30 June 2024

Daily prayer in Ordinary Time 2024:
52, Sunday 30 June 2024, Trinity V

The icon of the Crucifixion in the new iconostasis in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Fifth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity V, 30 June 2024). Later this morning I hope to be involved in the readings and the intercessions at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church, Stony Stratford.

The Annual Greek Festival takes place this afternoon (12 noon to 5 pm) at the Swinfen Harris Church Hall beside the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford. This is a get-together of members and friends of the Greek community in Milton Keyne and the surrounding district. It includes live music, dance and songs, traditional food, stalls with delicacies, artefacts and books, a Greek Deli with a tastes of an Hellenic summer, music and performances by the Delta Dancers. The Greek Festival is also a fundraising event for the community buildings, housing the Church, the Greek School, the Church Hall and church charities and organisations.

Later in the afternoon, I hope to find an apppriate venue for watching the England v Slovakia match at 5 p.m. Meanwhile, before today begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks, for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, today’s Gospel reading;

2, a reflection on the icons in the new iconostasis or icon stand in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford.

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary;

4, the Collects and Post-Communion prayer of the day.

The icon depicting the Crucifixion is sixth from the left among the 12 feasts depicted in the upper tier of the new iconostasis in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024; click on images to view full screen)

Mark 5: 21-43 (NRSVUE):

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him, and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue, named Jairus, came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and pleaded with him repeatedly, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from a flow of blood for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians and had spent all that she had, and she was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, “If I but touch his cloak, I will be made well.” 29 Immediately her flow of blood stopped, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my cloak?” 31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the synagogue leader’s house to say, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the synagogue leader, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the synagogue leader’s house, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, “Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means, “Little girl, get up!” 42 And immediately the girl stood up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this and told them to give her something to eat.

The women at the foot of the Cross … a detail in the icon of the Crucifixion in the iconostasis in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The Stony Stratford iconostasis 15: The Crucifixion (Ἡ Σταύρωση):

In recent weeks, I have been watching the building and installation of the new iconostasis or icon screen in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford. In my prayer diary over these weeks, I am reflecting on this new iconostasis, and the theological meaning and liturgical significance of its icons and decorations.

The lower, first tier of a traditional iconostasis is sometimes called Sovereign. On the right side of the Beautiful Gates or Royal Doors facing forward is an icon of Christ, often as the Pantokrator, representing his second coming, and on the left is an icon of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary), symbolising the incarnation. It is another way of saying all things take place between Christ’s first coming and his second coming.

The six icons on the lower, first tier of the iconostasis in Stony Stratford depict Christ to the right of the Royal Doors, as seen from the nave of the church, and the Theotokos or the Virgin Mary to the left. All six icons depict (from left to right): the Dormition, Saint Stylianos, the Theotokos, Christ Pantocrator, Saint John the Baptist and Saint Ambrosios.

Traditionally, the upper tier has an icon of the Mystical Supper in the centre, with icons of the Twelve Great Feasts on either side, in two groups of six: the Nativity of the Theotokos (8 September), the Exaltation of the Cross (14 September), the Presentation of the Theotokos (21 November), the Nativity of Christ (25 December), the Baptism of Christ (6 January), the Presentation of Christ in the Temple (2 February), the Annunciation (25 March), the Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), the Ascension, Pentecost, the Transfiguration (6 August) and the Dormition (15 August).

In Stony Stratford, these 12 icons in the top tier, on either side of the icon of the Mystical Supper, are (from left): the Ascension, the Nativity, the Baptism of Christ, the Entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the Raising of Lazarus and the Crucifixion; and the Harrowing of Hell or the Resurrection, the Incredulity of Saint Thomas, Pentecost, the Transfiguration, the Presentation and the Annunciation.

The sixth in this top tier of 12 icons in Stony Stratford is the icon of the Crucifixion, and the Greek title above reads simply Ἡ Σταύρωσης (He Stavrosis), the Crucifixion.

