Sunday, 1 April 2018

Saint Ethelburga’s, the London church
bombed by the IRA, now works for peace

The Church of Saint Ethelburga-the-Virgin on Bishopsgate sits in the shadows of the Gherkin and the other tall buildings in the City of London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Despite the moves towards Brexit, the City of London remains one of the world’s financial capitals, displaying money, power and wealth and with some of some of Europe’s tallest towers – 99 Bishopsgate, Tower 42 and 30 St Mary Axe. The City of London is one place.

One of the most recognisable modern buildings in the City, because of its unusual, innovative, shape, is known as the Gherkin. This is the popular name of 30 St Mary Axe, previously the Swiss Re Building. It has become a major feature of London’s skyline and is one of the city’s most widely recognised examples of contemporary architecture.

The Gherkin was completed in December 2003, opened in April 2004, and is 41 storeys or 180 metres high. It stands on the sites of the former Baltic Exchange and Chamber of Shipping, both extensively damaged by an IRA bomb in 1992. The original plan was for a 92-storey Millennium Tower, but when these plans were dropped Norman Foster and the Arup Group designed the Gherkin.

Saint Ethelburga’s is one of the few surviving mediaeval churches in the City of London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Tucked beneath the shadows of the Gherkin and the other tall buildings of the City, Saint Ethelburga-the-Virgin within Bishopsgate is one of the few surviving mediaeval churches in the City of London. The church projects right onto the footpath on Bishopsgate and is near Liverpool Street station.

The foundation date of the church is unknown, but a church dedicated to Saint Ethelburga has stood on this site for at least nine centuries. This one of the few mediaeval City churches not destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666, and it continued to stand during the Blitz and World II.

But 25 years ago, on 24 April 1993, a massive IRA lorry bomb exploded in Bishopsgate, severely damaging the church and devastating much of the surrounding area.

In the quarter century since then, the church has been rebuilt and restored, and it is now a Centre for Reconciliation and Peace.

A compassionate abbess

Saint Ethelburga was the seventh century Abbess of Barking (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Ethelburga, who gives her name to the church, the seventh century Abbess of the great Benedictine Abbey in Barking, Essex. This was one of the first religious houses for women in England and was founded by her brother, Saint Erkenwald.

She is thought to have been born at Stallingborough near Grimsby. When she refused to marry Edwin, the pagan King of Northumbria, she was banished to a nunnery. Later, she was known for her heroic work in caring for the sick during an outbreak of the plague in 664. She is said to have had a vision of a light ‘brighter than the sun at noonday’ that inspired her and her community to care for people in works of great compassion. The plague eventually killed her and most of her community.

The Venerable Bede said: ‘Her life is known to have been such that no person who knew her ought to question but that the heavenly kingdom was opened to her, when she departed this world.’

Bishop Erkenwald later became Bishop of London and gave his name to Bishopsgate, and he died in 693. The church may have been founded at this time. But its foundation date is unknown, and it was first recorded only in 1250 as the Church of Saint Adelburga-the-Virgin.

A tiny parish

A mediaeval piscina survives in Saint Ethelburga’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The church was rebuilt in the 15th century, around 1411-1450, and some of that fabric remains, including the south arcade.

The late mediaeval parish covered just three acres (12,000 sq m). To generate extra income for the parish in the 16th century, a wooden porch was built outside to house two shops, perhaps an early example of social enterprise in the church.

Saint Ethelburga’s long predates the stock markets and international banking in the City (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

John Larke, Rector of Saint Ethelburga’s from 1504 to 1542, was a friend of the ‘man for all seasons,’ Thomas More. When he refused to subscribe to the Act of Supremacy, he was martyred on Tyburn Hill on 7 March 1544 – the only priest to suffer this way in the reign of Henry VIII.

The explorer Henry Hudson and the crew in the Half Moon took Communion here in 1607 before setting sail in search of the North-West Passage and a route by the North Pole to East Asia. At the time, the Rector was William Bedwell (1561-1632), a Cambridge scholar who was learned in Arabic and mathematics. He was a member of the committee that translated the first 12 books in the King James or Authorised Version of the Bible.

During Puritan times, the suffix ‘-the-Virgin’ in the dedication of the church was removed, perhaps in the mistaken belief that this referred to the Virgin Mary. But it was restored after the restoration of Charles II, and the church was one of the few mediaeval City churches to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666. A weathervane was added in 1671, and a small square bell turret in 1775.

The 19th-century font is inscribed with the longest-known palindrome in Greek (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The 19th-century font is inscribed with the longest-known palindrome in Greek: Νιψον Ανομηματα Μη Μοναν Οψιν, ‘Wash the sins, not only the face.’ The phrase is attributed to Saint Gregory of Nazianzus and was inscribed on a font outside the great church of Aghia Sophia in Constantinople.

The Revd John Medows Rodwell (1808-1900), who was rector throughout the Victorian era (1843-1900), remained a friend of Charles Darwin from their student days together in Cambridge. He made the first reliable translation of the Qur’an into English (1861) and is still highly regarded as a non-Muslim Islamic scholar.

Past rectors of Saint Ethelburga’s are remembered in some of the surviving plaques (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The church furnishings were changed at least twice in the 19th century, reflecting changing styles of worship and liturgy. The church was re-ordered once again in 1912 by Sir Ninian Comper, but none of his furnishings has survived.

The church underwent major changes when Bishopsgate was widened in 1932. The 16th century shops were demolished, and the porch was dismantled, revealing the façade of the church for the first time in centuries.

Saint Ethelburga’s gained notoriety in the 1930s as one of the few churches in which divorced people could remarry, in defiance of the Bishop of London. The Revd Dr William Frederick Geikie-Cobb (1857-1941), a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, was rector from 1900 to 1941. His controversial weddings including a blessing in 1938 for the singers Webster Booth and Anne Ziegler (Irené Frances Eastwood).

The church suffered minor bomb damage during the Blitz in World War II. It was designated a Grade I listed building in 1950 and was restored in 1953. But in 1954, the church lost its parish to Saint Helen’s Bishopsgate and became a ‘Guild Church’ until 1991, when it became a ‘Chapel-of-Ease’ to Saint Helen’s and was used for storage.

Destructive bomb

‘Speraverunt contra spem, they hoped against hope’ … the church was saved after a sustained public outcry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

On Saturday 24 April 1993, the South Armagh Brigade of the IRA detonated a bomb in a tipper truck loaded with almost a ton of fertiliser and parked outside Saint Ethelburga’s. A coded warning was sent from a telephone box in Forkhill, near Newry, at 9.17 and the bomb exploded at 10.30, sending a high column of smoke above the City.

The bomb targeted the surrounding commercial buildings, one person was killed, the photographer Edward Henty, and about 40 people were injured.

The damage to the commercial buildings in Bishopsgate, including the NatWest tower – then Europe’s tallest building and now known as Tower 42 – was massive and eventually 500 tonnes of broken glass were removed. The damage cost £350 million to repair, and the pay-outs contributed to a crisis in the insurance industry, including the near-collapse of Lloyd’s of London.

About 70% of Saint Ethelburga’s was destroyed. But the church was not insured, and most of the original fittings were destroyed by the bomb, as well as the work of Ninian Comper.

There was considerable debate about the future of the ruins of Saint Ethelburga’s, with one faction in the Church of England proposing to demolish the church. But, after a sustained public outcry, it was rebuilt, though much changed internally.

The tiny interior comprises a nave and aisle divided by an arcade. The mediaeval piscina and the arcades survived, along with the 18th century bell which was rehung.

The front of the church was restored using 70% of the original wood and stone, the 1671 weathervane was put back in place, and Helen Whittaker designed a new stained-glass window depicting Saint Ethelburga, using fragments from an 1878 window. A new altar and lectern were made by Julian Humphries, using ancient timbers from the previous organ loft.

The rebuilt church was renamed and was reopened by Prince Charles, and Saint Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace began its work in 2002.

Building for the future

The Peace Garden was designed by Sylvia Crawford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Today Saint Ethelburga’s is a ‘maker of peacemakers.’ It inspires and equips people from all backgrounds to become peacebuilders in their own lives and communities, building relationships across divisions of conflict, culture and religion, creating safe space for conversations and inquiry, increasing understanding and inspiring people to take action in their own communities.

