30 January 2022

Sunday intercessions, 30 January 2022,
Epiphany IV, the Presentation

The Presentation depicted in a window in Saint Mary’s Church, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Let us pray:

In peace let us pray to the Lord.

By the mystery of the Word made flesh
Good Lord, deliver us.

By the birth in time of the timeless Son of God
Good Lord, deliver us.

By the baptism of the Son of God in the river Jordan
Good Lord, deliver us.

For the kingdoms of this world,
that they may become the Kingdom of our Lord and Christ
We pray to you, O Lord.

For your holy, catholic and apostolic Church,
that it may be one
We pray to you, O Lord.

For the witness of your faithful people,
that they may be lights in the world
We pray to you, O Lord.

For the poor, the persecuted, the sick and all who suffer;
that they may be relieved and protected
We pray to you, O Lord.

For the aged, for refugees and all in danger,
that they may be strengthened and defended
We pray to you, O Lord.

For those who walk in darkness and in the shadow of death,
that they may come to your eternal light
We pray to you, O Lord.

Father, source of light and life,
Grant the prayers of your faithful people,
and fill the world with your glory, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

‘Lord now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace’ … a window in Saint Bartholomew’s Church, Ballsbridge, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Linking the joys of Christmas
with the pain of Good Friday
and the hopes of Easter

A detail of Harry Clarke’s ‘Presentation Window’ in Saint Flannan’s Church, Killaloe, Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 30 January (Epiphany 4, the Presentation):

11 a.m.: United Parish Eucharist, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale.

Readings: Malachi 3: 1-5; Psalm 24: 1-10; Hebrews 2: 14-18; Luke 2: 22-40

‘The dawn from on high will break upon us , to give light to those who sit in darkness’ (Luke 2: 78-79) … a winter sunrise at the Rectory in Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

This morning, we are using the readings and prayers for the Feast of the Presentation of Christ, which actually falls on Wednesday next (2 February 2022).

This celebration is known by several names over time, including the Presentation of Christ in the Temple; the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary; and Candlemas, as it is celebrated in many Anglican cathedrals and churches with the Candlemas Procession.

This feast, 40 days after Christmas, recalls how the Virgin Mary presents the Christ-Child to the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem. Because of the family’s poverty, the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph bring two cheap doves or pigeons as their offering.

This feast is rich in meaning, with several related themes: the contrast between the poverty of this family and the richly-endowed Temple; the young Joseph and Mary with their first-born child and the old Simeon and Anna who are probably childless; the provincial home in Nazareth and the urbane sophistication of Jerusalem; the glory of one nation, Israel, and light for all nations, the Gentiles; the birth of a child and the expectation of death; darkness and light; new birth and impending death.

Candlemas is a ‘bitter-sweet’ feast. It calls for rejoicing with all in the Temple celebrating the hope and promise this new child brings. Yet Simeon speaks in prophetic words of the falling and rising of many and the sword that will pierce the Virgin Mary’s heart. His words remind us that Christmas is meaningless without the Passion and Easter.

This last festival of the Christmas cycle is pivotal as we shift from the cradle to the cross, from Christmas to Passiontide – Ash Wednesday and Lent are just four or five weeks away.

In this shift of mood, we take with us the light of Christ, a sure promise that Christ is the eternal light and the salvation of all humanity, throughout all ages.

Traditionally, Candlemas is the final day of the Christmas season. The liturgical colour changes from the White of rejoicing to the Green of ordinary, everyday life. This is the day that bridges the gap between Christmas and Lent, that bridges the gap between a time of celebration and a time of reflection, a time of joy and a time for taking stock once again.

This is an opportunity to take stock of where we are. After periods of recession and austerity, the economists tell us we have found light at the at the end of the tunnel.

Now, however, the debates about ‘post-Brexit’ relations with Britain and the long-term consequences of isolation during the Covid pandemic leave the majority of people with a new set of anxieties and uncertainties.

The lights of Christmas are dim and distant, and by this Candlemas most people in Ireland are living our very ordinary days with uncertainty, grasping for signs of hope, wondering how long we must remain in the dark.

How the Virgin Mary must have wept in her heart as in today’s Gospel story the old man Simeon hands back her child and warns her that a sword would pierce her heart (Luke 2: 35).

How many mothers are weeping in their hearts and clinging onto the rock of faith just by the end of their fingertips as their hearts, their souls, are pierced by a sword?

Mothers whose lives were held in slavery by fear (see Hebrews 2: 15).

Mothers who see their special needs children denied special needs assistants in our schools.

Mothers who see their children waiting, waiting too long, for care in our hospitals or to move from the uncertainty of hotel rooms or hostels to a house and a home.

Mothers who saw their graduate daughters and sons unable to find employment and have still not returned home.

Mothers whose silent weeping is not going to bring home their adult emigrant children and the grandchildren born in Australia or the US.

Mothers whose gay sons and lesbian daughters are beaten up on the streets just for the fun of it and are afraid if they come out that our Church can only offer tea and sympathy, at best, but moralising prejudice most of the time.

Mothers whose husbands are on low pay or dismissed as mere statistics in the figures for poverty.

Mothers whose adult children are caught up in substance abuse and have lost all hope for the future – for a future.

They know what TS Eliot calls ‘the certain hour of maternal sorrow.’ Like the Prophet in his poem A Song for Simeon, they ‘Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.’ And they know too how true Simeon’s words are for them this morning: ‘and a sword will pierce your soul too.’

If the Virgin Mary had known what grief would pierce her soul, would she have said ‘Yes’ to the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation?

Yet, in the midst of all this heartbreak, these mothers still cling on to the edge of the rock of faith by the edges of their fingernails. Wondering who hears their sobbing hearts and souls.

If they had known what grief would pierce their souls they would still have said yes, because they love their children, and no sword can kill that. They know too their children are immaculate conceptions, for their children too are conceived in a love for their world, our world, that is self-giving and sinless, and they continue to see the reflection and image of Christ in their children as they look into their eyes lovingly. Is that too not a truth and a hope at the heart of the Incarnation?

So often it is difficult to hold on to hope when our hearts are breaking and are pierced. So often it is difficult to keep the lights of our hearts burning brightly when everything is gloomy and dark. But Simeon points out that the Christ Child does not hold out any selfish hope for any one individual or one family … he is to be a light to the nations, to all of humanity.

And as our leaders – political, social, economic and financial leaders – search in the dark for the hope that will bring light back into our lives, we can remind ourselves that this search will have no purpose and it will offer no glimmer of hope unless it seeks more than selfish profit. This search must seek the good of all, it must seek to bring hope and light to all, not just here, but to all people and to all nations.

Who will speak out like the Prophet Malachi in our first reading ‘against those who oppress the hired workers in their wages, the widow, and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the alien,’ and do not fear the Lord God (Malachi 3: 5)?

This feast of Candlemas bridges the gap between Christmas and Lent; links the joy of the Christmas candles with the hope of the Pascal candle at Easter; invites us to move from celebration to reflection and preparation, and to think about the source of our hope, our inspiration, our enlightenment.

To paraphrase the words of Timothy Dudley-Smith’s hymn that draw on Simeon’s prophetic words, as we watch and wait in our faithful vigil for Christ’s glory in that Easter hope, may our doubting cease, may God’s silent, suffering people find deliverance and freedom from oppression, may his servants find peace, may he complete in us his perfect will.

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

The Presentation in the Temple, carved on a panel on a triptych in the Lady Chapel, Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford/Lichfield Gazette)

Luke 2: 22-40 (NRSVA):

22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

‘The Presentation in the Temple’ … a window by James Watson in the Church of the Holy Rosary, Murroe, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: White.

Bidding Prayer:

The traditional Bidding Prayer for Candlemas:

Dear friends, forty days ago we celebrated the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now we recall the day on which he was presented in the Temple, when he was offered to the Father and shown to his people.

As a sign of his coming among us, his mother was purified according to the custom of the time, and we now come to him for cleansing. In their old age Simeon and Anna recognised him as their Lord, as we today sing of his glory.

In this Eucharist, we celebrate both the joy of his coming and his searching judgement, looking back to the day of his birth and forward to the coming days of his passion.

So let us pray that we may know and share the light of Christ.

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God, mighty God,
you are the creator of the world.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary,
you are the Prince of Peace.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
by your power the Word was made flesh
and came to dwell among us.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty and everliving God,
clothed in majesty,
whose beloved Son was this day presented in the temple
in the substance of our mortal nature:
May we be presented to you with pure and clean hearts,
by your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

In the tender mercy of our God
the dayspring from on high has broken upon us,
to give light to those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (cf Luke 1: 78, 79)
(Common Worship, p 306)


You chose the Blessed Virgin Mary
to be the mother of your Son
and so exalted the humble and meek;
your angel hailed her as most high and highly favoured,
and with all generations we call her blessed:
(The Book of Common Prayer, the Church of Ireland, p. 234)

Post-Communion Prayer:

God, for whom we wait,
you fulfilled the hopes of Simeon and Anna,
who lived to welcome the Messiah.
Complete in us your perfect will,
that in Christ we may see your salvation,
for he is Lord for ever and ever.


Christ the Son of God, born of Mary,
fill you with his grace
to trust his promises and obey his will:

The Presentation or Candlemas … a stained glass window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


52, Christ, whose glory fills the skies (CD 4)
119, Come, thou long-expected Jesus (CD 8)
691, Faithful vigil ended (CD 39)

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 (the Church of Ireland, 2004) is copyright © Representative Body of the Church of Ireland 2004.

Material from Common Worship: Services and Prayers for the Church of England is copyright © The Archbishops’ Council 2000.

With the Saints through Christmas (36):
30 January 2022, Charles, King and Martyr

Charles I was executed on 30 January 1649 and remembered in London today as king, martyr … a copy of the triptych by Sir Anthony van Dyck in the High House, Stafford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (Epiphany), although I have transferred the provisions for the Feast of the Presentation (Candlemas) from Wednesday next to this morning’s celebration of the Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick.

