Sunday, 4 June 2017

The Wyatt family: influencing
generations of architectural
style on these islands

Thomas Henry Wyatt built Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, in 1864-1867 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Thomas Henry Wyatt (1807-1880), the architect of Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, was thoroughly versed in the principles of Gothic architecture and had a notable practice as the designer of more than 30 churches in England before he was commissioned to design Saint Bartholomew’s.

Wyatt probably received the commission through the patronage of the Herbert family who were the landlords of that part of Dublin. As the Earls of Pembroke, they give their name to a new township based on Ballsbridge. Wyatt worked closely with Sidney Herbert, younger brother of the Earl of Pembroke, who administered the family estates and donated the site for the ‘Pembroke District Church.’ Sidney Herbert was a brother-in-law of Thomas Vesey (1803-1875), the 3rd Viscount de Vesci, who had commissioned Wyatt to restore Abbeyleix House, Co Laois, and to design the parish church of Saint Michael and All Angels.

Inside Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Although Thomas Henry Wyatt was born in Ireland, he is often regarded as an English architect, and the Wyatt family included five or six generations of influential English architects in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

There are several interesting architectural dynasties in the 19th century, including the Hardwick, Barry, Pugin and Scott families. But the Wyatt family tree stretches back much further and the family stands out for the variety and influence of its work.

I was reminded once again of the Wyatt family’s prolific work and unique contribution throughout these islands on a recent visit to Weeford, a small village near Lichfield that has been associated with the Wyatt family for almost six centuries.

Five centuries of Wyatts

Saint Mary's Church in Weeford … generations of the Wyatt family were baptised, married and buried here (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Weeford is four miles south of Lichfield, close to Toll 4 on the M6, but is in quiet rural Staffordshire. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book and it was one of the five original ‘prebends’ that paid ‘wax Scot’ or ‘Plough Alms’ to Lichfield Cathedral from the beginning of the 12th century. There was a church there for many centuries, and in Lichfield I recently bought a copy of the old parish registers for Saint Mary’s, dating back to 1562.

The Staffordshire countryside in Weeford, south of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

There were Wyatts in Weeford from before 1540, when William Wyatt was the father of Humphrey Wyatt, and the Wyatt architectural dynasty can be traced back to William Wyatt of Thickbroom, near Weeford, who died in 1572.

The dynasty was consolidated by a great number of marriages between cousins – over 20 in all, with eight in one generation alone. Wyatt family members often worked together in the architectural world. But the family also includes artists, painters, sculptors and journalists.

A footbridge over the Blackbrook River in Weeford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Edward Wyatt, who was buried in Weeford in 1572, was the great-great-grandfather of Edward Wyatt (1632-1705), whose son, John Wyatt (1675-1742) from Thickbroom in Weeford, was the immediate ancestor of this outstanding architectural dynasty.

Weeford House is believed to date back to the 1600s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The grave of John Wyatt (died 1742) in the churchyard in Weeford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

This John Wyatt was the father of eight sons, the eldest of whom was John Wyatt (1700-1766), an inventor who was born near Lichfield and was related to Sarah Ford, mother of Dr Samuel Johnson. A carpenter by trade, he worked in Birmingham, where he developed a spinning machine that predated Richard Arkwright’s Spinning Jenny.

Another of John Wyatt’s eight sons, Benjamin Wyatt (1709-1772), was the first member of the family to become involved in building work. He was a ‘farmer, timber merchant, building contractor and sometime architect.’ In 1757, he built Swinfen Hall, between Weeford and Lichfield, for Samuel Swinfen and his wife.

Benjamin Wyatt had a large family. His son Joseph Wyatt (1739-1785), who married his cousin Myrtilla Wyatt, was the father of Sir Jeffry Wyatville (1766-1840). He changed his surname from Wyatt to Wyatville (frequently misspelled Wyattville in south Dublin housing estates), and I am aware at first-hand of his alterations to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, in 1832, including the gatehouse.

Wyatt Windows

The grave of John Wyatt (died 1820) in Weeford Churchyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Benjamin Wyatt was also the father of James Wyatt (1746-1813), who was born at Blackbrook Farmhouse near Weeford, and became the most acclaimed and influential architect of his age. His first major building, the Pantheon in Oxford Street, London, was described by Horace Walpole as ‘the most beautiful edifice in England.’

In 1792, James became Surveyor General, which effectively made him England’s most prominent architect. He was also involved in works at Windsor Castle, Kew Gardens, the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford, the restoration of the House of Lords and rebuilding Saint Mary’s Church, Weeford.

Wyatt rebuilt Saint Mary’s in 1802-1804 and donated the altar, pulpit, screens, font and ornamental furnishings. This James Wyatt was also involved in the restoration of Lichfield Cathedral in the 1780s, effectively saving the cathedral from collapse.

