing and living the love of God, and accepting, experiencing and living love for one another.

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

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for Sunday 14 May 2017.

‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’ ... a cross cut into a cornerstone in the Monastery of Vlatádon in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 14: 1-14

1 Μὴ ταρασσέσθω ὑμῶν ἡ καρδία: πιστεύετε εἰς τὸν θεόν, καὶ εἰς ἐμὲ πιστεύετε. 2 ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ τοῦ πατρός μου μοναὶ πολλαί εἰσιν: εἰ δὲ μή, εἶπον ἂν ὑμῖν ὅτι πορεύομαι ἑτοιμάσαι τόπον ὑμῖν; 3 καὶ ἐὰν πορευθῶ καὶ ἑτοιμάσω τόπον ὑμῖν, πάλιν ἔρχομαι καὶ παραλήμψομαι ὑμᾶς πρὸς ἐμαυτόν, ἵνα ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ καὶ ὑμεῖς ἦτε. 4 καὶ ὅπου [ἐγὼ] ὑπάγω οἴδατε τὴν ὁδόν. 5 Λέγει αὐτῷ Θωμᾶς, Κύριε, οὐκ οἴδαμεν ποῦ ὑπάγεις: πῶς δυνάμεθα τὴν ὁδὸν εἰδέναι; 6 λέγει αὐτῷ [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς, Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωή: οὐδεὶς ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸν πατέρα εἰ μὴ δι' ἐμοῦ. 7 εἰ ἐγνώκατέ με, καὶ τὸν πατέρα μου γνώσεσθε: καὶ ἀπ' ἄρτι γινώσκετε αὐτὸν καὶ ἑωράκατε αὐτόν.

8 λέγει αὐτῷ Φίλιππος, Κύριε, δεῖξον ἡμῖν τὸν πατέρα, καὶ ἀρκεῖ ἡμῖν. 9 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Τοσούτῳ χρόνῳ μεθ' ὑμῶν εἰμι καὶ οὐκ ἔγνωκάς με, Φίλιππε; ὁ ἑωρακὼς ἐμὲ ἑώρακεν τὸν πατέρα: πῶς σὺ λέγεις, Δεῖξον ἡμῖν τὸν πατέρα; 10 οὐ πιστεύεις ὅτι ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ πατρὶ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοί ἐστιν; τὰ ῥήματα ἃ ἐγὼ λέγω ὑμῖν ἀπ' ἐμαυτοῦ οὐ λαλῶ: ὁ δὲ πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοὶ μένων ποιεῖ τὰ ἔργααὐτοῦ. 11 πιστεύετέ μοι ὅτι ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ πατρὶ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοί: εἰ δὲ μή, διὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτὰ πιστεύετε. 12 ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ τὰ ἔργα ἃ ἐγὼ ποιῶ κἀκεῖνοςποιήσει, καὶ μείζονα τούτων ποιήσει, ὅτι ἐγὼ πρὸς τὸν πατέρα πορεύομαι: 13 καὶ ὅ τι ἂν αἰτήσητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου τοῦτο ποιήσω, ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ υἱῷ: 14 ἐάν τιαἰτήσητέ με ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου ἐγὼ ποιήσω.

Translation (NRSV)

1 ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ 5 Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6 Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ 9 Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

Collect:

Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
Grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.

Penelope waiting for Odysseus ... Μαριάννα Βαλλιάνου, Η επιστροφή, Mariánna Valliánou, ‘The Return’

Ιθάκη, Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης

Σα βγεις στον πηγαιμό για την Ιθάκη,
να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος,
γεμάτος περιπέτειες, γεμάτος γνώσεις.
Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
τον θυμωμένο Ποσειδώνα μη φοβάσαι,
τέτοια στον δρόμο σου ποτέ σου δεν θα βρεις,
αν μέν’ η σκέψις σου υψηλή, αν εκλεκτή
συγκίνησις το πνεύμα και το σώμα σου αγγίζει.
Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
τον άγριο Ποσειδώνα δεν θα συναντήσεις,
αν δεν τους κουβανείς μες στην ψυχή σου,
αν η ψυχή σου δεν τους στήνει εμπρός σου.

