29 January 2021

‘Forever enfold them in
the embrace of Your wings;
secure their souls in eternity’

Smashed gravestones in the New Jewish Cemetery in Kraków have been collected to form a Holocaust Memorial (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Earlier this week, on Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January 2021), I recalled the many survivors and victims of the Holocaust who had once lived in Ireland, who moved to Ireland, or who died in Ireland.

El Malei Rachamim (אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים, ‘God full of compassion’) is a prayer for the departed that asks for comfort and everlasting care of the deceased. It is usually said at the graveside during the burial service and at memorial services during the year:

God, full of mercy, Who dwells above, provide a sure rest on the wings of the Divine Presence, amongst the holy, pure and glorious who shine like the sky, to the soul of (Hebrew name), son/daughter of (Hebrew name) for the sake of charity which was given to the memory of his/her soul. Therefore, the Merciful One will protect him/her forever in the hiding of his wings, and will tie his/her soul with the rope of life. The Everlasting is his/her heritage, and he/she shall rest peacefully at his/her lying place, and let us say: Amen.

But different versions of this prayer are provided for different moments. The version for the Remembrance of Victims of the Holocaust says:

God, full of mercy, who dwells in the heights, provide a sure rest upon the Divine Presence’s wings, within the range of the holy and the pure, whose shining resemble the sky’s, all the souls of the six million Jews, victims of the European Holocaust, who were murdered, slaughtered, burnt and exterminated for the Sanctification of the Name, by the German Nazi assassins and their helpers from the rest of the peoples. Therefore, the Master of Mercy will protect them forever, from behind the hiding of his wings, and will tie their souls with the rope of life. The Everlasting is their heritage, the Garden of Eden shall be their resting room, and they shall rest peacefully upon their lying place, they will stand for their fate in the end of days, and let us say: Amen.

For my Friday evening reflections and readings this evening, I am reading the version for the Shoah (Holocaust) is found in the Reform prayer book, Mishkan T’filah. I have prayed with this prayer before, and on Holocaust Memorial Day a version of this prayer was circulated among priests in the Diocese of Limerick and Killaloe by the Revd Kevin O’Brien of Ennis, Co Clare:

Fully compassionate God on high:
To our six million brothers and sisters
murdered because they were Jews,
grant clear and certain rest with You
in the lofty heights of the sacred and pure
whose brightness shines like the very glow of heaven.

Source of mercy:
Forever enfold them in the embrace of Your wings;
secure their souls in eternity.
Adonai: they are Yours.
They will rest in peace. Amen.

May their memories be a blessing, זצ״ל

Five marks of mission and
Saint Mark’s Chapel with
an altar from Tarbert

The chapter and choir stalls in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the present stage of the pandemic lockdown, while I am confined to a 5 km radius from the Rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick, I am missing not only the regular round of Sunday services in the four churches in this group of parishes, but I am also missing my regular visits to Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

It is almost four years since I was installed as Precentor in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, on 17 February 2017. This is a chapter position that also involves Saint Flannan’s Cathedral, Killaloe, Co Clare, and Saint Brendan’s Cathedral, Clonfert, Co Galway. In recent months, I have been blogging occasionally about my predecessors as Precentor. In Anglican cathedral traditions, the Precentor is the canon who takes a particular interest in the liturgical and musical life of a cathedral.

Although in my case the role of Precentor is linked to the continuing ministerial education of priests in these dioceses, I have a natural instinct for and interest in cathedral liturgy and music, and miss those cathedral visits. Indeed, the pandemic lockdown and present circumstances do not mean that the joint cathedral chapter is frozen in Corona-land, far from it.

After a recent virtual meeting of the clergy of this diocese, the chapter members agreed to host a joint Lenten study this year, focussing on the five points of mission that have been agreed in the Anglican Communion:

1, To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
2, To teach, baptise and nurture new believers
3, To respond to human need by loving service
4, To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and pursue peace and reconciliation
5, To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth

Each chapter member has agreed to focus on one of these points of mission on successive weekday evenings throughout Lent, and I have undertaken to introduce the fourth point on injustice and violence, peace and reconciliation.

But more about this Lenten project as the details are finalised.

Inside Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Meanwhile, during my most recent visit to Saint Mary’s Cathedral last month, it was encouraging to see how new lighting has been installed in the chapter and choir stalls.

It was encouraging too to see how an altar on loan from Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert, Co Kerry, has found an appropriate place in Saint Mark’s Chapel and is being used for its original purpose instead of being hidden away in storage.

This side chapel in the cathedral is also known as the O’Brien Chapel, and was the traditional funerary chapel of the O’Brien family. Donal Mór O Brien, the last O’Brien King of Munster, made a gift of the site of his royal palace to the Church, and the cathedral was built on this site.

On Sundays, outside pandemic time, Saint Mark’s Chapel is used as worship space by the children in the cathedral congregation, and it is also been the venue for celebrations of the Euchaist before chapter meetings.

Collect on Saint Mark’s Day:

Almighty God,
who enlightened your holy Church
through the inspired witness of your evangelist Saint Mark:
Grant that we, being firmly grounded
in the truth of the gospel,
may be faithful to its teaching both in word and deed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The altar in Saint Mark’s Chapel in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick … on loan from Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)