13 December 2017

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(11): 13 December 2017

Celebrating her faith, a woman declares her faith at a market in Elmina in Ghana … the USPG Prayer Diary this week is sharing reflections and experiences from Ghana

Patrick Comerford

We are in the second week of Advent. Today [13 December], the Church Calendar commemorates Saint Lucy, or Lucia of Syracuse (283-304), a young Christian martyr who died during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian.

This day once coincided with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, before calendar reforms, so the feast day of Saint Lucy became a festival of light, in which she is celebrated as the bearer of light in the darkness of winter.

Her feast day was commonly described as the shortest day of the year, as it is in John Donne’s poem, ‘A Nocturnal upon St. Lucie’s Day, being the shortest day’ (1627). The poem begins with: ‘’Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s.’

In celebrations in Scandinavian countries, a young girl is dressed in a white dress and a red sash as the symbol of martyrdom, and she carries palms and wears a crown or wreath of candles on her head in procession as songs are sung.

John Myatt’s mural on a wall in Bird Street, Lichfield, commemorating Samuel Johnson (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

The Calendar in Common Worship in the Church of England today also recalls Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the Lichfield-born lexicographer and writer.

In his Dictionary, first published in 1755, Samuel Johnson offers a definition of Advent in these words: ‘The name of one of the holy seasons, signifying the coming; that is, the coming of our Saviour: which is made the subject of our devotion during the four weeks before Christmas.’

Throughout this season of Advent, I am spending a short time of prayer and reflection each morning, using the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency, USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar from Lichfield Cathedral.

USPG, founded in 1701, is an Anglican mission agency supporting churches around the world in their mission to bring fullness of life to the communities they serve.

Under the title Pray with the World Church, the current prayer diary (22 October 2017 to 10 February 2018), offers prayers and reflections from the Anglican Communion.

This week, the Prayer Diary continues its Advent series, looking at how the church is reaching out to mothers and babies through ‘a USPG-supported Anglican health programme in Ghana that has helped to eradicate cholera in parts of the Cape Coast.

In the Prayer Diary on Sunday, Gloria, told her story and how she had benefitted from this programme.

The USPG Prayer Diary:

Wednesday 13 December 2017:

Pray for all mothers and children in Ghana who struggle to access health services and information.

The shrine of Saint Lucy in Syracuse in Sicily (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2015)

Lichfield Cathedral Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar:

The calendar suggests lighting your Advent candle each day as you read the Bible and pray.

Today, the calendar suggests reading Matthew 21: 28-32.

The reflection for today suggests:

Saint Lucy is the ‘light bearer’. Pray for strength and joy in God’s service, to be obedient to the Gospel, for us to be ‘light bearers’.

Readings (Revised Common Lectionary, the Church of Ireland, Holy Communion):

Isaiah 40: 25-31; Psalm 103: 8-13; and Matthew 11: 28-30.

The Collect of the Second Sunday of Advent:

Father in heaven,
who sent your Son to redeem the world
and will send him again to be our judge:
Give us grace so to imitate him
in the humility and purity of his first coming
that when he comes again,
we may be ready to greet him with joyful love and firm faith;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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.

Post-Communion Prayer:

here you have nourished us with the food of life.
Through our sharing in this holy sacrament
teach us to judge wisely earthly things
and to yearn for things heavenly.
We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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