Wednesday, 14 February 2018

‘A reminder that true love is costly,
painful and usually entails sacrifice’

Hearts and gifts for Saint Valentine’s Day in a shopfront in Askeaton this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Ash Wednesday, 14 February 2018:

8 p.m.: Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton:

Ash Wednesday Eucharist (Holy Communion 2) and the traditional imposition of ashes.


Readings: Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51: 1-18; II Corinthians 5: 20b to 6: 10; Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21.

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

Today, Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, is a day that is often marked by the spiritual disciplines of fasting, abstinence from meat, and repentance. And so, the Book of Common Prayer designates Ash Wednesday as a day of ‘special observance’ and a day of ‘discipline and self-denial.’

But I imagine that many people are marking today, instead as Saint Valentine’s Day. I see red hearts and gifts wrapped in red ribbons and bows in the windows of many shops in Askeaton this week, reminding people not to forget their loved ones today.

Ever since the commercial lure of Christmas came to an end, restaurants have been reminding people since early January that they needed to book well in advance if they wanted a table for two and an intimate dinner among the crowds this evening.

In the G2 section of The Guardian on Monday [12 February 2018], the columnist Rhik Samadder declared he was excited that this year Saint Valentine’s Day falls on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, ‘a time for repentance, self-examination and fasting.’

And he wrote: ‘There must be some people who will try to observe both. How are they going to do it? Alcohol-free bubbles? A bright red What Would Jesus Do bracelet? … It promises to throw into relief other facets of love, the austere, punishing and holy. Relationships could crack under the pressure. The whole thing promises to be very confusing, as any day dedicated to such a complicated emotion should be.’

But Father Alec Mitchell, the Anglican Priest-in-Charge of the Parish of Saint Anne in Denton in the Diocese of Manchester, rose to the challenge with a letter to the editor yesterday [13 February 2018], saying it is not only a chance to smuggle heart-shaped crosses of ash on to the foreheads of the faithful but also ‘a reminder that true love is costly, painful and usually entails sacrifice.’

That is true of true love if we are blessed enough at some stage in our life to celebrate on Saint Valentine’s Day. But there is even a greater truth in it on Ash Wednesday as we begin to contemplate the true love of God for us that is costly, painful and entails sacrifice expressed in the life, passion, death and resurrection of Christ.

That true love lasts longer than a card or Saint Valentine’s Day or a dinner in a crowded restaurant that we try to pretend is intimate and romantic.

God’s love for us is costly and sacrificial, it is truly passionate. And when the flowers fad and the roses turn to ashes, God’s love for you continues to live, and burns with ardour eternally.

And so, may all our thoughts, words and deeds be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.

Preparing for Saint Valentine’s Day on Ash Wednesday … a restaurant in Lichfield invites bookings for this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Liturgical resources:

The traditional Ash Wednesday invitation or exhortation in the Book of Common Prayer begins:

‘Brothers and sisters in Christ: since early days Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord's passion and resurrection. It became the custom of the Church to prepare for this by a season of penitence and fasting.

‘At first this season of Lent was observed by those who were preparing for baptism at Easter and by those who were to be restored to the Church’s fellowship from which they had been separated through sin. In the course of time, the Church came to recognise that, by a careful keeping of these days, all Christians might take to heart the call to repentance and the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel, and so grow in faith and in devotion to our Lord.

‘I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Lord to observe a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.’

Silence may be kept.

Then the priest says:


Let us pray for grace to keep Lent faithfully.

Almighty and everlasting God
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent.
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts,
that we may be truly sorry for our sins
and obtain from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Penitential Kyries:

In the wilderness we find your grace:
you love us with an everlasting love.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

There is none but you to uphold our cause;
our sin cries out and our guilt is great.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed;
Restore us and we shall know your joy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Imposition of Ashes

The imposition of ashes follows; the president says:

Dear friends in Christ,
I invite you to receive these ashes
as a sign of the spirit of penitence with which we shall keep this season of Lent.

God our Father,
you create us from the dust of the earth:
grant that these ashes may be for us
a sign of our penitence
and a symbol of our mortality;
for it is by your grace alone
that we receive eternal life
in Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

The president and people receive the imposition of ashes, the president first receiving the imposition from another minister. At the imposition the minister says to each person:

Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.

During the imposition silence may be kept.

This prayer may be said by the president:

God our Father,
the strength of all who put their trust in you,
mercifully accept our prayers;
and because, in our weakness,
we can do nothing good without you,
grant us the help of your grace,
that in keeping your commandments
we may please you, both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Intercessions (Common Worship):

With confidence and trust let us pray to the Father.
For the one holy catholic and apostolic Church …
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For the mission of the Church,
that in faithful witness it may preach the gospel
to the ends of the earth,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For those preparing for baptism [and confirmation] …
and for their teachers and sponsors,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For peace in the world …
that a spirit of respect and reconciliation may grow
among nations and peoples,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For the poor, the persecuted, the sick, and all who suffer …
for refugees, prisoners, and all in danger;
that they may be relieved and protected,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For those whom we have injured or offended,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

For grace to amend our lives and to further the reign of God,
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

In communion with all those who have walked in the way of holiness …
let us pray to the Father.
Lord of compassion,
in your mercy hear us.

God our Father,
in your love and goodness
you have taught us to come close to you in penitence
with prayer, fasting and generosity;
accept our Lenten discipline,
and when we fall by our weakness,
raise us up by your unfailing mercy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Introduction to the Peace:

Being justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5: 1, 2)

Preface:

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who was in every way tempted as we are yet did not sin;
by whose grace we are able to overcome all our temptations:

The invitation to Communion begins:

Most merciful Lord,
your love compels us to come in.
Our hands were unclean, our hearts were unprepared;
we were not fit even to eat the crumbs from under your table.
But you, Lord, are the God of our salvation,
and share your bread with sinners.
So cleanse and feed us with the precious body and blood of your Son,
That he may live in us and we in him;
and that we, with the whole company of Christ,
may sit and eat in your kingdom. Amen.

Post Communion Prayer:

Almighty God,
you have given your only Son to be for us
both a sacrifice for sin and also an example of godly life:
Give us grace
that we may always most thankfully receive
these his inestimable gifts,
and also daily endeavour ourselves
to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Blessing:

Christ give you grace to grow in holiness,
to deny yourselves,
and to take up your cross and follow him:

Hymns:

535: Judge eternal, throned in splendour.

586: Just as I am, thine own to be.

Saint Valentine’s Day on Ash Wednesday … hearts and gifts for Saint Valentine’s Day in a shopfront in Askeaton this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Announcements:

This service is followed by tea/coffee in the Rectory.

Tomorrow (Thursday 15 February 2018):

Parish study group, ‘All Things Are Possible’ (USPG), The Rectory, Askeaton.

Sunday 18 February 2018, the First Sunday in Lent:

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

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

On this Sunday, the Dean of Limerick, the Very Revd Niall Sloane, is presiding and preaching at both services, while Canon Patrick Comerford is presiding and preaching at the Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, as the Canon Precentor.

Tuesday 20 February 2018:

7.30 p.m.:
Askeaton and Castletown select vestries, meeting in The Rectory, Askeaton.

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 2018:
1, Introduction

The Stations of the Cross in the Franciscan graveyard at Gormanston College, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford; click on images for full-screen view)

Patrick Comerford

Each morning in Lent, as part of my meditations and reflections for Lent this year, I am being guided by the Stations of the Cross from three locations.

The idea for this series of morning Lenten meditations came from reading about Peter Walker’s new exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ inspired by the Stations of the Cross, which opens in Lichfield Cathedral today, Ash Wednesday, and continues throughout Lent.

The Stations of the Cross or the Way of the Cross, or the Via Crucis, are a series of images depicting Christ on the day of his crucifixion, with accompanying prayers. I am praying each morning in Lent using images from three sets of Stations of the Cross that tell the story of Christ’s Passion, his journey to Calvary and his Crucifixion.

I first became aware of the Stations of the Cross as an expression of Franciscan spirituality while I was at school in Gormanston, Co Meath, in the 1960s. The Stations of the Cross grew out of imitations of Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, believed to be the actual path Christ walked on his way to Calvary. The stations offer a spiritual pilgrimage through contemplating the Passion of Christ.

Normally, a series of 14 images are arranged in numbered order along a path and we are invited to move from image to image, in sequence, stopping at each station to say selected prayers and reflections.

The style, form, and ordering of the stations varies widely. The typical stations are small plaques with reliefs or paintings placed around a church nave. Modern minimalist stations can be simple crosses with nothing more than a numeral.

Occasionally people may follow the Stations of the Cross without any images to facilitate the journey – this happens when the Pope leads the Stations of the Cross around the Colosseum in Rome on Good Friday.

