27 December 2018

Enjoying a new book in
the days after Christmas

Leopardstown House, Co Dublin, the childhood home of FJA Hort ... one of my photographs in the new book ‘The Cultural Reception of the Bible’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Book are always welcome presents at Christmas time. But one book that arrived in the post last week was not so much a present but the arrival of a copy of a book that I had contributed to but had sadly missed its launch in Maynooth earlier this month.

I am one of the many contributors to The Cultural Reception of the Bible: Explorations in Theology, Literature and the Arts, published by Four Courts Press. This new book is edited by Dr Salvador Ryan, Professor of Ecclesiastical History in Maynooth, and Dr Liam Tracey, Professor of Liturgy in Maynooth and was launched three weeks ago (5 December 2018) in the Pugin Hall in Maynooth.

This new a festschrift in honour of Professor Brendan McConvery, who was my lecturer in Biblical studies over 30 years ago, and I have worked with him again in recent years in his capacity as editor of the Redemptorist publication Reality.

My chapter looks at the life and work of Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892), the Cambridge theologian who was one of the three members of the ‘Cambridge Triumvirate,’ along with Brooke Westcott and JB Lightfoot. Hort and Westcott edited The New Testament in the Original Greek, which influenced every subsequent translation of the Greek New Testament into England.

Fenton Hort has been called the ‘greatest English theologian of the (19th) century.’ But I was surprised during my times researching in Cambridge to discover that Fenton Hort was in fact Irish-born, spent his early days in Dublin, and always regarded Ireland as his home.

My chapter is also illustrated with a number of photographs, including one of Hort from his son’s biography, and my photographs of Leopardstown House in Dublin, which was his childhood home, Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he accepted a fellowship in 1822, the former Cambridge Divinity School, where Hort had rooms from 1879, and some of his many books.

In 30 essays, this wide-ranging volume examines the cultural impact of biblical texts, from the early Middle Ages to the present day, on areas such as theology, philosophy, ethics, ecology, politics, literature, art, music and film.

Contributions to this book range from Saadia Gaon’s tenth-century Arabic translation of the Pentateuch to Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film adaptation of The Last Temptation of Christ; from the biblically inspired writings of a late 17th-century French galley slave to Paul Ricoeur’s reading of The Song of Songs; and from the deep biblical culture of fifth-century Rome to the divisions that biblical verses perpetuated in late 20th-century Ulster.

The other contributors to this book are: Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, CSsR (Newark); Thomas O’Loughlin (University of Nottingham); Cornelius Casey, CSsR (Trinity College Dblib); Jeremy Corley (Saint Patrick’s College, Maynooth); Noel O’Sullivan (SPCM); Michael A Conway (SPCM); Jessie Rogers (SPCM); Martin O’Kane (University Wales, Trinity Saint David’s); Kerry Houston (Dublin Institute of Technology); Michael O’Dwyer (Maynooth University); Brian Cosgrove (Maynooth); Diane Corkery (University of Strathclyde); Raphael Gallagher, CSsR (Alphonsianum, Rome); Terence Kennedy, CSsR (Alphonsianum, Rome); Padraig Corkery (Maynooth); Carol Dempsey, OP (University of Portland, Oregon); Thomas R Whelan, CSSp (National Centre for Liturgy, Maynooth); Liam Tracey, OSM (Maynooth); Penelope Woods (Maynooth); Ruth Whelan (Maynooth); Elochukwu Uzukwu, CSSp (Duquesne University); Hugh Connolly (Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris); John-Paul Sheridan (Maynooth); Helen Cashell-Moran (TCD); Katherine Meyer (TCD); Seamus O’Connell (Maynooth); Jonathan Kearney (DCU); Patrick Comerford (CITI/TCD); Martin Henry (Maynooth); Paul Clogher (Waterford Institute of Technology); and the port John F Deane.

Praying at Christmas with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(3): 27 December 2018

Saint John with the poisoned chalice, above the main gate of Saint John’s College, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Christmas continues … today is the Third Day of Christmas. But, instead of expecting ‘three French hens,’ today is the Feast of Saint John the Evangelist [27 December 2018].

Throughout the season of Advent this year, I spent a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar for 2018 being used in Lichfield Cathedral. I am continuing this practice for these few days.

USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

USPG is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current USPG prayer diary (7 October 2018 to 16 February 2019), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

The USPG Prayer Diary began this week with a reflection on Anglican Heritage by Bishop Dato’ Dr Charles Samuel, Suffragan Bishop in the Diocese of West Malaysia.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Thursday 27 December 2018, Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist:

Give thanks for the pioneering work of Christians who offer themselves in service as the hands and feet of Christ.

Saint John’s Close … a street sign in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar:

Lichfield Cathedral’s Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar for 2018 suggests you light your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray. It suggests setting aside five to 15 minutes each day.

Buy or use a special candle to light each day as you read and pray through the suggestions on the calendar. Each week there is a suggestion to ‘eat simply’ – try going without so many calories or too much rich food, just have enough. There is a suggestion to donate to a charity working with the homeless. There is encouragement to pray through what you see and notice going on around you in people, the media and nature.

The calendar is for not only for those who use the Cathedral website and for the Cathedral community. It is also for anyone who wants to share in the daily devotional exercise. The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today’s suggested reading is John 21: 19b-25.

The reflection for today suggests:

God works through his faithful servants. Ask God to give you a definite task to do in his service.

The readings in the Revised Common Lectionary as adapted for use in the Church of Ireland being are:

Exodus 33: 7-11a; Psalm 117; I John 1: 1-9; John 21: 19b-25.

The Collect:

Merciful Lord,
cast your bright beams of light upon the Church;
that, being enlightened by the teaching
of your blessed apostle and evangelist Saint John,
we may so walk in the light of your truth
that we may at last attain to the light of everlasting life
through Jesus Christ your incarnate Son our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

Grant, O Lord, we pray,
that the Word made flesh proclaimed by your apostle John
may ever abide and live within us;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection.

Continued tomorrow.