Sunday, 29 August 2021

Sunday intercessions on
29 August 2021, Trinity XIII

‘Why do your disciples … eat with defiled hands?’ (Mark 7: 5) … preparing to eat lunch at a restaurant in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Let us pray:

‘You love righteousness and hate iniquity’ (Psalm 45: 7)

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.

‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand’ (Mark 7: 14):

Lord Jesus Christ,
we pray for the Church,
that we may not worship in vain,
teaching human precepts as doctrines,
abandoning the commandment of God
in favour of human tradition.

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 Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan,
and the Primate, Archbishop Justin Badi Arimi, Bishop Juba.

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 growth, unity, and service
in the future united dioceses of Tuam, Limerick and Killaloe.

In our community,
we pray for all who are working in the harvest and in the fields
we pray for all about to begin a new term in school, college, university …
we pray for Raylene, who has been appointed Diocesan Registrar …

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

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away’ (Song of Solomon 2: 13):

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 pray for those who have been baptised, married and ordained this month …

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 … Hilary …
Ajay … Adam … Pat … Trixie … Brian …

We remember all who grieve and mourn at this time …
all who are broken-hearted,
Myles ‘Miley’ Harty, who was buried in Askeaton this week,
his fiancée and his family …

We remember Linda, whose birthday is today …

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 Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, invites us to pray:

Living God,
may we embrace new ways of
worship and praise.
Let us balance tradition and innovation,
placing you at the centre of all we do.

Merciful Father …

‘My tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe’ (Psalm 45: 1) … old letters in a collection of family papers (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

‘There are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles’ (Mark 7: 4) … cups in the Avoca Café in Citywest, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Keeping my hands and face clean,
but still behaving like a hypocrite

Classical masks on sale near the Acropolis in Athens … the word ‘hypocrite’ comes from the Greek word for an actor who masked or hid his face (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 29 August 2021,

Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XIII)

11 a.m.:
Parish Group Eucharist, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick

The Readings: Song of Solomon 2: 8-13; Psalm 45: 1-2, 6-9; Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23.

There is a link to the readings HERE

‘Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away; for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone’ (Song of Solomon 2: 10-11) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

Are you still sanitising your hands every time you go into a shop, a church, an enclosed public space?

Are you still wearing a mask in those places?

Indeed, are you still wearing masks outdoors and on the street?

The arguments about sanitising our hands and wearing facemasks are a very different order of argument to the arguments in this morning’s Gospel reading about washing my hands before I prepare food, and about presenting that food with clean cups and plates and knives and forks.

It is so easy for me to look at the people I don’t like and then to find passages in the Bible that shore up, that support, that justify that prejudice, and make me feel good because I now feel a little more smug, a little more superior.

And that is precisely the moment when the Jesus of this morning’s Gospel reading steps in and upbraids me, and calls me a hypocrite.

In Greek, the word hypocrite (ὑποκριτής, hypokrités) was used for an actor who masked or hid his face. It came to mean someone who plays a part on stage. Because these people did not speak their own words, this label came to mean a pretender, what we call today a hypocrite.

When I speak words taken at random, or taken out of context in the Bible, I need to be careful I am not using them out of context, or to condemn people for a fault that is not necessarily theirs, something I project onto them.

Some time ago, I came across this piece of doggerel inside a church porch in Ardmore, Co Waterford:

I was shocked, confused bewildered
as I entered heaven’s door,
not by the beauty of it all,
nor the lights or its décor.

But it was the folks in Heaven
who made me sputter and gasp –
the thieves, the liars, the sinners,
the alcoholics and the trash.

There stood the kid from sixth class
who swiped my lunch box twice.
Next to him was my old neighbour
who never said something nice.

Bob, who I always thought
would rot away in hell,
was sitting pretty on cloud nine,
looking oh so well.

I nudged Jesus, ‘What’s the deal?
I would love to hear your take.
How come these sinners get up here?
God must have made a mistake.

