Sunday, 22 August 2021

‘Let the little children come to
me … for it is to such as these
that the kingdom of God belongs’

‘Let the little children come to me’ (Luke 18: 16) … a stained-glass window in the north transept in Saint Mary’s Church, Youghal, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton, Co Limerick

3 p.m., Sunday 22 August 2021,

Holy Baptism, Simon Michael Foley

Readings:
Revelation 22: 1-5; Luke 18: 15-17.

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

What a wonderful gathering this is this afternoon!

While many people this afternoon are paying attention to a major clash between Limerick and Cork in the hurling final, we are witnessing Cork and Limerick being brought together in one family, in one sacrament, in this church.

Nicky and Rob were married here, Tamsin was baptised here two years ago, and now we have a third opportunity to celebrate new life and new commitment, with the Baptism of Simon Foley this afternoon.

This is not a naming ceremony: Nicky and Rob, and Simon’s grandparents and wider family circle already know his name.

This is not a welcoming ceremony: Simon has already been to church, here in Saint Mary’s Church and in Castletown Church, so he has been warmly welcomed into the Church.

This is not a private ceremony: there is nothing private about the Church, or Church membership or the public responsibilities and challenges that come with this.

Baptism is a public incorporation into the Body of Christ, the life of the Church past, present and future.

It is interesting how water is used as such a potent symbol in the life of Christ:

Christ begins his public ministry with his Baptism by Saint John in the waters of the River Jordan.

His first miracle involves a family celebration at which he turns water into wine.

The Samaritan woman at the well realises who he is when he promises her the Water of Life.

He calms the waters of the stormy sea, he heals and feeds by water, when he dies water flows from his side, when he rises, the Risen Christ meets his disciples by the water at the lakeshore.

And in our reading from the Book of Revelation, the beauty of the promises of Christ are depicted, poetically and dramatically, in ‘the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city.’

It is a promise of a future in which we are nourished and loved and cared for, where we are all welcome. There will be no more fear, no more hunger, no more violence, hatred or discrimination.

In the waters of his Baptism, Simon becomes part of the Body of Christ. He is the embodiment of Christ’s hopes for us, for the environment, for our future.

He now holds, embodies, all our hopes and promises for the future.

And nothing can be greater than that.

‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.’

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



Revelation 22: 1-5:

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; 4 they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign for ever and ever.

1 Ansin thaispeáin sé dom sruth uisce na beatha, é glan mar chriostal, ag teacht ó ríchathaoir Dé agus an Uain. 2 Bhí ansiúd i lár a sráide agus ar dhá thaobh na habhann, crainn na beatha a bheireadh a dhá dtoradh déag, agus gach ceann díobh ag tabhairt a thoradh le haghaidh na míosa. Ba chun na ciníocha a leigheas duilliúr na gcrann. 3 Ní bheidh aon ní faoi mhallacht feasta, ach beidh ríchathaoir Dé agus an Uain sa chathair, agus adharfaidh a sheirbhísigh é, 4 agus beidh a ghnúis le feiceáil acu, agus beidh a ainm ar chlár a n éadain. 5 Ní bheidh oíche ann feasta, agus ní bheidh gá acu le solas lóchrainn ná solas na gréine, óir lonróidh an Tiarna Dia orthu agus rialóidh siad ar feadh na síoraíochta.

Luke 18: 15-17

15 People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. 16 But Jesus called for them and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 17 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.’

15 Bhíodar ag tabhairt na leanaí beaga chuige freisin chun go sínfeadh sé a lámh orthu; agus ar a fheiceáil sin do na deisceabail bhíodar ag cur ceartú orthu. 16 Ach ghlaoigh Íosa na leanaí chuige, ag rá: ‘Ligigí do na leanaí teacht chugam agus ná coiscigí iad, óir is lena leithéidí seo ríocht Dé. 17 Deirim libh go fírinneach, cibé nach nglacfaidh ríocht Dé ar nós linbh, ní rachaidh sé isteach inti choíche.’

The Baptismal font in Saint Mary’s Church, 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

Sunday intercessions on
22 August 2021, Trinity XII

Pray for the People of Afghanistan … a recent work by the Afghan artist Shamsia Hassani

Let us pray:

‘May all the peoples of the earth know your name and fear you’ (I Kings 8: 43)

Heavenly Father,
we pray for the nations of the world,
and for all who live in fear and hunger for mercy, peace and justice.

