Sunday, 31 March 2013

An Irish saint who made his demands on Lichfield Cathedral

The Cathedral Close, Lichfield ... the second-hand section in the Cathedral Bookshop at No 9 is often a treasure trove of delights (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The Cathedral Bookshop at No 9, The Cathedral Close, is a delightful place to spend both time and money in Lichfield. The shelves are well stocked with books on theology, liturgy and local and church history. But they also have a good collection of music, with works by the Cathedral Choir and by local composer Paul Spicer, including his Easter Oratorio, written with Bishop Tom Wright when he was Dean of Lichfield Cathedral.

Easter fare in the Cathedral Bookshop in Lichfield

I often stayed next door in No 8, when Gill Jones lived there. Both houses look out on one side to the majestic West End of the cathedral, and on the other onto Vicar’s Close and the herb gardens planted at Darwin House by Charles Darwin’s grandfather, Erasmus Darwin.

During Lent this year, along with a wide range of Easter cards, the shop also stocked The Real Easter Egg, selling at £3.99 each. It is said that 80 million chocolate Easter Eggs are sold in Britain each year, but not one of them mentions Jesus. Now The Real Easter Egg has become the first and only Fair Trade Easter Egg to explain the Christian meaning of Easter on the box, and it also supports charity and development projects.

Ever since the Staffs Bookshop closed a few years ago, this has become my favourite place in Lichfield to rummage for second-hand books, in the corner of a back room that looks out onto the garden.

Lichfield Cathedral reflected in the windows of the Cathedral Bookshop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

One unusual publication I picked up on a recent visit – I fail to remember when – is a pamphlet edition of a lecture given in March 1928 by the Dean of Lichfield, Henry Savage, on one of his predecessors, Richard FitzRalph (ca 1300-1360), who later became Archbishop of Armagh.

Richard FitzRalph was one of the great mediaeval scholastic theologians and is the only Anglo-Norman church leader to figure in the Calendar of Saints in the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland.

FitzRalph was born into a well-off Anglo-Norman burgess family in Dundalk, Co Louth, around 1300. By 1325, he was in Oxford, where he had been a fellow and teacher in Balliol College.

In 1326, King Edward II had appointed him Rector of Athboy in the Diocese of Meath, but he appears to have remained at Oxford. By 1331, he was a Doctor of Theology, and soon after, while he was still in his early 30s, he became Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University.

In 1334, Richard paid his first visit to the Papal Court at Avignon. By then he was a canon of Armagh and Exeter and Chancellor of Lincoln Cathedral. But in Avignon, according to Dean Savage, Richard made such an impression on Benedict XII as “a man of light and learning” that in 1335 the Pope appointed him Dean of Lichfield in succession to John Garssia, later Bishop of Marseilles.

For many years, the position of dean had been held by foreigners as a sinecure. But Richard returned to England in 1336 as a working dean. His first step was report to the Bishop of Lichfield at Brewood on 12 April 1336, and he was instituted to the deanery the following day. He was installed in Lichfield Cathedral on 20 April, and also became Prebendary of Adbaston and of Brewood.

Dean Savage, who had thoroughly examined the chapter records and collections of Richard’s sermons in Bodleian Library, Oxford, the British Museum, and elsewhere, says “that with the advent of Dean Fitzralph a new mood appears in the business of the Chapter.” He was an exceptionally active dean, demanding reports and allowing no detail to escape his observation.

But he was also subject to outbursts of temper, the chapter members felt he had an all-too autocratic attitude, and a rift soon opened between the canons and the dean.

He returned to Avignon in 1337, ostensibly on chapter business and travelling on cathedral expenses. Little could the canons of Lichfield have realised that their dean was to dally at the Papal Court in France for seven years – he remained in Avignon until 1344, and his absence seriously hampered the conduct of cathedral business. Documents had to be sent to him for his approval and signature, bringing additional delays and expenses.

The initial purpose of his visit was to secure a resolution to long-standing dispute between the Dean and Chapter of Lichfield and the Prior and Monks of Coventry, two cathedrals in the one diocese. But the case took a long time to resolve, and it was only when the papal court found in favour of Lichfield that Richard finally returned to Lichfield in 1345.

Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield ... Richard FitzRalph preached three sermons here in 1345/1346 – one in the chapel and two in the graveyard (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

He preached a series of 17 sermons in Lichfield and the surrounding neighbourhood in 1345 and 1346: nine in the cathedral, one in Cannock, one in an unidentified chapel dedicated to Saint Nicholas, and three at Saint John’s Hospital – one in the chapel and two in the graveyard.

Dean Savage wonders whether his predecessor’s new-found interest in Lichfield Cathedral demonstrated “a recovered sense of responsibility.”

But Richard’s return to Lichfield was brief. In 1346, the Chapter of Armagh forestalled any papal intervention and forced Pope Clement VI to accept their election of Richard FitzRalph as Archbishop of Armagh. Despite initial papal demurring, his election was ratified by the pope on 31 July, yet Richard gave the appearance of being in no hurry to return from Lichfield to the diocese in which he was born.

Eventually, on 8 July 1347, he was consecrated Archbishop of Armagh – not in Armagh or Dundalk, not in Lichfield, but in Exeter Cathedral.

Back in Ireland, Richard was deeply concerned with social problems and for the people of Dundalk and Drogheda who suffered during the Black Death. In his sermons, he criticised the clergy for laxity in their vocation and the merchants for wasteful extravagances and under-handed practices, and he denounced discrimination against the Gaelic Irish.

The late Archbishop George Simms of Armagh saw him as an exemplar for “all who are concerned with social justice and the relief of the needy,” and an example of how to “seek holiness in life and integrity of intellect with a like concern for the helpless.”

Richard became entangled in a dispute with the Archbishop of Dublin over their competing claims to primacy. A century earlier, Archbishop Henry de Loundres of Dublin obtained a papal bull prohibiting any other archbishop from having his cross carried before him in Dublin without the consent of the Archbishop of Dublin. But, to the chagrin of Archbishop Alexander de Bicknor of Dublin, FitzRalph claimed royal authority from Edward III and entered Dublin in 1349 “with the cross erect before him.”

Richard was forced to withdraw to Drogheda, the most southerly town in his diocese. When Bicknor died later that year, the king changed his mind, but the dispute continued. Pope Innocent VI, on the advice of his cardinals, eventually ruled that “each of these prelates should be Primate; while, for the distinction of style, the Primate of Armagh should entitle himself Primate of All Ireland, but the Metropolitan of Dublin should subscribe himself Primate of Ireland.”

Soon again, though, Richard headed off for Avignon on a third visit in 1349, as Edward III’s ambassador to the Pope. There he complained about the mendicant friars – Dominicans and Franciscans – and their freelance activities in his diocese. He also took part in the negotiations between Pope Clement VI and a visiting delegation from the Armenian Church, and in an elaborate work, Summa in Quaestionibus Armenorum, showed profound knowledge of Scripture and Greek. Around the same time, he became the first western theologian to try to understand what was written in the Koran.

He was back in England in 1356, when he preached a famous sermon at Saint Paul’s Cross, beside Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London. In his sermon he attacked the Mendicant Friars once again. But this time he angered them so much that he was called back to Avignon for a fourth time in 1357 to defend himself before Pope Innocent VI. He argued their lifestyle was contrary to the teachings of Christ, and he demanded the withdrawal of their privileges when it came to confessions, preaching and burying, claiming they undermined his parish clergy.

He was still in France when appointed Chancellor of Oxford University in 1360. But he never made it back to Oxford, Lichfield, or the Diocese of Armagh, for he died in Avignon on 16 November 1360 before his trial ever came to an end.

Saint Nicholas’s Church, Dundalk ... Richard FitzRalph was buried there in 1370, ten years after he died in Avignon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

In 1370, his body was brought back to Ireland by Stephen de Valle, Bishop of Meath, and Richard was reburied at Saint Nicholas’s Church, Dundalk, where he was venerated for several centuries and where miracles were attributed to him. Obviously he made a better impact on the people of Dundalk, who regarded him as a saint, than he died on the poor canons of Lichfield Cathedral.

Resurrection and Easter hope in Lichfield

Resurrection in Lichfield … John Piper’s window ‘The Christ in Glory’ in the chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

As part of my Lenten exercises this year, I followed the saints’ days in the calendars of the Church, seeking inspiration for my Lent observances in the in their lives and their writings.

In the calendar of the Church of England, today [31 March] recalls the life and work of John Donne, one of England’s most celebrated poets. However, as today is Easter Day, few people are likely to give much thought to John Donne this morning.

I am spending this Easter weekend in Lichfield Cathedral on a retreat. The Easter Liturgy at 5 a.m. before the break of dawn this morning was a Service of Light, with the Easter Proclamation, Vigil Readings, Liturgy of Initiation, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, sung by Sarum Voices. This was followed by a celebration breakfast in the College Hall in the Cathedral Close.

The Easter celebrations continue this morning with Holy Communion (BCP) at 8 a.m., Morning Prayer (8.45 a.m.), and at 10.30 a.m. the Sung Eucharist with Renewal of Baptismal Vows, with the Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra accompanying the Cathedral Choir in a programme of Mozart. Later this Easter Day, there is Solemn Evensong in the cathedral at 3.30 p.m.

I am reminded, though, that this year [2013] also marks the 400th anniversary of John Donne (1573-1631) writing his poem Good Friday 1613: Travelling Westwards.

John Donne wrote that poem in a letter to his friend, Sir Henry Goodere of Polesworth Hall, a patron of the arts and leader of the Polesworth Group of poets. Polesworth Hall, a short distance east of Tamworth, was originally Polesworth Abbey, founded by Saint Editha, who gave her name to the parish church in Tamworth. Polesworth Hall, which has been Polesworth Vicarage since the 1930s, is just 18 km (12 miles) from Lichfield, although today the parish is in the Diocese of Birmingham.

In 1613, Good Friday fell on 2 April, and on Tuesday 2 April this year a workshop exploring Polesworth’s rich cultural heritage of modern-day poets and writers is being held at Polesworth Abbey 400 years after John Donne wrote Good Friday 1613: Travelling Westwards.

The Vicar of Polesworth, Father Philip Wells, says: “We are very excited to be celebrating this 400th anniversary with a series of talks and giving people a chance to reflect on Donne’s poem in the wider context of the Abbey site and the Christian faith which inspired it.”