‘And why is everyone so quiet,
so sombre – give me a clue?’
‘Hush child,’ he said ‘they’re all in shock.
They weren’t expecting you.’

If I saw myself the way others see me, I would be less reluctant to open my mouth so often.

But the Church is full of people who continue to judge others – even other members of the Church – and justify their judgmentalism with passages of Scripture they quote out of context, sometimes even claiming passages of Scripture that simply do not exist.

And it’s not just about washing hands and pots and pans. If it was only that, it might be funny.

There are people who condemn people for their sexuality, they look down on people because of who they fall in love with or marry, they even claim to uphold Biblical standards of marriage.

But David, who we have been reading about at length in recent weeks, offered no Biblical standards of marriage. Solomon, who provides our first reading this morning, had 700 wives and 300 concubines – once again, hardly a Biblical standard of marriage.

I find it quite shocking, yet it seems inevitable, that many people in the Church of Ireland – not in these dioceses, as far as I know – use arguments about sexuality, bolstered with phrases such as ‘Biblical standards of marriage,’ to express prejudices about sexuality. Some even remain opposed to women being ordained priests and bishops.

This is using another voice, another set of words, Biblical quotations to express what is not in the Bible; the very origins of the word ‘hypocrite’ in the classical Greek and in this reading readily come to mind.

The Song of Songs, which we have been reading from this morning, is not afraid to affirm healthy sexuality, and in a creative and poetic way it compares the pleasure two lovers find in each other with the love of God for God’s people.

Here the voice of God is poetically represented by the voice of the shepherd; and the voice of the people is expressed by the woman. This woman is the voice of the people who love God and she also speaks back to the people on behalf of God: ‘My beloved speaks and says to me…’

In the Church, there can be no discrimination against people in ministry based on gender, age, sexuality, ethnicity or language, for God knows no such discrimination.

I too easily become a hypocrite when I use the words or behaviour of others to condemn them, without having the courage to say exactly where I stand.

Father Tikhon (Murtazov), who died some years ago [9 June 2018], was a much-loved Russian spiritual guide. A nun, Sister Olga (Schemanun of Snetogorsk Monastery), recalled how he welcomed everyone who came to visit him and who asked for his guidance and prayers.

Amazed at his kindness, she asked him one day: ‘Why don’t you refuse anyone? You bless whatever they ask of you.’

‘We’re in difficult times now,’ he said. ‘It’s better to sin by love than by strictness.’

We should worry as much about making careless wounding remarks as much as we would worry about preparing food unhygienically.

Can you imagine how much more positively people at large would view the churches if every parish and church put as much care into seeing that our children are not abused or infected with racism or discrimination or hate as much as we put into seeing we have sanitised our hands, are wearing colourful facemasks, seeing that the cups are clean for the tea and coffee after church on Sunday morning – or even as much as we attend to the cleanliness of the sacred vessels used for the Eucharist or Holy Communion?

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

Classical masks from the theatre in Athens on display in the Acropolis Museum … the word ‘hypocrite’ comes from the Greek word for an actor who masked or hid his face (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (NRSVA):

1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ 6 He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

“This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”

8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’

21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’

‘There are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles’ (Mark 7: 4) … pots and pans in the kitchen in Bryce House on Garinish Island, Glengarriff, Co Cork (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Liturgical Colour: Green (Ordinary Time, Year B).

