12 October 2015

Liturgy 3.4 (2015-2016): Bible Study (2):
Matthew 3: 13-17

A modern icon of the Baptism of Christ

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 10:30 to 1 p.m., Mondays, Hartin Room:

Liturgy 3: 12 October 2015

Bible study (2): Matthew 3: 13-17

Matthew 3: 13-17

13 Τότε παραγίνεται ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλιλαίας ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην πρὸς τὸν Ἰωάννην τοῦ βαπτισθῆναι ὑπ' αὐτοῦ. 14 ὁ δὲ Ἰωάννης διεκώλυεν αὐτὸν λέγων, Ἐγὼ χρείαν ἔχω ὑπὸ σοῦ βαπτισθῆναι, καὶ σὺ ἔρχῃ πρός με; 15 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν πρὸς αὐτόν, Ἄφες ἄρτι, οὕτως γὰρ πρέπον ἐστὶν ἡμῖν πληρῶσαι πᾶσαν δικαιοσύνην. τότε ἀφίησιν αὐτόν. 16 βαπτισθεὶς δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς εὐθὺς ἀνέβη ἀπὸ τοῦ ὕδατος: καὶ ἰδοὺ ἠνεῴχθησαν [αὐτῷ] οἱ οὐρανοί, καὶ εἶδεν [τὸ] πνεῦμα [τοῦ] θεοῦ καταβαῖνον ὡσεὶ περιστερὰν [καὶ] ἐρχόμενον ἐπ' αὐτόν: 17 καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν λέγουσα, Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptised by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?’ 15 But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfil all righteousness.’ Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptised, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’


The story of the Baptism of Christ is the first revelation of the Trinity to the creation and is like the story of a new creation. All the elements of the creation story in the Book Genesis are here: we know we are moving from darkness into light; the shape of the earth moves from wilderness to beauty as we are given a description of the landscape; there is a separation of the waters of the new creation as Jesus and John go down in the waters of the Jordan and rise up from them again; and as in Genesis, the Holy Spirit hovers over the waters of this beautiful new creation like a dove.

And then, just as in the Genesis creation story, where God looks down and sees that everything is good, God looks down in this Theophany story and lets us know that everything is good.

Or as Saint Mark says: And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1: 11).

God is pleased with the whole of creation, God so loved this creation, κόσμος (cosmos), that Christ has come into it, identified with us in the flesh, and is giving us the gift and the blessings of the Holy Spirit.

Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This Bible study was part of a lecture/seminar on 12 October 2015 as part of the MTh module EM8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality.

Liturgy 3.3 (2015-2016): Bible Study (1):
Genesis 18: 1-15

A modern icon in the style of Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Old Testament Trinity or the Hospitality of Abraham

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 10:30 to 1 p.m, Mondays, Hartin Room:

Liturgy 3: 12 October 2015

Liturgy (2014-2015) 3.3: Bible study (1): Genesis 18: 1-15

Genesis 18: 1-15

1 The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. 3 He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on – since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ 7 Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

9 They said to him, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ 10 Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’ 13 The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?” 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.’ 15 But Sarah denied, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. He said, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’


Jürgen Moltmann, Gerald O’Collins, and other theologians across the traditions have written about Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Trinity placing the Eucharist at the centre of the life of the Trinity. The three figures in the icon surround a “chalice on the table, which links the scene with the Eucharist, and hence with the saving and revealing story of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection.” [Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom of God (London: SCM, 1981), p xvi; Gerald O’Collins, The Tripersonal God: Understanding and Interpreting the Trinity (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1999), p 11.]

The three figures form a sort of mystic circle and they seem to say to us: “May you all be one as we are one.” (cf John 17: 21). The communion of the Holy Trinity is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist.

This icon speaks of the Eucharist and the Church as if the mystery of Christ in the broken bread is immersed in the ineffable unity of the three divine Persons, with the Church itself an icon of the Trinity.

The Trinity denotes that “God, who is one and unique in his infinite substance or nature is three really distinct persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Or as the Athanasian Creed states: “We worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son: and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.” [see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 771.]

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This Bible study was part of a lecture/seminar on 12 October 2015 as part of the MTh module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality.

Liturgy 3.2 (2015-2016): Traditions of prayer (1) seminar,
readings on Benedictine and Franciscan prayer

Stained glass windows in the Franciscan chapel in Gormanston College, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 10:30 to 1 p.m., Mondays, Hartin Room:

Liturgy 3: 12 October 2015.

Liturgy 3.2:
Traditions of prayer (1) seminar, readings on Benedictine and Franciscan prayer.

An icon of Saint Francis (left) and Saint Benedict (right) in Saint Bene’t’s Church, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

You all have three sets of handouts:

Columba Stewart, Prayer and Community: The Benedictine Tradition (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1998), pp 31-52.

Joan Chittister, The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century (2nd edition, New York: Cross Road, 2010): Chapter 16, ‘The Celebration of Divine Office During the Day’ (pp 119-121); Chapter 20, ‘Reverence in Prayer’ (pp 132-133).

Brother Ramon, Franciscan Spirituality, Following Saint Francis Today (London: SPCK, 1994), pp 111-125.

Earlier this month [4 October 2015], Saint Francis of Assisi was commemorated in the Calendar of many provinces of the Anglican Communion (e.g., see Common Worship, p 14; The Book of Common Prayer (TEC), p 28). Some years, in the “Spirituality” hour in the chapel on Monday mornings, I have looked at Benedictine Spirituality, and how it has influenced Anglican Spirituality, which was our topic in chapel this morning.

This morning, we are looking at Benedictine and Franciscan Spirituality and Prayer, and these are to accompany the presentations during the seminar.

1, The Benedictine Tradition of Prayer:

Three years ago [2012], during the summer break, I spent some weeks at Ealing Abbey in London, studying Liturgy and Liturgical Latin at the Benedictine Study and Arts Centre, and was invited each day to join the monks in the choir for the daily offices.

There was an old cutting from the Daily Telegraph on the desk in my room in Ealing Abbey that says the Benedictine tradition is so rooted in English life and culture that: “Some claim to see the Benedictine spirit in the rules of Cricket.” But in Ealing Abbey, I was more conscious of how the daily offices in the Anglican tradition – Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Vespers, Compline and so on – draw on the riches of the Benedictine tradition.

I was conscious too that at the same time some of you have been on retreat in either Glenstal Abbey, Co Limerick, or Holy Cross Monastery in Rostrevor, Co Down, two of the preferred centres the Church of Ireland for pre-ordination retreats.

So, an introduction to Benedictine spirituality and prayer life may be an important contextualisation for some of you in advance of your pre-ordination retreats. But it is even more important as an introduction to one of the formative influences on Anglican spirituality.

Indeed, it could be said that Anglican spirituality has its roots in the Benedictine spirituality, an approach to life and prayer that arose from the monastic community of Saint Benedict in the sixth century.

At the beginning of his academic career, Cranmer was a reader or lecturer at Buckingham College, a hostel for Benedictine monks studying in Cambridge.

It could be said that the Anglican Reformation took the essentials of Benedictine spirituality and prayer life and made them immediately accessible through The Book of Common Prayer, which gives the Anglican Reformation a clearly Benedictine spirit and flavour.

The basic principles that shape The Book of Common Prayer are Benedictine in spirit. For example, the spirituality of the Rule of Saint Benedict is built on three key elements that form the substance ofThe Book of Common Prayer: the community Eucharist; the divine office; and personal prayer with biblical, patristic and liturgical strands woven together.

The Anglican Benedictine monk and theologian, Dom Bede Thomas Mudge, believed the Benedictine spirit is at the root of the Anglican way of prayer in a very pronounced way. The example and influence of the Benedictine monastery, with its rhythm of the daily office and the Eucharist; the tradition of learning and lectio divina; and the family relationship among an Abbot and his community, have influenced the pattern of Anglican spirituality.