The centre values listening, reflection, honouring diversity, self-responsibility and non-violence. Over 8,000 people a year take part in its programmes and workshops.

The Peace Garden leads into the Tent, a unique meeting place designed by Professor Keith Critchlow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The current work includes a multi-faith conflict resilience programme, bringing together the North and South Sudanese diaspora communities in London, and using narrative and personal story to build empathy between people with different backgrounds.

The centre also works with building empathy with refugees and re-awakening the sacred in bringing a deeper sense of meaning to the earth, environment, leadership, economics and business.

Today Saint Ethelburga’s is a ‘maker of peacemakers’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Ethelburga’s also runs an MA in reconciliation through Winchester University, a six-month leadership training programme for interfaith activists, and a three-day course in conflict coaching. There are also programmes involving cultural exchange work, mentoring young adults, developing social action leadership roles and working with social enterprise.

In the calendar of the Church of England, Saint Ethelburga’s feast day is on 11 October and the church holds a service around that time to commemorate her life. She epitomises a strong woman who exemplifies the virtues of leadership and commitment to social action, even to the point of self-sacrifice, that are encouraged in the centre’s programmes.

The centre values listening, reflection, honouring diversity, self-responsibility and non-violence (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Saint Ethelburga’s runs courses in reconciliation, interfaith leadership and conflict coaching (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Every year, the centre organises the Ethelburga Walk, a 14 km walk from Barking Abbey to Saint Ethelburga’s Centre.

When Saint Ethelburga’s was rebuilt in the mid-15th century, it was the tallest building in Bishopsgate. Now it is one of the smallest buildings on the street, and its diminutive mediaeval façade is dwarfed by the modern steel and glass structures around it, including the Gherkin and the tower at 99 Bishopsgate.

But this church was here long before the stock markets and international banking arrived in the City. Saint Ethelburga’s represents not only the resilience of faith in the face of violence, but the power of faith in the modern world, and its new mission engages with some of the most pressing needs of today’s world.

‘The Story of Sand’ by Ali Raza deals with the Anfal Genocide in South Kurdistan and northern Iraq … he studied at the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

The programmes at Saint Ethelburga’s include international reconciliation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

This feature was first published in the April 2018 editions of the ‘Church Review’ (Dublin and Glendalough) and the ‘Diocesan Magazine’ (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory).

Saint Ethelburga’s new mission engages with some of the most pressing needs of today’s world (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Mary Magdalene went and announced
to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’

The Resurrection … a stained glass window in Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 1 April 2018, Easter Day:

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.

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

Early on the Sunday morning (‘the first day of the week’) after the Crucifixion, before dawn, Mary Magdalene, who has been a witness to Christ’s death and burial, comes to the tomb and finds that the stone has been rolled away.

Initially it seems she is on her own, for she alone is named. But later she describes her experiences using the word ‘we,’ which indicates she was with other women.

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, these women are known as the Holy Myrrh-bearers (Μυροφόροι). The Myrrh-bearers are traditionally listed as: Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Joses, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, Martha of Bethany, sister of Lazarus, Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus, Joanna, the wife of Chuza the steward of Herod Antipas, and Salome, the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and Susanna, although it is generally said that there are other Myrrh-bearers whose names are not known.

Mary and these women run to tell Saint Peter and the other disciple – presumably Saint John the Evangelist – that they suspect someone has removed Christ’s body. The ‘other disciple’ may have been younger and fitter, for he outruns Saint Peter. The tidy way the linen wrappings and the shroud have been folded or rolled up shows that the body has not been stolen. They believe, yet they do not understand; they return home without any explanations.

But Mary still thinks Christ’s body has been removed or stolen, and she returns to the grave. In her grief, she sees ‘two angels in white’ sitting where the body had been lying, one at the head, and one at the feet. They speak to her and then she turns around sees Christ, but only recognises him when he calls her by name.

Saint Peter and Saint John have returned without seeing the Risen Lord. It is left to Mary to tell the Disciples that she has seen the Lord. Mary Magdalene is the first witness of the Resurrection.

All four Gospels are unanimous in telling us that the women are the earliest witnesses to the Risen Christ. In Saint John’s Gospel, the Risen Christ sends Mary Magdalene to tell the other disciples what she had seen. Mary becomes the apostle to the apostles.

