Sunday, 5 November 2017

New museum means
the Parthenon Marbles
must return to Athens

The Acropolis at night, seen from an apartment in Monastiraki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017; click on images for full-screen viewing)

Patrick Comerford

Although I have visited Athens countless times, and have often climbed the rock of Acropolis, I only recently visited the new, award-winning Acropolis Museum, which opened in 2009.

I was spending a weekend in Monasitraki in August in an apartment with 180-degree views of the Acropolis by day and by night. We were close to the Plaka and the main tourist, archaeological and historical sites in the centre of Athens.

The Acropolis at day, seen from an apartment in Monastiraki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Most of my visits to Athens in the past were working visits as a journalist. But now, with classical Athens on our doorstep, two of us decided to visit the Acropolis one morning and to take a guided tour of the New Acropolis Museum in the afternoon.

Thousands of tourists visit the Acropolis in Athens each day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The temples on the ‘sacred rock’ of Athens are breath-taking in scale. These are the most important monuments in the western world and they have exerted more influence on our architecture than anything built since.

The great marble masterpieces were built during the ‘Golden Age of Athens,’ during the rule of Pericles in late fifth century BC.

The three principal sites on the Acropolis are the Propylaia, the Parthenon or the Temple of Athena Nike, and the Erechtheion.

Visitors entered the Acropolis through the Propylaia (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Propylaia is the monumental or grand entrance through which all visitors entered the Acropolis. It was built in 437-432 BC and was designed by the Athenian architect Mnesikles.

The Parthenon or Temple of Athena Nike was built in 427-423 BC by the architect Kallikrate and under the supervision of Phidias. It replaced an earlier small temple, and is the epitome of ancient Greek classical art and architecture.

The porch of the Erechtheion was supported by pillars in the shape of the Caryatids (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Erechtheion is the last of the buildings dating from the time of Pericles. It was a temple to Poseidon and Athena, with a porch supported by pillars in the shape of statues known as the Caryatids. Building work finished around 410 BC.

Celebrating a victory

The Parthenon was dedicated to Athena, the patron goddess of Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Parthenon was a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena, the patron of the city, and also served as the city treasury. It was built to celebrate the defeat of the Persians by Athens.

The Parthenon was built to celebrate the defeat of the Persians by Athens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The pediments and metopes or carved pictorial panels above the frieze of the Parthenon were decorated with mythological subjects.

The pediments of the Parthenon were decorated with mythological subjects (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

In contrast, the sculptor Phidias decided to decorate the frieze with an elaborate and eloquent depiction of the Panathenaic festival in honour of Athena. This festival took place every four years, lasted 12 days and included rituals and sacrifices, as well as athletic and musical contests. On the last day of the festival, the Panathenaic procession took place from Keramaikos through the city and up the cliffside of the citadel to the Temple of Athena at the Parthenon.

The story of this procession unfolds in more than 160 metres of continuous sculptural decoration on the Parthenon frieze.

The frieze consisted of 115 blocks, was 160 metres long and was 1.02 meters high. Some 378 human figures and deities and more than 200 animals, mainly horses, were depicted on the frieze. Groups of horses and chariots occupy most of the space. They are followed by the sacrificial procession, with animals and groups of men and women carrying ceremonial vessels and offerings.

The procession concludes with the giving of the peplos, the gift of the Athenian people to the decorated statue of Athena. To the left and right of the scene sit the twelve gods of Mount Olympus.

From that entire frieze, 50 metres are in the Acropolis Museum in Athens today, 80 metres are in the British Museum, London, one block is in the Louvre in Paris, and other fragments are scattered in museums in Palermo, the Vatican, Würzburg, Vienna, Munich and Copenhagen.

Building a museum

A statue of Papposilenos, a comic figure in ancient dramatic poetry, in the Acropolis Museum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Acropolis Museum is only 280 metres from the Parthenon, or a short 400-metre walk. It stands by the south-east slopes of the Acropolis hill, on the ancient road that led up to the ‘sacred rock’ in classical times. It has a floor area of 14,000 square metres and includes 4,000 artefacts from the Acropolis hill.

The first museum on the Acropolis was built in 1874. It was expanded in the 1950s, but with successive excavations it was unable to house new finds. When I first visited it almost 30 years ago, it had already outgrown its capacity.