When Pugin first visited Lichfield in 1834, over 20 years after James Wyatt had died, he was taken aback by his refurbishment of the cathedral and declared: ‘Yes – this monster of architectural depravity, this pest of Cathedral architecture, has been here. need I say more.’

Pugin found the fabric of the cathedral had been mutilated by ‘the Wretch.’ Pugin dismissed another Lichfield architect, Joseph Potter, as ‘a pupil of the Wretch himself,’ saying he had ‘imbibed all the vicious propensities of his accursed tutor.’ On the other hand, John Betjeman has praised James Wyatt’s ‘symphony’ of ‘exquisite plaster, marble and painted details.’

Avondale House, Co Wicklow, Charles Stewart Parnell’s family home, was designed by James Wyatt (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

James Wyatt’s major works in Ireland include Castle Coole, the Enniskillen home of the Earls of Belmore, Lady Anne Dawson’s mausoleum in Dartrey, Co Monaghan, the interiors of Curraghmore for Lord Waterford, and Avondale House, Co Wicklow, Charles Stewart Parnell’s family home.

It interesting to note his broad and sweeping influence on the design of houses in towns such as Carlow, Bunclody (Newtownbarry), Co Wexford, and Rathkeale, Co Wexford, for example.

A large Wyatt window in the Assembly Rooms, Carlow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The large central Wyatt window of the Assembly Rooms in Carlow is a tripartite sash window with narrower sidelights and a segmental arch incorporating a large fan light.

Wyatt windows in the former Comerford family house in Bunclody, Co Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Wyatt windows can be seen in many buildings in Bunclody, including the former Comerford family home (now the Post Office), O’Connor and O’Connor, Lennon’s, and Redmond’s on the Mall, and Berkeley Mews on Market Square. The rectory, built in 1808, has windows that diminish in scale on each floor in the classical manner, producing a graduated visual impression, once again in a style inspired by James Wyatt. Wyatt windows can be son too in some of the many once-elegant Georgian townhouses in Rathkeale.

Irish-born Wyatts

Wyatt windows in a terrace of houses in Rathkeale, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

James Wyatt’s eldest son and pupil, Benjamin Dean Wyatt (1775-1852), built the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane, London, and was also the Surveyor at Westminster Abbey. Another son was the sculptor Matthew Cotes Wyatt (1777-1862).

The brothers of Benjamin Wyatt (1709-1772) included William Wyatt (1701-1772), the grandfather of Matthew Wyatt (1773-1831), who studied law instead of architecture. He moved briefly to Ireland when he was appointed a barrister and police magistrate in Roscommon.

Thomas Henry Wyatt (1807-1880) was born at Loughlynn House, Co Roscommon, on 9 May 1807. When he was about 11, the Wyatt family returned to England in 1818, and his brother, Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820-1877), was born in Wiltshire. By 1825, the family was living in Lambeth.

TH Wyatt first began a career as a merchant sailing to the Mediterranean. But he to returned to the family’s tradition of architecture, and his early training was in the office of Philip Hardwick. He began to practice on his own as an architect in 1832, and became District Surveyor for Hackney, a post he held until 1861.

He married his first cousin, Arabella Montagu Wyatt (1807-1875), a daughter of his uncle, Arthur Wyatt, who was the agent of the Duke of Beaufort. By 1838 he had acquired substantial patronage from the Duke of Beaufort, the Earl of Denbigh and Sidney Herbert (1810-1861). in 1860, his son Matthew Wyatt (1840-1892) became his partner.

TH Wyatt was later described unfairly by John Betjeman as ‘one of the dullest Victorian architects.’ His practice at 77 Great Russell Street, London, was extensive with a large amount of work in Wiltshire, thanks to the patronage of the Herbert family, and in Monmouthshire through the Beaufort connection. Wyatt worked in many styles ranging from the Italianate of Wilton through to the Gothic of many of his churches.

Sidney Herbert, who had sent Florence Nightingale to the Crimean War, was the father-in-law of both the theologian Friedrich von Hügel and the composer Hubert Parry. He lived at Mount Merrion in south Dublin and was managing the Pembroke estates when the site for Saint Bartholomew’s was donated and Wyatt was commissioned to design the new church.

The font in Saint Bartholomew’s was a personal gift to the church by Thomas Henry Wyatt (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Wyatt’s other works in Ireland include the Church of Saint Michael and All Angels, in Abbeyleix, Co Laois, and he enlarged and altered Saint Mary’s Church in Gowran, Co Kilkenny. He also reported on the completion of the restoration of Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny, and worked on several country houses, including Abbey Leix, Co Laois, for Lord de Vesci, Ramsfort, Co Wexford, for Stephen Ram, and Palmerstown House, Co Kildare, for the de Burgh family.

