Tuesday, 30 November 2021

A recording in Rathkeale
is part of USPG’s Anglican
Day of Prayer for Mission

Saint Andrew’s Day is traditionally associated with prayers for mission … parishes and dioceses have been invited to join the 24-hour global wave of prayer, the Anglican Communion Day of Prayer, on 30 November

Patrick Comerford

Today is Saint Andrew’s Day (30 November), a day traditionally associated with prayers for mission.

Christians around the world are taking part in today’s 24-hour global wave of prayer for mission, co-ordinated by the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

The majority of the 42 provinces in the Anglican Communion are taking part in this Communion Day of Prayer, which has the support of the Anglican Communion Office and several Anglican agencies around the world.

Two contributions from the Church of Ireland – from Bishop Michael Burrows, of Cashel, Ferns and Ossory, and from myself – were included in the day’s programme, between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Bishop Michael Burrows, a former trustee of USPG and a former chair of USPG Ireland, spoke of his friendships with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who recently celebrated his 90th birthday, Bishop Bishop Ellinah Wamukoya of Swaziland, who died earlier this year, the late Nelson Mandela, and the late Trevor Huddleston. My contribution was recorded in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, where I spoke of the reach and influence of Irish saints and missionaries over the centuries.

The event, which began at Midnight and continues until Midnight tonight, is open to everyone, and there is no need to register. You can get involved via zoom or Facebook. When you want to join just click on one of these links:

Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82308523750?pwd=dzRXQ3A2TVM5VjhwZVpaaGpKTFdDdz09

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/USPGglobal

The Day offers Christians all over the world an opportunity to unite in prayer. It will focus on individual provinces and extra-provinces of the Anglican Communion, and churches in relationship with the Communion, in 30-minute slots.

Anglican Provinces from all over the world produced short prayer films for the event with authentic local expressions of prayer, worship, readings and reflection. These will be played in separate time slots between 12 midnight and 12 midnight.

For example, the programme began at 00:00 (UTC and Irish time) with the Anglican Church of Melanesia, the Anglican Communion Office was at 17:30 UTC (5.30 p.m.) and the Church of Ireland was at 18:00 UTC (6 p.m.).

You can join still at any time that suits you, stay for as long as you like, and come back as many times as you want. You can join the slot allocated to a particular province or choose to pray with other parts of the world … or both.

You can choose to watch at home, at work – wherever works for you. And you can decide to pray alone or still organise a Prayer Watch Party, inviting friends or a church group to join you.

Praying with others can be a particularly powerful collective experience. Whatever you decide, you will be contributing to a global wave of prayer. And we hope you will feel inspired and united to the global church.

The printable poster from USPG is HERE.

USPG was also encouraging people to watch prayer videos from other countries, using the timetable to see the times for each province and then join the ones they would like to see.

You can download Resources related to USPG's Communion Day of Prayer HERE.



Praying in Advent 2021:
3, Saint Andrew the Apostle

‘The Call of the Disciples’ … a window designed by the Harry Clarke Studios in Christ Church, Spanish Point, Co Clare, depicts the ‘Calling of Saint Peter and Saint Andrew’ (see Matthew 4: 18-22) – although only one disciple is present (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Season of Advent and today (30 November 2021), in the Church Calendar we remember Saint Andrew the Apostle. Later today, I am taking part with Bishop Michael Burrows of Cashel in the contribution from the Church of Ireland to the world day of prayer for mission organised by the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), and this is followed by chairing a school board meeting later this evening.

Before a busy day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

Each morning in the Advent, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflections on a saint remembered in the calendars of the Church during Advent;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Today (30 November 2021) is the feast day of Saint Andrew the Apostle, who is often known as the first-called of the disciples.

Before he was called, Saint Andrew was a fisherman, an every-day ordinary-day commercial occupation, working on the Lake of Galilee in partnership with his brother Simon Peter. It is said that when Saint John the Baptist began to preach, Saint Andrew became one of his closest disciples.

When he heard Christ’s call by the sea to follow him, Saint Andrew hesitated for a moment, not because he had any doubts about that call, but because he wanted to bring his brother with him. He left his nets behind and went to Peter and, as Saint John’s Gospel recalls, he told him: ‘We have found the Messiah … [and] he brought Simon to Jesus’ (John 1: 41, 42).

The call in the Gospel reading – to Peter and Andrew, to James and John, the sons of Zebedee – comes to us as individuals and in groups. It is not a story of an either/or choice between proclaiming the Gospel to individuals or groups, but a both/and choice.

Recently, I was visiting one of the surviving Christopher Wren churches in London, Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe on Queen Victoria Street. It is two blocks south of Saint Paul’s Cathedral and close to Blackfriars station, and is the last of Wren’s city churches. The church was destroyed by German bombs during the Blitz in World War II, but was rebuilt and rededicated in 1961.

As the bitter weather of winter takes hold, I am reminded of a prayer, appropriate for Advent and this winter weather, that I found that morning at Saint Andrew’s and which the church offers for people who have no shelter on the streets:

God of compassion,
your love for humanity was revealed in Jesus,
whose earthly life began in the poverty of a stable
and ended in the pain and isolation of the cross:
we hold before you those who are homeless and cold
especially in this bitter weather.
Draw near and comfort them in spirit
and bless those who work to provide them
with shelter, food and friendship.
We ask this in Jesus’ name.
Amen.


Saint Andrew the Apostle … a sculpture on the west front of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Matthew 4: 18-22 (NRSVA)

18 As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake – for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (30 November 2021, Saint Andrew, Anglican Communion Day of Prayer) invites us to pray:

Today USPG is joining with mission agencies from across the Anglican Communion in a day of prayer. May we continue to work alongside each other in spreading the Gospel around the world.

Yesterday: Saint Brendan of Birr

Tomorrow: Saint Ansanus of Siena

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 shrine of Saint Andrew in Amalfi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Monday, 29 November 2021

‘Let us then so celebrate his coming
with our carols and hymns of praise’

‘God … has delivered us from the dominion of darkness’ … Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, in winter lights last night (Photograph: Patrick Comerford

Patrick Comerford

As the Precentor of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, it was a privilege last night to lead the Advent Procession, the traditional Advent Sunday candlelit service of carols and readings.

Also taking part were the Revd Dr Leonard Madden, curate in the Limerick Cathedral group of parishes, the Revd Bernie Daly, who has returned to Limerick for December to assist the clergy team with services and pastoral duties, and Siobhán Wheeler, parish reader in the Rathkeale Group of Parishes, and Peter Barley, who directed the choir, and Irina Dernova, organist.