TS Eliot was deeply disparaging when it came to John Donne: “About Donne there hangs the shadow of the impure motive; and impure motives lend their aid to a facile success. He is a little of the religious spellbinder, the Reverend Billy Sunday of his time, the flesh-creeper, the sorcerer of emotional orgy. We emphasize this aspect to the point of the grotesque. Donne had a trained mind; but without belittling the intensity or the profundity of his experience, we can suggest that this experience was not perfectly controlled, and that he lacked spiritual discipline.”

But John Donne’s poem Good Friday 1613 is about a profound experience and has no shadow of “impure motive” hanging over it, for it was not written for publication, and so it offers a very personal look at the meaning of Christ’s death for him and for the restoration of the whole universe.

On his journey westward over that weekend 400 years ago, John Donne realised the general aberration of nature that prompts us to put pleasure before our devotion to Christ. We ought to be heading east at Easter so as to contemplate and share Christ’s suffering; and recalling up that event in his mind’s eye, he recognises the paradox of the ignominious death of God upon a Cross:

Could I behold those hands, which span the poles,
And turn all spheres at once, pierced with those holes?

However, as I celebrate the Resurrection on this Easter morning in Lichfield Cathedral, I want to share two other poems by John Donne that bring together the themes of Good Friday and Easter Day.

Resurrection, by John Donne

Moist with one drop of Thy blood, my dry soul
Shall – though she now be in extreme degree
Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly – be
Freed by that drop, from being starved, hard or foul,
And life by this death abled shall control
Death, whom Thy death slew; nor shall to me
Fear of first or last death bring misery,
If in thy life-book my name thou enroll.
Flesh in that long sleep is not putrified,
But made that there, of which, and for which it was;
Nor can by other means be glorified.
May then sin's sleep and death soon from me pass,
That waked from both, I again risen may
Salute the last and everlasting day.

Easter Day, by John Donne

Sleep sleep old Sun! thou canst not have repast
As yet, the wound thou took’st on Friday last;
Sleep then, and rest; the world may bearer thy stay,
A better Sun rose before thee to-day,
Who, not content t’enlighten all that dwell
On the earth’s face, as thou, enlighten’d hell;
And made the darker fires languish in that vale,
As, at thy presence here, our fires grow pale.
Whose body having walk’d on earth, and now
Hasting to Heaven, would – that he might allow
Himself unto all stations, and fill all,
For these three days become a mineral;
He was all gold when he lay down, but rose
All tincture, and doth not alone dispose
Leaden and iron wills to good, but is
Of power to make even sinful flesh like his.
Had one of those, whose credulous piety
Thought, that a Soul one might discern and see
Go from a body, ’at this sepulchre been,
And, issuing from the sheet, this body seen,
He would have justly thought this body a soul,
If not of any man, yet of the whole.
Desunt caetera

The closing Latin inscription, Desunt Caetera “the rest is wanting.” This a phrase was added at the end of manuscripts whose last pages or sentences had been lost. But here John Donne may be referring to the mystery of the Resurrection, telling us that while the Resurrection of Christ is perfect, our own resurrection is an unfinished task that remains to be fulfilled.

For information on next Tuesday’s events at Polesworth Abbey, contact: Father Philip on 01827 892340 or email . Read more at:

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Linking literary Lichfield and Longford

Stowe House, Lichfield ... the home of Richard Lovell Edgeworth, whose family gave their name to Edgeworthstown, Co Longford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I am enjoying some of my favourite walks in Lichfield this weekend. One walk bring me around Stowe Pool, from Lichfield Cathedral to Netherstowe, Saint Chad’s Church, and Stowe House, which has interesting literary connections that link Lichfield and Ireland.

Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817), who lived at Stowe House at different times in the second half of the 18th century, shared many of the radical social and political views of his friends in the social and literary circles in Lichfield at the time, including Tomas Day, Erasmus Darwin and the members of the Lunar Society.

Richard, who was born in Bath in 1744 was the son of Richard Edgeworth and his wife Jane (Lovell): the Edgeworth family had extensive estates in Co Longford, and gave their name to Edgeworthstown, where Richard later spent much of his life.

Richard was educated in Ireland at Drogheda Grammar School and Trinity College Dublin, and in England at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. But while he was still an undergraduate, he eloped with Anna Maria Elers in 1763, and they were married at Gretna Green. Their first child Dick was born in 1764 when Richard was still only 19. Their second child Maria, who was born on 1 January 1768, became one of the first important woman authors in the English language and one of Ireland’s leading writers.

When his father died in 1769, Richard inherited the large family estates in Ireland. But instead of returning to Ireland he moved to Lichfield in 1770, and first stayed with his friend Thomas Day who had just moved there too.

He came to the attention of Erasmus Darwin and other members of the Lunar Society because of his interest in all things mechanical. He investigated telegraph communications, agricultural machinery, including a machine for measuring land area, and another for cutting turnips, and improved means of transport, including carriages and an early form of bicycle.

In Lichfield, he also became friends with Anna Seward, the ‘Swan of Lichfield’ and later biographer of Darwin, and her cousins Honora and Elizabeth Sneyd.

Meanwhile, Richard was fascinated by the principles and philosophy of Rousseau, and he and Thomas Day decided to apply these ideas to the education of his son, Dick. The three travelled to France in 1771, where they met Rousseau, and they lived in Lyons for two years. However, Anna Maria Edgeworth died in March 1773, and Richard returned to Lichfield.

Back in Lichfield and living once again at Stowe House with Thomas Day, Richard flirted outrageously with Anna Seward, who was living in the Cathedral Close. She was devastated then when he married her dear friend Honora Sneyd in the Cathedral in 1773. Anna never forgave Richard and carried her hatred into old age. Honora Sneyd had earlier rejected a proposal from Thomas Day. The couple took up residence on the Edgeworth estates in Co Longford, but they soon returned to England, and Honora died in April 1780.

Oddly, Honora recommended that Richard should marry her sister Elizabeth and this he did on Christmas Day 1780. Their marriage was considered somewhat shocking in the moral climate of the day. Elizabeth too had earlier, rejected a proposal from Thomas Day.

In 1782, Richard Edgeworth returned to Ireland once again, this time with his third wife from Lichfield, and with his seven children. Richard was determined to improve the condition of his tenants and his estates and to take care of the education of his children. In 1785, he was one of the founding members of the Royal Irish Academy.

In 1797, Elizabeth Edgeworth died too.

In 1798, Richard and his daughter Maria published Practical Education. This was the year of the United Irish Rebellion and the French invasion. That year too, Richard married his Frances-Anne Beaufort, daughter of the Revd Daniel Augustus Beaufort, and he was elected MP for the borough of St John’s Town, Longford, a constituency that was abolished after the Act of Union.

Eventually, Richard was the father of 22 children by his four wives. He died on 13 June 1817, and was buried in the family vault in Edgeworthstown churchyard.

Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849), who lived in Ireland from the age of five, is one of the great figures in Irish literature, but is often forgotten as a Lichfield literary figure. She was a life-long correspondent with members of the Lunar Society while she was managing the Edgeworthtown estate, where she lived and wrote for most of her life, campaigning for Catholic Emancipation and working for Famine Relief.

Her novels include Castle Rackrent, Belinda, Harrington and Helen. She is buried with her father in the family vault in the Church of Ireland churchyard in Edgeworthstown.

The Market House built by the Edgeworth family in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Last month, travelling from Dublin to Achill, I stopped in Edgeworthstown to see the Market House, built by the Edgeworth family, and decorated with the Edgeworth coat-of-arms.

Edgeworthstown House is now a nursing home run by the Sisters of Mercy.

The Edgeworth family coat-of-arms on the Market House in Edgeworthstown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

With the saints in Lent (46), Saint John Klimakos, 30 March

The Ladder of Divine Ascent ... an icon from Mount Sinai based on the work of Saint John Klimakos

Patrick Comerford

I am in Lichfield this Easter weekend, concluding my Lent and anticipating the joys of the Resurrection with my own retreat, following the daily cycle of prayer and Liturgy from Good Friday to Easter Day at Lichfield Cathedral.

Today [30 March], the calendars of the Church commemorate Saint John Klimakos (Ἰωάννης τῆς Κλίμακος), the author of the great spiritual work The Ladder of Divine Ascent. Although Holy Saturday precludes any commemoration of a saint, the ascetic example of Saint John Klimakos is inspiring as we come to the end of our Lenten journey.

The Ladder is one of the most widely read and much-loved books of Orthodox spirituality, and is read especially during Great Lent. It is often read in the refectory in monasteries, and in some churches it is read as part of the Daily Office on Lenten weekdays.

Saint John Klimakos was a seventh century monk in Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai. Although his lifespan is often given as 525-606, we have little information about the life of this saint apart from a hagiography by a monk named Daniel of Raithu monastery, who admits he knows nothing about Saint John’s origins.

In various accounts, the date of his birth is given between 505 and 579 in Syria – although other sources say he was born in Constantinople. Any speculation about his birth comes from a much later period. But it is said Saint John came to the monastery on Mount Sinai and became a novice when he was aged about 16.

On Mount Sinai, he was taught about the spiritual life by the elder monk Martyrius. After the death of Martyrius, John withdrew to a hermitage at Tola at the foot of the mountain, about 8 km from Saint Catherine’s.

He lived in his hermitage in Tola for 20 years, constantly studying the lives of the saints, and became one of the most learned of the Church Fathers. There too, he was sought out for spiritual direction, and he also visited several monasteries near Alexandria. Far from being an escape from the world and human life, his retreat led to ardent love for others and for God.

At about the age of 75, the monks of Mount Sinai persuaded him to become their igumen or abbot. As their abbot, he showed great wisdom. Just before his death, he resigned as abbot to return to his solitary life. Once again, various dates are given for his death on Mount Sinai, between 605 and 649.

His Κλίμαξ or The Ladder of Divine Ascent was written in the early seventh century at the request of Abbot John of Raithu, a monastery in Sinai on the shores of the Red Sea.

He also wrote To the Pastor, which may have been an appendix to The Ladder.

In The Ladder, Saint John describes how to raise one’s soul and body to God through the acquisition of ascetic virtues. He uses the analogy of Jacob’s Ladder as the framework for his spiritual teaching.

Each chapter is referred to as a step, and deals with a separate spiritual subject. There are 30 steps of the ladder, corresponding to the age of Christ at his baptism and the beginning of his earthly ministry.

Within the general framework of a ladder, The Ladder is divided into three sections.

The first seven Steps concern general virtues necessary for the ascetic life, while the next 19 (Steps 8-26) give instruction on overcoming vices and building their corresponding virtues. The final four steps (27-30) concern the higher virtues toward which the ascetic life aims. The final rung of the ladder – beyond prayer (προσευχή), stillness (ἡσυχία), and even dispassion (ἀπαθεία) – is love (ἀγάπη).