The font in Saint Bartholomew’s Church was his personal gift to the church. He died on 5 August 1880 leaving an estate of £30,000, and is buried at Weston Patrick.

‘Novel success’ in Dublin

Nos 24-25 Grafton Street, Dublin, today ... stripped of its original ground-floor shopfront (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

His younger brother and former pupil, Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt (1820-1877), was an art historian and the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge. He designed Nos 24-25 Grafton Street, Dublin, between Duke Street and Ann Street, in the ‘Celtic revival’ style for William Longfield.

This building had one of the finest Romanesque façades until the ground floor was vandalised to make way for modern shopfronts. The original shopfront combined details from many churches and cathedrals, including the doorway in Saint Lachtain’s Church, Freshford, Co Kilkenny, crosses from Monasterboice, Co Louth, and the chancel arch and crosses from Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Tuam, Co Galway.

The first and second floors, which have survived, have two super-imposed Romanesque arcades. Above them, the third floor looks like a Venetian loggia. The rich details throughout these three floors include interlaced capitals, keystone masks, foliated string courses, and chevron or saw-tooth ornamentation.

In 1863, the Irish Builder hoped Wyatt would ‘stimulate many an Irish architect to ... recreate a national style,’ and praised the building for being ‘at once novel and successful.’

A continuing link

The grave of the journalist Woodrow Wyatt in Weeford Churchyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

As I strolled through the churchyard at Saint Mary’s, Weeford, I came across more recent members of the Wyatt family, including the former amateur cricketer and captain of Warwickshire, Worcestershire and England, Robert Elliott Storey (Bob) Wyatt (1901-1995), and the politician, journalist and chairman of the Tote, Woodrow Wyatt (1918-1997), who was made Lord Wyatt of Weeford by Margaret Thatcher and who is also buried in the churchyard.

Across the country lane from the churchyard, the Wyatt dynasty is remembered in the Wyatt Pavilion, a popular wedding venue incorporated into the bar and restaurant in the old schoolhouse.

The Old Schoolhouse in Weeford continues to celebrate the Wyatt name (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

This feature was first published in the June 2017 editions of the ‘Church Review’ (Dublin and Glendalough) and the ‘Diocesan Magazine’ (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory)

A reminder of the real birthday
present given at Pentecost

‘ ... all shall be well and / All manner of thing shall be well’ … sunset seen from the Sunset Taverna in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford,

Sunday 4 June 2017,

The Day of Pentecost


11 30 a.m.: Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert, Co Kerry,

The Parish Eucharist

Readings: Acts 2: 1-21; Psalm 104: 26-36, 37b; I Corinthians 12: 3b-13; John 20: 19-23.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

A few years ago, I spent time after Easter in Cappadocia in south central Turkey.

Although it snowed, I did all the normal tourist things, including a hot-air balloon trip and visiting the ‘fairy chimneys,’ the cave dwellings and the troglodyte underground cities.

But my first reason for going there was because of my interests in Patristic studies: this is the region that has given the Church the Cappadocian Fathers – the great writers, theologians and thinkers in the fourth century that included Saint Basil the Great (Ἅγιος Βασίλειος ὁ Μέγας), Bishop of Caesarea; his younger brother, Saint Gregory of Nyssa (Ἅγιος Γρηγόριος Νύσσης); and their friend, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (Ἅγιος Γρηγόριος ὁ Ναζιανζηνός), who became Patriarch of Constantinople.

It was thrilling to realise that I was visiting towns and cities linked with the Cappadocian Fathers who advanced the development of theology, especially our Creeds and our doctrine of the Trinity.

With the conflicts in Anatolia, Turkey and the Middle East, Christians in the region are an ever-dwindling minority and their cultural contributions to life in the Eastern Mediterranean and neighbouring regions is not just being forgotten, but in many cases is being deliberately wiped out and obliterated.

Early one morning, we descended into the depths of Derinkuyu (Ανακού), the largest excavated underground city in Turkey. This multi-level city goes down 85 metres underground. It is large enough to have sheltered 20,000 people, along with their livestock and food, with churches, chapels, schools, wine presses, wells, stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories and even a burial chamber. At the fifth or lowest level, I found myself in a cruciform church.

The forlorn Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Theodoros Trion in Derinkuyu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When I came up and emerged into the daylight, brushing my eyes, I was facing a stark reminder that until 1923 Derinkuyu was known to its Cappadocian Greek residents as Malakopea (Μαλακοπέα). Across the square from the entrance to the underground city stands the lonely and forlorn Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Theodoros Trion, like a sad scene in an Angelopoulos movie.