The word apostle comes from the Greek ἀπόστολος (apóstólos), formed from the prefix ἀπό- (apó-, ‘from’) and the root στέλλω (stéllō, ‘I send,’ ‘I depart’). So, the Greek word ἀπόστολος (apóstolos) or apostle means one sent.

In addition, at the end of the reading (verse 18), Mary comes announcing what she has seen. The word used here (ἀγγέλλουσα, angéllousa) is from the word that gives us the Annunciation, the proclamation of the good news, the proclamation of the Gospel (Εὐαγγέλιον, Evangélion). Mary, in her proclamation of the Gospel of the Resurrection, is not only the apostle to the apostles, but she is also the first of the evangelists.

In Saint John’s Gospel, when Mary first sees Christ, she does not recognise him. In this reading, the Greek is regularly phrased in the present tense: Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb (verse 1), she sees (verse 1), she runs, she comes, and she says (verse 2); John sees (verse 5), Simon Peter then comes, and he sees (verse 6); Mary sees the two angels (verse 12), they say to her and she says to them that she does not know (verse 13); she then sees Jesus (verse 14); Jesus says to her (verse 15, and again verses 16 and 17) – notice this is three times in all; and she then comes announcing what she has seen and heard.

The language is constantly punctuated with the word ‘and,’ giving it a rapid, fast-moving pace, rather like the pace in Saint Mark’s Gospel. This is a present, real, living experience for all involved, and not one single episode that be relegated to the past.

The Risen Christ does things he did not do before: he appears in locked rooms, there is something different about his appearance, his friends do not realise immediately who he is. This is the same Jesus, but something has changed.

Why does Jesus tell Mary: ‘Do not hold onto me’ (Μή μου ἅπτου, Noli me tangere)?

How do we recognise new life in the Risen Christ?

How do we understand the invitation from the Risen Christ to feast with him?

When we accept the new life Christ offers, how does our vision change?

Where do we see the presence of the Risen Christ?

Do we see his presence in the people and places we like and that please us?

Can we see him in the people we do not like and in the situations we find challenging? – the hungry child, the fleeing refugee, the begging person on the street, the homeless addict sleeping on the street or in the doorway?

Is my heart changed by the Risen Christ?

Where do I see the broken and bruised Body of Christ needing restoration and Resurrection?

Do I know him in the word he speaks to me and in the breaking of the bread?

Is the presence of the Risen Christ a living experience for us this morning?

Let Easter be an every-morning, every-day, living experience for us.

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

‘Noli me Tangere’, by Mikhail Damaskinos, ca 1585-1591, in the Museum of Christian Art in the Church of Saint Catherine of Sinai in Iraklion, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for Eater Day, 1 April 2018

John 20: 1-18 (NRSV):

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14 When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.15 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”.’ 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

The women at the tomb … a stained glass window in Saint Ann’s Church, 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!

‘Noli me tangere’ ... a Resurrection image in a stained glass window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

286, The strife is o’er, the battle done
78, This is the day that the Lord has made
263, Crown him with many crowns

Early on the first day of the week … Mary Magdalene came to the tomb (John 20: 1) – a window in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

‘They have taken the Lord out
of the tomb, and we do not
know where they have laid him’

‘Noli me Tangere’, by Mikhail Damaskinos, ca 1585-1591, in the Museum of Christian Art in the Church of Saint Catherine of Sinai in Iraklion, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

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.

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

Early on the Sunday morning (‘the first day of the week’) after the Crucifixion, before dawn, Mary Magdalene, who has been a witness to Christ’s death and burial, comes to the tomb and finds that the stone has been rolled away.

Initially it seems she is on her own, for she alone is named. But later she describes her experiences using the word ‘we,’ which indicates she was with other women.

In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, these women are known as the Holy Myrrh-bearers (Μυροφόροι). The Myrrh-bearers are traditionally listed as: Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James and Joses, Mary, the wife of Cleopas, Martha of Bethany, sister of Lazarus, Mary of Bethany, sister of Lazarus, Joanna, the wife of Chuza the steward of Herod Antipas, and Salome, the mother of James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and Susanna, although it is generally said that there are other Myrrh-bearers whose names are not known.

