30 September 2022

‘When heavy burdens oppress us
and our spirit grows faint with us …
Give us strength, O Lord’

Patrick Comerford)

The Jewish New Year 5783, Rosh haShanah, began last Sunday night (25 September), when two of us were guests in the Milton Keynes and District Reform Synagogue, and Yom Kippur this year is on 5 October, beginning on Tuesday evening (4 October) with Kol Nidre.

This evening marks the beginning of the Shabbat between Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur, and is known as Shabbat Shuvah (שבת שובה‎), the ‘Shabbat of Return’, or Shabbat Teshuvah (שבת תשובה‎), the ‘Sabbath of Repentance.’

This is one of the Ten Days of Repentance. The name derives from the Haftarah or reading from the prophets for this Shabbat, which opens with the words, ‘Return O Israel unto the Lord your God’ (Hosea 14: 1).

The word shuvah and the word teshuvah share a common root. Teshuvah or repentance is a core concept of the High Holidays. The word literally means ‘return.’ Services on Shabbat Shuvah are typically solemn and focused, and the Haftarah portion deals with themes of repentance and forgiveness.

Sephardic Jews read Hosea 14: 2-10 and Micah 7: 18-20, while Ashkenazi Jews read Hosea 14: 2-10 and Joel 2: 15-27. The selection from Hosea focuses on a universal call for repentance and an assurance that those who return to God will benefit from divine healing and restoration. Hosea focuses on divine forgiveness and how great it is in comparison to the forgiveness of humanity. The selection from Joel imagines a blow of the shofar that unites the people in fasting and supplication.

Along with Shabbat Hagadol, the Shabbat preceding Passover, this is one of the two times a year when it is customary for rabbis to deliver longer than usual addresses on timely topics, emphasising the severity of transgression so that people turn their hearts toward repentance. These sermons on Shabbat Shuvah traditionally focus on the themes of repentance, prayer and charity.

The traditional prayer Avinu Malkeinu (אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ‎, ‘Our Father, Our King’) is recited throughout the Ten Days of Repentance, from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur inclusive.

This prayer has been described as ‘the oldest and most moving of all the litanies of the Jewish Year.’ It refers to God as both ‘Our Father’ (Isaiah 63: 16) and ‘Our King’ (Isaiah 33: 22). Each line of the prayer begins with the words ‘Avinu Malkeinu’ (‘Our Father, Our King’), followed by phrases, prayers or petitions.

The prayer book Service of the Heart offers this responsive reading for the Sabbath of Repentance:

When heavy burdens oppress us, and our spirit grows faint with us, and the gloom of failure settles on us,

Give us strength, O Lord, and the vision to see through the darkness to the light beyond.

When doubts assail us concerning your justice, and when we question the value of our earthly life, because suffering hides you from our vision,

Give us faith, O Lord, and the strength to bear pain without complaint, and the patience to await a deeper insight into your purposes.

When, through self-indulgence, or from a blind following of the multitude, or by suppression of the voice of conscience, our sense of duty grows dim, and we call evil good and good evil,

Give us discernment, O Lord, and a heart more awake to the rights of others, and a spirit more responsive to their needs.

When, because we are immersed in material cares, or in the eager pursuit of worldly aims and pleasures, the thought of you fades out of our consciousness,

Let all things witness to you, O Lord, and let them lead us back into your presence.

The master Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria the Arizal taught that the seven days between Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur – which always include one Sunday, one Monday, and so on – correspond to the seven days of the week, each day representing all the corresponding days of the year: the Sunday embodies all Sundays; the Monday embodies all Mondays, and so on. These days are days to use wisely.

Meanwhile, this weekend, in what is described as a ‘Reverse Tashlich’, members of the Jewish community in Milton Keynes are taking part in a litter pick on Sunday. Several synagogues around the world are doing similar activities this weekend, as a ‘Reverse Tashlich’.

Traditionally with tashlich, people empty their pockets into a stream or lake, to symbolise throwing away their sins. This weekend, instead of throwing things, people are being invited to pick up rubbish, doing some Tikkun Olam - to make the world a better place.

Shabbat Shalom

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Friday 30 September 2022

Saint Olave’s Church, Marygate, York … known for its liberal Catholic tradition of liturgy, music, prayer, theological understanding and preaching (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

In the Calendar in Common Worship, the Church of England today (30 September 2022) commemorates Jerome (420), Translator of the Scriptures, Teacher of the Faith. Today is also an Ember Day.

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

This morning, and throughout this week and next, I am reflecting each morning on a church, chapel, or place of worship in York, where I stayed earlier this month.

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.’

