Saturday, 30 November 2013

A memorable afternoon at the consecration of
Bishop Pat Storey in Christ Church Cathedral

Peace and calm in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, at noon as the final touches were put to preparations (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

It was wonderful to be part of the momentous events in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, this afternoon when the Most Revd Patricia Storey was consecrated Bishop of Meath and Kildare.

It was an afternoon that saw Church of Ireland liturgy – and cathedral music at its best, led by the Cathedral Choir.

The principal consecrating bishop was Archbishop Michael Jackson of Dublin, assisted by Bishop Paul Colton of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, and Bishop Ken Good of Derry and Raphoe.

Most of the bishops of the Church of Ireland were present, apart from Bishop Michael Burrows of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory, who is on sabbatical leave in Swaziland, and Bishop Ferran Glenfield of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh

Retired bishops of the Church of Ireland present included a former Archbishop of Dublin, Bishop Walton Empey, and Bishop Ken Clarke, Bishop Edward Darling, Bishop Samuel Poyntz and Bishop Roy Warke.

Participants and guests line up in the cloister garth to welcome the new bishop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

The Archbishop of Canterbury was represented by Archdeacon Sheila Watson. Also present were by the Primus, Bishop David Chillingworth, and Bishop Mark Strange of Moray, Ross and Caithness, from the Scottish Episcopal Church; Archbishop Barry Morgan of the Church in Wales; and Bishop Karsten Nissen of the Church of Denmark.

Other Church leaders and ecumenical guests included the Revd Dr Heather Morris, President of the Methodist Church in Ireland; the Right Revd Dr Rob Craig, Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare and Leighlin; Monsignor Dermot Farrell, present on behalf of the Bishop of Meath; Monsignor Hugh G Connolly, President of Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth; Dr Gesa Thiessen of the Lutheran Church; Father Godfrey O’Donnell of the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Irish Council of Churches. Dr Ali Selim represented the Islamic Community.

The setting was Franz Schubert’s Mass in G, with organ voluntaries by Maurice Duruflé, and motets by Thomas Tallis and Anton Bruckner. The singling of the litany was led by the Revd Eugene Griffin, a Deacon-Intern in Taney Parish, Dublin.

The Scripture reading were read by the Revd Earl Storey, Bishop Storey’s husband, Mrs Deirdre Amor from Saint Augustine’s Parish, Derry, and the Revd Trevor Holmes, deacon-intern in the parish of Julianstown, Co Meath.

My stall as the sixth canon in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

The cathedral chapter members sat in our stalls, and I was asked to assist with the administration of Holy Communion at the West End of the cathedral.

Afterwards, there was a lavish reception in the State Apartments in Dublin Castle this evening, with an opportunity to linger awhile with friends old and new.

I am back in the Cathedral in the morning, the First Sunday of Advent [1 December 2013], to preach at the Cathedral Eucharist at 11 a.m., and to take part in the Advent Procession at 5 p.m.

Leaving the State Apartments in Dublin Castle this evening (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

In Brigid’s footsteps

This morning’s edition of The Irish Times carries the following editorial comment:

The Most Revd Patricia Louise Storey ... consecrated as Bishop of Meath and Kildare in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, this afternoon

In Brigid’s footsteps

The consecration of the Most Revd Patricia Louise Storey today as Bishop of Meath and Kildare marks a major milestone, for she is the first woman to become a bishop in the Church of Ireland since the General Synod approved the ordination of women as priests and as bishops in 1990. A year earlier, Barbara Harris became the first woman bishop in the Anglican Communion when she was ordained in Massachusetts.

Since 1990, women have become priests, rectors, canons and cathedral deans in the Church of Ireland, and so for many the time is overdue for a woman bishop. On the other hand, Bishop Storey’s consecration draws attention to the way the Church of England is dragging its feet on this question because of the prejudices of an unholy alliance formed by the extreme fringes of Anglo-Catholics and conservative evangelicals. Similar prejudices, although more muted, are being heard against Bishop Storey’s consecration in the Church of Ireland too.

Meath and Kildare is a united diocese that is spread widely, with sixteen parishes in six or seven counties, from the banks of the Shannon to the coastline of Co Meath. As a priest who has spent most of her ordained ministry since 1997 in urban and city settings, the new bishop moves into a largely rural diocese. But she also faces the challenges posed by long-neglected urban areas on Dublin’s outer rim where commuters’ worries include negative equity, falling salaries, unemployment and difficulties in finding day care for children.

Bishop Storey will need to tread carefully initially in a diocese where the first person chosen as bishop felt compelled to withdraw and where a second electoral college was divided and failed to elect. Yet, as Bishop of Meath and Kildare, she becomes the most senior bishop in the Church of Ireland, after the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin. She will hope to be a worthy successor to Saint Brigid of Kildare who, according to legend, was consecrated a bishop by Saint Patrick’s blind nephew, the elderly Saint Mel of Ardagh.

Friday, 29 November 2013

New beginnings as autumn’s
gold and yellow turns to winter

A mixture of late autumn and winter colours cluster beneath the trees at Avoca in Kilmacanogue, Co Wicklow, this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Patrick Comerford

Autumn has definitely turned to winter in Dublin. The mornings are cold and the evenings are dark so soon. There are heaving banks of yellow, golden, amber and brown leaves rustling beneath the trees along the banks of the Dodder and on the slopes beneath Rathfarnham village each morning as I head into work.

Late autumn or early winter ... a dark start to the day at Rathfarnham Bridge this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Soon all the leaves will have fallen. But this has been the most beautiful autumn in Ireland in my memory, and still some autumn leaves seem to be lingering as they cling on to trees here and there.

This afternoon, two us went south into the northern rims of Co Wicklow, at the Gateway to the Garden of Ireland on the edges of the Wicklow Mountains, and had a late lunch in the Avoca centre in Kilmacanogue, between Bray and Enniskerry.

The windows of the pavilion in the Sugar Tree Café frame the trees and the mountains beyond (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

We ate in the pavilion behind the Sugar Tree Café and shop. The afternoon lights seemed to linger, and we noticed the difference the evergreen trees there make to the scene framed by the full-length windows, compared to the autumn sylvan scene at the front that are turning to winter.

This evening, I plan to attend the institution of the Revd Norman McCausland as the new Rector of Raheny and Coolock. Norman was one of the staff members of the Church of Ireland Theological College who interviewed me at the selection conference almost 15 years ago in 1999, a year before my ordination.

Tomorrow, I plan to be in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, for the consecration of Pat Storey as the new Bishop of Meath and Kildare, the first woman to become a bishop in the Church of Ireland. On Sunday morning, I am preaching in the cathedral on the First Sunday of Advent.

As the last golden leaves fall to the ground gracefully, and as autumn gives way to winter, it is good to celebrate new beginnings and fresh starts and to look forward to new springs in the life of the Church.

The last autumn leaves are falling to the ground gracefully (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Whitechurch seminar
commemorates RM Gwynn
and 1913 Lockout

Pictured at the R.M. Gwynn seminar in Whitechurch are (from left): Archbishop Michael Jackson, Canon Patrick Comerford, Padraig Yeates and Canon Horace McKinley, rector of Whitechurch

This photograph and the following half-page report were published on p.5 in the Church of Ireland Gazette last Friday (22 November 2013):

Whitechurch seminar
commemorates RM Gwynn
and 1913 Lockout

By Lynn Glanville

A seminar to commemorate the 1913 Dublin Workers Lockout took place recently in Whitechurch parish Old Schools in the grounds of the church.

A large number of people was present to hear of the role played by the Revd R.M. Gwynn and his medical doctor wife, Eileen. Mr Gwynn gave significant support to workers during the Lockout.

He is buried in Whitechurch graveyard and a short act of commemoration took place at the graveside before the seminar, concluding with a wreath being laid by the Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Michael Jackson.

The seminar was designed as a local contribution to the centenary commemorations of the Lockout and was held against the backdrop of the Commemorations Committee established by the General Synod of the Church of Ireland to mark the centenaries of Ireland’s significant historical events between 1912 and 1922.

Three speakers delivered enlightening papers providing a picture of Gwynn and the wider context of the 1913 Lockout. Dr Jackson addressed the subject of ‘Gwynn, the Educationalist’; Canon Patrick Comerford talked about ‘Gwynn, the Priest’; Padraig Yeates of the Irish Trade Union SIPTU gave a talk entitled ‘The Lock Out 1913 and collective bargaining’.

(The full contributions prepared by the speakers can be read on the Dublin and Glendalough Diocesan website at: .)

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Anglicanism (MDI, 2013) 6: Faith,
Practice and Spirituality: Spirituality

Mater Dei Institute of Education, a college of Dublin City University (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Mater Dei Institute of Education,



Patrick Comerford,

Week 2:
28 November 2013,

1 p.m., Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

Faith, Practice and Spirituality:

5: Faith and Practice:

6: Spirituality

2 p.m.:


Earlier this afternoon, I was quoting the theological maxim, Lex orandi, lex credendi. In other words, how we pray is what we believe.