Να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος.
Πολλά τα καλοκαιρινά πρωιά να είναι
που με τι ευχαρίστησι, με τι χαρά
θα μπαίνεις σε λιμένας πρωτοειδωμένους
να σταματήσεις σ’ εμπορεία Φοινικικά,
και τες καλές πραγμάτειες ν’ αποκτήσεις,
σεντέφια και κοράλλια, κεχριμπάρια κ’ έβενους,
και ηδονικά μυρωδικά κάθε λογής,
όσο μπορείς πιο άφθονα ηδονικά μυρωδικά
σε πόλεις Aιγυπτιακές πολλές να πας,
να μάθεις και να μάθεις απ’ τους σπουδασμένους.

Πάντα στον νου σου νάχεις την Ιθάκη.
Το φθάσιμον εκεί είν’ ο προορισμός σου.
Aλλά μη βιάζεις το ταξείδι διόλου.
Καλλίτερα χρόνια πολλά να διαρκέσει
και γέρος πια ν’ αράξεις στο νησί,
πλούσιος με όσα κέρδισες στον δρόμο,
μη προσδοκώντας πλούτη να σε δώσει η Ιθάκη.

Η Ιθάκη σ’ έδωσε τ’ ωραίο ταξείδι.
Χωρίς αυτήν δεν θάβγαινες στον δρόμο.
Άλλα δεν έχει να σε δώσει πια.

Κι αν πτωχική την βρεις, η Ιθάκη δεν σε γέλασε.
Έτσι σοφός που έγινες, με τόση πείρα,
ήδη θα το κατάλαβες η Ιθάκες τι σημαίνουν

Ithaka, Constantine P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon – you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbours seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind –
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

– Constantine Cavafy (translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)

Finding the way is not a choice
of opinion, but a matter of truth

‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’ ... a cross cut into a cornerstone in the Monastery of Vlatádon in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford,

The Fifth Sunday of Easter,

14 May 2017

9.45 a.m.
: Castletown Church, Pallaskenry, Co Limerick, the Parish Eucharist;

Readings: Acts 7: 55-60; Psalm 31; I Peter 2: 2-10; John 14: 1-14.

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

I spent some time in the past week in London, at a meeting of the board or trustees of the Anglican mission agency USPG. It is a good way of keeping in touch with what is happening throughout the Anglican Communion, and because of the one-to-one conversations over lunch and coffee, of keeping in touch with what is happening in the Church of England, in theological education, and other areas.

But these meetings are also good for my health. I catch the Stansted Express into Liverpool Street station, and then I walk to the USPG offices in Southwark.

It seems every time I go on working trips like this, I manage to increase my daily walking averages. This week in London, I walked over 12 km on one day.

It is not that it is such a long walk from Liverpool Street to Southwark. I just find myself taking different routes, setting off in different directions to see different works of architecture, such as Wren churches, guild and city churches, historical and archaeological sites, public sculptures, and to photograph them.

I could easily get lost. No-one else, I am sure, would see the logic to the routes I take. And I have got to bear in mind certain landmarks, be conscious of distances and directions, so that I do not wander, do not lose my way, do not miss my train and do not arrive late for the start of meetings or flights in the evening.

Keeping focussed on landmarks, distances and directions is important. These are not matters of choice. I need to stay focussed in these ways so I do not get lost on my walks and so I do not miss the more important parts of the journey – so that I do not miss my meetings, my trains and my flights.

There is a well-known story in Ireland about a tourist stopping on a road and asking a man for directions to Galway, only to get the answer: ‘Well, if it were me, I wouldn’t start from here.’

So often it is easy to get lost on the way because we start not at the wrong place, but start in the wrong direction.

Many years ago, I was in the middle of Namibia, working with the churches during a difficult time when South African troops were beginning to withdraw.

