Sunday, 16 December 2012

Walking on water in the dusk of a winter’s day

Dusk on the beach and waters in Loughhinny Bay this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

The bright yet crisp weather I enjoyed yesterday, with its blue skies and bright sunshine, continued this morning – but only briefly.

I stood in a warm sunny glow, sheltered from the winter chill, outside the south-west porch of Christ Church Cathedral this morning, greeting people as they arrived for the Cathedral Eucharist on Gaudete Sunday.

But the sunshine was gone two or three hours later and blue skies had given way to heavy grey clouds that were laden with threatening heavy rain showers.

The rains that had hit the west coast yesterday were about to move across Dublin, and we decided to head out to the Fingal coast in an effort to snatch walks on the beaches before the rains came and darkness fell.

But first we had two panini and coffees in the Olive on Strand Street. We had not been in Skerries since August, it was the end of July since we had walked the beaches there, and perhaps even a little longer since we had been in the Olive. The menu has changed, but it was a delightful lunch, and I can still say this is where they make the best double espresso in north Dublin.

A winter’s walk on the beach in Skerries this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Down on the beach, the tide was in, the waves were strong and yet there were some brave young people in kayaks working their way in a line parallel with the shoreline.

Small birds were making a feast of the weather’s offerings, and a lot of seaweed has been washed up against the high water line. But some brave people have already posted signs that they are organising a swim on the beach at 10.30 on Christmas morning.

We continued up around Red Island. It was heartening to see ‘Storm in a Teacup’ is continuing to stay open at the harbour through the winter weather, but it was sad to read a planning notice that indicates Carroll’s Pierhouse Hotel, which closed a few months ago, is about to be demolished – the loss of another facility to this charming town. The hotel and bar had a stunning location with the windows providing dramatic sea views.

By the time we had reached the Sailing Club, the rain was coming down heavily. Back on Strand Street, we popped into Gerry’s for the Sunday newspapers and a bottle of wine for dinner.

As we headed home and dusk was falling, we noticed the Yacht in Loughshinny has reopened and is looking bright and welcoming once again.

Looking back at Loughshinny from the shoreline as darkness fell this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

There and then, on a whim, we decided to turn off the road from Skerries to Rush and go down to Loughshinny. A group organised by Shearwater Sea Kayaking, based in Howth, were packing up and heading home. But the rains had stopped, and the end-of-evening lights were reflecting beautifully in the ripples and the wet sands of the bay.

As I looked at the wet sand beneath my feet, it could have easily tricked me in that light into imagining I was walking on sea water.

It was dark before we got to Rush.


With the Saints through Advent (17): 16 December, Gaudete Sunday and Saint John the Baptist

An icon of Saint John the Baptist in the chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph (c) James Stringer, 2008)

Patrick Comerford

Today [16 December 2012] is the Third Sunday of Advent, also known as Gaudete Sunday. It received this name because the traditional Entrance Antiphon or Introit for Gaudete Sunday is based on Philippians 4: 4-5 and Psalm 85: 1: “Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob, Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. Lord, you were favourable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.”

We shall hear some of these words again in the Epistle reading in the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) readings for this morning (Philippians 4: 4-7).

The pink candle on the Advent Wreath is lit on Gaudete Sunday and represents Saint John the Baptist (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Violet or purple is the normal liturgical colour throughout Advent, but on Gaudete Sunday, having passed the mid-point of Advent, the Church lightens the mood a little, and in many parts of the Church the liturgical colour changes on this Sunday to rose, encouraging us to continue our spiritual preparation for Christmas with prayer and fasting.

For this reason too, the third candle of the Advent Wreath which is lit on Gaudete Sunday is traditionally rose-coloured. That candle also reminds us of Saint John the Baptist, just as the previous candles remind us of the Patriarchs (Advent 1) and the Prophets (Advent 2).

More than any other saint, Saint John the Baptist embodies the spirit of the Season of Advent.

Saint John the Baptist, who is at the centre of our Gospel reading this morning, is the patron saint of spiritual joy and rejoicing. After all, he leapt for joy in his mother’s womb at the presence of the Christ Child with Mary (Luke 1: 44), and he rejoices to hear the bridegroom’s voice (John 3: 29-30).

Crowds were coming from all over the land to hear John long before anyone knew about Christ, and it is John’s baptism that launches Christ’s public ministry.

Saint John encourages his disciples to leave him and to follow the Lamb of God. When people came, ready to honour John as the messiah, he pointed them to Christ. In his humility, Saint John the Baptist could rejoice truly, pointing away from himself to Christ.

Inside the Chapel of Hospital of St John Baptist without the Barrs, Lichfield (Photograph: Leon Hawley/Wikipedia)


Zephaniah 3: 14-20; Psalm 146: 5-10; Philippians 4: 4-7; Luke 3: 7-18.


O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.

Post Communion Prayer:

we give you thanks for these heavenly gifts.
Kindle us with the fire of your Spirit
that when Christ comes again
we may shine as lights before his face;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Tomorrow (17 December): ‘O Sapientia’ and Saint Elizabeth

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and a canon of Christi Church Cathedral, Dublin.