Saturday, 31 March 2018

‘Do not be alarmed; you are
looking for Jesus … he had
been raised; he is not here’

The Empty Tomb … a fresco in Saint John’s Monastery, Tolleshunt Knights, Essex (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Saturday 31 March 2018

Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick

10 p.m.:The Easter Vigil and the Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2)

Readings: Exodus 14: 10-31, 15: 20-21; Psalm 114; Romans 6: 3-11; Mark 16: 1-8.

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

In our Gospel reading this evening (Mark 16: 1-8), we are told that on Saturday night, after sundown, ‘when the sabbath was over,’ Mary Magdalene, a witness to Christ’s death and burial, and others buy spices to anoint Christ’s body. Because he died only hours before the Sabbath, there was no time to anoint it before he was buried. Buying spices on the Sabbath was permitted, but not aromatic oils and salves used for burial preparation.

Early on Sunday morning (‘the first day of the week,’ verse 2), they go to the tomb, wondering who will roll away the heavy disk-shaped ‘stone’ (verse 3) that has been used as a door. A tomb was cut out of the rock, and the stone ran in a track. But they find the tomb open (verse 4) and realise what the empty tomb means: ‘he has been raised’ (verse 6).

Inside the tomb, the ‘young man, dressed in a white robe’ (verse 5) is a heavenly messenger. He probably sits on a shelf intended for a body. It is the faithful women who first hear the Easter message.

The angel tells them to inform Saint Peter and the Disciples that Christ ‘is going ahead of’ them, and that he will appear to them in Galilee, just as he told them during his earthly ministry (verse 7). The women flee, seized with ‘terror and amazement’ (verse 8) and overcome with awe.

We are left in anticipation, waiting.

This waiting and anticipation is marked by terror and amazement at the end of this reading, and later in this chapter by disbelief. Twice we are told ‘they would not believe it’ (verse 11), ‘they did not believe it’ (verse 13).

The longer ending of Saint Mark’s Gospel then tells us that Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene, but the disciples would not believe them (verses 9-11). He then appears to two walking in the countryside, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Saint Luke’s Gospel (see Luke 24: 13-35). But when they go back and tell the rest, they still do not believe (verses 12-13).

Later in the day, the Risen Christ appears to the eleven remaining disciples, as they are sitting at the table, sharing a meal. Now, when they see him they believe Christ is Risen, a new beginning is dawning (verse 14).

The Living, Risen Christ is met at the table, at the shared meal, at the feast, at the banquet.

In our Easter Eucharist, our Easter Communion, this evening, be prepared for an encounter with the Living Christ, to meet the Risen Christ.

It is there the Disciples are gifted with a new sense of confidence, their faith is renewed, and they go out and they are given the courage and the commission to proclaim the good news everywhere (verse 20).

Christ is risen. Alleluia!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for the Eater Vigil on 31 March 2018

Mary Magdalene at Easter … a sculpture by Mary Grant at the west door of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Mark 16: 1-8 (NRSV):

1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

The Resurrection depicted in the Foley window in Saint Mary’s Church, Nenagh, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White (or Gold).

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter Day):

Almighty God,
through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
you have overcome death
and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
Grant that, as by your grace going before us
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you.
Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post Communion Prayer:

Living God,
for our redemption you gave your only-begotten Son
to the death of the cross,
and by his glorious resurrection
you have delivered us from the power of our enemy.
Grant us so to die daily unto sin,
that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

or:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

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

Hymns:

652, Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us.
258, Christ the Lord is risen again!
255, Christ is risen, Alleluia.

An Easter theme in a window in the gallery in Holmpatrick Church, Skerries, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

‘Very early on the first day of
the week, when the sun had
risen, they went to the tomb’

Mary Magdalene at Easter … a sculpture by Mary Grant at the west door of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Saturday 31 March 2018

Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale

8 p.m.: The Easter Vigil and the Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2)

Readings: Exodus 14: 10-31, 15: 20-21; Psalm 114; Romans 6: 3-11; Mark 16: 1-8.

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

In our Gospel reading this evening (Mark 16: 1-8), we are told that on Saturday night, after sundown, ‘when the sabbath was over,’ Mary Magdalene, a witness to Christ’s death and burial, and others buy spices to anoint Christ’s body. Because he died only hours before the Sabbath, there was no time to anoint it before he was buried. Buying spices on the Sabbath was permitted, but not aromatic oils and salves used for burial preparation.

Early on Sunday morning (‘the first day of the week,’ verse 2), they go to the tomb, wondering who will roll away the heavy disk-shaped ‘stone’ (verse 3) that has been used as a door. A tomb was cut out of the rock, and the stone ran in a track. But they find the tomb open (verse 4) and realise what the empty tomb means: ‘he has been raised’ (verse 6).