I was in Windhoek, in the middle of the country, and was to visit a mission station on the border with Angola, where I would stay and meet church people, some returning guerrillas and some Irish peacekeepers from the army and the gardaí.

My colleague filled up with petrol, asked directions and we set off. But I had that sinking feeling we were heading in the wrong direction.

I am good at map-reading, but it was my innate instincts that told me we were heading in the wrong direction.

‘Turn around,’ I suggested.

‘No,’ she replied. ‘This is the road. They told me that in the filling station.’

‘We may be on the right road, but we are heading in the wrong direction.’

The conversation was getting tense. ‘So you’ve been here before then?’

‘No.’ I was trying to hold my patience. ‘But we are heading south. Keep going and we’ll end up in South Africa without being able to explain what we’re doing. North is back there.’

I knew every exchange meant another few miles in the wrong direction.

With an air of disbelief, I was asked: ‘How do you know?’

I spent my early childhood years on my grandmother’s farm. I gave a farm-boy’s answer, with a matter-of-fact confidence:

‘The sun is behind us, we are heading south. In the northern hemisphere, the sun rises in the east, moves south, sets in the west. Here in the south, the sun rises in the east, moves to north, and sets in the west. We should be facing the sun if are heading north.’

The car screeched to a halt. Screeches of laughter broke out.

‘I always took you for a logical person,’ she said. ‘Are you telling me you still believe the sun moves around the earth. What’s even more ridiculous … two suns, one moving in one direction, and the other in another way?’

It must have been my look that won the day.

I agreed we could continue driving, and end up being arrested at the South African border late that night … if we ever got there through the desert. Or we could take my advice, just for an hour, and just see what the next town was.

She believed me, and she believed in me. And yes, we got to the mission station and the Angolan border in time that evening.

Knowing the way is not a matter of opinion. It is a matter of truth.

Christ is not just an opinion about how to get there. He is not one of many directions or signposts. He is not a map or a guidebook, or my idea of what might be a good direction to follow.

He is the way, the actual way.

Not the way back, to an imaginary idyll that never existed.

Not the way forward to an imaginary existence that is merely wish fulfilment.

But the Way, the Way into the Kingdom of God, the Way to live out the values of that Kingdom as we journey on in the pilgrimage, the Way to accept and experience the love of God, the Way to accept and experience love one for another.

In our Gospel reading this morning, Thomas says to Christ, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ And Christ says to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

So following Christ is not about guess work. He is the way.

So following Christ is not about opting for one opinion. He is the truth.

And following Christ is not ending up down a dead-end to nowhere. He is life itself.

This is why Christianity was first known as ‘The Way’ (της οδου). This name appears in the Acts of the Apostles (see Acts 9: 2, Acts 19: 9 and Acts 19: 23).

When we follow the way, when we are on the right track, we actually find that the way, the journey, the pilgrimage, has its own purpose.

The Greek poet Constantine Cavafy makes this point about life as the journey, the way, in his poem Ithaka.

Since Homer’s Odyssey, the Greek island of Ithaka in the Ionian Sea has symbolised the destination of a long journey, the supreme aim that everyone tries to fulfil in life, the sweet homeland, the eternal calmness and satisfaction.

In his poem, Cavafy takes the legendary journey of Odysseus as the journey we all make through life and suggests that each of us is looking for our own Ithaka. In the end, however, it is not the goal but the journey that matters, because this journey makes us wise and gives us the rich gifts of experience, knowledge and maturity:

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean
.

So, the way is not an opinion, it is not an option, it is not something to turn our back on. It brings its own rewards in the pilgrimage of life. Christ the Way, the Truth and the Life, brings us to accept, experience, and live the life that is accepting, experiencing and living the love of God, and accepting, experiencing and living love for one another.

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

‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious’ (I Peter 2: 6) ... a cross carved into a stone in the Franciscan Friary in Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for Sunday 14 May 2017.

