Sunday, 5 May 2019

Porto offers a taste
of Portugal and
a taste of Port wine

The centre of Porto retains many of its original 18th century buildings and has been classified as a world heritage site by Unesco (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019; click on image for full-screen resolution)

Patrick Comerford

Second cities, generally speaking, are more relaxed than capital cities, and often offer a much gentle experience for tourists and visitors hoping to get first-hand experiences of local languages and cultures.

Compare Milan with Rome, Birmingham with London, Thessaloniki with Greece – or perhaps Cork with Dublin. I was in Porto, the second city of Portugal, for a few days earlier this year as a late birthday celebration, and it was my second visit to Portugal – I had spent a few days in Lisbon a few years ago (see Church Review / Diocesan Magazine, March 2015).

I wrote last month about my journey from Porto along the Portuguese Way or path of the Camino de Santiago, starting at the Sé or Cathedral. But Porto is worth visiting for its own charms and delights.

I was staying in the historic centre of Porto, which Unesco designated a World Heritage Site in 1996. The architectural highlights of the city include Porto Cathedral, the oldest surviving building, the small Romanesque Church of Cedofeita, the Gothic Igreja de São Francisco (Church of Saint Francis), the remnants of the city walls and some 15th century houses.

Inside the cloisters in the Sé do Porto in the old centre of Porto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Part of Portuguese identity

The story of Porto is deeply embedded in the identity of Portugal as an independent nation on the Iberian Peninsula. The early Celtic-Latin name of the city, Portus Cale, is sometimes said to be the origin of the name of Portugal, and the city has given its name to Port wine, one of Portugal’s best-known exports.

Porto dates back to ca 300 BC, when Celtic people settled along the banks of the Douro. Under Roman rule, the city developed as an important commercial port, and later it was a centre for Christian expansion.

Porto was captured by the Moors when they invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711. In 868, Count Vímara Peres, a subject of King Alfonso III of Asturias, reconquered the area from the Minho to the Douro River, including Portus Cale, later referred to as Portucale, and established the County of Portugal.

John I of Portugal and Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, were married in Porto in 1387, symbolising a long-time alliance between Portugal and England, the world’s oldest recorded military alliance. It was also from the port of Porto that Prince Henry the Navigator, son of John I of Portugal, set off in 1415 on an expedition that initiated the Portuguese Age of Discovery.

Nicholas Comerforde was the first British consul in Porto in 1642, two years after Portugal reasserted its independence from Spain. The Methuen Treaty in 1703 established trade relations between Portugal and England, and the first English trading post was established in Porto in 1717. The production of port wine then gradually passed into the hands of a few English firms.

A cathedral where the city was born

The Sé do Porto stands in the old centre of Porto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Porto’s Cathedral, or the Sé do Porto, is an historic landmark in the old centre where the city was born.

Built on the highest point in the city, the Sé is the most important church building in Porto. Set on a rocky outcrop, it looms above the Morro da Sé, the city’s oldest district, with its narrow streets, old houses and shops, and residents whose families have lived here for generations, surrounded by the old city walls.

There is evidence that Porto was the seat of a bishop from the fifth and sixth centuries, and a pre-Romanesque church was still standing in 1147. However, it is said the cathedral was first built by Bishop Hugo, a French bishop who came to Porto before Portuguese independence, around 1113-1136.

The large square around the cathedral was the centre of commerce and trade in the city in the Middle Ages. Here in 1147 the crusaders from northern Europe agreed to join the Portuguese army and help King Afonso Henriques in the conquest of Lisbon, then held by the Moors.

Inside the Sé do Porto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The present Romanesque cathedral was started in the second half of the 12th century, and a second stage of building work began under Bishop Fernando Martins (1176-1185). Craftsmen from Coimbra worked under the guidance of the Master Soeiro Enes who was responsible for the high capitals of the nave.

The cathedral was rebuilt and renovated many times throughout the centuries and continued constantly into the 16th century. This explains why it is a mix of architectural styles. It is predominantly baroque in style, but the façade and the nave are Romanesque and the cloisters and one of the side chapels are Gothic in style.

The Rose Window in the Sé do Porto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Inside the cathedral, the Romanesque nave is narrow, reaching up to high barrel vaulting. The large pillars make the nave seem narrow with a high ceiling. The decoration is restrained, with bare walls and only the high altar and some of the chapels are decorated in a Baroque style.

The romanesque apse was torn down in the 17th century and a new chancel was built in the mannerist style by Bishop Goncalo de Morais (1606-1610), later decorated with wall paintings by Nicolau Nasoni and choir stalls. The carved altarpiece (1727-1729) by Santos Pacheco and Miguel Francisco da Silva is an important work of Portuguese Baroque.

The Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni added the elegant Baroque loggia to the north side of the cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Italian architect Nicolau Nasoni added the elegant Baroque loggia to the north side of the cathedral in 1736.

The elegant Gothic cloisters were built in the 14th and the 15th centuries, during the reign of King John I, who married the English princess, Philippa of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, in Porto Cathedral in 1387. The cloisters were decorated with baroque azulejo tiles by Valentim de Almeida between 1729 and 1731. They depict Biblical scenes from the Song of Songs, the life of the Virgin Mary and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The Casa do Cabildo or Chapter House has a coffered ceiling painted with allegories of moral values by Giovanni Battista Pachini in 1737.

In the middle of the square in front of the cathedral, a column marks the former site for hanging criminals. The square also offers impressive views over the city, the Douro River and the wine cellars on the waterfront.

Jewish presence and revival

The first Jewish quarter in Porto was located in Rua de Sant’ana and the streets off it (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

There has been a Jewish presence in Portugal since Roman days. After the Spanish Inquisition, when the Spanish crown ordered the expulsion of Jews in 1492, about 60,000 Spanish Jews fled to Portugal, with 30 families banished from Castile finding shelter in the Olival area of Porto. However, in 1496, the Portuguese king, who had married a Spanish princess, decided to expel the Jews from Portugal.

The synagogue in Porto is the largest in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the largest in Europe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Today, Porto is also home to the largest synagogue in the Iberian Peninsula and one of the largest in Europe: the Kadoorie Mekor Haim Synagogue opened in 1938.

The story of this synagogue dates back almost a century to 1923, and to the efforts taken to re-establish the Jewish community in Porto by Captain Artur Carlos de Barros Basto (1887-1961). He was descended from a Sephardic Jewish family that had been forced by the Inquisition to convert to Christianity around the 15th century.

The synagogue in Porto is testimony to a community that retained its identity despite the Inquisition (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Captain Barros Basto, known as the ‘Dreyfus of Portugal,’ returned to Judaism after he heard the family story from his father on his deathbed, and he became the most important figure in reviving Jewish life in Portugal in the last century.

He found at least 20 Ashkenazim Jews in Porto, but because there was no synagogue in the city they needed to travel to Lisbon for all their religious matters. Generous support for building a new synagogue in Porto came from the Committee for Spanish-Portuguese Jews in London, and the Kadoorie family, originally from Baghdad and involved in banking in Mumbai (Bombay), Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Sir Eleazar (‘Elly’) Kadoorie (1867-1944) was a prominent Jewish philanthropist and banker who died in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp during World War II. His wife Laure Kadoorie (1866-1919) was descended from a family that fled the Portuguese Inquisition.

When the synagogue opened in 1938, it was just a few metres from the German School, and the Portuguese authorities rapidly planted large trees to screen the School and the Synagogue from each other.

Harry Potter’s bookshop

Livraria Lello is said have inspired JK Rowling while she was living in Porto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

I also joined the queues to visit Livraria Lello, said to be one of the most beautiful bookshops in the world. It is one of the oldest bookshops in Portugal and is visited by thousands of people every day, attracted more by its reputation than its contents. The shop was visited regularly by JK Rowling when she was living in Porto and teaching English, and it is said to have inspired many of the scenes in her Harry Potter books.

The shop first opened in 1906 and was refurbished in 2017, when the façade was restored in its original colours, along with its stained glass and the shop’s unique twisting, spiral stairs. The interior is best known for the forked crimson staircase and the majestic ceiling. This ceiling looks deceptively like carved wood but is in painted plaster, a technique also used in decorating the stairs.

Igreja dos Carmelitas on the left and Igreja do Carmo on the right … two Carmelite churches in Porto separated by a narrow, hidden house (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The bookstore is close to Porto University, Clérigos Church and Tower, and the twin Carmelite churches on the Rua das Carmelitas.

The Casa da Música is a spectacular, multifaceted building at the top of Avenida de Boavista (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Casa da Música (the House of Music) is a spectacular, multifaceted building in Porto and is a masterpiece in modern architecture by the innovative Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas.

Other interesting buildings in the city include the Stock Exchange Palace, with its Arab Room, the Hospital of Saint Anthony, the Municipality, the buildings in the Liberdade Square and the Avenida dos Aliados, the tile-adorned São Bento Train Station and the gardens of the Crystal Palace.

Porto’s Port trade

The Dom Luís Bridge was designed by Gustave Eiffel’s collaborator, the German engineer Théophile Seyrig (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019; click on image for full-screen resolution)

Porto is known as the city of bridges, and on my last day in Porto I took a riverboat cruise on a rabelo, one of the traditional old boats once used to carry Port Wine from the Douro Valley to the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia. This 50-minute journey offered another view of the city and the river, but also brought me under the famous six bridges of Porto.

Three types of Port to taste in Porto (Photograph; Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Port wine (vinho do Porto), or simply Port, is a fortified wine produced with distilled grape spirits exclusively in the Douro Valley in this part of Portugal. Port is typically a sweet, red wine, often served as a dessert wine, but it also comes in dry, semi-dry, and white varieties.

The rabelo or traditional old boat was once used to carry Port Wine from the Douro Valley to the cellars in Vila Nova de Gaia (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019; click on image for full-screen resolution)

It is striking how many of Porto’s Port lodges were founded by English families, with names such as Cockburn, Graham, Dow, Sandeman, Taylor and Offley lining the banks of the River Douro and lighting up the night sky in Porto.

Long before ‘Brexit’ – indeed, over 300 years ago – British wine merchants were developing a niche place for themselves in the wine market, cornering the trade in wine exports from the Douro Valley to England after the wine trade with France had been closed off by war.

English names still dominate the Port trade in Porto (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

This feature was published in May 2019 in the ‘Church Review’ (Dublin and Glendalough) and the ‘Diocesan Magazine’ (Cashel, Ferns and Ossory)

Christ’s three questions
challenge our idea of fame,
of heaven, and of success

‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat and you will find some [fish]’ (John 21: 6) … a fishing boat with its nets to the right at the harbour in Rethymnon last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 5 May 2019,

The Third Sunday of Easter (Easter III).


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

Readings: Acts 9: 1-6, (7-20); Psalm 30; Revelation 5: 11-14; John 21: 1-19.

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

Reading our three readings this morning, I found myself asking three questions before even considering the three questions Christ asks in the Gospel reading:

Question 1, What is your idea of fame?

The Apostle Paul, who at first found it difficult to recognise Christ (Act 9: 5), later describes Christ as the image of the invisible God (II Corinthians 4: 4; Colossians 1: 15; c.f. John 1: 18, 12: 45, 14: 9; Hebrews 1: 3), he is an icon or an image of God.

When I was a child, just as I was about to become a teenager, I became a keen autograph collector.

My uncle, who was my godfather, bought me an autograph book, and I set about earnestly seeking the autographs of great footballers, pop singers, movie stars – and my first girlfriend and my school friends – in the early 1960s.

The pop stars stopped being No 1 hits just as my taste in music matured. The footballers aged as I became more interested in rugby and cricket. The movie stars’ fame faded as my interests shifted to literature and poetry. My first girlfriend lost interest in me. I moved town, changed schools, lost touch with many childhood friends, and I lost that autograph book about the same time.

But I remember basking in the light of Bobbie Charlton and Brendan Bowyer for a few weeks in the schoolyard. I suppose it was a sort of vicarious fame.

I suppose we never really stop behaving like that as adults with our own adult versions of autograph-hunting: asking authors to sign books … standing in for ‘selfies’ with the good and the great …

Who do you want to be photographed with, and who will want to be photographed with you?

Who do you recognise, and who recognises you?

If I encountered the Risen Christ in this post-Easter season, would I, like Saint Paul in our first reading, fall to the ground blinded, and ask, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ (see Acts 9: 5)

Would you recognise Jesus on that seashore that Easter morning?

Where do you see Jesus this morning?

I was in Crete for the week after Easter, enjoying walks each day along the beach at Platanias near Rethymnon. But even there, I wondered: Where do the refugees see Jesus when they land on the shores of more distant Greek islands such as Lesbos and Samos?

I certainly hope they see the love of Jesus in the work of mission agencies such as USPG and other church groups and humanitarian organisations, on the shore, in their plight.

When these refugees look at those workers on those islands, I hope they see the image of Christ, the likeness of the Lamb, an image of the Good Shepherd.

Would you recognise Jesus on the beach that Easter morning? (see John 21: 4) … the beach at Platanias near Rethymnon last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Question 2, What is your idea of heaven?

In our reading from the Book of Revelation, Saint John in exile on Patmos catches a glimpse of the heavenly future when he looks up and hears the angels gathered around the Lamb on the Throne and singing:

‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might
for ever and ever!’

During my reflections on Good Friday in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, I shared how there are places where I think I am given a little glimpse of what heaven must be like. They include the road from Iraklion to Rethymnon in Crete, facing the sun as it sets in the Mediterranean, and where I spent that week after Easter.

But what is your idea of heaven? … Fishing, Golf, Horses, a day’s sailing?

The refugees who arrive on our shores are fleeing their own hell on earth. Are they going to catch a glimpse of heaven on earth when they arrive?

Or do they find we have priorities other than the Kingdom of God?

The Lamb of God in a Trinitarian depiction in a stained-glass window in a church in Charleville, Co Cork … see Revelation 5: 11-14 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Question 3, What do you mean by success?

The disciples that Sunday morning are not very successful, are they (John 21: 3)? So unsuccessful, indeed, that they are willing to take advice from someone they do not even recognise (verse 4 ff).

The disciples are at the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Tiberias, back at their old jobs as fishermen. Peter, who denied Christ three times during his Passion, Thomas, who had initially doubted the stories of the Resurrection (see John 20: 24-29), Nathanael, who once wondered whether anything good could come from Nazareth (see John 1: 46), James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who once wanted to be so close to him that they wanted to be seated at his right hand and his left in the kingdom, and two other disciples who remain unnamed … how about that for fame, lasting recognition and success?

They are back on the same shore where there once were so many fish, so much bread left over after feeding the multitude, that they filled 12 baskets (John 6: 1-13). There are not so many fish around this time, at first. But then John tells us that after Christ arrives 153 fish were caught that morning (verse 11).

This number is probably a symbol meaning a complete number. The number 153 is divisible by the sum of its own digits, and it is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of cubes of its digits, since 153 = 13 + 53 + 33. Aristotle is said to have taught that there were 153 different species of fish in the Mediterranean.

Whatever they say, the disciples must have thought they had managed the perfect catch that morning.

But the perfect catch was Christ – and, of course, they were the perfect catch for him too. When they came ashore once again he invites them to share bread and fish, to dine with the Risen Lord (21: 12-13).

To eat with the Risen Lord and to invite others to the Heavenly Banquet, so that every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea can say ‘Amen’ before the Throne of God … now that is what I call success (Revelation 5: 11-14).

And when others ask us, Do we love Christ?, when others ask us, Do we love them?, when others ask us, Do we love one another?, will we hesitate, like Peter, not knowing how to answer?

Or when they ask, will the answers be obvious in the ways we worship, in the way we live our lives, in the way we respond to others?

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

Beached … an old fishing boat on the sands at Platanias, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

John 21: 1-19 (NRSVA):

1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ 6 He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16 A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ 17 He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

The Lamb of God on the throne (see Revelation 5: 11-13) … a stained glass window in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White

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:

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened
and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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).

The 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!

The Lamb of God in a depiction in a stained-glass window in a church in Roscrea, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Hymns:

196, O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (CD 12)
263, Crown him with many crowns (CD 16)
592, O Love that wilt not let me go (CD 34)

A fishing boat at the harbour in Panormos, east of Rethymnon, last Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

Three questions, three answers,
on an early morning at Easter time

Would you recognise Jesus on the beach that Easter morning? (see John 21: 4) … the beach at Platanias near Rethymnon last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 5 May 2019,

The Third Sunday of Easter (Easter III).


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

Readings: Acts 9: 1-6, (7-20); Psalm 30; Revelation 5: 11-14; John 21: 1-19.

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

Reading our three readings this morning, I found myself asking three questions before even considering the three questions Christ asks in the Gospel reading:

Question 1, What is your idea of fame?

The Apostle Paul, who at first found it difficult to recognise Christ (Act 9: 5), later describes Christ as the image of the invisible God (II Corinthians 4: 4; Colossians 1: 15; c.f. John 1: 18, 12: 45, 14: 9; Hebrews 1: 3), he is an icon or an image of God.

When I was a child, just as I was about to become a teenager, I became a keen autograph collector.

My uncle, who was my godfather, bought me an autograph book, and I set about earnestly seeking the autographs of great footballers, pop singers, movie stars – and my first girlfriend and my school friends – in the early 1960s.

The pop stars stopped being No 1 hits just as my taste in music matured. The footballers aged as I became more interested in rugby and cricket. The movie stars’ fame faded as my interests shifted to literature and poetry. My first girlfriend lost interest in me. I moved town, changed schools, lost touch with many childhood friends, and I lost that autograph book about the same time.

But I remember basking in the light of Bobbie Charlton and Brendan Bowyer for a few weeks in the schoolyard. I suppose it was a sort of vicarious fame.

I suppose we never really stop behaving like that as adults with our own adult versions of autograph-hunting: asking authors to sign books … standing in for ‘selfies’ with the good and the great …

Who do you want to be photographed with, and who will want to be photographed with you?

Who do you recognise, and who recognises you?

If I encountered the Risen Christ in this post-Easter season, would I, like Saint Paul in our first reading, fall to the ground blinded, and ask, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ (see Acts 9: 5)

Would you recognise Jesus on that seashore that Easter morning?

Where do you see Jesus this morning?

I was in Crete for the week after Easter, enjoying walks each day along the beach at Platanias near Rethymnon. But even there, I wondered: Where do the refugees see Jesus when they land on the shores of more distant Greek islands such as Lesbos and Samos?

I certainly hope they see the love of Jesus in the work of mission agencies such as USPG and other church groups and humanitarian organisations, on the shore, in their plight.

When these refugees look at those workers on those islands, I hope they see the image of Christ, the likeness of the Lamb, an image of the Good Shepherd.

The Lamb of God in a Trinitarian depiction in a stained-glass window in a church in Charleville, Co Cork … see Revelation 5: 11-14 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Question 2, What is your idea of heaven?

In our reading from the Book of Revelation, Saint John in exile on Patmos catches a glimpse of the heavenly future when he looks up and hears the angels gathered around the Lamb on the Throne and singing:

‘To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honour and glory and might
for ever and ever!’

During my reflections on Good Friday here in Saint Mary’s, I shared how there are places where I think I am given a little glimpse of what heaven must be like. They include the road from Iraklion to Rethymnon in Crete, facing the sun as it sets in the Mediterranean, and where I spent that week after Easter.

But what is your idea of heaven? … Fishing, Golf, Horses, a day’s sailing?

The refugees who arrive on our shores are fleeing their own hell on earth. Are they going to catch a glimpse of heaven on earth when they arrive?

Or do they find we have priorities other than the Kingdom of God?

‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat and you will find some [fish]’ (John 21: 6) … a fishing boat with its nets to the right at the harbour in Rethymnon last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Question 3, What do you mean by success?

The disciples that Sunday morning are not very successful, are they (John 21: 3)? So unsuccessful, indeed, that they are willing to take advice from someone they do not even recognise (verse 4 ff).

The disciples are at the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Tiberias, back at their old jobs as fishermen. Peter, who denied Christ three times during his Passion, Thomas, who had initially doubted the stories of the Resurrection (see John 20: 24-29), Nathanael, who once wondered whether anything good could come from Nazareth (see John 1: 46), James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who once wanted to be so close to him that they wanted to be seated at his right hand and his left in the kingdom, and two other disciples who remain unnamed … how about that for fame, lasting recognition and success?

They are back on the same shore where there once were so many fish, so much bread left over after feeding the multitude, that they filled 12 baskets (John 6: 1-13). There are not so many fish around this time, at first. But then John tells us that after Christ arrives 153 fish were caught that morning (verse 11).

This number is probably a symbol meaning a complete number. The number 153 is divisible by the sum of its own digits, and it is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of cubes of its digits, since 153 = 13 + 53 + 33. Aristotle is said to have taught that there were 153 different species of fish in the Mediterranean.

Whatever they say, the disciples must have thought they had managed the perfect catch that morning.

But the perfect catch was Christ – and, of course, they were the perfect catch for him too. When they came ashore once again he invites them to share bread and fish, to dine with the Risen Lord (21: 12-13).

To eat with the Risen Lord and to invite others to the Heavenly Banquet, so that every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea can say ‘Amen’ before the Throne of God … now that is what I call success (Revelation 5: 11-14).

And when others ask us, Do we love Christ?, when others ask us, Do we love them?, when others ask us, Do we love one another?, will we hesitate, like Peter, not knowing how to answer?

Or when they ask, will the answers be obvious in the ways we worship, in the way we live our lives, in the way we respond to others?

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

Beached … an old fishing boat on the sands at Platanias, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

John 21: 1-19 (NRSVA):

1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. 2 Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ 6 He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. 8 But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.

9 When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ 16 A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ 17 He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ 19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’

The Lamb of God on the throne (see Revelation 5: 11-13) … a stained glass window in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White

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:

Almighty Father,
who in your great mercy gladdened the disciples
with the sight of the risen Lord:
Give us such knowledge of his presence with us,
that we may be strengthened
and sustained by his risen life
and serve you continually in righteousness and truth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Living God,
your Son made himself known to his disciples
in the breaking of bread.
Open the eyes of our faith,
that we may see him in all his redeeming work;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The 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!

The Lamb of God in a depiction in a stained-glass window in a church in Roscrea, Co Tipperary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Hymns:

196, O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (CD 12)
263, Crown him with many crowns (CD 16)
592, O Love that wilt not let me go (CD 34)

A fishing boat at the harbour in Panormos, east of Rethymnon, last Sunday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Scripture quotations are taken from the New Revised Standard Version Bible Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved.

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.