If you want to know my theology, you do not have to set me an examination. Simply see how I pray, and in the case of the Church of Ireland, see how we pray on our own, and how we pray with others.

Many Roman Catholics in Ireland know by heart the words of the Angelus and the Hail Holy Queen from the prayers they learned in families and schools as children. Only in Catholic Ireland could people with that background understand the lines in plays such as “full of grapes,” or “the Lord is a Tree,” or the title of a book, A monk swimming.

Similarly, many members of the Church of Ireland will have learned from an early age, prayers from The Book of Common Prayer:

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known and from whom no secretes are hidden,: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy name: trough Christ our Lord, Amen.

The words of many collects are known by heart, such as:

“Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” … words from from the collect once used for Advent 2.

So, part of the inherited riches of the Church of Ireland and Anglicanism and the personal spirituality and piety is founded on the liturgical tradition of Anglicanism:

“Prevent O Lord/Go before us O Lord;”

The words “Stir up” from the post-communion prayer for last Sunday, the Sunday before Advent, and the collect used this week have given us the colloquial name “Stirrup Sunday” for last Sunday, the day many women traditionally began preparations or making their Christmas cakes:

Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people: that, richly bearing the fruit of good works, they may be richly rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Many of these collects are the work of Thomas Cranmer, who left his mark on Anglicanism through his pivotal role in the compilation of the first Book of Common Prayer.

Among his best-loved collects is the collect for next Sunday, Advent Sunday:

Almighty God, give us the grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; So that, on the last day, when he shall come again in glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever, Amen.

Famously, when John Keble was asked about what was at the heart of Anglicanism, he replied: “Study the Collects in The Book of Common Prayer.”

Cranmer was adept at weaving passages of scripture into the liturgy, so that many Anglicans are familiar with words of scripture woven into liturgy through the versicles and responses.

Many are familiar with the Psalms and other portions of Scripture through the use of the Psalms and Canticles in the daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.

The pointing of the Psalms and Canticles allows them to be sung by a choir without little training and rehearsal in a unique style, based on Benedictine monastic choir-style and now known as Anglican chant. And singing makes familiar

Personal prayers and family prayers for many will include reading a passage of scripture, perhaps reading, or even reciting from memory, a Psalm, and some prayers from The Book of Common Prayer, such as a familiar collect.

Or the Prayer of Saint [John] Chrysostom:

Almighty God, who hast given us grace at this time with one accord to make our common supplications unto thee; and dost promise, that when two or three are gathered together in thy Name thou wilt grant their requests; Fulfil now, O Lord, the desires and petitions of thy servants, as may be most expedient for them; granting us in this world knowledge of thy truth, and in the world to come life everlasting. Amen.

Hymns and Spirituality:

One of the rich aspects of Anglican worship that is carried into personal spirituality is contained in hymnody, including the hymns by Irish hymn writers.

For example, Mrs Cecil Alexander, wife of the Bishop of Derry, later Archbishop of Armagh, was the author of All things bright and beautiful and of Saint Patrick’s breastplate.

The Revd Henry Francis Lyte, a former curate of Taghmon, Co Wexford, and previously at school in Portora, near Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, was the author of a least 40 hymns, including Abide with me and Praise my soul the king of heaven.

But we also use hymns that include words by Thomas Aquinas and John Wesley; traditional Irish hymns; the Taizé Community. The music here at the Cathedral Eucharist on Sunday mornings may include settings by Mozart, Vittoria, Palestrina, Haydn, Brahms, Fauré and Bach.

There is an important choral tradition throughout Anglicanism, and many of the English-language carols by Anglican hymn writers are now popular throughout all English-speaking traditions.

For many people outside the Anglican tradition, Anglican spirituality is experienced in its full splendour as they hear Choral Evensong, and the canticles Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis sung by great cathedral choirs, at Evening Prayer, particularly at Choral Evensong.

Devotional legacy

There is such a rich inheritance of devotional literature that it could be said that Anglican spirituality has been shaped by Anglican devotional writers, and the Anglican spiritual heritage is also a literary heritage.

There is a pre-Reformation corpus that is an integral part of Anglican spirituality. This includes the anonymous work we know as the Cloud of Unknowing, as well as the writings of mystics such as Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, the most popular of English mystics.

Julian of Norwich ... All shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well

Julian was a joyous mystic who stressed the homely love of God which has been poured upon this planet and humanity for ever. She concludes in these beautiful and well-loved words: “All shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

When we come to great post-Reformation writers in Anglican spirituality, we should remember too that, like Julian of Norwich, these writers have not always been ordained and have not been exclusively male. Indeed who could have been a more unexpected but-oft quoted author of a pithy but mystical and spiritual understanding of the Eucharist or the Holy Communion, than Elizabeth I?

Elizabeth can be credited with holding together in one Anglican tradition the competing claims within the Church of England and Anglicanism after the death of her half-sister Mary. And it is she who is said to have written of the Eucharist:

His was the Word that spake it:
He tooke the bread and brake it:
And what that Word did make it,
I do believe and take it

In the immediate post-Elizabethan age, Anglican spiritual writers included country parsons such as George Herbert (1593-1633), who is remembered for his careful pastoral nurturing of his parish and his parishioners, and for his poetry, much of which has been adapted as hymns.

Herbert’s spirituality is the Anglican Via Media or Middle Way par excellence. His poetry is constantly evident of the intimacy of his dealings with God and his assurance that, alone in a vast universe, he is held safe by the Crucified Christ.

Richard Baxter later said of him that Herbert speaks to God like one that really believes a God and as one who whose business in this world is most with God.

In his poem Obedience, George Herbert wrote:

O let thy sacred will
All thy delight in me fulfil!
Let me not think an action mine own way.
But as thy love shall sway,
Refining up the rudder to thy skill

George Herbert ... Prayer, the Church’s banquet

For George Herbert, prayer is concerned not only with things heavenly, but also with the earthly. In his poem Prayer he writes:

Prayer, the Church’s banquet, Angels’ age,
God’s breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth;
Engine against th’Almighty, sinner’s tower,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six-days world transposing in an hour,
A kind of tune, which all things hear and fear;
Softness and peace, and joy, and love, and bliss,
Exalted Manna, gladness of the best,
Heaven in ordinary, man well drest,
The Milky Way, the bird of Paradise,
Church-bells beyond the stars heard, the soul’s blood,
The land of spices; something understood

In this poem, Herbert is saying that in prayer it is possible to be transported, even if momentarily, to another realm. “Angel’s age,” “the milky way,” and a “tune beyond the stars” suggest that prayer touches the infinite. The poem concludes with “something understood” – a profound but elusive encounter with the mysterious otherness of God.

Herbert was close to Nicholas Ferrar and the Community of Little Gidding, which showed that prayer, community life, and a life of discipleship and service ought to be inter-woven.

Herbert, John Jewel and Richard Hooker and were profoundly influential on the Caroline Divines, including John Cosin, Lancelot Andrewes and Jeremy Taylor.

John Cosin was as a bishop who sought to improve the worship and liturgy of the Church, and who drew on patristic sources for his Collection of Private Devotions, as did Lancelot Andrewes in writing his Latin Devotions. There he wrote that “he who prays for others, labours for himself.”

John Donne ... Each man’s death diminishes me

He was a contemporary of the poet John Donne (1571-1631), who was Dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, for his last ten years. He is best remembered today for his lines:

No man is an island,
entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thine own
or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
for I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
for whom the bell tolls,
it tolls for thee

The devotional writings of the Carolines emphasised the centrality of the incarnation in Christian spirituality: the incarnation revealed to humanity in Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate, in the sacrament of Christ’s body and blood, in the revelation of Christ’s continuing presence in the holy example of the saints. In their devotion, the Carolines shied away from abstraction in favour of the fruits of love and charity, and their devotional life was worked out in their pastoral service.

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667), who ended his days as a bishop in the Church of Ireland, in the dioceses of Connor, Down and Dromore, is best known for his Holy Living (1640) and Holy Dying (1641), which had a profound influence spiritually on later generations, including figures as diverse as John Wesley and John Keble.

No book other than the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer has had a more profound and lasting influence on the distinctive inwardness of Anglican devotion. No other book so clearly expresses the essence of the classical Anglican understanding of the spiritual life, with its insistence that there is no division between what is religious and what is secular.

Nor should we neglect the Puritan divines, who were contemporaries of the Caroline Divines but are often written out when it comes to telling the story of Anglican spirituality.

Among them was Richard Baxter (1615-1691). He too was influenced by the poetry of George Herbert, and although he ended his days as a Presbyterian he spent most of his life as an Anglican. He described his faith as ‘catholic’ or ‘mere’ Christianity – a term that we can see was later to be adopted as his own by CS Lewis. One of his most joyful yet mystical contributions to our hymnody is Ye holy angels bright, with its mystical understanding of the Communion of Saints and our place in it.