The Ladder describes how to raise one’s soul and body to God, as if on a ladder, the goal of which is theosis, or mystical union with God. This book is one of the most widely-read among Orthodox Christians, especially during this season of Great Lent. It is often read in the trapeza or monastic refectory during Lent, and in some places it is read in church as part of the Daily Office during the weekdays of Lent.

Saint John Klimakos uses the analogy of Jacob’s Ladder to provide the framework for his spiritual teaching. Each chapter is referred to as a “step,” and deals with a separate spiritual subject. There are 30 steps on the ladder, which correspond with the age of Christ at his baptism and the beginning of his earthly ministry.

The first 23 steps give instruction on overcoming the vices, and the remainder speak of building the virtues.

The Ladder holds dispassionateness (apatheia) as the ultimate contemplative and mystical good in a Christian.

I should advise that reading this book is usually reserved for monastics or lay people who have progressed spiritually, and Orthodox Christians say that this book should only be read with the permission and guidance of a Spiritual Father.

The 30 steps or rungs on the Ladder:

1–4: Renouncement of the world and obedience to a spiritual father

1, Περί αποταγής (on renunciation of the world, or ascetism)
2, Περί απροσπαθείας (on detachment)
3, Περί ξενιτείας (on exile or pilgrimage; concerning dreams that beginners have)
4, Περί υπακοής (on blessed and ever-memorable obedience (in addition to episodes involving many individuals))

5–7: Penitence and affliction (πένθος) as paths to true joy

5, Περί μετανοίας (on painstaking and true repentance, which constitute the life of the holy convicts, and about the Prison)
6, Περί μνήμης θανάτου (on remembrance of death)
7, Περί του χαροποιού πένθους (on joy-making mourning)

8–17: Defeat of vices and acquisition of virtue

8, Περί αοργησίας (on freedom from anger and on meekness)
9, Περί μνησικακίας (on remembrance of wrongs)
10, Περί καταλαλιάς (on slander or calumny)
11, Περί πολυλογίας και σιωπής (on talkativeness and silence)
12, Περί ψεύδους (on lying)
13, Περί ακηδίας (on despondency)
14, Περί γαστριμαργίας (on that clamorous mistress, the stomach)
15, Περί αγνείας (on incorruptible purity and chastity, to which the corruptible attain by toil and sweat)
16, Περί φιλαργυρίας (on love of money, or avarice)
17, Περί αναισθησίας (on non-possessiveness (that hastens one towards heaven)

18–26: Avoidance of the traps of asceticism (laziness, pride, mental stagnation)

18, Περί ύπνου και προσευχής (on insensibility or the deadening of the soul and the death of the mind before the death of the body)
19, Περί αγρυπνίας (on sleep, prayer, and psalmody with the brotherhood)
20, Περί δειλίας (on bodily vigil and how to use it to attain spiritual vigil, and how to practice it)
21, Περί κενοδοξίας (on unmanly and puerile cowardice)
22, Περί υπερηφανείας (on the many forms of vainglory)
23, Περί λογισμών βλασφημίας (on mad pride and, in the same step, on unclean blasphemous thoughts; concerning unmentionable blasphemous thoughts)
24, Περί πραότητος και απλότητος (on meekness, simplicity, and guilelessness, which come not from nature but from conscious effort, and on guile)
25, Περί ταπεινοφροσύνης (on the destroyer of the passions, most sublime humility, which is rooted in spiritual perception)
26, Περί διακρίσεως (on discernment of thoughts, passions and virtues; on expert discernment; brief summary of all aforementioned)

27–29: Acquisition of hesychia, or peace of the soul, of prayer, and of apatheia (dispassion or equanimity with respect to afflictions or suffering)

27, Περί ησυχίας (on holy stillness of body and soul; different aspects of stillness and how to distinguish them)
28, Περί προσευχής (on holy and blessed prayer, the mother of virtues, and on the attitude of mind and body in prayer)
29, Περί απαθείας (on heaven on earth, or God-like dispassion and perfection, and the resurrection of the soul before the general resurrection)
30, Περί αγάπης, ελπίδος και πίστεως (on linking together the supreme trinity among the virtues; a brief exhortation summarising all that has said at length in this book).

Orthodox Commemorations

The feast day of Saint John Klimakos is 30 March. However, because of the saint’s popularity, the Orthodox Church also commemorates him on the Fourth Sunday in Lent. As a Sunday of Great Lent, the commemoration is celebrated with the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, which is preceded by Matins (Orthros). Great Vespers is conducted on Saturday evening.

The Scripture readings for the Fourth Sunday of Lent are: at Orthros (Matins), the prescribed weekly Gospel reading; at the Divine Liturgy, Hebrews 6: 13-20; Mark 9: 17-31.

Hymns of the Feast:

Apolytikion: Plagal of the Fourth Tone

With the rivers of your tears,
you have made the barren desert fertile.
Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you,
your labours have borne fruit a hundredfold.
By your miracles you have become a light,
shining upon the world.
O John, our Holy Father,
pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.

Kontakion: First Tone

As ever-blooming fruits,
you offer the teachings of your God-given book,
O wise John, most blessed,
while sweetening the hearts of all them that heed it with vigilance;
for it is a ladder from the earth unto Heaven
that confers glory on the souls
that ascend it and honour you faithfully.

Great Vespers: Tone Plagal of the First

O righteous Father,
you heard the voice of the Gospel
and forsook the world, riches, and glory,
counting them as naught.
And so, you cried to all:
love God, and you will find eternal favour.
Put nothing above his love,
that when he comes in his glory
you may find rest with all the saints.
And so, by their intercessions,
O Christ God,
preserve and save our souls.

Icons of The Ladder of Divine Ascent

The Ladder of Divine Ascent ... a modern icon by Athanasios Clark

An icon of the same title, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, depicts a ladder extending from earth to heaven (see Genesis 28: 12). Several monks are seen climbing a ladder. At the top is Christ, prepared to receive them into Heaven. Angels are helping the climbers, and demons are trying to shoot them with arrows or to drag the climbers down, no matter how high up the ladder they may be.

The best-known version of this icon, a small 12th century work, is one of the best-known icons in Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai. It was one of the principle exhibits at the Byzantium exhibition in the Royal Academy of Arts in London four years ago, which I reviewed for the Athens News.

Most versions of the icon show at least one person falling off the ladder and down into hell. Often, in a lower corner, Saint John Klimakos is shown gesturing towards the ladder, with rows of monks behind him.

Series concluded

Friday, 29 March 2013

Light in the darkness

Today’s edition of The Irish Times [29 March 2013] carries the following full-length editorial on page 15:

Light in the

The snow that has blanketed Ireland and Britain for the past week gives the landscape an appearance that is more appropriate for scenes on Christmas cards than for contemplating the significance of Good Friday and Easter. It is just possible, in a moment of fantasy, to imagine congregations in churches across the land this weekend singing In the bleak mid-winter. Christina Rossetti’s poem, set to music by Gustav Holst and Harold Darke, was named some years ago in a poll of choir directors and choral experts as the best Christmas carol. But in this poem and carol, Christina Rossetti seeks to link the message of the incarnation at Christmas with the triumph and hope of Easter as she writes:

Our God, heav’n cannot hold him
nor earth sustain;
heav'n and earth shall flee away
When he comes to reign …

In an unusual coincidence, last week saw the beginning of the reigns of a new pope and a new Archbishop of Canterbury. Yet both church leaders, with patterns of leadership that are marked by personal humility and effacement, would eschew words like “reign” that imply monarchical styles of leadership. Instead, both Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin Welby appear to be keen to pattern their style of leadership on Christ as the Suffering Servant rather than on prelates from the past who ruled like reigning princes.

* * * * *

St John’s Gospel, in its account of Holy Week and Good Friday, puts love at the heart of Christian faith and hope. Pope Francis celebrated his Maundy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the chapel of Casal del Marmo, a juvenile prison in Rome where most of the inmates are foreign-born and Muslim, some have no religious beliefs, and until his visit many had probably not known of the pope.

All previous popes in living memory have said this Mass either in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican or in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran in Rome. It was a humble act of love typical of those marking out this papacy as different from all others, and it rings true with Christ’s own words after he washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15: 16).

Archbishop Welby also arrived in humility at Canterbury Cathedral last week. He came as a pilgrim rather than in triumph, having spent the previous days on what was described as his “Journey in Prayer,” kneeling in prayer in a pilgrimage that brought him through the dioceses of the Church of England. Before he took up office, Pope-Emeritus Benedict wrote to the new archbishop reminding him that “the preacher’s task, as a messenger of hope, is to speak the truth with love, shedding the light of Christ into the darkness of people’s lives.”

This humility and servant-ministry from church leaders resonate throughout Europe this week, bringing light and hope into the darkness and the gloom that has been created not just by the weather, but by a financial crisis that seems to be biting even deeper, with everyone now feeling the consequences of the uncertainties created in Cyprus.

How many would pray this Good Friday that the humility of church leaders would be taken up as a moral course by our political leaders? Who can provide hope for the mother struggling to pay the mortgage and for childcare and who fears being told to give up her job? Who can bring hope to the family burdened by debt and without health insurance but facing mounting medical bills? Who can offer hope to the families of young suicide victims or of young graduates unable to find employment and forced to emigrate, perhaps never to return?

* * * * *

Of course, politicians cannot offer immediate remedies; and the problems our economies face need to be solved on a European scale too. But both Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby - in following Christ’s example of leadership, marked by humility on the evening before his crucifixion - have shown a fresh and much-needed approach to leadership, that reaches out to the marginalised, those without hope, those living in darkness. It is hard to believe in this unusual wintery weather that the clocks go forward tomorrow night and that summer time officially begins on Sunday morning.

But both Pope Francis and Archbishop Welby have already shown that humility and compassion shine light in the darkness, offering real hope in the midst of despair and demonstrating true leadership that is often cruelly lacking. They offer gripping challenges to our politicians and their styles of leadership.

Good Friday and Easter in Lichfield Cathedral

Lichfield Cathedral … three days of prayer, retreat and liturgy from Good Friday to Easter Day (Photograph: Patrick Comerford

Patrick Comerford

I am back in Lichfield for the end of Holy Week and Easter in Lichfield Cathedral from today, Good Friday [29 March 2013], until Easter Day [31 March 2013], having taken part in the Chrism Eucharist and the renewal of ordination vows in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, yesterday.

These Three Days (Triduum) are marked by the Eucharist of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, through the Liturgy of the Passion on Good Friday, to the dismal silent emptiness of Holy Saturday, relieved by the merest murmur of liturgical contribution, and on into the darkness and light of the Easter Liturgy, which will be kept in Lichfield Cathedral at 5 a.m. on Easter Morning.

There is a full programme of worship and events in Lichfield Cathedral for the Three Days leading up to the Easter Vigil.

The Vigil is being followed on Easter morning with a celebration breakfast in College Hall in the Cathedral Close. Hopefully, by then, the birds will be singing, the sun will be shining, echoing the Easter proclamation.

The Liturgy of Good Friday at noon today is sung by the Cathedral Choir and the Chamber Choir, with the Rite of Preparation, the Liturgy of the Passion, the Proclamation of the Cross, and Prayers of Intercession and Liturgy of the Sacrament.

This evening, at 7.30 p.m., Ecumenical Worship has been organised by the Cathedral and Churches Together in Lichfield.

Tomorrow morning (Holy Saturday, 30 March), ‘They came to the tomb’ is the title of a stational office at 9.30 a.m., with prayers for those preparing the cathedral for the Easter Proclamation. In the evening, Choral Evensong is at 5.30 p.m.

On Easter Day (Sunday, 31 March), the Easter Liturgy begins early in the morning at 5 a.m. in relative darkness, which is illumined by the new fire, kindled at the west front, and by the Paschal candle. This Easter Vigil lasts about 2½ hours, and with its beauty and drama it is something I do not want to miss.

It begins outside with the lighting of a fire and the hallowing of the Easter Candle We shall then move inside for the singing of the hauntingly wonderful Exultet, in which we join the angels in praising Christ for his victory over darkness.

We then hear the history of God’s dealings with humanity in the Scriptures, each reading followed by a plainsong psalm sung by a choir. We then hear the Gospel and a homily, this year by the Canon Treasurer and Archdeacon of Lichfield, the Ven Chris Liley.

The baptismal font in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

We move then to the font for the renewal of our own baptismal life and promises. Finally, we move into quire for the first Eucharist of Easter at the cathedral high altar.

Later on Easter morning, there is Holy Communion (BCP) at 8 a.m., Morning Prayer at 8.45 a.m., Sung Eucharist with Renewal of Baptismal Vows at 10.30 a.m., with the Darwin Ensemble Chamber Orchestra accompanying the Cathedral Choir in a programme of Mozart, and Solemn Evensong at 3.30 p.m.

This is a very personal retreat, and in between these liturgies, I plan to find time for reflection and prayer, walks in the cathedral city and the countryside, and some time with friends.

Wise words from Dr Samuel Johnson in the Hedgehog Vintage Inn, Lichfield ... I am staying here for the Easter Weekend (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

With the Saints in Lent (45): John Keble, 29 March

John Keble (1792-1866) … his poems in ‘The Christian Year’ include ‘Good Friday’

Patrick Comerford

John Keble (1792-1866) was an Anglican priest and poet, Professor of Poetry at Oxford, and one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement. He was born on Saint Mark’s Day, 25 April 1792, in Fairford, Gloucestershire, where his father, the Revd John Keble, a former Fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, was Vicar of Coln St Aldwyn’s.

John Keble received his early education in his father’s vicarage, and at 14 he won a scholarship to Oxford University. He studied at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and in 1810, at the age of 18, he graduated with a double first in classics and mathematics.

In 1811, he became a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, and for some years, he was a tutor and examiner in the University of Oxford. While he was at Oxford, he was ordained deacon by the Bishop of Oxford on Trinity Sunday 1815, and priest in 1816.

He became first a curate to his father, and then curate of Saint Michael’s and Saint Martin's Church, Eastleach Martin, in Gloucestershire.

In 1827, he published The Christian Year, which appeared in 1827. He wrote the poems to restore a deep feeling for the Church Year among Anglicans, and it received such great acclaim that its became the most popular volume of verse in the 19th century. One of the most popular poems in The Christian Year is the well-known hymn, ‘New every morning,’ with its opening lines:

New ev’ry morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove:
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life and power and thought.

The Christian Year went into 95 editions in his lifetime, and b the time the copyright expired in 1873, over 375,000 copies had been sold in Britain and 158 editions had been published.

The success of The Christian Year led to Keble being appointed Professor of Poetry in Oxford University, a post he held from 1831 to 1841.

The University Church of Saint Mary, Oxford, where John Keble preached his Assize Sermon in 1833 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the 1830s, Parliament legislated to abolish ten bishoprics in the Church of Ireland. Keble vigorously attacked this legislation for undermining the independence of the Church, and two years after becoming Professor of Poetry, he preached his famous Assize Sermon on “national apostasy.”

The text of the sermon was I Samuel 12: 23, “As for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you; but I will teach you the good and the right way.”

This sermon in Saint Mary’s University Church in 1833 was the spark that ignited the Oxford Movement. The members of the Oxford Movement began to publish a series, Tracts for the Times, that gave them the popular name “Tractarians.” These tracts sought to recall the Church to its ancient sacramental heritage.

John Henry Newman was the intellectual leader of the movement, Edward Bouverie Pusey was the prophet of its devotional life, and John Keble was its pastoral inspiration.

However, Keble’s passionate desire was to be a faithful parish priest, finding fulfilment in the daily services, confirmation classes, visiting the village schools, and corresponding with those seeking spiritual counsel. In 1835 he was appointed Vicar of Hursley, Hampshire, where he settled down to family life and remained for the rest of his life as a parish priest at All Saints’ Church.

In 1836, he edited an edition of Richard Hooker’s works with critical notes, and he also wrote a Life of Bishop Wilson for the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology.

The most important of his prose writings, however, was his treatise on Eucharistic Adoration, was written in support of Archdeacon Denison, who had been attacked for two sermons preached in Wells Cathedral in which he stated that the Body and Blood of Christ are received by those who eat and drink unworthily, and that worship is due to the real though invisible presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist under the forms of bread and wine.

On refusing to retract these statements, Archdeacon Denison was deprived of his vicarage and archdeaconry, but this sentence was overthrown by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1858. Keble had published his treatise in the previous year, after the sentence of deprivation had been pronounced.

John Keble died on 29 March 1866 at the age of 74, and was buried at Hursley on 6 April. After his death, 12 volumes of his sermons were published by Pusey and other friends. Pusey said of these that their chief characteristics are affectionate simplicity and intense reality.

Within three years of his death, Keble College was established at Oxford “to give an education in strict fidelity to the Church of England.” For Keble, this would have meant dedication to learning in order “to live more nearly as we pray.”

Keble’s feast day is kept in the Church of England on 14 July, the anniversary of his Assize Sermon in Oxford, but on 29 March, the anniversary of his death, elsewhere in other parts of the Anglican Communion, including the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in the US.

However, because today [29 March 2013] is Good Friday, few parishes are likely to recall John Keble today. Yet today is a suitable day for reading once again one of his poems in The Christian Year, ‘Good Friday’:

Good Friday, by John Keble

Is it not strange, the darkest hour
That ever dawned on sinful earth
Should touch the heart with softer power
For comfort than an angel’s mirth?
That to the Cross the mourner’s eye should turn
Sooner than where the stars of Christmas burn?

Sooner than where the Easter sun
Shines glorious on yon open grave,
And to and fro the tidings run,
“Who died to heal, is risen to save?”
Sooner than where upon the Saviour’s friends
The very Comforter in light and love descends?

Yet so it is: for duly there
The bitter herbs of earth are set,
Till tempered by the Saviour’s prayer,
And with the Saviour’s life-blood wet,
They turn to sweetness, and drop holy balm,
Soft as imprisoned martyr’s deathbed calm.

All turn to sweet – but most of all
That bitterest to the lip of pride,
When hopes presumptuous fade and fall,
Or Friendship scorns us, duly tried,
Or Love, the flower that closes up for fear
When rude and selfish spirits breathe too near.

Then like a long-forgotten strain
Comes sweeping o’er the heart forlorn
What sunshine hours had taught in vain
Of JESUS suffering shame and scorn,
As in all lowly hearts he suffers still,
While we triumphant ride and have the world at will.

His pierced hands in vain would hide
His face from rude reproachful gaze,
His ears are open to abide
The wildest storm the tongue can raise,
He who with one rough word, some early day,
Their idol world and them shall sweep for aye away.

But we by Fancy may assuage
The festering sore by Fancy made,
Down in some lonely hermitage
Like wounded pilgrims safely laid,
Where gentlest breezes whisper souls distressed,
That Love yet lives, and Patience shall find rest.

O! shame beyond the bitterest thought
That evil spirit ever framed,
That sinners know what Jesus wrought,
Yet feel their haughty hearts untamed –
souls in refuge, holding by the Cross,
Should wince and fret at this world’s little loss.

Lord of my heart, by Thy last cry,
Let not Thy blood on earth be spent –
Lo, at Thy feet I fainting lie,
Mine eyes upon Thy wounds are bent,
Upon Thy streaming wounds my weary eyes
Wait like the parched earth on April skies.

Wash me, and dry these bitter tears,
O let my heart no further roam,
’Tis Thine by vows, and hopes, and fears.
Long since – O call Thy wanderer home;
To that dear home, safe in Thy wounded side,
Where only broken hearts their sin and shame may hide.


Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know your presence and obey your will; that, following the example of your servant John Keble, we may accomplish with integrity and courage what you give us to do, and endure what you give us to bear; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11; Psalm 26: 1-8; Romans 12: 9-21; Matthew 5: 1-12.

Tomorrow (30 March): Saint John Klimakos.

St Patrick’s-tide celebrations

Today’s edition of the Church of Ireland Gazette [29 March 2013] carries the following photograph and report on page 5:

St Patrick’s-tide celebrations

Pictured following a special, cross-border, ecumenical St Patrick’s Day Festival Eucharist in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, are (left to right) Ian Keatley, director of music at Christ Church Cathedral; Dean Dermot Dunne; Archbishop Michael Jackson; the Very Revd Dr Hugh Kennedy, administrator of St Peter’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Belfast; Canon Patrick Comerford (preacher); and Nigel McClintock, director of music at St Peter’s Cathedral. (Photo: Lynn Glanville).

Thursday, 28 March 2013

With the Saints in Lent (44): Patrick Forbes and the Aberdeen Doctors, 28 March

Bishop Patrick Forbes (1564-1635) of Aberdeen ... leader of the Aberdeen Doctors and a ‘guid, godly and kind’ man

Patrick Comerford

Patrick Forbes and the Aberdeen Doctors are commemorated in the Calendar of the Scottish Episcopal Church today [28 March]. They lived at a time of great upheaval in the Church in Scotland, and Bishop Patrick Forbes (1564-1635) is widely recognised as a man who was “guid, godly and kind.”

