Sunday, 6 December 2020

Praying in Advent with
Lichfield Cathedral:
8, Sunday 6 December 2020

‘John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1: 4) … the door into the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I am using the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

Advent is the Church’s mindful antidote to some of the diversion and consumerism of a modern Christmas. It prepares us to encounter Christ again in his joy and humility.

In ‘The Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar 2020,’ the Dean and community at Lichfield Cathedral are inviting us to light our Advent candle each day as we read the Bible and join in prayer.

This calendar is for everyone who uses the Cathedral website, for all the Cathedral community, and for people you want to send it to and invite to share in the daily devotional exercise.

This is a simple prayer and bible-reading exercise to help us to mark the Advent Season as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.

It is designed to take us on a journey, looking back to John the Baptist and Mary the Mother of Jesus; looking out into the world today, into our own hearts and experience; outwards again to Jesus Christ as he encounters us in life today and in his promise to be with us always.

You can download the calendar HERE.

The community at Lichfield Cathedral offers a number of suggestions on how to use this calendar:

● Set aside 5-15 minutes every day.

● Buy or use a special candle to light each day as you read and pray through the suggestions on the calendar.

● Try to ‘eat simply’ – one day each week try going without so many calories or too much rich food, just have enough.

● Try to donate to a charity working with the homeless or the people of Bethlehem.

● Try to pray through what you see and notice going on around you in people, the media and nature.

Sunday 6 December 2020:

Read Saint Mark 1: 1-8:.

1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight”,’

4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

Reflection:

Stay alert for the news of God’s work in the here and now and the people who announce it. Ask to know the truth.

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s evening reflection

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

Remembering Beethoven’s 250th
birthday and other anniversaries

Ludwig van Beethoven was born 250 years ago … probably on 16 December 1770

Patrick Comerford

This month marks the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven, probably on 16 December 1770. Because of his own ground-breaking works and his influence on others, he is probably the single most important figure in the history of music.

He single-handedly reshaped the musical language of his time and strode the transition from the 18th to the 19th century like a colossus. His shadow hung over much of the following century. ‘You can’t have any idea what it’s like always to hear such a giant marching behind you!’ as Brahms said.

But Beethoven’s influence went much further than music, affecting the wider artistic, cultural, philosophical and even political world. The philosopher Isaiah Berlin described him as ‘the great artistic figure of the 19th century, who impressed himself deeply upon the imagination of Europe.’

Beethoven’s own view of himself as a creative artist was in itself revolutionary, in seeing music and art as having the power to change the world. ‘Music is ... a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.’

Karl Barth, one of the great theologians of the 20th century, wrote in 1956, ‘When the angels praise God in Heaven I am sure they play Bach. However, en famille they play Mozart, and then God the Lord is especially delighted to listen to them.’

‘And what about Beethoven?’ one wit has asked, replying: ‘Beethoven would play his own music for God, and expect God to like it, too.’

Beethoven represents the notion of artistic and personal freedom, telling us to ‘do all the good that one can; love, above all, freedom, and even for a throne, never deny the truth.’

Beethoven (right) and Mozart (left) in the window of Vienna’s best-known music shop, the Musikhaus Doblinger on Dorotheergasse, opposite the Jewish Museum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

***

Beethoven was born in December 1770 in Bonn, then a sleepy outpost of the former Holy Roman Empire. We do not know the day he was born, but he was baptised on 17 December, and there is a consensus that he was probably born the previous day, 16 December. He later moved to Vienna to pursue his career in music.

Beethoven’s output was prolific, and included what he called the ‘Scottish’ airs, a collection of Irish, Scottish and Welsh folk songs. He was commissioned by a Scottish publisher, George Thompson, to arrange music for a series of folk songs. Thompson also engaged Beethoven’s one-time mentor Joseph Haydn. Although Beethoven never visited Ireland or Britain, he corresponded with Thompson from 1803 until 1820.

A complete recording of Beethoven’s Irish Songs, produced by the DIT Conservatory of Music and Drama, was released in 2014 to mark the 200th anniversary of their first publication. The late Tomás Ó Súilleabháin selected texts, mostly by Thomas Moore and Robert Burns, for the new edition of the Irish Songs.

