08 February 2023

Praying in Ordinary Time
with USPG: 8 February 2023

An icon of the Three Hierarchs: Saint Basil the Great (left), Saint John Chrysostom (centre) and Saint Gregory the Theologian (right)

Patrick Comerford

Before today becomes a busy day I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

These weeks, between the end of Epiphany and Ash Wednesday, are known as Ordinary Time. We are in a time of preparation for Lent, which in turn is a preparation for Holy Week and Easter.

In these days of Ordinary Time before Ash Wednesday later this month (22 February), I am reflecting in these ways each morning:

1, reflecting on a saint or interesting person in the life of the Church;

2, one of the lectionary readings of the day;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

An icon of the Three Hierarchs: Saint Basil the Great (left), Saint John Chrysostom (centre) and Saint Gregory the Theologian (right)

The Three Hierarchs (Οι Τρεις Ιεράρχες) in the Orthodox Church are Basil the Great (Basil of Caesarea), Gregory the Theologian (Gregory of Nazianzus) and John Chrysostom, three bishops in the early church who were influential in shaping Christian theology.

In the Eastern Church, they are known as the Three Great Hierarchs and Ecumenical Teachers, while in the Western Church the three are honoured among the Doctors of the Church.
Disputes raged in 11th century Constantinople about which of the three hierarchs was the greatest. Some argued Saint Basil was superior to the other two because of his explanations of Christian faith and monastic example. Others said Saint John Chrysostom, the ‘Golden Mouthed’ Patriarch of Constantinople, was unmatched in both eloquence and in bringing sinners to repentance. A third group preferred Saint Gregory the Theologian because of the majesty, purity, and profundity of his homilies and his defence of the faith against the Arian heresy.

All three have separate feast days in January: Saint Basil on 1 January, Saint Gregory on 25 January, and Saint John Chrysostom on 27 January.

The Eastern Church teaches that the three hierarchs appeared together in a vision to Saint John Mauropous, Bishop of Euchaita, in 1084, and said they were equal before God: ‘There are no divisions among us, and no opposition to one another.’ Because of this, the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos proclaimed a feast day on 30 January commemorating all three in common.

The celebration of the Three Hierarchs took place in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford on Sunday (5 February 2023) after the Divine Liturgy.

The bell above the Church of Aghios Vassilios (Saint Basil) in Koutouloufári, a mountain village in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 7: 14-23 (NRSVA):

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, ‘Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.’

17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, ‘Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?’ (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, ‘It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.’

Seven Fathers of the Church carved above the south porch of Lichfield Cathedral (from left): Saint Augustine, Saint Jerome, Saint Ambrose, Saint Gregory, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Athanasius and Saint Basil (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘Christianity in Pakistan.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Nathan Olsen.

The USPG Prayer Diary today invites us to pray in these words:

Let us pray for mission agencies seeking to promote the Gospel. May they listen to the communities amongst whom they work and seek to demonstrate love in action.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

The Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos has the skull of Saint John Chrysostom (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

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