26 November 2021

The miracle of light in
the depths of darkness

Hanukkah in the Ghetto in Venice, an illustration by Michal Maron in Riccardo Calimani’s ‘500 years of the Venetian Ghetto’

Patrick Comerford

The first night of Hanukkah is on Sunday evening (28 November) and will be marked in synagogues and homes around the world with the lighting of the first candle on the hanukkiah or Hanukkah Menorah late on Sunday afternoon.

Jewish families and communities will be singing songs, playing the dreidel, eating latkes and doughnuts, and lighting the first Hanukkah candle as the sun goes down.

On this Friday evening, as Hanukkah approaches, I am watching the Winter Lecture organised by the Cork Jewish Community in which David Goldberg speaks about his family's journey from Lithuania to Ireland.

When this was shown recently by the Cork Jewish Community, it was an incredibly successful event, with over 60 people in attendance, from countries including Australia, South Africa, Russia and the US. We have recorded the session, and it is now available on our YouTube account and can be viewed HERE.

There are beautiful, joyful illustrations of Hannukah by the artist Michal Maron in two books I bought earlier this month in the ScalaMata Gallery in the Ghetto in Venice, Riccardo Calimani’s 500 years of the Venetian Ghetto and Alon Baker’s The Jewish Festivals and Synagogues around the World.

The ScalaMata Gallery, filled with colourful and captivating paintings, books, cards and bookmarks presenting 500 years of the history and scenes of daily life of the Venetian Ghetto. The displays and exhibitions include illustrated Torah scrolls and paintings by the artist Michal Meron, whose paintings accompany these two books.

Alon Baker first published the Jewish Festival book 25 years ago, and when it was translated into English, French, Portuguese, Hebrew, German and Japanese it was welcomed as ‘a little ambassador of Judaism.’

In the new edition, published in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish, the publisher ScalaMata has added illustrations of the Jewish festivals by Michal Maron and also included happy or solemn occasions in some synagogues around the world.

I was surprised that the illustrations included so many historical synagogues I had visited in Europe, among them Kahal Shalom, Rhodes; Dohány Synagogue in Budapest; Bevis Marks Synagogue, London; the Italian Synagogue, Venice; the Oranienburg Synagogue, Berlin; the Old New Synagogue, Prague; the Synagogue of Vienna; Remah Synagogue, Krakow; and the Great Synagogue of Rome.

In his small and delightful, accessible and educational book, Alon Barker says of Chanuccah, the Festival of Lights:

‘Chanuccah is the commemoration of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE and rededication of the second Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by Antiochus IV. The holiday also recalls the miracle that occurred: when rededicating the Temple, they only found enough pure olive oil for the Menorah light to last one day. Instead, it burned for eight days, the time needed to make new oil. Chanuccah is celebrated by lighting an additional candle each evening on a nine-branched Menorah for eight days. Other traditions include playing with a dreidel (a spinning top) and eating doughnuts and latkes.’

The prayer included in Michal Maron’s illustration of Hannukah in this book says:

‘Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us in light and sustained us to reach this season.

‘Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukah light.

‘Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has performed miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time.’

May light shine in your life in these dark days of winter, a light that assures you of the love of God.

Shabbat Shalom

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
181, Santa Maria Elisabetta, Lido

Santa Maria Elisabetta is the parish church of the Lido of Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

We are in the last week of Ordinary Time, the week before Advent. Before a busy day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I have been 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 on this prayer diary this week is seven more churches in Venice. Earlier in this prayer diary, I illustrated my morning reflections with images from churches in Venice and on Murano and Burano. While I was in Venice this month, I reflected on the synagogues in the Ghetto in Venice (7-13 November)

As part of my reflections and this prayer diary this week, I am looking at seven more churches I visited in Venice earlier this month. This theme continues this morning (26 November 2021) with photographs of the Chiesa di Santa Maria Elisabetta on the Lido of Venice.

The campanile of Santa Maria Elisabetta, the parish church of the Lido of Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Santa Maria Elisabetta is the parish church of the Lido of Venice, and gives its name to the station that is the boat and bus transportation hub of the Lido, an island that is a long, narrow strip of land running south between the Venetian Lagoon and the Adriatic Sea.

The church dates back to an oratory dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Saint Elizabeth, built in 1565. It was enlarged in 1620 and converted into a church in 1627. The church was consecrated in 1671.

Inside, the church is a simple structure with a single nave and no aisles. Pilasters with Corinthian capitals divide the spaces in front of the two side altars. The church has a barrel vault and the ceiling is decorated with wooden frames.

The High Altar, in a shallow vaulted apse, has an altarpiece depicting the Visitation, with the Virgin Mary and Saint Elizabeth, and is decorated with polychrome marbles.

The church as extensively restored in the early 1970s.

The side altar on the left has a 16th-century Venetian/Cretan icon of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child and a small 15th century sculpture of the Pieta.

The side altar on the right, which as being restored during my visit, has an altarpiece attributed to a student of Salviati and depicting Saint Apollonia, Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Lucy, with Saint Oswald in Glory.

Other works in the church in the church include the Virgin Mary in Glory with Saint Nicholas between Saint Gerardo Sagrado and Saint Benedict by Gerolamo Pilotti, dating from 1609, and an early-17th-century Baptism of Christ.

Nearby, the large green dome of Santa Maria della Vittoria is one of the first landmarks visitors see as they approach the Lido vaporetto stop.

This was designed by Giuseppe Torres and built in 1925-1938 as a memorial to the Italian dead of World War I, of whom 2,700 are buried in the crypt. It is also known as the Venice War memorial and the Tempio Votivo.

Inside the Chiesa di Santa Maria Elisabetta (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Luke 21: 29-33 (NRSVA):

29 Then he [Jesus] told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’

The 16th-century Venetian/Cretan icon of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child and the 15th century sculpture of the Pieta at a side altar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (26 November 2021) invites us to pray:

Today we remember the life of Sojourner Truth, abolitionist and women’s rights activist. May we centre justice in our daily lives.

The organ above the west door of Santa Maria Elisabetta (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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

The dome of Santa Maria della Vittoria is one of the first landmarks visitors see as they approach the Lido (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)