02 December 2016

Praying the ‘Litany of Reconciliation’
from Coventry Cathedral in Advent

‘Father Forgive’ … the Cross of Nails and the Litany of Reconciliation in Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We often pray the Litany in the Book of Common Prayer (see pp 175-178) as our Friday morning office in the chapel of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. However, this morning our prayers incorporate the Litany of Reconciliation from the Community of the Cross of Nails in Coventry Cathedral.

The Ministry of Reconciliation at Coventry Cathedral shaped many of the priorities of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, when he was a canon in Coventry.

For over 50 years, Coventry Cathedral has been a dynamic centre of worship and mission, a place of pilgrimage, liturgical creativity, and healing; a focus for reconciliation locally, nationally and internationally; for education and the arts; a venue for national services and television and radio broadcasts; and a focal point for the City, the region, and even for the world.

Following the bombing of Coventry’s mediaeval cathedral in 1940, the Provost, the Very Revd Richard Howard, had the words ‘Father Forgive’ inscribed on the wall behind the charred cross and the Altar of the ruined building.

He explained that he had not used the phrase ‘Father forgive Them’ … because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3: 23).

These words moved generations of people and are prayed in the Litany of Reconciliation every Friday at noon outside in the ruins of the mediaeval cathedral in Coventry and in many other places around the world by the Community of the Cross of Nails.

The Litany of Reconciliation, based on the seven cardinal sins, was written in 1958 by Canon Joseph Poole, the first Precentor of the new, post-war cathedral in Coventry.

This Litany is a universal and timeless confession of humanity’s failings, but it evokes us to approach these sins and weaknesses in the forgiveness of God’s love.

The Litany of Reconciliation (Coventry Cathedral):

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
Father Forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father Forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Father Forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Father Forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
Father Forgive.

The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
Father Forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Father Forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

A prayer for today in the Prayer Diary of USPG, the Anglican mission agency:

Pray for an end to gender inequality in our churches. Pray that Christians would set an example to the world as a people who address the concerns of women.

Reflection: Church Going, by Philip Larkin

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Lord’s Prayer ...

A Prayer of Saint John Chrysostom ...

The Grace ...

The Readings:

Isaiah 3: 8-15; Psalm 40; Matthew 22: 1-14.

Matthew 22: 1-14:

1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, maltreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 ‘But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.’

Westminster Abbey … Philip Larkin is being added to the names in Poets’ Corner this afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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