Patrick Forbes, who was born on 24 August 1564, was the eldest son of William Forbes, Laird of Corse, and his wife Elizabeth Strachan. His younger brother, Sir Arthur Forbes, went to Ireland in 1620 and was the ancestor of the Forbes family of Castle Forbes and Granard, Co Longford, whose family titles included Earl of Granard.

When William Forbes died in 1598, left his estates to his eldest son, Patrick.

Patrick Forbes was educated at the High School of Stirling, the University of Glasgow and the University of St Andrews, where he came under the influence of the renowned theologian Andrew Melville.

Forbes became religiously puritanical and an avid preacher, though he was reluctant to enter the ministry. George Gledstanes, Archbishop of St Andrews, ordered him to enter the ministry or stop preaching, and as a result Forbes confined his preaching to his own household.

When his friend John Chalmers, the minister of Keith, was dying in 1611, he asked Patrick Forbes to take over of the parish of Keith and to continue his work there. So it was that in 1612, at the age of 48, Patrick Forbes was ordained and became the minister of Keith, in the Diocese of Moray.

Patrick wrote a number of theological writings during this period, including An Exquisite Commentarie upon the Revelation of Saint John (1613) and A Short Discovery of the Adversarie (1614). In the first book, he expresses vehement anti-Catholicism and argues that the Roman Catholic Church was corrupted by the greed of bishops, even before the reign of the Emperor Constantine the Great, and that this corruption became irreversible during the papacy of Pope Boniface VIII. However, in the second book, he moderates his views on episcopacy, although he still declares bishoprics to be unnecessary institutions.

Nevertheless, in January 1618, Patrick was nominated King James I to succeed Alexander Forbes as Bishop of Aberdeen. He was elected bishop on 24 March, and was consecrated on 17 May.

Initially, it appears, Patrick was reluctant to take up the position, but cited his obedience to the king’s wishes. Although he was well respected for his piety and theology, as bishop he met hostility from the anti-episcopal Presbyterians in the Church of Scotland.

As Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen, Forbes was responsible for much reorganisation in the university, including a reconstruction of the system for the education and training of future ministers.

When Patrick Forbes died on 28 March 1635, he was buried in Aberdeen Cathedral.

Patrick Forbes and his wife Lucretia Spens had five children, including the noted theologian John Forbes, one of the six Aberdeen Doctors who are also remembered today.

The Aberdeen Doctors were six scholars working at Marischal College and King’s College, Aberdeen, who worked under the leadership of Patrick Forbes, Bishop of Aberdeen, until 1635. After Bishop Forbes died, the Aberdeen doctors continued to be distinguished for their work as theologians at Aberdeen, but they are also remembered for their opposition to the National Covenant of 1638.

Their adherence to Episcopacy and their support for the Articles of the Assembly at Perth, which in 1618 which prescribed several Episcopalian forms of worship, form the backdrop of their opposition to the Presbyterian Covenanters.

Castle Leslie, Co Monaghan ... home of Bishop John Leslie (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The six Aberdeen doctors were:

● The Revd William Leslie, Principal of King’s College and their leader after death of Bishop Patrick Forbes in 1635. William Leslie’s brother, John Leslie (1571-1671), was Bishop of the Isles before moving to Ireland where he was Bishop of Raphoe and later Bishop of Clogher, and ancestor of the Leslie family of Castle Leslie, Co Monaghan.

● The Revd John Forbes of Corse (1593-1648), theologian at King’s College and the son of Bishop Patrick Forbes.

● The Revd Alexander Scroggie of King’s College and Minister of Old Aberdeen.

● The Revd Alexander Ross of King’s College and Minister of New Aberdeen.

● The Revd Robert Baron, the first Professor of Theology at Marischal College.

● The Revd James Sibbald, Professor of Natural Philosophy at Marischal College and Minister of Saint Nicholas’s, Aberdeen.

The Aberdeen Doctors were eminent for their scholarship, ability, piety, and devotion to duty. They encouraged sound learning and personal godliness, and in the partisan atmosphere of the time they found a way to transcend the confessional limits of theological thinking and to work for harmony, tolerance and mutual understanding.

They strenuously opposed the National Covenant which abolished episcopacy in Scotland. For refusing to subscribe to it, John Forbes was deprived of his chair in 1639 and went into exile.


Daniel 3: 14-20, 24-25, 28; Song of Three 29-34; John 8. 31-42.

Tomorrow (29 March): John Keble.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Pastoral Letters (7): I Timothy 6

Christ the King of Kings and Great High priest (see I Timothy 6: 16) ... an icon from Mount Athos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I Timothy 6:

1 Οσοι εἰσὶν ὑπὸ ζυγὸν δοῦλοι, τοὺς ἰδίους δεσπότας πάσης τιμῆς ἀξίους ἡγείσθωσαν, ἵνα μὴ τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἡ διδασκαλία βλασφημῆται. 2 οἱ δὲ πιστοὺς ἔχοντες δεσπότας μὴ καταφρονείτωσαν, ὅτι ἀδελφοί εἰσιν: ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον δουλευέτωσαν, ὅτι πιστοί εἰσιν καὶ ἀγαπητοὶ οἱ τῆς εὐεργεσίας ἀντιλαμβανόμενοι.

Ταῦτα δίδασκε καὶ παρακάλει.

3 εἴ τις ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖ καὶ μὴ προσέρχεται ὑγιαίνουσιν λόγοις, τοῖς τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, καὶ τῇ κατ' εὐσέβειαν διδασκαλίᾳ, 4 τετύφωται, μηδὲν ἐπιστάμενος, ἀλλὰ νοσῶν περὶ ζητήσεις καὶ λογομαχίας, ἐξ ὧν γίνεται φθόνος, ἔρις, βλασφημίαι, ὑπόνοιαι πονηραί, 5 διαπαρατριβαὶ διεφθαρμένων ἀνθρώπων τὸν νοῦν καὶ ἀπεστερημένων τῆς ἀληθείας, νομιζόντων πορισμὸν εἶναι τὴν εὐσέβειαν. 6 ἔστιν δὲ πορισμὸς μέγας ἡ εὐσέβεια μετὰ αὐταρκείας: 7 οὐδὲν γὰρ εἰσηνέγκαμεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον, ὅτι οὐδὲ ἐξενεγκεῖν τι δυνάμεθα: 8 ἔχοντες δὲ διατροφὰς καὶ σκεπάσματα, τούτοις ἀρκεσθησόμεθα. 9 οἱ δὲ βουλόμενοι πλουτεῖν ἐμπίπτουσιν εἰς πειρασμὸν καὶ παγίδα καὶ ἐπιθυμίας πολλὰς ἀνοήτους καὶ βλαβεράς, αἵτινες βυθίζουσιν τοὺς ἀνθρώπους εἰς ὄλεθρον καὶ ἀπώλειαν: 10 ῥίζα γὰρ πάντων τῶν κακῶν ἐστιν ἡ φιλαργυρία, ἧς τινες ὀρεγόμενοι ἀπεπλανήθησαν ἀπὸ τῆς πίστεως καὶ ἑαυτοὺς περιέπειραν ὀδύναις πολλαῖς.

11 Σὺ δέ, ὦ ἄνθρωπε θεοῦ, ταῦτα φεῦγε: δίωκε δὲ δικαιοσύνην, εὐσέβειαν, πίστιν, ἀγάπην, ὑπομονήν, πραϋπαθίαν. 12 ἀγωνίζου τὸν καλὸν ἀγῶνα τῆς πίστεως, ἐπιλαβοῦ τῆς αἰωνίου ζωῆς, εἰς ἣν ἐκλήθης καὶ ὡμολόγησας τὴν καλὴν ὁμολογίαν ἐνώπιον πολλῶν μαρτύρων. 13 παραγγέλλω [σοι] ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ζῳογονοῦντος τὰ πάντα καὶ Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ τοῦ μαρτυρήσαντος ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου τὴν καλὴν ὁμολογίαν, 14 τηρῆσαί σε τὴν ἐντολὴν ἄσπιλον ἀνεπίλημπτον μέχρι τῆς ἐπιφανείας τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, 15 ἣν καιροῖς ἰδίοις δείξει ὁ μακάριος καὶ μόνος δυνάστης, ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν βασιλευόντων καὶ κύριος τῶν κυριευόντων, 16 ὁ μόνος ἔχων ἀθανασίαν, φῶς οἰκῶν ἀπρόσιτον, ὃν εἶδεν οὐδεὶς ἀνθρώπων οὐδὲ ἰδεῖν δύναται: ᾧ τιμὴ καὶ κράτος αἰώνιον: ἀμήν.

17 Τοῖς πλουσίοις ἐν τῷ νῦν αἰῶνι παράγγελλε μὴ ὑψηλοφρονεῖν μηδὲ ἠλπικέναι ἐπὶ πλούτου ἀδηλότητι, ἀλλ' ἐπὶ θεῷ τῷ παρέχοντι ἡμῖν πάντα πλουσίως εἰς ἀπόλαυσιν, 18 ἀγαθοεργεῖν, πλουτεῖν ἐν ἔργοις καλοῖς, εὐμεταδότους εἶναι, κοινωνικούς, 19 ἀποθησαυρίζοντας ἑαυτοῖς θεμέλιον καλὸν εἰς τὸ μέλλον, ἵνα ἐπιλάβωνται τῆς ὄντως ζωῆς.

20 Ω Τιμόθεε, τὴν παραθήκην φύλαξον, ἐκτρεπόμενος τὰς βεβήλους κενοφωνίας καὶ ἀντιθέσεις τῆς ψευδωνύμου γνώσεως, 21 ἥν τινεςἐπαγγελλόμενοι περὶ τὴν πίστιν ἠστόχησαν. Ἡ χάρις μεθ' ὑμῶν.

1 Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed. 2 Those who have believing masters must not be disrespectful to them on the ground that they are members of the church; rather they must serve them all the more, since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved.

Teach and urge these duties. 3 Whoever teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness, 4 is conceited, understanding nothing, and has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words. From these come envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, 5 and wrangling among those who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. 6 Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; 7 for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; 8 but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. 9 But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

11 But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which he will bring about at the right time – he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. 16 It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honour and eternal dominion. Amen.

17 As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, 19 thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.

20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge; 21 by professing it some have missed the mark as regards the faith.

Grace be with you.