In his last years, Beethoven lived in pain and went deaf. He died in Vienna on 26 March 1827 at the age of 56.

The National Concert Hall in Dublin and many other venues have organised special concerts and events to mark this anniversary in December 2020.

The main building of the Jewish community in Vienna, housing the Stadttempel or City Synagogue … Beethoven turned down a commission for its opening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Beethoven and Schubert
at Vienna’s synagogue


The attack early in November on the Stadttempel, the only surviving pre-war synagogue in Vienna, reminded me that the Jewish community in Vienna had asked Beethoven in 1825 to compose a cantata for the dedication of the synagogue.

Beethoven was unable to accept the commission, but he carried out a preliminary study of Musik der alter Juden, perhaps with this in mind. Instead, the cantata was written by Josef Deschler (1742-1852), a choir master at the Stephansdom, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, and Franz Schubert wrote his setting of Psalm 92 for the choir of the synagogue.

Schubert thus became the only great composer before the 20th century to compose a setting in Hebrew of Jewish liturgy for the synagogue with his setting in Hebrew of Psalm 92, Tov Lehodot La’Adonai (‘It is good to give thanks to the Lord’).

Schubert was born in 1797 and in his short life of 31 years, he composed hundreds of songs, string quartets, sonatas, and ensemble pieces to be played in small, intimate settings. His career as a composer began when he was 14 with his first surviving vocal work. The intense ‘Hagar’s Lament’ is setting for the story in the Book of Genesis about the Hagar who bears a son Ishmael for Abraham, and is sent into exile in the wilderness.

Schubert was commissioned along with other contemporary composers by Salomon Sulzer, the hazan or cantor who was in charge of singing at Vienna’s main synagogue, the Stadttempel on Seitenstettengasse, for 45 years from 1826.

Sultzer had the reputation of having the finest baritone voice of his time and was an influential composer too. His still-familiar settings include Ein Kamocha, Yehalelu Es Shem, and Shema Yisroel. He also edited liturgical music and cared deeply about settings in the Hebrew language.

***

The Hebrew inscription from Psalm 100 at the entrance to the Stadttempel … Vienna’s main synagogue (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sultzer was a frequent guest at Schubert’s musical evenings and commissioned Schubert’s setting of Psalm 92. This work for a four-part choir and solo baritone highlighted Sulzer’s skills. Sulzer sang Schubert’s arrangement at the consecration of the synagogue on 9 April 1826.

This setting was praised by Franz Liszt who heard it at a service at Sulzer’s synagogue before Schubert died in Vienna on 19 November 1828. The German Catholic composer Joseph Mainzer later wrote that no Viennese church of the time ever offered singing ‘as noble and lofty as that synagogue.’

The synagogue was designed in the Biedermeier style by Kornhäusel, the architect who built elegant palaces and theatres in Vienna. When it was built, it was fitted into a block of houses and hidden from plain view of the street.

The Nazis destroyed all 93 other synagogues and Jewish prayer-houses in Vienna. But because of its unusual architectural design and its location, this synagogue survived destruction 82 years ago, on Kristallnacht, 9-10 November 1938. The Stadttempel is the only synagogue in the Austrian capital to have survived World War II, and today it is the main synagogue in Vienna.

The Stadttempel or City Synagogue was attacked in November … it is the only synagogue in Vienna to survive World War II (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

From Kilmallock to
arresting the last Fuhrer


He is known for his bloodstock achievements as a breeder, trainer, huntsman and for organising the first international three-day event at Punchestown. But, as the commemorations of the 75th anniversary of World War II come to an end, he is worth recalling as the man who said he arrested Hitler’s successor and the last Fuhrer of the Third Reich.

Bill Harrington was born in 1922 and raised in Derbyshire. His mother Margaret grew up at Mount Coote Stud in Kilmallock, where he much of his childhood. He was seven when he succeeded as the 11th earl, and 17 when World War II began. He soon joined the King’s Royal Hussars, with Lord Rathdonnell from Lisnavagh, Co Carlow, as his major.