The Crucifixion icon is similar to classic icons of this theme, including the frescoes of Theophanes the Cretan, the leading iconographer of the Cretan school of the 16th century. Traditionally in this icon Christ is surrounded by both angelic and earthly onlookers, although no angels are included in this icon in Stony Stratford.

The Blessed Virgin or the Theotokos is with three women to the left of the cross. She is the only one of the women with a halo, but the other three are to become the myrrh bearers on Easter morning, witnesses of both the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.

Saint John the Theologian or Saint John the Divine is to the right. The Beloved Disciple also has a halo, and he is the only one among the 12 who is a witness of the Crucifixion. Behind him is Saint Longinus the Centurion, who confesses that Christ is surely the Son of God.

In the background are the city walls and gates of Jerusalem. Christ has been crucified outside the gates of the city, a reference to the scapegoat ritual during the Day of Atonement when the scapegoat carries the sins of the people ‘outside the camp.’

Some icons of the Crucifixion also include the sun and moon as interesting features. The sun is generally darkened, and the moon coloured red, echoing a passage in the Book of Revelation: When he broke the sixth seal, I looked, and there was a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. (Revelation 6: 12-13)

The icon also incorporates events at the cross described in Saint Matthew’s Gospel: Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. (Matthew 27: 50-52)

At the foot of the Cross, the skull and bones are those of Adam. Tradition says that Golgotha was called the Place of the Skull not because the hill looked like a human skull, but because the bones of Adam had been brought and buried there by the descendants of Noah. Symbolically, therefore, Jesus is being crucified directly over Adam’s tomb. In the icons, this tomb is being cracked open which exposes Adam’s skull and bones.

When Christ died on the Cross, a great earthquake split apart the rocks, and his blood flowed down from the Cross and on to the bones of Adam, indicating the redemption of fallen human nature made possible to the whole human race.

Christ replaces Adam as the New Adam. A new humanity is being established over the death of the old, and death is defeated on the Cross. This is the same emphasis that leads to the Orthodox focus on the harrowing of hell at Easter.

Saint John at the foot of the Cross … a detail in the icon of the Crucifixion in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Today’s Prayers (Sunday 30 June 2024, Trinity V):

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 ‘Saint Luke’s Hospital, Nablus.’ This theme is introduced today with a programme update:

Ms E’s classroom is a special place. The children in her care come to learn, play, and laugh together which she knows are moments harder to come by since the conflict intensified in October 2023. When she first began to feel pain in her hand, Ms E was distraught. Teaching is her world and it had suddenly got a lot more difficult. Everyday activities like opening a jar or marking homework were now impossible.

Saint Luke’s Hospital in Nablus received the schoolteacher and monitored her situation carefully. Scans revealed that surgery was necessary to relieve her pain. Faced by the fear of high medical fees, Ms E was reluctant to receive help.

However, the hospital staff by her side informed her that Saint Luke’s would cover the cost. Ms E accepted the gracious offer and made a full recovery. ‘The next morning the horrible pain was gone!’ she explained with a weary smile.

Saint Luke’s Hospital administered by the Diocese of Jerusalem continues to serve the community with the spirit of love and care, and USPG is proud to be part of that journey for over 20 years.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (Sunday 30 June 2024, Trinity V) invites us to pray:

‘The Earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.’

O God, We have profoundly damaged creation.
Give us the strength to recover what we have tainted,
amplify the voices calling for renewal.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church
is governed and sanctified:
hear our prayer which we offer for all your faithful people,
that in their vocation and ministry
they may serve you in holiness and truth
to the glory of your name;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion Prayer:

Grant, O Lord, we beseech you,
that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered
by your governance,
that your Church may joyfully serve you in all godly quietness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

Almighty God,
send down upon your Church
the riches of your Spirit,
and kindle in all who minister the gospel
your countless gifts of grace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The new iconostasis or icon stand installed in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford in recent weeks (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

An introduction to the Stony Stratford iconostasis (15 June 2024)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The iconic representation of the Crucifixion behind the holy altar during the Divine Liturgy on a recent Sunday in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition copyright © 2021, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Annual Greek Festival takes place in Stony Stratford this afternoon

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