Sunday, 6 October 2019

The pinnacles of Meteora
form a unique combination
of geology and theology

The monasteries of Meteora are balanced precariously on the rocky pinnacles above the Plain of Thessaly (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

A holiday in Corfu in late August and early September allowed me to explore some of the neighbouring Ionian Islands, including Paxos and Antipaxos, to visit churches, monasteries, convents and places of historical interest in Corfu, and to return to southern Albania, visiting Saranda and travelling south to the Greek-speaking areas on the borders with northern Greece, including the archaeological site in Butrint.

Early one morning, I also took a boat from the small port of Lefkimmi in south-east Corfu to Igoumenitsa on the north-west coast of Greece.

Igoumenitsa is the gateway port from the Ionian Islands to the Greek mainland, and I spent a day visiting the many monasteries of the Meteora in the plains in central Greece, halfway between Thessaloniki and Athens.

Until the late 1970s, Meteora was virtually beyond Greece or the Orthodox world. All that changed in 1981 with the movie For Your Eyes Only, and the final, climactic with James Bond at the fictitious Saint Cyril’s Monastery, which in real life is the Monastery of the Holy Trinity.

The first monasteries may not have been formed until the 14th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Unique rock formations

Meteora is a geologically unique and captivating collection of rock formations in central Greece and is home one of the largest and most precipitously built complexes of monasteries in the Eastern Orthodox world.

Indeed, in the Orthodox world, the monasteries of Meteora are second in importance only to Mount Athos.

In all, there once were 24 monasteries in this Meteroa, although only six of the original 24 function as monasteries today. They are built precariously on top of immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders that dominate the area.

Meteora, which is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, is near the town of Kalambaka at the north-west edge of the Plain of Thessaly, close to the Pineios River and the Pindus Mountains. The name means ‘in the air,’ ‘lofty’ or ‘elevated,’ and the word is related to the word ‘meteor.’

These enormous columns or pillars of rock rise precipitously from the ground, and their unusual form is not easy to explain geologically.

Six of the original 24 monasteries still function today as monasteries or nunneries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Caves in the Meteora area were inhabited continuously between 50,000 and 5,000 years ago. The oldest known example of a built structure, a stone wall that blocked two-thirds of the entrance to the Theopetra cave, was built 23,000 years ago, probably as a barrier against cold winds during an ice age.

It is surprising then that Meteora is not mentioned in classical Greek myths nor in Ancient Greek literature.

After the Neolithic Era, the first people to inhabit Meteora seem to have been ascetic hermits or monks who moved to the pinnacles in the ninth century AD. At first, they lived in hollows and fissures in the rock towers, some as high as 550 metres above the plain. These heights and the sheer cliff faces deterred all but the most determined visitors.

The Monastery of Great Meteoro is the largest of the monasteries at Meteora (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Isolated solitude

Initially, the first hermits led lives of isolated and lonely solitude, meeting together only on Sundays and holy days to worship and pray together in a chapel built at the foot of a rock known as Doubiani.

Some monks were living in the caverns of Meteora as early as the 11th century. By the late 11th and early 12th centuries, a rudimentary monastic state had formed called the Skete of Stagoi and was centred around the Church of the Theotokos (the Mother of God).

The exact date when the first monasteries were formed is not known, but it may not have been until the 14th century, when the monks sought places to hide and shelter in the face of an increasing number of Turkish attacks in this part of Greece.

Varlaam is the second largest monastery in Meteora (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Athanasios Koinovitis from Mount Athos brought a group of followers to Meteora in 1344. From 1356 to 1372, he founded the Great Meteoro monastery on the Broad Rock, which was perfect for the monks. This impressive rock rises 613 metres above sea level and 413 metres above the nearest town, Kalambaka.

Athanasios gathered 14 monks from the surrounding rock, organised a community, and laid the foundations for a common monastic life. There they were safe from political turmoil and had complete control of the entry to the monastery. The only way the monastery could be reached it was by climbing a long ladder that was drawn up whenever the monks felt under threat.

Looking out onto the world from the Holy Monastery of Rousanou or Saint Barbara (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Dangerous and difficult access

Byzantine rule in northern Greece was increasingly threatened by the end of the 14th century by Turkish raiders seeking to control the fertile plain of Thessaly. The monks found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora were ideal refuges, and more than 20 monasteries were built, beginning in the 14th century.

Access to the monasteries was deliberately difficult, requiring either climbing long ladders latched together on the rockfaces, or balancing in large nets and basks used to haul up both goods and people and to let them down again.

It is said this required quite a leap of faith – the ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only ‘when the Lord let them break.’

A modern icon of Christ in a ceiling in Varlaam (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

At their peak in the 16th century, there were 24 monasteries at Meteora. Their architecture is often Athonite in origin, inspired by the monasteries of Mount Athos. Today, six of these monasteries are still functioning, but the rest are largely in ruins. Perched on high cliffs, they are now accessible by staircases and pathways cut into the rock formations.

Queen Marie of Romania became the first woman ever allowed to enter the Great Meteoro monastery when she visited Meteora in 1921. By then, living conditions were beginning to improve for the monks. Steps were cut into the rocks in the 1920s, making the complex accessible through a bridge from the nearby plateau. The area was bombed during World War II and many art treasures were stolen.

Today, only six of the original 24 monasteries are functioning, with 15 monks in four monasteries and 41 nuns in two monasteries: men in the Monasteries of the Transfiguration or Great Meteoro, All Saints or Saint Varlaam, Holy Trinity and Saint Nicholas Anapafsas; and women in the Monasteries of Saint Stephen and Saint Barbara, also known as Roussanou.

An engraving from 1792 shows monks accessing the monasteries by ropes and ladders (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Visiting two monasteries

Apart from their rhythm of daily prayer and their breath-taking views, the treasures of these monasteries include their decorated churches with frescoes and icons, their libraries, relics and museums.

I visited two of the monasteries – the monastery of All Saints or Varlaam and the Holy Monastery of Roussanou, also known as Saint Barbara – and stopped on the way to see the other four functioning monasteries.

Visitors need no permits issued in advance, women as well as men are welcome as visitors, and all the monasteries display notices outside advising when they are open and when the Divine Liturgy is served.

The early ropes and pulleys still survive in many monasteries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The monasteries stand precariously on top of immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders that dominate the area. But, because of their openness and their reputation for hospitality and welcome, I was not surprised to find that Russian and Romanian tourists find pilgrimage and tourism an interesting combination.

The Monastery of Great Meteoro is the largest of the monasteries at Meteora, although only three monks live there today It was founded in the mid-14th century and was restored and embellished in 1483 and again in 1552.

The Katholikon or main church Great Meteoro is consecrated in honour of the Transfiguration of Christ. It was built in the mid-14th century and again in 1387-1388 and was decorated in 1483 and 1552. One building serves as the main museum for tourists.

However, the first monastery I visited in Meteora was the Monastery of Varlaam, the second largest monastery in the Meteora complex. Today, seven monks live here and it has the largest number of monks among the men’s monasteries.

A precarious ladder balanced against a rockface below a monastery (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The monastery of Varlaam was built by Theophanes in 1517, and is reputed to house the finger of Saint John and the shoulder blade of Saint Andrew.

The main church or katholikon in Varlaam is dedicated to All Saints. It is built in the Athonite style, in the shape of a cross-in-square with a dome and choirs, and spacious exonarthex is surrounded by a dome.

The church was built in 1541-1542 and decorated in 1548, while the exonarthex was decorated in 1566. The old refectory is used as a museum while north of the church is the parekklesion of the Three Hierarchs, built in 1627 and decorated in 1637.

The monastery became more accessible in 1923 when 195 steps were cut into rockface, allowing monks and visitors to walk to the top.

The six surviving monasteries remain centres of prayer and pilgrimage (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The second monastery I visited was the Holy Monastery of Rousanou or Saint Barbara, founded in the mid-16th century and decorated in 1560.

The name Rousanou may be derived from the family name of the founder, or from the red colour of the rock on which it is built.