This is the bidding prayer I used in Saint Mary’s Cathedral last night:

In the name of God, who has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and made a place for us in the kingdom of his beloved Son, we welcome you to Saint Mary’s Cathedral: grace to you and peace. As we meet to celebrate anew the coming of God’s kingdom, we hear revealed the mystery of God’s loving purpose for us – how that when we were far off, he met us in his Son and brought us home; how he humbled himself to take our human nature, that we might share his divine glory.

Let us then so celebrate this coming with our carols and hymns of praise, that our lives may be charged with his life; that we may bear witness to his glory and so bring light to those who sit in darkness. So first we pray for those among whom the Christ was born: the poor and helpless, the aged and young children; the cold, the hungry and the homeless; the victims of poverty, injustice and oppression, the sick and those who mourn, the lonely and the unloved; those in despair or in the shadow of death.

Then, as we hear again the message of peace on earth and goodwill among all his people, we pray for the leaders of the nations, this land and those in this city – that all may be inspired to work together for the establishment of justice, freedom and peace the world over.

And that we may bear true witness to this hope in a divided world, we pray for the peace and unity of Christ’s Body, the Church universal, that the whole earth may live to praise his name. Finally, as we rejoice with Mary, Flannan, Brendan and all the saints in heaven and on earth, we remember all who have gone before us with the sign of faith, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we offer up our prayers for the coming of his kingdom, in the words he himself has taught us, saying:

Our Father …

The bidding prayer in its original form was written by Eric Milner-White, Dean of King’s College, Cambridge, who introduced the Lessons and Carols service there on Christmas Eve 1918 with these words:

Beloved in Christ, be it this Christmastide our care and delight to hear again the message of the angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.

Therefore let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child.

But first, let us pray for the needs of the whole world; for peace on earth and goodwill among all his people; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build, and especially in this our diocese.

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and them that mourn, the lonely and the unloved, the aged and the little children; all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore, and in a greater light, that multitude which no man can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom in the Lord Jesus we are one forevermore.

These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the Throne of Heaven, in the words which Christ himself hath taught us:

Our Father …

This prayer has been described as ‘the greatest addition to the Church of England’s liturgy since the Book of Common Prayer.’

In some versions, the prayer for ‘all those who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love’ has been dropped.

The phrase ‘upon another shore, and in a greater light’ may make us think at this time, with travel restrictions and fears about the Covid-19 pandemic, about friends and family who are no longer with us. But Eric Milner-White was thinking of those who are dead. He had served as an army chaplain in World War I before his return to King’s College, and, as he wrote those words, he surely had in mind the hundreds of thousands of people who never returned home from the trenches of Europe.

Eric Milner Milner-White (1884-1963) read history at King’s College, Cambridge, and graduated in 1906 with a double-first as well as receiving the Lightfoot Scholarship. After theological training at Cuddesdon College, Oxford, he was ordained deacon in 1908 and priest in 1909 at Southwark Cathedral. He was a curate in Saint Paul’s, Newington, and Saint Mary Magdalen, Woolwich, before returning to King’s College, Cambridge, as chaplain in 1912, and was also a lecturer in history at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

During World War I, he was an army chaplain on the Western Front and in the Italian Campaign. On resigning his commission, he returned to Cambridge, where he became the Dean and a Fellow of King’s College.

In 1941, Milner-White was appointed Dean of York. There he directed the replacement of many of York Minster’s windows and wrote extensively on liturgy, including My God My Glory, and was a member of the team that produced the New English Bible. He died in the deanery at York Minster on 15 June 1963.

He is best remembered for introducing the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols in the Chapel of King’s College. His experience as an army chaplain led him to believe that more imaginative worship was needed by the Church of England, and the first Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at King’s was held on Christmas Eve 1918. The order of service was adapted from the order created by Edward Benson, later Archbishop of Canterbury, for Truro Cathedral on Christmas Eve 1880.

That first service at King’s largely followed Benson’s original plan, including the Benedictions before each reading, several of which were later amalgamated by Milner-White into his Bidding Prayer.

The service was first broadcast from King’s by the BBC in 1928 and, except for 1930, it has been broadcast every year since. Even throughout World War II, despite the stained glass having been removed from King’s Chapel and the lack of heating, the broadcasts continued.

Since World War II, it has been estimated that each year millions of listeners worldwide listen to the service live on the BBC.

This is the version of the Bidding Prayer I have used in Askeaton:

Beloved, be it this Christmas Time our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels; in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.

Let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child; and let us make this Church, dedicated to Mary, his most blessed Mother, glad with our carols of praise:

But first let us pray for the needs of his whole world; for peace and goodwill over all the earth; for unity and brotherhood within the Church he came to build, and especially in this our land, Ireland:

And because this of all things would rejoice his heart, let us at this time remember in his name the poor and the helpless, the cold, the hungry and the oppressed; the sick in body and in mind and those who mourn; the lonely and the unloved; the aged and the little children; all who know not the Lord Jesus, or who love him not, or who by sin have grieved his heart of love.

Lastly, let us remember before God all those who rejoice with us, but upon another shore and in a greater light, that multitude which no one can number, whose hope was in the Word made flesh, and with whom, in this Lord Jesus, we for evermore are one. These prayers and praises let us humbly offer up to the throne of heaven, in the words which Christ himself has taught us:

Our Father …

The Chapel of King’s College, Cambridge … the Advent bidding prayer was first used here in 1918 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in Advent 2021:
2, Saint Brendan of Birr

Saint Brendan of Birr in a stained-glass window in Saint Brendan’s Church, Birr, Co Offaly (Photograph: Window Andreas F. Borchert, Wikipedia / CC BY-SA 4.0)

Patrick Comerford

The Season of Advent began yesterday (Sunday 28 November 2021), and it was a busy day, concluding with the Advent Procession of Service of Light in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick.

Before a busy day and a busy week begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

Each morning in the Advent, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflections on a saint remembered in the calendars of the Church during Advent;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Today (29 November 2021) is the feast day of Saint Brendan of Birr, who died ca 572, one of the saints of this diocese.

Saint Brendan of Birr is one of the early saints of the sixth century. He was a monk and later an abbot, and he is known as Saint Brendan the Elder, to distinguish him from his contemporary and friend Saint Brendan the Navigator of Clonfert.

Saint Brendan of Birr as a friend and disciple of Saint Columba, and was one of the 12 students who studied under Saint Finian at Clonard and became known as the Twelve Apostles of Ireland.

These 12 holy men were:

● Saint Ciaran of Seir-Kieran;
● Saint Ciaran of Clonmacnoise;
● Saint Brendan of Birr;
● Saint Brendan of Clonfert;
● Saint Columba of Terryglass;
● Saint Columba of Kells and Iona;
● Saint Mobhi of Glasnevin;
● Saint Ruadhan of Lorrha;
● Saint Senan of Scattery Island;
● Saint Ninnidh of Inismacsaint on Loch Erne;
● Saint Lasserian of Leighlin;
● Saint Canice of Aghaboe.

At an early age, Brendan became a pupil in Saint Finian’s monastic school at Clonard Abbey, once said to have had up to 3,000 students. At Clonard, he became a friend and companion of Saint Ciarán of Saigir and Saint Brendan of Clonfert.

He founded the monastery at Birr in Co Offaly ca 540, and became its abbot. Early Irish writings depict him as a man of generous hospitality with a reputation for sanctity and spirituality who was an intuitive judge of character.

Saint Brenan attended the synod of Meltown, when Saint Columba was tried for his role in the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne. Saint Brendan spoke on behalf of Saint Columba, and the synod decided to sentence Columba to exile rather to excommunication.

The friendship between Brenan and Columba resulted in important links between Birr and the Columban foundations. It is said that Saint Columba had a vision of Saint Brendan’s soul being carried away by angels after his death.

Saint Brendan’s monastery in Birr later produced the MacRegol Gospels, now in the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

In the late 12th century, Giraldus Cambrensis referred to the ‘Birr Stone’ as umbilicus Hiberniae, the navel of Ireland. The stone is a block of limestone around 250 million years old, and was probably part of a megalithic monument. It is said to have marked a meeting place of the Fianna, and was taken from Birr in 1828 and was used as a Mass rock, but returned to Birr in 1974.

The Birr Stone … described by Giraldus Cambrensis as umbilicus Hiberniae, the navel of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)

Matthew 8: 5-13 (NRSVA):

5 When he [Jesus] entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him 6 and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralysed, in terrible distress.’ 7 And he said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’ 8 The centurion answered, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, “Go”, and he goes, and to another, “Come”, and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this”, and the slave does it.’ 10 When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 13 And to the centurion Jesus said, ‘Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.’ And the servant was healed in that hour.

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (29 November 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the users of Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui’s social and educational services; may they, through the work of the Church, come to know and experience God’s redemptive love for the humankind.

Yesterday: Saint Stephen the Younger

Tomorrow: Saint Andrew the Apostle

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

Saint Brendan’s … probably the site of the early monastic settlement in Birr (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Sunday intercessions, 28 November 2021,
the First Sunday of Advent

‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near’ (Luke 21: 29-30) … fresh summer figs in a supermarket in Rethymnon, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Let us pray:


‘The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfil the promise I made’ (Jeremiah 33: 14):

Heavenly Father,
As we wait in Advent for the coming of the Kingdom,
listen to our prayers for the nations of the world,
that those in power and in government
may hear the cry of all in need,
especially refugees, asylum seekers, migrants,
prisoners of conscience, the victims of people trafficking,
that they may be met with mercy and justice,
and know love and peace.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves’ (Luke 21: 25):

Lord Jesus Christ,
as we wait in Advent for your coming,
we pray for the Church,
that we may eagerly await your coming among us …

In our diocese we pray this morning for
the members of the Episcopal Electoral College,
that they may be guided wisely and in prayer
in their choice of a new bishop for this diocese.

We pray this morning for all in the dioceses
engaged in communications and information technology.

In the Church of Ireland this month,
we pray for the Diocese of Cork, Cloyne and Ross
and for Bishop Paul Colton.

The Mothers Union is marking 16 Days of Activism
against gender-based violence.
forgive us our ignorance, forgive us our blindness,
forgive us our lack of awareness.

In our community,
we pray for our schools,
we pray for our parishes and people …
we pray for our neighbouring churches and parishes,
and people of faith everywhere,
that we may be blessed in our variety and diversity.

And we pray for ourselves …

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all’ (I Thessalonians 3: 12):

Holy Spirit, we pray for one another …

We pray this morning for all in our dioceses who have been bereaved in the last year,
that the they may find comfort.

Throughout November in this group of parishes,
we remember with thanks all who have died in the past year,

including: Alan Fitzell; Arthur Gilliard; Ena Downes; Gill Killick; Joe Smyth; Kenneth Smyth; Linda Smyth;

We remember those who are remembered and mourned by parishioners this month, including:

Jack and Eileen Ryall …
Jack Shorten …
Marian Locke …
Lil Gilliard …
Alan’s sister Hazel …
Brendan Quinlan …
William, Kathleen and Dorothy …
Robert and Lynda Gardiner …
Kathy Casey-Byrne …

May their memories be a blessing to us.

We pray for all who are sick or isolated,
at home, in hospital …
Ruby … Daphne … Sylvia … Ajay …
Cecil … Pat … Mary … Ann … Vanessa …

We pray for those who feel pain and loss …
for those who are bewildered and without answers …
for those we love and those who love us …
for our families, friends and neighbours …

We pray for all who feel rejected and discouraged …
we pray for all in need and who seek healing …
and we pray for those we promised to pray for …
and we pray for one another and for ourselves …

May your generosity and love to us be reflected in our love and generosity to others.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer in the Prayer Diary today of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel):

Christ Jesus,
in great humility,
you were born in human likeness.
Help us to humble ourselves
so that we may put others first.

Merciful Father …

Christ in Majesty at the Last Judgment … a fresco in the Orthodox Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

‘There will be signs in
the sun, the moon, and
the stars, and on the earth’

‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves’ (Luke 21: 25) … a November setting sun at Burano in the Venetian Lagoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 28 November 2021, is the First Sunday of Advent.

9.30 a.m.: Morning Prayer, Castletown Church

11.30 a.m.: Parish Eucharist, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale

The Readings: Jeremiah 33: 14-16; Psalm 25: 1-10; I Thessalonians 3: 9-13; Luke 21: 25-36.

These readings can be found HERE

A refugee child climbs ashore to seek safety

May I speak to you in the name of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen

Our Gospel reading this morning opens with frightening, terrifying words from Jesus, who says: ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken’ (Luke 21: 25-26).

