Saturday, 19 December 2020

Praying in Advent with
Lichfield Cathedral:
21, Saturday 19 December 2020

The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God’ (Luke 1: 19) … the Archangel Gabriel in the Annunciation icons by the Bethlehem Icon School in the nave of Lichfield Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2018)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I am using the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

Advent is the Church’s mindful antidote to some of the diversion and consumerism of a modern Christmas. It prepares us to encounter Christ again in his joy and humility.

In ‘The Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar 2020,’ the Dean and community at Lichfield Cathedral are inviting us to light our Advent candle each day as we read the Bible and join in prayer.

This calendar is for everyone who uses the Cathedral website, for all the Cathedral community, and for people you want to send it to and invite to share in the daily devotional exercise.

This is a simple prayer and bible-reading exercise to help us to mark the Advent Season as a time of preparation for the coming of Christ.

It is designed to take us on a journey, looking back to John the Baptist and Mary the Mother of Jesus; looking out into the world today, into our own hearts and experience; outwards again to Jesus Christ as he encounters us in life today and in his promise to be with us always.

You can download the calendar HERE.

The community at Lichfield Cathedral offers a number of suggestions on how to use this calendar:

● Set aside 5-15 minutes every day.

● Buy or use a special candle to light each day as you read and pray through the suggestions on the calendar.

● Try to ‘eat simply’ – one day each week try going without so many calories or too much rich food, just have enough.

● Try to donate to a charity working with the homeless or the people of Bethlehem.

● Try to pray through what you see and notice going on around you in people, the media and nature.

The last week of Advent is special: at Evensong (Evening Prayer), a special antiphon is sung or said before and after the canticle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Magnificat. Each begins with an ‘O’ and relates to some facet of Christ’s nature and ancestry.

17 December: ‘O Sapientia’, Wisdom
18 December: ‘O Adonai’, Lord of Israel
19 December: ‘O Radix Jesse’, Root of Jesse (Jesse was the father of King David)
20 December: ‘O Clavis David’, Key of David
21 December: ‘O Oriens’, Morning Star rising in the East
22 December: ‘O Rex Gentium’, King of all nations
23 December: ‘O Immanuel’ Immanuel – ‘God is with us’

As the week draws us to Christmas, so the note of longing love intensifies.

Saturday 19 December 2020 (‘O Radix Jesse’):

Read Luke 1: 5-25 (NRSVA):

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ 18 Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ 19 The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’

Reflection:

Reflect on Saint Joseph’s role – the one who stands by and tries to make sense of his bewilderment. Pray for our willingness to accept and search for God’s will.

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s evening reflection

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

Christmas cards with
memories of Cambridge
and a link with Darwin

The Nativity Christmas Card, Gwen Raverat (© The Raverat Archive)

Patrick Comerford

As the years pass and as I get older, I seem to have become more remiss each year about sending Christmas cards. This year’s cards were sent out in batches and snatches, and I fear some may never arrive on time or at the right address.

It seems easier for many of my friends to post a Christmas scene and catch-all greetings on their social media pages … and it brings a smile to see them. And yet, there is still a real joy in opening and receiving a Christmas card I never expected, from someone I had thought would never think of sending one.

Christmas card lists pose a number of dilemmas in themselves. I don’t send cards to parishioners – not only because I am likely to forget those who are most important, and I am likely to offend those who are easiest to offend, but because the true Christmas message must come in celebrating the Christmas Eucharist and in my Christmas sermons.

I am surprised by the Christmas cards my colleagues send themselves: snowmen, reindeer, trains, and romantic Victorian and Dickensian scenes of snow-covered streets lined with timber-framed Tudor shops.

I prefer to send Christmas cards with images that are reminders of the meaning of Christmas, and prefer to buy ones from causes that I support and believe in.

It came too late for buying Christmas cards this year when I noticed the advertising in the English religious press by the Raverat Archive for Christmas cards crafted by Charles Darwin’s granddaughter, Gwen Raverat.

Gwen Raverat (1885-1957), was an English wood engraver and a founder member of the Society of Wood Engravers. Her memoir Period Piece was published in 1952.

She was born Gwendolen Mary Darwin in Cambridge on 26 August 1885, the daughter of the astronomer Sir George Howard Darwin and his wife Maud (née du Puy).

Not only was her grandfather the naturalist Charles Darwin – giving her a connection back to Lichfield through Erasmus Darwin – but she had an interesting family circle: her cousins included the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams and the poet Frances Cornford; her sister Margaret married the surgeon and author Sir Geoffrey Keynes, a brother of John Maynard Keynes.

Gwen married the French painter Jacques Raverat (1885-1925) in 1911. They were active in the Bloomsbury Group until they moved to the south of France, where they lived in Vence, near Nice, until his death from multiple sclerosis in 1925. One daughter, Elisabeth (1916-2014), married the Norwegian politician and diplomat Edvard Hambro; the other daughter, Sophie Jane (1919-2011), married the Cambridge scholar MGM Pryor and later Charles Gurney.

She was one of the first wood engravers recognised as modern. She went to the Slade School in 1908, but stood outside the groups growing up at the time, the group that gathered around Eric Gill at Ditchling and the group that grew up at the Central School of Arts and Crafts around Noel Rooke.