Ascent to the monastery was by rope ladders until 1897. Later, two wooden bridges were built for monks and visitors. Since 1936, two strong but picturesque bridges serve the same purpose.

The monastery went into decline after World War II, and was eventually abandoned. But a community of women were invited to move into Rousanou, and today, it is a flourishing nunnery with a community of 13 nuns living there.

A prayer in the Monastery of Varlaam (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

I had also expected to visit the Monastery of Saint Stephen, but our plans were changed. This monastery has a small church that was built in the 16th century and decorated in 1545. This monastery is unusual because it stands on the plain rather than on a cliff.

The Monastery of Saint Stephen housed 31 monks in 1888. But it was shelled by the Nazis during World War II, who claimed it was harbouring Greek resistance fighters. It was abandoned after World War II, and it was virtually deserted by 1960. The monastery was given over to nuns in 1961 and they have rebuilt it, so that today it is a flourishing nunnery, with 28 nuns living there.

Icons in a workshop in Kalambaka (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Icon workshops

As we drove around Meteora, we also saw the two other monasteries that have survived into the 21st century.

The Monastery of the Holy Trinity was built on top of the cliffs in 1475 and was remodelled in 1684, 1689, 1692 and again in 1741. Today there are four monks living in the monastery that was Bond’s fictitious Saint Cyril’s.

Orthodox religious goods in the Zindos workshop in Kalambaka, below Meteora (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

The Monastery of Saint Nicholas Anapafsas, near the village of Kastraki, was built in the 16th century. Its small church was decorated in 1527 by the noted Cretan painter, Theophanes Strelitzas, also known as Theophanes the Cretan. Today, there is only one monk living in this monastery.

The day also provided an opportunity to visit the Zindos icon workshop in Kalambaka before returning to Igoumenitsa and catching a return ferry to Lefkimmi on Corfu.

The port of Igoumenitsa is the gateway from the Ionian Islands to mainland Greece (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

This feature was first published in the Church Review (Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough) in October 2019.

Early morning sunrise in the Ionian Sea on the way to the monasteries of Meteora (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

When it comes to faith
and love, it is quality and
not quantity that matters

‘By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. As for our lyres, we hung them up on the willows’ (Psalm 137: 1-2) … willows by the banks of the River Cam in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday, 6 October 2019,

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XVI).


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

The Readings: Lamentations 1: 1-6; Psalm 137: 1-6; II Timothy 1: 1–14; Luke 17: 5-10. There is a link to the readings HERE.

The sycamore fig, the mulberry and the fig are all related … a fig tree in Córdoba (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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

It is safe to say, I do not have green fingers.

Until recently, I had no interest in the garden. I like sitting in the garden, reading in the sunshine (when the sun shines), listening to the sound of the small fountain, enjoying the shade of the trees, and in summertime, eating out in the open.

So, it is not that I do not enjoy the garden. It is just that I have always felt I am no good at it.

It is an attitude that may have been nurtured and cultured from heavy hay-fever in my early childhood, hay-fever that comes back to haunt me persistently at the beginning of summer.

We once bought a willow tree, in the early 1980s, put it in the back of the car, a small Mini, and drove back across Dublin, with me holding on to the tree as it stuck out the side window. By the time we got home, I was covered in rashes, and my eyes, ears and nose were in a deep state of irritation. It must have been related to those willow trees in this morning’s Psalm, because afterwards I sat down and wept.

For that reason alone, you could not call me a ‘tree hugger.’ But do not get me wrong … I really do like trees.

I relish spending time in the vast, expansive olive groves that stretch for miles and miles along the mountainsides in Crete, or in vineyards where the olive groves protect the vines.

But I cannot be trusted with trees. I was once given a present of a miniature orange tree … and it died within weeks. I have been given presents of not one, but two olive trees. One, sadly, died. The other is still growing, but it is a tiny little thing.

Perhaps if I had just a little faith in my ability to help trees to grow, they would survive and mature.