John 14: 1-14

1 Μὴ ταρασσέσθω ὑμῶν ἡ καρδία: πιστεύετε εἰς τὸν θεόν, καὶ εἰς ἐμὲ πιστεύετε. 2 ἐν τῇ οἰκίᾳ τοῦ πατρός μου μοναὶ πολλαί εἰσιν: εἰ δὲ μή, εἶπον ἂν ὑμῖν ὅτι πορεύομαι ἑτοιμάσαι τόπον ὑμῖν; 3 καὶ ἐὰν πορευθῶ καὶ ἑτοιμάσω τόπον ὑμῖν, πάλιν ἔρχομαι καὶ παραλήμψομαι ὑμᾶς πρὸς ἐμαυτόν, ἵνα ὅπου εἰμὶ ἐγὼ καὶ ὑμεῖς ἦτε. 4 καὶ ὅπου [ἐγὼ] ὑπάγω οἴδατε τὴν ὁδόν. 5 Λέγει αὐτῷ Θωμᾶς, Κύριε, οὐκ οἴδαμεν ποῦ ὑπάγεις: πῶς δυνάμεθα τὴν ὁδὸν εἰδέναι; 6 λέγει αὐτῷ [ὁ] Ἰησοῦς, Ἐγώ εἰμι ἡ ὁδὸς καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια καὶ ἡ ζωή: οὐδεὶς ἔρχεται πρὸς τὸν πατέρα εἰ μὴ δι' ἐμοῦ. 7 εἰ ἐγνώκατέ με, καὶ τὸν πατέρα μου γνώσεσθε: καὶ ἀπ' ἄρτι γινώσκετε αὐτὸν καὶ ἑωράκατε αὐτόν.

8 λέγει αὐτῷ Φίλιππος, Κύριε, δεῖξον ἡμῖν τὸν πατέρα, καὶ ἀρκεῖ ἡμῖν. 9 λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ Ἰησοῦς, Τοσούτῳ χρόνῳ μεθ' ὑμῶν εἰμι καὶ οὐκ ἔγνωκάς με, Φίλιππε; ὁ ἑωρακὼς ἐμὲ ἑώρακεν τὸν πατέρα: πῶς σὺ λέγεις, Δεῖξον ἡμῖν τὸν πατέρα; 10 οὐ πιστεύεις ὅτι ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ πατρὶ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοί ἐστιν; τὰ ῥήματα ἃ ἐγὼ λέγω ὑμῖν ἀπ' ἐμαυτοῦ οὐ λαλῶ: ὁ δὲ πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοὶ μένων ποιεῖ τὰ ἔργααὐτοῦ. 11 πιστεύετέ μοι ὅτι ἐγὼ ἐν τῷ πατρὶ καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ἐν ἐμοί: εἰ δὲ μή, διὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτὰ πιστεύετε. 12 ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ὁ πιστεύων εἰς ἐμὲ τὰ ἔργα ἃ ἐγὼ ποιῶ κἀκεῖνοςποιήσει, καὶ μείζονα τούτων ποιήσει, ὅτι ἐγὼ πρὸς τὸν πατέρα πορεύομαι: 13 καὶ ὅ τι ἂν αἰτήσητε ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου τοῦτο ποιήσω, ἵνα δοξασθῇ ὁ πατὴρ ἐν τῷ υἱῷ: 14 ἐάν τιαἰτήσητέ με ἐν τῷ ὀνόματί μου ἐγὼ ποιήσω.

Translation (NRSV)

1 ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling-places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going.’ 5 Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6 Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.’

8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ 9 Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father”? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.

Collect:

Lord of all life and power,
who through the mighty resurrection of your Son
overcame the old order of sin and death
to make all things new in him:
Grant that we, being dead to sin
and alive to you in Jesus Christ,
may reign with him in glory;
to whom with you and the Holy Spirit
be praise and honour, glory and might,
now and in all eternity.

