Wednesday, 12 May 2021

‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem …
Peace be within your walls’

‘‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’ (Psalm 122: 6) … the city of Jerusalem depicted on a tile in a restaurant (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

(Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I spent much of today (12 May 2021) at a meeting of the trustees of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This was a virtual meeting by Zoom, rather than an actual physical meeting in the USPG offices in Southwark, and I missed the actual contact we have with one another at those physical meetings: the throw-away remarks, the asides, the knowing glances, the one-to-one contact with one another over shared coffees, over lunch, or as we hang around in ones and twos, lingering a little longer after the meeting ends in the afternoon.

All of these contacts, which are difficult if nor impossible online, help to build confidence, nurture friendships, bridge any gaps between trustees and staff, and develop the ethos and values of USPG

I particularly miss each and all of these opportunities as this was one of my last meetings of trustees. I am due to step down after six years as a trustee at the USPG annual conference, which takes place at the High Leigh Conference Centre near Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire on 19 to 21 July.

I am still hoping against hope that I may be able to take part in this year’s conference. So, it was a personal pleasure to have been asked to provide a review of the meeting as our agenda reached a conclusion this afternoon.

In our prayers this afternoon we remembered five people associated with USPG who died since our last meeting:

• The Right Revd Botomazava Théophile, Bishop of Antsiranana, Madagascar, died 8 March 2021
• The Revd Herbert Frederick Giraud Floate, SPG/USPG missionary in the Seychelles and on Rodrigues (Diocese of Mauritius), died 17 March 2021
• The Revd Brian Taylor, SPG/USPG missionary in the Diocese of Kuching, Malaysia, died 25 March 2021
• The Right Revd Collin Theodore, member of the Brotherhood of the Ascended Christ in Delhi and former Bishop of Rajasthan, died 15 April 2021
• Dr James Tejosh Das, former General Secretary of the Church of Bangladesh, died 20 April 2021

Given the current news these days, I found it appropriate to conclude those prayers today with verses from Psalm 122, which is a ‘Song of Praise and Prayer for Jerusalem’:

6 Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.
7 Peace be within your walls,
and security within your towers.’
8 For the sake of my relatives and friends
I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
9 For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
I will seek your good.

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
85, Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral

With ‘Scouser’ humour, Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral is sometimes known as ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Sunday (9 May 2021) was the Sixth Sunday of Easter and we celebrate Ascension Day tomorrow (13 May 2021). My photographs this week are selected from seven cathedrals throughout England. Earlier in these reflections, during Lent, I used images from Lichfield Cathedral (15 March 2021) and Coventry Cathedral (19 March). But these cathedrals, which I have visited in recent years, have been selected randomly.

This morning (12 May 2021), my photographs are from the Roman Catholic cathedral in Liverpool. Ten years ago (16 October 2011), the then Dean of Liverpool, now Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, invited me to preach at the Judges’ Service in Liverpool Cathedral, and I also visited the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, one of Liverpool’s many listed buildings, is about half a mile north of Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral. Once nick-named ‘Paddy’s Wigwam,’ it was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd (1908-1984).

Earlier designs for a cathedral had been proposed by AWN Pugin’s son, Edward Welby Pugin, by Sir Edwin Lutyens, who is buried in the crypt, and by Adrian Gilbert Scott, brother of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, architect of the city’s Anglican cathedral.

Gibberd designed a circular building with the altar at its centre. Construction began in 1962 and the cathedral was completed in 1967.

The cathedral is built in concrete with a Portland stone cladding and an aluminium covering to the roof. It has a circular plan, with a diameter of 59 metres (195 feet), with 13 chapels around the perimeter. The cathedral is conical in shape, and it is surmounted by a tower in the shape of a truncated cone. The building is supported by 16 boomerang-shaped concrete trusses, held together by two ring beams. Flying buttresses are attached to the trusses, giving the cathedral its tent-like appearance.

A lantern tower rising from the upper ring beam has windows of stained glass, and there is a crown of pinnacles at its peak.

The entrance is at the top of a wide flight of steps leading up from Hope Street. Above the entrance is a large wedge-shaped structure that acts as a bell tower, with four bells mounted in rectangular orifices towards the top of the tower. Below is a geometric relief sculpture, designed by William Mitchell, with three crosses. To the sides of the entrance doors are four reliefs in fibreglass by Mitchell, representing the four evangelists.

The altar is made of white marble from Skopje in Northern Macedonia, and is 3 metres (10 ft) long. Above the altar, the tower has large areas of stained glass designed by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens in three colours, yellow, blue and red, representing the Trinity. There is a series of chapels around the perimeter.

The two cathedrals are linked by Hope Street, named after William Hope, a Liverpool merchant whose house stood on the site now occupied by the Philharmonic Hall and the street was named long before the two cathedrals were built.

The four bells at the Roman Catholic Cathedral have been named locally as John, George, Paul and Ringo (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 16: 12-15 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 12 ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.’

William Mitchell’s geometric relief sculpture of Saint John … one of a series with the symbols of the four evangelists (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (12 May 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Bless them in the work they do and in their relationships with other churches around the world.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Inside the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The tower above the altar has large areas of stained glass by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens in three colours – yellow, blue and red – representing the Trinity (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Tuesday, 11 May 2021

A photograph in a journal,
a book review and two
chapters in a new book

‘The Holy City,’ a batik by Thetis Blacker in the Royal Foundation of Saint Katharine in London … a photograph in the latest edition of ‘Case Quarterly’ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

I spent about 15 years in academic life, with four years part-time and 11 years full-time at the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and Trinity College Dublin.