The new museum was first planned in the 1990s, but work was delayed for years and eventually abandoned because of sensitive archaeological finds on the site.

A new museum site was identified at Camp Makrygianni, an unused police barracks opposite the Theatre of Dionysus. It was agreed to build the new museum on pillars, elevated above any archaeological finds, and the new competition was won by the Swiss-born New York architect Bernard Tschumi, who worked closely with the Greek architect Michael Photiadis.

The museum stands on the ruins of part of Roman and early Byzantine Athens. During excavation work, archaeologists found two layers of houses and workshops, one from the early Byzantine era and another from the classical era.

As building work came near its completion in mid-2007, a delicate operation began to move the artefacts from the old museum on the Acropolis. Three tower cranes moved the collection without a mishap, and after six years of planning and building, the new museum opened in 2009.

Three architectural concepts

The Caryatids supported the porch of the Erechtheion (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Bernard Tschumi’s design focusses on three concepts: light, movement, and a tectonic and programmatic element. Together, these concepts ‘turn the constraints of the site into an architectural opportunity, offering a simple and precise museum.’

The principal exhibits include statues and friezes from the Parthenon and the Caryatids from the Erechtheion. But there are treasures from other temples too, everyday items from archaic, classical and Byzantine Athens, and finds from early Christian homes in Athens, including mosaics, busts and amphorae.

The collections are exhibited on three levels, while another, middle level houses the museum shop, café and offices. As the museum is built over an extensive archaeological site, the floor, outside and inside, is often transparent so visitors can see each floor above and below and down the excavations below. At each level throughout the building, I could gaze down through the glass floor panels to see the excavations that revealed some of the exhibits.

Poseidon, Apollo and Artemis seen on Block VI of the east frieze (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

After crossing the ground floor lobby towards the turnstiles, I was in an ascending, wide glass-floored gallery that houses finds from the slopes of the Acropolis. The occasionally transparent floor provides a view of the archaeological excavation, while the upward sloping floor alludes to the ascent to the Acropolis.

In antiquity, the slopes marked the transition area between the city and the sanctuary. This was the area where official and popular cults, as well as large and small sanctuaries, existed alongside private houses.

This gallery houses finds from the sanctuaries on the slopes of the Acropolis, as well as everyday objects that Athenians used throughout time. Finds from some of the key sanctuaries on the slopes are exhibited on the left. Finds from the smaller sanctuaries and settlements that developed on the slopes of the hill are displayed on the right.

The horsemen on the frieze are participants in the Panathenaic procession (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Visitors then arrive in the Archaic Acropolis Gallery, a large hall that accommodates archaic findings. The archaic period lasted throughout the seventh century BC until the end of the Persian Wars in 480-479 BC. During this period, city-state developed, making the transition from aristocracy to tyranny and, eventually, to democracy. It was a period marked by great achievements in the economy, art and intellectual life.

The exhibits in this gallery can be viewed as three-dimensional exhibits in the changing natural light, and visitors can see the delicate surface details of the sculptures.

On the south side of the gallery, depictions of young women (korai), the horse riders (hippeis) and others provide a striking picture of the Acropolis in the Archaic Period. Other artefacts and sculptures from the other Acropolis buildings on this floor including the Caryatids and other items from the Erechtheion, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Propylaea, and findings from Roman and early Christian Athens.

In the Parthenon Gallery

Horses and riders are life-like in their depiction (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

At the top floor of the museum, the Parthenon Gallery sits askew above the lower levels, giving it the same orientation as the ancient temple on the Acropolis. The spacing of the columns in the Parthenon hall is the same as that of the ancient temple, and glass walls on all four outside walls allow the natural light to illumine the Parthenon marbles as it would have on the ancient temple.

The 48 columns in the Parthenon hall mark the outline of the ancient temple and form a colonnade that displays the Parthenon marbles. To make viewing easier, the pediment marbles are displayed at eye level in front of the end columns.

The metopes are displayed on the columns, two per column, but not as high as they were in the ancient temple.

The frieze is displayed behind the metopes, forming a continuous band around the walls of a rectangular space set inside the columns, as in the ancient temple but not as high, again for ease of viewing.

