Sunday, 21 January 2018

Revealing the secrets behind
the architecture of Florence

Brunelleschi’s dome dominates the skyline of Florence (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I have just been watching RTÉ 2’s broadcast of the third and final part of the series Italy’s Invisible Cities. This evening, Dr Michael Scott, Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Warwick, and presenter Alexander Armstrong explored the city of Florence.

In this series, Scott and Armstrong travelled through Naples, Venice and Florence to bring a fresh perspective to 2,000 years of history.

This evening they looked at the tole of the Medici banking dynasty, ‘godfathers of the Renaissance,’ in the development of Florence.

They revealed how the city’s wonderful facades and artworks mask hidden stories of intrigue and secrecy.

Their scanning team built a virtual reality 3D model to reveal how secret corridors of power were the foundation of the city’s Renaissance glory.

Using the latest cutting-edge technology, including ultra-high definition 3D scans, underwater LiDAR, photo-real CGI and drone cameras, they discovered Italy’s hidden past in new vivid detail.

With the help of the historian Ross King and the scanning team, they looked at the hidden secrets of Florence’s cathedral. They showed how that the great brick dome, built in 1436 by Filippo Brunelleschi, is comprised of two domes – an outer and inner shell bound together with rings of sandstone. The secrets of this piece of architectural genius were brought to life with stunning 3D scans.

They also explored the fraught relationship of the Medici family with Michelangelo, who was like a member of the family and designed the Medici mausoleum in the Basilica di San Lorenzo.

Michelangelo fell from favour when he supported a rebellion against his own masters. In 1975, it was discovered that Michelangelo chose an unlikely place to hide from the Medicis – a secret chamber below the mausoleum he had created for them. The programme used 3D models to recreate this sanctuary and to trace Michelangelo’s secret escape route].

Alexander and Michael completed their Tuscan exploration with a visit to the Uffizi, including the Botticelli room. They walked along the Medici private corridor running more than a kilometre through the city from the Uffizi to the Medici palace on the south of the River Arno. Using cutting-edge technology, this secret space was revealed as a virtual reality experience.

The Ponte Vecchio in Florence (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

They also visited the Palazzo Vecchio, once the seat of the Medici government, the Ponte Vecchio, and the Basilica di Santa Croce.

Tonight’s programme also looked at the construction of the Campanile in Pisa, and used their cutting-edge technology why it started to lean from soon after its construction began.

The Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Florence, the city of beauty and Renaissance grandeur, was unmasked to reveal the seething turmoil and competition that pushed it to outdo its rivals and its richest citizens to outdo one another This was Florence, ‘the engine room of the Renaissance,’ as I have never seen it on my visits.

The three-part series as first broadcast on BBC 1 a year ago, in January 2017. Now I must go back and find their programmes on Naples and its environs, including Pompeii and Herculaneum, and Venice, whose very existence is testament to human ingenuity.



Prayers of thanks to celebrate
10 years of Askeaton Pool

At Askeaton pool this after (from left): Councillor Adam Teskey, Canon Patrick Comerford, Councillor Kevin Sheahan, Tom Neville TD and Father Father Seán Ó Longaigh PP (Photograph: Nihal Terzi)

Patrick Comerford
My colleague, Father Seán Ó Longaigh, Parish Priest of Askeaton, and I were asked to say the opening prayers this afternoon at the celebrations marking the tenth anniversary of Askeaton Pool and Leisure Centre.

The pool opened ten years ago on 21 January 1998, and is a magnificent facility not only for Askeaton but for communities throughout West Limerick.

The afternoon’s events were introduced by Councillor Kevin Sheahan, Leas-Cathaoirleach of the Municipal District of Adare-Rathkeale, Councillor Adam Teskey, Tom Neville TD, and Patrick O’Donovan, TD, Minister of State at the Departments of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

Representatives of other community groups in the Askeaton and west Limerick area were present, including footballers and camogie players.
Introducing my prayers, I spoke of how the themes in Epiphany-tide include the Baptism of Christ in the River Jordan, and how this is new vision of the waters of creation, when the waters separate and the Holy Spirit appears above, as God the Father pronounces how good this is.

We thank you, almighty God, for the gift of water to sustain, refresh and cleanse all life.
Over water the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.
Through water you led the children of Israel
from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land.
In water your Son Jesus received the baptism of John
and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the messiah, the Christ,
to lead us from the death of sin to the newness of life.


Sometimes in the Church,
we cannot cast our nets
far enough or deep enough

A fishing boat with its nets on deck at the harbour in Panormos on the Greek island of Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 21 January 2018,

The Third Sunday after the Epiphany.


11.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin, Tarbert, Co Kerry.

Readings: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10; Psalm 62: 5-12; I Corinthians 7: 29-31; Mark 1: 14-20.