***

The grave in Kilmallock of the Earl of Harrington … he claimed to have arrested Hitler’s designated successor (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the small churchyard behind the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Kilmallock, Co Limerick, I recently came across the grave of William Henry Leicester Stanhope (1922-2009), 11th Earl of Harrington.

By mid-May 1945, Allied forces had surrounded Flensburg, where the surviving German high command, including Grand Admiral Karl Doenitz, was based. Before Hitler died by suicide on 30 April, he had appointed Doenitz as President and Supreme Commander. A Nazi ideologue and anti-semite, he spoke constantly of what he referred to as the ‘spreading poison of Jewry.’

As Soviet troops swept across east Germany and into Berlin, Doenitz believed his crumbling regime offered a palatable option for the Allies. Instead, the allies advanced on the morning of 23 May.

As Hitler’s successor waited, the door was pushed open, and a lieutenant in the uniform of the 15/19 Hussars confronted him. Doenitz noted the man’s rank with dismay. ‘I will not answer to a Lieutenant’, he said haughtily. ‘I wish to see your Commanding Officer.’

Harrington levelled his revolver at the admiral’s chest and in colourful language told him: ‘You come with me, you bugger’.

Doenitz was escorted to the Patria, anchored in Flensburg Harbour, and was put on trial with other Nazi war criminals in Nuremberg. He spent over 11 years in prison. He was released in 1956, moved to a village near Hamburg, and died unrepentant 40 years ago, on Christmas Eve 1980.

After the war, Harrington moved to Ireland. In 1946, he divorced his first wife and in 1947 married Ann Theodora Chute, only daughter of Major Richard Arenbourg Blennerhassett Chute of Dooneen, near Patrickswell, Co Limerick.

From 1955 to 1999, he was based at Greenmount Stud, Patrickswell, the site of the present-day Limerick racecourse. There, he ran a flourishing commercial stud and point-to-point races, and kept 50 hunters for himself and his family. He also helped form the Clonshire Equestrian and Polo Centre and the Irish Olympic Horse Society.

Meanwhile, in 1964 he married his third wife, Silla Cubitt, a first cousin of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. They later moved to Ballingarry, Co Limerick, where he died on Easter Day 2009 at the age of 86. Over 1,000 people attended his funeral in Adare.

The Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Kilmallock, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This feature was first published in the December 2020 edition of the ‘Church Review’ (Dublin and Glendalough)

Sunday intercessions on
6 December 2020,
Second Sunday of Advent

‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’ (Mark 1: 3) … a walk in the woods at Curraghchase, near Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Let us pray:

‘Mercy and truth are met together,
righteousness and peace have kissed each other;
Truth shall spring up from the earth’ (Psalm 85: 10-11):

Heavenly Father,
as we prepare for the coming of Christ
and to welcome the promises of the Kingdom,
we pray that truth shall spring up from the earth, and guide the rulers and the nations.

We pray for all nations torn and divided by war and strife,
and we pray for all peacemakers,
and all who defend democracy and human rights.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight’ (Mark 1: 3):

Lord Jesus Christ,
we pray for the Church,
that we may prepare for your coming:

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray this week for the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain,
and Bishop Carlos López-Lozano.

In the Church of Ireland,
we give thanks for 30 years of women in ordained ministry,
we pray for this Diocese of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert
as we prepare to unite with the Diocese of Tuam, Killala and Achonry,
and we pray for our bishop, Bishop Kenneth Kearon,
and for Bishop Patrick Rooke.

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer, we pray this week
for the victims of abuse
and all engaged in Safeguarding.

We pray for our own parishes and people and for ourselves …

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘The grass withers, the flower fades;
but the word of our God will stand for ever’ (Isaiah 40: 8)

Holy Spirit,
we pray for ourselves, for one another,
for those we love and those who love us,
and remember those who have brought love into our lives:

We give thanks for new life …
We pray for those in need and those who seek healing …

We pray for those who are sick or isolated,
at home or in hospital …

Sylvia … Alan … Margaret … Lorraine …
Ajay… Ena … Eileen … Simon … Ralph … Adam …

We pray for those we have offered to pray for …
and we pray for those who pray for us …

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …

We remember and give thanks those who have died …
may their memories be a blessing to us …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer from the Mothers’ Union for use during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence:

Loving Lord,
your care and love are ever present in our lives.
We pray for our brothers and sisters throughout the world
who live in situations of abuse and violence.

