25 September 2022

‘… once more we prove
How strength of supreme
suffering still is ours
For Truth and Law and Love’

‘Tashlich Prayer on Vistula River’, a painting by Eduard Gurevich

Patrick Comerford

Rosh Hashanah, marking the beginning of the New Year in the Jewish calendar, begins at sunset this evening [Sunday 25 September 2022].

Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holidays or ‘Days of Awe’, ending 10 days later with Yom Kippur, from sunset on 4 October to nightfall on 5 October.

The two-day festival beginning this evening marks the anniversary of the creation of humanity and the special relationship we have between humans and God our creator.

Rosh Hashanah begins with the sounding of the shofar or ram’s horn, proclaiming God as King of the Universe. The sound of the shofar is also a call to repentance, to wake up and re-examine our commitment to God and to correct our ways.

Rosh Hashanah falls on the first two days of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar, and this year continues until nightfall on Tuesday [27 September].

Ripening pomegranates on a tree in Platanias near Rethymnon … pomegranates are traditionally associated with Rosh Hashanah (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The traditional greeting on Rosh Hashanah is Shana Tova (שנה טובה‎), ‘A Good Year.’ During these Ten Days of Reprentance (עֲשֶׂרֶת יְמֵי תְּשׁוּבָה‎, Aseret Yemei Teshuva), it is traditional to say, G’mar Chatimah Tovah (גמר חתימה טובה‎) or ‘may you be inscribed in the Book of Life.’

The word Teshuva means ‘return.’ The time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is a reminder to acknowledge our wrongs and to ‘return’ to being our best selves through good deeds, kindness, prayer and honest repentance.

The Tashlich ceremony (תשליך‎ ‘cast off’) on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah involves visiting a body of fresh water to symbolically cast past sins away, tossing pebbles or bread crumbs into flowing water. During this ritual, people think of things they have done wrong in the past year and then ‘throw them away,’ promising for improvement in the coming year. I ask each and every one for forgiveness.

If you have felt wronged or upset by me or by something you felt I did or did not do, I apologise.

The Tashlich ceremony on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh Hashanah involves symbolically casting past sins away, tossing pebbles or bread crumbs into flowing water (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today, most mainstream Jewish movements accept Tashlich, although it is generally not practised by Spanish and Portuguese Jews. However, as my reading for Rosh Hashanah this evening I am reading a poem by the American Sephardic poet Emma Lazarus (1849-1887), ‘The New Year, Rosh-Hashanah, 5643.’

Emma Lazarus was born into a large Sephardic family. Her Lazarus and Nathan ancestors were originally from Portugal and lived in New York long before the American Revolution. They were among the original 23 Portuguese Jews who arrived in New Amsterdam fleeing the Inquisition in Recife, Brazil.

The New Year, by Emma Lazarus

Rosh-Hashanah, 5643

Not while the snow-shroud round dead earth is rolled,
And naked branches point to frozen skies.—
When orchards burn their lamps of fiery gold,
The grape glows like a jewel, and the corn
A sea of beauty and abundance lies,
Then the new year is born.

Look where the mother of the months uplifts
In the green clearness of the unsunned West,
Her ivory horn of plenty, dropping gifts,
Cool, harvest-feeding dews, fine-winnowed light;
Tired labor with fruition, joy and rest
Profusely to requite.

Blow, Israel, the sacred cornet! Call
Back to thy courts whatever faint heart throb
With thine ancestral blood, thy need craves all.
The red, dark year is dead, the year just born
Leads on from anguish wrought by priest and mob,
To what undreamed-of morn?

For never yet, since on the holy height,
The Temple’s marble walls of white and green
Carved like the sea-waves, fell, and the world’s light
Went out in darkness,—never was the year
Greater with portent and with promise seen,
Than this eve now and here.

Even as the Prophet promised, so your tent
Hath been enlarged unto earth’s farthest rim.
To snow-capped Sierras from vast steppes ye went,
Through fire and blood and tempest-tossing wave,
For freedom to proclaim and worship Him,
Mighty to slay and save.