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

Many years ago, while I hitch-hiking and youth-hostelling in the Peaks on the borders of Staffordshire and Derbyshire in my late teens, and staying in Ilam Hall, I came across the work of Izaak Walton (1593-1683), who wrote biographies of John Donne, George Herbert and Richard Hooker, and who also wrote The Compleat Angler.

In The Compleat Angler, Izaak Walton says fishing can teach us patience and discipline. Fishing takes practice, preparation, discipline; like discipleship, it has to be learned, and learning requires practice before there are any results.

And sometimes, whether it is fishing in a river or fishing in the sea, the best results can come from going against the current.

Walking along the pier in small Greek fishing villages, I sometimes watch the careful early morning work of the crews on the trawlers and fishing boats. It is a lesson that good fishing does not come about by accident. It also requires paying attention to the nets, moving them carefully, mending them, cleaning them after each and every use, hanging them out to dry.

Jonah tries to escape by sailing to the ends of the earth ... the harbour in Iraklion, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Most of us, when we think of Jonah, who is at the heart of our Old Testament reading, immediately think of the big fish, which may help make connections with the fishing scene that provides the setting for our Gospel reading.

Jonah is the archetypal reluctant prophet. Earlier, God calls him to ‘Go at once to Nineveh ... and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.’ Jonah tries to escape by sailing to the ends of the earth.

But God is not going to let go of Jonah; and God now calls him a second time. This time, Jonah obeys, and he goes to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. But it seems Jonah is easily distracted and happy with half measures. He goes to the city, but after a day he only got half-way into Nineveh.

Even then, God works through Jonah. The people of Nineveh react positively: they believe, they acknowledge their godlessness, and later their king repents.

We can see in that story the outward signs of repentance: a change of attitude to others, or turning away from evil and violence; and acknowledging God’s freedom in how God responds to our repentance.

In our Epistle reading (I Corinthians 7: 29-31), the Apostle Paul writes from Ephesus to the Christians of Corinth, calling them to live a life of repentance, for ‘the time we live in will not last long,’ reminding them that ‘the present time is passing away.’

He reminds us that we live in a time between Christ’s first coming and Christ’s second coming, a time in which the Church is called to bring as many as possible to believe in him and to follow his ways. And so, our epistle reading too is an important preparation for hearing the Gospel story of the call of Andrew and Peter, James and John, and for being reminded of our own call too.

Fishing boats at the harbour in Dingle, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In our Gospel reading (Mark 1: 14-20), we move from being told of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness to his return to Galilee. His message begins with ‘the time is fulfilled’ (verse 15): the time appointed by God, the decisive time for God’s action, has arrived. ‘The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news’ (verse 15).

To repent does not mean to feel badly or guilty. It means to change my behaviour, to re-align it with new principles, new beliefs, new understandings, new insights, new objectives, new goals and new values. The feelings that accompany repentance can range from sorrow over past deeds, to joy for new options; from anger over past false hopes, to confidence in now finding firm ground.

To ‘believe in the good news’ could also be translated as ‘trust into the Good News.’ This is not a call to believe in terms of having an opinion about the factual accuracy of Good News. Instead, Christ is calling for a radical, total, unqualified response in which I base my life no matter what the risks may be.

Now we too are called to adopt God’s way, to ‘believe in the good news’ we hear about the very beginning of the Gospel. It could be said that the whole of Saint Mark’s Gospel is a working out of the meaning and implication of this.

When the first four disciples are called they immediately leave their previous occupations, and follow Christ. This immediacy of response is a mark of this Gospel. These disciples owned nets (verse 19), and they had employees (‘hired men,’ verse 20), so they were people of rank. They gave up security and family to follow Christ and to devote themselves to his mission.

It is interesting to note how one of the first things Christ does is to recruit followers. Proclaiming the Good News and that the Kingdom of God is near is not a one-man show. Instead, it involves building up communities, and creating relationships that embody the Good News.

Fishing was carried out at night so that the freshly caught fish could be sold as soon as possible in the morning. So, being out at night – and smelling of fish – made fishing a disreputable occupation.

Christ sees Simon and Andrew at night, or just before dawn, as they are actively fishing. He then sees James and John after dawn – they have finished their night’s work and are in their boat, mending their nets.

The first four people Christ calls are engaged in a dirty and demanding occupation. Their friends and neighbours must have reacted with alarm and suspicion, and probably talked about how their response was breaking up their families and breaking down the social fabric of their community.

Are you finding your calling to follow Christ difficult when it comes to family relationships and maintaining your relationship with your community, with those you work with or those who are your neighbours?

Sometimes, like Jonah, do you feel like taking another journey, or just going half-way?

Mending the nets on a fishing boat in the harbour in Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I do not know which was a more difficult and demanding task: being a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, or being a Disciple of Christ … especially when the call comes from someone who has withdrawn to Galilee after the arrest of his cousin, the one who publicly baptised and acclaimed him, Saint John the Baptist.