Post Communion Prayer:

Eternal God,
in word and sacrament
we proclaim your truth in Jesus Christ and share his life.
In his strength may we ever walk in his way,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Penelope waiting for Odysseus ... Μαριάννα Βαλλιάνου, Η επιστροφή, Mariánna Valliánou, ‘The Return’

Ιθάκη, Κωνσταντίνος Π. Καβάφης

Σα βγεις στον πηγαιμό για την Ιθάκη,
να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος,
γεμάτος περιπέτειες, γεμάτος γνώσεις.
Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
τον θυμωμένο Ποσειδώνα μη φοβάσαι,
τέτοια στον δρόμο σου ποτέ σου δεν θα βρεις,
αν μέν’ η σκέψις σου υψηλή, αν εκλεκτή
συγκίνησις το πνεύμα και το σώμα σου αγγίζει.
Τους Λαιστρυγόνας και τους Κύκλωπας,
τον άγριο Ποσειδώνα δεν θα συναντήσεις,
αν δεν τους κουβανείς μες στην ψυχή σου,
αν η ψυχή σου δεν τους στήνει εμπρός σου.

Να εύχεσαι νάναι μακρύς ο δρόμος.
Πολλά τα καλοκαιρινά πρωιά να είναι
που με τι ευχαρίστησι, με τι χαρά
θα μπαίνεις σε λιμένας πρωτοειδωμένους
να σταματήσεις σ’ εμπορεία Φοινικικά,
και τες καλές πραγμάτειες ν’ αποκτήσεις,
σεντέφια και κοράλλια, κεχριμπάρια κ’ έβενους,
και ηδονικά μυρωδικά κάθε λογής,
όσο μπορείς πιο άφθονα ηδονικά μυρωδικά
σε πόλεις Aιγυπτιακές πολλές να πας,
να μάθεις και να μάθεις απ’ τους σπουδασμένους.

Πάντα στον νου σου νάχεις την Ιθάκη.
Το φθάσιμον εκεί είν’ ο προορισμός σου.
Aλλά μη βιάζεις το ταξείδι διόλου.
Καλλίτερα χρόνια πολλά να διαρκέσει
και γέρος πια ν’ αράξεις στο νησί,
πλούσιος με όσα κέρδισες στον δρόμο,
μη προσδοκώντας πλούτη να σε δώσει η Ιθάκη.

Η Ιθάκη σ’ έδωσε τ’ ωραίο ταξείδι.
Χωρίς αυτήν δεν θάβγαινες στον δρόμο.
Άλλα δεν έχει να σε δώσει πια.

Κι αν πτωχική την βρεις, η Ιθάκη δεν σε γέλασε.
Έτσι σοφός που έγινες, με τόση πείρα,
ήδη θα το κατάλαβες η Ιθάκες τι σημαίνουν

Ithaka, Constantine P. Cavafy

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon – you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbours seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind –
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

– Constantine Cavafy (translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard)

Saint Mary Aldermary,
Wren’s only London church
built in the Gothic style

Saint Mary Aldermary … ‘the most important late 17th-century Gothic church in England’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on images for full-screen resolution)

Patrick Comerford

During my strolls through London last week [11 May 2017], between Liverpool Street Station and the USPG offices in Southwark, I visited six Wren churches, and the last church I visited late on Wednesday was the Guild Church of Saint Mary Aldermary on Watling Street and Bow Lane.

According to the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, Saint Mary Aldemary is ‘the chief surviving monument of the 17th-century Gothic revival in the City and – with Warwick – the most important late 17th-century Gothic church in England.’

There has been a church on this site for over 900 years, and it was first mentioned in 1080. The name probably indicates that this is the oldest of the City churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Burials in the early church include Richard Chaucer, said to be the father of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer.

The patronage of Saint Mary Aldermary belonged to the prior and chapter of Canterbury, but was transferred to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1400.

The mediaeval church was rebuilt from 1510, when Sir Henry Keeble financed the building of a new church. The tower was still unfinished when he died in 1518.