This once elegant church stands forlorn and abandoned since 1923. Its walls have started to collapse, the frescoes are crumbling, and the restoration promised by the government has been abandoned.

The Greek-speaking people who lived in Cappadocia for thousands of years were forced in fatal swoop, like all Greek-speakers in Anatolia, to abandon their homes in 1923 and to go into exile. They had been there before the days of Alexander the Great. But they are there no more.

They were there in Biblical times. We read about them this morning (Acts 2: 1-21). On the first day of Pentecost, we are told, the good news is heard by Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and parts of Libya, visitors from Rome, Cretans and Arabs – each in their own languages.

The very people who are counted out in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East then and today, the ethnic and linguistic minorities, the religious curiosities and the perceived oddities, those who dress, and appear, and sound and look different, whose foods and perfume and bodily odours are marked by variety, are counted as God’s own people on the Day of Pentecost.

Pentecost is the undoing of Babel (Genesis 11: 1-11). The barriers we built in the past, the walls we use to separate ourselves from each other, are torn apart by the Holy Spirit who rushes in and breaks down all the walls that separate us from those we think are different because of how they sound, look and smell.

Pentecost celebrates the over-abundant generosity of God. This is generosity is beyond measure, to the point that it challenges us, surprises us, startles us.

So often we want to box-in, contain or marginalise the Holy Spirit. For most traditional Anglicans, the Holy Spirit is relegated to, confined to, occasions such as Confirmation – and we have three Confirmations in Rathkeale later this month – or to prayers during the ordination of bishops, priests and deacons. After that, the Holy Spirit has little or nothing to do with us.

Yes, the Holy Spirit is for Charismatics, and for people who pray and sing with their hands in the air and bounce on their feet as they sing and dance. But not for staid, traditional, Anglicans like me. So how is the Holy Spirit relevant to me, apart from some prayers at my Confirmation and my Ordination?

This morning’s account of the first Day of Pentecost is a sharp reminder that Pentecost is for all. The Holy Spirit is not an exclusive gift for the 12, for the inner circle, for the believers, or even for the Church. Did you hear how many times the words all and every are used in this story?

● they are all together (verse 1);
● the tongues of fire rest on each or every one of them (verse 3);
all of them are filled with the Holy Spirit (verse 4);
● the people in Jerusalem are from every nation (verse 5);
● each or everyone hears in his or her own language (verse 6);
● so that all are amazed and perplexed (verse 12);
● Saint Peter addresses all (verse 14);
● he promises that God will pour out his Spirit on all (verse 17);
● this promise is for allwithout regard to gender, age or social background (verses 17-21);
● and the promise of God’s salvation is for everyone (verse 21).

God’s generosity at Pentecost is lavish, risky and abundant, overflowing to the point of over-abundant generosity. The Holy Spirit is not measured out in tiny drops, like some prescribed medicine poured out gently and carefully, drop by drop. It is not even like the gentle measure used for pouring out a glass of wine

The Holy Spirit gushes out and spills out all over the place, in a way that is beyond the control of the 12, like champagne fizzing out after the cork has been popped at a celebration, sparkling all over the room, champagne that can never be put back, unlike wine that can be decanted and poured out once more in polite and controlled measures.

The gift of the Holy Spirit marks the beginning, the birthday, of the Church, so perhaps champagne is the right image as we celebrate the birthday of the Church. But this is a gift that does not cease being given after Pentecost.

The gift of the Holy Spirit remains with the Church – for all times. The gift of the Holy Spirit is for all who are baptised, who are invited to continue daily to hear the word, to join in fellowship, to break the bread, to pray – just as we are doing at this Eucharist this morning (see Acts 2: 42-47).

Because of this gift, the Church is brought together in diversity and sustained in unity. The Orthodox Church speaks of the Church as the realised or lived Pentecost.

I think our thinking about the Holy Spirit is made difficult by traditional images of a dove that looks more like a homing pigeon; or tongues of fire dancing around meekly-bowed heads of people cowering and hiding in the upper room in Jerusalem, rather than a room that is bursting at the seams and ready to overflow.

But the Holy Spirit is not something added on as an extra course, as an after-thought after the Resurrection and the Ascension.

This morning, as we affirm our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed, shaped to a profound degree by those Cappadocian Fathers, as we say ‘We believe in the Holy Spirit,’ do we really believe in the Holy Spirit as ‘the Lord, the giver of life,’ in the Holy Spirit as the way in which God ‘has spoken through the prophets’?

The gift of the Holy Spirit does not stop being effective the day after Confirmation, the day after ordination, the day after hearing someone speaking in tongues, or the day after this Day of Pentecost.