Inside the tomb, the ‘young man, dressed in a white robe’ (verse 5) is a heavenly messenger. He probably sits on a shelf intended for a body. It is the faithful women who first hear the Easter message.

The angel tells them to inform Saint Peter and the Disciples that Christ ‘is going ahead of’ them, and that he will appear to them in Galilee, just as he told them during his earthly ministry (verse 7). The women flee, seized with ‘terror and amazement’ (verse 8) and overcome with awe.

We are left in anticipation, waiting.

This waiting and anticipation is marked by terror and amazement at the end of this reading, and later in this chapter by disbelief. Twice we are told ‘they would not believe it’ (verse 11), ‘they did not believe it’ (verse 13).

The longer ending of Saint Mark’s Gospel then tells us that Christ first appeared to Mary Magdalene, but the disciples would not believe them (verses 9-11). He then appears to two walking in the countryside, like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus in Saint Luke’s Gospel (see Luke 24: 13-35). But when they go back and tell the rest, they still do not believe (verses 12-13).

Later in the day, the Risen Christ appears to the eleven remaining disciples, as they are sitting at the table, sharing a meal. Now, when they see him they believe Christ is Risen, a new beginning is dawning (verse 14).

The Living, Risen Christ is met at the table, at the shared meal, at the feast, at the banquet.

In our Easter Eucharist, our Easter Communion, this evening, be prepared for an encounter with the Living Christ, to meet the Risen Christ.

It is there the Disciples are gifted with a new sense of confidence, their faith is renewed, and they go out and they are given the courage and the commission to proclaim the good news everywhere (verse 20).

Christ is risen. Alleluia!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for the Eater Vigil on 31 March 2018

The Empty Tomb … a fresco in Saint John’s Monastery, Tolleshunt Knights, Essex (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 16: 1-8 (NRSV):

1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ 4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ 8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

An Easter theme in a window in the gallery in Holmpatrick Church, Skerries, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White (or Gold).

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter Day):

Almighty God,
through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ
you have overcome death
and opened to us the gate of everlasting life:
Grant that, as by your grace going before us
you put into our minds good desires,
so by your continual help we may bring them to good effect;
through Jesus Christ our risen Lord
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you.
Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

Post Communion Prayer:

Living God,
for our redemption you gave your only-begotten Son
to the death of the cross,
and by his glorious resurrection
you have delivered us from the power of our enemy.
Grant us so to die daily unto sin,
that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his risen life;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

The God of peace,
who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus
that great shepherd of the sheep,
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
make you perfect in every good work to do his will,
working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight:

or:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

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

Hymns:

652, Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us.
258, Christ the Lord is risen again!
255, Christ is risen, Alleluia.

The Resurrection depicted in the Foley window in Saint Mary’s Church, Nenagh, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Easter 2018 in the Rathkeale and
Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes

The Empty Tomb … an Easter fresco in Saint John’s Monastery, Tolleshunt Knights, Essex (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saturday 31 March 2018, Easter Eve:

8 p.m.: The Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

10 p.m.: The Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Castletown Church, Kilcornan.

Readings: Exodus 14: 10-31, 15: 20-21; Psalm 114; Romans 6: 3-11; Mark 16: 1-8.

Hymns: 652; 258; 255.

Easter Day:

Sunday 1 April 2018, Easter Day:

9.30 a.m.: The Easter Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

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

Readings: Acts 10: 34-43; Psalm 118: 1-2, 14-24; I Corinthians 15: 1-11; John 20: 1-18.

Hymns: 286, 78, 263.

Sunday 8 April (Easter 2):

9.30 a.m.: The Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Castletown Church (with the Revd Joe Hardy).

11.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale (with the Revd Joe Hardy).

Readings: Acts 4: 32-35; Psalm 133; I John 1: 1 to 2: 2; John 20: 19-31.

Hymns: 646, 239, 307.

Wednesday 11 April (The Annunciation):

Because 25 March was Palm Sunday, the Feast of the Annunciation has been transferred in the Church Calendar to the week after Easter Week.

The Feast of the Annunciation will be marked with a celebration of the Eucharist at 11 a.m. on Wednesday 11 April in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Readings: Isaiah 7: 10-14; Psalm 40: 5-10; Hebrews 10: 4-10; Luke 1: 26-38.

Hymn: 704.

Sunday 15 April (Easter 3):

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, followed by the Kilnaughtin Easter Vestry.

Readings: Acts 3: 12-19; Psalm 4; I John 3: 1-7; Luke 24: 36b-48.

Hymns: 288; 338; 264 (Askeaton) / 415 (Kilnaughtin).

Sunday 22 April (Easter 4):

9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Castletown;

11.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

Readings: Acts 4: 5-12; Psalm 23; I John 3: 16-24; John 10: 11-18.

Hymns: 21, 515, 20.

Sunday 29 April (Easter 5):

Joint Group Service for the Fifth Sunday in the Month:

11 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist (Holy Communion 2), Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton.