At the beginning of this academic year, this tutorial group set out to look at the Pastoral Epistles (I Timothy, II Timothy and Titus). Now that we have come near the end of the year, we have only come to the end of the first of those Pastoral Epistles, I Timothy. But it has been a useful introduction to New Testament books that are particularly relevant to the practice and spirituality or ordained ministry.

This morning’s passage (I Timothy 6) contains some well-known and oft-quoted – even misquoted – Biblical sayings, including:

● “godliness is a means of gain” (verse 5);
● “for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it (verse 7);
● “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (verse 10);
● “Fight the good fight …” (verse 12).

But the chapter also contains one of those difficult passages in New Testament about slavery (see verses 1-2; cf Philemon).

Reading I Timothy 6:

The first section of this chapter brings to a conclusion (verses 1-10) the positive instructions that began at Chapter 2. Since the beginning of Chapter 5, the author has been dealing with different groups in the Church, including men and women, widows and elders.

Now he deals with the treatment of slaves (6: 1-2) and with false teachers (6: 3-10). In its final directions, the letter warns against false teaching, against false ascetism and against seeking to make a profit of religion. Do you find this a warning against clerical careerism?

Verses 1-2:

Verse 1: “The yoke of slavery.” See Titus 2: 9f; Colossians 3: 22ff; Ephesians 6: 5ff; I Peter 2: 18ff; Philemon 16.

The RSV and NRSV say: “Let all who …” But this opening line could also be translated as: “Let as many as …” As this is continuing on from Chapter 5, this may indeed be advice to priests or elders in the church in Ephesus who are slaves, whereas the masters referred to are not Christians, in contrast with the “believing masters” or Christian masters in verse 2.

The social order is not being challenged or disturbed here. But it silence is not a justification for slavery, and what is lacking here is supplemented or complemented by other Pauline sayings on slavery, injustice and equality (see, for example, Galatian 3: 28).

But the real emphasis here is on the inseparable connection between faith and love, which we shall see again in 11.

Verses 3-10:

Having dealt with order in the church, the letter now returns to dealing with teaching in the church, and false doctrine, especially in relation to its impact on conduct.

Verse 3: “sound words” or teachings – this is a phrase that is used by the writer six times (e.g., see I Timothy 1: 10 and II Timothy 1: 13).

Verse 6: See II Corinthians 9: 8.

Verse 7: see Job 1: 21; Wisdom of Solomon 7: 6; see also verse 10.

Verse 10: This verse is popular and frequently misquoted It is not money but the love of money that we are warned against. There are similar saying in Patristic writers (e.g., Polycarp) and in Greek literature of the time.

Verses 11-16:

The writer then goes on to offer personal instructions on pursuing godliness (6: 11-21), discussing how Timothy should “fight the good fight (6: 11-16) and offering a final word of warning to the wealthy (6: 17-19).

Verse 11: We have here an impressive list of virtues that are in opposition to the love of money. I particularly appreciate the combination of faith (πίστις, pístis) and love (ἀγάπη, agape), which I referred to in verse 2.

Verse 12: “the good fight” – this image is from the classical games rather than warfare (see also I Timothy 4: 8; II Timothy 4: 7; I Corinthians 9: 24 ff).

“eternal life” – here we have an idea that finds its strongest expression in Johannine texts (see, for example, John 3: 36).

Verse 13: What testimony does Christ give, what confession does he make, before Pontius Pilate? Saint Mark depicts Christ as virtually silent, (see Mark 15: 1-4), as do Saint Matthew and Saint Luke, apart from the brief statements such as “You have said so” (see Mark 15: 2). Only in Saint John’s Gospel does Christ make his case at length to Pilate.

Although we often associate the word confession with penitence, the word used here (ὁμολογία, homología) comes from baptismal language, and carries with it a meaning that includes adoration, belief and praise.

Verse 14: “the commandment” – is this a reference to the “new commandment … that you love one another” (John 13: 34; see John 15: 12)?

Verse 15: note the Christological titles: blessed, only Sovereign, King of kings and Lord of lords (see Daniel 2: 37; Ezekiel 26: 7; II Maccabees 13: 4; Revelation 17: 14, 19: 16).

Verse 16: The attributes of God continue to be enumerated.

“immortality,” see I Timothy 1: 17; John 5: 26.

“unapproachable light” – see Psalm 104: 2.

Note the use of the word “Amen” here, although the Epistle has not come to a conclusion, yet it is not used at the end of the letter in most versions.

Verses 17-19:

Once again we have warnings to the wealthy – rather than warnings against the wealthy.

Verse 20-21:

The epistle then ends with a closing or final blessing (6: 20-21), including a warning against gnostic pretensions or “what is falsely called knowledge” (verse 20).

Verse 21: “Grace be with you.” This letter ends with a typical Pauline greeting (see Colossians 4: 18; Galatians 6: 18; Philippians 4: 23; I Thessalonians 5: 28).

The “you” here is plural, although the address is singular (see I Timothy 1: 2), and this is so with the conclusions to the two other Pastoral Epistles.

Some versions add the final word “Amen,” which already appears in verse 16.

Collect of the Day (Wednesday in Holy Week):

Lord God,
whose blessed Son our Saviour
gave his back to the smiters,
and did not hide his face from shame:
Give us grace to endure the sufferings
of this present time,
with sure confidence in the glory that shall be revealed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord.


Isaiah 50: 4-9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12: 1-3; John 13: 21-32.

Post Communion Prayer:

Lord Jesus Christ,
you humbled yourself in taking the form of a servant
and in obedience died on the cross for our salvation.
Give us the mind to follow you
and to proclaim you as Lord and King,
to the glory of God the Father.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. These notes were prepared For a Bible study with MTh students in a tutorial group on 27 March 2013.

With the Saints in Lent (43): Charles Henry Brent, 27 March

Charles Henry Brent (1862-1929) … missionary bishop, ecumenical pioneer, poet and campaigner against the drugs trade

Patrick Comerford

Today [27 March] is the Wednesday in Holy Week. Today too, the calendar of the Episcopal Church (TEC) remembers Charles Henry Brent (1862-1929), Bishop of the Philippines, of Western New York and in Europe. He died on 27 March 1929, but because this so often falls in Holy Week or Easter Week, the alternative date of 25 August, the date of his arrival in the Philippines in 1902, was adopted in 2008 by the Central Philippines diocese in the Episcopal Church in the Philippines

Charles Henry Brent was born on 9 April 1862, in Newcastle, Ontario, the third of ten children of the Revd Canon Henry Brent of Saint James’s Cathedral and Sophia Frances Brent. He graduated with a BA in classics from Trinity College, University of Toronto, in 1884, and from 1885-1887 he was an under-master at Trinity College School, Port Hope, Canada.

He was ordained deacon in 1886, ordained priest in 1887, and received his MA from Trinity College, University of Toronto in 1889.

He first worked in Saint Paul’s Pro-Cathedral in Buffalo, New York, but his time in Buffalo was brief and in 1889 he moved to Boston, where he lived in an Episcopal monastic order, the Society of Saint John the Evangelist. The Cowley Fathers, who put him in charge of Saint Augustine’s, a small chapel erected to minister to the African-Americans living in Boston’s dilapidated West End.

Although he never took any vows, his three years with the Cowley Fathers had a profound impact on his life, theology and values. Late in life, Brent said his training with the Cowley Fathers was “so sound and inspiring that I could covet it for every young priest.” He said: “Daily meditation was a severe and joyous task. The Practice of the Presence … the love of Jesus Christ, the application to modern life of principles by which he lived, and the overwhelming importance of the unseen, were instilled into my being in a manner and to a degree from which there is, thirty-five years later, no escape.”

As he applied pragmatic Christianity in Boston’s slums, he became receptive to the social gospel. His spiritual growth and social awareness evolved after a conflict within the Cowley order ended his monastic life in 1891.

His Rector, Father Arthur Hall, became Bishop of Vermont in 1891, and Charles became a US citizen that year. With another Cowley refugee, Henry Martyn Torbert, Charles volunteered to work at Saint Stephen’s on Florence Street, an Episcopal mission in an Irish-Catholic and Jewish ghetto in Boston’s South End. Together, they built an impressive institutional mission church. Saint Stephen’s physical plant was expanded to include a parish house, a settlement house, a rescue mission, a lodging house, and a wood and coal yard that allowed men to earn money for their meals and housing for the night.

While never an original theologian, Brent read widely and was profoundly influenced by the Anglican Socialists, especially Frederick Denison Maurice. In Boston, he became friends with the Christian Socialists WPD Bliss and Vida Schudder, and was an active member of the Christian Social Union.

He remained at Saint Stephen’s for ten years until 1901. Meanwhile, the Spanish-American War began in1898 over a dispute about Cuba and Puerto Rico. The Philippines were acquired by the US in 1901, and the bishops of the Episcopal Church appointed Charles Brent as the Missionary Bishop of the Philippines.

That year, both Brent’s mother and his friend and colleague, Torbert, died. The Revd WS Rainsford, Rector of Saint George’s Church, New York, offered him a position on his staff, the University of the South elected him to its faculty, and the General Theological Seminary, New York, offered him for the position of dean. But, unexpectedly, he was elected missionary Bishop of the Philippines, and he was consecrated bishop in Emmanuel Church, Boston, on 19 December 1901.

It took eight months for Brent to arrive in the Philippines after his consecration, and he arrived in Manila on 25 August 1902 on the same ship with the American Governor, William Howard Taft.

The new bishop carried with him the unofficial but very real prestige of the new American establishment.

However, he soon demonstrated that he was going to resist the temptations that ruined many Protestant missions. He refused to waste time criticising Roman Catholicism, the religion of most of the Filipinos, or to conduct a “chapel of ease” for the rich and comfortable American Episcopalians in Manila. He determined, instead, to go to the thousands of non-Christians on the islands, including the Igorots in Luzon, the Muslims, and the Chinese in Manila, and also to see that the US rule in the Philippines was responsible and ethical.

Confronted by the moral and physical devastation of opium addiction, he became an unflinching advocate of drug control. He took the cause internationally, calling for co-operation in eradicating drug abuse. He served on a committee, appointed by the Philippine government to investigate the use of opium, from 1902-1914. He served as chief commissioner for the US and president of the first international Opium Commission at Shanghai (1908-1919), and chair of the US delegation to the Opium Conference at The Hague (1911-1912), and as president of the Conference in 1912.

In those years, he returned to the US regularly, and was Paddock lecturer at the General Theological Seminary, New York, in 1904, and William Belden Noble lecturer at Harvard in 1907.