Give them hope in their hopelessness;
help them find strength in their weakness;
grant them freedom from their oppression;
transform their brokenness into wholeness;
and heal their wounds, visible and invisible.

Grant us all the courage and wisdom, grace and humility,
to act at all times with compassion and care.
And grant all who are harmed by abuse or coercion, peace through justice.
This we ask in Jesus name. Amen.

Merciful Father …

Lighting the second purple candle on the Advent Wreath … the second candle is a reminder of the Prophets (Photograph: Barbara Comerford)

Prayer at the Advent Wreath on Advent II (Second Purple Candle):

The first candle to light on the Advent Wreath last Sunday (Advent 1) was the first Purple Candle, recalling the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. The second purple candle this morning represents the Prophets.

The Anglican mission USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) suggests this prayer when lighting the second (purple) candle on the Advent Wreath:

The Prophets:

O God of history,
who has spoken through the prophets;
we pray for mothers in Ghana
who have learned to protect their children from cholera.
Bless those who bring life-saving knowledge
and bless families whose children are now healthy and full of life.

These prayers and intercessions were prepared for use on the Second Sunday of Advent (6 December 2020) at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, and Morning Prayer in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry.

How Saint Nicholas helps us
to ‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight’

Saint Nicholas in a stained-glass window in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 6 December 2020

The Second Sunday of Advent (Advent II)


9.30 a.m., Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick, the Parish Eucharist

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

The Readings: Isaiah 40: 1-11; Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13; (II Peter 3: 8-15a;) Mark 1: 1-8

There is a direct link to the readings HERE.

An icon of Saint Nicholas in a church in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. This is the Sunday in Advent when we remember the Prophets and how they looked forward to the coming of salvation and redemption. Our readings this morning give voice to this hope and anticipation.

Our first reading (Isaiah 40: 1-11) is familiar because of the opening words of hope and expectation heard in Handel’s Messiah.

In the Psalm (Psalm 85: 1-2, 8-13), we are told of God’s restoration of the people, and God’s overwhelming forgiveness (verses 1-2).

In the Epistle reading (II Peter 3: 8-15a), which we might have heard this morning, we are reminded, ‘We wait for new heavens and a new earth’ (II Peter 3: 13).

And we heard the message of hope in the opening passage in Saint Mark’s Gospel (Mark 1: 1-8).

Mark, unlike Matthew or Luke, has no Nativity narrative, has no story of the first Christmas (see Matthew 1: 18 to 2: 23; Luke 1: 1 to 2: 40). Instead, Saint Mark begins his Gospel with his account of the Baptism of Christ by Saint John in the River Jordan (see Matthew 3: 1-17; Luke 3: 1-21; John 1: 19-34).

He tells the story of the Baptism of Christ as the story of a new creation, drawing together all the elements of the creation story in Genesis. God is pleased with the whole of creation, God so loved this creation, the κόσμος (kosmos), that Christ has come into it, identified with us in the flesh, and gives us the gift and the blessings of the Holy Spirit.

But today also commemorates Saint Nicholas, the role model for Santa Claus.

It is good to be reminded how, with less than three weeks to go to Christmas, Saint Nicholas too can remind us in dark days to be joyful and to look forward with hope and anticipation.

Saint Nicholas was a fourth century Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, now southern Turkey.

Many of the stories about him concern his love and care for children, how he fed the hungry, healed the sick and cared for the oppressed. He saved three girls from a life of prostitution by providing them with dowries – and so developed the tradition of bearing gifts to children on his feast day, a practice that we have since moved to the Christmas celebrations.

But, why should a bishop who makes free giving to children a priority in his ministry be worth rescuing from marketing and merchandising?

