14 May 2023
Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (36) 14 May 2023
This is the Sixth Sunday of Easter (14 May 2023). Later this morning, hope to be at the Parish Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Old Wolverton.
A note on the Easter Season in the service booklets in Holy Trinity Church, Old Wolverton, and Saint George’s Church, Wolverton, reminds us:
‘The Great Fifty Days of Eastertide is where the joy created on Easter Day is sustained through the following seven weeks, and the Church celebrates the gloriously risen Christ.
‘The Paschal Candle we lit on Easter Day stands prominently in our church for all the Eastertide services. The Alleluia appears frequently in the liturgy, speech and song, and white or gold vestments and decorations emphasise the joy and brightness of the season.
‘On the fortieth day of Easter, there is a particular celebration of Christ's ascension. He commissions his disciples to continue his work, he promises the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then he is no longer among them in the flesh. The ascension is therefore closely connected with the theme of mission.
‘The arrival of the promised gift of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost completes and crowns the Easter Festival.’
Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection. As Ascension Day is later this week (18 May 2023), I am reflecting each morning this week in these ways:
1, Looking at a depiction of the Ascension in images or stained glass windows in a church or cathedral I know;
2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;
3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.
The Ascension Window, Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick:
The Ascension Window in the Jebb Chapel in the North Transept of Saint Mary’s Cathedral, Limerick, where I was the Canon Precentor in 2017-2022, was dedicated on 28 February 1961 by the then Archbishop of York, Michael Ramsey, who was about to become Archbishop of Canterbury.
The window was presented in memory of Horace Stafford-O’Brien (1842-1929) and his wife Eleanor Elizabeth (née Holmes), and was donated by their son, Major Egerton Augustus Stafford-O’Brien (1872-1963), who lived just outside Limerick at Cratloe, Co Clare.
The Ascension Window is the most modern of all the stained-glass windows in Saint Mary’s Cathedral. It immediately attracts attention because of its size and because of the amount of white antique glass in its execution, allowing light to filter into the Jebb Chapel below.
The glass in this window is known technically as antique glass. It is of English manufacture – this glass is not made in Ireland – and is made specifically for stained glass work alone. Unlike sheet glass, it is not made mechanically. This window contains many thousands of pieces that have been leaded together by hand.
The main image in the window depicts the Ascension as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. The lower images depict, from left to right, Saint Catherine of Sinai (lower left) with her wheel; the Parable of the Prodigal Son; the Annunciation; the Parable of the Good Samaritan; and Saint Nicholas (lower right), shown as Santa Claus, distributing gifts to children.
The figure of the Ascending Christ is in pale gold and ruby. The Apostles, the Virgin Mary and Saint Mary Magdalene are depicted in a rich array of blues, reds and greens, preserving a rhythmic balance of tone and colour that is consistent with the best traditions of stained glass. A neutral tone of green binds the composition of figures in an harmonious whole and gives a sense of stability to the grouping of the figures.
John 14: 15-21 (NRSVA):
[Jesus said:] 15 ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.
18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’
The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘The Ascension.’ USPG’s Global Theologian, the Revd Dr Peniel Rajkumar, reflects on the Ascension in the prayer diary this morning, where he writes:
. ‘The Ascension happens at a crucial point in the life of Jesus’s disciples. After the initial trauma of the crucifixion the disciples are getting used to a new reality – Jesus’s resurrection. They are used to encountering the Risen Christ in unexpected faces and places, like during their encounter with a ‘stranger’ on the road to Emmaus. This makes them hopeful, and in Acts 1: 6 we see them expectantly ask Jesus whether this is the time when he would fulfil their long-held hopes of the restoration of their kingdom. It is at this precipice of hope that Jesus is taken away from them.
No wonder then that the disciples are perplexed and are caught gazing up toward heaven, struggling not to lose sight of that source of power around which they have learnt to rebuild their lives. The message of the ascension story to the disciples is to not cling to familiar ways of knowing God, but to be open to new ways in which God might be active in the world.
The Ascension conveys the powerful truth that it during times of God’s seeming absence, when the last signs of our hope seem to fast disappear behind the clouds of hopelessness, uncertainty, doubt, and despair, that God chooses to enter human lives with transformative intimacy and depth.
The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Sunday 14 May 2023):
when we fear you are absent,
remind us that we are not orphans.
Embolden us with your Spirit
and in drawing close to you
transform our lives.
God our redeemer,
you have delivered us from the power of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of your Son:
grant, that as by his death he has recalled us to life,
so by his continual presence in us he may raise us
to eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
God our Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ gives the water of eternal life:
may we thirst for you,
the spring of life and source of goodness,
through him who is alive and reigns, now and for ever.
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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