A prayer for the people of Afghanistan:

For those who are fleeing: sanctuary
For those who are staying: safety
For those who fighting: peace
For those whose hearts are breaking: comfort
For those who see no future: hope.

We pray too for the people of Haiti, Greece and Turkey.
We pray for Ireland, north and south …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life’ (John 6: 68):

Lord Jesus Christ,
we pray for the Church,
that we may be faithful in the ministry of word and sacrament,
and in response to the spiritual and physical hunger of the world.

We pray for our Bishop, Kenneth, as he prepares to retire,
we pray for our neighbouring churches and parishes,
and people of faith everywhere,
that we may be blessed in our variety and diversity.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray this week for the Anglican Church of South America,
in six dioceses in Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay,
and the Primate, Archbishop Gregory Venables, Bishop of Argentina.

In the Church of Ireland this month,
we pray for the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough
and Archbishop Michael Jackson.

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer,
we pray for the Church of Ireland Theological Institute
and all who preparing for ordination.

In our community, we give thanks
for all who work on farms, in schools, in business and industry …
and we give special thanks this morning
for all in sports who give us fun and joy
and a sense of belonging …

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

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘One day in your courts is better than a thousand’ (Psalm 84: 9):

Holy Spirit, we pray for one another …

We pray for those we love and those who love us …
we pray for our families, friends and neighbours …
we pray for all on holidays …
and we pray for those we promised to pray for …

We prayer for those preparing for baptism,
and for ordination:

We pray for families where children, partners and those who are vulnerable
suffer violence, abuse or neglect …

We pray for those who feel rejected and discouraged …
we pray for all in need and those who seek healing …

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

Ruby … Ann … Daphne … Sylvia …
Ajay … Adam … Pat … Trixie …

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …
for all who are broken-hearted,
We remember and give thanks for those who have died …
Gill Killick … Arthur Gilliard …
Yvonne Blennerhassett … Beth Mayes … Stephen …
Myles ‘Miley’ Harty, his fiancée and his family in Askeaton …
May their memories be a blessing …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

The Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) in its Prayer Diary this morning, the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity, invites us to pray:

Welcoming God,
You make our hearts sing for joy.
May we be doorkeepers in the house of God,
Embracing all who enter.
Let us praise and worship You.

Merciful Father …

God’s presence among
us is not just for us but
for the many, the masses

‘But the one who eats this bread will live for ever’ (John 6: 58) … ‘The Eucharist’, one of 20 white porcelain ceramic panels by Helena Brennan at the Oblate Church in Inchicore, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 22 August 2021, the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XII)

9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Castletown Church

11.30 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

Readings: I Kings 8: (1, 6, 10-11,) 22-30, 41-43; Psalm 84; John 6: 56-69

There is a link to the readings HERE

‘When a foreigner … comes from a distant land because of your name … (respond) so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name’ (I Kings 8: 41-43)

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

We are coming to the end of the ‘Bread of Life’ discourse in Saint John’s Gospel, and return to Saint Mark’s Gospel next Sunday. In this morning’s reading, Christ says that taking part in the Eucharist establishes a lasting relationship, a community of life, a mutual indwelling, between him and believers.

But his teachings are difficult, and many turn away. This morning, we might ask ourselves: What do we say or do that turns people away from the Church, that turns people away from Christ?

In our first reading, the Temple has been built, the Ark has been brought to Jerusalem, and it is now moved in procession to the Holy of Holies or ‘inner sanctuary.’ A cloud fills the house of the Lord as a sign of God’s presence (verses 10-11).

Solomon asks God to respond to the pleas of foreigners and prays for ‘all the peoples of the earth’: ‘When a foreigner … comes from a distant land because of your name … (respond) so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name’ (I Kings 8: 41-43).

Our Psalm (Psalm 84) reminds the people that God dwells among them (verses 1-2), and that to live in the ‘courts of the Lord’ is a blessing and a joy to the heart. Those who live there have security and happiness. ‘Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow has a nest for herself’ there (verse 3).

The psalmist rejoices in well-known words that ‘a day’ in God’s ‘courts is better that a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness’ (verse 10).

So, where God dwells, the many, even the most insignificant of creatures, should find sanctuary, should find a home.

These are challenging readings when it comes to our treatment of foreigners who arrive in our land, and we might bear them in mind in the weeks to come as Ireland prepares to accept refugees from Afghanistan.

Do we see our proper treatment of the outsider, the many, as a religious and moral duty? Do they see in our response to them a reflection of our highest religious, moral and ethical values … a reflection of what we understand God expects of us?

In the Gospel reading (John 6: 56-69), we are coming to the end of the ‘Bread of Life’ discourse in Saint John’s Gospel, while Christ is teaching in Capernaum.

When he leaves the synagogue, many of Christ’s followers find his teaching difficult or offensive, and turn away. Christ asks the Twelve whether they too wish to leave him. But Saint Peter replies on their behalf: ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’ (verse 68).

The call to follow Christ is difficult. His demands are hard to accept and follow. Love is not always easy and romantic. There are times when loving one another, let along loving others out there in the world are so, so difficult, No wonder so many of his listeners turn away this morning.

What if the reason they turn away is because they find it hard to accept that Christ is for the many, not for the few, that God dwells among even the smallest and most despised of people, and not just the self-selecting, self-chosen few?

The many and the disciples are two different groups. We often misunderstand and misuse the term οἱ πολλοί (hoi polloi, ‘the many’). In Gilbert and Sullivan operas, it is pronounced as ‘the high pol-oy.’

In English, the phrase has come to be used with distaste for the masses or common people, in a derogatory way that is similar to ‘the great unwashed,’ ‘the plebs,’ ‘the rabble,’ ‘the riff-raff,’ or ‘the herd.’

Pericles uses hoi polloi in his ‘Funeral Oration’ in the Peloponnesian War, when he praises the Athenian people and democracy, contrasting ‘the many’ with ‘the few,’ the oligarchy (οἱ ὀλίγοι, hoi oligoi).

In the film Dead Poets’ Society (1989), Meeks raises his hands and asks: ‘The hoi polloi. Doesn’t it mean the herd?’ Professor Keating replies: ‘Precisely, Meeks. Greek for the herd. However, be warned that, when you say “the hoi polloi” you are actually saying “the the herd.” Indicating that you too are hoi polloi.’

In the Eucharistic prayers, we use words such as: ‘this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.’

Christ shares himself as the Bread of Life not for the few but for the many. In the Gospel, he says: ‘for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26: 28); ‘this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many’ (Mark 14: 24).

It is clear that the Eucharist, while celebrated among the disciples or within the community, is for the benefit of ‘the many.’

If we take part regularly in the Eucharist, we realise that it is not all about me at all. This bread is broken and this cup is poured out not just for us but also for the many.

Regular reception of this Sacrament is a reminder that the Church exists not for you and for me but for the world, and that the Church is not for those who decide subjectively they are the ‘called’ and the ‘saved,’ but is there to call the world into the Kingdom.

God dwells among his people, as Solomon realises in this morning’s first reading, so that ‘all the peoples of the earth’ may know they are loved and may know his name.

The Post-Communion prayer today (Trinity XII) prays that we know God’s forgiveness and the healing power of God’s love not only because we are ‘made whole in Christ,’ but so that we may bring God’s ‘forgiveness and healing to this broken world.’

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

‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me’ (John 6: 56) … an icon of Christ the Great High Priest in a shop window in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 6: 56-69 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 56 ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’ 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ 68 Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’

‘This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate’ (John 6: 58) … bread in the Avoca shop in Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Green (Ordinary Time, Year B)

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you are always more ready to hear than we to pray
and to give more than either we desire, or deserve:
Pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,
and giving us those good things
which we are not worthy to ask
save through the merits and mediation
of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.

The Collect of the Word:

Everliving God,
by whose Spirit
the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified:
hear the prayers we offer for all your faithful people,
that in the ministry to which you have called them
each may serve you in holiness and truth;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer:

God of compassion,
in this Eucharist we know again your forgiveness
and the healing power of your love.
Grant that we who are made whole in Christ
may bring that forgiveness and healing to this broken world,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Hymns:

398, Alleluia! sing to Jesus (CD 24)
581, I, the Lord of sea and sky (Castletown), CD 49
403, Bread of the world in mercy broken (Rathkeale), CD 24



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 Ordinary Time 2021:
85, Saint Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge

Welcome to the churches of Cambridge … the porch at Saint Bene’t’s Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Twelfth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XII), and later this morning (22 August 2021) I am leading Morning Prayer in Castletown Church, Co Limerick, presiding at the Parish Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, and preaching at both.