Because Christ first himself comes to us as a little child with nothing at all, and yet is the most precious gift of all, given freely.

Saint Nicholas, whose name means ‘Victory of the People,’ was born in Myra in Lycia, now known as Demre, near Antalya in present-day Turkey. He had a reputation as a secret giver of gifts, such as putting coins in the shoes of poor children. Because of this, perhaps, he was transformed into our present-day Santa Claus.

Legend says that young Nicholas was sent to Alexandria as a student. On the voyage, he is said to have saved the life of a sailor who fell from the ship’s rigging in a storm. In one version, on their arrival back in Myra Nicholas took the sailor to church. The previous Bishop of Myra had just died, and the freshly-returned, heroic Nicholas was elected his successor.

Another story tells how during a famine, a butcher lured three small children into his house, slaughtered and butchered them, and put their bodies in a pork barrel to sell as meat pies. Saint Nicholas, who heard of the horrific plans, raised the three boys back to life through his prayers.

The best-known story tells how a poor man had three daughters but could not afford proper dowries for them, meaning they would remain unmarried or become prostitutes. Saint Nicholas secretly went to their house under cover of darkness and threw three purses filled with gold, one for each daughter, through the window – or down the chimney.

I prefer the stories that link Saint Nicholas with the defence of true doctrine. In the year 325, the Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea, attended by more than 300 bishops, to debate the nature of the Holy Trinity.

It was one of the most intense theological debates in the early Church. Arius from Alexandria was teaching that Christ was the Son of God but was not equal to God the Father. As Arius argued his position at length, Nicholas became agitated, crossed the room, and slapped Arius across the face.

The shocked bishops stripped Nicholas of his episcopal robes, chained him and jailed him. In the morning, the bishops found his chains on the floor and Nicholas dressed in his bishop’s robes, quietly reading the Bible. Constantine ordered his release, and Nicholas was reinstated as the Bishop of Myra.

As the debate went on, the Council of Nicaea came around to agreeing with his views. It decided against Arius and agreed on the Nicene Creed, which remains the symbol of our faith.

After the American Revolution, New Yorkers remembered the colony’s nearly-forgotten Dutch roots, and the New York Historical Society promoted Saint Nicholas as the patron of the city. Washington Irving joined the society and published a story with many references to a jolly Saint Nicholas.

And so, began the legends about Saint Nicholas and New Amsterdam: that the first Dutch emigrant ship had a figurehead of Saint Nicholas; that Saint Nicholas Day was observed in the colony; that the first church was dedicated to him; and that Saint Nicholas comes down chimneys to bring gifts.

Other artists and writers continued to transform Saint Nicholas from a saintly bishop to a jolly, rotund gift-giver. In 1863, the cartoonist Thomas Nast began a series of drawings in Harper’s Weekly, based on the descriptions in Washington Irving’s fiction and Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, ‘A Visit from Saint Nicholas’ or ‘The Night Before Christmas.’

Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus had become inseparable from Christmas.

But remembering Saint Nicholas this morning also reminds us to prepare for the coming of Christ; that without the incarnation there would be no Christmas celebrations; to ask how, without the birth of Christ, would we experience God’s salvation and redemption.

Saint Nicholas reminds us of the value of giving, giving with love and without expecting anything in return. Santa reminds us of the need to value children – as children themselves, and not because they are potential adults. Perhaps Santa should also remind us adults of the child within ourselves.

Prepare to give and to receive. Prepare to receive God’s love in his most precious present. And prepare to give and receive love for one another.

And, in Saint Mark’s words in our Gospel reading, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’ (Mark 1: 3).

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

Saint John the Baptist and the Prophet Isaiah … a window in Saint John’s Church, Wall, outside Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 1: 1-8 (NRSVA):

1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight”,’

4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

‘We wait for new heavens and a new earth’ (II Peter 3: 13) … early morning on the River Slaney at Ferrycarrig, near Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Liturgical colour: Violet (Advent, Year B).

The liturgical provisions suggest that the Gloria may be omitted during Advent, and it is traditional in Anglicanism to omit the Gloria at the end of canticles and psalms during Advent.

