When the faithful communicate and the errant return to the fold
Christmas is one of those pivotal times in the Church's year when the faithful communicate, the errant return to the fold, and even those who are hostile or agnostic can be affected by the evident outpourings of goodwill. In words and music this week the Christmas story will reach its apogee and both spiritually and physically the Church will be recreated.
This evening in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, the festival of nine lessons and carols will begin at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast live on RTE FM3. For many the highlight of the carol singing season will be the festival of nine lessons and carols in St Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin, on Christmas Eve for those who have been fortunate to obtain tickets. The festival will be broadcast by RTE.
For those who are still casting around for Christmas presents a number of recent publications with a Church of Ireland dimension may fit the stocking. Most apposite is Heaven Looked Up- wards. The real story of the birth of Jesus, a reworking of the Christmas story in modern novel form by the former Dean of Kildare, the Very Rev Matthew Byrne, which has been made available in paperback by Town House publishers.
The more recent past is explored by Fred Rankin in a new history of Down Cathedral which is well illustrated, beautifully designed and carefully researched: Down Cathedral. The church of St Patrick of Down has been published by the Ulster Historical Foundation.
For those more interested in people than buildings the latest in the RCB Library's parish register series, the Register of the Cathedral Church of St Columb, Derry, 1703-1732, edited by Dr Colin Thomas of the University of Ulster, promises endless genealogical delights particularly for those from north-west Ulster, while for those who need to keep in touch with their clerical contemporaries the 1998/99 edition of Crockford's Clerical Directory is out.
On a similar theme the 1998 Church of Ireland Directory is available from the Religious Education Resource Centre, Holy Trinity Church, Church Avenue, Rathmines, Dublin 6, at £6.74 plus £1.83 postage. This year the cover illustration and the introductory article mark the centenary of the Irish Association of Change Ringers. Surprisingly change ringing is largely a Church of Ireland phenomenon with only three Roman Catholic churches having peals of bells but there is a very strong inter-denominational character to the membership of the association.
And when the presents have been bought, the carols sung, and the sermons digested why not sit down and relax with the new CD of selected services and anthems of Sir Charles Villiers Stanford from the choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin?