Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Praying through Lent with
USPG (29): 25 March 2020

The Holocaust Memorial outside the railway station in Gorizia, a town that straddles the border of Italy and Slovenia (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, and offers an interesting interlude at this stage in Lent that seems to look forward to the Incarnation and Christmas rather than the Resurrection and Easter.

But the date of the feast of the Annunciation, 25 March, was chosen to match the supposed historical date of the Crucifixion. This was to underline the idea that Christ came into the world on the same day that he left it: his life formed a perfect circle. In other words, 25 March was both the first day and the last day of his earthly life, the beginning and the completion of his work on earth.

Saint Augustine of Hippo explained it this way:

He is believed to have been conceived on 25 March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived … corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried …

Both events were understood to have happened in the spring, when life returns to the earth, and at the vernal equinox, once the days begin to grow longer than the nights and light triumphs over the power of darkness. In the Lord of the Rings cycle, the final destruction of the Ring takes place on 25 March, to align Tolkien’s own ‘eucatastrophe’ with this most powerful of dates.

The early historian, the Venerable Bede, says this dating is symbolic but it is not only a symbol: it reveals the deep relationship between Christ’s death and all the created world, including the sun, the moon and everything on earth.

During Lent this year, I am using the USPG Prayer Diary, Pray with the World Church, for my morning prayers and reflections. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and the end of the Holocaust, so I am illustrating my reflections each morning with images that emphasise this theme.

USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is the Anglican mission agency that partners churches and communities worldwide in God’s mission to enliven faith, strengthen relationships, unlock potential, and champion justice. It was founded in 1701.

This week (22-28 March 2020), the USPG Prayer Diary is focussing on Pakistan, human rights, slavery and the churches in Myanmar and Morocco. These themes were introduced in the Prayer Diary yesterday by Bishop Humphrey Sarfaraz Peters, Bishop of Peshawar Diocese and President Bishop, Church of Pakistan.

Wednesday 25 March 2020 (The Annunciation, International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade):

Lord, as we remember the atrocities of slavery in the past, help us to be active in ending modern-day slavery too.

The icon of Archangel Gabriel in the pair of icons in the Lichfield Annunciation in Lichfield Cathedral is based on the Lichfield Angel (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Readings: Isaiah 7: 10-14; Psalm 40: 5-10; Hebrews 10: 4-10; Luke 1: 26-38.

The Collect of the Day:

Pour your grace into our hearts, Lord,
that as we have known the incarnation of your Son Jesus Christ
by the message of an angel,
so by his cross and passion
we may be brought to the glory of his resurrection;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Lenten Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God,
you hate nothing that you have made
and forgive the sins of all those who are penitent:
Create and make in us new and contrite hearts
that we, worthily lamenting our sins
and acknowledging our wretchedness,
may receive from you, the God of all mercy,
perfect remission and forgiveness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post Communion Prayer:

God Most High,
whose handmaid bore the Word made flesh:
We thank you that in this sacrament of our redemption
you visit us with your Holy Spirit
and overshadow us by your power.
May we like Mary be joyful in our obedience,
and so bring forth the fruits of holiness;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Virgin Mary in the pair of icons in the Lichfield Annunciation … she is depicted seated on an elevated throne weaving a cloth that would become the veil of the Holy of the Holies in the Temple (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s reflection

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