Sunday, 7 March 2021

200 years later, Greece
remembers the Irish
people involved in
the War of Independence

The Acropolis in Athens … one of the first military actions of Sir Richard Church was an attempt to relieve the besieged tiny Greek garrison (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This month marks the bicentenary of the Greek War of Independence, which began on 25 March 1821, leading to the formation of the modern Greek state. The many foreigners involved in the Greek War of Independence are known as Philhellenes — people who devoted their lives to Greece at the beginning of the 19th century.

Among these is the poet Lord Byron, but he and others are often typecast as English. This happens so often in the writing of history that few people are aware of the many Irishmen who were also Philhellenes.

Many of those Irish Philhellenes, such as Sir Richard Church (1784-1873) from Cork, were also members of the Church of Ireland. I first became aware of Church and the Irish Philhellenes during one of many working visits to Athens in the 1990s. I noticed a plaque in Saint Paul’s, the Anglican Church in the city centre that claims he won the affection of the people of Greece ‘for himself and for England.’

Yet Church was the leading Irish Philhellene and was once described as the ‘liege lord of all true Philhellenes.’

Richard Church’s former house in the Plaka, beneath the slopes of the Acropolis … now covered in graffiti (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

***

Sir Richard Church was born in Cork into a prominent Quaker merchant family. But he ran away to join the army and later became an Anglican. As a 16-year-old ensign in 1800, he visited Greece for the first time. Later, he married Elizabeth Augusta Wilmot, sister-in-law of the Earl of Kenmare.

When the War of Independence broke out in 1821, Church hoped he might become involved in the Greek cause. The Greek revolutionary Theodoros Kolokotronis wrote to him asking: ‘What are you doing? Where are you to be found? … I expected you here before other Philhellenes … Come! Come! and take arms for Greece: or assist her with your talents, your virtues, and your abilities, that you may claim her eternal gratitude.’

Church landed to a hero’s welcome on 9 March 1827, and was sworn in as the Greek commander-in-chief on Easter Day, 15 April 1827. One of his first actions was a disastrous attempt to drive off the Turkish force besieging the tiny Greek garrison in the Acropolis in Athens.

When Athens became the Greek capital in 1834, Church and his wife moved into a house at No 5 Odos Scholeiou, off Adrianou in the Plaka and beneath the slopes of the Acropolis. He became a life senator and remained active in Greek politics until he died in his ninetieth year on 27 March 1873. He was honoured with a state funeral in Saint Paul’s Church and was buried in the First Cemetery of Athens, close to the heroes of the War of Independence. In a funeral oration, he was described as ‘the truest Hellene, the most steadfast and most affectionate of the sons of Greece.’

The simple inscription on his grave reads: ‘Richard Church General who having given himself and all that he had to rescue a Christian race from oppression and to make Greece a nation lived for her service and died amongst her people rests here in peace and faith.’ But his former house in the Plaka was long abandoned and covered in graffiti.

Sir Richard Church’s monument in the First Cemetery in Athens(Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Charles Napier, Greek
down to his toenails


Sir Charles Napier (1782–1853) from Celbridge, Co Kildare, was a descendant of Charles II but was also a first cousin of the 1798 revolutionary Lord Edward FitzGerald.

Napier first arrived in the Ionian Islands in 1819. He was appointed the British resident or colonial governor of Kephalonia, known to many as ‘Captain Corelli’s island.’ There he was an ‘enlightened despot’ during what ‘was probably the happiest time in his life.’

Long after Byron’s death, Napier continued to hope he would become the Greek commander-in-chief, hopes harboured too by his friends among the Greek leadership, including Kapodistrias and Mavrokordatos. But the appointment never came.

Napier compared the Greeks with his own people: ‘The merry Greeks … are worth all other nations put together. I like to hear them; I like their fun, their good humour, their Paddy ways, for they are very like Irishmen. All their bad habits are Venetian; their wit, their eloquence, their good nature their own.’ He also once declared: ‘I am a Greek down to the nails of my toes and the marrow of my bones.’