These are not the sort of comforting words that we might want to hear on Advent Sunday, as we begin the four-week countdown to Christmas.

My generation is a generation that grew up with muffled sounds of apocalyptic fear, developed through listening to the whispered anxieties of parents and teachers. I was still only ten when the Cuban Missile Crisis reached its height in October 1962, and I still remember asking, ‘Is this going to be the end of the world?’

The Cold War was at its height, and we were still less than two decades from the end of World War II. Of course, many people feared another world war was about to break out, with catastrophic consequences for the world.

The threat seems to have abated in the 60 years since, although the stockpiles of nuclear weapons continue to grow and accumulate.

Instead, a new generation wonders whether the world is facing apocalyptic catastrophe because of climate change and the destruction of the planet. And all of us must fret for the future when we hear about the emergence of a new variant of Covid-19, just as we all thought vaccinations were making our lives safer and we were looking forward to our booster shots.

These fears accumulate and they become:

● short-term fears: are we going to have a normal Christmas this year?

● medium-term fears: is our life ever going to return to normal?

● long-term fears: what faces us all for the future?

In our fears and anxieties, we try to read the ‘signs of the times’ and wonder how to respond to ‘signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.’

And yet, I realised mid-week how so self-obsessed I can be as I realised the terror of those 27 people – families, fathers, mothers and children – who drowned in that precarious Channel crossing between France and England. How they must have been oh so ‘confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves.’

All their hopes of a better life for themselves and their children, as they fled wars and persecutions in Iran, Syria and Afghanistan, drowned in one horrific, apocalyptic moment.

But even then, had they arrived on the shores of the land they hoped to reach, would they have been met with the compassion and care refugees ought to expect, not only in terms of Christian love, but under the terms of international law?

The Christmas Gospel is a reminder that Mary and Joseph and the Child Jesus were refugees too: Mary and Joseph were forced to move from Nazareth to Bethlehem in the cold of winter, yet found no welcome at the inn; and then, when the Child Jesus was born, they were forced to flee Herod, and seek exile in Egypt.

Where do we find hope as we wait in Advent for Christ at Christmas?

In the verses immediately before our Epistle reading this morning, Saint Paul reminds the early church in Thessaloniki that in the face of troubles and persecutions he has sent Saint Timothy to ‘strengthen and encourage you for the sake of your faith, so no one would be shaken by these persecutions’ (I Thessalonians 3: verses 2-3).

Our Gospel reading ends not in doom and disaster, but with the promise that Christ is coming. Our Advent faith is that Christ is coming in glory, and that with him he is bringing the Kingdom of God, with its promises of justice and mercy, peace and love.

And so, may all we think, say and do be to the praise, honour and glory of God, + Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.

‘Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face and restore whatever is lacking in your faith’ (I Thessalonians 3: 10) … candles in a church in Thessaloniki at night-time (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 21: 25-36 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 25 ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

29 Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

Saint John the Baptist with the Patriarchs Noah and Moses (left) and Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint Philip the Deacon (right) in a window in Truro Cathedral … the Patriarchs are recalled at the lighting of the first Advent Candle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical Colour: Purple (Violet), Advent, Year C.

The Advent Candle, the First Sunday of Advent (First Purple Candle):

The Patriarchs and Matriarchs


O God of Abraham and Sarah,
we thank you for your faithfulness
throughout all time.
As today we begin our Advent journey,
may the light of your love
surround us and all for whom we pray,
as we watch and wait for your kingdom.
(A prayer from USPG)

Penitential Kyries:

Turn to us again, O God our Saviour,
and let your anger cease from us.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Show us your mercy, O Lord,
and grant us your salvation.

Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Your salvation is near for those that fear you,
that glory may dwell in our land.

Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

In the tender mercy of our God,
the dayspring from on high shall break upon us,
to give light to those who dwell in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1: 78, 79)

Preface:

Salvation is your gift
through the coming of your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ,
and by him you will make all things new
when he returns in glory to judge the world:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God our deliverer,
Awaken our hearts
to prepare the way for the advent of your Son,
that, with minds purified by the grace of his coming,
we may serve you faithfully all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

Christ the sun of righteousness shine upon you,
gladden your hearts
and scatter the darkness from before you:

Hymns:

652, Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us (CD 37)
126, Hark! a thrilling voice is sounding (CD 8)
509, Your kingdom come, O God (CD 29)

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 Advent 2021:
1, Saint Stephen the Younger, Martyr

An early 11th century Byzantine mosaic of Saint Stephen the Younger in Hosios Loukas monastery in Greece

Patrick Comerford

The Season of Advent begins today (Sunday 28 November 2021). Later this morning I am leading and preaching at Morning Prayer in Castletown Church, Co Limerick (9:30), and preaching and presiding at the Parish Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick (11:30). Later this evening, I am taking part in the Advent Procession or Service of Light in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick (7 p.m.).

Before a busy day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

Each morning in the time in Advent, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflections on a saint remembered in the calendars of the Church during Advent;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

I was writing on this blog yesterday about the Icon of the Madonna of Kazan. So my choice of a saint this morning is Saint Stephen the Younger, who was martyred in Constantinople in the year 764 because of his vocal opposition to the iconoclast heresies promoted by the Emperor Constantine V.

Saint Stephen was born in Constantinople ca 713 -714. His father Gregory was a craftsman, and his mother was Anna. On Holy Saturday 716, he was baptised in the Hagia Sophia by Patriarch Germanus I. At 15 or 16, he became a monk on Mount Auxentius in Bithynia.

Some years later, he returned to Constantinople for his father’s funeral, and then brought his mother and sisters to the convent of Mount Auxentius.

In his early 40s, he retired to a cave as a hermit. He refused to accept the decisions of the iconoclast Council of Hieria in 754, but did not begin to suffer persecutions until ca 760.

The Emperor Constantine V ordered his arrest and soldiers brought him to a monastery in Chrysopolis. There again he refused to accept the decisions of Hieria and was banished to the island of Prokonnesos. From this exile, he was brought to the Phiale prison in Constantinople ca 764, where he was questioned by the emperor himself.

After almost a year in prison, he was condemned to death by Constantine, and dragged by soldiers through the streets and was clubbed to death. His body was then dragged through the streets, although his skull was rescued by one of his followers and brought to the Dius Monastery.

His relics are recorded in churches and monasteries in Constantinople in the 13th to 15th centuries. Today, his skull is said to be in Saint Panteleimon monastery on Mount Athos.