You may wonder why Christ decides to talk about a mustard seed and a mulberry tree, rather than, say, an olive tree. After all, as he was talking in the incident in this morning’s Gospel reading, he must have been surrounded by grove after grove of olive trees.

But, I can imagine, he is also watching to see if those who are listening have switched off their humour mode, if they have withdrawn their sense of humour. He is talking here with a great sense of humour, using hyperbole to underline his point.

We all know a tiny grain of mustard is incapable of growing to a big tree. So, what is Christ talking about here? Because, he not only caught the disciples off-guard with his hyperbole and sense of humour … he even wrong-footed some of the Reformers and many Bible translators who make mistakes about what sort of trees he is talking about this morning.

Why did Christ refer to a mustard seed and a mulberry or sycamine tree, and not, say, an olive tree or an oak tree?

Christ first uses the example of a tiny, miniscule kernel or seed (κόκκος, kokkos), from which the small mustard plant (σίναπι, sinapi) grows. But mustard is an herb, not a tree. Not much of a miracle, you might say: tiny seed, tiny plant.

But he then mixes his metaphors and refers to another plant. Martin Luther, in his translation of the Bible, turned the tree (verse 6) into a mulberry tree. The mulberry tree – both the black mulberry and the white mulberry – is from the same family as the fig tree.

As children, some of us sang or played to the nursery rhyme or song, Here we go round the mulberry bush. Another version is Here we go gathering nuts in May. The same tune is used for the American rhyme Pop goes the weasel and for the Epiphany carol, I saw three ships.

Of course, mulberries do not grow on bushes, and they do not grow nuts that are gathered in May. Nor is the mulberry a very tall tree – it grows from tiny seeds but only reaches the height of an adult person.

It is not a very big tree at all. It is more like a bush than a tree – and it is easy to uproot too.

However, the tree Christ names (Greek συκάμινος, sikámeenos) is the sycamine tree, which has the shape and leaves of a mulberry tree but fruit that tastes like the fig, or the sycamore fig (συκόμορος, Ficus Sycomorus).

Others think the tree being referred to is the sycamore fig (συκόμορος, Ficus Sycomorus), a tree we come across in a few weeks’ time as the big tree that little Zacchaeus climbs in Jericho to see Jesus (Luke 19: 1-10, 3 November, the Fourth Sunday before Advent).

The sycamine tree is not naturally pollinated. The pollination process is initiated only when a wasp sticks its stinger right into the heart of the fruit. In other words, the tree and its fruit have to be stung in order to reproduce. There is a direct connection between suffering and growth, but also a lesson that everything in creation, including the wasp, has its place in the intricate balance of nature.

Whether it is a small seed like the mustard seed, a small, seemingly useless and annoying creature like the wasp, or a small and despised figure of fun like Zacchaeus, each has value in God’s eyes, and each has a role in the great harvest of gathering in for God’s Kingdom.

Put more simply, it is quality and not quantity that matters.

Here are six little vignettes about faith that I came across recently:

1, Once all the villagers decided to pray for rain. On the day of prayer, all the people gathered, but only one little boy came with an umbrella. That is faith.

2, When you throw babies in the air, they laugh because they know you will catch them. That is trust.

3, Every night we go to bed without any assurance of being alive the next morning, but still we set the alarm to wake up. That is hope.

4, We plan big things for tomorrow in spite of zero knowledge of the future. That is confidence.

5, We see the world suffering, but still people get married and have children. That is love.

6, There is an old man who wears a T-shirt with the slogan: ‘I am not 80 years old; I am sweet 16 with 64 years of experience.’ That is attitude.

This morning’s Gospel reading challenges us to pay attention to our attitude to, to the quality of, our faith, trust, hope, confidence, love and positivity. And if we do so, we will be surprised by the results.

Perhaps I should be paying more attention to that small olive tree on my patio.

Faith is powerful enough to face all our fears and all impossibilities. Even if our germ of faith is tiny, if it is genuine there can be real growth beyond what we can see in ourselves, beyond what others can see in us.