The ruined nave of Saint Mary’s Abbey Church forms the boundary of Saint Olave’s churchyard (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Saint Jerome was born at Strido near Aquileia on the Adriatic coast of Dalmatia, ca 342. He studied at Rome, where he was baptised. He tried the life of a monk for a time, but unsuccessfully. Following a dream in which he stood before the judgment seat of God and was condemned for his faith in classics rather than Christ, he learned Hebrew to assist his study of the scriptures. This, with his skills in rhetoric and Greek, enabled him to begin his life’s work of translating the newly-canonised Bible into Latin. He eventually settled at Bethlehem, where he founded a monastery and devoted the rest of his life to study. He died on this day in the year 420.

Luke 10: 13-16 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 13 ‘Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But at the judgement it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum,

will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.

16 ‘Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.’

A statue of Saint Olave over the north porch … Saint Olave’s Church, Marygate, is the first church ever dedicated to Saint Olaf (Photograph Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Saint Olave’s Church, Marygate, York:

Saint Olave’s Church, Marygate, York, is the first church in the world to be dedicated to Saint Olaf, the former warrior King of Norway, who converted Norway to Christianity and was killed at the Battle of Stiklestad (Stiklarstaðir) in 1030. His cult spread rapidly throughout the Viking world.

Saint Olave’s was founded by Siward, Earl of Northumbria, who was buried there in 1055. A carved coffin lid from this period, possibly from Saint Olave’s, is in the Yorkshire Museum nearby and be from Siward’s grave.

After the Norman Conquest, Saint Olave’s was given to a group of Benedictine monks who came from the new foundation of Whitby via Lastingham. They built neighbouring Saint Mary’s Abbey, one of the greatest monasteries of mediaeval England. The ruined nave of the abbey church now forms the boundary to Saint Olave’s churchyard.

For the next 400 years, Saint Olave’s remained part of the abbey, serving the Bootham and Marygate area. The monks held the revenues previously due to Saint Olave’s as a parish church, leading to years of disputes and neglect.

The church was given parochial status in the 15th century and the parishioners were ordered to repair the building. The church was rebuilt after 1466, when Archbishop George Neville ordered repairs, and the north aisle and wall was extended, which accounts for the asymmetrical placing of the tower.

The work was finished by 1471, when the church also had a clerestory in the nave, and the tower was rebuilt between 1478 and 1487.

Following the dissolution of Saint Mary’s Abbey in 1539, Saint Olave’s remained a parish church.

During the Civil War, Charles I established his headquarters in the King’s Manor nearby. During the siege of York, the Parliamentary army set up a battery of cannons on the roof of St Olave’s, using it as a gun platform. In the bombardments of the siege in the summer of 1644, both the church and the area around Bootham and Gillygate were devastated.

The church was completely rebuilt and restored in 1720-1721, using stones from the abbey ruins, and the mediaeval clerestory was removed.

The church ended at the present chancel arch until 1887, and the different cross-section of the east columns of the nave arcade may represent this. The present chancel was built in 1887, and the 15th century glass put in the present east window. The stone corbels and stops in the chancel were left uncarved and unfinished at this time.

As part of the late Victorian restorations initiated by the Revd William Croser Hey, the 18th century whitewash was removed from the walls and columns, revealing the 1721 stonework once again.

A vestry was converted to form the Chapel of the Transfiguration in 1908, a new vestry was built on the north side of the church, and the chancel was extended.

The new sanctuary was created at the chancel steps in 1986 and a nave altar was introduced. The corbels and stops in the chancel were carved by the York sculptor Charles Gurrey in 2000-2001, completing the chancel.

The church is built of magnesium limestone in the perpendicular style. Some original mediaeval stone can be found in the tower structure. The internal monuments and memorials are largely 18th century.

The Revd Liz Hassall was licensed as Priest-in-Charge of the York City Centre Churches in Saint Olave’s on 15 December 2020. Saint Olave’s is known for its liberal Catholic tradition of liturgy, music, prayer, theological understanding and preaching. The Sung Eucharist is celebrated on Sunday mornings and major weekday festivals. The worship is formal, but with a lightness of touch.

The parish seeks to be a worshipping, learning and healing community that is non-judgmental and that offers gentleness, security and acceptance. The eclectic, diverse congregation is drawn from within the parish and a wider area of York and surrounding villages.

Inside Saint Olave’s Church, facing the east end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Today’s Prayer (Friday 30 September 2022, Saint Jerome):

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 was introduced on Sunday by the Revd Davidson Solanki, USPG’s Regional Manager for Asia and the Middle East.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today (International Translation Day) in these words:

We give thanks for those who are able to translate between languages, facilitating dialogue and building relationships between peoples of different languages.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Inside Saint Olave’s Church, facing the west end (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 east window in Saint Olave’s includes 15th century glass (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)