Before this day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme this week is churches in Cambridge that are not college chapels. In this series, I have already included Great Saint Mary’s (25 May 2021). My photographs this morning (22 August 2021) are from Saint Bene’t’s Church.

Saint Bene’t’s Church dates back a millennium to 1020 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

For some years, I enjoyed study leave at Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, during the courses offered by the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies. During those courses, we used the chapel for prayers twice a day.

But, during that time, I appreciated Saint Bene’t’s Church, just a five-minute walk away, which effectively became my parish church while I was on study leave in Cambridge.br />
I skipped out of Sidney Sussex most mornings to attend the Daily Eucharist at 8 a.m. in Saint Bene’t’s, a short walk away at the corner of Bene’t Street and Free School Lane.

Tucked into a corner of Corpus Christi College, Saint Bene’t’s is a beautiful and ancient church, appreciated by many for its history and architecture. The name of the church may have inspired the setting for Susan Howatch’s Saint Benet’s Trilogy – although the three novels are set in the fictional Saint Benet’s Church in London in the 1980s and 1990s.

This church is an oasis of calm in the middle of the university and the city, and there is something special and something deeply spiritual about Saint Bene’t’s, an ancient parish church.

This the oldest building in Cambridgeshire and has been a place of Christian worship for 1,000 years. This is an Anglo-Saxon foundation dating from ca 1020, when Canute was King of England. The church is dedicated to Saint Benedict, yet, despite of its name, Saint Bene’t’s was never a monastic place of worship, and has been a parish church from the very beginning.

The Saxon tower was probably completed around 1033. The arcading separating the nave and the south aisle dates from around 1300. To the south or right of the altar, are two curved ogee arched recesses dating from the 14th century. One arch holds the sedilia or seating for the clergy; the other arch once held the piscina or shallow basin for washing the sacred vessels and for disposing of water used sacramentally.

In 1352 the Guild of Corpus Christi, which met at Saint Bene’t’s, joined with the Guild of Saint Mary, which met at Great Saint Mary’s Church, the University Church, to found the College of Corpus Christi. For many decades after the foundation of Corpus Christi, the college had no chapel, and the members worshipped at Saint Bene’t’s Church. Saint Bene’t’s was used as the college chapel for many years and the two still have strong links.

Tiny peepholes in a wall at the east end of the south aisle indicate a 16th century staircase leading to an upper room. The staircase is now blocked off, and the upper room is part of Corpus Christi College.

Since 1578, there have been 73 incumbents at St Bene’t’s and 52 of these have been members of Corpus Christi. Those former vicars include Michael Ramsey, who was here in 1938 and later became Archbishop of Canterbury. The church was staffed by Franciscans for 60 years from 1945 to 2005. A recent vicar was the theologian, writer and broadcaster, Canon Angela Tilby. The present vicar is the Revd Anna Matthews.

The church has an icon of Christ Pantocrator, an icon of Saint Benedict and Saint Francis given by the Franciscan brothers when they were leaving, a crucifix carved by a sister of the Community of Saint Clare, ‘The Passion,’ a modern sculpture by the Italian-born British sculptor, Enzo Plazzotta (1921-1981), and a new icon of Saint Anne by Aidan Hart.

Inside Saint Bene’t’s Church, the oldest building in Cambridgeshire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 6: 56-69 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 56 ‘Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’ 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

60 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’ 61 But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. 64 But among you there are some who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. 65 And he said, ‘For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.’

66 Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. 67 So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ 68 Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’

‘The Passion,’ a sculpture by Enzo Plazzotta in Saint Bene’t’s (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (22 August 2021, Trinity XII) invites us to pray:

Welcoming God,
You make our hearts sing for joy.
May we be doorkeepers in the house of God,
Embracing all who enter.
Let us praise and worship You.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Blind recesses on the south side of the transept in Saint Bene’t’s … they once opened into a room that is now part of Corpus Christi College (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

Looking out onto the world from Saint Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)