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

Faith, Hope and Love … a window in Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 17: 5-10 (NRSVA):

5 The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ 6 The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.

7 ‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? 8 Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’

The Mayer window in Saint Nicholas Church, Adare, Co Limerick, depicting the three virtues (from left): Faith, Charity and Hope (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Liturgical colour: Green

The Collect of the Day:

O Lord,
Hear the prayers of your people who call upon you;
and grant that they may both perceive and know
what things they ought to do,
and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect of the Word:

Faithful God, have mercy on your unworthy servants,
and increase our faith,
that, trusting in your Spirit’s power
to work in us and through us,
we may never be ashamed to witness to our Lord
but may obediently serve him all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Hymns:

653, Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom (CD 37)
549, Dear Lord and Father of mankind (CD 32)
601, Teach me, my God and King (CD 34).

‘World’s Smallest Seed,’ 40”x30” oil/canvas, by James B Janknegt

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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

If only I had faith the
size of a mustard seed

‘World’s Smallest Seed,’ 40”x30” oil/canvas, by James B Janknegt

Patrick Comerford

Sunday, 6 October 2019,

The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XVI).


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

The Readings: Lamentations 1: 1-6; Psalm 137: 1-6; II Timothy 1: 1–14; Luke 17: 5-10. There is a link to the readings HERE.

‘By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. As for our lyres, we hung them up on the willows’ (Psalm 137: 1-2) … willows by the banks of the River Cam in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

It is safe to say, I do not have green fingers.

Until recently, I had no interest in the garden. I like sitting in the garden, reading in the sunshine (when the sun shines), listening to the sound of the small fountain, enjoying the shade of the trees, and in summertime, eating out in the open.

So, it is not that I do not enjoy the garden. It is just that I have always felt I am no good at it.

It is an attitude that may have been nurtured and cultured from heavy hay-fever in my early childhood, hay-fever that comes back to haunt me persistently at the beginning of summer.

We once bought a willow tree, in the early 1980s, put it in the back of the car, a small Mini, and drove back across Dublin, with me holding on to the tree as it stuck out the side window. By the time we got home, I was covered in rashes, and my eyes, ears and nose were in a deep state of irritation. It must have been related to those willow trees in this morning’s Psalm, because afterwards I sat down and wept.

For that reason alone, you could not call me a ‘tree hugger.’ But do not get me wrong … I really do like trees.

I relish spending time in the vast, expansive olive groves that stretch for miles and miles along the mountainsides in Crete, or in vineyards where the olive groves protect the vines.

But I cannot be trusted with trees. I was once given a present of a miniature orange tree … and it died within weeks. I have been given presents of not one, but two olive trees. One, sadly, died. The other is still growing, but it is a tiny little thing.

Perhaps if I had just a little faith in my ability to help trees to grow, they would survive and mature.

You may wonder why Christ decides to talk about a mustard seed and a mulberry tree, rather than, say, an olive tree. After all, as he was talking in the incident in this morning’s Gospel reading, he must have been surrounded by grove after grove of olive trees.

But, I can imagine, he is also watching to see if those who are listening have switched off their humour mode, if they have withdrawn their sense of humour. He is talking here with a great sense of humour, using hyperbole to underline his point.

We all know a tiny grain of mustard is incapable of growing to a big tree. So, what is Christ talking about here? Because, he not only caught the disciples off-guard with his hyperbole and sense of humour … he even wrong-footed some of the Reformers and many Bible translators who make mistakes about what sort of trees he is talking about this morning.

Why did Christ refer to a mustard seed and a mulberry or sycamine tree, and not, say, an olive tree or an oak tree?

Christ first uses the example of a tiny, miniscule kernel or seed (κόκκος, kokkos), from which the small mustard plant (σίναπι, sinapi) grows. But mustard is an herb, not a tree. Not much of a miracle, you might say: tiny seed, tiny plant.

But he then mixes his metaphors and refers to another plant. Martin Luther, in his translation of the Bible, turned the tree (verse 6) into a mulberry tree. The mulberry tree – both the black mulberry and the white mulberry – is from the same family as the fig tree.