Keble was buried in a vault beneath the floor, but his grave did not remain for long. Instead, his vault was used for two former Mayors of London, Sir William Laxton, who died in 1556, and Sir Thomas Lodge, who died in 1583. Keble’s bones were ‘unkindly cast out’ and his monument was pulled down and replaced.

In 1629, two legacies enabled the completion of the building, and the work begun 120 years earlier was finished within three years.

The poet John Milton married his third wife, Elizabeth Minshull, in the church in 1663.

Three years later, Saint Mary Aldermary was badly damaged in the Great Fire of London of 1666, although parts of its walls and tower survived.

The church was mostly rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren in a Gothic style. Henry Rogers left a legacy of £5,000 for rebuilding a church, and his widow agreed to use it to fund the rebuilding of Saint Mary’s. According to some sources, she stipulated that the new church should be an exact imitation of the one largely destroyed.

The magnificent fan-vaulted plaster ceiling in Saint Mary Aldermary is by Henry Doogood (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Wren rebuilt the church with an aisled nave, six bays long, with a clerestory and a short chancel. The nave and aisles are separated by arcades of clustered columns, supporting somewhat flattened Gothic arches. The magnificent fan-vaulted plaster ceiling is by Henry Doogood.

The east wall of the chancel is set askew in relation to the axis of the church. The slender piers, slightly pointed arches and clerestory are all typic of the Perpendicular style.

The Gothic tower is one of the finest of its kind in England (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Gothic tower is one of the finest of its kind in England. The tower is attached to the south-west corner of the church, and is entered through a lobby. It is divided into storeys by string courses; the corners have octagonal turrets, terminating in what George Godwin called ‘carved finials of impure design.’

The Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle, which was destroyed in the Great Fire too, was not rebuilt and the parish was united with Saint Mary’s.

A blank monument on the north side of the chancel wall is said to have been placed there by a window who remarried before she had decided on appropriate words to remember her first husband.

A new organ was installed, built by George England and Hugh Russell, was installed in 1781.

The church has been repaired and restored many times over the years, and major changes were made to the interior in 1876-1877, when most of the Wren-period furnishings were removed. A new oak screen was inserted, dividing the church from the lobby. The pews and stalls were replaced, the organ was moved from the western gallery to the chancel, the floor was repaved, new stained glass was put into the windows, and a new reredos was installed.

During World War II, Saint Mary Aldermary was damaged by German bombs in the London Blitz. All the windows were shattered and some plaster fell from the vaulting, but the building itself remained intact.

The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 4 January 1950.

The East Window in Saint Mary Aldermary was put in place in the late 20th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The latest interior restoration was finished in April 2005, when special attention was paid to the plaster ceilings and the memorials on the north wall. Bishop Richard Chartres of London presided at a service on 21 April 2005 celebrating this restoration.

Father John Mothersole was the priest-in-charge in 2005-2009, and oversaw further restoration work. He was succeeded in 2010 by the Revd Ian Mobsby, first as curate and then as priest-in-charge. He is closely linked to the Emerging Church and in particular New Monasticism and is an associate missioner of the Fresh Expression Initiative.

In 2010, Bishop Chartres and the Archdeacon of London invited the Moot Community to make their home in Saint Mary Aldermary.

The church hosts daily prayer, regular worship, meditation, discussion groups, conferences and courses on subjects such as justice in economics, conflict resolution and mindfulness.

The church also hosts regular art exhibitions and installations, and retreat days. It is home to a café, Host, which sells fair trade coffee and goods, and there is a small market of food stalls outside the church on weekdays.

Saint Mary Aldermary on Watling Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Postings on London City Churches:

Greyfriars Christ Church.

Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe.

Saint Benet Paul’s Wharf.

Saint Botolph-without-Bishopsgate.

Saint George-in-the-East.

Saint Lawrence Jewry.

Saint Margaret Lothbury.

Saint Mary Aldermary.

Saint Mary-le-Bow.

Saint Nicholas Cole Abbey.

Saint Olave Jewry (tower).

Saint Vedast Foster Lane or Saint Vedast-alias-Foster.