Four years later, there is still joy in finding my work is being used in academic publications and journals. In the past week, I received confirmation that a book review has been published in one journal, that a photograph has been used in an Australian journal, and that two chapters are included in a book due to be published around next November.

In addition, I have been asked to write a lengthy paper on Orthodox theology for a major, peer-reviewed journal for publication next year.

My book review has been published this month in the current edition of the Irish Theological Quarterly … but more about that later this week, hopefully.

My two chapters are being published later this year in Birth and the Irish: a Miscellany, the third in a series of books edited by Professor Salvador Ryan of Maynooth and published in Dublin by Wordwell.

One of my submissions looks at the birth in poverty in Dublin of Albert Grant, who became a Conservative MP and a financial fraudster; the other tells the story of sons in the French family in Co Roscommon who were born to parents who married each other, not once but twice, and why some of them were unable to inherit the family title.

I have also contributed to the earlier books in this series, Marriage and the Irish (2019) and Death and the Irish (2016), and to other books edited by Salvador Ryan, including We remember Maynooth (2020), co-edited with John-Paul Sheridan, The Cultural Reception of the Bible (2018), co-edited with Liam Treacy, Treasures of Irish Christianity Volume III (2015), and Treasures of Irish Christianity Volume II (2013), co-edited with Bishop Brendan Leahy.

Meanwhile, I have received the latest edition of Case Quarterly, published by the Centre for Christian Apologetics, Scholarship and Education, part of New College at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

The latest edition (No 60, 2021) looks at ‘the Beauty Paradox,’ and my photograph is one of the images illustrating ‘Coming to our senses’ (pp 21-27), a paper by Dr Dani Scarratt, co-editor of Case Quarterly and Alison Woof, copy editor of Case Quarterly.

In their paper, they say: ‘A wall hanging of the New Jerusalem can be a reminder of the inheritance in store for those who persevere.’ So, it seems appropriate that one of the images illustrating their paper is my photograph of ‘The Holy City,’ a batik by Thetis Blacker in the Royal Foundation of Saint Katharine in London.

But more about the other papers, book reviews and chapters in the weeks or months ahead.

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
84, Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral

Liverpool Cathedral is the largest in the Church of England, and the longest and fifth largest in the world (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Sunday (9 May 2021) was the Sixth Sunday of Easter and later this week we celebrate Ascension Day. My photographs this week are selected from seven cathedrals throughout England. Earlier in these reflections, during Lent, I used images from Lichfield Cathedral (15 March 2021) and Coventry Cathedral (19 March). But these cathedrals, which I have visited in recent years, have been selected randomly.

This morning (11 May 2021), my photographs are from the Church of England cathedral in Liverpool. Ten years ago (16 October 2011), the then Dean of Liverpool, now Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury, invited me to preach at the Judges’ Service in Liverpool Cathedral. I was a guest too at the Judges’ Dinner in the Sir Giles Gilbert Scott Rooms in Liverpool Cathedral, and at a lunch hosted by the High Sheriff of Merseyside, the late Professor Helen Carty, at the Artists’ Club.

There are more listed buildings in Liverpool than in any other English city, apart from London. They include Liverpool Cathedral, which stands on Saint James’s Mount. There are two cathedrals in Liverpool: Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral the Roman Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King.

The Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool is the largest cathedral in the Church of England, and the longest and fifth largest in the world: the external length, including the Lady Chapel, is 189 metres (620 ft), while its internal length is 146 metres (479 ft. The belltower is the largest and one of the tallest, in the world, and houses the world’s highest (67 m) and heaviest (31 short tons) ringing peal of bells.

This is only the third Anglican cathedral to be built in England since the Reformation –Saint Paul’s Cathedral was rebuilt by Christopher Wren in London in 1666 after the Great Fire, and Truro Cathedral was built in the 19th century. Although Liverpool Cathedral is dedicated to Christ and the Blessed Virgin, its official name is the Cathedral Church of Christ in Liverpool. But it is known to one and all simply as Liverpool Cathedral.

The magnificent central space of the cathedral stretches east from the bridge towards the choir and the high altar. The central space dominates the view of the cathedral and its enormity gives an impression of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s vision of our relationship with God. This central space has witnessed a variety of services, occasions and events, with congregations up to 2,000 at a variety of worship and celebration services, special events and exhibitions.

When John Charles Ryle (1816-1900) became the first Bishop of Liverpool in 1880, his new diocese had no cathedral. Saint Peter’s Parish Church served as a ‘pro-cathedral,’ but it was too small for major events, and the Rector of Liverpool at the time described it as ‘ugly and hideous.’ The site of Saint John’s Church, beside Saint George’s Hall, was unsuitable for a cathedral and those plans were abandoned too.

Bishop Francis Chavasse (1846-1928), a former principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, became the second bishop in 1900 and immediately revived the project to build a cathedral in the face of opposition from some evangelical clergy, who argued there was no need for such expense. Although Chavasse was an Evangelical too, he envisaged a cathedral as ‘a visible witness to God in the midst of a great city.’ A new site was chosen at Saint James’s Mount.

The cathedral historian Vere Cotton wrote that, ‘with the exception of Durham, no English cathedral is so well placed to be seen to advantage both from a distance and from its immediate vicinity. That such a site, convenient to yet withdrawn from the centre of the city … dominating the city and clearly visible from the river, should have been available is not the least of the many strokes of good fortune which have marked the history of the cathedral.’

The Liverpool Cathedral Act (1902) allowed the diocese to buy the site, but once the cathedral was open Saint Peter’s Church was to be demolished and the site sold to endow the new cathedral chapter.

The stipulations for the cathedral design stirred controversy, and Reginald Blomfield and others protested, describing the Gothic style as a ‘worn-out flirtation in antiquarianism, now relegated to the limbo of art delusions.’

There was further controversy when the commission went to 22-year-old Giles Gilbert Scott (1880-1960). He was from a distinguished line of architects that stretched back for generations. His grandfather, Sir George Gilbert Scott (1811-1878), was inspired by Pugin to join the Gothic Revival, designed the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park, the Martyrs’ Memorial in Oxford and the Midland Grand Hotel at Saint Pancras in London, and his many restorations included Lichfield Cathedral, Canterbury Cathedral and Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth. His father, George Gilbert Scott (1839-1897), was a leading exponent of the Gothic Revival, known for many buildings in Cambridge colleges.

But young Giles Gilbert Scott he was still in articles with only the design of a pipe-rack to his credit. His selection became even more contentious when it was revealed that Scott was a Roman Catholic. Scott was placed under the direct supervision of his father’s close friend, GF Bodley, work began without delay, and the foundation stone was laid by King Edward VII in 1904. At the end of the great open-air service, the choir of a thousand voices sang the ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from Handel’s Messiah.

However, Bodley’s collaboration with Scott became fractious, and Bodley’s absences from Liverpool were frequent. When Bodley died in 1907, Scott submitted an entirely new design for the main body of the cathedral that was approved in 1910.

The cathedral was built mainly of sandstone quarried – well, the Beatles did first call themselves The Quarrymen. The Lady Chapel, originally intended to be called the Morning Chapel, was consecrated by Bishop Chavasse on Saint Peter’s Day, 29 June 1910 – a date chosen to honour the pro-cathedral, about to be demolished.

The richness of the décor of the Lady Chapel dismayed some of Liverpool’s evangelical clergy, upset that were presented with ‘a feminised building which lacked reference to the ‘manly’ and ‘muscular Christian’ thinking which had emerged in reaction to the earlier feminisation of religion.’ To many, the new cathedral seemed to be too Anglo-Catholic in design.

The cathedral was consecrated by Bishop Chavasse on 19 July 1924, the 20th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone, and in 1931 Frederick William Dwelly became the first Dean of Liverpool.

The central section was completed by 1941 and was handed over to the Dean and Chapter. Scott laid the last stone of the last pinnacle in 1942, but work did not resume until 1948 and the bomb damage, particularly to the Lady Chapel, was not fully repaired until 1955.

When Scott died in 1960, the first bay of the nave was nearly complete, and it was handed over to the Dean and Chapter in 1961. The cathedral was finally completed in 1978. The cathedral celebrated its centenary in 2004.

Sir Giles Gilbert Scott is also remembered as the designer of the red telephone box, the now defunct Battersea Power Station, and the Bankside Power Station in London, now the Tate Modern. His other works include the Memorial Court (1923-1934) at Clare College, Cambridge, and the University Library on West Road, Cambridge, much criticised for looking more like a ‘crematorium or a power station.’

Archbishop Welby was succeeded as Dean of Liverpool by Canon Pete Wilcox, Chancellor of Lichfield Cathedral and now Bishop of Sheffield. The present Dean of Liverpool is the Very Revd Sue Jones.

The Anglican cathedral dominates Liverpool’s city skyline and is clearly visible from the waterfront (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 16: 5-11 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 5 But now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: 9 about sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.’

The enormity of Liverpool Cathedral gives an impression of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s vision of our relationship with God (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (11 May 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us remember the life of Mary Seacole, a compassionate and resilient woman who provided healing in times of conflict. May we emulate her caring attitude towards others.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The high altar and east window in Liverpool Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

With the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool, the Most Revd Patrick Kelly, and the late Professor Helen Carty, then High Sheriff of Merseyside, and at the Judges’ Service in Liverpool Cathedral on Sunday 16 October 2011

Monday, 10 May 2021

Reopening our four churches
with caution and confidence

‘Come Holy Spirit’ … Sunday 23 May is Pentecost or Whit Sunday … the holy water stoup in the Chapel of Saint John’s Hospital, Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

From Monday next (10 May), our churches may open again, with caution, as part of the easing of the pandemic lockdown.

This does not mean everything has returned to normal, and we are being advised to take the first steps with caution.

We need to continue to wear face masks in church, to use hand sanitisers in the churches, to keep social distances in the pews, to take contact details, and (at present) to avoid hymn-singing.

How can we reopen our churches with caution but with confidence?

It is important to avoid being a ‘super-spreaders’, and yet to offer the opportunity for everyone to return to church as soon as possible. The Ascension Eucharist is being celebrated in Saint Mary's Church, Askeaton, on Thursday morning (13 May), and then on the following four Sundays our four churches begin to open, one-by-one, in sequence and alphabetically, so that all four churches have a fair and equal opportunity of reopening.

This sequence also allows the four Easter Vestries to meet in sequence.

These first services take the form of the Parish Eucharist, although the chalice is still not being shared, and no-one should feel they have to receive. We can listen to the hymns without singing them. And shorter sermons are planned too.

For those who remain uncomfortable about coming to church, please do not be embarrassed or feel any compulsion. The Sunday sermons shall continue to be recorded and made available on YouTube, Facebook and through Patrick’s blog each week.

After these four weeks, hopefully, we may find it possible to return to the normal schedule of two services each Sunday. But let’s see how these first four weeks go before making future commitments.