However, on three occasions he declined three elections as bishop in dioceses in the US – twice as Bishop of Washington in 1908 and on a third occasion as Bishop of New Jersey in 1914. Instead, he insisted on continuing his work in the Philippines. In those years, he also attended the World Missionary Conference in Edinburgh in 1910.

Brent had serious misgivings about the Edinburgh Conference, and noted the absence of Roman Catholic and Orthodox delegates. But he left Edinburgh a renewed ecumenist, and later would find himself at the forefront of ecumenical endeavours in the Episcopal Church.

His experiences in the Philippines helped to develop this strong concern for the cause of visible Christian unity. He wrote: “The unity of Christendom is not a luxury, but a necessity. The world will go limping until Christ’s prayer that all may be one is answered. We must have unity, not at all costs, but at all risks. A unified Church is the only offering we dare present to the coming Christ, for in it alone will He find room to dwell.”

His health had broken, and in 1918 he accepted his election as Bishop of Western New York. But the US had entered World War I in 1917, and he was the Senior Chaplain in France with the US forces and did move to his new diocese until 1919.

After World War I, he spoke out against harsh treatment of conscientious objectors and defended the Turks against indiscriminate condemnation, arguing that the chief things they had learned from Christians were better weapons of war and better fighting.

His commitment to ecumenism continued after his return to the US. In 1920, he chaired the Geneva meeting to plan the World Conference on Faith and Order, and in 1921 he toured Scotland as the Duff Lecturer in the universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.

In 1926 he was appointed the Bishop in charge of the American Episcopal churches in Europe, which then included two churches in Paris and others at Nice, Florence, Rome, Dresden, Munich, Geneva and Lucerne.

In Europe, he helped organise the first World Conference on Faith and Order, which met in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1927. This significant ecumenical gathering helped lay the foundation for the World Council of Churches.

Bishop Charles Henry Brent on the cover of ‘Time’ magazine in 1927

He remained the Episcopal bishop in Europe until he was taken to hospital in November 1927.

His last public appearance was 75 years ago, when Bishop Brent represented the Episcopal Church in the US at the installation of Cosmo Gordon Lang as the Archbishop of Canterbury on 4 December 1928.

On his way to a much-needed holiday in the Mediterranean, he died in Lausanne on 27 March 1929, just a fortnight short of his being 67th birthday. He was buried in the Bois de Vaux Cemetery, Lausanne. His granite grave marker has an eloquent Celtic cross carved into its top. In its obituary, The Guardian (5 April 1929) said: “He could speak to business men, or diplomats, or undergraduates with equal ease, and all knew that a man of God had been among us.”

This prayer, which was written by him, is still used widely:

“Lord Jesus Christ, who didst stretch out thine arms of love upon the hard wood of the Cross, that all men everywhere might come within the reach of thy saving embrace: So clothe us with thy Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know thee to the knowledge and love of thee; for the honor of thy Name.”

The writer James Thayer Addison called him “a saint of disciplined mental vigor, one whom soldiers were proud to salute and whom children were happy to play with, who could dominate a parliament and minister to an invalid, a priest and bishop who gloried in the heritage of his Church, yet who stood among all Christian brothers as one who served.”


Heavenly Father,
whose Son prayed that we all might be one:
Deliver us from arrogance and prejudice,
and give us wisdom and forbearance,
that, following your servant Charles Henry Brent,
we may be united in one family
with all who confess the Name of your Son Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Isaiah 56: 6-8; Psalm 122; Ephesians 4: 1-7, 11-13; Matthew 9: 35-38.

What is dying? by Charles Henry Brent

A ship sails and I stand watching
till she fades on the horizon,
and someone at my side
says, “She is gone.”
Gone where? Gone from my sight,
that is all; she is just as
large as when I saw her...
the diminished size and total
loss of sight is in me, not in her,
and just at the moment
when someone at my side
says “she is gone,” there are others
who are watching her coming,
and other voices take up the glad shout,
“there she comes!” ... and that is dying.
“There she comes!
An horizon and just the limit of our sight.
Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further.

Brent published over 20 books during his lifetime, and a few more were published posthumously. Most are devotional in nature or collected works of sermons. His books include:

With God in the World: A Series of Papers (New York: Longmans, Green, 1900).
Leadership: The William Belden Noble Lectures (New York: Longmans, Green,1908).
The Mind of Christ Jesus in the Church of the Living God (New York: Longmans, Green, 1908).
Adventure for God (New York: Longmans, Green, 1915).
The Revelation of Discovery (New York: Longmans, Green, 1915).
A Master Builder, Being the Life and Letters of Henry Yates Satterlee, First Bishop of Washington (New York: Longmans, Green, 1916).
The Mount of Vision: Being a Study of Life in Terms of the Whole (New York: Longmans, Green, 1918).
The Commonwealth: Its Foundations and Pillars (New York: D. Appleton, 1930).

Tomorrow (28 March): Patrick Forbes and the Aberdeen Doctors.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Anglican Studies (11.1): Is there an Anglican culture? Anthony Trollope and the ‘Barchester’ novels

For many people their first introduction to Anglican culture is through the Barchester novels of Anthony Trollope

Patrick Comerford

MTh Year II

Anglican Studies in an Irish context:

Tuesdays: 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. noon, The Hartin Room.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013, 4.30 p.m.:

11.1: Is there an Anglican culture? Anthony Trollope and the Barchester novels


Next week, we are asking whether there is such a thing as an “Anglican culture,” and shall be looking at the poetry of TS Eliot and the novels of Rose Macaulay, for example.

But for many people their first introduction to Anglican culture may come in the Barchester novels of Anthony Trollope (1815–1882).

Trollope, who lived in Ireland from 1841 to 1851, including some years as town postmaster of Clonmel, was one of the most successful, prolific and respected Victorian novelists. His best-loved works, collectively known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, revolve around cathedral and church life in the imaginary county of Barsetshire.

Although Trollope also wrote perceptive novels on political, social, and gender issues, and on other topical matters, his novels about Church life are among the important accounts of Anglican spirituality and culture in the Victorian era.

1, The Warden

The Warden is the first novel in Anthony Trollope’s series, the Chronicles of Barsetshire. Trollope said his first vision for The Warden came to him while walking in the cathedral close of Salisbury Cathedral. It was his fourth novel and was published in 1855.

The Warden concerns Canon Septimus Harding, the elderly warden of Hiram’s Hospital and Precentor of Barchester Cathedral.

Hiram’s Hospital is an almshouse supported by the income from a mediaeval charitable bequest to the Diocese of Barchester. The income maintains the almshouse itself, supports its twelve bedesmen, and, in addition, provides a comfortable abode and living for its warden. Canon Harding has been appointed to this position through the patronage of his old friend, the Bishop Grantly of Barchester, who is also the father of Archdeacon Grantly to whom Harding’s older daughter, Susan, is married.

The warden, who lives with his remaining child, an unmarried younger daughter, Eleanor, performs his duties conscientiously.

The story concerns the impact upon Harding and his circle when a zealous young reformer, John Bold, launches a campaign to expose the disparity in the apportionment of the charity’s income between its object, the bedesmen, and its officer, Canon Harding.

John Bold embarks on this campaign out of a spirit of public duty, despite his romantic involvement with Eleanor and previously cordial relations with Canon Harding.

Bold attempts to enlist the support of the press and engages the interest of The Jupiter (a newspaper representing The Times), whose editor, Tom Towers, pens editorials supporting reform of the charity, and presenting a portrait of Canon Harding as selfish and derelict in his conduct of his office.

This image is taken up by the commentators, Dr Pessimist Anticant and Mr Popular Sentiment, who have been seen as caricatures of Thomas Carlyle and Charles Dickens respectively.

Ultimately, despite much brow-beating by his son-in-law, the Archdeacon, and the legal opinion solicited from the barrister, Sir Abraham Haphazard, Mr Harding concludes that he cannot in good conscience continue to accept such generous remuneration and resigns the office.

John Bold, who has appealed in vain to Tom Towers to redress the injury to Mr Harding, returns to Barchester, where he marries Eleanor.

Those of the bedesmen of the hospital who have allowed their appetite for greater income to estrange them from the warden are reproved by their senior member, Bunce, who has been constantly loyal to Harding whose good care and understanding heart are now lost to them.

2, Barchester Towers

The second novel, Barchester Towers (1857), is possibly Trollope’s best known work. Among other things, it satirises the then raging antipathy in the Church of England between High Church and Evangelical adherents.

Barchester Towers concerns the leading citizens of the imaginary cathedral city of Barchester. The much loved bishop having died, all expectations are that his son, Archdeacon Grantly, will gain the office in his place.

Instead, owing to the passage of the power of patronage to a new Prime Minister, a newcomer, the far more Evangelical Bishop Proudie, gains the see. His wife, Mrs Proudie, exercises an undue influence over the new bishop, making herself unpopular with right-thinking members of the clergy and their families. Her interference in the reappointment of the universally popular Canon Septimus Harding (hero of The Warden) as warden of the hospital is not well received, although she gives the position to a needy clergyman with a large family to support.

Even less popular than Mrs Proudie is the bishop’s newly appointed chaplain, the hypocritical Revd Obadiah Slope, who takes a fancy to Harding’s wealthy widowed daughter, Eleanor Bold, and hopes to win her favour by interfering in the controversy over the wardenship.

The bishop, or rather Mr Slope under the orders of Mrs Proudie, also orders the return of the Revd Dr Vesey Stanhope from Italy. Dr Stanhope has been there, recovering from a sore throat, for 12 years and has spent his time catching butterflies. With him to the Cathedral Close comes his wife, and his three children.

The younger of Dr Stanhope’s two daughters causes consternation in the Palace and threatens the plans of Mr Slope. Signora Madelina Vesey Neroni is a crippled serial flirt with a young daughter and a mysterious husband whom she has left. Mrs Proudie is appalled by her and considers her an unsafe influence on her daughters, her servants and Mr Slope. Mr Slope is drawn like a moth to a flame and cannot keep away. Bertie Stanhope is a man skilled at spending money but not at making it; his two sisters think a marriage to rich Eleanor Bold will suit, and they pay off his debts.

Summoned by the local clergy to assist in the war against the Proudies and Mr Slope is another clergyman, the brilliant Revd Francis Arabin. Mr Arabin is a considerable scholar, a fellow of Lazarus College Oxford, and almost followed his mentor, John Henry Newman, into the Church of Rome. He is genuinely attracted to Eleanor, but the efforts of Archdeacon Grantly and his wife to stop her marrying Slope also interfere with any relationship that might develop.

Finally, at the Ullathorne garden party, matters come to a head. Mr Slope proposes and is slapped for his presumption, Bertie proposes and is refused with good grace and the Signora has a chat with Mr Arabin. Mr Slope’s double-dealings are now revealed and he is dismissed by Mrs Proudie, and the Signora. The Signora drops a delicate word in several ears and Mr Arabin and Eleanor become engaged.

The old dean of the cathedral having died it seems obvious that Mr Arabin should become the new dean, with a beautiful house in the Close, 15 acres of garden and an income even greater than that of his wife.

With the Stanhopes’ return to Italy, life in the Cathedral Close returns to its previous quiet and settled ways and Mr Harding continues his life of gentleness and music.

3, Doctor Thorne

The third Barchester novel, Doctor Thorne (1858), is mainly concerned with the romantic problems of Mary Thorne, niece of Doctor Thomas Thorne (a member of a junior branch of the family of Mr Wilfred Thorne, who appeared in Barchester Towers), and Frank Gresham, the only son of the local squire, although Trollope as the omniscient narrator assures the reader at the beginning that the hero is really the doctor.

The major themes in this book are the social pain and exclusion caused by illegitimacy, the nefarious effects of the demon drink, and the difficulties of romantic attachments outside one’s social class. The novel also gives a vivid picture of electioneering and all the just-legal shenanigans that accompany the event. Most of the action takes place in a village of Barsetshire and a country house not far off.

The idea of the plot was suggested to Trollope by his brother Thomas.

When their father dies, Doctor Thomas Thorne and his younger, ne’er-do-well brother Henry are left to fend for themselves. Dr Thorne begins to establish a medical practice, while Henry seduces Mary Scatcherd, the sister of stonemason Roger Scatcherd. When Scatcherd finds out that Mary has become pregnant, he seeks out Henry and, in the ensuing fight, kills him.

While her brother is in prison, Mary gives birth to a girl. A former suitor offers to marry her and emigrate to start a new life, but refuses to take the baby. Dr Thorne persuades her to accept the generous offer, promising to raise his niece. He names her Mary Thorne but, wishing neither to have her illegitimacy made public nor to have her associate with the uncouth Roger Scatcherd, he keeps her birth secret. He tells Scatcherd that the baby had died.

After his release from prison, Scatcherd rises quickly in the world. In time, his skills make him extremely rich. When he completes a seemingly-impossible important project on time, he is created a baronet for his efforts. Throughout his career, he entrusts his financial affairs to Dr Thorne. When Thorne becomes the family doctor to the Greshams, he persuades Scatcherd to loan ever growing sums to the head of the family, the local squire. Eventually, much of the Gresham estate is put up as collateral.

Meanwhile, Mary grows up with the Gresham children and becomes a great favourite with the whole family. As a result, Thorne feels obliged to tell his friend the squire her secret.

Mary falls in love with Frank Gresham, the son and heir of the squire of Greshamsbury and nephew of the Earl and Countess De Courcy, and he with her. However, his parents desperately need him to marry wealth, in order to rescue them from the financial distress resulting from the squire’s expensive and fruitless campaigns for a seat in Parliament.

His snobbish mother and aunt wish him to marry an eccentric, if kind-hearted, older heiress, Martha Dunstable. He reluctantly visits her at Courcy Castle and they become friends. But foolishly and playfully he proposes. She demurs, knowing that he does not love her, and he tells her about his love for Mary.

Sir Roger is a drunkard, and Dr Thorne tries in vain to get him to curtail his drinking. In his will, he stipulates that bulk of his estate should go to his odious, dissolute only son Louis Philippe, but leaves Dr Thorne in control of the inheritance until the heir reaches the age of 25. Should Louis die before then, Scatcherd stipulates that the estate must go to the eldest child of his sister Mary. Dr Thorne is forced to divulge Mary’s history, but Scatcherd leaves the will unchanged.

Sir Roger eventually dies of his excesses, and Sir Louis inherits his vast wealth. The son proves just as much an alcoholic as the father, and his weaker constitution quickly brings him to the same end. After consulting with many lawyers, Dr Thorne confirms that his Mary is the heiress, richer than even Miss Dunstable.

Unaware of these proceedings, the more-resolute Frank finally persuades his doting father to consent to his marriage to Mary. When all is revealed, everyone is elated, even Frank’s mother and Countess De Courcy.

4, Framley Parsonage

The fourth novel, Framley Parsonage, was first published in serial form in the Cornhill Magazine in 1860.

The hero of Framley Parsonage, the Revd Mark Robarts, is a young vicar, newly arrived in the village of Framley in Barsetshire. The living has come into his hands through Lady Lufton, the mother of his childhood friend Ludovic, Lord Lufton.

Mark Robarts has ambitions to further his career and begins to seek connections in the county’s high society. He is soon preyed upon by local MP, Mr Sowerby, to guarantee a substantial loan, which Mark in a moment of weakness agrees to, even though he does not have the means and knows Sowerby to be a notorious debtor.

The consequences of this blunder play a major role in the plot, with Mark eventually being publicly humiliated when bailiffs begin to confiscate the Robarts’s furniture. At the last moment, Lord Lufton forces a loan on the reluctant Mark.

Another plot line deals with the romance between Mark’s sister Lucy and Lord Lufton. The couple are deeply in love and the young man proposes, but Lady Lufton is against the marriage. She would prefer that her son instead choose the coldly beautiful Griselda Grantly, daughter of Archdeacon Grantly, and fears that Lucy is too “insignificant” for such a high honour.

Lucy herself recognises the great gulf between their social positions and declines. When Lord Lufton persists, she agrees only on condition that Lady Lufton asks her to accept her son. Lucy’s conduct and charity (especially towards the family of the poor curate, the Revd Josiah Crawley) weaken Lady Lufton’s resolve. In addition, Griselda becomes engaged to Lord Dumbello. But it is the determination of Lord Lufton that in the end vanquishes the doting mother.

The book ends with Lucy and Ludovic’s marriage as well as three other marriages of minor characters. Two of these involve the daughters of Bishop Proudie and Archdeacon Grantly. The rivalry between Mrs Proudie and Mrs Grantly over their matrimonial ambitions forms a significant comic subplot, with the latter triumphant. The other marriage is that of the outspoken heiress, Martha Dunstable, to Dr Throne, the eponymous hero of the third novel in the series.

5, The Small House at Allington

The Small House at Allington, the fifth Barchester novel, was published in 1864. The novel concerns the Dale family, who live in the “Small House,” a dower house intended for the widowed mother (Dowager) of the owner of the estate. The landowner, in this instance, is the bachelor Squire of Allington, Christopher Dale. Dale’s mother having died, he has allocated the Small House, rent free, to his widowed sister-in-law and her daughters Isabella (“Bell”) and Lilian (“Lily”).

Lily has for a long time been secretly loved by John Eames, a junior clerk at the Income Tax Office, while Bell is in love with the local doctor, James Crofts. The handsome and personable, but somewhat mercenary Adolphus Crosbie is introduced into the circle by the squire’s nephew, Bernard Dale. Adolphus rashly proposes marriage to portionless Lily, who accepts him, to the dismay of John Eames.

Crosbie soon jilts her in favour of Lady Alexandrina de Courcy, whose family is in a position to further his career. Lily meets her misfortune with patience, and remains single, continuing to reject Eames, though retaining his faithful friendship. Bell marries Dr Crofts, after refusing an offer of marriage from her cousin Bernard.

As with all of Trollope's novels, this one contains many sub-plots and numerous minor characters. Plantagenet Palliser (of the Pallisers series) makes his first appearance, as he contemplates a dalliance with Griselda Grantly, the now-married Lady Dumbello, daughter of the archdeacon introduced earlier in the Chronicles of Barsetshire.

6, The Last Chronicle of Barset

The final Barchester novel, The Last Chronicle of Barset, was first published in 1867. This novel concerns an indigent but learned clergyman, the Revd Josiah Crawley, the curate of Hogglestock, as he stands accused of stealing a cheque.

The novel is notable for the non-resolution of a plot continued from the previous novel in the series, The Small House at Allington, involving Lily Dale and Johnny Eames. Its main storyline features the courtship of Crawley’s daughter, Grace, and Major Henry Grantly, son of the wealthy Archdeacon Grantly.

The archdeacon, although allowing that Grace is a lady, does not think her of high enough rank or wealth for his widowed son; his position is strengthened by Crawley’s apparent crime.

Almost broken by poverty and trouble, Crawley hardly knows himself if he is guilty or not; fortunately, the mystery is resolved just as Major Grantly’s determination and Grace Crawley’s own merit force the archdeacon to overcome his prejudice against her as a daughter-in-law.

As with Lucy Robarts in Framley Parsonage, the objecting parent finally invites the young lady into the family; this new connection also inspires the dean and archdeacon to find a new, more prosperous, post for Grace’s impoverished father.

Through death or marriage, this final volume manages to tie up more than one thread from the beginning of the series. One subplot deals with the death of Mrs Proudie, the virago wife of the Bishop of Barchester, and his subsequent grief and collapse. Mrs Proudie, upon her arrival in Barchester in Barchester Towers, had increased the tribulations of the gentle Canon Harding, the title character of The Warden. He dies of a peaceful old age, mourned by his family and the old men he loved and looked after as Warden.

Barchester on television

The Barchester Chronicles is a 1982 BBC television serial adaptation of the first two Barchester novels, The Warden and Barchester Towers. The series, directed by David Giles, was largely filmed in and around Peterborough Cathedral, where the locations included the Deanery and Laurel Court.

The series starred Donald Pleasence as Mr Harding, Nigel Hawthorne as Archdeacon Grantly, Angela Pleasence as Mrs Grantly, Cyril Luckham as Bishop Grantly, David Gwillim as John Bold, George Costigan as Tom Towers, John Ringham as Finney,Barbara Flynn as Mary Bold, Janet Maw as Eleanor Harding, Clive Swift as Bishop Proudie, Geraldine McEwan as Mrs Proudie, Alan Rickman as Obadiah Slope, Susan Hampshire as Signora Madeline Neroni, and Ursula Howells as Miss Thorne.

Next week:

Tuesday, 2 April 2013:

2 p.m., 11.2: Is there an Anglican culture? The poetry of TS Eliot.

3.15 p.m., 11.3: Is there an Anglican culture? Rose Macaulay and The Towers of Trebizond


1, Essays;

2, Evaluations;

3, Dissertation proposals.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Assistant Adjunct Professor, Trinity College Dublin. These notes were published online on Tuesday 26 March 2013 as an introduction to a seminar on ‘Anglican Culture’ on the MTh Year II course, EM8825: Anglican Studies in an Irish context, on Tuesday 2 April 2013.