02 February 2022

Bloomsday arrives early
in Dublin to celebrate
the centenary of Ulysses

‘Ulysses’ and Joyce … Joyceana in Sweny’s window in Lincoln Place, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Bloomsday has come early to Dublin this year. Today marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses on 2 February 1922, and a plethora of Joycean activity around Dublin throughout this year.

Ulysses was first published 100 years ago, on 2 February 1922, by Sylvia Beach in her small bookshop in Paris, Shakespeare and Company. The book consumed seven years of Joyce’s life, and has transformed our culture and literary world.

Joyce celebrated his 40th birthday on the same day that Ulysses was published. In that same year, 1922, Ireland was grappling with its new independent status in the world. It is hard to imagine today that Ulysses was banned in the US and Britain until the 1930s, and that until Joyce died in 1941 he was out of favour with the Irish establishment. But no modern novel rivals Ulysses in its reach, and it has become the most influential pieces of modernist literature.

In my own personal celebration of this centenary, I visited a number of Joycean sites in Dublin yesterday (1 February 2022) during an extended walking tour between a dental appointment in the late morning and a consultation in mid-afternoon.

The places I visited included Sweny’s on the corner of Lincoln Place and Lower Merrion Street, where Leopold Bloom bought his lemon soap; and Kennedy’s, on the opposite corner of Lincoln Place and Westland Row, where Joyce once drank at the bar.

The Bailey on Duke Street once displayed the front door of 7 Eccles Street, where, according to Ulysses, Molly and Leopold Bloom lived on Bloomsday in 1904. When the Bailey was acquired by Marks and Spencer in 1993, the door was presented to the James Joyce Centre on North Great George’s Street.

Another plaque on the Bailey celebrated John Ryan (1926-1992), the ‘artist, writer, Joycean and benefactor’ who was the owner of the Bailey in 1956-1971, and who organised the first ‘Bloomsday’ celebrations in Dublin in 1954.

And, of course, on bus journeys in and out of the city centre, I passed the houses on Clanbrassil Street where Leopold Bloom may have been born, and where his neighbours, the Comerfords, lived when Molly Bloom was caught short after one of their parties. Joyce says Bloom was born at 52 Clanbrassil Street, two doors down from a Comerford family home.

Sweny’s on the corner of Lincoln Place and Lower Merrion Street, where Leopold Bloom bought his lemon soap (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

RTÉ is marking the 100th anniversary with an extensive and ambitious programme of themed content across television, radio and online.

RTÉ One is screening 100 Years of Ulysses on television tomorrow night (10.15 pm, 3 February). This new documentary by the historian the late Frank Callanan and directed by Ruán Magan features interviews with writers and scholars including Eimear McBride, Paul Muldoon, John McCourt and Margaret O Callaghan, illuminative archive film and photographs, newly commissioned art works by Jess Tobin, Brian Lalor and Holly Pereira and a beautiful original score by Natasa Paulberg.

Tomorrow night’s 100 Years of Ulysses promises an enlightening journey into the heart of one of the most inspiring and influential novels and reveals how it remains relevant today.

RTÉ One is devoting a special edition of Nationwide to Ulysses this evening (7 pm, 2 February). Anne Cassin views the first ever printed copy of Ulysses with Katherine McSharry at the Museum of Literature Ireland. She meets Booker Prize-winning author Anne Enright, who shares her thoughts on Ulysses. She visits the Joyce Tower in Sandycove to meet with one of the early curators, Vivien Igoe. And she returns to Studio 9 in RTÉ with actor Patrick Dawson to hear about the marathon 30-hour radio dramatisation that was broadcast in 1982.

The feature ‘Book on One’ during Late Date on RTÉ Radio 1 each evening this week at 11.20 pm highlights the worldwide significance and influence of Ulysses on other writers.

A special edition of Arena on RTÉ Radio 1 this evening (7 pm, 2 February) is dedicated to Ulysses and the contributors include Colm Toibín, Nuala O'Connor, Mary Costello, John Patrick McHugh and Catherine Flynn.

Other contributions from RTÉ include Finnegans Wake – Suite of Affections, a new work by composer Roger Doyle; readings of excerpts from Ulysses and other works by Joyce; and ‘James Joyce’s Chamber Music: The Lost Song Settings and the Story of an Intriguing Collaboration.’

Nora, a novel by Nuala O’Connor, reimagines the fascinating love story of Nora Barnacle and James Joyce and has been chosen as the ‘One Dublin One Book’ choice for 2022.

An Post has launched two new postage stamps to celebrate this centenary. The Ulysses 100 stamps are the work by Amsterdam-based Irish designers, The Stone Twins, and consist of 18 sections, signifying the number of chapters in the book. The stamp design features photographs by the photographer JJ Clarke, who took vivid images of daily life in Dublin when he was a medical student in the city between 1897 and 1904.

Ulysses Journey 2022 is an international programme of music, film and talks to mark this centenary. It began yesterday (1 February 2022) and continues until 18 June 18, and is a collaboration between Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland (CMC) and Centre Culturel Irlandais (CCI).

