25 June 2021

‘Let your kindness comfort us,
Before we call out to you answer us’

Detail from the Arch of Titus in Rome showing the Romans carrying off booty from the Second Temple in Jerusalem in the year 70 AD

Patrick Comerford

The Fast of Tammuz in the Jewish calendar begins tomorrow evening (26 June 2021) and ends on Sunday evening (27 June 2021).

This fast day on the Seventeenth of Tammuz (שבעה עשר בתמוז‎, Shivah Asar b’Tammuz) falls on the 17th day of the 4th Hebrew month of Tammuz and marks the beginning of the three-week mourning period leading up to Tisha B’Av.

This fast day commemorates the breach of the walls of Jerusalem before the destruction of the Second Temple. It also traditionally commemorates the destruction of the two tablets of the Ten Commandments and other historical calamities that befell the Jewish people on the same date.

The Fast of Tammuz, according to Rabbi Akiva, is the fast mentioned in the Book of Zechariah as ‘the fast of the fourth [month]’ (see Zechariah 8: 19).

According to the Mishnah, five calamities befell the Jewish people on the day: Moses broke the two tablets of stone on Mount Sinai; the daily korban or tamid offering ceased to be brought; the city walls were breached during the Roman siege of Jerusalem, leading to the destruction of the Second Temple on Tisha B'Av; before Bar Kokhba’s revolt, the Roman military leader Apostomus burned a Torah scroll; and King Menashe, one of the worst of the Jewish kings, placed an idol placed in the Holy Sanctuary of the Temple.

The fast also recalls the walls of Jerusalem being breached in 1095 during the First Crusade; Pope Gregory IX confiscating all manuscripts of the Talmud in 1239, the attacks on Jewish communities in Toledo and Jaen in 1391, when more than 4,000 Jews were murdered, the attack on the Jewish quarter in Prague in 1559, when homes and synagogues were looted and burned, and the liquidation of the Kovno Ghetto in 1944.

As a minor fast day, fasting lasts from dawn to shortly after dusk. It is customary among Ashkenazi Jews to refrain from listening to music, public entertainment, and haircuts on fast days.

During the morning service on the 17th of Tammuz, a paragraph is added to the Amidah prayer, Avinu Malkeinu is recited, and there is a special Torah reading. During the afternoon service, all of the changes to the morning service are repeated, and Ashkenazim read a special Haftarah from the Book of Isaiah. Sephardim add the prayer Aneinu to the Shaharit Amidah.

The three weeks beginning with the Fast of Tammuz and ending with the Ninth of Av are known as Bein haMetzarim (‘between the straits’ or between the days of distress), or the Three Weeks.

For my reflections this Friday evening, I am contemplating the words of the prayer Alienu:

Answer us God, answer us, on our fast day,
Because we are in great distress.
Do not look at our wickedness,
and do not hide your face from us,
and do not ignore our supplication.
Be close to our cry,
Let your kindness comfort us,
Before we call out to you answer us,
As it is said: ‘and it shall be that before they call I will answer, while they are still speaking I shall hear’ (Isaiah 65: 24).
For you are God who answers in a time of distress,
who redeems and saves in every time of distress and woe.
Blessed are you God, who answers in a time of distress.

Shabbat Shalom

Praying in Ordinary Time 2021:
27, Santa Sofia, Venice

The Tower of Santa Sofia rises above the shopfronts that hide the church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During this time in the Church Calendar known as Ordinary Time, I am taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship;

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).

My photographs this week are from churches in Venice. This morning (25 June 2021), my photographs are from the Church of Santa Sofia in Cannaregio.

Inside the Church of Santa Sofia … brought back to life in 1836 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of Santa Sofia or the Chiesa dell Divina Sapienza is near the traghetto or gondola ferry of Santa Sofia on the Grand Canal. It should be confused with the Palazzo Ca’ d’Oro on the Grand Canal, which is also known as the Palazzo Santa Sofia.

There was a wooden church dedicated to Sant Sofia or the Wisdom of God in Venice from as early as 886.

A new church was built in the 11th century through the patronage of the Gussoni family. Building work began in 1020, and this church appears to have survived the great fire of 1105. Major rebuilding took place in 1507-1534, and the architect Antonio Gaspari designed another reconstruction in the late 1600s.

When the Strada Nova was laid out in the 1800s, the church was shortened in length. Then, when Napoleon captured Venice, this was one of the churches here celebrations of the liturgy were suppressed. The church was converted into a warehouse and its contents were dispersed.

The church has lost many of its original art works and paintings, including ‘The Last Supper’ by Paolo Veronese, ‘The Birth of the Virgin’ by Titian, ‘Christ preaching to the Masses’ by Francesco da Ponte, ‘The Crucifixion’ by Tintoretto, ‘The Marriage of the Virgin’ by Tintoretto, and paintings attributed to Francesco and Leandro Bassano and Jacopo Palma the Elder. These works are now in the Gallerie dell’Accademia.

The church now has two paintings by Bassano’s school at the side of the presbytery, and ‘The Baptism of Christ’ by Girolamo Heinz above the main altar, as well as four statues of saints, attributed to Antonio Rizzo.

The church was bought back in 1836, it was cleared of debris, and was re-consecrated. However, the ground floor of the façade and bell tower of the church are screened behind the buildings on the street front, making it easy to pass this church without noticing it. The discreet entry to the church is through what looks like a shop door.

‘The Baptism of Christ’ by Girolamo Heinz above the main altar in Santa Sofia (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 8: 1-4 (NRSVA):

1 When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; 2 and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.’ 3 He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I do choose. Be made clean!’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4Then Jesus said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’

The discreet entrance to Santa Sofia could be mistaken for a shop door (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (25 June 2021) invites us to pray:

We pray for those who have lost a spouse or partner, both recently or long ago. May their wounds heal and their memories bring happiness.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Church of Santa Sofia is not to be confused with the Palazzo Santa Sofia, also known as Ca’ d’Oro (Photographs: 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