Thursday, 17 December 2020

Praying in Advent with
Lichfield Cathedral:
19, Thursday 17 December 2020

‘An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah’ (Matthew 1: 1) … the Jesse Tree in a window by Clayton and Bell in the North Transept in Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford/Lichfield Gazette)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I am using the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

Advent is the Church’s mindful antidote to some of the diversion and consumerism of a modern Christmas. It prepares us to encounter Christ again in his joy and humility.

In ‘The Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar 2020,’ the Dean and community at Lichfield Cathedral are inviting us to light our Advent candle each day as we read the Bible and join in prayer.

This calendar is for everyone who uses the Cathedral website, for all the Cathedral community, and for people you want to send it to and invite to share in the daily devotional exercise.

This is a simple prayer and bible-reading exercise to help us to mark the Advent Season as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.

It is designed to take us on a journey, looking back to John the Baptist and Mary the Mother of Jesus; looking out into the world today, into our own hearts and experience; outwards again to Jesus Christ as he encounters us in life today and in his promise to be with us always.

You can download the calendar HERE.

The community at Lichfield Cathedral offers a number of suggestions on how to use this calendar:

● Set aside 5-15 minutes every day.

● Buy or use a special candle to light each day as you read and pray through the suggestions on the calendar.

● Try to ‘eat simply’ – one day each week try going without so many calories or too much rich food, just have enough.

● Try to donate to a charity working with the homeless or the people of Bethlehem.

● Try to pray through what you see and notice going on around you in people, the media and nature.

In addition, the award-winning ‘The Cathedral Illuminated,’ a spectacular light and sound show, was planned to be projected onto the West Front of the Cathedral. This year’s event, ‘The Manger,’ was due to begin last night (16 December 2020), was postponed until this evening, and was to continue until Tuesday next (22 December 2020). Sadly, but the cathedral announced this afternoon that folloiwng today’s annoucement from the government all dates have now been cancelled.

The last week of Advent is special: at Evensong (Evening Prayer), a special antiphon is sung or said before and after the canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Magnificat. Each begins with an ‘O’ and relates to some facet of Christ’s nature and ancestry.

17 December: ‘O Sapientia’, Wisdom
18 December: ‘O Adonai’, Lord of Israel
19 December: ‘O Radix Jesse’, Root of Jesse (Jesse was the father of King David)
20 December: ‘O Clavis David’, Key of David
21 December: ‘O Oriens’, Morning Star rising in the East
22 December: ‘O Rex Gentium’, King of all nations
23 December: ‘O Immanuel’ Immanuel – ‘God is with us’

As the week draws us to Christmas, so the note of longing love intensifies.

Thursday 19 December 2020 (‘O Sapientia’):

Read Matthew 1: 1-17 (NRSVA):

1 An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4 and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Reflection:

As you read about the generations who prepared the way for Jesus it includes outsiders, sinners, broken people: the slow emergence of God’s inclusive plan. Reflect on your life’s milestones?

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s evening reflection

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

Replacing ignorance, fear
and hatred with understanding,
courage and Love

Lighting all the candles of the Menorah on the last evening of Hanukkah (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This evening marks the last evening of Hanukkah, which comes to an end tomorrow evening (18 December 2020). Tonight in the eighth or last night of Hanukkah and is known as Zose Hanukkah, Zos Hanukkah or Zot Hanukkah. It marks the day on which the great miracle of oil occurred, and so is a particularly special day because it encapsulates all of Hanukkah.

Hanukkah (חֲנֻכָּה‬) commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean revolt against the Seleucid Empire. It is also known as the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication.

The theme of darkness and light is important in both Jewish and Christian traditions at this time of the year, but this is also a theme that resonates in a year of social and psychological darkness, swept in unexpectedly by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The name Hanukkah comes from the Hebrew verb ‘חנך‎’ meaning to dedicate. On Hanukkah, the Maccabean Jews regained control of Jerusalem and rededicated the Temple. Two books, I and II Maccabees, describe in detail the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem and the lighting of the menorah.

That eight-day rededication is described in I Maccabees 4: 36 to 4: 59, although the name of the festival and the miracle of the lights do not appear there. A similar story is alluded to in II Maccabees 1: 18 to 1: 36, and recalls how Nehemiah relights the altar fire in a miracle on 25 Kislev, which may explain why Judah Maccabee chooses this date for rededicating the altar.

In I Maccabees 4 and II Maccabees 1: 9, the feast is seen as a delayed observation of the eight-day Feast of Booths (Sukkot). II Maccabees 10: 6 links the length of the feast with the Feast of Booths.

Throughout Hanukkah, which began last week [10 December 2020], many families, households and synagogues light a special Hanukkah menorah, a candelabrum with holders for eight candles, one for each day of celebration, plus a ninth, the shammash or ‘server,’ used to light the other lights during Hanukkah.

One candle is lit on the first night of Hanukkah, two on the second, three on the third, and so on through to the eighth night, this evening, when all the candles are lit. A special prayer is recited during the lighting and while the candles burn it is a time for songs and games, including the four-sided toy called dreidel.

A special party to celebrate Hanukkah takes place in Cork city this evening (17 December 2020), with a livestream of the Evening Echo lamp-lighting event – an artwork created by Maddie Leach – in Shalom Park. The Lord Mayor is speaking, and the ninth lamp will be lit at 4.13 pm.

The Munster Jewish Community is inviting people watching the livestream on Facebook to bring along their own chanukiah or Hanukkah menorah, candles and matches, some chocolate coins or nuts and a dreidel for some Chanuka games, as well as latkes and doughnuts.

For my own reflections this evening, I came across these Candle Blessings for the Last Night of Hanukkah on the Ritualwell site, linked with Reconstructing Judaism:

On the shamash:

May this light nourish and replenish all those who work in the world to provide assistance to others.

On each of the candles:

1, May this light be a torch for those who are lost and need to find their way out of the darkness.

2, May this light bring warmth to those who feel the bitterness of the cold on their bodies, in their hearts, within their souls.

3, May this light brighten the spirits of those who are sorrowful illumining the path to hope and joy.

4, May this light kindle the creativity of artists of all kinds who need inspiration.

5, May this light bring clarity to places of confusion and reveal the truths that need to be known.

6, May this light fuel the passions of those who wish to act to change their lives for the better or change the world to improve it for all.

7, May this light illuminate the places of brokenness that need to be healed in ourselves, others, and the world, and be a beacon on the journey to wholeness.

8, May this light shine peace upon those in conflict all over the planet, replacing ignorance, fear, and hatred with understanding, courage, and Love.

Praying in Advent with USPG:
19, Thursday 17 December 2020

‘An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah’ (Matthew 1: 1) … the Tree of Jesse (1703), an icon from the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian, Anopolis, in the Museum of Christian Art in Iraklion, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2017)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I am using the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

I am one of the contributors to the current USPG Diary, Pray with the World Church, introducing the theme of peace and trust later this month.

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for my own personal prayer, reflection and Scripture reading.

The theme of the USPG Prayer Diary this week (13 to 19 December 2020) is ‘Reflections on Migration.’ This week’s theme is introduced in the diary by Richard Reddie, Director of Justice and Inclusion, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

Thursday 17 December 2020 (‘O Sapientia’):

Let us give thanks for the work of the Church of Scotland’s Faith Impact Forum and its new worship resources on the theme of refugees, migration and sanctuary.

The Collect of the Day (Advent III):

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.

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.

Matthew 1: 1-17 (NRSVA):

1 An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, 4 and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, 8 and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, 9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, 15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s morning reflection

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