Luke 21: 25-36 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 25 ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

29 Then he told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (28 November 2021, First Sunday of Advent) invites us to pray:

Christ Jesus,
In great humility,
You were born in human likeness.
Help us to humble ourselves
So that we may put others first.

Yesterday’s reflection

Tomorrow: Saint Brendan of Birr

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

Saint Panteleimon monastery on Mount Athos … said to hold the relics of Saint Stephen the Younger (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Saturday, 27 November 2021

Indiana Jones, the story of
a stolen Russian icon and
an icon in a church in Venice

The Icon of the Madonna of Kazan in the Church of San Martino on the island of Burano … but what happened to the original icon? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

I was writing in my prayer diary this morning of the Church of San Martino or Saint Martin on the island of Burano in the Venetian lagoon and its icon of Madonna of Kazan with the Christ Child. But is this the original, famous Russian icon, or is it a copy?

The icon of Our Lady of Kazan, also called the Mother-of-God of Kazan, was a holy icon of the highest standing in the Russian Orthodox Church. It depicted the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child, and in this icon she was venerated as the protector and patroness of the city of Kazan, and the Holy Protector of Russia. The feast days of Our Lady of Kazan are 21 July, and 4 November, also the Russian Day of National Unity.

The icon has many copies, and is venerated throughout all Orthodox Churches. But the story of the original icon is one of intrigue, war, theft, forgery and ecumenism, and even involves an English adventurer and fantasist who is said to have inspired the fictional character of Indian Jones.

Two major Russian cathedrals, the Kazan Cathedral, Moscow, and the Kazan Cathedral, St Petersburg, are consecrated to the Virgin of Kazan, and they display copies of the icon, as do many churches throughout Russia. The original icon in Kazan was stolen, and probably destroyed, in 1904.

According to legend, the original icon of the Virgin of Kazan was brought to Russia from Constantinople in the 13th century. After the establishment of the Khanate of Kazan in 1438, the icon disappeared from the historical record for more than a century, but was miraculously recovered in a pristine state over 140 years later in 1579.

The chronicle of Metropolitan Hermogenes, later Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, was written at the request of Tsar Feodor in 1595. He describes the recovery of the icon. According to this account, after a fire destroyed Kazan in 1579, the Virgin Mary appeared to a 10-year-old girl, Matrona, revealing the place where the icon was hidden.

The girl told the archbishop about the dream, but she was not taken seriously. However, on 8 July 1579, after two repetitions of the dream, the girl and her mother recovered the icon themselves, buried under a destroyed house where it had been hidden to save it from the Tatars.

Other churches were built in honour of the newly-found icon of the Virgin of Kazan, and copies of the icon were displayed at the Kazan Cathedral in Moscow, built in the early 17th century, at Yaroslavl and in St Petersburg.

A number of Russian military commanders, including Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and Field Marshall Mikhail Illarionovich Kutuzov, believed their invocation of the Virgin Mary through the icon had aided Russia in repelling a Polish invasion in 1612, a Swedish invasion in 1709, and Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. The Kazan icon became immensely popular, and there were nine or ten separate miracle-attributed copies of the icon around Russia.

On the night of 29 June 1904, the icon was stolen from the Kazan Convent of the Theotokos in Kazan where it had been kept for centuries. The thieves wanted the icon’s gold frame, with its many valuable jewels. Several years later, Russian police apprehended the thieves and recovered the frame.

The thieves originally declared that the icon itself had been cut to pieces and burnt, although one thief later confessed that it was sold to the Russian Old Believers and was kept in a monastery in the wilds of Siberia. However, the Russian police believed this was a fake, and they refused to investigate, claiming it would be unlucky to venerate a fake icon as though it were authentic.

The Orthodox Church interpreted the disappearance of the icon as a sign of tragedies that would later befall Russia. Popular beliefs linked the disappearance of the icon with the Revolution of 1905 and Russia’s defeat in the war with Japan in 1904-1905.

After the Russian Revolution of 1917, there was speculation that the original icon was preserved in St Petersburg. One story says that during World War II an icon of Our Lady of Kazan was used in processions around the fortifications of Leningrad during the Siege of Leningrad (1941-1944). Meanwhile, the Communist authorities ordered the demolition of the Kazan Convent of the Theotokos in Kazan.

There is speculation that that the Bolsheviks sold the icon abroad. But the Russian Orthodox Church did not accept these theories, and the history of the stolen icon between 1917 and 1953 is unknown.

The flamboyant English travel writer and adventurer Mike Hedges (1882-1953), also known as Frederick Mitchell-Hedges, bought an icon from Arthur Hillman in 1953 and claimed it was the original Kazan icon. However, Hedges was a fantasist, who also claimed to have discovered the ‘Crystal Skull’ in Belize, and his tall tales are said to have inspired the character of Indiana Jones.

Many experts dispute Hedges’s claim that his icon was the original Kazan icon. However, the art historian Cyril GE Bunt, who wrote extensively on Byzantine and Russian art, concluded ‘that it is the work of a great icon painter of the 16th century […] the pigments and the wood of the panel are perfectly preserved as exhaustive X-ray tests have proved, and have mellowed with age.’

Bunt suggested that although it was a copy of the original icon, this was the icon carried into battle by Dmitry Pozharski in 1612. However, a joint Russian-Vatican commission later determined it was a later 17th century copy.

This copy of the icon was exhibited at the World Trade Fair in New York in 1964-1965. The icon was eventually bought from Anna Mitchell-Hedges for $125,000 in 1970, and was kept in Fátima, Portugal, until it was given to the Vatican in 1993.

Pope John Paul II placed the icon in his study, where he venerated it for eleven years. He wished to visit Moscow or Kazan to return the icon to the Russian Orthodox Church. But the Moscow Patriarchate was suspicious that the Pope might have other motives, and so instead, in an ecumenical gesture, Cardinal Walter Kasper presented the icon to the Russian Church unconditionally in August 2004.

On the next feast day of the holy icon, 21 July 2005, Patriarch Alexius II and Mintimer Shaymiev, the president of Tatarstan, received it in the Annunciation Cathedral of the Kazan Kremlin. This copy is sometimes nicknamed Vatikanskaya.

The icon is now enshrined in the Cathedral of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, part of the Convent of the Theotokos. This convent, which was re-established as a monastery in 2005, stands on the site where the original icon of Our Lady of Kazan was found, and there are plans to convert the monastery’s other buildings into an international pilgrimage centre.