Mary and these women run to tell Saint Peter and the other disciple – presumably Saint John the Evangelist – that they suspect someone has removed Christ’s body. The ‘other disciple’ may have been younger and fitter, for he outruns Saint Peter. The tidy way the linen wrappings and the shroud have been folded or rolled up shows that the body has not been stolen. They believe, yet they do not understand; they return home without any explanations.

But Mary still thinks Christ’s body has been removed or stolen, and she returns to the grave. In her grief, she sees ‘two angels in white’ sitting where the body had been lying, one at the head, and one at the feet. They speak to her and then she turns around sees Christ, but only recognises him when he calls her by name.

Saint Peter and Saint John have returned without seeing the Risen Lord. It is left to Mary to tell the Disciples that she has seen the Lord. Mary Magdalene is the first witness of the Resurrection.

All four gospels are unanimous in telling us that the women are the earliest witnesses to the Risen Christ. In Saint John’s Gospel, the Risen Christ sends Mary Magdalene to tell the other disciples what she had seen. Mary becomes the apostle to the apostles.

The word apostle comes from the Greek ἀπόστολος (apóstólos), formed from the prefix ἀπό- (apó-, ‘from’) and the root στέλλω (stéllō, ‘I send,’ ‘I depart’). So, the Greek word ἀπόστολος (apóstolos) or apostle means one sent.

In addition, at the end of the reading (verse 18), Mary comes announcing what she has seen. The word used here (ἀγγέλλουσα, angéllousa) is from the word that gives us the Annunciation, the proclamation of the good news, the proclamation of the Gospel (Εὐαγγέλιον, Evangélion). Mary, in her proclamation of the Gospel of the Resurrection, is not only the apostle to the apostles, but she is also the first of the evangelists.

In Saint John’s Gospel, when Mary first sees Christ, she does not recognise him. In this reading, the Greek is regularly phrased in the present tense: Mary Magdalene comes to the tomb (verse 1), she sees (verse 1), she runs, she comes, and she says (verse 2); John sees (verse 5), Simon Peter then comes, and he sees (verse 6); Mary sees the two angels (verse 12), they say to her and she says to them that she does not know (verse 13); she then sees Jesus (verse 14); Jesus says to her (verse 15, and again verses 16 and 17) – notice this is three times in all; and she then comes announcing what she has seen and heard.

The language is constantly punctuated with the word ‘and,’ giving it a rapid, fast-moving pace, rather like the pace in Saint Mark’s Gospel. This is a present, real, living experience for all involved, and not one single episode that be relegated to the past.

The Risen Christ does things he did not do before: he appears in locked rooms, there is something different about his appearance, his friends do not realise immediately who he is. This is the same Jesus, but something has changed.

Why does Jesus tell Mary: ‘Do not hold onto me’ (Μή μου ἅπτου, Noli me tangere)?

How do we recognise new life in the Risen Christ?

How do we understand the invitation from the Risen Christ to feast with him?

When we accept the new life Christ offers, how does our vision change?

Where do we see the presence of the Risen Christ?

Do we see his presence in the people and places we like and that please us?

Can we see him in the people we do not like and in the situations we find challenging? – the hungry child, the fleeing refugee, the begging person on the street, the homeless addict sleeping on the street or in the doorway?

Is my heart changed by the Risen Christ?

Where do I see the broken and bruised Body of Christ needing restoration and Resurrection?

Do I know him in the word he speaks to me and in the breaking of the bread?

Is the presence of the Risen Christ a living experience for us this morning?

Let Easter be an every-morning, every-day, living experience for us.

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

The women at the tomb … a stained glass window in Saint Ann’s Church, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Priest-in-Charge, the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes. This sermon was prepared for Eater Day, 1 April 2018

John 20: 1-18 (NRSV):

1 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.’ 3 Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went towards the tomb. 4 The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; 12 and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. 13 They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.’ 14 When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.15 Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ 16 Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”.’ 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Early on the first day of the week … Mary Magdalene came to the tomb (John 20: 1) – a window in Lichfield Cathedral (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!

‘Noli me tangere’ ... a Resurrection image in a stained glass window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

286, The strife is o’er, the battle done
78, This is the day that the Lord has made
263, Crown him with many crowns

The Resurrection … a stained glass window in Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)