A horseman on the trot on Block IX of the west frieze (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The frieze is installed on a rectangular cement core that has exactly the same dimensions as the cella of the Parthenon. This allows a comprehensive viewing of the details of the frieze as the visitor walks around the perimeter of the gallery. The story of the Panathenaic Procession is pieced together with a combination of the original blocks of the frieze and cast copies of the pieces in museums abroad, including the British Museum and the Louvre.

In the same area, ancient marble inscriptions record in detail the costs of building the Parthenon and the statue of Athena Parthenos.

From the north side of the Parthenon hall, we could see the ancient temple on top of the Acropolis.

Returning the marbles

The battles between men and mythical creatures may represent the battle between Athenians and Persians (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Bernard Tschumi’s museum has won international awards each year since it opened, including awards from the British Guild of Travel Writers, the American Institute of Architects, the Keck Award of the International Institute for Conservation and the International Association of Lighting Designers. Last year, the museum ranked ninth in TripAdvisor’s list of the 25 Best Museums in the world.

An additional motivation for building the new museum came from the responses that came every time Greece asked for the return of the Parthenon Marbles from the British Museum in London.

British officials claimed Greece had no suitable location to house the portions of the Parthenon frieze and other parts of the Acropolis that had been hacked away and pilfered by Thomas Bruce, Earl of Elgin, in 1801-1812.

The creation of this gallery to display of the Parthenon Marbles has been the key to all recent proposals for a new museum, and Greeks now hope the museum will boost the campaign for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Athens.

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

The Acropolis seen from the balconies of the Acropolis Museum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

‘Do whatever they teach
you and follow it; but
do not do as they do’

The table remains bare if our words and our actions are not inter-connected (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday, 5 November 2017,

The Fourth Sunday before Advent (Proper 26).


11.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert, Co Kerry.

Readings: Joshua 3: 7-17; Psalm 107: 1-7, 13-17; I Thessalonians 2: 9-13; Matthew 23: 1-12.

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

Last Sunday, we learned graphically in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, how all the Law and the Prophets – everything taught by Moses and Prophets – depends on, hangs on, the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbour (see Matthew 22: 34-46).

His summary of those guidelines for living came in a conversation Jesus had with a lawyer in the Temple, in front of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the two groups most concerned with teaching what is meant by the Law and the Prophets.

In this morning’s Gospel reading (Matthew 23: 1-12), we are still in the Temple with Christ in Holy Week, the week leading up to his Passion, Death and Resurrection. There in the Temple, Christ has silenced his critics among the Sadducees and the Pharisees, showing their lack of understanding of the core messages of the Prophets and the Law in the Bible.

In this morning’s Gospel reading, he turns to speak ‘to the crowds and to his disciples’ about the scribes and the Pharisees, and their attitude to and teaching of the Law and the Bible.

Christ tells the people in the Temple that the Pharisees have authority to teach the Law, and he concedes that they are in an unbroken chain that goes back to Moses, for they ‘sit on Moses’ seat’ (verse 2).

But while honouring their teachings, the people should be wary of their practices. In their interpretation of the Law, they impose heavy burdens on others, yet do not follow the Law themselves.

Externally, they appear pious. They wear teffelin or phylacteries, small, black, leather boxes, on their left arms and foreheads with four Biblical passages as a ‘sign’ and ‘remembrance’ that God liberated their ancestors from slavery in Egypt (see Exodus 13: 1-10; Exodus 13: 11-16; Deuteronomy 6: 4-9; and Deuteronomy 11: 13-21). They also have lengthy fringes or tassels on their prayer shawls (tallitot, singular talit), as visible reminders of the 613 commandments in the Law (see Numbers 15: 38, Deuteronomy 22: 12).

Christ gives four examples of vanity (verse 6-7): they love places of honour at banquets, the best seats in the synagogues, being greeted with respect publicly, and being called ‘Rabbi,’ which means master and later becomes a title for the leader in a synagogue.

We are warned about the dangers built into loving honorific titles, such as ‘teacher,’ ‘father’ and instructor (see verses 8-10) – perhaps for me that means Canon and Professor – because, of course, we are all students, we are all brothers and sisters, we are all disciples and children of God.

Yet I too am a father and have been a teacher and a tutor. Is Christ warning against the position; or against seeking honours that have not been earned?

It is a truism that parents must earn the respect of their children, not seek or demand it. Most parents have, at one time or another, said to their children: ‘Do what I tell you, not what I do.’ Needless to say, children never listen to parents when we say something so silly.

All parents know, on the other hand, that actions speak louder than words.

Perhaps this morning’s reading reflects later tensions between the Jewish synagogue and the new Christian community. But, in Christ’s own days, people expected a Pharisee to be a careful observer of the Law. Unlike the Temple priests and village elders, the Pharisees did not have a high social status.

Before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the Pharisees were a relatively modest group of people without political power and they tried to live out Jewish tradition and the Torah seriously and conscientiously in their daily lives. The Pharisees saw the Law as applying not only to every aspect of public life, but to every aspect of private, domestic, daily life too.

There is another well-worn statement: ‘It’s not where you start out but where you end up.’ The Pharisees started out with good intentions, but some of them ended by seeking to be great, seeking to be exalted (verses 11-12). They started out being concerned for holiness, but some ended at exclusion. They started out seeking to recognise God in all aspects of life, but some of them ended by seeking recognition at banquets and in the synagogue (verses 6-7).

Christ calls us to live in such a way that we can say to the world: ‘Do as we say and do as we do.’

The problem here may not so much be a conflict between words and actions, but the need to make the connection between words and actions. Words must mean what they point to, and the actions must be capable of being described in words.

Most of us, as children, learned by watching how adults behave, we learn as members of the human community. As a child, when I needed to learn how to use a fork, I did not need a lecture on the hygienic and sanitary contributions that forks have made to the benefit European lifestyles since the introduction of the fork through Byzantium and Venice to mediaeval Europe; I did not need an engineering lecture on the practicalities and difficulties of balancing the prongs and the handle; I would have been too young to read a delightful chapter by Judith Herrin in one of her books on how the fork-using Byzantines were much more sophisticated than their western allies or rivals who ate with their hands (Judith Herrin, Byzantium – the Surprising Life of a Mediaeval Empire, London: Allen Lane, 2007, Chapter 19).

The same principle applies to everything else, as Andrew Davison of Westcott House, Cambridge, points out in his contribution to Imaginative Apologetics (London: SCM Press, 2011), the same principle applies to how we learn about everything else in life – cups, books, bicycles and so on. He might have added love – the love of God and the love of one another.

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s steps in the Great Palm House in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Recently, on a number of occasions, I have visited the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin. There, in the Great Palm House, are the steps on which the great 20th century German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein regularly sat in contemplation and thought while he was living in Dublin in the late 1940s.

Even if you find Wittgenstein difficult to read we can find useful insights in his writings.

Wittgenstein teaches us that thinking and language must be inter-connected. ‘Words have meaning only in the stream of life,’ he says. Thinking requires language, language is a communal experience, and, as Davison points out, we learn language as members of a human community and through induction into common human practices.

We can talk about prayer, forgiveness, and most of all about love itself, to others. But if it only remains talk and has no application, then the words have no meaning.

In our New Testament reading (I Thessalonians 2: 9-13), Saint Paul reminds the members of the Church in Thessaloniki that they are witnesses to Christ not only in their beliefs but in the way they live their lives and in their conduct towards the new Church members.

Like a father teaching his children, he urges and encourages them, and pleads with them to walk in God’s ways, so that God’s word becomes made active in those who believe. In All Saints-tide, this is good advice on how to live as saints, as part of the Communion of Saints.

We might remind ourselves about last Sunday’s Gospel reading (Matthew 22: 34-46), when Christ tells the lawyer sent by the Pharisees and the Sadducees that the greatest commandments are to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’ and to ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’ And, he adds: ‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

If the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the young lawyer were teaching and acting in conformity with these laws, if their words and actions were inter-connected, then there would have been an unassailable ring of authenticity to their teaching.

We may say we believe in the two great commandments, but we only show we believe in them with credibility when we live them out in our lives. There must be no gap that separates what we teach and how we live out what we teach in our lives.

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

‘They love to have the place of honour at banquets’ (Matthew 23: 6) (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 5 November 2017.

Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,
you have kindled the flame of love in the hearts of the saints:
Grant to us the same faith and power of love,
that, as we rejoice in their triumphs,
we may be sustained by their example and fellowship;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Peace and Blessing for All Saints-tide:

Introduction to the Peace:

We are fellow citizens with the saints
and the household of God,
through Christ our Lord,
who came and preached peace to those who were far off
and those who were near (Ephesians 2: 19, 17).

Blessing:

God give you grace
to share the inheritance of all his saints in glory ...

‘They love to have the place of honour at banquets’ (Matthew 23: 6) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

‘But do not do as they
do, for they do not
practise what they teach’

‘They love to have the place of honour at banquets’ (Matthew 23: 6) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday, 5 November 2017,

The Fourth Sunday before Advent (Proper 26).


9.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick.

Readings: Joshua 3: 7-17; Psalm 107: 1-7, 13-17; I Thessalonians 2: 9-13; Matthew 23: 1-12.

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

Last Sunday, we learned graphically in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, how all the Law and the Prophets – everything taught by Moses and Prophets – depends on, hangs on, the two great commandments, to love God and to love our neighbour (see Matthew 22: 34-46).

His summary of those guidelines for living came in a conversation Jesus had with a lawyer in the Temple, in front of the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the two groups most concerned with teaching what is meant by the Law and the Prophets.

In this morning’s Gospel reading (Matthew 23: 1-12), we are still in the Temple with Christ in Holy Week, the week leading up to his Passion, Death and Resurrection. There in the Temple, Christ has silenced his critics among the Sadducees and the Pharisees, showing their lack of understanding of the core messages of the Prophets and the Law in the Bible.

In this morning’s Gospel reading, he turns to speak ‘to the crowds and to his disciples’ about the scribes and the Pharisees, and their attitude to and teaching of the Law and the Bible.

Christ tells the people in the Temple that the Pharisees have authority to teach the Law, and he concedes that they are in an unbroken chain that goes back to Moses, for they ‘sit on Moses’ seat’ (verse 2).

But while honouring their teachings, the people should be wary of their practices. In their interpretation of the Law, they impose heavy burdens on others, yet do not follow the Law themselves.

Externally, they appear pious. They wear teffelin or phylacteries, small, black, leather boxes, on their left arms and foreheads with four Biblical passages as a ‘sign’ and ‘remembrance’ that God liberated their ancestors from slavery in Egypt (see Exodus 13: 1-10; Exodus 13: 11-16; Deuteronomy 6: 4-9; and Deuteronomy 11: 13-21). They also have lengthy fringes or tassels on their prayer shawls (tallitot, singular talit), as visible reminders of the 613 commandments in the Law (see Numbers 15: 38, Deuteronomy 22: 12).

Christ gives four examples of vanity (verse 6-7): they love places of honour at banquets, the best seats in the synagogues, being greeted with respect publicly, and being called ‘Rabbi,’ which means master and later becomes a title for the leader in a synagogue.

We are warned about the dangers built into loving honorific titles, such as ‘teacher,’ ‘father’ and instructor (see verses 8-10) – perhaps for me that means Canon and Professor – because, of course, we are all students, we are all brothers and sisters, we are all disciples and children of God.

Yet I too am a father and have been a teacher and a tutor. Is Christ warning against the position; or against seeking honours that have not been earned?

It is a truism that parents must earn the respect of their children, not seek or demand it. Most parents have, at one time or another, said to their children: ‘Do what I tell you, not what I do.’ Needless to say, children never listen to parents when we say something so silly.

All parents know, on the other hand, that actions speak louder than words.

Perhaps this morning’s reading reflects later tensions between the Jewish synagogue and the new Christian community. But, in Christ’s own days, people expected a Pharisee to be a careful observer of the Law. Unlike the Temple priests and village elders, the Pharisees did not have a high social status.

Before the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, the Pharisees were a relatively modest group of people without political power and they tried to live out Jewish tradition and the Torah seriously and conscientiously in their daily lives. The Pharisees saw the Law as applying not only to every aspect of public life, but to every aspect of private, domestic, daily life too.

There is another well-worn statement: ‘It’s not where you start out but where you end up.’ The Pharisees started out with good intentions, but some of them ended by seeking to be great, seeking to be exalted (verses 11-12). They started out being concerned for holiness, but some ended at exclusion. They started out seeking to recognise God in all aspects of life, but some of them ended by seeking recognition at banquets and in the synagogue (verses 6-7).