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
182, San Martino and Santa Barbara, Burano

The Chiesa San Martino Vescovo or the Church of Saint Martin the Bishop in Burano is known for its leaning tower (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

This is the last day in Ordinary Time this year, and Advent begins tomorrow. Later today (27 November 2021), I am taking part in the rehearsal in Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, for tomorrow evening’s Advent Procession or Service of Light.

Before a busy day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I have been reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Earlier in this prayer diary, I illustrated my morning reflections with images from churches in Venice and on Murano and Burano. While I was in Venice this month, I reflected on the synagogues in the Ghetto in Venice (7-13 November)

As part of my reflections and this prayer diary this week, I am looking at seven more churches I visited in Venice earlier this month. This theme concludes this morning (27 November 2021) with photographs of the Chiesa San Martino Vescovo or the Church of Saint Martin the Bishop on the island of Burano in the Lagoon.

Inside the Chiesa San Martino Vescovo or the Church of Saint Martin the Bishop (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Chiesa San Martino Vescovo or the Church of Saint Martino the Bishop is a 16th or 17th century church on Piazza Baldassarre Galuppi, the main square on the small island of Burano in the Venetian Lagoon. It can be seen from a distance in the Lagoon, marked out by its leaning tower.

This is a large church for such a small island. The first church on the site was built in the ninth century, and some time after the year 1000 the parish church was dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours. It has been restored and rebuilt several times, and it took its present appearance between 1500 and 1600.

The restored or rebuilt church was reconsecrated on 29 October 1645 by the Bishop of Torcello, Marco Antonio Martinengo.

Seen from outside, the church seems to have no main entrance. In fact, it is entered at the side through a Renaissance door beside the neighbouring Chapel of Santa Barbara. This entrance consists of a vast atrium, with an 18th century statue of the Madonna attributed to Girolamo Bonazza.

The interior, in Lombard-Baroque style, is in the shape of a Latin cross, with three naves ending in a chapel, divided by neoclassical pillars supporting full-arched arches and ending in Corinthian-style capitals. The floor has typical red and white square tiles.

The central nave, including the chancel and choir, is about 47 meters long and has a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The high altar is adorned with six elegant columns of red marble from France and another four from ancient oriental marble. The altar, built in 1673, has a large Baroque tabernacle with a small bronze statue of the Risen Christ above.

The unsafe central nave was renovated in 1867. The vault of the side naves and the central transept fell in 1874. In May 1913, a fire destroyed the ceiling of the main nave in May 1913, and the organ, built by Callido in 1767, was destroyed too. Callido’s organ was considered among the best organ masterpieces in Venice, and was replaced by an organ built by the Mascioni firm of Cuvio.

The unsafe central nave was renovated in 1867. The vault of the side naves and the central transept fell in 1874. In May 1913, a fire destroyed the ceiling of the main nave in May 1913, and the organ, built by Callido in 1767, was destroyed too. Callido’s organ was considered among the best organ masterpieces in Venice, and was replaced by an organ built by the Mascioni firm of Cuvio.

The works of art in the church include ‘The Crucifixion’ (1725) by Giambattista Tiepolo, showing the Madonna collapsed at the foot of the Cross, grey with grief. This ambitious early work by Tiepolo was strongly influenced by Tintoretto’s ‘Crucifixion’ in the Scuola di San Rocco.

There are statues of Sant’ Albano and San Martino, both by Girolamo Bonazza, and works by Francesco Fontabasso, Giovanni Mansueti and Girolamo da Santacroce.

The icon near the main altar is a 19th century copy of the Russian icon of the Madonna of Kazan, a masterpiece of enamelwork with astonishingly bright, lifelike eyes.

The church is best known for its leaning tower, built on a square shape with Renaissance and neoclassical architectural features. It is 53 meters high and it on a base 6.2 metres wide. But, due to land subsidence, the tower has inclined by 1.83 meters from its axis.

The tower has undergone several restorations over the centuries, especially in the upper part of the belfry. The most notable maintenance works were carried out by Tirali in 1703-1714.

The top of the tower was crowned by an angel until it fell in a storm in 1867 and was replaced with a cross of iron.

The Oratory of Saint Barbara (Oratorio di Santa Barbara) next door contains relics of the saint and an interesting mosaic of her holding the Empire State Building instead of her usual tower.

Saint Barbara is said to have been martyred in Heliopolis or Nicomedia in the year 290. The Emperor Justin II exhumed her body in Nicomedia in 565 and moved her relics to the Church of the Holy Saviour in Constantinople. Her relics were taken from Constantinople to Venice by the Doge of Pietro Orseolo II in 1003.

The Doge’s son, Giovanni Orseolo, was sent by his father to Byzantium to marry a noblewoman, Maria Argiropoli. The wedding was blessed by the Patriarch, and Maria brought Saint Barbara’s body to Venice, where it was placed in the ducal chapel.

The remains were then moved to the Church of San Giovanni Evangelista on Torcello in 1009, at the request of Orso Orseolo, Bishop of Torcello (1008-1012), and Abbess Felicita of San Giovanni Evangelista, a daughter of the Doge.

The relics remained in the Monastery of San Giovanni Evangelista for eight centuries, until it was suppressed by Napoleon I in 1806. They were moved with the remains of San Sisinnio, a bishop, to the Church of San Martino in Burano on 10 March 1811.

They were moved again, on 4 December 1926, to the Oratory of Saint Barbara, Pius XII proclaimed Saint Barbara as the patron saint of Burano. When he was the Patriarch of Venice, Giuseppe Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII, counted her among the seven patrons of Venice.

Inside the Chiesa San Martino, facing the west end (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Luke 21: 34-36 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 34 ‘Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.’

‘The Crucifixion’ (1725) by Tiepolo was strongly influenced by Tintoretto’s ‘Crucifixion’ in the Scuola di San Rocco (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (27 November 2021) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for the Anglican Communion Gender Justice Network, which promotes gender equality across the Church.

The Oratory of Saint Barbara, beside the Chiesa San Martino (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Yesterday’s reflection

Tomorrow: Saint Stephen the Younger

A modern icon of Saint Barbara in the Oratory of Saint Barbara (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

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 Chiesa San Martino (centre) and the Oratory of Saint Barbara (right) in the Piazza Baldassarre Galuppi, the main square of Burano (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Friday, 26 November 2021

The miracle of light in
the depths of darkness

Hanukkah in the Ghetto in Venice, an illustration by Michal Maron in Riccardo Calimani’s ‘500 years of the Venetian Ghetto’

Patrick Comerford

The first night of Hanukkah is on Sunday evening (28 November) and will be marked in synagogues and homes around the world with the lighting of the first candle on the hanukkiah or Hanukkah Menorah late on Sunday afternoon.

Jewish families and communities will be singing songs, playing the dreidel, eating latkes and doughnuts, and lighting the first Hanukkah candle as the sun goes down.

On this Friday evening, as Hanukkah approaches, I am watching the Winter Lecture organised by the Cork Jewish Community in which David Goldberg speaks about his family's journey from Lithuania to Ireland.

When this was shown recently by the Cork Jewish Community, it was an incredibly successful event, with over 60 people in attendance, from countries including Australia, South Africa, Russia and the US. We have recorded the session, and it is now available on our YouTube account and can be viewed HERE.

There are beautiful, joyful illustrations of Hannukah by the artist Michal Maron in two books I bought earlier this month in the ScalaMata Gallery in the Ghetto in Venice, Riccardo Calimani’s 500 years of the Venetian Ghetto and Alon Baker’s The Jewish Festivals and Synagogues around the World.

The ScalaMata Gallery, filled with colourful and captivating paintings, books, cards and bookmarks presenting 500 years of the history and scenes of daily life of the Venetian Ghetto. The displays and exhibitions include illustrated Torah scrolls and paintings by the artist Michal Meron, whose paintings accompany these two books.

Alon Baker first published the Jewish Festival book 25 years ago, and when it was translated into English, French, Portuguese, Hebrew, German and Japanese it was welcomed as ‘a little ambassador of Judaism.’

In the new edition, published in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish, the publisher ScalaMata has added illustrations of the Jewish festivals by Michal Maron and also included happy or solemn occasions in some synagogues around the world.

I was surprised that the illustrations included so many historical synagogues I had visited in Europe, among them Kahal Shalom, Rhodes; Dohány Synagogue in Budapest; Bevis Marks Synagogue, London; the Italian Synagogue, Venice; the Oranienburg Synagogue, Berlin; the Old New Synagogue, Prague; the Synagogue of Vienna; Remah Synagogue, Krakow; and the Great Synagogue of Rome.

In his small and delightful, accessible and educational book, Alon Barker says of Chanuccah, the Festival of Lights:

‘Chanuccah is the commemoration of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE and rededication of the second Temple in Jerusalem after its desecration by Antiochus IV. The holiday also recalls the miracle that occurred: when rededicating the Temple, they only found enough pure olive oil for the Menorah light to last one day. Instead, it burned for eight days, the time needed to make new oil. Chanuccah is celebrated by lighting an additional candle each evening on a nine-branched Menorah for eight days. Other traditions include playing with a dreidel (a spinning top) and eating doughnuts and latkes.’

The prayer included in Michal Maron’s illustration of Hannukah in this book says:

‘Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has kept us in light and sustained us to reach this season.

‘Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukah light.

‘Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who has performed miracles for our forefathers in those days at this time.’

May light shine in your life in these dark days of winter, a light that assures you of the love of God.

Shabbat Shalom



Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
181, Santa Maria Elisabetta, Lido

Santa Maria Elisabetta is the parish church of the Lido of Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

We are in the last week of Ordinary Time, the week before Advent. Before a busy day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I have been reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme on this prayer diary this week is seven more churches in Venice. Earlier in this prayer diary, I illustrated my morning reflections with images from churches in Venice and on Murano and Burano. While I was in Venice this month, I reflected on the synagogues in the Ghetto in Venice (7-13 November)

As part of my reflections and this prayer diary this week, I am looking at seven more churches I visited in Venice earlier this month. This theme continues this morning (26 November 2021) with photographs of the Chiesa di Santa Maria Elisabetta on the Lido of Venice.

The campanile of Santa Maria Elisabetta, the parish church of the Lido of Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Santa Maria Elisabetta is the parish church of the Lido of Venice, and gives its name to the station that is the boat and bus transportation hub of the Lido, an island that is a long, narrow strip of land running south between the Venetian Lagoon and the Adriatic Sea.

The church dates back to an oratory dedicated to the Virgin Mary and Saint Elizabeth, built in 1565. It was enlarged in 1620 and converted into a church in 1627. The church was consecrated in 1671.

Inside, the church is a simple structure with a single nave and no aisles. Pilasters with Corinthian capitals divide the spaces in front of the two side altars. The church has a barrel vault and the ceiling is decorated with wooden frames.

The High Altar, in a shallow vaulted apse, has an altarpiece depicting the Visitation, with the Virgin Mary and Saint Elizabeth, and is decorated with polychrome marbles.

The church as extensively restored in the early 1970s.

The side altar on the left has a 16th-century Venetian/Cretan icon of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child and a small 15th century sculpture of the Pieta.

The side altar on the right, which as being restored during my visit, has an altarpiece attributed to a student of Salviati and depicting Saint Apollonia, Saint Catherine of Alexandria and Saint Lucy, with Saint Oswald in Glory.

Other works in the church in the church include the Virgin Mary in Glory with Saint Nicholas between Saint Gerardo Sagrado and Saint Benedict by Gerolamo Pilotti, dating from 1609, and an early-17th-century Baptism of Christ.

Nearby, the large green dome of Santa Maria della Vittoria is one of the first landmarks visitors see as they approach the Lido vaporetto stop.

This was designed by Giuseppe Torres and built in 1925-1938 as a memorial to the Italian dead of World War I, of whom 2,700 are buried in the crypt. It is also known as the Venice War memorial and the Tempio Votivo.

Inside the Chiesa di Santa Maria Elisabetta (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Luke 21: 29-33 (NRSVA):

29 Then he [Jesus] told them a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’

The 16th-century Venetian/Cretan icon of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child and the 15th century sculpture of the Pieta at a side altar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (26 November 2021) invites us to pray:

Today we remember the life of Sojourner Truth, abolitionist and women’s rights activist. May we centre justice in our daily lives.

The organ above the west door of Santa Maria Elisabetta (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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 dome of Santa Maria della Vittoria is one of the first landmarks visitors see as they approach the Lido (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Sharing experiences of
Irish CND activism at
a peace history seminar

Sharing experiences of CND activism at this week’s webinar organised by the Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education

Patrick Comerford

Earlier this week, I took part in the latest INNATE peace history seminars, organised by Rob Fairmichael, editor of Nonviolent News and Coordinator, INNATE, an Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education.