High above flood and fire ye held the scroll,
Out of the depths ye published still the Word.
No bodily pang had power to swerve your soul:
Ye, in a cynic age of crumbling faiths,
Lived to bear witness to the living Lord,
Or died a thousand deaths.

In two divided streams the exiles part,
One rolling homeward to its ancient source,
One rushing sunward with fresh will, new heart.
By each the truth is spread, the law unfurled,
Each separate soul contains the nation’s force,
And both embrace the world.

Kindle the silver candle’s seven rays,
Offer the first fruits of the clustered bowers,
The garnered spoil of bees. With prayer and praise
Rejoice that once more tried, once more we prove
How strength of supreme suffering still is ours
For Truth and Law and Love.

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Sunday 25 September 2022

York Minster was built between 1230 and 1472 and is the largest cathedral completed during the Gothic period of architecture (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XV). Later this morning, I hope to attend the Parish Eucharist in the Church of Saint Mary and Saint Giles, Stony Stratford.

Before today begins, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

This morning, and for these two weeks, I am reflecting each morning on a church, chapel, or place of worship in York, where I stayed earlier this month after a surgical procedure in Sheffield.

In my prayer diary this week I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, Reflecting on a church, chapel or place of worship in York;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

York Minster, which was built between 1230 and 1472, is the second-largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Luke 16: 19-31:

19 ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. 24 He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” 25 But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. 26 Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” 27 He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” 29 Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” 30 He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” 31 He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead”.’

The Great East Window in York Minster, finished in 1408, is the largest expanse of mediaeval stained glass in the world (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2022)

York Minster:

During my visit to York earlier this month, I attended Choral Evening in York Minister ten days ago, although the official mourning period following the death of Queen Elizabeth meant I had a limited insight into the interior of the cathedral in all its splendour and grandeur.

York Minster, which was built between 1230 and 1472, is the second-largest Gothic cathedral in northern Europe and as a building it charts the development of English Gothic architecture York is the largest cathedral completed during the Gothic period of architecture, Cologne Cathedral only being completed in 1880, after being left uncompleted for 350 years.

The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York is commonly known as York Minster. This is the seat of the Archbishop of York, the second most senior bishop in the Church of England, after the Archbishop of Canterbury.

York Minister has a cruciform plan with an octagonal chapter house attached to the north transept, a central tower and two towers at the west front. The stone used for the building is magnesian limestone, a creamy-white coloured rock that was quarried in nearby Tadcaster. The Minster is 159.9 m (524.5 ft) long and the central tower has a height of 72 m (235 ft). The choir has an interior height of 31 m (102 ft).

The minster has a very wide Decorated Gothic nave and chapter house, a Perpendicular Gothic quire and east end and Early English North and South transepts. The nave contains the West Window, completed in 1338, and over the Lady Chapel in the east end is the Great East Window, finished in 1408 and the largest expanse of mediaeval stained glass in the world.

In the north transept is the Five Sisters window, each lancet being 16.3 m (53 ft) high. The south transept contains a rose window, while the West Window contains a heart-shaped design colloquially known as the ‘Heart of Yorkshire.’

A bishop of York was summoned to the Council of Arles in 314, indicating the presence of a Christian community in York at this time. However, archaeological evidence of Christianity in Roman York is limited.

The first recorded church on the site was a wooden structure built hurriedly in 627 to provide a place to baptise Edwin, King of Northumbria. Moves towards a more substantial building began in the 630s. A stone structure was completed in 637 by Oswald and was dedicated to Saint Peter.

The church soon fell into disrepair and was dilapidated by 670, when Saint Wilfrid became Bishop of York. He repaired and renewed the structure. The attached school and library were established and by the 8th century were some of the most substantial in Northern Europe.

The church was destroyed in a fire in 741. It was rebuilt as a larger structure containing 30 altars. The church and the entire area then passed through the hands of numerous invaders, and its history is obscure until the 10th century. There was a series of Benedictine archbishops, including Saint Oswald of Worcester, Wulfstan and Ealdred, who travelled to Westminster to crown William in 1066. Ealdred died in 1069 and was buried in the church.