God never leaves us alone. This is what Christ promises the disciples, the whole Church, in our Gospel reading this morning, as he breaks through the locked doors and breaks through all their fears (John 20: 19-23).

We need have no fears, for the Resurrection breaks through all the barriers of time and space, of gender and race, of language and colour.

Pentecost includes all – even those we do not like. Who do you not want in the Kingdom of God? Who do I find it easy to think of excluding from the demands the Holy Spirit makes on me and on the Church?

Pentecost promises hope. But hope is not certainty, manipulating the future for our own ends, it is trusting in God’s purpose.

‘Little Gidding,’ the fourth and final poem in the Four Quartets, is TS Eliot’s own Pentecost poem. ‘Little Gidding’ begins in ‘the dark time of the year,’ when a brief and glowing afternoon sun ‘flames the ice, on pond and ditches’ as it ‘stirs the dumb spirit’ not with wind but with ‘pentecostal fire.’

At the end of the poem, Eliot describes how the eternal is contained within the present and how history exists in a pattern, and repeating the words of Julian of Norwich, he is assured:

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


I have no doubts that the Holy Spirit works in so many ways that we cannot understand. And I have no doubts that the Holy Spirit works best and works most often in the quiet small ways that bring hope rather than in the big dramatic ways that seek to control.

Sometimes, even when it seems foolish, sometimes, even when it seems extravagant, it is worth being led by the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit may be leading us to surprising places, and, surprisingly, leading others there too, counting them in when we thought they were counted out.

Whether they are persecuted minorities in the Middle East, or people who are marginalised at home, or those we are uncomfortable with because of how they sound, seem, look or smell, God’s generosity counts them in and offers them hope.

And if God counts them in, so should the Church. And so should I.

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

‘And the fire and the rose are one’ ... a candle and a rose on a dinner table in Minares on Vernardou Street, Rethymnon, in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Collect:

Almighty God,
who on the day of Pentecost
sent your Holy Spirit to the apostles
with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame,
filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel:
By the power of the same Spirit
strengthen us to witness to your truth
and to draw everyone to the fire of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.
If we live in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit.
Galatians 5: 22

Preface:

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
according to whose promise
the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us,
making us your children,
and giving us power to proclaim the gospel throughout the world:

Post Communion Prayer:

Faithful God,
who fulfilled the promises of Easter
by sending us your Holy Spirit
and opening to every race and nation the way of life eternal:
Open our lips by your Spirit,
that every tongue may tell of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

The Spirit of truth lead you into all truth,
give you grace to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
and to proclaim the words and works of God …

Dismissal:

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

Evie Hone’s window in Saint Patrick’s Church on the Hill of Tara, Co Meath, has images of Pentecost interspersed with images of Saint Patrick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was preached at the Parish Eucharist on the Day of Pentecost, 4 June 2017.

‘And the fire and the rose are one’
… finding hope for all at Pentecost

‘And the fire and the rose are one’ ... a candle and a rose on a dinner table in Minares on Vernardou Street, Rethymnon, in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford,

Sunday 4 June 2017,

The Day of Pentecost


9.30 a.m.: Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick,

The Parish Eucharist.

Readings: Acts 2: 1-21; Psalm 104: 26-36, 37b; I Corinthians 12: 3b-13; John 20: 19-23.

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

A few years ago, I spent time after Easter in Cappadocia in south central Turkey.

Although it snowed, I did all the normal tourist things, including a hot-air balloon trip and visiting the ‘fairy chimneys,’ the cave dwellings and the troglodyte underground cities.

But my first reason for going there was because of my interests in Patristic studies: this is the region that has given the Church the Cappadocian Fathers – the great writers, theologians and thinkers in the fourth century that included Saint Basil the Great (Ἅγιος Βασίλειος ὁ Μέγας), Bishop of Caesarea; his younger brother, Saint Gregory of Nyssa (Ἅγιος Γρηγόριος Νύσσης); and their friend, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (Ἅγιος Γρηγόριος ὁ Ναζιανζηνός), who became Patriarch of Constantinople.

It was thrilling to realise that I was visiting towns and cities linked with the Cappadocian Fathers who advanced the development of theology, especially our Creeds and our doctrine of the Trinity.

With the conflicts in Anatolia, Turkey and the Middle East, Christians in the region are an ever-dwindling minority and their cultural contributions to life in the Eastern Mediterranean and neighbouring regions is not just being forgotten, but in many cases is being deliberately wiped out and obliterated.

Early one morning, we descended into the depths of Derinkuyu (Ανακού), the largest excavated underground city in Turkey. This multi-level city goes down 85 metres underground. It is large enough to have sheltered 20,000 people, along with their livestock and food, with churches, chapels, schools, wine presses, wells, stables, cellars, storage rooms, refectories and even a burial chamber. At the fifth or lowest level, I found myself in a cruciform church.