The Stations of the Cross originated in pilgrimages to Jerusalem and a desire by pilgrims to follow Via Dolorosa.

After the Franciscans were allowed back into Jerusalem by the Muslims, Saint Francis of Assisi staged a re-enactment of the Passion of Christ. In 1217, he also founded the Custody of the Holy Land to guard and promote the devotion to holy places. Eventually, the Franciscans were recognised as the Custodians of Holy Places by Pope Clement VI in 1342.

The earliest use of the word stations to describe the customary stopping places along the Via Sacra at Jerusalem is found in an account by William Wey, an English pilgrim who visited the Holy Land in the mid-15th century. He describes pilgrims following the footsteps of Christ to the cross.

In the 15th and 16th centuries the Franciscans began to build a series of outdoor shrines in Europe to duplicate their counterparts in the Holy Land. The number of stations was often just seven but they could vary between seven and 30. They were often placed in small buildings along the approach to a church.

In 1686, Pope Innocent XI gave the Franciscans the right to erect stations within their churches. In 1731, Pope Clement XII extended to all churches the right to have the stations, provided a Franciscan priest erected them with the consent of the local bishop. At the same time, the number of stations was fixed at 14.

In 1857, the Roman Catholic bishops of England were allowed to erect the stations by themselves, without the intervention of a Franciscan priest, and in 1862 this right was extended to bishops throughout the church.

The standard set of 14 Stations from the 17th to 20th centuries has depicted these scenes:

1, Jesus is condemned to death

2, Jesus takes up his Cross
3, Jesus falls the first time
4, Jesus meets his Mother Mary
5, Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross
6, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
7, Jesus falls a second time
8, Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem
9, Jesus falls a third time
10, Jesus is stripped of his garments
11, Jesus is nailed to the Cross
12, Jesus dies on the cross
13, Jesus is taken down from the Cross
14, Jesus is laid in the tomb

Although not traditionally part of the Stations, the Resurrection is sometimes included as a Station 15.

Only eight of the 14 traditional Stations of the Cross have scriptural foundations. Stations 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9 are not recorded in the Gospels, and the story of Veronica wiping the face Christ is not known before mediaeval times.

Station 13, representing Christ’s body being taken down from the Cross and laid in the arms of his mother Mary, seems to embellish the Gospel accounts, which record Joseph of Arimathea taking Christ down from the Cross and burying him.

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning are inspired by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. They are the stations in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford, at Saint John’s Well on a mountainside near Millstreet, Co Cork, and in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield.

In my meditations, I plan to draw on a portion of the Stabat Mater, the 12th century hymn of the Crucifixion (‘At the cross her station keeping’) attributed to the Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi. Some prayers are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are written by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue. He is Canon to the Ordinary in the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia, assisting the Bishop of Georgia in overseeing the clergy and congregations across coastal and south Georgia.

‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ Peter Walker’s exhibition inspired by the Stations of the Cross, opens in Lichfield Cathedral today and continues throughout Lent

Meanwhile, throughout Lent, Lichfield Cathedral is hosting an exhibition, ‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ which is the first part of a two-year creative journey that explores a contemporary interpretation of Christ’s journey to the Cross.

Through a series of diverse approaches, the exhibition gives a new insight into the artist’s creative process, leading the viewer through the Stations of the Cross, and the artistic journey of re-imagining these moments in contemporary art.

In working closely with the Dean of Lichfield, the Cathedral’s Artist-in-Residence Peter Walker offers a rare opportunity to see behind the artist’s studio wall. The exhibition is inspired by paintings and sculpture of the Renaissance, and explores how the way we consume and experience art has changed and developed significantly since the 15th and 16th centuries.

This collection of sketches, studies and experimental adoptions, original painting, sculpture and digital artwork, offers the opportunity to experience and explore profound human moments shoulder to shoulder with the artist.

‘This exposition of the Stations of the Cross presents an opportunity for all of us to bring the most difficult human experiences into dialogue with the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. The Stations help us see the depths of God’s love for the world: how Christ absorbs human hatred and evil, bearing its colossal weight, to give us a new birth in his peace and love,’ says the Dean of Lichfield, the Very Revd Adrian Dorber.

‘Imagining the Crucifixion,’ a contemporary interpretation of the Stations of the Cross involving sculpture, painting and drawing, is at Lichfield Cathedral from today [14 February 2018] until Easter Monday [2 April 2018]. Entry is free.

Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tomorrow: 2, Introducing the Stations of the Cross in Saint Mel’s Cathedral, Longford