09 May 2021

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
82, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London

Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London … rebuilt by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Today is the Sixth Sunday of Easter and later this week we celebrate Ascension Day. My photographs this week are selected from seven cathedrals throughout England. Earlier in these reflections, during Lent, I used images from Lichfield Cathedral (15 March 2021) and Coventry Cathedral (19 March). But these cathedrals, which I have visited in recent years, have been selected randomly.

This morning (9 May 2021), my photographs are from Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London.

For many years, I have strolled through London, from Liverpool Street Station to the USPG offices on my way to meetings of trustees. These walks have offered opportunities for early morning or late afternoon visits to Wren churches, the sites of former Wren churches, churches designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, or guild and city churches. They have given me views of buildings such as Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the Bank of England, the Royal Exchange, the Mansion House, the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern, and allowed me to enjoy the cafés, buskers and bookshops, with new opportunities on each walk to discover parts of London I had not known before.

Now we are all in lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I am missing these self-guided explorations of the churches of London, and I am going to miss them even more when my six-year term as a trustee of USPG comes to an end this summer.

After the Great Fire of London in 1666, Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) restored 51 churches in the city, concluding with Saint Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, which he rebuilt in 1695.

Saint Paul’s Cathedral, the cathedral of the Diocese of London, sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City. Its dedication to Saint Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on the site, founded in the year 604.

The present cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Wren; it was built in 1669-1711 and was completed in Wren’s own lifetime.

The earlier Gothic cathedral, Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral, largely destroyed in the Great Fire, was a central focus for mediaeval and early modern London, including Paul’s Walk and Saint Paul’s Churchyard being the site of Saint Paul’s Cross.

The dome of Saint Paul’s, framed by the spires of Wren’s City churches, has dominated London’s skyline for over 300 years. At a height of 111 metres (365 ft), it was the tallest building in London from 1710 until 1963. The dome remains among the highest in the world, and Saint Paul’s is the second-largest church building in area in the United Kingdom after Liverpool Cathedral.

The vista from the south side of the Millennium Bridge across to Saint Paul’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 15: 9-17 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 9 ‘As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.’

The West Front of Saint Paul’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (9 May 2021, Sixth Sunday of Easter) invites us to pray:

‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’.
Beloved God,
May we treat one another as true equals.
Let us love each other as your Son taught us to.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

John Donne (1572-1631), ‘poet and divine’ … Dean of Saint Paul’s in 1621-1631 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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

The site of Saint Paul’s Cross … once a preaching cross and open-air pulpit in the grounds of Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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