Sir Charles Napier’s monument in Trafalgar Square, London (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

***

Napier eventually left Kephalonia, leaving his Greek-born daughters behind. He returned occasionally to Ireland, but eventually made his name as the Conqueror of Sind in India.

But he made no secret that he still harboured hopes of being appointed Lord High Commissioner of the Ionian Islands, which remained a British colony until 1864. His affection for the Greek people continued in his final years and in 1851 he wrote: ‘I always think of my second country, the (to me) dear island of Cephalonia.’

Until he died in 1853, he held on to Koutoupi, his house and small plot of land in Argostoli. He explained in a letter to Metaxa: ‘I keep Cutupi because I love Cephalonia; were I younger I would go and live among you a private gentleman; but I am seventy, and the night closes fast upon me.’ One historian says, ‘few who bore the name Philhellene deserved it so well.’

Napier’s daughters, who had been left behind in Kephalonia, were eventually taken to Ireland by Edward Curling, who later moved to Newcastle West, Co Limerick. Napier’s brother, Sir William Napier, is a direct ancestor of Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury.

Saint Paul’s Church, Athens … the funerals of Sir Richard Church and Sir Edward Law were held here (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sir Edward Law and
Greek finances


Sir Edward Fitzgerald Law (1846-1908) became involved in securing Greek economic independence long after most of the Philhellenes. I might have passed by Law’s contribution to making Greece an independent, modern state, except I came across his name by accident on two, successive occasions: reading a description of a visit to Athens by his cousin, Archbishop John Allen Fitzgerald Gregg, and researching the biographical details of his father’s cousin, the Revd Patrick Comerford Law (1797-1869) of Killaloe.

Edward Law was born in Rostrevor House, Co Down, a son of Michael Law, later a director of the Bank of Ireland, and his wife Sarah-Ann, daughter of Crofton FitzGerald. The Law family was a long-established clerical family in the Church of Ireland, and family members included the Revd Francis Law (1768-1807), who married Belinda Isabella Comerford, and the Revd Patrick Comerford Law (1797-1869).

He presided over the finances of Greece in the 1880s and 1890s, restructuring the Greek debt and the nation’s economy, to the lasting advantage of Greece. He married Catherine (Kaity) Hatzopulo, from an old Byzantine family, in 1893, and they settled in Athens. There he became involved in the Greek struggle for autonomy on the island of Crete for autonomy and its eventual unification with Greece in 1908.

Law was knighted in the British honours system in 1898 and died in Paris on 2 November 1908. He was given a state funeral in Athens on 21 November. Crown Prince Constantine (later King Constantine I) and the entire Greek cabinet attended his funeral service in Saint Paul’s Anglican Church.

The graveside eulogy in the First Cemetery was delivered by a future Prime Minister, Nikolaos Kalogeropoulos. One Greek newspaper, Neon Asti, commented: ‘He loved Greece with the devotion of a son … he was a Greek at heart. As he felt for Greece, more than a Greek, he watched over her, advised her and warned her.’

***

At least 31 people of Irish birth or with an Irish identity played a public role in Greek political life during the struggle for independence and in the consolidation of the modern Greek state later in the 19th century.

In Athens, Gladstone unveiled a memorial to Church in Saint Paul’s Church, where there are two windows to his memory. There are statues to Napier in Trafalgar Square and Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London, and there is plaque commemorating Sir Edward Law in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin. But the Irish Philhellenes are often forgotten at home in Ireland.

Tzortz Street, close to Omonia and the Polytechnic in Athens, was named after Church, using a transliteration of his name as he spelt it in Greek. The spelling ‘Tzortz’ remains on the nameplates in Greek at each end of the street, but on most pillars and maps ‘Tzortz’ is badly transliterated from Greek into English as ‘George’ rather than ‘Church.’