The church was damaged in 1069 during William the Conqueror’s harrying of the North, but the first Norman archbishop, Thomas of Bayeux, arriving in 1070, organised repairs.

The Danes destroyed the church in 1075, but it was again rebuilt from 1080. Built in the Norman style, the new structure was damaged by fire in 1137 but was soon repaired. The choir and crypt were remodelled in 1154, and a new chapel was built, all in the Norman style.

The Gothic style in cathedrals had arrived in the mid-12th century. Walter de Gray was made archbishop in 1215 and ordered the construction of a Gothic structure to rival Canterbury. The cathedral was complete and consecrated in 1472.

The English Reformation led to the looting of much of the cathedral’s treasures and the loss of much of the church lands. Many tombs, windows and altars were damaged and destroyed. During the English Civil War the city fell to the forces of Cromwell in 1644, but Thomas Fairfax prevented any further damage to the cathedral.

Fires in 1829 and 1840 damaged much of the cathedral. The cathedral feel deeply into debt and services were suspended in the 1850s. From 1858, Augustus Duncombe worked successfully to revive the cathedral.

More concerted preservation work was carried out in the 20th century, especially following a 1967 survey that revealed the building was close to collapse. During excavations, remains of the north corner of the Roman Principia (headquarters of the Roman fort, Eboracum) were found under the south transept.

York Minster suffered a serious fire in its south transept during the early morning hours of 9 July 1984. Firefighters made a decision to deliberately collapse the roof of the South Transept by pouring tens of thousands of gallons of water onto it, in order to save the rest of the building. The glass of the South Transept rose window was shattered by the heat but the lead held it together, allowing it to be taken down for restoration.

A repair and restoration project was completed in 1988 at a cost of £2.25 million, and included new roof bosses to designs which had won a competition by BBC Television’s Blue Peter programme for children.

Renovation began on the east front in 2007, and 311 glass panels from the Great East Window were removed in 2008 for conservation. The project was completed in 2018.

Archbishop Stephen Cottrell has been Archbishop of York since 2020. The Dean-designate of York Minster is the Very Revd Dominic Barrington.

Inside the Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter, York, commonly known as York Minster (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer (Sunday 25 September 2022):

The Collect:

God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit
upon your Church in the burning fire of your love:
grant that your people may be fervent
in the fellowship of the gospel
that, always abiding in you,
they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Keep, O Lord, your Church, with your perpetual mercy;
and, because without you our human frailty cannot but fall,
keep us ever by your help from all things hurtful,
and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The theme in the USPG prayer diary this week is ‘Celebrating 75 Years,’ which is introduced this morning by the Revd Davidson Solanki, USPG’s Regional Manager for Asia and the Middle East. He writes:

‘Anglican involvement in the origins of the Church of South India (CSI) dates back to the early 18th century. The SPG took an active role in the Indian church when the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) transferred the missions it was responsible for at Madras, Tanjore and Cuddalore to the SPG in 1825.

‘Many SPG missionaries – both European and Indian – were appointed over the following decades to minister in churches, teach in schools and colleges, and work in hospitals and clinics.

The 20th century saw the formation of the Church of India, Burma and Ceylon in 1930, bringing autonomy for the Indian Church within the Anglican Communion, which was fully supported by the SPG. Then, after many years of preparation to which SPG missionaries contributed, the Church of South India came into being in 1947.

‘Today, the CSI is a united and uniting Church, vibrant and prophetic with ministries among children, women, youth, and Dalit, in the areas of environment, evangelism, and leadership development. It has a remarkable ministry on environment protection and promoting rights of the Dalit and marginalised communities. USPG give thanks to God for the mission and ministry of the Church of South India as it celebrates its 75 years of formation.’

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Almighty God,
take away our fears.
May we follow you in all we do,
safe in the knowledge that
we are your children.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The glass of the South Transept rose window was restored after the fire in 1984 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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 south transept of York Minster suffered a serious fire early on 9 July 1984 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)