The forlorn Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Theodoros Trion in Derinkuyu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

When I came up and emerged into the daylight, brushing my eyes, I was facing a stark reminder that until 1923 Derinkuyu was known to its Cappadocian Greek residents as Malakopea (Μαλακοπέα). Across the square from the entrance to the underground city stands the lonely and forlorn Greek Orthodox Church of Saint Theodoros Trion, like a sad scene in an Angelopoulos movie.

This once elegant church stands forlorn and abandoned since 1923. Its walls have started to collapse, the frescoes are crumbling, and the restoration promised by the government has been abandoned.

The Greek-speaking people who lived in Cappadocia for thousands of years were forced in fatal swoop, like all Greek-speakers in Anatolia, to abandon their homes in 1923 and to go into exile. They had been there before the days of Alexander the Great. But they are there no more.

They were there in Biblical times. We read about them this morning (Acts 2: 1-21). On the first day of Pentecost, we are told, the good news is heard by Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and parts of Libya, visitors from Rome, Cretans and Arabs – each in their own languages.

The very people who are counted out in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East then and today, the ethnic and linguistic minorities, the religious curiosities and the perceived oddities, those who dress, and appear, and sound and look different, whose foods and perfume and bodily odours are marked by variety, are counted as God’s own people on the Day of Pentecost.

Pentecost is the undoing of Babel (Genesis 11: 1-11). The barriers we built in the past, the walls we use to separate ourselves from each other, are torn apart by the Holy Spirit who rushes in and breaks down all the walls that separate us from those we think are different because of how they sound, look and smell.

Pentecost celebrates the over-abundant generosity of God. This is generosity is beyond measure, to the point that it challenges us, surprises us, startles us.

So often we want to box-in, contain or marginalise the Holy Spirit. For most traditional Anglicans, the Holy Spirit is relegated to, confined to, occasions such as Confirmation – and we have three Confirmations in Rathkeale later this month – or to prayers during the ordination of bishops, priests and deacons. After that, the Holy Spirit has little or nothing to do with us.

Yes, the Holy Spirit is for Charismatics, and for people who pray and sing with their hands in the air and bounce on their feet as they sing and dance. But not for staid, traditional, Anglicans like me. So how is the Holy Spirit relevant to me, apart from some prayers at my Confirmation and my Ordination?

This morning’s account of the first Day of Pentecost is a sharp reminder that Pentecost is for all. The Holy Spirit is not an exclusive gift for the 12, for the inner circle, for the believers, or even for the Church. Did you hear how many times the words all and every are used in this story?

● they are all together (verse 1);
● the tongues of fire rest on each or every one of them (verse 3);
all of them are filled with the Holy Spirit (verse 4);
● the people in Jerusalem are from every nation (verse 5);
● each or everyone hears in his or her own language (verse 6);
● so that all are amazed and perplexed (verse 12);
● Saint Peter addresses all (verse 14);
● he promises that God will pour out his Spirit on all (verse 17);
● this promise is for allwithout regard to gender, age or social background (verses 17-21);
● and the promise of God’s salvation is for everyone (verse 21).

God’s generosity at Pentecost is lavish, risky and abundant, overflowing to the point of over-abundant generosity. The Holy Spirit is not measured out in tiny drops, like some prescribed medicine poured out gently and carefully, drop by drop. It is not even like the gentle measure used for pouring out a glass of wine

The Holy Spirit gushes out and spills out all over the place, in a way that is beyond the control of the 12, like champagne fizzing out after the cork has been popped at a celebration, sparkling all over the room, champagne that can never be put back, unlike wine that can be decanted and poured out once more in polite and controlled measures.

The gift of the Holy Spirit marks the beginning, the birthday, of the Church, so perhaps champagne is the right image as we celebrate the birthday of the Church. But this is a gift that does not cease being given after Pentecost.

The gift of the Holy Spirit remains with the Church – for all times. The gift of the Holy Spirit is for all who are baptised, who are invited to continue daily to hear the word, to join in fellowship, to break the bread, to pray – just as we are doing at this Eucharist this morning (see Acts 2: 42-47).

Because of this gift, the Church is brought together in diversity and sustained in unity. The Orthodox Church speaks of the Church as the realised or lived Pentecost.

I think our thinking about the Holy Spirit is made difficult by traditional images of a dove that looks more like a homing pigeon; or tongues of fire dancing around meekly-bowed heads of people cowering and hiding in the upper room in Jerusalem, rather than a room that is bursting at the seams and ready to overflow.

But the Holy Spirit is not something added on as an extra course, as an after-thought after the Resurrection and the Ascension.

