03 April 2021

Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin
Group parish notes in
‘Newslink’ April 2021

The church bells have been rung in Askeaton every Sunday during the lockdown

Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes

Rathkeale, Askeaton, Castletown and Kilnaughtin

Priest-in-Charge: Revd Canon Patrick Comerford,

Parish Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RathkealeGroup/

The Church is not closed:

The doors of the churches may have been closed throughout the latest phase of the pandemic lockdown, but the Church has remained open. Sunday worship has continued, the Eucharist has been celebrated, we have been ringing the church bells, and sermons have been streamed on Facebook and YouTube.

The schools have reopened (albeit partially), there have been funerals and there have been promises of new life, with plans for marriages and discussions about Baptisms, and the parish was part of the Lenten study group on the five points of Anglican mission, organised by the Dean and Chapter of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

In recent weeks, repair work has been carried out on the slates at Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, and Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, and there are proposals to redecorate the church in Rathkeale.

The busy cycle of parish and diocesan life continues, with diocesan council and clergy meetings – even though they are ‘virtual’ meetings – and preparations for the upcoming Easter vestries and elections. In addition, Zoom meetings have introduced a multitude of people and organisations into the Rectory, including members of school boards and trustees of the mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

In a time of pandemic lockdowns and partial lockdowns, in times of uncertainty about the future, it is important to be reminded of and to rejoice in the promises of new life in the Resurrection.

Planning ahead … with hope:

The Covid-19 pandemic restrictions make it difficult to know when Church services with congregations are going to resume. Should restrictions ease in time for Easter and April, these are the times of planned services:

Saturday 3 April (Easter Eve): 7 pm: The Easter Eucharist (HC 2), Kilnaughtin (Tarbert); 9 pm: The Easter Eucharist (HC 2), Askeaton.

Sunday 4 April (Easter Day): 9.30 am: the Easter Eucharist (HC 2), Castletown; 11.30 am: the Easter Eucharist (HC 2), Rathkeale.

Sunday 11 April (Easter II): 9.30, HC, Castletown; 11.30, MP, Rathkeale.

Sunday 18 April (Easter III): 9.30, MP, Askeaton; 11.30, HC, Tarbert.

Sunday 25 April (Easter IV): 9.30, MP, Castletown; 11.30, HC, Rathkeale.

On-line sermons:

Meanwhile, during the lockdown, while church buildings remain closed, the Parish Eucharist continues to be celebrated, and the Sunday sermon and the intercessions go online through the Parish Facebook page and through Patrick’s blog (www.patrickcomerford.com). The sermons are also made available on YouTube.

Church repairs and decorating have continued during the lockdown … repairs to the church roof in Askeaton

This is an edited version of the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes parish notes in the April 2021 edition of Newslink, the Limerick and Killaloe Diocesan Magazine

Poems for Holy Week 2021:
8, Leonard Cohen, ‘If it be your will’

Christ in the tomb, ‘Epitaphios’ by Theophanes the Cretan

Patrick Comerford

Saturday 3 April 2021

Reading: John 19: 38-42

Each evening in Holy Week this year, I have been reading a poem to help our reflections. There are no liturgical provisions for today, as Christ lays in the tomb this Saturday, but my choice of a poem for this last day in Holy Week is another poem/song by Leonard Cohen, ‘If it be your will’.

Saint Luke alone tells us that Christ’s last words on the Cross were: ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ (see Luke 23: 46). This saying, which is an announcement and not a request, is traditionally called ‘The Word of Reunion,’ for Christ has accepted the will of God the Father in Heaven.

This is the seventh and final of the Seven Last Words. It is followed by silence – the silence of this Saturday, the silence of the grave, the silence of Christ lying in the tomb, the silence of the disciples who have lost their sense of direction, their focus, their understanding, their control – and our silence before the resurrection.

So often I want to be in control. I want to control the agenda, I want to control conversations, I want to control discussions. And I particularly want to control the words I use, the words others are going to hear me say.

And so, I am humbled at times when I listen to Leonard Cohen’s song, If it be your will.

I was at most of Leonard Cohen’s concerts in Ireland. He ended many of those concerts singing this poem, which for me is about submission to God’s will, accepting God’s will, leaving God in control of my spirit:

Leonard Cohen sings of his nearly complete subjection to the divine will.

If he is told to be silent, he will be silent; if he is told to sing, he will sing.