Either way, the four first disciples were going to have no lazy day by the shore or the river bank, or as followers of Christ. Becoming ‘fishers of men,’ ‘fishing for people,’ is going to bring these Galilean fishers into a relationship not only with Christ, but with their families, with their neighbours, with the tax collectors, with Pharisees, with Sadducees and Zealots, with the powers of this world, with Gentiles, with the people who sat in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death.

Sometimes in the Church, we do not cast our nets far enough or deep enough. No wonder then that most of the time, when we pull in those nets, we find them empty.

There is a saying that fish come in three sizes, small ones, medium ones and the ones that got away.

As Christians, can we passively stand by the bank or on the shore, content with two sizes of fish. We are called to go after the one that others let get away, not just those who come to Church regularly, but their families, their neighbours, the tax collectors, the Pharisees, Sadducees and Zealots of our age, the powers of this world, the Gentiles, and especially with those people who sit in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death.

Time and again in the Gospels, the Kingdom of God is compared to a huge net cast over different numbers of people and species. We are the ones called to cast that net. But to do so we need to attend to our own discipline, endurance, and patience.

Being a Christian is not passive following of Christ. We cannot hang any sign outside our church doors saying: ‘Gone Fishin’.’ There is a sad and broken world out there that needs to hear about God’s unbounded and generous love.

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

(The Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, 21 January 2018.

Fishing boats on the quay at Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Penitential Kyries:

God be merciful to us and bless us,
and make his face to shine on us.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

May your ways be known on earth,
your saving power to all nations.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You, Lord, have made known your salvation,
and reveal your justice in the sight of the nations.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
the wonder of your saving presence:
Renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

Our Saviour Christ is the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there shall be no end. (Isaiah 9: 6, 7)

Preface:

For Jesus Christ our Lord
who in human likeness revealed your glory,
to bring us out of darkness
into the splendour of his light:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Almighty Father,
your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ is the light of the world.
May your people,
illumined by your word and sacraments,
shine with the radiance of his glory,
that he may be known, worshipped,
and obeyed to the ends of the earth;
for he is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Blessing:

Christ the Son be manifest to you,
that your lives may be a light to the world:

Reflections on the water at the Fish and Eels at Dobbs Weir, near Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire … we cannot hang any sign outside church doors saying: ‘Gone Fishin’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

As Christians, can we
stand passively by
the bank or on the shore?

A fisherman takes care of his nets in a harbour on the Greek island of Samos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 21 January 2018,

The Third Sunday after the Epiphany.


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


Readings: Jonah 3: 1-5, 10; Psalm 62: 5-12; I Corinthians 7: 29-31; Mark 1: 14-20.

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

Many years ago, while I hitch-hiking and youth-hostelling in the Peaks on the borders of Staffordshire and Derbyshire in my late teens, and staying in Ilam Hall, I came across the work of Izaak Walton (1593-1683), who wrote biographies of John Donne, George Herbert and Richard Hooker, and who also wrote The Compleat Angler.

In The Compleat Angler, Izaak Walton says fishing can teach us patience and discipline. Fishing takes practice, preparation, discipline; like discipleship, it has to be learned, and learning requires practice before there are any results.

And sometimes, whether it is fishing in a river or fishing in the sea, the best results can come from going against the current.

Walking along the pier in small Greek fishing villages, I sometimes watch the careful early morning work of the crews on the trawlers and fishing boats. It is a lesson that good fishing does not come about by accident. It also requires paying attention to the nets, moving them carefully, mending them, cleaning them after each and every use, hanging them out to dry.

Most of us, when we think of Jonah, who is at the heart of our Old Testament reading, immediately think of the big fish, which may help make connections with the fishing scene that provides the setting for our Gospel reading.

Jonah tries to escape by sailing to the ends of the earth ... the harbour in Iraklion on the Greek island of Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Jonah is the archetypal reluctant prophet. Earlier, God calls him to ‘Go at once to Nineveh ... and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before me.’ Jonah tries to escape by sailing to the ends of the earth.

But God is not going to let go of Jonah; and God now calls him a second time. This time, Jonah obeys, and he goes to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. But it seems Jonah is easily distracted and happy with half measures. He goes to the city, but after a day he only got half-way into Nineveh.

Even then, God works through Jonah. The people of Nineveh react positively: they believe, they acknowledge their godlessness, and later their king repents.

We can see in that story the outward signs of repentance: a change of attitude to others, or turning away from evil and violence; and acknowledging God’s freedom in how God responds to our repentance.

In our Epistle reading (I Corinthians 7: 29-31), the Apostle Paul writes from Ephesus to the Christians of Corinth, calling them to live a life of repentance, for ‘the time we live in will not last long,’ reminding them that ‘the present time is passing away.’