This morning, as we affirm our faith in the words of the Nicene Creed, shaped to a profound degree by those Cappadocian Fathers, as we say ‘We believe in the Holy Spirit,’ do we really believe in the Holy Spirit as ‘the Lord, the giver of life,’ in the Holy Spirit as the way in which God ‘has spoken through the prophets’?

The gift of the Holy Spirit does not stop being effective the day after Confirmation, the day after ordination, the day after hearing someone speaking in tongues, or the day after this Day of Pentecost.

God never leaves us alone. This is what Christ promises the disciples, the whole Church, in our Gospel reading this morning, as he breaks through the locked doors and breaks through all their fears (John 20: 19-23).

We need have no fears, for the Resurrection breaks through all the barriers of time and space, of gender and race, of language and colour.

Pentecost includes all – even those we do not like. Who do you not want in the Kingdom of God? Who do I find it easy to think of excluding from the demands the Holy Spirit makes on me and on the Church?

Pentecost promises hope. But hope is not certainty, manipulating the future for our own ends, it is trusting in God’s purpose.

‘Little Gidding,’ the fourth and final poem in the Four Quartets, is TS Eliot’s own Pentecost poem. ‘Little Gidding’ begins in ‘the dark time of the year,’ when a brief and glowing afternoon sun ‘flames the ice, on pond and ditches’ as it ‘stirs the dumb spirit’ not with wind but with ‘pentecostal fire.’

At the end of the poem, Eliot describes how the eternal is contained within the present and how history exists in a pattern, and repeating the words of Julian of Norwich, he is assured:

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.


I have no doubts that the Holy Spirit works in so many ways that we cannot understand. And I have no doubts that the Holy Spirit works best and works most often in the quiet small ways that bring hope rather than in the big dramatic ways that seek to control.

Sometimes, even when it seems foolish, sometimes, even when it seems extravagant, it is worth being led by the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit may be leading us to surprising places, and, surprisingly, leading others there too, counting them in when we thought they were counted out.

Whether they are persecuted minorities in the Middle East, or people who are marginalised at home, or those we are uncomfortable with because of how they sound, seem, look or smell, God’s generosity counts them in and offers them hope.

And if God counts them in, so should the Church. And so should I.

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

‘ ... all shall be well and / All manner of thing shall be well’ … sunset seen from the Sunset Taverna in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Collect:

Almighty God,
who on the day of Pentecost
sent your Holy Spirit to the apostles
with the wind from heaven and in tongues of flame,
filling them with joy and boldness to preach the gospel:
By the power of the same Spirit
strengthen us to witness to your truth
and to draw everyone to the fire of your love;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace.
If we live in the Spirit, let us walk in the Spirit.
Galatians 5: 22

Preface:

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
according to whose promise
the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us,
making us your children,
and giving us power to proclaim the gospel throughout the world:

Post Communion Prayer:

Faithful God,
who fulfilled the promises of Easter
by sending us your Holy Spirit
and opening to every race and nation the way of life eternal:
Open our lips by your Spirit,
that every tongue may tell of your glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

The Spirit of truth lead you into all truth,
give you grace to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
and to proclaim the words and works of God …

Dismissal:

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

Evie Hone’s window in Saint Patrick’s Church on the Hill of Tara, Co Meath, has images of Pentecost interspersed with images of Saint Patrick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for the Parish Eucharist on the Day of Pentecost, 4 June 2017.

Preparing two sermons
this morning on
the Day of Pentecost

‘If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges / White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness’ ... Cross in Hand Lane, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Day Pentecost, which falls 50 days after Easter Day and 10 days after the Ascension. As the disciples were coming together to pray, ‘suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.’ Divided tongues, ‘as of fire,’ danced above their heads, and ‘all of them were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability’ (see Acts 2: 2-4).

Later this morning [4 June 2017], I am celebrating the Pentecost Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, at 9.30 a.m., and in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, in Tarbert, Co Kerry.

This is a bank holiday weekend in Ireland, and so I prepared my sermons long before some friends arrived on Friday to spend the weekend at the Rectory in Askearton.

But as I was working on those sermons I found myself returning to thoughts I had four years ago as I was preparing a sermon for the Day of Pentecost in 2013. I was reminded then of ‘Little Gidding,’ which is the fourth and final poem in TS Eliot’s Four Quartets and is Eliot’s own Pentecost poem.

‘Little Gidding’ begins in ‘the dark time of the year,’ when a brief and glowing afternoon sun ‘flames the ice, on pond and ditches’ as it ‘stirs the dumb spirit’:

The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart’s heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year.


The poem uses the combined image of fire and Pentecostal fire to emphasise the need for purification and purgation:

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre –
To be redeemed from fire by fire.


