20 May 2023

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (42) 20 May 2023

The Ascended Christ, Christ Pantocrator, in the Dome of the Church of the Ascension and Saint George in Panormos, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Ascension Day was on Thursday (18 May 2023), and this has been the Sixth Week of Easter. Eastertide and Ascensiontide continue throughout this week and next, until the Day of Pentecost.

The Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today (20 May) also remembers Alcuin of York, Deacon, Abbot of Tours (804).

Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection. I am reflecting each morning during Ascensiontide 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) and Saint George above the harbour in Panormos, east of Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Church of the Ascension and Saint George, Panormos:

Although I described this church earlier in the Easter season, my photographs this morning (20 May 2023) once again are from the Church of the Ascension and Saint George in Panormos, east of Rethymnon.

I have been visiting Crete almost every year since the 1980s. For some years, it was something of a tradition during holidays in Rethymnon to spend lazy, sunny Sunday afternoons in the small coastal village of Panormos, visiting the church dedicated to the Ascension and Saint George, and enjoying lingering lunches in the restaurants, including the Agkyra, Porto Parasiris and Captain’s House.

These lunches often turned to hours spent sipping coffee, reading books and watching life in the small harbour and beaches below.

The recently built church in Panormos is dedicated to the Ascension (Analipsi) and Saint George (Agios Georgios) and it has a splendid dome with a modern, majestic fresco of the Ascended Christ in majesty, Christ the Pantocrator.

Behind the village are the remains of the Agia Sophia Basilica, once one of the largest basilicas in Crete. The site is fenced off and there are few signs indicating its importance. The basilica was built in the fifth and sixth centuries. According to archaeologists, this was the seat of the Diocese of Eleftherna, which transferred there after the destruction of the ancient city of Panormos. In time, the name Agia Sophia was given to the entire area around the basilica.

The Basilica of Agia Sofia was uncovered following research by the theologian Konstantinos Kalokiris, and the site was excavated in 1948-1955 by the archaeologist Professor N Platonas.

Inside the Church of the Ascension and Saint George above the harbour in Panormos, east of Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford; click on image for full-screen view)

John 16: 23-28 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 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. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.

25 ‘I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26 On that day you will ask in my name. I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.’

A moment for prayer in the Church of the Ascension and Saint George in Panormos, near Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford; click on image for full-screen view)

Today’s prayer:

The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) has been ‘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 (Saturday 20 May 2023):

Let us give thanks for God’s gift of love. May we love Christ with all our heart and strive to keep his command to love one another.


God of wisdom, eternal light,
who shone in the heart of your servant Alcuin,
revealing to him your power and pity:
scatter the darkness of our ignorance
that, with all our heart and mind and strength,
we may seek your face
and be brought with all your saints
to your holy presence;
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:

Merciful God,
who gave such grace to your servant Alcuin
that he served you with singleness of heart
and loved you above all things:
help us, whose communion with you
has been renewed in this sacrament,
to forsake all that holds us back from following Christ
and to grow into his likeness from glory to glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

An icon of the Twelve Apostles in the Church of the Ascension and Saint George in Panormos (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Painted Easter eggs outside a front door in Panormos (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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