Christ calls us to live in such a way that we can say to the world: ‘Do as we say and do as we do.’

The problem here may not so much be a conflict between words and actions, but the need to make the connection between words and actions. Words must mean what they point to, and the actions must be capable of being described in words.

Most of us, as children, learned by watching how adults behave, we learn as members of the human community. As a child, when I needed to learn how to use a fork, I did not need a lecture on the hygienic and sanitary contributions that forks have made to the benefit European lifestyles since the introduction of the fork through Byzantium and Venice to mediaeval Europe; I did not need an engineering lecture on the practicalities and difficulties of balancing the prongs and the handle; I would have been too young to read a delightful chapter by Judith Herrin in one of her books on how the fork-using Byzantines were much more sophisticated than their western allies or rivals who ate with their hands (Judith Herrin, Byzantium – the Surprising Life of a Mediaeval Empire, London: Allen Lane, 2007, Chapter 19).

The same principle applies to everything else, as Andrew Davison of Westcott House, Cambridge, points out in his contribution to Imaginative Apologetics (London: SCM Press, 2011), the same principle applies to how we learn about everything else in life – cups, books, bicycles and so on. He might have added love – the love of God and the love of one another.

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s steps in the Great Palm House in the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Recently, on a number of occasions, I have visited the National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin, Dublin. There, in the Great Palm House, are the steps on which the great 20th century German philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein regularly sat in contemplation and thought while he was living in Dublin in the late 1940s.

Even if you find Wittgenstein difficult to read we can find useful insights in his writings.

Wittgenstein teaches us that thinking and language must be inter-connected. ‘Words have meaning only in the stream of life,’ he says. Thinking requires language, language is a communal experience, and, as Davison points out, we learn language as members of a human community and through induction into common human practices.

We can talk about prayer, forgiveness, and most of all about love itself, to others. But if it only remains talk and has no application, then the words have no meaning.

In our New Testament reading (I Thessalonians 2: 9-13), Saint Paul reminds the members of the Church in Thessaloniki that they are witnesses to Christ not only in their beliefs but in the way they live their lives and in their conduct towards the new Church members.

Like a father teaching his children, he urges and encourages them, and pleads with them to walk in God’s ways, so that God’s word becomes made active in those who believe. In All Saints-tide, this is good advice on how to live as saints, as part of the Communion of Saints.

We might remind ourselves about last Sunday’s Gospel reading (Matthew 22: 34-46), when Christ tells the lawyer sent by the Pharisees and the Sadducees that the greatest commandments are to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind’ and to ‘love your neighbour as yourself.’ And, he adds: ‘On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

If the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the young lawyer were teaching and acting in conformity with these laws, if their words and actions were inter-connected, then there would have been an unassailable ring of authenticity to their teaching.

We may say we believe in the two great commandments, but we only show we believe in them with credibility when we live them out in our lives. There must be no gap that separates what we teach and how we live out what we teach in our lives.

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

The table remains bare if our words and our actions are not inter-connected (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for Sunday 5 November 2017.

Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,
you have kindled the flame of love in the hearts of the saints:
Grant to us the same faith and power of love,
that, as we rejoice in their triumphs,
we may be sustained by their example and fellowship;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord of heaven,
in this Eucharist you have brought us near
to an innumerable company of angels
and to the spirits of the saints made perfect.
As in this food of our earthly pilgrimage
we have shared their fellowship,
so may we come to share their joy in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Penitential Kyries, Peace, Preface and Blessing for All Saints-tide:

Penitential Kyries:

Lord, you are gracious and compassionate.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

You are loving to all,
and your mercy is over all your creation.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your faithful servants bless your name,
and speak of the glory of your kingdom.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Introduction to the Peace:

We are fellow citizens with the saints
and the household of God,
through Christ our Lord,
who came and preached peace to those who were far off
and those who were near (Ephesians 2: 19, 17).

The Preface:

In the saints
you have given us an example of godly living,
that rejoicing in their fellowship,
we may run with perseverance the race that is set before us,
and with them receive the unfading crown of glory ...

Blessing:

God give you grace
to share the inheritance of all his saints in glory ...

‘They love to have the place of honour at banquets’ (Matthew 23: 6) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)