In a unique way, The Book of Common Prayer continues the basic monastic pattern of the Eucharist and the divine office as the principal public forms of worship.

On a regular basis, through the day, in the office and in their spiritual life, Benedictines pray the psalms. The church historian Peter Anson believed that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s great work of genius was in condensing the traditional Benedictine scheme of hours into the two offices of Matins and Evensong. In this way, Anglicanism is a kind of generalised monastic community, with The Book of Common Prayer preserving the foundations of monastic prayer.

As a monastic form of prayer, The Book of Common Prayer retains the framework of choral worship but simplified so that ordinary people in the village and the town, in the parish, can share in the daily office and the daily psalms.

In recent years, three of the most interesting commentaries of the rule of Saint Benedict have been written by leading Anglican writers: Esther de Waal, a well-known writer and lecturer on theology, spirituality and Church History and the wife of a former Dean of Canterbury; Elizabeth Canham, one of the first women ordained priest in the Episcopal Church (TEC), and who lived for almost six years in a Benedictine monastery; and Canon Andrew Clitherow of the Diocese of Blackburn.

Dom Gregory Dix (1901-1952) was a priest-monk of Nashdom Abbey, an Anglican Benedictine community. As a liturgical scholar, his work has had an immeasurable influence on the direction of changes to Anglican liturgy in the mid-20th century.

In the Church of England, there are 13 cathedrals with a Benedictine foundation and tradition: Canterbury, Chester, Coventry, Durham, Ely, Gloucester, Norwich, Peterborough, Rochester, Saint Alban, Winchester, Worcester and York Minster – 15 if we include Bath Abbey and Westminster Abbey.

The chapel in Alton Abbey, Hampshire, one of the Benedictine abbeys in the Church of England

Throughout the Anglican Communion, there are Benedictine communities in Australia, Canada, England, Ghana, South Africa, South Korea, Swaziland and the US. In the Church of England, they include: Alton Abbey, Hampshire; Edgware Abbey, London; Saint Benedict’s Priory, Salisbury, Wiltshire, founded at Pershore in 1914, moved to Nashdom Abbey in 1926, to Elmore Abbey, near Newbury, in 1987, and to Salisbury in 2011; Holy Cross Convent, Costock, Leicestershire; Mucknell Abbey, near Worcester (formerly the community at Burford Priory, near Oxford); Saint Hilda’s Priory, Whitby; Saint Mary’s Abbey, Malling, Kent; and Saint Peter’s Convent, Horbury, Wakefield. The Cistercian Monastery at Ewell closed in 2004, and the Anglican Cistercians are now a dispersed community.

Benedictine prayer became more accessible in popular culture in 2005 when the BBC screened the television series, The Monastery, in which the then Abbot of Worth Abbey, Abbot Christopher Jamison, guided five modern men (and three million viewers) into a new approach to life at Worth Abbey in Sussex.

Since then, Dom Christopher’s best-selling books following the popular series, Finding Sanctuary (2007) and Finding Happiness (2008) offer readers similar opportunities. He points out that no matter how hard we work, being too busy is not inevitable. Silence and contemplation are not just for monks and nuns, they are natural parts of life. Yet, to keep hold of this truth in the rush of modern living we need the support of other people and sensible advice from wise guides. By learning to listen in new ways, people’s lives can change and Dom Christopher offers some monastic steps that help this transition to a more spiritual life.

Benedictine spirituality approaches life through an ordering by daily prayer that is biblical and reflective. At its base, Benedictine spirituality is grounded in a commitment to “the Benedictine Promise” – an approach to spiritual life that values “Stability, Obedience, and Conversion of Life.”

Saint Benedict of Nursia wrote the first official western manual for praying the Hours in the year 525. Benedictine spirituality approaches life through an ordering by daily prayer that is biblical and reflective, and Benedictine spirituality is grounded in an approach to spiritual life that values “Stability, Obedience, and Conversion of Life.” The major themes in the Rule are community, prayer, hospitality, study, work, humility, stability, peace and listening.

Working in the Scriptorum in Ealing Abbey ... study is a major theme in the Rule of Saint Benedict (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saint Benedict’s approach is refreshingly simple and uncomplicated. For him, the key that opens the door to prayer is the quality of a Christian’s life, and the whole existence of a Christian is to seek to imitate Christ in fulfilling the will of his Father.

Apart from the scripture readings that are heard in the liturgy, Saint Benedict sets aside from two to three hours a day for lectio divina. As [Dr] Katie [Heffelfinger] explained in the Spirituality hour in chapel last year [29 September 2014], lectio divina is not an intellectual pursuit of knowledge and information but a way to let the word of God penetrate the heart and the whole person, so that we listen and open our hearts to God who speaks to us in his word.

Saint Benedict begins his Rule with the word listen, ausculta: “Listen carefully, child of God, to the guidance of your teacher. Attend to the message you hear and make sure it pierces your heart, so that you may accept it in willing freedom and fulfil by the way you live the directions that come from your loving Father” (Rule of Saint Benedict, Prologue 1, translated by Patrick Barry). His advice is as short and succinct a directive on how to prepare to pray as I can find.

The monastic cell is a place of solitude, but this is not a refuge from the common life (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Benedictine motto is: “Ora et Labora.” This does not present prayer and work as two distinct things, but holds prayer and work together. The chapel becomes the place for the Work of God (Opus Dei), but the work of God does not end at the chapel door. God continues to work where we work. The monastic cell is the place of solitude, but this is not a refuge from the common life. There must be time and place for both, a unity of the inner life and the outer life.

For Saint Benedict, the spiritual life and the physical life are inseparable. As he says: “Orare est laborare, laborare est orare, to pray is to work, to work is to pray.”

The function of prayer is to change my own mind, to put on the mind of Christ, to enable grace to break into me. – Sister Joan D. Chittister, OSB

Benedictine spirituality teaches us that prayer is not a matter of mood.

To pray only when we feel like it, is more to seek consolation than to risk conversion.

To pray only when it suits us, is to want God on our terms.

To pray only when it is convenient, is to make the God-life a very low priority in a list of better opportunities.

To pray only when it feels good, is to court total emptiness when we most need to be filled.

The Front Door at Ealing Abbey ... prayer is not about making God some kind of private getaway from life (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer is not about making God some kind of private getaway from life. Prayer is meant to call us back to a consciousness of God here and now. And so, prayer in the Benedictine tradition is a community act and an act of community awareness.

One of the best-know Benedictine theologians and writers at the moment is Sister Joan Chittister OSB. In Benedictine Prayer: A Larger Vision of Life, she explains that “Benedictine prayer is not designed to take people out of the world to find God. Benedictine prayer is designed to enable people to realise that God is in the world around them.”

She says: “Benedictine prayer, which is rooted in the Psalms and other Scriptures, takes us out of ourselves to form in us a larger vision of life than we ourselves can ever dredge up out of our own lives alone. Benedictine prayer puts us in contact with past and future at once so that the present becomes clearer and the future possible.”

Benedictine prayer has several characteristics that make more for a spirituality of awareness than of consolation. She lists those characteristics of Benedictine prayer:

• It is regular.
• It is universal.
• It is converting.
• It is reflective.
• It is communal.

And out of those qualities, a whole new life emerges and people are changed.

For example, prayer that is regular confounds both self-importance and the wiles of the world.

“It is so easy for good people to confuse their own work with the work of creation. It is so easy to come to believe that what we do is so much more important than what we are. It is so easy to simply get too busy to grow. It is so easy to commit ourselves to this century’s demand for product and action until the product consumes us and the actions exhaust us and we can no longer even remember why we set out to do them in the first place. But regularity in prayer cures all that.”