Penitential Kyries:

Turn to us again, O God our Saviour,
and let your anger cease from us.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your salvation is near for those that fear you,
that glory may dwell in our land.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Advent Collect:

This collect is said after the Collect of the day until Christmas Eve:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Collect (Saint Nicholas):

Almighty Father, lover of souls,
who chose your servant Nicholas
to be a bishop in the Church,
that he might give freely out of the treasures of your grace:
make us mindful of the needs of others
and, as we have received, so teach us also to give;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Collect of the Word:

God of all peoples,
whose servant John came baptising and calling for repentance:
help us to hear his voice of judgment,
that we may also rejoice in the word of promise,
and be found pure and blameless in the glorious day when Christ
comes to rule the earth as Prince of Peace;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

In the tender mercy of our God,
the dayspring from on high shall break upon us,
to give light to those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1: 78, 79)

Preface:

Salvation is your gift
through the coming of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and by him you will make all things new
when he returns in glory to judge the world:

The Post Communion Prayer:

Lord,
here you have nourished us with the food of life.
Through our sharing in this holy sacrament
teach us to judge wisely earthly things
and to yearn for things heavenly.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer (Saint Nicholas):

God, shepherd of your people,
whose servant Nicholas revealed the loving service of Christ
in his ministry as a pastor of your people:
by this Eucharist in which we share
awaken within us the love of Christ
and keep us faithful to our Christian calling;
through him who laid down his life for us,
but is alive and reigns with you,
now and for ever.

Blessing:

Christ the sun of righteousness shine upon you,
gladden your hearts
and scatter the darkness from before you:

‘Righteousness will go before him, and will make a path for his steps’ (Psalm 85: 13) … the Mary Elmes Pedestrian Bridge in Cork commemorates Mary Elmes, who saved hundreds of Jewish children during the Holocaust and has been named among the ‘Righteous of the Nations’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Hymns:

126: Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding (CD 8)
136: On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry (CD 8)

Nicholas Street was the High Street of mediaeval Limerick … the site of Saint Nicholas Church is on the left (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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.



Praying in Advent with USPG:
8, Sunday 6 December 2020

‘A Promise of Hope’ … the theme of USPG’s Christmas project this year

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I am using the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

I am one of the contributors to the current USPG Diary, Pray with the World Church, introducing the theme of peace and trust after Christmas.

Today (6 December 2020) is the Second Sunday of Advent, and with an easing of pandemic lockdown restrictions, I am planning later this morning to celebrate the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick (9:30 a.m.) and to lead and preach at Morning Prayer in Saint Brendan’s Church, Kilnaughtin (Tarbert), Co Kerry (11:30 a.m.).

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for my own personal prayer, reflection and Scripture reading.

The theme of the USPG Prayer Diary this week (6 to 12 December 2020) is ‘A Promise of Hope,’ which is the theme of USPG’s Christmas project this year.

Introducing this week’s theme, the Prayer Diary says:

‘For thousands of HIV-positive Tanzanian women, the Anglican Church of Tanzania’s Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme has been instrumental in enabling them and their families to experience life in all its fulness.

‘The PMTCT programme is based in Mvumi Hospital: a mission hospital situated in Mvumi Village in Dodoma Rural District, Central Tanzania. It works in collaboration with Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancy in HIV-positive women, as well as offer care and support for HIV-positive women and their children and families.

The programme saw a drop in numbers attending when the Covid-19 pandemic began, owing to a mistaken belief which circulated, claiming that attending PMTCT’s clinics would put mothers at risk of catching the virus. The PMTCT team did a great job of setting the record straight during their routine outreaches, and now the number of mothers and other clients attending the programme’s clinic at Mvumi Mission Hospital is returning to what it was before the pandemic began.’

Sunday 6 December (Second Sunday of Advent):

Almighty and loving God,
Thank you for your truth that sets us free.
Help us be agents of change and freedom
In this world that you love.

The Collect of the Day (Advent II):

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Mark 1: 1-8 (NRSVA):.

1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

‘See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
“Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight”,’

4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, ‘The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s morning reflection

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