To celebrate the centenary, six specially commissioned films are being screened in Dublin, Belfast, Paris and Budapest. Other programmes include an international concert series of new and existing works by Irish and Hungarian composers, which is appropriate given Leopold Bloom’s supposed Hungarian origins.

Plaques at the Bailey celebrate John Ryan and recall Leopold Bloom’s front door (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

With the Saints through Christmas (39):
2 February 2022, Simeon and Anna

‘The Presentation in the Temple’ … a window by James Watson in the Church of the Holy Rosary, Murroe, Co Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Today looks like being a busy day. Although I am still in Dublin after a dental appointment and another consultation yesterday, I have a lot to catch up on. But, before this busy day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading.

I have been continuing my Prayer Diary on my blog each morning, reflecting in these ways:

1, Reflections on a saint remembered in the calendars of the Church during the Season of Christmas, which continues until Candlemas or the Feast of the Presentation today (2 February);

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Today (2 February 2022) is the Feast of the Presentation, the closing great feast of the Christmas season, and this morning I am reflecting on Simeon and Anna, who are two key figures – and not marginal figures – in this story, which is unique to Saint Luke’s Gospel.

A detail of Harry Clarke’s ‘Presentation Window’ in Saint Flannan’s Church, Killaloe, Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

According to one Orthodox tradition, Simeon was one of the 72 translators of the Septuagint. As he hesitates on the translation of Isaiah 7: 14 (LXX: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive’) and contemplates correction to γυνή (‘woman;), an angel appears to him and tells him that he is not going to die until he has seen the Christ born of a virgin. This makes him well over 200 years old at the time of the meeting described by Saint Luke, and miraculously long-lived.

Simeon and Anna have been ‘waiting for consolation’ (Luke 2: 25). Simeon is righteous and devout. Luke assigns Anna a place among the prophets (v. 36). Both are very old: Simeon knows he is near the end of days; Anna is 84, well beyond the life expectancy of the time. They are reaching the end of their days when they recognise the Christ Child is in their presence in the Temple.

Saint Luke introduces Simeon with a word (προσδεχόμενος, prosdechomenos) that is normally translated as ‘waiting’ (see Mark 15: 43; Luke 12: 36, 15: 2, 23: 51). But it could also be rendered as ‘ready to receive to oneself.’ The term expresses an eagerness to welcome. In other words, Simeon’s waiting is not so much endurance as active anticipation; he has been counting the days until God reveals what he has promised to him personally.

As Simeon gazes into eyes of the Christ Child, he knows ‘God is with us,’ that ‘God with me.’

Simeon’s name is derived from a word that means ‘to hear intelligently.’ He listens deliberately listening to the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit rests on him, the Holy Spirit reveals things to him, and the Holy Spirit moves him.

The result of Simeon’s listening is one of the most tender moments in Scripture: Simeon enters the Temple to find the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph with their new-born child. He has the distinction of being the only person in the Bible who we is explicitly told held the Christ Child in his arms, and in almost Eucharistic-like movement, he takes the body of Christ in his hands. Any inner disquiet is calmed by Christ, and his soul is at rest.

Anna too has been in God’s presence for decades. She is a member of the tribe of Asher, and she turns her grief as a young widow into a life of prayer, waiting on the Lord day-by-day. For her, the sheer existence of the Christ Child is the only evidence she needs to recognise God’s redemptive work. A baby who cannot even walk becomes the focal point of her praise.

Anna makes a point of talking about Christ to all who were waiting for redemption. Again, Saint Luke returns to the word prosdechomenos. The countless crowds Anna tells about Jesus are marked by that same readiness to receive. As in the feeding of the 5,000, the gospel always multiplies itself to fill the hungry crowds with more left to spare. God’s comfort is intended to reach ever outward.

Anna did not wait for Christ’s life to unfold, still less for his Passion, Death and Resurrection, to spread the word.

Simeon’s body is said to have been moved between the years 565 and 578 from Syria or Jerusalem to Constantinople. Sometime around the Siege of Constantinople in 1203, the relics were seized and shipped to Venice, but ended up in the port of Zadar on the Dalmatian coast, where his feast day is celebrated on 8 October. In October 2010, Archbishop Želimir Puljić of Zadar sent a small silver reliquary containing some of Simeon’s relics to Archbishop Theofylactus of Jordan, representing Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem, for the monastery of Saint Simeon the Godbearer in Jerusalem. The Chiesa di San Simeon Grande in Venice also claims to have his relics.

The Presentation in the Temple, carved on a panel on a triptych in the Lady Chapel, Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford/Lichfield Gazette)

Luke 2: 22-40 (NRSVA):

22 When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord’), 24 and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtle-doves or two young pigeons.’

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 ‘Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace, according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.’

33 And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, ‘This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed 35 so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your own soul too.’

36 There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband for seven years after her marriage, 37 then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshipped there with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When they had finished everything required by the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favour of God was upon him.

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (2 February 2022) invites us to pray:

Radiant God, we thank you for bringing light into the world through Jesus. May we be redeemed by you.

Yesterday: Saint Brigid of Kildare

Series Concluded; tomorrow’s reflection

The Presentation or Candlemas … a stained glass window in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (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