23 June 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (26) 23 June 2023

The Monastery of the Holy Trinity is one of the six surviving cliff-top monasteries in Meteora (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This week began with the Second Sunday after Trinity (18 June 2023) and Father’s Day. Today the calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship commemorates Saint Etheldreda, Abbess of Ely (ca 678).

Before the day begins, I am taking some time for prayer, reading and reflection.

Over these weeks after Trinity Sunday, I am reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass window in a church, chapel 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.

Six of the original 24 monasteries in Meteora remain the homes of monastic communities (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Holy Trinity Monastery, Meteora:

This week I am reflecting on Orthodox churches named after the Holy Trinity. These Trinity-themed reflections continue this morning (23 June 2023) with photographs of Meteora in central Greece, where the Monastery of the Holy Trinity (Μονή Αγίας Τριάδος, or Agia Triada), is one of the six surviving cliff-top monasteries.

The monastery is in the Peneas Valley north-east of the town of Kalambaka, at the top of a rocky precipice over 400 metres high. It is one of the 24 monasteries originally built in Meteora and one of the oldest of the surviving monasteries that form the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites at Meteora.

The name Meteora means ‘suspended in the air’ in Greek. Six of the 24 monasteries atop ‘heavenly columns’ are still active and open to visitors.

The monasteries of Saint Stephen and Holy Trinity are separated from the main group, which are further to the north. Before the 20th century, the entrance Holy Trinity had a very difficult approach that involved crossing a valley and climbing through the rock outcrop. Provisions were placed in baskets drawn up by rope-ladders, but are now provided by using a winch.

Today, one can walk from Kalambaka for 3 km along a foot track to reach the monastery, or use a winch-operated lift. It is reached through tunnels and 130 steps of stone, and at the summit the grounds include a 2 acres (0.81 ha) garden.

Dometius is said to have been the first monk at the site of Holy Trinity and to have arrived in 1438. Holy Trinity is said to have been built in 1475-1476, although some sources say the dates for building the monastery and its adjoining chapel, dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, are of a much earlier date.

By end of the 15th century, there were 24 such monasteries in Meteora, but only six are still inhabited today – Holy Trinity, Saint Stephen, Rousanou, Saint Nicholas Anapafsas, Varlaam, and the Great Meteoron – make up the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Meteora.

The main church in Holy Trinity is cruciform in shape, with a dome supported on two columns. This church was built in the 15th century and decorated with frescoes in 1741 by two monks. A pseudo-trefoil window is part of the apse. There are white columns and arches, as well as rose-coloured tiles. The small chapel of Saint John the Baptist, carved into the rock, has 17th century frescoes.

At one time, 50 monks lived at Holy Trinity, but by the early 20th century there were only five. When the writer Patrick Leigh Fermor visited the monasteries as a guest of the Abbot of Varlaam, Holy Trinity was one of the poorest monasteries in Meteora. Holy Trinity was once richly decorated and had precious manuscripts, but its treasures were looted by the Nazis when they occupied the monastery during World War II.

Holy Trinity Monastery features in the James Bond film For Your Eyes Only (1981). In the climax to the film, Bond climbs the rock cliff and finds upon Aristotle Kristatos and Erich Kriegler who are using the monastery in the film as a hideout.

The monastery also features in the film Tintin and the Golden Fleece (1961) and the film Boy on a Dolphin (1957) was partly shot in Meteora, where Clifton Webb’s character goes up to Holy Trinity monastery to do some library research.

The name Meteora means ‘suspended in the air’ in Greek (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 25: 1-13 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 1 ‘Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” 7 Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8 The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” 9 But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” 10 And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11 Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” 12 But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” 13 Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.’

The early winches, ropes and pulleys still survive in many monasteries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘The snowdrop that never bloomed.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (23 June 2023, International Widows Day) invites us to pray:

We pray for an end to the poverty and injustice faced by millions of widows and their dependents throughout the world.


Eternal God,
who bestowed such grace upon your servant Etheldreda
that she gave herself wholly to the life of prayer
and to the service of your true religion:
grant that we, like her,
may so live our lives on earth seeking your kingdom
that by your guiding
we may be joined to the glorious fellowship of your saints;
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 Etheldreda
that she 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.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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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