Similarly, Law’s only memorial in Athens is a street named after him. A year after his death, the city council agreed unanimously to name a street in central Athens after him. His cousin, John Allen Fitzgerald Gregg, Archbishop of Armagh, visited Athens in 1951. When the Mayor of Athens was told of the archbishop’s kinship with Law, he invited Gregg to return as the guest of the municipality – ‘an offer which I fear I cannot hope to take advantage of.’

But this street is usually transliterated into English from the Greek as ‘Eduardo Lo’ – making it impossible for most pedestrians and passers-by to identify him.

The names of Sir Richard Church and Sir Edward Law on street names in Athens … with poor transliterations into English (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This two-page feature was published in March 2021 in the ‘Church Review’ (Diocese of Dublin and Glendalough)



Sunday intercessions on
7 March 2021,
Third Sunday in Lent

‘Christ driving the Traders from the Temple,’ by El Greco (Doménikos Theotokópoulos, 1541-1614), The National Gallery, London (ca 1600)

Let us pray:

‘The heavens are telling the glory of God and the firmament proclaims his handiwork’ (Psalm 19: 1):

Heavenly Father,
we pray for all the ends of the earth,
and for all the families of the nations.

We pray for all who defend democracy and human rights,
including the Gardai and our courts,
for all who stand against racism, prejudice and oppression,
for all nations torn and divided by war and strife,
and we pray for all peacemakers,
including Pope Francis on his visit to Iraq,
that in all their work they may be guided by love.

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

‘They believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken’ (John 2: 22).

Lord Jesus Christ,
we pray for the Church,
that we may truly follow you
and live for the sake of the Gospel.

We pray for our neighbouring churches and parishes
in Co Limerick and Co Kerry,
that we may be blessed in their variety and diversity.

We pray for all taking part in the diocesan Lenten study course
on Anglican mission on Tuesday evenings.

In the Anglican Cycle of Prayer this week,
we pray for the Province de L’Eglise Anglicane du Congo,
the Anglican church in Congo,
and the Archbishop of the Congo and Bishop of Kindu,
the Most Revd Zacharie Masimango Katanda.

In the Church of Ireland this month,
we pray for the Diocese of Derry and Raphoe
and Bishop Andrew Forster.

In the Diocesan Cycle of Prayer this week,
we pray for the terminally ill
and those who love and care for them.

We pray for our own parishes and people,
for our schools as they gradually reopen,
and we pray for ourselves …

Christ have mercy,
Christ have mercy.

‘The testimony of the Lord is sure and gives wisdom to the simple’ (Psalm 19: 7):

Holy Spirit,
we pray 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 in need and those who seek healing …
for those working for healing …
for those waiting for healing …
for those seeking an end to this Covid crisis …

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

Una … Ann … Daphne … Sylvia … Ajay … Gerry …
Ena … George … Louise … Ralph …

We pray for those we have offered to pray for …
and we pray for those who pray for us …

We pray for all who grieve and mourn at this time …
for Joey, Kenneth, Victor, and their families …
for Pat and Daphne and their families …
for Christine, Mark and Peter and their families …
for Anne, Pete and their families …

We remember and give thanks for those who have died …
especially for Linda Smyth … Eileen …
Pete Culley … Michael Jennings-Bates …
and for those whose anniversaries are at this time …
including Kevin and Bridget … Kathy …
Maurice and Pamela … Ewart Jones …
May their memories be a blessing to us …

Lord have mercy,
Lord have mercy.

A prayer from the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) on the Third Sunday in Lent:

Loving God, you heal the broken-hearted
and comfort the bereaved.
May all who bear the scars of Earthquakes and tsunamis
experience your comfort and healing.

Merciful Father …

The Ten Commandments on the ‘parochet’ or curtain on the Ark in a synagogue in Kraków (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

These intercessions were prepared for use on the Third Sunday in Lent, 7 March 2021, in the Rathkeale and Kilnaughtin Group of Parishes

Turning the tables on
our religious practices
and finding new values

‘He also … overturned their tables’ (John 2: 15) … abandoned tables and furniture at an abandoned house in Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 7 March 2021

The Third Sunday in Lent (Lent III)

10 a.m.
, The Parish Eucharist

The Readings: Exodus 20: 1-17; Psalm 19; John 2: 13-22.