As children, some of us sang or played to the nursery rhyme or song, Here we go round the mulberry bush. Another version is Here we go gathering nuts in May. The same tune is used for the American rhyme Pop goes the weasel and for the Epiphany carol, I saw three ships.

Of course, mulberries do not grow on bushes, and they do not grow nuts that are gathered in May. Nor is the mulberry a very tall tree – it grows from tiny seeds but only reaches the height of an adult person.

It is not a very big tree at all. It is more like a bush than a tree – and it is easy to uproot too.

However, the tree Christ names (Greek συκάμινος, sikámeenos) is the sycamine tree, which has the shape and leaves of a mulberry tree but fruit that tastes like the fig, or the sycamore fig (συκόμορος, Ficus Sycomorus).

Others think the tree being referred to is the sycamore fig (συκόμορος, Ficus Sycomorus), a tree we come across in a few weeks’ time as the big tree that little Zacchaeus climbs in Jericho to see Jesus (Luke 19: 1-10, 3 November, the Fourth Sunday before Advent).

The sycamine tree is not naturally pollinated. The pollination process is initiated only when a wasp sticks its stinger right into the heart of the fruit. In other words, the tree and its fruit have to be stung in order to reproduce. There is a direct connection between suffering and growth, but also a lesson that everything in creation, including the wasp, has its place in the intricate balance of nature.

Whether it is a small seed like the mustard seed, a small, seemingly useless and annoying creature like the wasp, or a small and despised figure of fun like Zacchaeus, each has value in God’s eyes, and each has a role in the great harvest of gathering in for God’s Kingdom.

Put more simply, it is quality and not quantity that matters.

Here are six little vignettes about faith that I came across recently:

1, Once all the villagers decided to pray for rain. On the day of prayer, all the people gathered, but only one little boy came with an umbrella. That is faith.

2, When you throw babies in the air, they laugh because they know you will catch them. That is trust.

3, Every night we go to bed without any assurance of being alive the next morning, but still we set the alarm to wake up. That is hope.

4, We plan big things for tomorrow in spite of zero knowledge of the future. That is confidence.

5, We see the world suffering, but still people get married and have children. That is love.

6, There is an old man who wears a T-shirt with the slogan: ‘I am not 80 years old; I am sweet 16 with 64 years of experience.’ That is attitude.

This morning’s Gospel reading challenges us to pay attention to our attitude to, to the quality of, our faith, trust, hope, confidence, love and positivity. And if we do so, we will be surprised by the results.

Perhaps I should be paying more attention to that small olive tree on my patio.

Faith is powerful enough to face all our fears and all impossibilities. Even if our germ of faith is tiny, if it is genuine there can be real growth beyond what we can see in ourselves, beyond what others can see in us.

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

Faith, Hope and Love … a window in Saint Michael’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 17: 5-10 (NRSVA):

5 The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ 6 The Lord replied, ‘If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea”, and it would obey you.

7 ‘Who among you would say to your slave who has just come in from ploughing or tending sheep in the field, “Come here at once and take your place at the table”? 8 Would you not rather say to him, “Prepare supper for me, put on your apron and serve me while I eat and drink; later you may eat and drink”? 9 Do you thank the slave for doing what was commanded? 10 So you also, when you have done all that you were ordered to do, say, “We are worthless slaves; we have done only what we ought to have done!” ’

The Mayer window in Saint Nicholas Church, Adare, Co Limerick, depicting the three virtues (from left): Faith, Charity and Hope (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Liturgical colour: Green

The Collect of the Day:

O Lord,
Hear the prayers of your people who call upon you;
and grant that they may both perceive and know
what things they ought to do,
and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil them;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God of mercy,
through our sharing in this holy sacrament
you make us one body in Christ.
Fashion us in his likeness here on earth,
that we may share his glorious company in heaven,
where he lives and reigns now and for ever.

Hymns:

653, Lead, kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom (CD 37)
549, Dear Lord and Father of mankind (CD 32)
601, Teach me, my God and King (CD 34).

The sycamore fig, the mulberry and the fig are all related … a fig tree in Córdoba (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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