He reminds us that we live in a time between Christ’s first coming and Christ’s second coming, a time in which the Church is called to bring as many as possible to believe in him and to follow his ways. And so, our epistle reading too is an important preparation for hearing the Gospel story of the call of Andrew and Peter, James and John, and for being reminded of our own call too.

Fishing boats at the harbour in Dingle, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In our Gospel reading (Mark 1: 14-20), we move from being told of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness to his return to Galilee. His message begins with ‘the time is fulfilled’ (verse 15): the time appointed by God, the decisive time for God’s action, has arrived. ‘The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news’ (verse 15).

To repent does not mean to feel badly or guilty. It means to change my behaviour, to re-align it with new principles, new beliefs, new understandings, new insights, new objectives, new goals and new values. The feelings that accompany repentance can range from sorrow over past deeds, to joy for new options; from anger over past false hopes, to confidence in now finding firm ground.

To ‘believe in the good news’ could also be translated as ‘trust into the Good News.’ This is not a call to believe in terms of having an opinion about the factual accuracy of Good News. Instead, Christ is calling for a radical, total, unqualified response in which I base my life no matter what the risks may be.

Now we too are called to adopt God’s way, to ‘believe in the good news’ we hear about the very beginning of the Gospel. It could be said that the whole of Saint Mark’s Gospel is a working out of the meaning and implication of this.

When the first four disciples are called they immediately leave their previous occupations, and follow Christ. This immediacy of response is a mark of this Gospel. These disciples owned nets (verse 19), and they had employees (‘hired men,’ verse 20), so they were people of rank. They gave up security and family to follow Christ and to devote themselves to his mission.

It is interesting to note how one of the first things Christ does is to recruit followers. Proclaiming the Good News and that the Kingdom of God is near is not a one-man show. Instead, it involves building up communities, and creating relationships that embody the Good News.

Fishing was carried out at night so that the freshly caught fish could be sold as soon as possible in the morning. So, being out at night – and smelling of fish – made fishing a disreputable occupation.

Christ sees Simon and Andrew at night, or just before dawn, as they are actively fishing. He then sees James and John after dawn – they have finished their night’s work and are in their boat, mending their nets.

The first four people Christ calls are engaged in a dirty and demanding occupation. Their friends and neighbours must have reacted with alarm and suspicion, and probably talked about how their response was breaking up their families and breaking down the social fabric of their community.

Are you finding your calling to follow Christ difficult when it comes to family relationships and maintaining your relationship with your community, with those you work with or those who are your neighbours?

Sometimes, like Jonah, do you feel like taking another journey, or just going half-way?

Mending the nets on a fishing boat in the harbour in Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I do not know which was a more difficult and demanding task: being a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, or being a Disciple of Christ … especially when the call comes from someone who has withdrawn to Galilee after the arrest of his cousin, the one who publicly baptised and acclaimed him, Saint John the Baptist.

Either way, the four first disciples were going to have no lazy day by the shore or the river bank, or as followers of Christ. Becoming ‘fishers of men,’ ‘fishing for people,’ is going to bring these Galilean fishers into a relationship not only with Christ, but with their families, with their neighbours, with the tax collectors, with Pharisees, with Sadducees and Zealots, with the powers of this world, with Gentiles, with the people who sat in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death.

Sometimes in the Church, we do not cast our nets far enough or deep enough. No wonder then that most of the time, when we pull in those nets, we find them empty.

There is a saying that fish come in three sizes, small ones, medium ones and the ones that got away.

As Christians, can we passively stand by the bank or on the shore, content with two sizes of fish. We are called to go after the one that others let get away, not just those who come to Church regularly, but their families, their neighbours, the tax collectors, the Pharisees, Sadducees and Zealots of our age, the powers of this world, the Gentiles, and especially with those people who sit in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death.

Time and again in the Gospels, the Kingdom of God is compared to a huge net cast over different numbers of people and species. We are the ones called to cast that net. But to do so we need to attend to our own discipline, endurance, and patience.

Being a Christian is not passive following of Christ. We cannot hang any sign outside our church doors saying: ‘Gone Fishin’.’ There is a sad and broken world out there that needs to hear about God’s unbounded and generous love.

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

(The Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, 21 January 2018.

Fishing boats on the quay at Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Penitential Kyries:

God be merciful to us and bless us,
and make his face to shine on us.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

May your ways be known on earth,
your saving power to all nations.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

You, Lord, have made known your salvation,
and reveal your justice in the sight of the nations.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
whose Son revealed in signs and miracles
the wonder of your saving presence:
Renew your people with your heavenly grace,
and in all our weakness
sustain us by your mighty power;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

Christ the Son be manifest to you,
that your lives may be a light to the world:

Reflections on the water at the Fish and Eels at Dobbs Weir, near Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire … we cannot hang any sign outside church doors saying: ‘Gone Fishin’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)