16 July 2016

‘Strengthen for service, Lord,
the hands that holy things have taken’

Fresh lemons on sale in a supermarket near Rethymnon this morning (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Tomorrow [17 July 2016] is the Eighth Sunday after Trinity. The readings in the Revised Common Lectionary are: Amos 8: 1-12; Psalm 52; Colossians 1: 15-28; and Luke 10: 38-42.

In Crete during the last few weeks, I have noticed how the trees are dripping with fresh fruit, especially lemons, and the vines with ripening grapes. At the same time, fresh, locally-produced fruit – from cherries and pears, to oranges and peaches – are in plentiful supply on the shelves of local shops and supermarkets.

And so the opening words of the Old Testament reading have a special resonance for tomorrow morning, even though the go on to speak about a prophetic warning rather than a blessing:

This is what the Lord God showed me – a basket of summer fruit. He said, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A basket of summer fruit.’ (Amos 8: 1-12)

And looking at the icons in the churches and on sale in the shops, I am reminded in the Epistle reading, despite its awkward translation in most English-language versions, that Christ is the first icon:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers – all things have been created through him and for him. (Colossians 1: 15-16)

The Gospel reading (Luke 10: 38-42) tells a well-known story about Mary and Martha. It has sometimes puzzled readers, but this evening it reminds me that if Mary and Martha are models for priestly ministry, then being is as important in priesthood as is doing:

38 Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. 40 But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ 41 But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;42 there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’


Blessed are you, O Lord,
and blessed are those who observe and keep your law:
Help us to seek you with our whole heart,
to delight in your commandments
and to walk in the glorious liberty
given us by your Son, Jesus Christ.

Post Communion Prayer:

Strengthen for service, Lord,
the hands that holy things have taken;
may the ears which have heard your word
be deaf to clamour and dispute;
may the tongues which have sung your praise be free from deceit;
may the eyes which have seen the tokens of your love
shine with the light of hope;
and may the bodies which have been fed with your body
be refreshed with the fullness of your life;
glory to you for ever.

An icon of Christ as the Great High Priest in a church near Rethymnon this week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Exploring a colourful street on
a summer’s day in Rethymnon

Colourful steps at the top of Cheimárras Street in Rethymnon, close to the entrance to the Fortezza (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Cheimárras Street is a colourful, narrow, winding street in Rethymnon that twists and turns its way from the old Venetian Fortezza that crowns the heart of the town down past the Museum of Contemporary Art, to Melissinou Street, where the icon writer Alexandra Kaouki has her studios.

Cheimárras Street – or Himáras Street, depending on how you choose to render the Greek Χειμάρρας – is in among the warren of streets clustered around the Fortezza.

The minaret of a mosque glimpsed between the dome and the bell tower of two churches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

From the back of the car park at the top of the street, there are views across the town, and I noticed in the afternoon how the minaret of a mosque could be seen squeezed between the dome of a church and the bell tower of another church – an illustration of the mixed past of this town, and stories of Christian-Muslim interaction and tensions.

The street takes its name from Himára, a Greek-speaking town in Epirus in southern Albania. For most Greeks the name is a reminder of the Battle of Himara in December 1940, when the Greek Army defeated the invading Italians.

The capture of Himára was celebrated as a major success in Greece and emboldened the Greek army to push the Italians further north. After the Greek victory, Mussolini admitted that one of the causes of the Italian defeat was the high morale of the Greek troops.

After the Greek victory, the town was incorporated into Greece for a brief period until by the German invasion.

But in Rethymnon, Cheimárras Street is a peaceful place on a summer afternoon, far from any thoughts of war and conflict today.

Vassilis … one of the colourful tavernas on Cheimárras Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

At the top of Cheimárras Street, close to the entrance to the Fortezza, two tavernas, Melina and Vassilis, stand on opposite sides of the street. Both are highly recommended in all the guidebooks, although I have yet to yet in either of them. They are both colourful, and Vassilis prides itself on its eccentric and inviting decoration.

Bougainvillea draping the old doorway of No 19 on the way down the street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

As you start walking down the street, the houses and pretty and charming, the steps in the side alleys are painted colourfully, and even old doorways that seem to have fallen into disrepair are draped in bougainvillea or decorated with old watering cans that have been filled with flowers.
A house with pretty colours at the corner where the street takes a sharp turn (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Each house is to be pretty and charming in its own self-contained way. On the corner where the street takes a sharp turn two-thirds of the way down, there is a house with pretty colours and potted flowers that I have photographed on many occasions.

Flowers and windows of a house on the street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

The street continues on down past a book shop, Book Stop, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, and ends at another corner taverna.

The taverna at the bottom of the street, beside the Museum of Contemporary Art (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)