The Ten Commandments on two panels in Saint Carthage’s Cathedral, Lismore, Co Waterford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer’ (Psalm 19: 14)

There was a time when the Ten Commandments, as we find them in this reading, were displayed publicly in Anglican churches, often on painted boards beside the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed, so that people could learn them off by heart and understand their foundational significance for our faith.

The Ten Commandments are the foundational moment for the Jewish people as a community. Today, the curtain or screen (parochet, פרוכת) that covers the Torah Ark containing the Torah scrolls in a synagogue is usually embroidered with a representation of the two tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, and the scrolls themselves are covered with a mantle with similar decoration.

The parochet symbolises the curtain that covered the Ark of the Covenant, and the word also describes the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies from the main hall in the Temple in Jerusalem. The use of the parochet in synagogues today recalls the centrality of the Temple in Jewish worship, and the foundational role of the Ten Commandments for Jewish identity.

The Ten Commandments mark the Covenant between God and the people. But, unlike the covenants with Noah and Abraham, which we have looked at on previous Sundays (Genesis 9: 8-17, the First Sunday in Lent; and Genesis 17: 1-7, 15-16, the Second Sunday in Lent), both parties have a stake in this covenant.

In the earlier covenants, God acts and promises, but the other parties are passive recipients. With this covenant, either party can break it.

For many people today, the Ten Commandments may appear to be old-fashioned, old hat. But they summarise our relationships with God, and with one another, how we come to love God and to love one another.

The first part of the Ten Commandments sets out why, how and when God alone is to be worshipped (verses 2-11). The second part sets out how this is to be put into practice: honouring older people, respecting the sacred qualities of life, marriage, truth and the rights, security and personal possessions of others (verses 12-17).

The Ten Commandments summarise our relationships with God and with one another, they symbolise this covenant, they define the purpose and direction of worship, and they express the core values of community relations.

In our Gospel reading, Christ reacts to how those values have been abused and set aside for personal gain in a place supposed to be at the heart of these relationships.

In this morning’s Psalm (Psalm 19), the law of the Lord is said to be perfect, it revives the soul, it makes the wise simple, it gladdens the heart and enlightens our eyes, it is sweeter than honey and is to be desired more than fine gold (verses 7-10).

If one accidentally breaks this law or the covenant, God is ready to forgive and to protect (verses 11-13). But true worship must by reflected in our words and deeds (verse 14).

The Gospel reading (John 2: 13-22) is set in the Temple in Jerusalem, in the first of three Passover feasts that are part of Saint John’s Gospel.

The Cleansing of the Temple takes place during the first of these three Passovers in this Gospel.

In the outer court of the Temple, Christ finds a thriving market, where visitors can buy the animals needed for sacrifice and change their Roman coins with images of the emperor as an idol with the money changers for half-shekels from Tyre, that were acceptable religiously.

The animals and the coins were absolutely necessary for the Temple worship. So, in attacking the commerce in the outer court of the Temple, Christ is doing more than purging the Temple of an abuse – he is seen as attacking the Temple itself.

Here he shows that the very centre of traditional religious worship is losing its meaning and purpose.

But is he really all that radical? Jeremiah had said that impurity would destroy the value of the Temple in God’s eyes: ‘Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight’ (Jeremiah 7: 11).

Other Biblical passages tell how the coming of the Messiah will see an ideal Temple appearing on earth. No commerce will be tolerated there, and all the nations of the earth will be welcome in this new Temple: ‘And there shall no longer be traders in the house of the Lord of hosts on that day’ (Zechariah 14: 21; see also Isaiah 56: 7; Tobit 14: 5-7).

Nor is this an outburst of temper. We might see it instead as the energy of righteousness, zeal for true religion, being used to confront religious leaders who have made a good business out of the religious practices of people.

In the third stanza of his poem ‘A Song for Simeon,’ TS Eliot brings together the Christ who ties cords to drive the traders from the Temple and the Christ who will be whipped and scourged.

Christ says: ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’

Of course, even in the time of Christ, building work on the Temple had not been completed. The Temple begun by Herod the Great in the year 20 BCE was not finished by Herod Agrippa until AD 64.

But, for Saint John, the Temple is the body of Christ which, as the disciples would see after the Resurrection, would be raised up in three days.

As we continue this Lent with Christ on this journey to his death and Resurrection, perhaps I could conclude with a few questions for reflection:

Have you ever excused your anger by finding a moral justification for your actions?

Is it ever right to lose my temper?

Have we a moral responsibility for the way the Church orders its financial affairs?

Am I in danger, at times, of putting higher value on financial wealth than on spiritual wealth?

Do you see your body as the Temple of the Holy Spirit?

Can you extend that image to other members of the Church, your parish, your community?

Do you see the members of the Church, all members collectively, as the Body of Christ and the true Temple?

How zealous am I for God’s house?

If I need to change the values reflected in my religious practices, am I willing to pay the price?

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

‘He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables’ (John 2: 15) … coins on a table in a pub in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 2: 13-22 (NRSVA):

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ 18 The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ 19 Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The Ten Commandments on a Torah Mantle on Torah Scrolls from Adelaide Road Synagogue now in the Dublin Jewish Museum (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Liturgical colour: Violet.

The canticle Gloria is omitted in Lent.

Penitential Kyries:

In the wilderness we find your grace:
you love us with an everlasting love.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

There is none but you to uphold our cause;
our sin cries out and our guilt is great.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Heal us, O Lord, and we shall be healed;
Restore us and we shall know your joy.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

Merciful Lord,
Grant your people grace to withstand the temptations
of the world, the flesh and the devil
and with pure hearts and minds to follow you, the only God;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Introduction to the Peace:

Being justified by faith,
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5: 1, 2)

Preface:

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who was in every way tempted as we are yet did not sin;
by whose grace we are able to overcome all our temptations:

Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord our God,
you feed us in this life with bread from heaven,
the pledge and foreshadowing of future glory.
Grant that the working of this sacrament within us
may bear fruit in our daily lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

Christ give you grace to grow in holiness,
to deny yourselves,
and to take up your cross and follow him:

The Cleansing of the Temple, Giotto, the Scrovegni Chapel, Padua

Hymns:

336, Jesus, where’er thy people meet (CD 20)
343, We love the place, O God (CD 20)

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

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



Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
19, Ballinskelligs Priory, Co Kerry

The ruins of Ballinskelligs Priory, Co Kerry … still a place of prayer and peace for pilgrims and tourists alike (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During Lent and Easter this year, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, a photograph 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 Third Sunday in Lent (7 March 2021). This week I am offering photographs from seven churches that have connections with my education. My photographs this morning (7 March 2021) are from Ballinskelligs, Co Kerry, where I spent a happy summer in 1966 at Coláiste Mhichíl on an Irish-language summer course, preparing for the Intermediate (Junior Certificate) exams at school. I learned very little Irish, but it was an important time for my maturing and growth as a teenager.

John 2: 13-22 (NRSVA):

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money-changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’ 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, ‘Zeal for your house will consume me.’ 18 The Jews then said to him, ‘What sign can you show us for doing this?’ 19 Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 The Jews then said, ‘This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?’ 21 But he was speaking of the temple of his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (7 March 2021), the Third Sunday in Lent, prays:

Loving God, you heal the broken-hearted
and comfort the bereaved.
May all who bear the scars of the Earthquake and tsunami
experience your comfort and healing.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The monk’s beehive at Saint Michael’s Well, behind the house where I stayed in Dungeagan in Ballinkselligs (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