Thomas Traherne was a hidden mystic of the same period, whose writings only became known long after his death in 1674. In his Centuries of Meditation, Traherne sees God in everything and everything praising God.

Curiously, the most influential book from this time, though, may have been one whose author remains unknown. The Whole Duty of Man, first published in 1657, reached its 28th edition in 1790, so that for more than a century, this anonymous book shaped an Anglican spirituality that was defined by the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer in terms of doctrine and worship, and in practice by an understanding “that religion without morals is but superstition, that Christianity is not a set of beliefs but a way of life.”

Jeremy Taylor’s spirituality, as expressed in his Holy Living and Holy Dying has many echoes in William Law’s A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728), which brought deeply sacramental piety and emphasis on community of the Nonjurors back in the mainstream of spirituality, especially through his influence on John Wesley.

The great Anglican movements of the late 18th and the 19th centuries were the Evangelical Revival and the Oxford Movement, which had a second generation expression in the Anglo-Catholic Movement.

Those two strands were not so much about style and churchmanship as about mission work: the evangelical movement gave us the Church Mission Society (CMS) and its related family of mission societies, while the Oxford Movement and the later Anglo-Catholics gave us USPG and its family of mission agencies, now known simply as Us.

In both cases, they show us once again that to be truly Anglican is to be incarnational. And in living this through, their faith was expressed in social action. For men like William Wilberforce, it was translated into action through their opposition to slavery and the slave trade. He was convinced that Christianity required the response of the heart as well as the head. For a later generation of Anglo-Catholics it was lived out in commitment to the poor and the oppressed in the slums and the inner cities, exemplified in the life and work of the slum priests.

The great hymn writer of the Oxford Movement and of the later Anglo-Catholics was John Keble, whose hymns and poems are collected in The Christian Year. If what we sing rather than how we pray shows what we believe – a new way of looking at the maxim Lex Orandi Lex Credendi – then through the English Hymnal Percy Dearmer and Ralph Vaughan Williams have had a profound influence on modern expressions of Anglican spirituality.

But two of the most influential writers in terms of Anglican spirituality must have been CS Lewis and TS Eliot. CS Lewis, who was born in Belfast, is known to all of us as a spiritual writer ever since we first read the Chronicles of Narnia. However, if you have not already read it, could I recommend to you The Four Loves, which is known and loved well beyond the Anglican tradition of spirituality.

TS Eliot, on the other hand, is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century. Ash Wednesday (1930) is the first long poem written by him after his conversion to Anglicanism in 1927. In this poem, Eliot deals with the struggle that ensues when one who has lacked faith strives to move towards God. Sometimes referred to as Eliot’s “conversion poem,” Ash Wednesday is richly but ambiguously allusive and deals with the aspiration to move from spiritual barrenness to hope for human salvation, inspired by Dante’s Purgatorio. Its groundwork of orthodox Christianity discomfited many of the more secular members of his literary circle.

The Four Quartets ... considered by many to be TS Eliot’s masterpiece, it led to him receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature

However, Eliot and many other critics considered The Four Quartets his masterpiece, and it was this work that led to him receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. In The Four Quartets, Eliot draws upon his knowledge of mysticism and philosophy. It consists of four long poems, each first published separately: Burnt Norton (1936), East Coker (1940), The Dry Salvages (1941) and Little Gidding (1942). Each has five sections. Although they resist easy characterisation, each approaches the same ideas in varying but overlapping ways, and are strongly theological and spiritual.

Burnt Norton asks what it means to consider things that might have been. East Coker continues the examination of time and meaning, focusing in a famous passage on the nature of language and poetry. Out of darkness, Eliot continues to reassert a solution: “I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope.” The Dry Salvages strives to contain opposites:

… the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled

Little Gidding is the most anthologised of the Quartets. Here for the first time he talks of Love as the driving force behind all experience. From this background, the Quartets end with an affirmation of Julian of Norwich:

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well

In The Four Quartets, Eliot draws upon the theology, art, symbolism and language of such figures as Dante, and mystics Saint John of the Cross and Julian of Norwich. The “deeper communion” sought in East Coker, the “hints” and whispers of children, the sickness that “must grow worse in order to find healing,” and the exploration that inevitably leads us home all point to the pilgrim’s path along the road of sanctification.

Poets, Artists and Writers

‘The Light of the World’ by William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) …one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

There are others. We could have looked at poets like Christina Rosetti, artists like William Holman Hunt and the Pre-Raphaelites, writers such as at Dorothy Sayers, for example, or modern novelists like Susan Howatch and Catherine Fox today.

For many Anglican spirituality has been conveyed down the generations by great composers, from William Byrd, John Taverner, Thomas Tallis, Orlando Gibbins and Thomas Tomkins, to Hubert Parry, Charles Stanford, Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells and John Rutter.

Who can say whether the lyrics of U2, most of them Dublin-born Anglicans, will shape future spiritual thinking? – already we have had celebrations that have used the designation U2charist.

But spirituality is always elusive and mercurial when it comes to defining or analysing it. It is not always true that its influences and growth can be found in writers and poets.

Who can claim credit for the interesting movements in the past century, such as the Parish Communion Movement of the 1930s, the Charismatic Movement in the 1960s and 1970s, the search for Fresh Expressions of Church in our own time? Yet each has had a profound impact on our understanding of Anglican spirituality.

Many of these new insights have been and hopefully will continue to be channelled into the life of the church, and become part of the spiritual life of all Anglicans, though liturgical revival, through theological education, through the ways we live out our lives.


The Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple ... a window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

I have spoken of the way the canticles Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis are an integral part of what has shaped the Anglican tradition of spirituality.

One of two poems written at the time of TS Eliot’s conversion, A Song for Simeon, is based on the Canticle Nunc Dimittis, although Eliot titles his poem A Song for Simeon rather than A Song of Simeon, the English sub-title of the canticle in The Book of Common Prayer.

The story of this poem concludes the Christmas season, which you are all looking forward to, I imagine. Some of you may have noticed the windows in this cathedral that tell the Christmas story, including the window telling the story of the Presentation of the Christ Child in the Temple. And so I conclude with that poem:

A Song for Simeon (TS Eliot)

Lord, the Roman hyacinths are blooming in bowls and
The winter sun creeps by the snow hills;
The stubborn season had made stand.
My life is light, waiting for the death wind,
Like a feather on the back of my hand.
Dust in sunlight and memory in corners
Wait for the wind that chills towards the dead land.

Grant us thy peace.
I have walked many years in this city,
Kept faith and fast, provided for the poor,
Have given and taken honour and ease.
There went never any rejected from my door.
Who shall remember my house, where shall live my children’s children
When the time of sorrow is come?
They will take to the goat’s path, and the fox’s home,
Fleeing from the foreign faces and the foreign swords.

Before the time of cords and scourges and lamentation
Grant us thy peace.
Before the stations of the mountain of desolation,
Before the certain hour of maternal sorrow,
Now at this birth season of decease,
Let the Infant, the still unspeaking and unspoken Word,
Grant Israel’s consolation
To one who has eighty years and no to-morrow.

According to thy word.
They shall praise Thee and suffer in every generation
With glory and derision,
Light upon light, mounting the saints’ stair.
Not for me the martyrdom, the ecstasy of thought and prayer,
Not for me the ultimate vision.
Grant me thy peace.
(And a sword shall pierce thy heart,
Thine also).
I am tired with my own life and the lives of those after me,
I am dying in my own death and the deaths of those after me.
Let thy servant depart,
Having seen thy salvation.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College, Dublin. This lecture was delivered on a course at the Mater Dei Institute of Education (MDI), Dublin, on 28 November 2013, in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. MDI is a College of Dublin City University (DCU).

Anglicanism (MDI, 2013) 5: Faith, Practice
and Spirituality: Faith and Practice

Christ Church Cathedral ... the venue for today’s lectures (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Mater Dei Institute of Education,



Patrick Comerford,

Week 2:
28 November 2013,

1 p.m., Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin.

Faith, Practice and Spirituality:

5: Faith and Practice:

6: Spirituality

5: Faith and Practice


The Mothers’ Union chapel in the south transept of Christ Church Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Welcome to Christ Church Cathedral.

First of all, we visit the crypt, and then the main body of the cathedral, with an opportunity to hear about its history and story, from its foundation ca 1030, its continuity through the generations and down the centuries and then about its function today as a place of daily worship in the heart of the city, and as a cathedral at the heart of the Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough.

[Walking tour of Christ Church Cathedral.]

Some questions for discussion:

How we worship expresses our theology and what we believe. There is an old and wise theological maxim that declares: lex orandi, lex credendi.

You learn much about Anglican beliefs by observing Anglicans at prayer.

● What are the priorities in public worship for Anglicans as seen in this cathedral?
● What do you see that is the same?
● What do you see that is a surprise?
● What do you not see, and that makes a difference?

The Anglican way of doing theology

There are a number of classical reference points for Anglican theology.

One is the emphasis, classically articulated by Richard Hooker (1554-1600), on the three-fold relationship between:

1, Scripture;
2, Reason;
3, Tradition.

Secondly, the classical articulations of Anglican theology are said to be found in The Book of Common Prayer and the Formularies:

1, The Book of Common Prayer;
2, The 39 Articles;
3, The Ordinal;
4, The Homilies.

Bishop Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) defined the boundaries of Anglican faith and practice as:

1, One canon reduced to writing by God himself;
2, Two testaments;
3, Three creeds (Nicene, Apostles’ and Athanasian);
4, Four general councils (Nicaea 325, Constantinople 381, Ephesus 431 and Chalcedon 451);
5, Five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period – the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after (from the Apostles to Gregory the Great).

The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral seeks to summarise the Anglican approach to theology, worship and ecclesiology and is often cited as a basic summary of the essentials of Anglican identity:

1, The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
2, The Creeds (specifically, the Apostles' and Nicene) as the sufficient statement of Christian faith;
3, The dominical sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion;
4, The historic episcopate locally adapted.

But at all times, Anglicans will say that Anglican theology seeks to follow the Via Media, that it is both Catholic and Protestant.

The emphasis on balancing Scripture, Tradition and Reason was first developed in the late 16th century by Richard Hooker (1554-1600) and was so influential that it has left a lasting mark on the development of Anglicanism.

Hooker stands alongside Thomas Cranmer, who wrote and compiled The Book of Common Prayer and Matthew Parker, who was primarily responsible for The Thirty-Nine Articles, as one of the founders of Anglican theological thought, and he is considered by many as the “true father” or founding intellect and spirit of Anglicanism.

But how Scripture, Reason and Tradition are balanced, and the emphasis given to each, continues to be part and parcel of Anglican theological debate, as we saw last week when we discussed the controversies in the Church of Ireland in the 1870s after Disestablishment.

The fears of the Church of Ireland severing itself from the rest of the Anglican Communion not realised, and the compromises and accommodations reached are beautifully described in the closing phrases of the 1878 revision of The Book of Common Prayer which I quoted last week:

“And now, if some shall complain that these changes are not enough, and that we should have taken this opportunity of making this Book as perfect in all respects as they think it might be made, of if others shall say that these changes have been unnecessary or excessive, and that what was already excellent has been impaired by doing that which, in their opinion, night well have been left undone, let them, on the one side and the other, consider that men’s judgements of perfection are very various, and that what is imperfect, with peace, is often better than what is otherwise more excellent, without it.”

The practical outworking of the Via Media, of the consequences of and reasons for seeking the balance between being both Catholic and Protestant in the one church, leaves the Church of Ireland with strengths and weaknesses.

One of the strengths is that the Church of Ireland is a church within the tradition of the Reformation, yet has not broken continuity with the past.

Its weaknesses, in seeking to be both Catholic and Reformed, lie in being all things to all people, being neither one thing nor the other. Nor does this definition appear to leave us open to the spirituality of other traditions, such as Pentecostalism or Orthodoxy – although in practice it has worked out differently, with many Anglicans drawing from the riches of those two traditions too.

Everyone – Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox, Presbyterian – can find something they identify with in Anglicanism, in mainstream Anglicanism.

So those understandings of how we do theology – Scripture, Reason and Tradition, and the Via Media – are not necessarily helpful when it comes to realised theology, how Anglicans experience the Church, experience and live their faith as a believing community, live a life of spirituality and discipleship.

Perhaps the true test of theology is: “Come and pray with us … Lex orandi, lex credendi.”

Yes, of course, there are differences. On our opening day, I cautioned about using words that emphasise or depend on difference, such as “non-Catholic,” or even “different faiths.”

Anglicans are both Catholic and Protestant, we confess the same Creeds – the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed, as well as the Athanasian Creed. We do not see ourselves as having “broken away” from Catholicism.

As you have seen with the Celtic saints on the stained-glass window in the Baptistery, the Church of Ireland sees itself as the same Church as the Church that dates back to those early Irish saints, Patrick, Brigid, and Columba or Columcille.

But some of the noticeable primary differences that might be commented on include:

1, The Pope: Anglicanism has always acknowledged that the Pope is the Bishop of Rome and one of the five traditionally-acknowledged Patriarchs of the Church (alongside Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria). The questions arise over the scope, extent and exercise and Papal authority and over Papal infallibility, and where infallibility rests. But it must be recalled that Papal infallibility was not a claim and therefore not divisive at the Reformation, and that in terms of authority, many Anglicans today are impressed with the attitude of Pope Francis, who has been compared with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

2, Ecclesiology or the nature of the Church. We believe we are part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. But there is no one Anglican Church. There are autonomous Anglican churches (which we call provinces), which include the Church of Ireland and the Church of England. But we are also in communion with the Old Catholic Churches of Continental Europe, the Episcopal Lutheran Churches of Northern Europe, some churches that have roots in the Orthodox traditions, such as the Mar Thoma Church in India, and at times various Anglican churches have sought to be in communion with: the Orthodox; the Moravians; the Methodists.

In many ways our style of Church Government is most similar to that of the Orthodox Churches. We are synodical, with bishops presiding in synods that include the clergy and representatives of the laity.

But Anglicanism is not an end in itself and does not seek to make other churches like itself.

3, The place of Mary: You have noticed the windows with the Virgin Mary, and perhaps also the statue of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child.

If you remained for Choral Evensong this evening you would hear the choir singing the canticle Magnificat, which is a traditional part of Evensong or Evening Prayer, one of the traditional Anglican daily offices.

You will, doubtlessly, come across many Church of Ireland parish churches and cathedrals named Saint Mary’s.

The calendar of the Church of Ireland also commemorate days associated with the Virgin Mary:

● The Presentation (also called the Purification): 2 February.
●The Annunciation: 25 March.
● The Visitation: 31 May.
●The Birth of Mary: 8 September.

The calendar of the Church of Ireland does not include the Assumption (15 August), and does not include not the Immaculate Conception (8 December). They appear with different names in the Church of England’s Common Worship.

But the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception are post-Reformation definitions in the Roman Catholic Church, and were not matters for division at the Reformation. The real divisions are about “taste and cult” rather than “devotion and respect.”

4, The sacraments: We agree about Baptism. Do we disagree about the Eucharist? The reports of ARCIC-1 and ARCIC-2 would say no, not at this stage.

What is the difference?

What do we believe?

What do we mean by Real Presence?

Why do you think there is caution among Anglicans about reserving the sacrament?

Is it helpful to emphasise our few differences, or to emphasise the many things we have in common?

You would also recognise the way the other sacraments are celebrated in the Church of Ireland with the rites and similarities, the place of the other five of the seven sacraments and how they are used, celebrated and received in the Church of Ireland.

Confirmation is normally around the age of 12-14, but there are problems with it being seen as a rite of passage, and problems about when a baptised person should be admitted to receiving Holy Communion.

Penance is provided for at Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and at the Eucharist, as a general confession, with absolution pronounced by the priest. Occasionally to, priests offer private confession and absolution.

Ordination: What do we mean by priesthood, ministry and ordination? Do we have shared understandings that allow convergence?

Is clerical celibacy or marriage a barrier?

What about the ordination of woman as priests? What about the ordination here in this cathedral next Saturday [30 November 2013] of a woman, Pat Storey, as Bishop of Meath and Kildare?

What about clergy in secular employment.

The differences and difficulties arise not just the over the words and actions at ordination, but the intention, and Anglican orders were rejected by Leo XIII in 1896, not just because of the form and words used, but also because of the intention.

Some former Roman Catholic priests now serve as priests in the Church of Ireland and in other Anglican churches today, without being reordained.

But Anglicans continue to insist that clergy in other churches, including Methodists and Presbyterians, must be ordained by a bishop before exercising ministry in, say, the Church of Ireland.

Marriage is similar, although we have different discussions about divorce and remarriage, and about clerical marriage, and the same debates about same-gender marriage.

Anointing with oil is a similar practice, tough we encourage it for many other reasons beyond dying.

5, Ethical differences? We have many different approaches to questions about health care, contraception, divorce, abortion and sexuality, for example.

But many of the differences that matter in our conversations are often in our shared and collective memories and perceptions.

Consider how we have remembered hurts and divisions from the past.

● There can be perceptions of ethic difference.
● There can be perceptions of social difference.
● There may even be perceptions of political difference.

The Calendar

We observe the same great festivals. We celebrate Christmas, Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, the great days of Easter and Pentecost, Trinity, and All Saints’ Day all on the same days as Roman Catholics. Indeed, we still keep Ascension Day on Ascension Thursday, and have not transferred it to the following Sunday.