The INNATE seminar on international peace work in Ireland involved Joe Murray of AfrI, John Lannon of Shannonwatch, Peter Emerson, who was involved in Northern Ireland CND, Sylvia Thompson, who has been involved with Pax Christi, the Diocese of Kerry Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation Committee, and other groups working in the areas of spirituality, biodiversity and inclusion, and myself.

The ‘Zoom’ webinar invited each of us to speak for about 10 minutes about our work in international peace work in the past. As President of the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, I spoke about my time as chair and also secretary of Irish CND between 1979 and 1984.

CND was active in Ireland from 1959, but went into abeyance in the mid-1960s. I was involved in relaunching Irish CND in 1979 and it remains active today. Northern Ireland CND was re-formed in 1981, but went into abeyance in the 1990s, although there are still CND members in Northern Ireland.



In my short contribution, I recalled Irish CND’s origins and inspiration in the late 1970s from the Carnsore Point sit-ins, the failed actions in organising protests on behalf of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), lobbying around the second special session on disarmament of the UN General Assembly, my student days in Japan, including a visit to Hiroshima, and the support of a half-dozen remaining CND members in Ireland.

Irish CND organised at the time Cruise, Pershing and SS-20 missiles were being deployed on Continental Europe and at the time of the Reagan and Bush visits to Ireland. The movement grew spontaneously, with branches in every city and major town throughout Ireland, on every university campus, and saw the formation of Trade Union CND, Women’s CND, Student CND and Christian CND.

I shared stories about the packed-out theatre in Liberty Hall for a showing of Peter Watkins’s move The War Game and of the CND visitors turning up unexpectedly at the Ronald Reagan pub in Ballyporeen, Co Tipperary.

Perhaps the major success of the time was the story of the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common. The camp was not created by CND, and the Irish women in CND who became involved were criticised even within Irish CND. But they were successful, and nonviolent direct action can work: there are no Cruise missiles there today, and Greenham Common is open, public space once again.

Even before my involvement in CND, Rob and I were involved in the Dawn group, producing Dawn magazine, an Irish journal of nonviolent activism. Following the demise of the Dawn group, INNATE – an Irish Network for Nonviolent Action Training and Education – was set up in 1987 and has produced Nonviolent News newssheet since 1990.

Nonviolent News has been monthly since 1994, and is a source of information on different groups and events; all issues are online https://innatenonviolence.org/.



Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
180, Santa Maria di Nazareth, Chiesa degli Scalzi

The Chiesa di Santa Maria di Nazareth or the Church of Saint Mary of Nazareth is better known as the Scalzi (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

We are in the last week of Ordinary Time, the week before Advent. Before a busy day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

Each morning in the time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I have been reflecting in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

My theme on this prayer diary this week is seven more churches in Venice. Earlier in this prayer diary, I illustrated my morning reflections with images from churches in Venice and on Murano and Burano. While I was in Venice this month, I reflected on the synagogues in the Ghetto in Venice (7-13 November)

As part of my reflections and this prayer diary this week, I am looking at seven more churches I visited in Venice earlier this month. This theme continues this morning (25 November 2021) with photographs of the Chiesa di Santa Maria di Nazareth or the Church of Saint Mary of Nazareth, known as the Scalzi, beside Santa Lucia railway station and facing the Ferrovia waterbus stop.

Inside Chiesa degli Scalzi, the church of the Discalced Carmelites in Venice (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Church of Santa Maria di Nazareth is also known as the Church of the Scalzi (Chiesa degli Scalzi) because this is the church of the Discalced Carmelites.

The façade of the church, in the Late Baroque Venetian style, was financed by Gerolamo Cavazza and built by Giuseppe Sardi in 1672-1680. The statues of the Virgin and Child, Saint Catherine of Siena and Saint Thomas Aquinas were sculpted by Bernardo Falconi.

Inside, the church has statues of Saint John of the Cross and Saint Sebastian attributed to Falconi, and statues of Faith, Hope, and Charity by Tommaso Rues.

The vault of the nave was once filled with a major fresco by Giambattista Tiepolo in 1743-1745 depicting the Translation of the House of Loreto. Tiepolo had previously worked in the church, decorating the vaults of the chapel of Saint Teresa in 1727-1730 and chapel of Crucifix in 1732-1733.

Tiepolo’s fresco was destroyed during World War I by an Austrian bombardment of Venice on 24 October 1915. From 1929 to 1933, Ettore Tito painted canvases and frescoes to repair the damage. The remains of the fragments of Tiepolo’s work are now in the Gallerie dell'Accademia.

The altar was completed by Giuseppe Pozzo, and the choir ceiling by Giuseppe and Domenico Valeriani. The organ above the main door has carved and gilded decorations and reliefs. Above the organ, the lunette showing Santa Teresa crowned by the Saviour is by G. Lazzarini (18th century).

The side chapels were provided by prominent Venetian families, including the Mora Chapel, Ruzzini Chapel, Manin Chapel and Venier Chapel. They include works by Baldassare Longhena, Melchior Barthel, Pietro Liberi, Giuseppe Pozzo, Heinrich Meyring, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and Niccolò Bambini.

The last Doge of Venice, Ludovico Manin, who died on 23 October 1802, is buried in the Manin Chapel, built by Giuseppe Pozzo. The altarpiece shows a sculpture of ‘The Virgin and Child and Saint Joseph in the Clouds’ by Giuseppe Torretto. The statues on the side walls of the chapel of Archangel Michael and Archangel Gabriel are also by Giuseppe Torretto. The two blue glass candelabras are Murano glassworks.

Other works of art include ‘Saint Theresa in Ecstasy’ (1697) by Heinrich Meyring, a Crucifixion by Giovanni Maria Morlaiter, and canvases by Tiepolo.

The choir ceiling is the work of Giuseppe and Domenico Valeriani (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Luke 21: 20-28 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 20 ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; 22 for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. 23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; 24 they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

The ceiling of the nave was once filled with a major fresco by Tiepolo, destroyed by Austrian bombardment in 1915 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (25 November 2021, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for victims of gender-based violence, as they seek healing and justice. May we keep them in our prayers. Today also marks the start of the 16 Days Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, which we encourage you to get involved with.

Above the main door, the organ has carved and gilded decorations and reliefs, and the lunette above the organ, ‘Saint Teresa crowned by the Saviour,’ is by G Lazzarini (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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 last Doge of Venice, Ludovico Manin, who died in 1802, is buried in the Manin Chapel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)