The Collect:

Almighty God, who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
Help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Collect of the Word:

Cleanse our consciences, O Lord,
and enlighten our hearts
through the daily presence of your Son Jesus Christ,
that when he comes in glory to be our judge
we may be found undefiled and acceptable in his sight;
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post-Communion Prayer:

God our creator,
you feed your children with the true manna,
the living bread from heaven.
Let this holy food sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage
until we come to that place
where hunger and thirst are no more;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ (Mark 7: 5) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

597, Take my life, and let it be (CD 34)
630, Blessed are the pure in heart (CD 36)

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:
92, Mellifont Abbey, Co Louth

The ruins of Mellifont Abbey … the ruins of the largest and oldest Cistercian abbey in Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XIII), and later this morning (29 August 2021) I am presiding and preaching at a Group Parish Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

Before the 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 Benedictine (including Cistercian) foundations. Already in this series, I have visited a number of Benedictine and Cistercian churches and abbeys, including and Mount Melleray Abbey, Cappoquin, Co Waterford (28 February and 1 March 2021), Ealing Abbey, London (27 April), and Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick (28 April). This week’s theme begins at Mellifont Abbey, near Drogheda, Co Louth.

The ruins of the octagonal 13th-century lavabo, where the monks washed their hands before praying and before eating (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mellifont Abbey, founded by Saint Malachy in 1142, was Ireland’s first Cistercian monastery, and its foundation marked the introduction of the European monastic way of life to Ireland.

These are the ruins of the largest and oldest Cistercian abbey in Ireland. The English name Mellifont is derived comes from the Latin Melli-fons, meaning ‘Font of Honey.’

Mellifont Abbey, on the banks of the River Mattock and 10 km north-west of Drogheda, was founded in 1142 at the suggestion of Saint Malachy, Archbishop of Armagh.

Four years after Saint Malachy died, the Synod of Kells held some of its sittings in Mellifont in 1152, and was attended by bishops, kings and the papal legate, John Paparo.

By 1170, there were 100 monks and 300 lay brothers at Mellifont. The abbey was a model for other Cistercian abbeys in Ireland, and remained the principle abbey in Ireland until the Reformation and the suppression of the monasteries in 1539.

Little of the original abbey survives, but the most unusual feature in the octagonal lavabo from ca 1210, where the monks washed their hands before praying and before eating.

It is possible to trace out the original walls of the abbey church, and the other remains on the site include interesting colonnades, some Romanesque arches and the 14th-century Chapter House where the monks met.

After its dissolution of monastic houses in 1539, the abbey became a private manor house. Here the Treaty of Mellifont was signed in 1603 and here William of Orange had his headquarters in 1690 during the Battle of the Boyne.

The Moore family, who later became Earls of Drogheda, remained the owners of Mellifont until 1727.

New Mellifont Abbey was re-established at Collon, Co Louth, in 1938 by monks from Mount Melleray Abbey who bought Oriel Temple, the residence of Lord Massareene. The land was originally owned by the old Mellifont Abbey. New Mellifont became an abbey in 1945. The monks run a farm, a garden and a nursery and a garden centre that is open to the public. In the Benedictine tradition the abbey offers a guest house for those wishing to stay.

The monks of New Mellifont held celebrations at the old Mellifont Abbey in 1998, marking 900 years since the Cistercians were established in Ireland, the 850th anniversary of the death of Saint Malachy, and the 60th anniversary of the re-establishment of the community. New Mellifont hosted Brothers and Sisters from Cistercian Communities in Ireland, and some from Scotland and England in 2019, celebrating the 900th anniversary of the first Cistercian charter of charity.

Today, the abbey ruins at Mellifont are a National monument of Ireland, accessible to the public.

Mellifont Abbey, founded by Saint Malachy in 1142, was Ireland’s first Cistercian monastery (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 7: 1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (NRSVA):

1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?’ 6 He said to them, ‘Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

“This people honours me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
7 in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.”

8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.’

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’

21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’

The remains on the site include colonnades, Romanesque arches and the 14th-century Chapter House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (29 August 2021, Trinity XIII) invites us to pray:

Living God,
may we embrace new ways of
worship and praise.
Let us balance tradition and innovation,
placing You at the centre of all we do.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

A surviving Romanesque arch in the ruins of Mellifont Abbey (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

After its dissolution, the abbey became a private manor house and the Moore family, later Earls of Drogheda, were the owners of Mellifont until 1727 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)