Please ignore the proposed services listed in Newslink. This is the list of planned services for the immediate future, with readings and hymns:

Thursday 13 May, The Ascension Day:

11 am, The Festal Eucharist,
Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton

Readings: Acts 1: 1-11; Psalm 47; Luke 24: 44-53

Hymns: 259, Christ triumphant, ever reigning (CD 16); 634, Love divine, all loves excelling (CD 36).

Sunday 16 May, Easter VII:

11 am, The Parish Eucharist,
Saint Mary’s Church, Askeaton
Followed by Askeaton Easter Vestry

Readings: Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26; Psalm 1; John 17: 6-19

Hymns: 461, For all thy saints, O Lord (CD 27); 518, Bind us together, Lord (CD 30).

Sunday 23 May, Pentecost (Whit Sunday):

11 am, The Parish Eucharist,
Castletown Church, Kilcornan
Followed by Castletown Easter Vestry

Readings: Acts 2: 1-21; Psalm 104: 26-36, 37b; John 15: 26-27, 16: 4b-15

Hymns: 386, Spirit of God, unseen as the wind (CD 23); 310, Spirit of the living God (CD 306)

Sunday 30 May, Trinity Sunday:

11 am, The Parish Eucharist,
Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale
Followed by Rathkeale Easter Vestry

Readings: Isaiah 6: 1-8; Psalm 29; John 3: 1-17

Hymns: 321, Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty (CD 19); 373, To God be the glory! Great things he has done! (CD 22)

Sunday 6 June, Trinity I:

11 am, The Parish Eucharist,
Saint Brendan’s Church, Tarbert (Kilnaughtin)
Followed by Tarbert (Kilnaughtin) Easter Vestry

Readings: I Samuel 8: 4-11, 16-20; Psalm 138; Mark 3: 20-35

Hymns: 522, In Christ there is no east or west (CD 30); 662, Those who would valour see (CD 38)

Patrick Comerford

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
83, Peterborough Cathedral

Peterborough Cathedral is known for its imposing Early English Gothic West Front with its three enormous arches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Sunday (9 May 2021) was the Sixth Sunday of Easter and later this week we celebrate Ascension Day. My photographs this week are selected from seven cathedrals throughout England. Earlier in these reflections, during Lent, I used images from Lichfield Cathedral (15 March 2021) and Coventry Cathedral (19 March). But these cathedrals, which I have visited in recent years, have been selected randomly.

This morning (10 May 2021), my photographs are from Peterborough Cathedral, which describes itself as ‘a holy place for over 1,300 years’ that ‘inspires awe and wonder in everyone who approaches the magnificent west front; even more so when they enter inside.’

Peterborough Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Andrew. The three arches forming the Great West Front are the defining image of the cathedral, unrivalled in mediaeval architecture.

This is also one of the early centres of Christianity in central England and one of the most important 12th-century buildings in England.

The statues of the cathedral’s three patrons, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Andrew, look down from the three high gables of the West Front. Although the cathedral was founded in the Anglo-Saxon period, its architecture is mainly Norman, following a rebuilding in the 12th century.

Despite extensions and restorations over the centuries, this cathedral remains one of the most important 12th-century buildings in England to have remained largely intact in England, alongside the cathedrals in Durham and Ely.

At the Dissolution of the Monasteries at the Reformation, the great abbey church closed, its lands and properties were confiscated, and the collection of relics was dispersed, stolen or lost.

However, the abbey church survived because it was chosen by Henry VIII as the cathedral of the new Diocese of Peterborough in 1541, and the last Abbot of Peterborough, John Chambers, became the first Bishop of Peterborough.

The Diocese of Peterborough covers the northern half of Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, and the counties of Northamptonshire and Rutland. Peterborough Cathedral was one of the last great churches to be built in the Romanesque style. The cathedral celebrated its 900th anniversary three years ago (2018).

Inside Peterborough Cathedral … one of the most important 12th-century buildings in England (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 26 to 16: 4 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 26 ‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf. 27 You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning.

1 ‘I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. 3 And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me. 4 But I have said these things to you so that when their hour comes you may remember that I told you about them.

‘I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.’

The fan vault in the ‘New Building’ at the east end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (10 May 2021) invites us to pray:

We pray for the work of leaders across the world church. May they work together to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The ceiling in the apse chapel was painted in 1856 to a design by Sir George Gilbert Scott and depicts Christ as the True Vine, with the apostles as the branches (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Peterborough Cathedral seen from the Guildhall (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sunday, 9 May 2021

Sunday intercessions on
9 May 2021, Easter VI

‘Almighty God, whose will it is that the earth and the sea should bear fruit in due season’ (the Rogation Collect) … summer fruit on a stall in Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Let us pray:

‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love’ (John 15: 9):

Heavenly Father,
we pray for the nations of the world,
and for our own country Ireland, north and south.

We give thanks for all who are involved in responding to the present pandemic crisis …
for all in vaccination centres, in health centres and in medical practices …
for all volunteers, medical professionals and administrators …
for all who make decisions and seek to influence public opinion for the good …
for all who hold out hope and promise for our future as the country begins to open up tomorrow …
and we pray too for the people of India in their suffering …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you’ (John 15: 12):

Lord Jesus Christ,
we pray for the Church,
that we may love one another
as you love us.

We pray for our Bishop, Kenneth, our neighbouring churches and parishes,
and people of faith everywhere,
that we may be blessed in our variety and diversity.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer,
we pray for the Anglican Church of Kenya,
and Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit.

