03 June 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (6) 3 June 2023

‘Christ in Majesty’ by Sir Ninian Comper … the East Window in Southwark Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

The Fifty days of Easter season came to an end on Sunday, the Day of Pentecost (28 May 2023), or Whit Sunday, Ordinary Time resumed on Monday (29 May 2023), and tomorrow is Trinity Sunday (4 June 2023).

This morning, the calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers the Martyrs of Uganda (1885-1887 and 1977). Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection.

In this first week in Ordinary Time, between the Day of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday, I have been reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at an image or stained glass window in a church or cathedral I know depicting Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, or the Feast of the Day;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

‘Christ in Majesty’ by Sir Ninian Comper … the East Window seen above the screen and High Altar in Southwark Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The East Window, Southwark Cathedral:

Earlier this week, two of us visited Southwark Cathedral and sat in the choir for Evening Prayer. Once again I admire the image of ‘Christ in Majesty’ by Sir Ninian Comper in the East Window.

Christ in Majesty dominates the centre light, with the Virgin Mary on the left and Saint John the Evangelist on the right. Christ sits enthroned above the world surrounded by seven doves, symbolising the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord.

Christ is depicted as a youthful figure, with a globe or the world below his feet bearing seven stars representing the seven churches in the Book of Revelation:

Ephesus (Revelation 2: 1-7): known for toil and not patient endurance, and separating themselves from the wicked; admonished for having abandoned their first love (2: 4).

Smyrna (Revelation 2: 8-11): admired for its affliction and poverty; about to suffer persecution (2: 10).

Pergamum (Revelation 2: 12-17): living where ‘Satan’s throne is; needs to repent of allowing heretics to teach (2: 16).

Thyatira (Revelation 2: 18-29): known for its love, faith, service, and patient endurance; tolerates the teachings of a beguiling and prophet who refuses to repent (2: 20).

Sardis (Revelation 3: 1-6): admonished for being spiritually dead, despite its reputation; told to wake up and repent (3: 2-3).

Philadelphia (Revelation 3: 7-13): known for its patient endurance and keeping God’s word (3: 10).

Laodicea (Revelation 3: 14-22): is neither cold nor hot, but lukewarm, called on to be earnest and repent (3: 19).

The churches are called on seven times to hear the same message: ‘Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches’ (Revelation 2: 7, 11, 17, 29; 3: 6, 13, 22).

The window was made in 1950 by Sir Ninian Comper (1864-1960), one of the last of the great architects of the Gothic Revival. He is celebrated for his use of colour, iconography and emphasis on churches as a setting for liturgy. In his later works, he developed the subtle integration of Classical and Gothic styles, an approach he described as ‘unity by inclusion.’

His mark, a strawberry leaf with fruit and flower, is in the bottom right corner of the window. It can best be seen through binoculars from the west end of the nave.

The rich deep blue of the glass complements the gilding of the figures in the reredos below.

As evening light fades, the three figures melt into the blue background, leaving the seven doves of the Holy Spirit visible until dark.

A glimpse of the East Window behind the screen and the High Altar in Southwark Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Mark 11: 27-33 (NRSVA):

27 Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him 28 and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?’ 29 Jesus said to them, ‘I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.’ 31 They argued with one another, ‘If we say, “From heaven”, he will say, “Why then did you not believe him?” 32 But shall we say, “Of human origin”?’—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, ‘We do not know.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’

The east end of Southwark Cathral in summer sunshine (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week has been ‘Pentecost.’ USPG’s Chaplain, the Revd Jessie Anand, introduced this theme on Sunday, reflecting on Pentecost and languages.

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Saturday 3 June 2023):

Let us give thanks for the gift of the Holy Spirit. May we listen to her promptings and be open to both challenge and comfort.


O Lord, from whom all good things come:
grant to us your humble servants,
that by your holy inspiration
we may think those things that are good,
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Gracious God, lover of all,
in this sacrament
we are one family in Christ your Son,
one in the sharing of his body and blood
and one in the communion of his Spirit:
help us to grow in love for one another
and come to the full maturity of the Body of Christ.
We make our prayer through your Son our Saviour.

The Harvard Chapel in Southwark Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

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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