Before a busy day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

I have been continuing my Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflections on a saint remembered in the calendars of the Church during the Season of Christmas, which continues until Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation, on Wednesday (2 February);

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

This day in the Calendar of the Church of England marks ‘Charles, King and Martyr’ … a commemoration that is rarely found in the Church of Ireland. However, the former Chapel in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, bore his name as its dedication and he is celebrated as the ‘preserver’ of Trinity College Dublin in the college graces:

We praise thee, most gracious Father,
for the most serene ones,
Queen Elizabeth the founder of this college,
James its most munificent builder,
Charles its preserver,
and our other benefactors.

The variations in the calendars of the Church of England and the Church of Ireland can sometimes catch me by surprise, and I recall how I was caught off-guard during a residential meeting of USPG trustees in 2018 when the commemoration at the Eucharist was of ‘Charles King and Martyr, 1649.’

I was invited three years ago to take part in the commemorations in Tamworth marking the 400th anniversary of the visit to the town of James I and his son, the future Charles I. My talk in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, on the Comberford Family and the Moat House in Tamworth [9 May 2019], was organised by Tamworth and District Civic Society.

During that visit in 1619, the King stayed with the Ferrers family at Tamworth Castle while the Prince of Wales was a guest of the Comberford family at their town house, the Moat House on Lichfield Street.

On that occasion, the Comberford family had the long hall or gallery in the Moat House redecorated with heraldic illustrations of the family tree, showing how the family and the future king shared a common ancestry, albeit a very distant one.

Perhaps, in some ways, Charles I personalised the new unity that was being embodied in a new kingdom: he was seen in England as the next king, yet he had been born in Dumferline in Scotland. In another way, he also embodied the new, outward-looking vision of a new country claiming its place in Europe: his mother was from Denmark, he would marry a French princess, his sons would marry Portuguese and Italian princesses, his daughters would marry French and Dutch princes, his sister became Queen of Bohemia, a miniscule European Union brought together in one family.

Charles, King and Martyr, or Charles I, was king from 1625 until his execution on 30 January 1649, and his feast day in Anglican calendars falls on 30 January, the anniversary of his execution.

This observance was one of several ‘state services’ removed from the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England and the Church of Ireland in 1859. But there are churches and parishes dedicated to Charles the Martyr in England, and the former chapel in the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin, was dedicated to him too.

King Charles is still named in the calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship and is commemorated at the Banqueting Hall in Whitehall, Pusey House in Oxford, and by some Anglo-Catholic societies, including the Society of King Charles the Martyr founded in 1894.

King Charles is regarded by many as a martyr because, it is said, he was offered his life if he would abandon the historic episcopacy in the Church of England. It is said he refused, however, believing that the Church of England was truly Catholic and should maintain the Catholic episcopate.

Mandell Creighton, Bishop of London, wrote, ‘Had Charles been willing to abandon the Church and give up episcopacy, he might have saved his throne and his life. But on this point Charles stood firm: for this he died, and by dying saved it for the future.’

The political reality, though, is that Charles had already made an Engagement with the Scots to introduce Presbyterianism in England for three years in return for the aid of Scots forces in the Second English Civil War.

However, High Church Anglicans and royalists fashioned an image of martyrdom, and after the Restoration he was added to the Church of England’s liturgical calendar by a decision at the Convocations of Canterbury and York in 1660.

The red letter days or state commemorations in the calendar of the Book of Common Prayer included the Gunpowder Plot, the birth and restoration of Charles II, and the execution of Charles I. These were marked with special services and special sermons.

The State Services were omitted from the Book of Common Prayer by royal and parliamentary authority in 1859, but without the consent of Convocation. Later, Vernon Staley would describe the deletion as ultra vires and ‘a distinct violation of the compact between Church and Realm, as set forth in the Act of Uniformity which imposed the Book of Common Prayer in 1662.’

Of the three commemorations, only that of King Charles I was restored in the calendar in the Alternative Service Book in 1980, although not as a Red Letter Day. A new collect was composed for Common Worship in 2000.


King of kings and Lord of lords,
whose faithful servant Charles
prayed for those who persecuted him
and died in the living hope of your eternal kingdom:
grant us by your grace so to follow his example
that we may love and bless our enemies,
through the intercession of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

‘All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord’ (Psalm 138: 4) … a depiction of King Charles I in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 4: 21-30 (NRSVA):

[Jesus read from the Prophet Isaiah.] 21 Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ 22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ 23 He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum”.’ 24 And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town. 25 But the truth is, there were many widows in Israel in the time of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up for three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land; 26 yet Elijah was sent to none of them except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 There were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.’ 28 When they heard this, all in the synagogue were filled with rage. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they might hurl him off the cliff. 30 But he passed through the midst of them and went on his way.

The Moat House on Lichfield Street, Tamworth … the future Charles I was the guest of the Comberford family there on the night of 18 August 1619 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (30 January 2022) invites us to pray:

Loving God,
let us renew our love for all of humanity,
may we focus on spreading
the faith, hope and love
you give to us.

Yesterday: Saint Dominic

Tomorrow: Charles Mackenzie

The chapel in the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin, was dedicated to Charles I, King and Martyr (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

The memorial to Charles I at the Banqueting House, recalling his execution in Whitehall in 1649 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)