Readings: Acts 8: 26-40; Psalm 22: 25-31; I John 4: 7-21; John 15: 1-18.

Hymn: 39, 634, 468.

Easter Vestries:

Castletown and Askeaton Easter Vestries: Thursday 12 April, 8 p.m., the Rectory, Askeaton.

Kilnaughtin (Tarbert) Easter Vestry: Sunday 15 April, after the Sunday service.

Rathkeale Easter Vestry: Monday 16 April, 8 p.m., the Rectory, Askeaton.

Following the Stations
of the Cross in Lent 46:
Lichfield 14: Entombed

‘Entombed’ … Station 14 in the Chapel at Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, Jesus is placed in the tomb (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the last day in Lent. There are no Liturgical Provisions in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland. There is no collect of the day. There is no celebration of the Eucharist. The altar has been stripped bare. There is nothing to celebrate.

But this is not the end.

Later this evening, I am celebrating the first Eucharist of Easter in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale (8 p.m.) and in Castletown Church, Co Limerick (10 p.m.).

Throughout Lent, my meditations each morning have been guided by three sets of Stations of the Cross that I have found either inspiring or unusual. These 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.

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 opened in Lichfield Cathedral last month and continues until the end of Lent.

In my meditations, I am drawing on portions 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 traditional, some are from the Book of Common Prayer, and other meditations and prayers are by Canon Frank Logue and the Revd Victoria Logue of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia.

Lichfield 14: ‘Entombed’

For these final two weeks in Lent, I have been looking at the 14 Stations of the Cross in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield. Since I was a 19-year-old, I have regarded this chapel as my spiritual home.

Station XIV in the Stations of the Cross traditionally description such as ‘Jesus is placed in the tomb.’ But at Station XIV in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, instead of a traditional full description, there is one simple word in plain capital letters: ‘Entombed.’

In this station, Nicodemus who came to see Christ under the cover of darkness, now prepares to bury his body before darkness falls.

Nicodemus who had questions and doubts, now holds the Body of Christ in his hands.

Nicodemus has become a full communicant member of the Church.

In death he knows what is meant by new birth.

‘The Body of Christ given for you.’

‘Amen.’

But this is not the end.

Early on Sunday morning, before dawn on the first day of the week, the women come to the tomb with spices they have prepared. But they find the stone has been rolled away from the tomb, there is no body, and two men in dazzling clothes ask them ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen’ (Luke 24: 5). There is a similar greeting in the other two Synoptic Gospels: ‘He is not here; for he has been raised’ (Matthew 28: 6); ‘He has been raised; he is not here’ (Mark 16: 6).

At the end of my meditations and prayers at the Stations of the Cross, I invite you to turn to John Piper’s East Window, above the Altar in the Chapel in Saint John’s Hospital.

Christ is stretched out in the shape of the Cross, still wrapped in his grave clothes, his hands and feet still pierced with the marks of the nails. But this is the Risen Christ. His eyes are open, and on either side are the angels who announce the Resurrection on Easter morning.

Behind Christ, the Cross is empty. This Cross is in the shape of Saint Chad’s Cross on the coat-of-arms of the Diocese of Lichfield.

Between Christ’s arms and the arms of the Cross, we can see the waning moon on the left and the rising sun on the right. Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

In the four corners of the window we see the symbols of the Four Evangelists: we have Good News to proclaim.

Christ in Majesty ... John Piper’s window in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

From Stabat Mater:

Jesus Christ, crucified, have mercy on us!
By the cross with thee to stay,
There with thee to weep and pray,
Is all I ask of thee to give.

Meditation:

Cold stone. A shroud. Darkness.
Sabbath rest at last.
The disciples gather in fear.
A grain of wheat waits for spring.

Prayers:

Alpha and Omega, you are beginning and end. In death you conquered death so that even at the grave we praise your name. Help us to find you as the way, the truth and the life and to lead others out of darkness and into your light. This we pray in the name of Jesus, our crucified Lord, the King of Glory, the King of Peace. Amen.

We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you.
Because by your holy cross You have redeemed the world.

Jesus, your body is prepared for burial. Joseph gave you his own tomb. He laid your body there and rolled a large stone in front of it, then went home. What a sad day it has been for so many people.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honour of your Name. Amen.

A prayer before leaving this station:

Holy God,
Holy and mighty Holy immortal one,
Have mercy on us.

But this is not the end.

Later this evening, I am celebrating the first Eucharist of Easter in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale (8 p.m.) and in Castletown Church, Co Limerick (10 p.m.). Tomorrow morning, I preside and preach at the Easter Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (9.30 a.m.) and in Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert, Co Limerick (11.30 a.m.).

Yesterday’s reflection

Series concluded … but this not the end

Christ in the tomb … an image at Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)