We insist that Christmas, Easter and Pentecost are the three Principal Holy Days.

We mark many of the same saints’ days, and the seasons are the same, including Lent and Advent.

The calendar in The Book of Common Prayer (2004) also includes the great saints’ days.

This calendar marks out the main cycle of services and public worship in the Church of Ireland.

Folk religion:

But the calendar does not provide for events that also mark out a type of folk religion in the Church of Ireland, including:

1, Harvest Thanksgiving

2, Remembrance Day

3, Carol Services, including the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols, and the Christmas Eve Carol Service in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral.

Despite some of the obvious differences and similarities, it is going to be important to take account of them so that they do not become problems when you are teaching in schools.

What problems or divergences do you need to take account of when it comes to:

● First Communions?
● Confirmations?
● Prayer times?

Anglicans and The Book of Common Prayer

As Anglicans, we talk so often about The Book of Common Prayer yet we are not always talking about the same book.

Many elderly parishioners still speak of regretting the loss of The Book of Common Prayer when, of course, what they mean is the black-bound 1960 of the The Book of Common Prayer, now piled away in vestries in parish churches across the land under moulding collections of The Alternative Prayer Book (1984).

And, when they refer to 1960 black bound edition of The Book of Common Prayer, they may even refer to it as the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.

The “Prayer Book” means different things to different people, across the generations, and across the Anglican Communion, and the prefaces alone to the 2004 Book of Common Prayer tell of editions published in 1549, 1552, 1662, 1878 and 1926. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer, with some later but minor revisions, remains the normative liturgy of the Church of England. It has been translated into over 150 languages. Its words have resonated through almost 450 years of our life and culture.

Anglican spirituality can be best understood as basically a liturgical piety, nurtured by The Book of Common Prayer in a rich and glorious tradition. Although it is a quarter of a century since Dr Gareth Bennett, in a controversial and catastrophic preface to Crockford’s Clerical Directory in 1987 claimed that “prayer books based on the English Book of Common Prayer” had fallen into “virtual disuse,” throughout the Church of Ireland, and in most other provinces or member churches of the Anglican Communion, dioceses, parishes and parishioners continue to see The Book of Common Prayer as providing their standards in both doctrine and worship.

Over the generations, Anglicanism has been sustained and nourished by, and radically depends on, the traditions that have been developed though the liturgical use of and interaction with The Book of Common Prayer.

It is inclusive Anglicanism at its best, broad and deep, Catholic and Reformed. The word ‘Protestant’ did not occur in the Book of Common Prayer, as its first edition pre-dates this term in its usual sense, until ‘The Preamble and Declaration’ (1870) was bound in with it in the Church of Ireland, and even there the word only appears once (see p. 776). But then, of course, neither does the word ‘Anglican’ appear in the book – it was not used as we use it until the late 19th century.

For countless Anglicans down through the centuries, the language of The Book of Common Prayer, the language of the King James Version of the Bible, and the language of the Coverdale version of the Psalter, have been deeply engraved on their hearts, so that for them this language is the habitual language of devotion, rich with associations; words ready to hand that come to mind and tongue in times of weariness, or sickness, or despair –a genuinely liturgical and devotional language, thoroughly biblical in its images and inspiration.

It is a language of devotion that is rich and deeply meaningful and that has shaped the spiritual vocabulary of Anglicans for generations. Here we have Anglican memory and collective recollection.

This includes redolent phrases such as:

“Dearly beloved brethren, the Scripture moveth us in sundry ways …”

“… that we should not dissemble or cloke them …”

“… an humble, lowly, penitent and obedient heart …”

“Wherefore I pray and beseech you, as many as are here present …”

“We have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep …”

“We have left undone those things which we ought to have done … and there is no health in us …”

“… a godly, righteous and sober life …”

“… that we surely trusting in thy defence …”

“… we fall not into sin, neither run into any kind of danger …”

“…for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory …”

Someone I know claims to have known twin sisters called Grace and Gloria.

Or the one I was puzzled by when I first heard it as a child, without the comma being emphasised:

“… that both, our hearts …”

What? Only two hearts? Among so many?

“We do not presume …”

“Draw near with faith …”

“Prevent us, O Lord, …”

“Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest …”

Our clergy learn in pastoral visits to the elderly that – no matter how their minds or memories are slipping – they still remember whole Psalms from Coverdale’s Psalter in The Book of Common Prayer.

But they also remember many familiar prayers from The Book of Common Prayer, especially from Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and the Holy Communion. For example, how many of you, when we used the traditional form of Evening Prayer in the chapel on Friday evening could remember and recite the words of the General Thanksgiving:

“Almighty God, Father of all mercies, We thine unworthy servants Do give thee most humble and hearty thanks For all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men. We bless thee for our creation, preservation and all the blessings of this life: But above all, for thine inestimable love In the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.

“And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, That our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, And that we show forth thy praise, Not only with our lips, but in our lives; By giving up ourselves to thy service, And by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, To whom with thee and the Holy Spirit Be all honour and glory, World without end. Amen” (The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 99).

The Book of Common Prayer is the great jewel of the Anglican reformers, particularly Thomas Cranmer. At a time when there was a variety of styles and approaches to worship, so complex and so difficult to follow that the common man and woman became mere spectators, The Book of Common Prayer once again made liturgy what the word implies it should be, not just the work of the people, but the work of the common people, in a language intelligible to the common person, or as was said at the time, “understanded of the people.”

But The Book of Common Prayer is not only a rendering in the English tongue of the Catholic faith, as that concept was officially understood in the mid-16th century, but also a lens through which we are invited to direct a tentative but sincere glance, every now and then, towards God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to be in communion with God and in communion with one another.

1, It is an authentic yet reformed expression of the historic Western liturgy that has nourished millions across the generations.

2, It is an authentic expression of the devotional experience in the English-speaking world, a rooted, embodied, inherited tradition that has been embraced and passed on by a diverse group over the centuries, not something just dreamed up by a few members of the ‘worship group’ in a few snatched moments at the end of last week.

3, It is an authentic but reformed balancing of Western liturgical norms with Scripture and the theological and spiritual practices of the Early Church.

Most people do not go to church on Sunday morning to experience the rector’s latest exciting innovation. They go to church because they hope to experience God and to get a concrete sense of what it means to live out the love of God and love of neighbour, to be in communion with God and in communion with the Church. Using The Book of Common Prayer does not guarantee any of this, but it is a step in the right direction…

On the other hand, The Book of Common Prayer is not just a book for Sunday services. It also offers a full, integrated spiritual system that is intended as much for the laity as the clergy and which is founded in a lay spirituality that arose in the mediaeval period. It offers a programme for Christian growth built around liturgical spirituality.

The liturgical round is made up of three components:

1, The liturgical calendar reflects on the central mysteries of the faith through the lenses of the seasons of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ and in his continuing witness in the lives of the saints.

2, The Daily Office leads us through each day, month and year through the Scriptures and Psalms.

3, The Holy Communion or the Eucharist gathers us on Holy Days to most perfectly embody the Body of Christ and to receive the graces that the sacraments afford.

Cranmer’s original plan in The Book of Common Prayer was to mark every Sunday with the Litany and the celebration of the Holy Communion and to mark every day with Matins and Evensong.

“All priests and deacons are to say daily the Morning and Evening Prayer, either privately or openly, not being let by sickness, or some other urgent cause. And the curate that ministereth in every parish-church or chapel, being at home, and not being otherwise reasonably hindered, shall say the same in the parish-church or chapel where he ministereth, and shall cause a bell to be tolled thereunto a convenient time before he begin, that the people may come to hear God’s word, and to pray with him.”

This design was largely unimplemented for most of 400 years as clergy settled for Matins and Evensong on Sundays and Holy Communion no more than once a month or even once a quarter.

Today, it is said, Evensong is the best-loved part of The Book of Common Prayer, largely untouched by the liturgical reforms of recent decades. It continues to inspire and support great musical endeavours, and it provides a firm peg on which to hang deeply personal reflections and memories.

The Book of Common Prayer includes an elaborate system for the marking of time, gathering the elements of the mediaeval year into a compact form that has largely survived. It reinforced the basic pattern, while simplifying some aspects of the annual round, using traditional prayers and readings to mark its contours.

This system of corporate time-keeping affects all life, not just religious observance. It has given us “Mothering Sunday” because the reading traditionally provided for that particular Sunday was from that part of the Letter to the Galatians telling us that Jerusalem above is mother of us all. The British tax year begins on 6 April because under the traditional Julian calendar that day was the Feast of the Annunciation, 25 March. This day marked the first revelation of the Incarnation that was to be celebrated nine months later. Lent, Hilary, Trinity, Michaelmas, the names if not the observance, remain firmly ensconced in legal, academic and public life.

Within the Christian year, The Book of Common Prayer shaped the day by boiling down the seven mediaeval monastic daily offices into two simplified observances, Matins and Evensong. These were to be said daily by the clergy, who were to ring the church bell as a public sign that the day was being observed, as well as an invitation to any parishioners to join them.

In cathedral and collegiate foundations, these offices have been the mainstay of Anglican choral music, inspiring thousands of short compositions for the versicles and response, the lesser litany, the psalms and the canticles in every century, including Herbert Howells, Benjamin Britten and Michael Tippett.

Over 300,000 listeners a week tune into what is usually a Book of Common Prayer Choral Evensong on BBC Radio 3. Live cathedral attendances have grown in a sustained way over the past 20 years or so, and they continue to do so.

All evensong marks is the passing of another day. So what is it about evensong? The whole rich emotional hinterland of its observance is reflected at various points in popular culture, from the singing of ‘Abide with me’ at football matches to a lingering taste at some funerals for the same hymn, and ‘The Day thou gavest, Lord, is ended.’

Yet, The Book of Common Prayer is about more than prayer. It includes one whole book of the Bible – the Psalms (see pp 591-765) – which takes up over one-fifth of the full book.

It includes prefaces to the 1549, 1552, 1662, 1878, 1926 and 2004 editions (pp 7-17), Calendars (pp 18-23), the Table of Readings (pp 24-74), General Directions for Public Worship (pp 75-77), and Sentences of Scripture (pp 78-82), and we get to p. 84 before we even begin to pray!

And if you were to begin from the back, there is an index of seven pages (pp 793-799), two pages of acknowledgments (pp 790-791), the 39 Articles (pp 778-789), the Preamble and Declaration (pp 776-77), the Athanasian Creed or Quicunque Vult, which is neither a creed nor the work of Saint Athanasius, which is full of anathemas but without any instructions for its use or indications of its authority, and the Catechism (pp 766-770). And all that before we thumb back to the Psalter (pp 591-765).

But The Book of Common Prayer was always so. The previous edition, last updated in 1960, also included a “Note on the Golden Number,” three pages of tables to find Easter Day, a two-page Table of Moveable Feasts, and “A Table of kindred and affinity, wherein whosoever are related are forbidden by the ecclesiastical law of the Church of Ireland to marry together’ (p. 345). Pre-teenage boys could often wonder what connects the Golden Number with Easter – perhaps the answer was the Golden Ticket and chocolate – or why any man might have considered marrying his “mother’s father’s wife.”

There too were not only the Preamble and Declaration and but also the Canons ecclesiastical (pp 346-356), and the full hymnal too of almost 300 pages.

And if there is more to what is within The Book of Common Prayer than prayer, then there is more to The Book of Common Prayer beyond its use for the public prayer of the Church.

The Book of Common Prayer guards against reducing spirituality to the vocalisation of prayer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Let me identify ten distinct reasons why The Book of Common Prayer is such a valuable resource for Anglican spirituality.

1, It presents a Biblically- infused faith. It provides a complete menu of the Bible over the year through the tables of readings, taking us through the great stories and narrative of salvation history.

2, Beyond this, the book is infused with the Bible, from the versicles and responses, to the collects, the canticles, and the psalms. It challenges people to sing in a Biblical way – the songs are biblical, when we read the psalms and most of the canticles – rather than reducing singing to what makes me feel good.

3, The Book of Common Prayer is a living out of the theological maxim, Lex orandi, lex credendi. What we pray reveals what we believe, what we believe should be infused through all our prayer.

4, The Book of Common Prayer is infused with a spirituality shaped by memory and by learned ways of living the Gospel. Without the tradition of liturgy, other expressions of Church fall back on their own devices, shaping worship according to their own will and mind, emphasising those parts they like and forgotten those that are too challenging. We cannot make God in our own image and likeness. The Christian story is worked through in the course of the liturgical year.

5, In The Book of Common Prayer, personal and communal spirituality are intertwined. There is a place for my own repentance, forgiveness, prayer and communion, but these are individual never atomised; they are individual, but always within the context of the communal.

6, The Book of Common Prayer provides worship that has a balanced agenda. It invites people look in and to look out, to pray for their own needs and the needs of the world. Look at the versicles and responses, for example (pp 96, 113), when everything is prayed for: for mercy for ourselves, for our rulers, for those in sacred and secular ministries, for all people, for peace, and once again for our own spiritual wellbeing. The Litany is all-embracing, and even more so (pp 169-178).

7, The Book of Common Prayer allows the people to lament together and to rejoice together.

8, The Book of Common Prayer is true to the traditions of the past, but at each revision has been open to the insights of the present. In 1933, Compline was added in an appendix, although it had been rejected by the Church of England in 1928. A Late Evening Office was introduced in the Alternative Prayer Book (1984). The most recent revision has introduced ‘A Service of the Word’ (pp 165-168) and has taken on board the insights of the liturgical movement, liturgical reforms and developments and innovations in other Churches and traditions.

The Book of Common Prayer is not stuck with a world view from the 16th century. In 1662, it took account of the turmoils of the English Civil War and provided for the Baptism of adults who had not been baptised. More recently, Anglicans have incorporated the use of inclusive language.

9, The Book of Common Prayer offers a balanced ecclesiology. It defines the Church by word and sacrament, the whole company of those who confess God’s holy name, hear his word and receive the sacraments. The Book of Common Prayer defines and shapes Anglicanism as a liturgical church. Worship is not entertainment for religious zealots and their God, nor is it or therapy, nor a mighty engine to promote public cheerfulness.

According to the Act of Uniformity, to which The Book of Common Prayer was a schedule, anyone who took part in its liturgy, however minimally, was a member of the Church. So, unusually for a Reformed church, what Anglicanism stands for is defined by liturgical statements far more than dogmatic formularies.

10, Like the old and gone News of the World, it could be said that “all human life is here,” from the cradle to the grave, from the womb to the tomb, from birth, through marriage, to death, including the prayers of Preparation for Death (pp 454-456).

Cranmer required that baptism be administered freely or “indiscriminately” to babies, so that Anglican clergy are forbidden to discriminate against whom to baptise.

The solemnisation of matrimony is probably the best-loved and best-known of what are called the occasional offices in The Book of Common Prayer. It recapitulates, in terms reminiscent of Chaucer’s Parson’s Tale, mediaeval traditions of ring, joined hands and vows. Looking forward, it brings these into the church from the porch, where couples had gathered to get married. Matrimony in The Book of Common Prayer gathers the dearly beloved in the sight of God and in the face of this congregation. Marriage is a public reality, a communal event, to be recorded in the parish registers.

Promises are exchanged and a ring given. Right hands are joined, and the priest declares: “Those whom God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” The consents having been given and received, the promises made, the hands joined, and a ring given and received, the couple are pronounced to be man and wife.

The integrity of Anglicanism has been sustained and nourished by the traditions around the Book of Common Prayer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Cherishing the tradition

The integrity of Anglicanism, as a distinctive form of Christian life and witness, has been sustained and nourished by, and radically depends upon, the tradition that has been developed through not only our liturgical use of but also our interaction with The Book of Common Prayer.

Most Anglicans have a deep sense of the worth of our traditional liturgy as spiritual nourishment in an increasingly secular world. The Book of Common Prayer is not conceived as a kind of resource-book for worship, from which one may choose elements according to one’s tastes or inclinations, or have them chosen for one by the clergy or by some “worship and praise committee.”

The Book of Common Prayer is a spiritual system, biblical, traditional, and logical, that includes, but at the same time transcends and corrects, the subjective inclinations of the worshipper or that “worship and praise committee.” It is the common prayer of priest and people, and corporate in a way in which the self-conscious “gathering of the community” can never be.

For more than 450 years, the Book of Common Prayer has contained and conveyed the essence of Anglican spirituality (Photo collage: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Influences on language and literature

There was no uniform liturgy before the 16th century. Everything was a variation on a theme. Cranmer based his text largely on the traditional ‘use’ of Sarum, supplemented extensively by Cardinal Quiñones’ Breviary, Coverdale’s quirky yet rich and fluent translation of the psalter, insights from the Patristic writers (so many of us think of the Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom as being quintessentially Anglican) and additions from the new missal of Archbishop Hermann von Wied of Cologne, the whole edited and served up as one compilation.

The vocabulary is simple and direct, the flow is channelled and layered carefully according the principles of classical rhetoric. The Book of Common Prayer was very much a product of its age, put together as modern English was being standardised, so that it has a vibrancy and resonance like those found in Shakespeare, Marlowe or Webster.

At a time when people spoke different regional dialects, the prayer book set out a new form of official English for daily use in every community. The BCP made the same contribution to standardising English from 1549 on that the growth of the BBC in the 1920s played in developing BBC English as a standard.

As history unfolded, The Book of Common Prayer, within the setting of Anglican styles of architecture, has given the Anglicanism a distinctive religious heritage closely associated with church buildings. The poet Philip Larkin has articulated it in his poem ‘Church Going,’ in which he speaks of frowsty barns that are, for all their smell of damp hassock, serious places on serious earth where anyone’s longings can rise and be recognised.

The poet TS Eliot said that not just the Church, but the whole of English-speaking civilisation, was indebted to Thomas Cranmer, Richard Hooker and Lancelot Andrewes. He maintained that The Book of Common Prayer could teach a man of genius or ‘a man of first-rate ability short of genius, all that he needs in order to write English well.” Phrases from The Book of Common Prayer appear throughout his poems, and rates Cranmer’s collects among the classics of English literature.

The final title for the first section of The Waste Land is ‘The Burial of the Dead,’ the name of the funeral service in The Book of Common Prayer. The Waste Land has been read by some scholars recently as a commentary on Eliot’s own preparation for Baptism, Ash Wednesday actually draws on the Good Friday liturgy, while among his plays Murder in the Cathedral uses Cranmer’s own liturgical words rather than the mediaeval liturgies, and The Cocktail Party is read by some as a commentary on the Holy Communion.

Closing thought:

Jeremy Taylor: “This excellent book ... is not consumed.”

Jeremy Taylor, the saintly 17th century bishop who was deprived of his benefice and three times imprisoned during the Commonwealth period, wrote when The Book of Common Prayer was suppressed:

“This excellent book hath had the fate to be cut in pieces with a pen-knife and thrown into the fire, but it is not consumed. At first, it was Sown in tears, and now is watered with tears; yet never was any holy thing drowned or extinguished with tears ... Indeed, the greatest danger that ever the Common Prayer Book had, was the indifferency and indevotion of them that used it as but a common blessing. But when excellent things go away, and then look back upon us, as our blessed Saviour did upon St. Peter, we are more moved then by the nearer embraces of a full and actual possession. I pray God that it may be so in our case, and that we may be not too willing to be discouraged: at least that we may not cease to love and to desire what is not publicly permitted to our practice and profession.”

[Jeremy Taylor, preface to An Apology for Authorised and Set Forms of Liturgy, reprinted in PE Hore and FL Cross (eds), Anglicanism (London, 1935), pp 177-178.]


What divides us, what unites us?


6: Spirituality

Further reading:

The Book of Common Prayer (Dublin: Columba Press for the Church of Ireland, 1910).
The Book of Common Prayer (Dublin: APCK for the Church of Ireland, 1960).
The Book of Common Prayer (Church Hymnal Corporation and Seabury Press, 1977).
The Book of Common Prayer (Dublin: Columba Press for the Church of Ireland, 2004).

Hefling, Charles, and Shattuck, Cynthia (eds), The Oxford Guide to the Book of Common Prayer (Oxford: OUP, 2006).
Marshall, William, Scripture, Tradition and Reason (Dublin: Columba Press, 2010).
Miller, Harold, The Desire of Our Soul (Dublin: Columba Press, 2004).
Platten, Stephen (ed), Anglicanism and the Western Christian Tradition (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2003).
Procter, Francis, and Frere, Walter Howard, The Book of Common Prayer (London: Macmillan, 1965).
Rowell, Geoffrey, The English religious tradition and the genius of Anglicanism (Wantage: Ikon, 1993).
Spurr, Barry, ‘Anglo-Catholic in Religion’ – TS Eliot and Christianity (Cambridge: Lutterworth, 2010).
Wilson, Alan, eight-part series, ‘The Book of Common Prayer,’ parts 1-8, The Guardian, 23 August 2010, 30 August 2010, 6 September 2010, 13 September 2010, 20 September 2010, 27 September 2010, 4 October 2010, 11 October 2010.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College, Dublin. This lecture was delivered on a course at the Mater Dei Institute of Education (MDI), Dublin, on 28 November 2013, in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. MDI is a College of Dublin City University (DCU).

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

‘How shall I sing that majesty?’
hymns celebrating Christ the King

Christ in Majesty ... John Piper’s window in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2012)

Patrick Comerford

I am presiding at the Community Eucharist this evening [27 November 2012], when we are celebrating the Kingship of Christ with the collect, readings and post-communion prayer of last Sunday [24 November 2013], the Sunday before Advent (The Kingship of Christ).

Sunday’s readings in the Revised Common Lectionary, which we are using this evening, are: Jeremiah 23: 1-6; Colossians 1: 11-20; Luke 23: 33-43. Instead of a Psalm, the Lectionary also provides for the Canticle Benedictus. We are also using Sunday’s Collect and Post-Communion Prayer.

The readings and the theme of the Kingship of Christ are reflected in the hymns chosen for the Community Eucharist this evening:

The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge ... Samuel Wesley found Handel’s tune Gopsal in manuscript form here (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Processional Hymn: ‘Rejoice, the Lord is King!’ (Irish Church Hymnal, 281), by Charles Wesley, rejoices in God as King (see Psalm 97), and develops in to a creedal affirmation.

The tune Gopsal was composed by George Frederick Handel sometimes between 1749 and 1752, but was never published until it was found in 1826 by Charles Wesley’s son, Samuel, in manuscript form with two other tunes (now known as ‘Fitzwilliam’ and ‘Wentworth’) in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Gopsal Hall, between Ashby-le-Zouche and Atherstone, was the Leicestershire country seat of Charles Jennens, who wrote the libretto for Handel’s Messiah.

Autumn leaves in Ripon College Cuddesdon last month … the tune Cuddesdon recalls this theological college near Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Gloria: We sing the canticle Gloria as ‘Glory in the highest to the God of heaven!’ (Hymn 693), which was written by the Revd Christopher Idle in 1976 for the earlier tune, Cuddesdon, written in 1919 by the Revd William H Ferguson. He wrote the tune while he was teaching at Saint Edward’s School, Oxford, and named it after Cuddesdon Theological College, near Oxford he who had been an ordinand. Fergus later became Canon of Salisbury Cathedral.

I was a guest at Ripon College Cuddesdon four weeks ago, where I met staff and students and saw the new prize-winning Bishop Edward King Chapel.

The Bishop Edward King Chapel in Cuddesdon has received critical acclaim in the architectural world (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Gradual: ‘Crown him with many crowns’ (263) is the work of two hymn-writers, Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Thring. Matthew Bridges wrote stanzas 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 of the version we are singing this evening, and Godfrey Thring wrote Stanza 4. There are several other versions, combining the work of the two hymn writers in different orders.

Sir George Job Elvey. Organist and Master of Choristers at Saint George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, wrote the tune, Diademata, which means ‘royal crowns’ or ‘diadems.’

How shall I sing that majesty ... Coe Fen in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Offertory: ‘How shall I sing that majesty’ (468, but including verse 3 in the New English Hymnal, 373), by John Mason. This hymn, written in the late 17th century, contrasts God’s heavenly glory, splendour and majesty with the inadequacies and frailties of humanity. We are using all four verses of this hymn, and not just the three in the Irish Church Hymnal.

Kenneth Naylor wrote the tune, Coe Fen, when he was the Music Master (1953-1980) at the Leys School, Cambridge, which is close to Coe Fen. It has since been described as “one of the outstanding hymn tunes of the 20th century.”

Communion Hymn: During the distribution and reception of Holy Communion, we sing ‘Jesus, remember me’ (617), by Jacques Berthier and the Taizé Community. The words are based on Luke 23: 42, and so reflect our Gospel reading.

Christ the King of Kings and Great High Priest ... an icon from Mount Athos on the wall of my study (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Post-Communion Hymn: ‘Christ is the King! O friends, rejoice’ (86), is a stirring call to discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s friend, George Bell, Bishop of Chichester, at the suggestion of Canon Percy Dearmer.

It was Bell, while he was Dean of Canterbury, who also invited TS Eliot to write Murder in the Cathedral. The tune Vulpius (Gelobt sei Gott) is by Melchior Vulpius, and is familiar as a setting for the Easter hymn, ‘The strife is o’er’ (142), which brings us back to the triumph of Christ the King

A version of these notes appears in the booklet for this evening’s Eucharist

Heroes of the Bible, heroes of the faith (6):
Deborah … judge and ‘mother of Israel’

‘Deborah Under The Palm Tree,’ by Adriene Cruz

Patrick Comerford

In our series of tutorial group studies of heroes of the Bible and the faith, we have looked in recent weeks at Saint John the Divine, Ananias of Damascus, the Prophet Elijah, the Prophet Daniel, Rahab, who features in the Book of Joshua (see Joshua 2: 1-22, 6: 15-25), and who is also mentioned three times in the New Testament; and then, last week, the Apostle Peter.

This morning we are looking at Deborah the Prophet, the wife of Lapidoth, the fourth Judge of pre-monarchic Israel, a counsellor and a warrior, and the only female judge named in the Bible (see Judges 4 and 5).

Deborah leads a successful counter-attack against the forces of Jabin, King of Canaan, and his military commander Sisera (see Judges 4). The story is told again in poetic form in The Song of Deborah (see Judges 5).

This may be the earliest example of Hebrew poetry. It is also one of the oldest passages to portray fighting women, for it includes the story of Jael, the wife of Heber, a Kenite tentmaker. Jael kills Sisera by driving a tent peg through his temple as he sleeps, so that both Deborah and Jael are portrayed as strong independent women.

The poem may have been included in the Book of the Wars of the Lord, which is mentioned in Numbers 21: 14.

The Book of Judges tells us Deborah is a judge and the wife of Lapidoth (see Judges 4: 4). She delivers her judgments beneath a palm tree between Ramah in Benjamin and Bethel in the land of Ephraim (see Judges 4: 5).

The people of Israel are being oppressed by Jabin, the king of Canaan, whose capital was Hazor. After 20 years, Deborah prevails on Barak, the captain of the army, to fight a battle against Sisera, the Assyrian General who commanded Jabin’s army.

An Israelite force of 10,000 defeats Sisera’s force of 900 iron chariots (see Judges 4:10).

When Deborah sees the army, she says: “Up! For this is the day on which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. The Lord is indeed going out before you.” So Barak went down from Mount Tabor with ten thousand warriors following him (see Judges 4: 14).

As she prophesied, the Lord give the victory to the Israelites. Judges 4 and 5 tell the story of the battle at Taanach near the River Kishon. Few allies among the southern tribes come to the assistance of Deborah and Barak. Israel, which the Song of Deborah numbers at 40,000 spears, is not available except for forces from the tribes of Ephraim, Machir, Zebulon, Issachar, and Naphtali. Yet, while Sisera is said to have had 900 iron chariots, The Song of Deborah implies that heavy rain renders them ineffectual.

The battle takes place in the rainy season, and Sisera’s chariots are quickly bogged down in the mud. The Israelites overwhelm Hazor’s army, and inflict heavy casualties.

Indeed, there is wonderful irony in the manner of this victory. Baal, the main god of the Canaanite forces, was the god of storms and weather. He was worshipped by the Canaanites, with Anat, a fierce goddess who fought vigorously to protect her family. Yet the Canaanites are defeated in the battle because of a storm.

Sisera flees the battle-site on foot, escapes to the Kenite camp, and seeks refuge in the tent of Jael, the clan leader’s wife. But as he sleeps, Jael seizes the moment, lifts a mallet and drives a tent peg through his head, killing him.

Afterwards, we have an image of Sisera’a mother standing at the window, watching the road and waiting anxiously for her son to return with the spoils of battle. But we, as the readers, know he will never return (Judges 5: 28-30).

The image of a woman watching at a window has special significance for the people who first hear this story. It is a common image of the goddess in Canaanite religion; clay statues dug up at the archaeological site in Ugarit show a woman’s face looking out from a lattice window. The image of Sisera’s mother at a latticed window links her with the Canaanite goddesses. She is the mother of something that is already dead, although she does not realise it. Although those around her do not realise the truth, the Canaanite religion is also dead.

According to the Talmud, Rabbi Akiva, one of the greatest figures in Jewish history, is a direct descendant of Sisera. That a descendant of this great enemy of the Jews could become a great Jewish rabbi and scholar represents the ultimate Jewish victory over the ancient Canaanite enemy.

The Biblical account of Deborah ends saying that after the battle, there was peace in the land for forty years, or that the land had peace for forty years (see Judges 5: 31).

A sense of humour?

Busy bees at work in a walled garden (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2013)

Perhaps the author of Judges 4 and 5 has a sense of humour. The name Deborah is “bee” in Hebrew. Why? It also means “spirited or fiery woman,” perhaps because when attacked Deborah could sting like a bee.

Barak means “lightning” – perhaps an ironic pun on Barak’s reluctance to go to battle, and the terrible storm that God sent to help him.

Sisera is not a Semitic name. He may have been one of the Sea Peoples, skilled in military matters and feared wherever they went.

Jael means “wild gazelle” or “wild goat,” a suitable name for a woman from a nomadic tribe.

A woman for today?

Deborah ... a modern icon

The Song of Deborah (see Judges 5: 2-31) is a victory hymn, sung by Deborah and Barak, about the defeat of Canaanite adversaries by some of the tribes of Israel. Many scholars see the Song of Deborah as one of the oldest parts of the Bible, although others argue that the language and content indicate a later dating.

The Song of Deborah mentions six participating tribes (Ephraim, Benjamin, Machir, Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali), as opposed to the two tribes in Judges 4: 6 (Naphtali and Zebulun) and does not mention the role of Jabin. It describes Sisera’s death in a different manner than Judges 4: 17-21, where Jael lures Sisera into her tent, letting him lay down to rest, and then as he sleeps hammering a tent peg into his head.

The Song of Deborah is unique as a hymn for celebrating a military victory plotted by two women: Deborah and Jael (Judges 4: 9).

Most of the great women in the Bible either are married to a great man or related to one. For example, Sarah is primarily known as Abraham’s wife and Miriam as the sister of Moses. Even Esther, who saves the Jewish people from Haman’s attempted genocide, is guided by her adviser and cousin Mordechai. A rare exception to this is the prophet and judge Deborah, perhaps the greatest woman to figure in the Old Testament.

Deborah stands exclusively on her own merits. The only thing we know about her personal life is the name of her husband, Lapidot.

Barak’s response to Deborah is hesitant and laden with doubt, yet it also shows the high esteem in which she was held by her male contemporaries: “If you will go with me, I will go; if not I will not go” (Judges 4: 8).

Very well, Deborah replies, but she cannot resist gibing at Barak about the sexism of their society: “Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman” (Judges 4: 8-9).

Other women who are leaders and prophets in the Bible include Miriam (see Micah 6: 4, where she is ranked alongside Moses and Aaron) and Huldah (see II Kings 22: 14-20), and, in New Testament, Anna (Luke 2: 36), Philip’s daughters (see Acts 2: 17), and the women who pray and who have the gift of prophesy in the Church in Corinth (see I Corinthians 11).

Deborah’s story has often been at the centre of the debate over what God does and does not want women to do in God’s service. Some commentators try to argue that Deborah’s exclusion from the “Hall of Faith” (see Hebrews 11) means she is not the “real” judge, and that Barak is the judge.

On the other hand, apart from Deborah, the judges are hardly role models: Jephthah sacrifices his daughter, Samson murders his first wife, Gideon promotes the worship of fertility gods, and so on. Deborah stands out for her wisdom, courage and faith.

A prophet is not someone who foretells the future. A prophet hears a message from God in some way and passes it on. Often the message is about staying apart from the surrounding cultures and maintaining the unique identity and beliefs of Israel.

Judges refers only to Deborah as the judge to whom the word of the Lord comes (see Judges 4: 4, 6). We find no indication in the text that Deborah does anything other than follow God with a whole heart. Just because it was dishonouring to be outdone by women in Deborah’s day does not mean God sees women as “less.”

While it is not entirely clear why Deborah is not listed in Hebrews 11, we must avoid reading too much into her absence. Joseph, Daniel, and Mary are not mentioned either, for example. Indeed, it seems that in most cases the author of Hebrews 11 seeks out the more flawed characters to highlight as people of faith – which I find encouraging.

Elizabeth has more faith than Zechariah. Mary is better remembered than Joseph. Christ reveals himself as the Messiah to a Samaritan woman, even when the disciples fail to understand why he is speaking to a woman. Paul mentions Priscilla several times before her husband, Aquilla.

Focussing on the overall message

Two principal themes emerge from the story of Deborah :

1, Trust in God: The Israelites put their complete faith in God. In return, God helped them defeat a seemingly invincible enemy and gain valuable territory. This battle, and their unlikely victory over a superior army, gave the Israelite tribes their first access to the fertile and prosperous plane of Esdraelon and Jezreel.

2, Right can defeat might: Jael’s story is similar to the story of David and Goliath. Although she was a weak woman, Jael triumphed over a seemingly invincible warrior, Sisera.

Sadly, at times the focus on Judges 4 can become so limited to gender issues that we miss the other clear messages in the story, which is not about gender at all – it is all about God. The Song of Deborah speaks of Deborah not only as a judge or military leader, but as a prophet who leads her people as a worshipping people and as a people of faith:

First Deborah praises and worships God (see Judges 5: 3).

In her appreciation to God, Deborah calls the kings and princes of Israel to give thanks to God for what he has done.

She sings of the suffering of the common people of Israel from the oppression of Jabin and Sisera which gives her a calling to be a “mother in Israel” (Judges 5: 7).

She condemns her people for abandoning the worship of God for the polytheism of the world around them (see verse 8).

She praises the commanders of the army for fighting valiantly, but praises God for the victory (verse 9).

She wants the good news of God to be proclaimed among the people … and to outsiders (verses 10-11).

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, and an Adjunct Assistant Professor, Trinity College Dublin. These notes were prepared for a Bible study in a tutorial group with MTh students on 27 November 2013.