Saint Benedict called for prayer at regular intervals of each day, right in the middle of apparently urgent and important work. His message was unequivocal.

“Pray always,” Scripture says. “Nothing should be accounted more important than the Work of God,” the Rule of Benedict says (Rule of Benedict 43: 3, in Kelly et al).

“Impossible,” most people will say.

But if we train our souls to remain tied to a consciousness of God, as the Rule of Benedict directs, even when other things appear to have greater value or more immediate claims on our time, then consciousness of God becomes a given. And consciousness of God is perpetual prayer.

To pray in the midst of the mundane is to assert that this dull and tiring day is holy and its simple labours are the stuff of God’s saving presence for me now. To pray simply because it is prayer time is no small act of immersion in the God who is willing to wait for us to be conscious, to be ready, to be willing to become new in life.

In daily life, though, there will always be something more pressing to do than to pray. And when that attitude takes over, we will soon discover that without prayer the energy for the rest of life runs down. When we think we are too tired and too busy to pray, we should remind ourselves then that we are too tired and too busy not to pray.

To pray when we cannot pray is to let God be our prayer. The spirituality of regularity requires us to turn over our broken and distracted selves to the possibility of conversion in memory and in hope, in good times and in bad, day, after day, after day.

Benedictine prayer is based almost totally in the Psalms and in the Scriptures. “Let us set out on this way,” the Rule says, “with the Gospel as our guide” (Prologue: 9). And so, Benedictine prayer is not centred in the needs and wants and insights of the individual who is praying. Instead, it is anchored in the needs and wants and insights of the entire universe. Benedictine prayer takes me out of myself so that I can be my best self.

‘Prayer … is at the same time root and fruit, foundation and fulfilment’ … grapes on the vine in the cloister garden in Ealing Abbey (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Benedictine prayer life, besides being scriptural and regular, is reflective. It is designed to make us take our own lives into account in the light of the Gospel. It is not recitation for its own sake. It is bringing the mind of Christ to bear on the fragments of our own lives. It takes time and it does not depend on quantity for its value.

This is a prayer life that involves a commitment to regularity, reflection, and a sense of the universal. The function of prayer is not to change the mind of God about the decisions we have already made for ourselves. The function of prayer is to change my own mind, to put on the mind of Christ, to enable grace to break into me.

Esther de Waal puts it this way: “Prayer lies at the heart of Benedictine life; it holds everything together; it sustains every other activity. It is at the same time root and fruit, foundation and fulfilment” (Esther de Waal, Seeking God, p 145).

Finally, Benedictine prayer is communal. Benedictine prayer is prayer with a community and for a community and as a community. It is commitment to a pilgrim people whose insights grow with time and whose needs are common to us all.

It is surprising that in his Rule Saint Benedict does not have one method of personal prayer. Although there are many instructions on the Divine Office or Opus Dei and the Liturgy of the Hours, he has little to say about personal prayer. He did not establish set times for personal prayer, nor did he give detailed instructions on how to pray. Instead, he gave instructions on how to live.

This distinction between liturgical prayer and private prayer, which is familiar to modern spirituality, was unknown to the early monks. Apart from one short reference to prayer outside the office, Chapter 20 of the Rule is concerned with the silent prayer that is a response to the psalm. Listening to the word of God was a necessary prelude to every prayer, and prayer was the natural response to every psalm.

Community prayer in the Benedictine tradition is a constant reminder that we do not go to Church for ourselves alone. To say, “I have a good prayer life, I don’t need to go to Church,” or to say “I don’t get anything out of prayer” is to admit our own poverty at either the communal or the personal level.

Community prayer binds us to one another and broadens our vision of the needs of the world. The praying community becomes the vehicle for my own faithfulness. Private prayer, Benedict says, may follow communal prayer, but it can never substitute for it. Prayer, in fact, forms the community mind.

The implications of the Benedictine approach to prayer

Holy Cross Monastery, Rostrevor, Co Down

The implications of all these qualities for contemporary spirituality can be summarised as follows:

1, Prayer must be scriptural, not simply personal. I am to converse with God in the Word daily – not simply attended to at times of emotional spasm – until little by little the Gospel begins to work in me.

2, I need to set aside and keep time for prayer. It may be before breakfast in the morning; after the children go to school; in the car on the way to work; on the bus coming home; at night before going to bed. But I need to set aside that time for prayer and to keep it.

3, Reflection on the Scriptures is basic to growth in prayer and to personal growth. Prayer is a process of coming to be something new, and is never simply a series of exercises.

4, Understanding is essential to the act of prayer. Formulas are not enough.

5, Changes in attitudes and behaviours are a direct outcome of prayer. Anything else amounts to something more like therapeutic massage than confrontation with God.

6, A sense of community is both foundational for and the culmination of prayer. I pray to become a better human being, not to become better at praying.

As Sister Joan Chittister says: “We pray to see life as it is, to understand it, and to make it better than it was. We pray so that reality can break into our souls and give us back our awareness of the Divine Presence in life. We pray to understand things as they are, not to ignore and avoid and deny them.”

2, The Franciscan tradition of prayer:

The Cross of San Damiano

Earlier this month [4 October], the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi was marked in the calendar of many parts of the Anglican Communion (e.g., see Common Worship, p. 14). To give an appropriate Anglican contextual setting to discussing Franciscan spirituality, let me point out that there are at least six families of Franciscan religious communities within the Anglican Communion.

They include the Society of Saint Francis, which has 11 houses, priories, friaries or convent in England, and other priories or houses in Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and the US (New York, California); the Community of Saint Clare, near Witney, Oxfordshire; the Community of Saint Francis, Birmingham; the Sisters of Saint Francis in Korea; and the Third Order of Saint Francis, which is found throughout the Anglican Communion.

Some of you already know Brother David Jardine in Belfast, who is a canon of Saint Anne’s Cathedral, and who is a Franciscan friar, and there is a Franciscan Third Order within the Church of Ireland.

A foundational story in Franciscan spirituality tells how on a summer day in 1206, Saint Francis of Assisi was walking close to the crumbling church of San Damiano when he felt an inner call from the Holy Spirit to go inside the church to pray. In obedience, Francis entered the church, fell on his knees before what is now a familiar icon cross, and opened himself to what the God might have to say to him.

In eager anticipation, Francis looked up into the serene face of the crucified Lord, and prayed this prayer: “Most High, glorious God, cast your light into the darkness of my heart. Give me, Lord, right faith, firm hope, perfect charity, and profound humility, with wisdom and perception, so that I may carry out what is truly your holy will. Amen.”

Ever more quietly he repeated the prayer, lost in devotion and wonder before the image of his crucified Lord.

Then, in the stillness, Francis heard Christ speaking to him from the Cross: “Go, Francis, and repair my house, which as you can see, is falling into ruin.”

A plaque in Cloister Court in Sydney Sussex College, Cambridge, recalls Duns Scotus and the early Franciscan community in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

As the tradition of religious communities was being explored once again, rediscovered, revived and rebuilt in the Anglican Communion in response to the Anglo-Catholic revival in the 19th century, many of those involved turned for inspiration to the Franciscan tradition.

The gentle approach to obedience in the Franciscan tradition has been described as a “middle way” in the monastic tradition, and so the Franciscan tradition has an immediate appeal to Anglicans of the Via Media.

The Daily Office, which is the office book of the Society of Saint Francis, was among the first to be fully updated with the Common Worship Lectionary, and so came into use throughout the wider Anglican Communion. But it has also provided the model for the offices of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer in Common Worship.

Francis and Franciscan values also have a relevance to the wider, international and global community. This is a world that has never been more in need of those Franciscan values of Peace, Poverty, and respect for the environment.

The Church exists to call the world into it not so much that the world may become the church, less so that the church may become the world, but that through the Church the world may enter into the Kingdom of God.

In the age of a nuclear overkill, climate change and global poverty, Francis and his rule for his community, first shaped over 800 years ago in 1209, continue to call us back again to the true values of Christian community and lifestyle.

Closing Prayers:

The Lord be with you.
And also with you.

Let us pray:

A prayer of Saint Benedict:

Gracious and Holy Father,
Give us wisdom to perceive you,
Intelligence to understand you,
Diligence to seek you,
Patience to wait for you,
Vision to behold you,
A heart to meditate on you,
A life to proclaim you,
Through the power of the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

A prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

Staying at Ealing Abbey ... with a window onto the wider world (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Additional reading:

Anglican Religious Life 2016-17 (London: Norwich Canterbury Press, 2015).
Patrick Barry, Richard Yeo, Kathleen Norris, et al, Wisdom from the Monastery: The Rule of St Benedict for everyday life (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2005).
Gordon Beattie, Gregory’s Angels (Leominster: Gracewing Fowler Wright for Ampleforth Abbey, 1997).
Benedictine Yearbook 2012, ed William Wright (Warrington: EBC).
Elizabeth Canham, Heart Wisdom: Benedictine Wisdom for Today (Guildford: Eagle Publishing, 2001).
Joan D. Chittister, Benedictine Prayer: a larger vision of life: living the rule of Saint Benedict today (San Francisco and New York: Harper, 1991).
Joan D. Chittister, The Rule of Benedict: a spirituality for the 21st century (New York: Crossroad, 2010 ed).
Joan Chittister, The Monastery of the Heart, an invitation to a meaningful life (London: SPCK, 2011).
Andrew Clitherow, Desire, Love and the Rule of St Benedict (London: SPCK, 2008).
Esther de Waal, Seeking God, The Way of St. Benedict (London: Fount, 1984).
Mary Forman OSB, ‘Prayer,’ in Patrick Barry et al, Wisdom from the Monastery: The Rule of St Benedict for everyday life (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2005).
franciscan, three times a year from Hilfield Friary.
Abbot Christopher Jamison, Finding Sanctuary – Monastic steps for everyday life (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006).
Abbot Christopher Jamison, Finding Happiness – Monastic steps for a fulfilling life (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2008).
Nikos Kazantzakis, Saint Francis (Oxford: Bruno Cassiver, 1962).
Alister E. McGrath, Christian Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999).
Brother Ramon, Franciscan Spirituality (London: SPCK, 1994), pp 111-125.
Nicolas Stebbing CR (ed), Anglican Religious Life: A well-kept secret? (Dublin: Dominican Publications, 2003).
Columba Stewart, Prayer and Community: The Benedictine Tradition (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1998).

Some links:

Alton Abbey, Hampshire.
Edgware Abbey, London.
Saint Benedict’s Priory, Salisbury, Wiltshire.
Holy Cross Convent, Costock, Leicestershire.
Mucknell Abbey, near Worcester.
Saint Hilda’s Priory, Whitby.
Saint Mary’s Abbey, Malling, Kent.
Anglican Cistercians.

Franciscan religious communities within the Anglican Communion.
Society of Saint Francis.
The Third Order of Saint Francis

More information on the TV series The Monastery.

Next week (19 October 2015):

Liturgy 4.1: The development of the liturgical year and the daily office;

Liturgy 4.2: Traditions of prayer (2): seminar readings on Reformation Prayer.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. These notes are based on an introduction to a seminar on 12 October 2015 as part of the MTh module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Liturgy 3.1 (2015-2016): Creation, Trinity,
and theologies of worship and prayer

Baptism and Eucharist … celebrations of Creation and worship in communion with the Trinity (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality

Year II, 10:30 to 1 p.m., Mondays, Hartin Room:

Liturgy 3: 12 October 2015

This week:

Liturgy 3.1:
Creation, Trinity, and theologies of worship and prayer.

Liturgy 3.2: Traditions of prayer (1) seminar, readings on Benedictine and Franciscan prayer.

Liturgy 3.1: Creation, Trinity, and theologies of worship and prayer.


It is the total gift of oneself to the beloved that is the ideal of love, of human love in this life, and that is only a faint image of the total self-giving which is the Love of God. For ever in the Holy Trinity, the Father gives Himself to the Son and the Son to the Father in a torrent of love which is the Holy Ghost. The whole perfect Being of God passes eternally from one to another and returns in an unending dance of love – the perfect love of the perfect lover for the perfectly beloved, perfectly achieved and perfectly returned for ever. That is the life of God himself in the eternal abyss of his own being. It is love. and it is joy, illimitable joy. Self-sacrifice in this world and the joy of God’s own being are one and the same thing from different worlds.

– Dom Gregory Dix, God’s Way with Man (London: Dacre Press, 1954), p 76.

All our liturgical prayer is expressed in the plural, and not in the singular.

All our liturgical prayer is the prayer of the Community of Faith, not merely of the gathered congregation, but the prayer of the whole church:

In Holy Communion 2 (Great Thanksgiving, Prayer 1), the preface states we pray not on our own but with the whole Church, visible and invisible: “And so with all your people, with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven …” [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 209].

And that prayer goes on to ask “that we may be made one in your holy Church” [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 211].

Or, in Prayer 2, we pray: “… bring us with all your people into the joy of your eternal kingdom” [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 215].

Similarly, in Prayer 3, we state: “with your whole Church throughout the world we offer you this sacrifice of thanks and praise …” [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 217].

And because our faith is incarnational, those Great Thanksgiving prayers are connected both with the whole groaning creation, and with God as Trinity.

This morning, I first want us to consider the Trinitarian foundations and underpinnings of the liturgical worship of Church, and to relate that in an incarnational way to the celebration of God’s creation and the anticipation of the fulfilment of God’s plans for creation.

Then, secondly, after the break, I would like us to look at the practice of prayer in the Benedictine and Franciscan traditions. Indeed, it would be impossible not to think about Creation and to relate this to Benedictine and Franciscan spirituality and the care for all creation.

In looking at the Creation, the Trinity and theologies of worship and prayer, I shall draw particularly on the Eucharist (the Holy Communion, the Lord’s Prayer). The Book of Common Prayer (2004) speaks of the Eucharist as “the central act of worship of the Church.” [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 75].

“Because this is the case,” Bishop Harold Miller says, “we will find that the Holy Communion Service gives us a window in to all that is most vital in our regular worship.” [Harold Miller, The Desire of Our Soul (Dublin: Columba Press, 2004), p 115.] But I hope from this that we can move on to interpret what we do as the Church in our other forms of public prayer.

Part 1: Liturgy, prayer and the Trinity:

A modern icon in the style of Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Old Testament Trinity or the Hospitality of Abraham

Bible study (1): Genesis 18: 1-15.

[See separate handout]


The Trinity and the Eucharist in the Fathers of the Church

What do early writers in the Church have to say about the intimate link between the Eucharist and the Trinity? (Photomontage: Patrick Comerford)

Saint John’s Gospel in particular provided a great deal of material for the Fathers of the Church to indicate the intimate link between the Eucharist and the Trinity.

For example, Saint Cyprian of Carthage (died 248) teaches that our union with Christ in the Eucharist “unifies affections and wills.”

But, while the unity of the three persons in the Trinity is substantial, our unity with Christ and the Trinity is accidental. So while nothing outside of us can separate us from God’s love, if we turn away from God through sin, we lose this communion with Christ and hence with the Trinity.

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (ca 315-387) speaks of our union “with Christ through the Eucharist by comparing it to two volumes of melted wax: when brought together, they become one. Hence, in Communion, Christ is in us and we in him.”

His Western contemporary, Saint Hilary of Poitiers (ca 300-368), in his De Trinitate, written to counter the Arians, speaks of the Eucharist as the bond of unity between God and us. He begins by citing Christ’s words: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them” (John 6: 56).

He then summarises this, saying that when we receive the Eucharist, “we are in Christ and Christ is in us,” and by being united to Christ, who is the second person of the Trinity, we are united to the Trinity, including the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Saint Hilary of Poitiers says the Eucharist has been understood in light of the mystery of the Trinity from the inception of the early Church, presents the Eucharist as the bond between God and us, and shows how it is possible to have access to the mystery of the Trinity through the living reality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church.

Saint Cyril of Alexandria (died 444) is one of the great patristic teachers on the Eucharist. Quoting John 6: 35 (“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”), he links our participation in the Eucharist with receiving the Holy Spirit, and participating in God’s own nature.

Trinity and Eucharist in the writings of the saints

The Basilica of San Domenico, or Basilica Cateriniana ... Saint Catherine of Siena says “to be placed within love is foremost to find oneself in the Trinitarian life of God,” and speaks of a unity between the Trinity and the Eucharist when she talks of “the Holy Trinity as food for our souls.” (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Later, Saint Catherine of Siena (ca 1347-1380), generally recognised as one of “Doctors of the Church,” says that “to be placed within love is foremost to find oneself in the Trinitarian life of God,” and speaks of a unity between the Trinity and the Eucharist in a short prayer in which she talks of “the Holy Trinity as food for our souls.”

What we can see in the Patristic writings and the writings of the saints is an understanding of the Eucharist as a union with Christ that expands into a union with the Godhead in the Trinity.

Liturgical prayer and the Trinity:

In recent years, theologians in general and liturgists in particular have rediscovered the practical importance of the doctrine of the Trinity for Christian worship and human life.

In 1989, The Forgotten Trinity, a report by an ecumenical theological commission of the British Council of Churches, declared: “A fresh awareness of the doctrine [of the Trinity] and its implications can lead to a renewal of worship and a deeper understanding of what it means to be a person, since the fulfilment of human beings is to be found in relationships in community and not in self-assertive individualism.”

God’s covenant people have always worshipped a God who is named, a God who is self-identifying. That God reveals himself as “the Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34: 6).

As Christians, we have confessed the name of God in our worship for centuries, forming our understanding of God in the context of praise. For the early Christians, worship of the Lord God took place “in the name of Christ,” in the lived experience of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, and through the experience of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

And so they could only talk about that God, and talk to that God through Christ and in the Spirit.

There is a Monty Python sketch in The Meaning of Life (1983), in which a sanctimonious chaplain, played by Michael Palin, leads a large assembly in a public school chapel in prayer:

Let us praise God. O Lord,

O Lord , ooh, you are so big, …
… ooh, you are so big, …

… so absolutely huge.

... so absolutely huge.

Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell you.
Gosh, we’re all really impressed down here, I can tell you.

Forgive us, O Lord, for this, our dreadful toadying, and …
And barefaced flattery.

But you are so strong and, well, just so … Super. Fantastic.

Amen. Amen.

But our worship is not a human activity directed towards a God “out there” – it is our entry into the περιχώρησις (perichoresis) of the Trinity, the dance of the Trinity.

Trinity and Eucharist in the Liturgy

The liturgy as the prayer of the Church is filled with Trinitarian references, right through to the final blessing at the end of the liturgy, so that the Trinity is an integral part of the public prayer. The Eucharistic Prayers are addressed to the Father [see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 186, 188, 209, 212, 216.], and all our Eucharistic prayers end with similar Trinitarian doxologies:

“By whom, and with whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory be unto thee, O Father Almighty, world without end. Amen.” [Holy Communion 1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 189.]

“Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom, and with whom, and in whom, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all honour and glory is yours, Almighty Father, forever and ever.” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 211.]

“… through Jesus Christ our Lord, with whom and in whom, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we worship you, Father almighty …” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 2, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 215.]

The exception is Holy Communion 2, Prayer 3 [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 3, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 216-217], which is phrased throughout in an integrated Trinitarian language.

And so, the Eucharist becomes the action of the entire Trinity and provides a glimpse of what will be experienced in the Beatific Vision. We remember and enter into the one complete and all sufficient sacrifice to the Father, where the Son offers himself, and we remember his saving action, by the power of the Holy Spirit; and so this action cannot be separated from the action of Trinity.

The Trinity in the other prayers of the Church:

The Sacraments are signs of how we are brought into the life of the Holy Trinity. Our Baptism brings us into the Family of the Trinity, draws us closer into the life of the Trinity.

Baptism is not in the name of Christ, but in the name of the Trinity. Yesterday [12 October 2015] was the Feast of Saint Philip the Deacon. Saint Philip’s baptising in the name of Jesus Christ in the Samaritan city (Acts 8: 12, 16) was supplemented later by the prayers of Peter and John. Although we are baptised into Christ, we are baptised, in accord with the Great Commission, in the name of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit [Matthew 28: 19; see The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 350, 365.]

Some concluding remarks:

Some prayers I have heard:

I have heard prayers here and in other places that could be paraphrased like this:

“Lord Jesus, we come before, grateful for all your saving acts. May our worship this morning be to your praise and glory. And this we ask for the sake of your son, our Saviour, Amen.”

Some things that have been done

In the Kyrie during the prayers of the people [Morning and Evening Prayer [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p. 112], I have heard people say “Lord have mercy,” heard the response “Christ have mercy,” and then not heard the third refrain: “Lord have mercy.”


We have all heard someone add Gloria or a doxology to the canticle Te Deum. Why do we add Gloria or a doxology at the end of the Psalms at times, or at the end of some Canticles, but not others?

[Discussion; see Harold Miller, The Desire of Our Soul (Dublin: Columba, 2004), p 68.]

In our prayers, when we fail to think and prepare, we often betray some of the age-old heresies, including Modalism, Monarchianism, Sabellianism and Arianism. But there is no true Christology without a true Trinitarian theology.

Part 2: Liturgy, prayer and creation:

Bible study (2): Matthew 3: 13-17

A modern icon of the Baptism of Christ


Creation and the Mission of the Church

In the Egyptian Liturgy of Saint Mark, we find the following prayer:

“Bless, O Lord, the fruits of the earth, keep them for us free from disease and hurt, and prepare them for our sowing and our harvest … Bless now also, O Lord, the crown of the year through thy goodness for the sake of the poor among thy people, for the sake of the widow and the orphan, for the sake of the wanderer and the newcomer and for the sake of all who trust in thee and call upon thy Holy Name.”

This is the time of the year for Harvest Thanksgiving Services throughout the Church of Ireland. And traditionally, in Anglican worship, we have prayed for the harvest, for seasonable weather, for an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and for protection in the case of natural disasters. The blessings for natural elements – fields, vineyards, first fruits, wheat, etc. – show how the Church recognises the transformation of all aspects of creation through the salvation and glorification of humanity and thus of all creation.

However, we have been slow to explicitly express the reality that our worship takes place within Creation, is offered on behalf of Creation, and looks to the fulfilment of God’s promises for all of Creation.

The four marks of the Church’s mission were first agreed at a meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in Nigeria in 1984.

Two meetings later, in Wales in 1990, the ACC declared in a report, Mission, Culture and Human Development: “We now feel that our understanding of the ecological crisis, and indeed of the threats to the unity of all creation, mean that we have to add a fifth affirmation: ‘to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth’.”

It took us as Anglicans until 1990 to articulate responsibility for nature, for the environment, for the life of this planet, and to acknowledge that this is an integral part of the mission, and therefore, the worship of the Church.

Why did it take so long? And why, when we Anglicans were working out our mission statement over quarter of a century ago in 1984 did we just stop at four? Why did it take six more years and two more meetings of the ACC before Anglicans realised we all share the responsibility “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth”?

Some explanations that have been offered include:

1, A mentality that if Christ is coming again soon, we need not worry about the state of the world or the environment – perhaps we might even can help history along and encourage his return.

2, The Church withdrew from engaging with science after the bruising it received in the debate about creation. As the late Professor Owen Chadwick, the historian of Victorian Anglicanism who died earlier this summer, says: “They drew up the drawbridge and boiled the oil.”

3, A negative view of nature and the environment: that the creation is to be prayed about because we fear storms, floods, earthquakes, the sea, the mountains, all seen as hostile.

4, An even deeper problem is the idea that we are created to have dominion over the earth and all of creation. This idea is enhanced by traditional readings of passages such as the creation account in Genesis 1, including: “and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle and over all the wild animals of the earth, an over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth” (verse 26; c.f. verse 28); and of passages such as Psalm 8: 5-8:

You have made them [human beings] a little lower than God,
and crowned them with glory and honour.
You have given us dominion
over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

The traditional interpretation is that the rest of creation was made for us, that we are at the top of the pile and that it was all made by God just for us, so we can do what we like with creation.

In Genesis 1, God brings all life into existence, declares it is all good, and puts it in an harmonious ecosystem. We are God’s representatives, made in God’s image, and are called to act in the same way. We are God’s deputies, God’s stewards. The dominion that God seeks is one that protects the defenceless and gives justice to the oppressed. So dominion over creation implies the call to protect it.

Meanwhile, in the last 20 or 30 years, as Anglicans, we have started praying in words such as:

Awaken in us a sense of wonder for the earth and all that is in it. Teach us to care creatively for its resources. [New Zealand Prayer Book, p 413.]

We remember with gratitude your many gifts to us in creation and the rich heritage of these islands. Help us and people everywhere to share with justice and peace the resources of the earth. [New Zealand Prayer Book, p 416.]

We thank you for your gifts in creation – for our world, the heavens tell of your glory; for our land, its beauty and its resources, for the rich heritage we enjoy. We pray for those who make decisions about the resources of the earth, that we may use your gifts responsibly; for those who work on the land and sea, in city and in industry, that all may enjoy the fruits of their labours and marvel at your creation; for artists, scientists and visionaries, that through their work we may see creation afresh. [New Zealand Prayer Book, p. 463.]

Prayers like this are absent from New Zealand’s 1966 and 1970 revisions, and only begin to appear in the 1984 revision. They begin to appear in The Alternative Prayer Book of the Church of Ireland that year, and were developed in The Book of Common Prayer (2004), as in the weekday intercessions and thanksgivings for Monday, on the theme of “Creation in Christ: Creation and Providence” [Alternative Prayer Book (1984), p 97; The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 139.]

So what happened between 1984 and 1990?

These were times when we were becoming increasingly aware of how fragile this world is. A series of major environmental disasters in these decades included the Torrey Canyon spillage (1969) and the leaks at Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986).

In a ground-breaking initiative in 1989, the Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople called for “prayers and supplications to the Maker of all, both as thanksgiving for the great gift of creation and as petition for its protection and salvation.” He invited Christians everywhere to observe 1 September, the Ecclesiastical New Year in the Orthodox tradition, as the annual Day of Prayer for Creation.

It is a fundamental dogma of our faith that the world, the cosmos, was created by God the Father, who is confessed in the Creed to be “maker of heaven and earth and of all things, seen and unseen.”

So our worship conveys this profound understanding of creation. Our liturgical worship is an expression of the faith and the hope that the whole of the universe worships and offers gifts to the Creator.

To return to last week’s theme of liturgical space and place, in Orthodox churches, the very shape of the churches, including the place of icons, mosaics and frescoes within them, are seen as a microcosm of the universe that illustrates the role both of humanity and of the rest of creation in relation to God. But this it is not only an expression of what is on earth today. It is an expression too of what exists in heaven and what is to come – the eschatological promise and redemptive transformation of all creation through the salvation wrought by Christ [see Romans 8: 22-24].

Our prayers and our psalms tell us of the sanctification of all creation. Psalm 103 says: “Bless the Lord, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the Lord, O my soul” (Psalm 103: 22).

Good public worship includes the celebration and the use of all aspects of the human senses: it engages sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch.

At the Eucharist, we offer the fullness of creation and receive it back as the blessing of Grace in the form of the bread and the wine, to share with others, a sign or a sacrament that God’s grace and deliverance is shared not just with us but with all of God’s creation. As humans, we are simply yet gloriously the means for the expression of creation in its fullness and the coming of God’s deliverance for all creation.

The vocation of humanity, as shown in our liturgy, is not to dominate and to exploit nature, but to transfigure and to hallow it. In so many ways – through the cultivation of the earth, through crafts and through the arts, but especially in our liturgy – we give material things a voice and render the creation articulate in its praise of God.

Metropolitan Kallistos Ware lecturing in Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge ... he points out we bring to the altar not sheaves of wheat but loaves of bread, not bunches of grapes but wine poured out; fruit of the earth and work of human hands (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

It is significant that in the Eucharist, when we offer back to God the first fruits of the earth, we offer them not in their original form, but reshaped by our hands. As Metropolitan Kallistos [Ware] of Diokleia has said, we bring to the altar not sheaves of wheat but loaves of bread, not bunches of grapes but wine poured out – “these gifts of your creation” [The Book of Common Prayer, p 214]; fruit of the earth and work of human hands.

In our Eucharist, we acknowledge and praise God a Creator: The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” Our Eucharistic liturgy is first and foremost about giving thanks for God’s work for us, which begins with creation. To bless is to give thanks. In and through thanksgiving, we acknowledge the true nature of things we receive from God and thus enable them to attain the fullness God intended for them. We bless and sanctify things when we offer them to God in a Eucharistic movement of our whole being.

And as we stand before the cosmos, before the matter given to us by God, this Eucharistic movement becomes all-embracing. We are defined as a “Eucharistic” animal because we are capable of seeing the world as God’s gift, as a sacrament of God’s presence and a means of communion with him. So we are able to offer the world back to God as thanksgiving: “for all things come from you and of your own we give you” [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 208]. We are able to bless and praise God for the world and his creation:

“Blessed are you Father, the creator and sustainer of all things …” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 210].

“For he is your eternal Word through whom you have created all things …” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 212].

“Merciful Father, we thank you for these gifts of your creation, this bread and this wine …” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 2, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 214].

“Father, Lord of all creation, we praise you for your goodness and your love.” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 3, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 216].

And in the shared Post-Communion Prayer:

“May we … who drink this cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.” [Holy Communion 2, Prayer 3, The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 220].

These liturgical expressions reflect the vision and understanding of our relationship both with creation and with the Creator. We are the free agents through whom creation is offered to the Creator. The Eucharist is the most sublime expression and experience of creation transformed by God the Holy Spirit through redemption and worship. In the form of bread and wine, material from creation moulded into new form by human hands is offered to God with the acknowledgment that all of creation is God’s and that we are returning to God that which is his.

The primordial relationship of Adam to both God and Creation is restored in the Eucharist, and we have a foretaste of the eschatological state of Creation. But when we look today at our world, we see a very different picture. Humanity’s rebellion, pride and greed have shattered the primordial relationship of Adam. It has ignored the Church’s understanding of our role as priest of creation. By doing so, our world is facing a crisis of death and corruption to a degree never before experienced.

We must attempt to return to the proper relationship with the Creator and creation in order to ensure the survival of the natural world. We are called to bear some of the pain of creation as well as to enjoy and celebrate it. That means to perform Liturgia extra muros, the Liturgy beyond or outside the walls of the church, for the sanctification of the world.

An understanding of Creation in Baptism:

As we have seen in our second Bible study, the baptism of Christ a new creation, or a renewal of creation.

Baptismal water represents the matter of the cosmos, and its blessing at the beginning of the baptismal rite has a cosmic and redemptive significance. God created the world and blessed it and gave it to us as our food and life, as the means of communion with him.

When the water is poured into the font, we recall the waters of creation that cleanse and replenish, nourish and sustain us, all living things and the earth, the waters of freedom in the Red Sea and the Jordan that brought the promise of new life, the waters of Christ’s baptism, the waters of Christ’s death and new life, and our new birth in the Church through the waters of life. [The Book of Common Prayer (2004), p 363.]


There is an inseparable link between the Triune God we worship as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the God who is the Creator of all.

This God we worship together and collectively in the public worship, the Liturgy of the Church, and this understanding is foundational for our understanding of liturgy and the prayer life of the Church.

Some resources:

(1) Confession

From Common Worship (Church of England):

We confess our sin, and the sins of our society,
in the misuse of God’s creation.

God our Father, we are sorry
for the times when we have used your gifts carelessly,
and acted ungratefully.
Hear our prayer, and in your mercy:
forgive us and help us.

We enjoy the fruits of the harvest,
but sometimes forget that you have given them to us.
Father, in your mercy:
forgive us and help us.

We belong to a people who are full and satisfied,
but ignore the cry of the hungry.
Father, in your mercy:
forgive us and help us.

We are thoughtless,
and do not care enough for the world you have made.
Father, in your mercy:
forgive us and help us.

We store up goods for ourselves alone,
as if there were no God and no heaven.
Father, in your mercy:
forgive us and help us.

(2) Intercessions:

Let us pray for the Church and for the world.

Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your Name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Guide the people of this land, and of all the nations, in the ways of justice and peace; that we may honour one another and serve the common good.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Give us all a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honour and glory.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Bless all whose lives are closely linked with ours, and grant that we may serve Christ in them, and love one another as he loves us.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and bring them the joy of your salvation.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will for them may be fulfilled; and we pray that we may share with all your saints in your eternal kingdom.


Lord, in your mercy
Hear our prayer.

The celebrant adds a concluding collect.

The Book of Common Prayer (TEC) pp 388-389.

(3) Collects:

Almighty God,
you have created the heaven and the earth
and made us in your own image:
Teach us to discern your hand in all your works
and your likeness in all your children;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who with you and the Holy Spirit
reigns supreme over all things, now and for ever.

The Book of Common Prayer (2004) p 256 (The Second Sunday before Lent).

Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
Give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Book of Common Prayer (2004) p 283 (The Third Sunday after Trinity).

See also the collects of Trinity XX, Trinity XXI, the Sunday before Advent.

(4) A creation focused preface:

God of all power, Ruler of the Universe, you are worthy of glory and praise.
Glory to you for ever and ever.

At your command all things came to be: the vast expanse of interstellar space, galaxies, suns, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home.
By your will they were created and have their being.

From the primal elements you brought forth the human race, and blessed us with memory, reason, and skill. You made us the rulers of creation. But we turned against you, and betrayed your trust; and we turned against one another.
Have mercy, Lord, for we are sinners in your sight.

Again and again, you called us to return. Through prophets and sages you revealed your righteous Law. And in the fullness of time you sent you only Son, born of a woman, to fulfil your Law, to open for is the way of freedom and peace. By his blood, he reconciled us.
By his wounds, we are healed.

And therefore we praise you, joining with the heavenly chorus, with prophets, apostles, and martyrs, and with all those in every generation who have looked to you in hope, to proclaim with them your glory, in their unending hymn:

Holy, holy, holy Lord …

The Book of Common Prayer (TEC) pp 370-371.

The Canadian Book of Alternative Services has adapted this prayer, changed “rulers of creation” to “stewards of creation” and inserted a regular refrain “Glory to you for ever and ever.” It has no cue for this refrain, so you either need the text in front of you, or the text must be sung with a musical cue for the sung refrain.

A suggested option is to use a set cue and response such as:

God of all creation
we worship and adore you

(5) Calendar

An autumn rainbow between Lambay Island and Portrane ... the Season of Creation is celebrated in many churches in September and October (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Season of Creation calendar has this basic pattern:

● 1 September: Day of Creation (as in Orthodox traditions).
● Four Sundays: four domains of creation, eg, Forest, Land, Ocean and River Sundays.
● Saint Francis of Assisi Day (4 October).
● Blessing of the Animals.
● Special Sunday – appropriate to the country or community.
● Final Sunday of the Season, normally the Second Sunday in October (yesterday), but there were five Sundays in September this year [2015] .

The Season of Creation 2015 (Series B): The Word in Creation.

● 1 September: Creation Day.
● 6 September: 1st Sunday in Creation, Planet Earth Sunday.
● 13 September: 2nd Sunday in Creation, Humanity Sunday.
● 20 September: 3rd Sunday in Creation, Sky Sunday.
● 27 September: 4th Sunday in Creation, Mountain Sunday.
● 4 October: 5th Sunday in Creation, Blessing of the Animals.
● 4 October: Saint Francis of Assisi Day.

The Season of Creation 2016 (Series C): Wisdom in Creation.

● 1 September: Creation Day.
● 4 September: 1st Sunday in Creation, Ocean Sunday.
● 11 September: 2nd Sunday in Creation, Fauna and Flora Sunday.
● 18 September: 3rd Sunday in Creation, Storm Sunday.
● 25 September: 4th Sunday in Creation, Cosmos Sunday.
● 4 October: Saint Francis of Assisi Day, Blessings of the Animals.

The Season of Creation 2017 (Series A): The Spirit in Creation.

● 1 September: Creation Day.
● 3 September: 1st Sunday in Creation, Forest Sunday.
● 10 September: 2nd Sunday in Creation, Land Sunday.
● 17 September: 3rd Sunday in Creation, Wilderness/Outback Sunday.
● 24 September: 4th Sunday in Creation, River Sunday.
● 1 October: Saint Francis of Assisi Day – Blessing of Animals Sunday 1.

In many parts of the world, the churches celebrate “Creation Day” on 1 September, and mark the period from 1 September to 4 October, the Feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi, or the Sunday after 4 October as “Creation Time,” marking the priceless gift of the Creator who made us into his own image and likeness.

This ecumenical celebration dates from the initiative by Patriarch Dimitrios I of Constantinople in 1989, when he invited all Christians to observe 1 September as the annual Day of Prayer for Creation.


Liturgy 3.2:
Traditions of prayer (1) seminar, readings on Benedictine and Franciscan prayer.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture on 12 October 2015 was part of the MTh module TH 8824: Liturgy, Worship and Spirituality.

Spirituality: Introducing
Anglican Spirituality (2015)

The Canticles, sung by great cathedral choirs, often provide the first introduction for many to the riches of Anglican spirituality

Patrick Comerford

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. And so, we open with the canticle Magnificat sung by the choristers of Lichfield Cathedral.


[The Director of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, the Revd Dr] Maurice [Elliott,] set the ball rolling with these periods devoted to Spirituality two weeks ago [29 September 2015] by rooting our spiritual formation in the Christian context, specifically in our Trinitarian faith and in knowing God.

This morning [12 October 2015], I am going to narrow this down by looking at the riches and the diversity of Anglican spirituality.

There are many varieties of Anglican spirituality. They cannot be confined to the labels of evangelical, catholic, liberal, conservative, charismatic … and even when they are reduced to these categories, they often overlap and can never be mutually exclusive.

The Anglican gift is to hold these not in tension, but in creative tension, so that we are enriched, so that Anglicanism is enriched, and so that the Church Catholic is enriched.

So what holds these different Anglican traditions of spirituality together in one community of faith, in one pilgrim people?

When we look outside the Anglican tradition, there are some traditions in the Church that are named after their claims to universality or to holding the whole faith, as with Catholics or Orthodox. Others are named after a founder, for example, the Benedictines, Franciscans, Lutherans, Wesleyans or Calvinists. Others have been named because of a particular emphasis in prayer and spirituality, such as the Methodists, Salvationists, Jesuits, Redemptorists or Quakers. Still others have names that reveal a particular sacramental or organisational emphasis, including the Baptists and Presbyterians.

But as Anglicans we are not Henricians or Elizabethans, nor are we Cranmerists, not Laudians. Episcopalian might describe us in organisational terms, but we are not the only ones with bishops. And there are times when I am slightly uneasy with a term like Anglican – for we are not the English overseas at prayer. But “Anglican” is a convenient shorthand for a family of churches that have a shared spiritual heritage.

So, what is Anglican spirituality? And is there something unique about it?

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.

So much for Anglican theology. But what about Anglican spirituality? And is there something unique about it?

There is a theological maxim, Lex orandi, lex credendi. In other words, we can tell what a people believe when we see how they pray.

This is particularly so when we look at Anglicanism, for there is no distinctive Anglican theology as propounded in other traditions which take their name from their founding theologian, there is no central, established authority, such as the Roman Catholic magisterium, nor do we have an extra-creedal summary of doctrine, such as the Presbyterians’ Westminster Confession of Faith. Even the 39 Articles do not hold the same authority.

Instead, Anglicans have typically appealed to The Book of Common Prayer as a guide to Anglican theology, spirituality and practice, with its selection, arrangement, and composition of prayers and exhortations, the selection and arrangement of daily scripture readings in the Lectionary, and in the rubrics describing permissible liturgical actions and variations.

Anglican theology places a high value on the traditions of the faith; it acknowledges the primacy of the worshipping community in articulating, amending, and passing down the Church’s theology; and so, by necessity, it is inclined toward a comprehensive consensus concerning the principles of the tradition and the relationship between the Church and society. In this sense, Anglican theology is strongly incarnational.

But Anglican spirituality cannot be reduced to descriptions of prayer life or to The Book of Common Prayer. Nor can it be contained in the 39 Articles, or limited and constrained by the Formularies.

Indeed, the 39 Articles – while they have an important historical place in the Church of Ireland the Church of England – are not part of the shared history of all Anglican churches. The Book of Common Prayer means different things in different countries. And as for the formularies – the Ordinal in particular – they too have been challenged by different understandings of ordination, first exposed in the debates over the ordination of women.

Three insights and influences

So what has shaped Anglican spirituality?

Three profound influences on Anglican spirituality can be found in Patristics, the Benedictine tradition, and the Sarum Rite.

Only a few generations ago, no-one would have entered on a course leading to ordination in an Anglican theological college without receiving a solid grounding in their first year in Patristics, the writings of the Early Church Fathers.

The Anglican reformation was not just about Church structures but also an effort to return to the early worship of the Church and to return to Patristic ideas of liturgy and worship.

The rediscovery of the Early Fathers of the Church, and the quest to return to Patristic forms of worship, was an important factor in the Anglican reformation.

The legacy and bequests of this search are scattered throughout The Book of Common Prayer. But a noticeable example – and one that has become part and parcel of the Anglican spiritual heritage – is 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.

But even before the Reformation, the Rule of Benedict had a profound influence on English and Irish expressions of Christianity. The Benedictine daily offices later shaped the offices of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. The Benedictines had developed the Liturgical use of Scripture. Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, which are based on the Benedictine offices, are almost entirely Scriptural in their words and phrases.

The Psalms provide the basis for the versicles and responses, for example. The Psalter is the only book of the Bible to be fully contained within The Book of Common Prayer, originally with the expectation that the Psalms would be read in church daily, and that the full Psalter would be read through each month.

The Book of Common Prayer brings the offices of the Benedictine monastery into the daily life of the parish church, morning and evening. For, as The Book of Common Prayer succinctly tells us, our duty as Christians is to live “a godly, righteous and sober life.”

Two related and connected strengths of The Book of Common Prayer, and two that have shaped and marked Anglicans spiritually over the generations, are the canticles and the collects.

One of the great spiritual experiences for many and sometimes their first and lasting introduction to Anglican spirituality is experiencing the way we use the Canticles Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis at Evening Prayer, particularly at Choral Evensong.

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.”

And thirdly, Anglican spirituality is, of course, liturgical. This Anglican liturgical tradition has been shaped by the western rite, strongly influenced by the Sarum tradition, and was first modernised and reformed at the Reformations by Thomas Cranmer and other.

If Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are to shape Anglican spiritual practice on a day-by-day basis, then Anglicanism is also a return to the Eucharist, the Holy Communion or the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, as the central act of worship of the Church.

As Anglicans, no-one was to be a spectator, as in the mediaeval church, but all are to be participants.

And if the people felt too unworthy, then the Prayer of Humble Access reminded them that they were not present as spectators but as participants:

We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

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.

But we should not forget 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 whose business in this world is most with 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, and we shall look specifically at their spirituality in Week 8 of this semester [16 November 2015].

Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667), who ended his days as a bishop in the Church of Ireland, 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.

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 Richard Baxter (1615-1691), author of the hymn Ye holy angels bright, with its mystical understanding of the Communion of Saints and our place in it.

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 the United Society or 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 which they edited 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 (1898-1963), 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?

On the other hand, TS Eliot (1888-1965), who died 50 years ago this year, 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 Four Quartets. Here for the first time he talks of Love as the driving force behind all experience. From this background, the Four 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.

‘And the fire and the rose are one’ … a candle and a rose on a table in a restaurant in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

I conclude with the last canto of Little Gidding:


What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea’s throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

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 Rossetti (1830-1894), artists like William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) and the Pre-Raphaelites, writers such as Anthony Trollope (1815-1882), author of the Barchester Chroincles in the 19th century, in the 20th century Eveyln Underhill (1875-1941), Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957), Rose Macaulay (1881-1958), or the poet John Betjeman (1906-1984), or novelists today such as 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 Gibbons 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, through liturgical revival, through theological education, through the ways we live out our lives.

Our closing music is the Canticle Nunc Dimittis sung by the choristers of Lichfield Cathedral. Then, after our silence, we come back here at 9.50 to gather together and close with the Collect of the Day and the Lord’s Prayer.


Ash Wednesday marked TS Eliot’s conversion to Anglicanism

I concluded with the final canto from Little Gidding in TS Eliot’s The Four Quartets. His conversion which led him to Anglicanism, like so many of our conversions I am sure, was deeply spiritual and he knew there was no going back to the old ways. He marked this with his poem, Ash Wednesday, which opens:


Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the agèd eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?

Because I do not hope to know
The infirm glory of the positive hour
Because I do not think
Because I know I shall not know
The one veritable transitory power
Because I cannot drink
There, where trees flower, and springs flow, for there is
nothing again

Because I know that time is always time
And place is always and only place
And what is actual is actual only for one time
And only for one place
I rejoice that things are as they are and
I renounce the blessèd face
And renounce the voice
Because I cannot hope to turn again
Consequently I rejoice, having to construct something
Upon which to rejoice

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain
Because I do not hope to turn again
Let these words answer
For what is done, not to be done again
May the judgement not be too heavy upon us

Because these wings are no longer wings to fly
But merely vans to beat the air
The air which is now thoroughly small and dry
Smaller and dryer than the will
Teach us to care and not to care Teach us to sit still.

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death
Pray for us now and at the hour of our death.

Let us pray:

O God,
without you we are not able to please you;
Mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit
may in all things direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Our Father …

May the God of hope
fill you with all joy and peace in believing,
so that by the Holy Spirit
you may abound in hope,
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be with you and remain with you always. Amen.

(Revd Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism, Liturgy and Church History, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This Introduction to Anglican Spirituality was prepared for the Spirituality Hour in the institute chapel on Monday 12 October 2015.