20 February 2024

Ensuring the beautiful words and actions
of the liturgy do not become formal and unreal

The Journal of Malankara Orthodox Theological Studies is published by the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Kerala, India


Towards a Theology of Liturgy: A Collection of Essays on West Syrian Liturgical Theology, Fr Dr KM Koshy Vaidyan, Kottayam: Mashikkoottu, 2023, 232 pp, ISBN 978-81-966011-5-7

Patrick Comerford

For four years I worked beneath a life-size, three-quarter length portrait of Bishop William Pakenham Walsh in my office in Overseas House, Rathmines, Dublin.

Bishop William Pakenham Walsh (1820-1902) was Deputy Secretary of CMS Ireland from 1851 to 1873. He later became Dean of Cashel (1873-1878) and Bishop of Ossory, Ferns and Leighlin (1878-1897) in the Church of Ireland.

When I first met Father Koshy Vaidyan in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, he was pursuing post-graduate studies in my old alma mater, the Pontifical University in Maynooth, leading to his MTh and PhD, while I was lecturing in liturgy and church history in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. Our conversation turned immediately to Bishop Pakenham-Walsh and his third son, Bishop Herbert Pakenham-Walsh (1871-1959), who features prominently in this welcome new collection of articles and studies.

While Father Koshy was a student n Maynooth, he also served as Parish Priest of Saint Thomas Indian Orthodox Parish in inner city Dublin (2006-2012). The parish was sharing Saint George’s and Saint Thomas’s Church in Cathal Brugha Street, and I got to know many of the priests and members of the congregation through my work there with the ‘Discovery’ Services. Since returning to India, Father Koshy has returned in Ireland at times to research Bishop Herbert’s life and work, so it was a delight to read the some of the fruits of his research in his new book.

The Indian Orthodox Church regards Bishop Herbert as a saint, and his grave is a centre of pilgrimage. He was a missionary in Bangalore (1907-1908), was the warden of Bishop Cotton Boys’ School in Bangalore (1907-1913), the first Anglican Bishop of Assam (1915-1924), and the Principal of Bishop’s College (Seminary) in Calcutta. The ashram he founded in retirement in 1936 sought to integrate Celtic spirituality and Orthodox spirituality, expressed in a life of worship, prayer, meditation and service. His ashram is now a monastery of the Indian Orthodox Church.

The influence of Indian liturgy on western liturgy through the liturgical reforms in the west in the 20th century should never be under-estimated, and the introduction – reintroduction – of the peace is a prime example of this influence and mutual interaction.

When the peace was introduced into the liturgy of the Church of Ireland in the 1980s, there were vocal objections from some people in the pews, and I still hear people say they feel that it is not very Anglican. But it predates the liturgical reforms introduced in the west through the Second Vatican Council. Indeed, the peace was first introduced into Anglican liturgies first in in India, where it was adapted from the Syrian Orthodox liturgy.

I was reading Father Koshy’s book in the weeks and days immediately before Christmas, and was delighted to be reminded once again how much we share and have in common. His journey through the Church Calendar is a reminder that all the churches share the same salvific story of the Birth, Life, Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, and it was an Advent reminder that we journey together as we wait in hope for his coming again

His studies of the vision in the Orthodox ecclesiology of Alvares Mar Julius and the ecumenical vision of Dr Paulose Mar Gregorios are reminders that our liturgy provides the foundations for all our endeavours in ecumenism and our vision for church unity.

In this book, Father Koshy realises his hope of opening another door into the world of West Syrian Liturgical Theology and Eucharistic Theology. The Divine Liturgy is never static, rigid or fixed, and we must always keep before us the purpose and reality of all our celebrations of liturgy.

As Father Koshy reminds us, Bishop Herbert once offered this caveat about becoming too wedded to the formality of the liturgy: ‘Even the most beautiful words and actions can become formal and unreal, and the life that is lived outside the Church may contradict the worship within it. This is danger for the priest as well as for the people.’

(Rev Canon Professor) Patrick Comerford is an Anglican priest, a former lecturer in liturgy in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute and a former adjunct assistant professor in Trinity College Dublin. He lives in retirement in England.

This book review is published in February 2024 in The Journal of Malankara Orthodox Theological Studies (Orthodox Theological Seminary, Kerala, India), Vol viii No 2 (July-December 2023), pp 113-115.

With Father Koshy Vaidyan during a visit to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, in 2015 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Daily prayer in Lent with
early English saints:
7, 20 February 2024,
Saint Felix of East Anglia

Saint Felix is regarded as the Apostle of the East Angles … a modern icon

Patrick Comerford

The Season of Lent began with Ash Wednesday (14 February 2024), and this week began with the First Sunday in Lent (Lent I, 18 February 2024).

This year, I am taking time each morning in Lent to reflect on the lives of early, pre-Reformation English saints commemorated by the Church of England in the Calendar of Common Worship.

Before today begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, A reflection on an early, pre-Reformation English saint;

2, today’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

A modern icon of Saint Felix

Early English pre-Reformation saints: 7, Felix (647), Bishop, Apostle to the East Angles

Saint Felix (647), Bishop, Apostle to the East Angles, is commemorated in Common Worship on 8 March.

Saint Felix was born in Burgundy at the beginning of the seventh century. He reputedly converted the exiled King Sigebert of the East Angles. After the king’s return to Britain, he was consecrated bishop and then persuaded by the king to follow him to effect the conversion of his subjects.

Saint Felix was commissioned by Honorius, Archbishop of Canterbury, to this work and he made Dunwich the centre of his new see. He established schools and monasteries and ministered in his diocese for 17 years.

Saint Felix died on 8 March 647, and was buried at Dunwich. His relics were moved to Ramsey Abbey in Huntingdonshire in 971. He has given his name to Felixstowe in Suffolk and to Felixkirk in Yorkshire. He is mentioned by Saint Bede in his History of the English Church and People.

Saint Felix established schools and monasteries and gives his name to Felixstowe

Matthew 6: 7-15 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 7 ‘When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 ‘Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’

‘Give us this day our daily bread’ (Matthew 6: 11) … bread in Hindley’s shop window in Tamworth Street, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s Prayers (Tuesday 20 February 2024):

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Stories of Hope, Ukraine – Two years on …’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Rachel Weller, Digital Communications Officer, USPG.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (20 February 2024, World Day of Social Justice) invites us to pray in these words:

Let us give thanks that we serve a gracious God who provides hope and a future.

The Collect:

Almighty God,
whose Son Jesus Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness,
and was tempted as we are, yet without sin:
give us grace to discipline ourselves in obedience to your Spirit;
and, as you know our weakness,
so may we know your power to save;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Lord God,
you have renewed us with the living bread from heaven;
by it you nourish our faith,
increase our hope,
and strengthen our love:
teach us always to hunger for him who is the true and living bread,
and enable us to live by every word
that proceeds from out of your mouth;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Heavenly Father,
your Son battled with the powers of darkness,
and grew closer to you in the desert:
help us to use these days to grow in wisdom and prayer
that we may witness to your saving love
in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s Reflection: Saint Paulinus (644), Bishop of York, Missionary

Tomorrow: Birinus (650), Bishop of Dorchester, Apostle of Wessex

‘For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you’ (Matthew 6: 14) … ‘Father Forgive’ and the Cross in Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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