Her semi-religious themes were influenced by Lucien Pissarro. She was also influenced by the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists and developed her own painterly style of engraving.

She played a significant part in the revival of wood engraving in Britain at the beginning of the 20th century. By 1914, she had completed some 60 wood engravings.

She was involved in producing one of the first two books illustrated with modern wood engravings: Spring Morning by her cousin Frances Cornford was published by the Poetry Bookshop in 1915. Much of her work was for friends from Cambridge and appeared in books with small editions.

Most of her commissions for book illustrations date from the 1930s. The first was for a set of engravings for Kenneth Grahame’s classic anthology, The Cambridge Book of Poetry for Children (1932), published by the Cambridge University Press.

She lived in or near Cambridge for most of her life, Cambridge was always at the centre of her life. Darwin College was once her childhood home, Newnham Grange. She moved into the Old Rectory at Harlton, near Cambridge, in 1928, and the house was the model for her engravings for The Runaway. In 1946, she moved into the Old Granary, Silver Street. The house was at the end of the garden of Newnham Grange, where she was born, and she lived there until she died.

When she was 62, she started writing her classic childhood memoir Period Piece, illustrated with her own line drawings. It was published in 1952 – the year I was born – and it has not been out of print since then.

In Period Piece, she recalled how ‘nearly all the life of Cambridge flowed backward and forward under the bridge, and before our house.’ In her Edwardian fashion, she was disturbed by the behaviour of undergraduates and the scenes she saw on Silver Bridge and below in the Anchor. In Period Piece, she describes the Anchor as ‘a mysterious haunt, full of Bad Women.’ She believed that ‘men got drunk; women didn’t.’

Her memories were from an age long gone. Later, the Anchor was a haunt of the poet Ted Hughes. Today, in normal, non-pandemic days, it is popular in term time with undergraduates from Pembroke and Queens or ordinands from Ridley Hall – and graduates from Darwin College.

Outside term time, in normal tourist seasons, the Anchor is all a-bustle, busy with tourists queuing for a punt or recalling their first experiences of seeing Cambridge from the Backs, while the bridge is crammed with visitors staring in wonder at the Mathematical Bridge.

Gwen gave up wood engraving after a stroke in 1951. She died on 11 February 1957 and is buried in the Trumpington Extension Cemetery, Cambridge.

Gwen Raverat made five Christmas card wood-engravings: the Shepherds; the Nativity; the Festival of Christmas; the Three Kings; the Manger.

The prices of the Christmas cards produced by the Raverat Archive start from £2.50 per card for one to four cards of the same design; £2 per card for five to nine cards of the same design; and £1.50 per card for 10 or more of the same design.

The set of five designs start at £12.50 per set for one to four sets; £10 per set for five to nine sets and £7.50 per set for five or more sets.

The cards are printed on 100% recycled stock folded to A6 (105 x 148 mm). The inside is blank and the back has the wood-engraving title and other information. Each card comes with a brown, 100% recycled envelope.

I am still searching for the elusive link between the Darwin family and the Comberfords of Comberford Hall. I am sorry I missed the opportunity to buy these cards this year. I must remember them for Christmas next year … and remember to send them.

The Festival of Christmas Christmas Card, Gwen Raverat (© The Raverat Archive)

Praying in Advent with USPG:
21, Saturday 19 December 2020

Saint John the Baptist with his parents, Saint Zechariah and Saint Elizabeth, in a mosaic at the Monastery Monastery of Saint John the Baptist in Tolleshunt Knights, Essex (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout Advent and Christmas this year, I am using the Prayer Diary of the Anglican Mission Agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) for my morning reflections each day, and the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced at Lichfield Cathedral for my prayers and reflections each evening.

I am one of the contributors to the current USPG Diary, Pray with the World Church, introducing the theme of peace and trust later this month.

Before the day gets busy, I am taking a little time this morning for my own personal prayer, reflection and Scripture reading.

The theme of the USPG Prayer Diary this week (13 to 19 December 2020) is ‘Reflections on Migration.’ This week’s theme is introduced in the diary by Richard Reddie, Director of Justice and Inclusion, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

Saturday 19 December 2020 (‘O Radix Jesse’):

Let us give thanks for the Church of Sanctuary movement, which encourages churches in Britain and Ireland to offer real hospitality to strangers.

The Collect of the Day (Advent III):

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
Grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God, world without end.

The Advent Collect:

Almighty God,
Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Luke 1: 5-25 (NRSVA):

5 In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 Both of them were righteous before God, living blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were getting on in years.

8 Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section was on duty, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. 10 Now at the time of the incense-offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. 11 Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. 13 But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. 14 You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. 16 He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’ 18 Zechariah said to the angel, ‘How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.’ 19 The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20 But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.’

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah, and wondered at his delay in the sanctuary. 22 When he did come out, he could not speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the sanctuary. He kept motioning to them and remained unable to speak. 23 When his time of service was ended, he went to his home.

24 After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. She said, 25 ‘This is what the Lord has done for me when he looked favourably on me and took away the disgrace I have endured among my people.’

Continued tomorrow

Yesterday’s morning reflection

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