We pray for all involved in Christian Aid Week this week (10 to 16 May).

In the Church of Ireland this month,
we pray for the Diocese of Conor
and Bishop George Davison.

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer this week,
we pray for the Skreen Union of parishes in the Diocese of Killala,
their priest, Canon Noel Regan,
and the people of Christ Church, Dromard,
Saint Mary’s, Kilmacshalgan, and Skreen Church.

We pray for our own parishes and people,
and we pray for ourselves …

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (John 15: 13):

Holy Spirit,
we pray for one another …
we pray for those we love and those who love us …
we pray for family, friends and neighbours …
and we pray for those we promised to pray for …

We pray for those who feel rejected and discouraged …
we pray for all in need and those who seek healing …
for all who work for healing …
for all waiting for healing …
for all who have taken part in Darkness into Light this weekend (8 May) …

We pray for those who are sick or isolated,
at home or in hospital …

Ann … Valerie … Daphne … Sylvia … Ajay …
Joey … Ena … George … Louise … Patrick ‘Pa’ Quilligan …

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …
for Ruby and the Shorten family … the O’Raw family … Des and Maureen Reid …
John and Anne Keane … Mary Downes and family …

We remember and give thanks for those who have died …
especially for Larry O’Raw … Ruth Reid … Ernest Gardiner …
Kathleen Marley … John Keane …
May their memories be a blessing …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer from the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) on the Sixth Sunday of Easter:

‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’.
Beloved God,
May we treat one another as true equals.
Let us love each other as your Son taught us to.

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

‘If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love’ (John 15: 10) … ‘Love is the Answer’, a decoration in a shop window in Skerries, Co Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

These intercessions were prepared for use in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes on the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Sunday 9 May 2021



‘This is my commandment,
that you love one another
as I have loved you’

A carved relief of Nike, the goddess of victory, on a paved street in Ephesus … but the author of I John writes to the Church in Ephesus about more important signs of victory (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday, 9 May 2021,

The Sixth Sunday of Easter (Easter VI), Rogation Sunday.

10 a.m.: The Parish Eucharist

The Readings: Acts 10: 44-48 or Isaiah 45: 11-13, 18-19; Psalm 98; I John 4: 7-10; John 15: 9-17.

There is a direct link to the readings HERE.

‘You are my friends if you do what I command you’ (John 15: 14) … detail on a sculpture in Knightstown on Valentia Island, Co Kerry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2020)

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

We live in the age of globalisation.

In a recent visual challenge online, people were more likely to recognise seven brand logos than they were to recognise the Seven Wonders of the World, or the seven symbols of the major world faiths.

What symbols or logos do you easily recognise?

Which logos or symbols have you allowed to brand you?

And – what symbols in your life mark you out, make you visible as a Christian?

One of the best-known symbols of globalisation must be the Nike Swoosh logo. We find it on tracksuits, sweatshirts, trainers, sneakers, and T-shirts all over the world. There must be few people who do not recognise the Nike logo. It has been sported by the likes of Michael Jordan, Andre Agassi, Maria Sharapova and Venus and Serena Williams.

The company takes its name from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, and the ‘Swoosh’ was designed in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, a graphic design student at Portland State University. She met Phil Knight while he was teaching accounting classes and she started doing some freelance work for his company, Blue Ribbon Sports (BRS).

Have you ever heard of BRS? Well, BRS needed a new brand for a new line of athletic footwear it was preparing to introduce in 1972. Knight approached Davidson for some design ideas, and she agreed to provide them – at $2 an hour.

Carolyn Davidson presented Knight and BRS with a number of designs, and they finally selected the mark we now know as the Nike Swoosh – an abstract outline of an angel’s wing that some people think looks more like a checkmark or the tick used on school essays.

The company first used the logo as its brand in 1971, when the word ‘Nike’ was printed in orange over it. The logo is now so well-recognised all over the world, even by small children, that the company name itself is, perhaps, superfluous.

Carolyn Davidson’s bill for her work came to $35. Mind you, 12 years later, in 1983, Knight gave Davidson a gold Swoosh ring and an envelope filled with Nike stock to express his gratitude. It is surprising, then, to realise that her design was not registered as a trademark until 1995.

A logo representing victory is an appropriate and meaningful symbol for a company that manufactures and sells running shoes. A small symbol has brought victorious success to a once-small company.

It is said one of the earliest inspirations for the Nike tick sign is a carved relief of Nike, the goddess of victory, on a paved street in Ephesus.

But when Saint John was writing to the Church in Ephesus in our Epistle reading this morning (I John 5: 1-16), he expressed very different ideas about victory to his company of little children as he discussed love.

In this reading, we are reminded of the connection between faith and love, the two great themes of this epistle, and to victorious faith leading to eternal life. This letter (I John) talks about a very different type of victory than the victories associated with commercial branding, globalisation and the financial glory associated with brand names and over-commercialised sport.

Instead, the writer emphasises the victories associated with faith and love … faith in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the love of God and love of one another that should be the victorious tick sign of Christians.

As we come to the end of a cycle of reading Saint John’s first letter, we are reminded that everyone who believes in Jesus as Christ and the Son of God is a child of God too. And so, if we believe in God and in Christ as his Son, we should love God and love his children, and this is the imperative for Christians to love one another.

The author of this letter refers to love, the Baptism, the death and resurrection of Christ, and the Eucharist as the enduring symbols of Christian life.

The Gospel reading (John 15: 9-17) reminds us that love is the enduring symbol of life in Christ, the one symbol that truly marks out a Christian in this world.

