02 January 2017

‘For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice’

‘Between two waves of the sea’ … by the waves in Dun Laoghaire on Sunday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

The New Year has truly settled in, the old year is truly passed, and as we allow memories to settle down and get on with the tasks ahead, I think of words of TS Eliot in ‘Little Gidding,’ the last of his Four Quartets:

Last season’s fruit is eaten
And the fullfed beast shall kick the empty pail.
For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

I am about to spend a few days in Rome, both as a city break and as a mini-retreat, combining time to explore historical and cultural sites with time to think and pray as I prepare for a new stage in life.

Over the past few days, I have spent a lot of time walking by rivers, lakes and shorelines and the sea: Blackrock (last Monday), Loughshinny and Skerries (Tuesday), the boating lake in Farmleigh and the Royal Canal in Castleknock (Wednesday), the Maigue at Adare and the Deel at Askeaton (Thursday), the beach in Bray (Friday), Donabate and Portrane (Saturday), the Liffey in Dublin and the harbour in Dun Laoghaire (Sunday).

‘Through the unknown, unremembered gate’ … a gate in the Rectory gardens in Askeaton, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

As new gates open, and as I move on, there are new places to explore, new shores and rivers to walk by, to explore and to discover. And yet, the end of all our exploring brings us back to the source and the beginning, and we know in the stillness, in the words of Julian of Norwich, that ‘all shall be well and All manner of thing shall be well.’

Or, as Eliot concludes ‘Little Gidding’:

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 flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

By the banks of the River Deel in Askeaton, Co Limerick, last week (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying at Christmas with USPG,
(9): 2 January 2017

Inside Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick … today commemorates Saint Munchin of Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2016)

Patrick Comerford

Today, the Calendar of the Church of Ireland commemorates Saint Munchin, the patron saint of the Diocese of Limerick, and as I prepare to move to the parishes of Rathkeale, Askeaton and Kilcornan (Castletown) in the Diocese of Limerick and Kilnaughtin (Tarbert) in the Diocese of Ardfert, Co Ardfert, later this month [20 January 2017] and a new ministry in those dioceses, the parishioners and people of these areas are very much in my prayers and in my thoughts today.

Although New Year’s Day is over, the holiday atmosphere seems to continue, and because New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday today is another public holiday or bank holiday in Ireland [2 January 2016].

Of course, we are still in the Christmas season, and each morning throughout the Twelve Days of Christmas I am using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), for my morning prayers and reflections.

This week, the prayers in the USPG Prayer Diary focus on the needs and work of the Anglican Church of Indonesia.

Indonesia has an area of 2 million sq km, a maritime area or 7.9 million sq km, and more than 17,000 islands. The capital is Jakarta and the total population is about 224 million people, making Indonesia the fourth-most populous nation in the world.

Indonesia also has the world’s largest Muslim population. Islam is the largest religious group (87%) with Protestant Christianity at 6%, followed by Roman Catholicism (3%), Hinduism (2%), and Buddhism (1%).

Before the coming of Islam and Christianity, the islands of Java and Sumatra were occupied by two major empires: the Buddhist kingdom of Srivijaya and then the Hindu kingdom of Majapahit. Islam arrived in the 12th century and by the end of the 16th century it was the dominant religion in Java and Sumatra.

Protestant Christianity came to Indonesia principally through the Dutch in the 17th century. The Dutch ruled Indonesia for 300 years until independence, and the Dutch Reformed Church remains the dominant Protestant Church in Indonesia.

The British invaded Java in 1811 and Thomas Raffles of British East India Company became the Lieutenant Governor of Java. In 1816, the British handed over the island of Java to the Dutch and All Saints’ Church (Anglican) was established in Jakarta in 1819. It is the oldest English-speaking church in Indonesia and at one time was the base for the London Missionary Society’s mission to China. Later, it became a colonial chaplaincy and an international church in the last 50 years.

All Saints’ Church is under the episcopal care of the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Singapore.

In 1993, Bishop Moses Tay established the Deanery of Indonesia with the objective to lay the ground work for the future Diocese of Indonesia. The Revd Canon Dr James Wong was the first dean, and the Revd George Tay succeeded him. The church is formally registered as the Gereja Anglikan Indonesia (Anglican Church of Indonesia). The thrust of the church-planting efforts is to reach out to the indigenous people of Indonesia.

Since 1993, GAI has established 30 churches in 10 provinces. There are two foundations, working in micro-financing and education, one full school and three kindergartens.

In the USPG Prayer Diary, the Revd Henok Hariyanto, of the Church of the Good Shepherd, wrote yesterday about his work on the island of Batam in a poor slum community.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Monday 2 January 2017:

Give thanks for the mission of Henok and the Church of the Good Shepherd on Batam Island, Indonesia. Pray for healing in the community

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

I John 2: 22-28; Psalm 98: 1-4; John 1: 19-28.

The Collect of the Day:

Almighty God,
who wonderfully created us in your own image
and yet more wonderfully restored us
through your Son Jesus Christ:
Grant that, as he came to share in our humanity,
so we may share the life of his divinity;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Continued tomorrow