If he is allowed to express his true voice (‘if a voice be true’), he will sing in praise of God from ‘this broken hill’ … from Calvary?

The mercy of God, the compassion of God, the love of God, redeems the burning hearts in hell … if it is God’s will.

Leonard Cohen’s great hope in this will leads to prayer, to the one who can ‘make us well’ if we devote ourselves to God, pray to God, sing to God.

But he still prays to God to act on behalf of the suffering.

Cajoling God in song and poetry, Cohen says God has the power to ‘end this night’ of the darkness of the human condition, in which people are dressed in only dirty ‘rags of light’ that are fragmented, that are not fully whole and illuminated.

In this song, I imagine Christ on the cross as he speaks to God the Father as his agony comes to its close:

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before.

The broken hill is Golgotha where he has been crucified, the rugged and rocky Mount of Calvary.

‘Let the rivers fill’ may refer to the water of his thirst, the water of his sweat, the water that streams from his side, the waters of baptism, the Living Water that will never leave us to thirst.

If it be your will
To make us well
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell

The Dominican theologian Timothy Radcliffe says: ‘We must wait for the resurrection to break the silence of the tomb.’ We must speak up when it is necessary, and to have the courage to speak is ‘ultimately founded upon the courage to listen.’

But at the grave, at times of desolation, at times when there is no answer, we may also be called to be silent.

Leonard Cohen on at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

‘If it be your will,’ Leonard Cohen

If it be your will
That I speak no more
And my voice be still
As it was before
I will speak no more
I shall abide until
I am spoken for
If it be your will

If it be your will
That a voice be true
From this broken hill
I will sing to you
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing
From this broken hill
All your praises they shall ring
If it be your will
To let me sing

If it be your will
If there is a choice
Let the rivers fill
Let the hills rejoice
Let your mercy spill
On all these burning hearts in hell
If it be your will
To make us well

And draw us near
And bind us tight
All your children here
In their rags of light
In our rags of light
All dressed to kill
And end this night
If it be your will

If it be your will.

‘If It Be Your Will’ … Leonard Cohen and The Webb Sisters, Live in London

John 19: 38-42 (NRSVA):

38 After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. 39 Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. 40 They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. 42 And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.

The Collect:

Grant, Lord,
that we who are baptized into the death
of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ
may continually put to death our evil desires
and be buried with him;
and that through the grave and gate of death
we may pass to our joyful resurrection;
through his merits, who died and was buried
and rose again for us,
your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

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 It Be Your Will lyrics © Bad Monk Publishing

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
46, Saint Catherine’s, Mount Sinai

Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai … here God spoke to Moses through the Burning Bush and gave him the Ten Commandments; here Elijah hid in a crag in the rock

Patrick Comerford

During Lent and Easter this year, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society, Partners in the Gospel).

Today is Saturday in Holy Week (3 April 2021), the last week in Lent. This week I am offering photographs from seven churches that I think of as places of pilgrimage and spiritual refreshment (I have reflected earlier this Lent on the place of the chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield, and of Lichfield Cathedral, in my spiritual life).

This morning’s photographs are from the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai. I was a guest in this monastery when I visited Egypt a number of times, working on a programme on Christian-Muslim dialogue about 20 years ago.

The Sinai Peninsula commands the spiritual awe of followers of the three main monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. On Mount Sinai, God spoke to Moses through the Burning Bush and gave him the Ten Commandments; here Elijah hid in a crag in the rock; and here Muslims believe Muhammad was a visiting trader prior to the beginnings of Islam, perhaps even visiting Saint Catherine’s Monastery.

Perhaps one of the most unusual but uplifting places to preside at the Eucharist was on top of Mount Sinai at sunrise, bringing bread and wine from the dinner table the night before in Saint Catherine’s Monastery.

I visited Saint Catherine’s Monastery during many visits to Egypt while I was working on a programme of Christian-Muslim dialogue

Matthew 27: 57-66 (NRSVA):

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, ‘Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, “After three days I will rise again.” 64 Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, “He has been raised from the dead”, and the last deception would be worse than the first.’ 65 Pilate said to them, ‘You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can.’ 66 So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (3 April 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray that as we wait ready to receive the risen Christ that we might work toward being the image of Christ in our world.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

An old print of Saint Catherine’s Monastery in the Rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick (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