In ‘Little Gidding,’ Eliot combines the image of religious renewal with the image of the London air raids and the constant fighting and destruction within the world. This compound image is used to discuss the connection of holy places with the Holy Spirit, Pentecost, communion with the dead, and the repetition of history.

The Nicholas Ferrar Window in the chapel of Clare College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Eliot visited Little Gidding in Huntingdonshire only once, in May 1936. There Nicholas Ferrar had formed a small Anglican community over three centuries earlier in 1626. The community at Little Gidding lived according to Anglican principles and the Book of Common Prayer. However, the community was scattered during the English Civil War and eventually came to an end with the death of John Ferrar in 1657. The church at Little Gidding was restored in 1714 and again in 1853.

Although Eliot visited Little Gidding in May 1936, this poem was not published until September 1942, having been delayed for over a year because of Eliot’s declining health and the air raids on London during World War II.

’... You are here to kneel/ Where prayer has been valid’ – TS Eliot ... the Church of Saint John the Evangelist in Little Gidding

‘Little Gidding’ deals with the past, the present, and the future, and humanity’s place within them as each generation is seemingly united. The poem focuses on the unity of past, present, and future, with an understanding that this unity is necessary for salvation. In this poem, humanity’s flawed understanding of life and turning away from God leads to a cycle of warfare, but this can be overcome by recognising the lessons of the past.

‘Little Gidding’ is a poem of fire with an emphasis on purgation and the Pentecostal fire. The beginning of the poem discusses time and winter, paying attention to the arrival of summer. The image of snow, which provoke desires for a spiritual life, moves into an analysis of the four classical elements of fire, earth, air and water and of how fire is the primary element of the four. This is followed by a discussion of death and destruction, things unaccomplished, and regret for past events.

The poem then describes the Battle of Britain and the London Blitz in World War II. The image of warfare merges with the depiction of Pentecost, and the Holy Spirit is juxtaposed with the air raids on London. Humanity is given a choice between the Holy Spirit or the bombing of London; redemption or destruction. God’s love allows humanity to be redeemed and to escape the living hell through purgation by fire.

At the end of the poem, Eliot describes how he has tried to help the world as a poet. He meets a ghost, who combines various poets and literary figures from the past, including Dante. Speculation about the other poetic and literary figures contained in this spectre includes Virgil, William Shakespeare, John Milton, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, and the Irish writers WB Yeats and James Joyce who had died recently, or even the shade of Nicholas Ferrar.

Eliot and the ghostly figure or spirit discuss change, art and how humanity is flawed. The only way to overcome the problems of humanity’s flawed condition, according to the ghost, is to experience purgation through fire.

The fire is described in words that echo the description of God’s love by Julian of Norwich. ‘Little Gidding’ continues by describing the eternal contained within the present and how history exists in a pattern:

Sin is Behovely, but
All shall be well, and
all manner of thing shall be well.


The poem concludes by explaining how sacrifice is needed to allow an individual to die into life and to be reborn, and that salvation should be the goal of humanity.

Excerpts from ‘Little Gidding’:

I

Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
Whem the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart’s heat,
Reflecting in a watery mirror
A glare that is blindness in the early afternoon.
And glow more intense than blaze of branch, or brazier,
Stirs the dumb spirit: no wind, but pentecostal fire
In the dark time of the year. Between melting and freezing
The soul’s sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the spring time
But not in time’s covenant. Now the hedgerow
Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom
Of snow, a bloom more sudden
Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,
Not in the scheme of generation.
Where is the summer, the unimaginable
Zero summer?

If you came this way,
Taking the route you would be likely to take
From the place you would be likely to come from,
If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges
White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.
It would be the same at the end of the journey,
If you came at night like a broken king,
If you came by day not knowing what you came for,
It would be the same, when you leave the rough road
And turn behind the pig-sty to the dull facade
And the tombstone. And what you thought you came for
Is only a shell, a husk of meaning
From which the purpose breaks only when it is fulfilled
If at all. Either you had no purpose
Or the purpose is beyond the end you figured
And is altered in fulfilment. There are other places
Which also are the world’s end, some at the sea jaws,
Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city –
But this is the nearest, in place and time,
Now and in England.

If you came this way,
Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
At any time or at any season,
It would always be the same: you would have to put off
Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.
Here, the intersection of the timeless moment
Is England and nowhere. Never and always.

‘What we call the beginning is often the end ...’ – TS Eliot. Reflections at the end of the day in the waters of Minster Pool in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The poem concludes with words from Julian of Norwich and images of Pentecost too:

V

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

‘And all shall be well and/ All manner of thing shall be well/ When the tongues of flame are in-folded/ Into the crowned knot of fire /And the fire and the rose are one’ ... sunset in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes in the Dioceses of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert.