14 February 2016

‘We are not worthy so much as to
gather up the crumbs under your table’

In Whitefriar Street Church in inner city Dublin early yesterday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

This has been a busy working weekend. There has been a field trip with students to the shrine of Saint Valentine in Whitefriar Street in inner-city Dublin; a series of lectures for the reader training programme; dissertation supervision; and a celebration of the Eucharist this morning at the end of a residential weekend for MTh students.

Later this afternoon, I was at the ordination of a former student, who was ordained priest in Christ Church Cathedral.

The Prayer of Humble Access is always a moving spiritual moment at celebrations of the Eucharist:

We do not presume to come to this your table,
merciful Lord,
trusting in our own righteousness
but in your manifold and great mercies.
We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.
But you art the same Lord,
whose nature is always to have mercy.
Grant us, therefore, gracious Lord,
so to eat the flesh of your 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.

This morning, as I stood at the altar presiding at the Eucharist, I was taken aback by the words, “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.”

Last night, I had watched a short video of two abandoned children caught up in Syria’s bloody civil war fending for themselves by picking up crumbs of bread from the street to eat.

These two homeless mites, who are braver than any groups fighting or waging war in Syria, tell the camera crew: “We go to sleep hungry, we wake up hungry.”

The 10-year-old girl says she has been collecting bread crumbs off the street with her brother because their area of Damascus, al-Hajar, has been under siege for more than 15 months.

“If we had food, you wouldn’t have seen us here.”

But their final message to the world that has abandoned them is: “May you be happy and blessed with what God has given you!”

Reflections of Christ Church Cathedral in the storm pools this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Hymns and readings at the Eucharist
on the First Sunday in Lent

Driven by the Spirit into the Wilderness’ (1942), by Stanley Spencer (1891-1959)

Patrick Comerford

Although many people are going to refer to today as Saint Valentine’s Day, this is the First Sunday in Lent (14 February 2016). Tis morning, I am presiding at the Eucharist in the chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute at 11.30 a.m., and the preacher is the Revd Ken Rue, priest in the parishes of Killiskey and Wicklow in the Diocese of Glendalough.

The readings are: Deuteronomy 26: 1-11; Psalm 91: 1-2, 9-16; Romans 10: 8b-13; and Luke 4: 1-13.

The illustrations on the cover of the brochure for this morning’s Eucharist are two paintings by Stanley Spencer, reflecting the theme in the Gospel reading.

The booklet also includes this note on the theme, readings and hymns:

A note on this morning’s service and hymns:

This morning’s readings, collect and post-communion prayer are those for the First Sunday in Lent. Three of our hymns this morning are from the new supplemental hymnal, Thanks & Praise. This is Lent, so we are not singing Gloria this morning. But, as this is also Saint Valentine’s Day, some of our hymns hint at the theme of love.

Processional Hymn: ‘Our Father, we have worshipped’ (Thanks and Praise, 116) by Monsignor Kevin Nichols (1926-2006), is a hymn of lament appropriate at the beginning of Lent. Professor Nichols was a teacher for most of his working life and a member of the International Committee for English in the Liturgy (ICEL). His words are based on the story of the Prodigal Son (see Luke 15) and are a wonderful reminder of our unworthiness and the incredible grace of God. The tune ‘Salley Gardens’ is an Irish folk melody originally known as ‘The Maids of Mourne Shore.’ The arrangement for Thanks and Praise is by the Revd Dr Peter Thompson, Succentor of Armagh Cathedral.

Gradual: ‘Jesus tempted in the desert’ (Thanks and Praise, 78) is by the well-known American Lutheran hymn writer and Professor of Preaching, the Revd Herman G. Stuempfle jr (1923-2007). The tune ‘Ebenezer’ by Thomas John Williams (1869-1944) is best-known as the tune for ‘O the deep, deep love of Jesus’ (Church Hymnal 105). Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), who harmonised this tune, said it is ‘amongst the world’s one hundred finest tunes.’

Offertory: ‘Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life’ (Church Hymnal, 610) was written as a poem by George Herbert (1593-1632) and published a year after his death in The Temple (1633). It has been described as ‘a trinity of trinities.’ The tune ‘The Call’ by Vaughan Williams is adapted from the fourth of his Five Mystical Songs (1911).

Communion Hymn: As we receive Holy Communion, we sing ‘Jesus, remember me’ (Church Hymnal, 617), by Jacques Berthier (1923-1994) and the Taizé Community. Berthier, working with Father Robert Giscard and Father Joseph Gelineau, developed the ‘songs of Taizé’ genre. He composed 284 songs and accompaniments for Taizé, including Laudate omnes gentes and Ubi Caritas.

Post Communion Hymn: ‘We shall go out with hope of resurrection’ (Thanks and Praise, 158) is by the Revd June Boyce-Tilman, Professor Applied Music at the University of Winchester. It sends us out with ‘tales of a love that will not let us go … including all within the circles of our love.’ The tune Isle of Innisfree is by the Irish composer Dick Farrelly (1916-1990), and was the principal musical theme of the film The Quiet Man (1952). It was arranged for Thanks and Praise by Jacqueline Mullen.

Patrick Comerford,
14 February 2016

The Collect:

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
Give us grace to discipline ourselves
in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord God,
you renew us with the living bread from heaven.
Nourish our faith,
increase our hope,
strengthen our love,
and enable us to live by every word
that proceeds from out of your mouth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

‘Christ in the Wilderness, The scorpion’ by Stanley Spencer (1891-1959)

A journey through Lent 2016
with Samuel Johnson (5)

Percy Hetherington Fitzgerald’s statue of James Boswell (1740-1795), the biographer of Samuel Johnson, in the Market Square in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Patrick Comerford

During Lent this year, I am taking time each morning to reflect on words from Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield lexicographer and writer who compiled the first authoritative English-language dictionary.

This morning [14 February 2016] is the First Sunday in Lent but many people are also marking today as Saint Valentine’s Day and thinking about love.

Johnson wrote in the Rambler on 4 January 1752: “It is always necessary to be loved, but not always necessary to be reverenced.”

In his biography of Johnson, Boswell recalled the following conversation:

I regretted that I had lost much of my disposition to admire, which people generally do as they advance in life.

Johnson: “Sir, as a man advances in life, he gets what is better than admiration – judgement, to estimate things at their true value.”

I still insisted that admiration was more pleasing than judgment, as love is more pleasing than friendship. The feeling of friendship is like that of being comfortably filled with roast beef; love, like being enlivened with champagne.

Johnson: “No, Sir, admiration and love are like being intoxicated with champagne; judgement and friendship like being enlivened.”

Continued tomorrow.

Yesterday’s reflection.