Christ tells us that he loves us as the Father loves him. We are to continue to love him, and to love one another to the point that this is all that matters in life.

He tells us this deep and lasting commitment to Christ is best expressed and found in the way that we love one another (verse 17).

And that love is the only branding, the only logo, the only label, that others should look for to know that we are Christians.

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

‘I do not call you servants any longer … but I have called you friends’ (John 15: 15) (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 9-17 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.’

‘I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last’ (John 15: 16) … fruit on a market stall in Rome (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical colour: White.

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day (Easter VI):

God our redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
Grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us to eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Collect on Rogation Days:

Almighty God,
whose will it is that the earth and the sea
should bear fruit in due season:
Bless the labours of those who work on land and sea,
grant us a good harvest
and the grace always to rejoice in your fatherly care;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, Peace be with you. Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

The Post-Communion Prayer (Easter VI):

God our Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life:
May we also thirst for you,
the spring of life and source of goodness,
through him who is alive and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer (Rogation Days):

God our creator,
you give seed for us to sow and bread for us to eat.
As you have blessed the fruit of our labour in this Eucharist,
so we ask you to give all your children their daily bread,
that the world may praise you for your goodness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal: (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

‘As you have blessed the fruit of our labour in this Eucharist, so we ask you to give all your children their daily bread’ (the Post-Communion Prayer, Rogation Days) … fruit ripening on lemon trees in Platanias near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

515, ‘A new commandment I give unto you’
231, My song is love unknown

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.



Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
82, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London

Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London … rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Today is the Sixth Sunday of Easter and later this week we celebrate Ascension Day. My photographs this week are selected from seven cathedrals throughout England. Earlier in these reflections, during Lent, I used images from Lichfield Cathedral (15 March 2021) and Coventry Cathedral (19 March). But these cathedrals, which I have visited in recent years, have been selected randomly.

This morning (9 May 2021), my photographs are from Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London.

For many years, I have strolled through London, from Liverpool Street Station to the USPG offices on my way to meetings of trustees. These walks have offered opportunities for early morning or late afternoon visits to Wren churches, the sites of former Wren churches, churches designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, or guild and city churches. They have given me views of buildings such as Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the Bank of England, the Royal Exchange, the Mansion House, the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern, and allowed me to enjoy the cafés, buskers and bookshops, with new opportunities on each walk to discover parts of London I had not known before.

Now we are all in lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I am missing these self-guided explorations of the churches of London, and I am going to miss them even more when my six-year term as a trustee of USPG comes to an end this summer.

After the Great Fire of London in 1666, Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) restored 51 churches in the city, concluding with Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, which he rebuilt in 1695.

Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the cathedral of the Diocese of London, sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City. Its dedication to Saint Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on the site, founded in the year 604.

The present cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Wren; it was built in 1669-1711 and was completed in Wren’s own lifetime.

The earlier Gothic cathedral, Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral, largely destroyed in the Great Fire, was a central focus for mediaeval and early modern London, including Paul’s Walk and Saint Paul’s Churchyard being the site of Saint Paul’s Cross.

The dome of Saint Paul’s, framed by the spires of Wren’s City churches, has dominated London’s skyline for over 300 years. At a height of 111 metres (365 ft), it was the tallest building in London from 1710 until 1963. The dome remains among the highest in the world, and Saint Paul’s is the second-largest church building in area in the United Kingdom after Liverpool Cathedral.

The vista from the south side of the Millennium Bridge across to Saint Paul’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 9-17 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.’

The West Front of Saint Paul’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (9 May 2021, Sixth Sunday of Easter) invites us to pray:

‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’.
Beloved God,
May we treat one another as true equals.
Let us love each other as your Son taught us to.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

John Donne (1572-1631), ‘poet and divine’ … Dean of Saint Paul’s in 1621-1631 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The site of Saint Paul’s Cross … once a preaching cross and open-air pulpit in the grounds of Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Newport’s parish church shares
links with cathedrals and churches
in Mullingar, Cavan and Athlone

The Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in Newport, Co Tipperary, was built in 1933-1934 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

After visiting the church and former barracks in Ahane at the end of last week, and walking through the Clare Glens on the borders of Co Limerick and Co Tipperary, two of us returned to Askeaton through Newport, Co Tipperary, where we visited Church of the Most Holy Redeemer.

Newport, with a population of about 1,800, is about 4 km from the Clare Glens, about 8 km from Birdhill and 16 km from Limerick, and the town is nestled in the foothills of the Silvermine Mountains.

The Newport River is a tributary of the Mulcair (or Mulkear) River and flows through the middle of the town where it is joined by the Cully River.

The town dates back to the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in the late 12th and early 13th century, and has been known as Newport since the mid-17th century.

The Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in Newport was designed by the Dublin architect Ralph Henry Byrne (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Roman Catholic parish in Newport is part of the parish of Newport, Birdhill and Toor in the Diocese of Cashel and Emly, and the most prominent building in the town is the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, standing on a prominent corner on Church Street, and opposite the site of Saint John’s Church, the former Church of Ireland parish church in Newport.

The Church of the Most Holy Redeemer was built in 1933-1934 to replace an earlier church, also known as Saint John’s Church, that was built ca 1796 but had fallen into ruin.

The history of the parish dates from at least the 13th century, when the parishes of Kilnarath, Kilvellane (now Ballymackeogh) and Kilcomenty were counted in the Diocese of Cashel, and Kilnarath is mentioned in the Papal tax list in 1291.

By the beginning of the 18th century, Newport had several ‘Mass Houses’ and Father Daniel O’Connell was the parish priest for almost half a century, from 1704 to 1751. He was succeeded in turn by Father William Kennedy who was Parish Priest of Kilnarath and Kilvellane, without Birdhill, in 1751-1795, and Father Thomas Cooke, in 1795-1804.

Inside the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer in Newport (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Dr Cooke wanted to replace the ‘Mass Houses’ in Newport with one parish church in the town, but he was refused a site by the local landlord, Sir Edward Waller. Undismayed, the priest took possession of a hollow swamp and dried-up riverbed in what was regarded as ‘no-man’s land,’ and completed his church within two years. This early stone-built Saint John’s Church was cruciform in shape, with a slate and oak roof.

Dr Cooke was succeeded as parish priest by Father Laurence Bourke (1804-1813), an early graduate of Maynooth, and by Father Thomas Morrissey (1813-1821), who died in an epidemic that swept the area.

Father James Healy (1821-1844) added pews and three galleries to Saint John’s Church. The aisle was lengthened and a new belfry was added by Father James Howard (1888-1928). The Sisters of Mercy arrived in Newport in 1900, and the nuns attended Mass early each morning.

The projecting tetrastyle pedimented portico of the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, Newport (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Sisters of Mercy donated the site for a new church in 1928, and the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer was designed by the Dublin architect Ralph Henry Byrne (1877-1946). Tenders were invited in February 1933, and the builder was A Breslan, Bushy Park Road, Terenure.

Ralph Henry Byrne, who designed the church in a classical style, was born in Largo House, 166 Lower Rathmines Road, Rathmines, on 25 April 1877, the third but second surviving son of the architect William Henry Byrne (1844-1917), who had been a pupil of JJ McCarthy. He was educated at home and at Saint George’s School, Weybridge.

In 1896, he was articled to his father for five years, and then spent six months in the Harrogate office of Thomas Edward Marshall, before joining his father’s practice as a partner in 1902.

Byrne’s father became blind in about 1913 and died on 28 April 1917. RH Byrne continued the practice under the name of William H Byrne & Son, and in 1936 his nephew by marriage, Simon Aloysius Leonard, joined the partnership.

The site for the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer was donated by the Sisters of Mercy in Newport (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Byrne, who worked from 20 Suffolk Street, Dublin, was elected a member of the RIAI in 1902, proposed by George Coppinger Ashlin, seconded by Thomas Drew and William Mansfield Mitchell. He was elected a fellow (FRIAI) in 1920 and was vice-president in 1938, four years his church in Newport was completed.

Byrne is known principally for the restoration of the Church of Our Lady of Refuge, Rathmines, after the disastrous fire in 1920, with a new, much higher dome (1920-1928).

His other works include the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Athlone (1930-1936), the Cathedral of Christ the King, Mullingar (1931-1936), the Church of the Rosary, Harold’s Cross (1938-1940), the Cathedral of Saint Patrick and Saint Felim, Cavan (1938-1943), the Church of the Four Masters, Donegal, the completion of Saint Senanus Church, Foynes, Co Limerick (1932), commenced by JJ McCarthy, and rebuilding Saint Mary’s Church, Croom, Co Limerick (1929-1932).

Ichthus symbols above the doors below the gallery in the church in Newport (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The foundation stone was laid on 9 July 1933, and the church cost £20,000 to build. It was formally opened on the Feast of Christ the King in October 1934. Meanwhile, the former Saint John’s Church continued to be used as a community centre and dance hall until 1980.

The church is impressive and stands out in the town, with its classical style, its tetrastyle pedimented portico and its campanile. It is an interesting example of a mid-20th century church, designed with a neo-classical composition and details such as the colonnaded portico with a pediment over, and the Venetian windows that were reused from the earlier Catholic church.

The church has a double-height front with a projecting tetrastyle pedimented portico with cross finial, and Corinthian columns set above a flight of granite steps. There are eight-panel, vertically-divided timber doors at the entrance. The large round-headed window over the entrance doorway is flanked by niches with statues of Saint Joseph and Saint Patrick.

There are round-headed openings on the first floor, square-headed openings with block-and-start surrounds on the ground floor, and Venetian windows with render pilasters and keystones on the side elevations, all with leaded lights.

The church has a four-stage tower at the north-west corner (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The church has an interesting, four-stage tower at the north-west corner with a lantern that has an octagonal top.

There are round-headed windows in the lantern of the tower, with render pilasters and keystones flanked by pilasters supporting an entablature and segmental pediments.

There is a semi-circular apse at the rear of the church, and lower projecting porches at the sides.
The church has a copper roof that is set behind a parapet. There are rendered walls with banded string courses and with render quoins on the lower walls.

The altar and other furnshings in the new sanctuary are made of bog oak (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Byrne also designed a marble high altar and rails that were executed by CW Harrison & Sons. This was moved and the church was reordered to meet the needs the liturgical reforms introduced after Vatican II.

Later, the marble altar was replaced with an altar of bog oak while Father Joseph Delaney was the Parish Priest of Newport (1990-2013).

The church is an important element in the streetscape due to its design, scale, prominent location, and position opposite the Church of Ireland graveyard and beside the convent school.

Fish on a glass panel on the internal doors of the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
81, Saint Catherine of Sinai, Iraklion

The Museum of Christian Art in Iraklion opened in the Church of Saint Catherine of Sinai in 2015 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Last Sunday (2 May 2021) was Easter Day in the Calendar of the Orthodox Church, and this week is Easter Week. I miss the opportunity of being in Greece at this special time of year, so my photographs this week are from churches in Crete.

Until the pandemic lockdown, I have been visiting Crete regularly since the 1980s. As Easter Week comes to a close in Greece today, my photographs this morning include an icon of the Resurrection in a church museum in Iraklion.

My photographs this morning (8 May 2021) are from the Church of Saint Catherine of Sinai, a tiny church in a quiet square in Iraklion, nestling beneath the shadows of Saint Minas Cathedral.

The church was probably built in the 13th century or even earlier as a metochion or autonomous ‘embassy church’ of the Monastery of Saint Catherine on Mount Sinai. From the 15th century on, this unique church was at the centre of academic and cultural life in Crete, and was associated with some of the greatest writers, poets and artists who brought together the worlds of Byzantium and Venice for the best part of two centuries.

Many of the artists and writers there worked comfortably in Italian and Greek contexts, giving their productions a flavour that is unique. The influence of this school on iconography throughout the Orthodox world is incalculable, and it has influenced Western art through one of its best-known pupils, Doménikos Theotokópoulos (1541-1614), better known as El Greco.

Iraklion was known to the Venetians as Candia, and was one of the last outposts of the Venetian Empire in the East Mediterranean. With the fall of the Byzantine Empire in 1453, Venetians and Cretans found a new common ground in their resistance to Turkish Empire. Western innovations mingled with the Byzantine tradition in a creative manner that was expressed in the unique styles of art and architecture in Crete.

As the reputation of the Cretan painters spread, so the demand for their works increased. Over 100 painters, organised in unions, lived and worked in Iraklion. Their clients included the great Orthodox and Catholic monasteries, noble families, wealthy merchants and the prosperous traders and merchants.

They were particularly associated with the Church of Saint Catherine of Sinai, part of the richest and largest monastery in Crete, with over 100 monks and up to 150 icon painters.

In the late 16th century, George Klontzas, Mikhail Damaskinos and other painters in Crete, strongly influenced by the trends in Italian mannerism, began experimenting in new ways of representing their themes, and brought the influence of Renaissance painting.

Damaskinos travelled to Venice at a time when painters such at Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto reached their creative peak. He also worked in Messina in Sicily before returning to Crete in 1583 to create works that marry Byzantine and western values.

He worked in the period that was most productive culturally in Crete. Highly-skilled and educated, he could easily paint in both the Byzantine and the Western style. The icons in the museum include six important works by Damaskinos that are marked by his acute attention to detail: the Adoration of the Magi; the Last Supper; ‘Noli me Tangere’; the Burning Bush; the First Council of Nicaea; and the Divine Liturgy.

In this setting, Damaskinos trained his best-known pupil, Doménikos Theotokópoulos, later known as El Greco. The few surviving examples of El Greco’s early work in Crete include his icon of the Dormition of the Virgin, now in Syros, and his icon of Saint Luke painting the Virgin.

Candia was the first town the Venetians conquered in Crete, and it was the last city they left when it fell to the Ottoman Turks 450 years later, after a fierce resistance that lasted 21 years until 1669.

When Iraklion fell in 1669, the academy came to an end, and like many churches in Crete at the time Saint Catherine’s was converted into a mosque. The church, once part of the largest and richest monastery on Crete, was stripped of its icons and relics and was turned into a mosque, named the Zoulfikiar Ali Tzamisi, although it was known popularly as Haghia Katerina Djamé.

When Turkish rule came to end, Saint Catherine’s was reclaimed by the Orthodox Church, but the stump of the minaret can be seen against the north wall, and the steps inside the minaret can be seen from the chapel on the north side of the church.

The mosque at Saint Catherine’s was abandoned a few months after Crete was officially united with the modern Greek state in 1913, and in 1919 a decree was issued to return it to use as a church. From 1922 to 1935, it sheltered refugees who had arrived from Western Turkey, and by World War II it was in ruins. The Nazi occupiers used it as a machinery depot, petrol warehouse and car repair shop.

The presence of the Church of Saint Minas, and later the Cathedral of Saint Minas, in the square beside Saint Catherine’s, allowed the old church to become a museum of Cretan icons.

A Byzantine museum was housed in the church from the 1960s, but this closed in 2007. A new, modern museum was designed, with support from the Greek Ministry of Culture, and it opened in 2015 as the Museum of Christian Art, managed by the Educational and Cultural Foundation of the Archdiocese of Crete.

This is a showpiece museum, providing a complete picture of Church art and architecture in Crete from the 13th to the 17th century, and the collection in the museum spans a period up to the late 19th century.

It is interesting that the church continues to function as a dedicated church, and the Divine Liturgy is served twice a year in the Chapel of All Enlightened Saints of Crete in the north transept, on the first Sunday in July, when these saints are commemorated, and on 25 November, the feast day of Saint Catherine of Mount Sinai.

The Chapel of All Enlightened Saints of Crete in the north transept of the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 18-21 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 18 ‘If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. 19 If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world – therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you, “Servants are not greater than their master.” If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also. 21 But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.’

Christ Pantocrator … a fragment from a 13th century mural in the Church of the Archangel Michael in Preveliana in central Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (8 May 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for all discerning their vocation amidst uncertainty and fear. May they be guided by God in all they do.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

‘Noli me Tangere’, by Mikhail Damaskinos, ca 1585-1591 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

The Cathedral of Saint Minas and the smaller, older Church of Saint Minas, dominate the square in front of Saint Catherine and the Museum of Christian Art (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)