19 May 2023

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (41) 19 May 2023

The Ascended Christ, Christ Pantocrator, in the Dome of Analipsi Church in Georgioupoli (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Ascension Day was yesterday (18 May 2023), but this is still the Sixth Week of Easter. Eastertide continues throughout this week and next week, until the Day of Pentecost.

The Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today (19 May) also celebrates Saint Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury, Restorer of Monastic Life (988).

Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection. 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 Church of the Ascension (Analipsi Church) in Georgioupoli stands in its own gardens off the main square and behind the seafront (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of the Ascension (Analipsi), Georgioupoli:

The most photographed landmark in Georgioupoli on the north coast of Crete is the tiny white chapel dedicated to Aghios Nikolaos at the end of a rocky artificial breakwater that juts out into the bay between the harbour and the beach.

It is popular with tourists who are encouraged to make their way out to the chapel and to light a candle there, and sometimes it is a popular venue for weddings, although it is difficult to imagine how a bride could make here way there in a full wedding dress, even if she used a boat and the waves were calm.

But tourists who spend most of their time at the seafront in this resort between Rethymnon and Chania are unlikely to notice the principal church in the town, the Analipsi Church (Εκκλησία Ανάληψη) or the Church of the Ascension.

This church is back from the seafront, away from the main square and shops, and set in its own gardens. On the outside, it is a confident statement of Greek and Orthodox identity in this town, built it has a greater capacity than the needs of a small resident community.

The church is cruciform in shape, has two tall bell towers, and porches on three sides.

Inside, the dome and the frescoes covering the walls are an almost-overpowering example of contemporary Greek iconography at its best – modern in style and approach, yet maintaining a clear continuity with Byzantine traditions.

At the base of the dome, the four spandrels between the arches and the dome are filled with triangular images of the four evangelists.

One section of the north wall in the nave has four panels depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ: Christ’s Agony in Gethsemane (top left); his arrest in the Garden (top right); his trial before Pilate (bottom left); his humiliation by the soldiers (bottom right).

A number of frescoes in the church depict the scenes of well-known miracles, including the miracle of the loaves and fishes; the healing of the paralytic man; the healing of the young blind man; and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Two linked scenes tell the story of the execution of Saint John the Baptist: Salome asking for the head of Saint John the Baptist, and the beheading of Saint John the Baptist.

The many scenes from the life of Christ include the Presentation in the Temple; the Transfiguration; his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; and the Last Supper.

Among the saints seen on the wall of the church are the Emperor Constantine and his mother, Saint Helen, discovering the True Cross.

Often the west walls of Greek churches traditionally depict a judgment scene. The doors out of the Church are guarded by two archangels, the Archangel Michael and the Archangel Gabriel. Above them is a scene depicting the Dormition of the Virgin Mary.

Inside Analipsi Church in Georgioupoli (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 16: 20-23 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 20 ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is in labour, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. 22 So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.’

Saint John in a spandrel beneath the dome (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s prayer:

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, reflected on the Ascension in the prayer diary on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Friday 19 May 2023):

Let us pray for theologians worldwide. May their study of the scriptures expand our horizons and deepen our faith.


Almighty God,
who raised up Dunstan to be a true shepherd of the flock,
a restorer of monastic life
and a faithful counsellor to those in authority:
give to all pastors the same gifts of your Holy Spirit
that they may be true servants of Christ and of all his people;
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.

Post Communion:

God, shepherd of your people,
whose servant Dunstan revealed the loving service of Christ
in his ministry as a pastor of your people:
by this eucharist in which we share
awaken within us the love of Christ
and keep us faithful to our Christian calling;
through him who laid down his life for us,
but is alive and reigns with you, now and for ever.

Four panels depicting scenes from the Passion of Christ (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The Great Commission … an unusual post-Resurrection scene for a fresco in a Greek Church (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

No comments: