14 December 2017

Praying in Advent with USPG
and Lichfield Cathedral
(12): 14 December 2017

Mending fishing nets in Cape Coast … the USPG Prayer Diary this week is sharing reflections and experiences from Ghana

Patrick Comerford

We are in the second week of Advent. Today [14 December], the Church Calendar commemorates Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591), the Spanish Carmelite friar and mystic and friend of Saint Teresa of Avila. He was the descendant of a Jewish family that had converted to Christianity at the time of the Spanish Inquisition.

The calendar of Common Worship in the Church of England and, since 2009, the calendar of the Episcopal Church (TEC) commemorate Saint John of the Cross as a ‘Teacher of the Faith’ and ‘Mystic’ on this day, 14 December.

Thomas Merton once described him as ‘the church’s safest mystical theologian.’ Others have called Saint John of the Cross ‘the poet’s poet,’ ‘spirit of flame,’ and ‘celestial and divine.’

He is known for his wresting with what he calls ‘the Dark Night of the Soul,’ and for his axiom that the soul must empty itself of self in order to be filled with God, that it must be purified of the last traces of earthly dross before it is fit to become united with God. His writings on the soul united with God in prayer reveal the most profound mystical expressions, experiences and insights. These writings make him an important figure in Spanish literature and he is one of 36 Doctors of the Church.

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:

Thursday 14 December 2017:

Give thanks for the ministry of the Anglican Church in Ghana. Pray that leaders might have the grace and wisdom needed to strengthen and grow the work of the church.

Silence descends on Lichfield Cathedral and the Cathedral Close in the snow earlier this week (Photograph: Steve Johnson, 2017)

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 Luke 7: 18-23.

The reflection for today suggests:

Try and keep silent for 10 minutes, concentrating on the word ‘Emmanuel’ – God with us. Turn it over in your mind. Pray the word ‘Emmanuel’.

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

Isaiah 41: 13-20; Psalm 145: 1, 8-13; and Matthew 11: 11-15.

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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