24 November 2022

Praying in Ordinary Time with USPG:
Thursday 24 November 2022

The ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Avila, surrounded by Carmelite saints … a stained glass window in Saint Mary’s Carmelite Church, Loughrea, Co Galway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This is the final week in Ordinary Time this year in the Calendar of the Church, the week between the Feast of Christ the King and Advent Sunday.

Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

During this week, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, One of the readings for the morning;

2, a reflection or thought from the Greek writer Nikos Kazantzakis;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary, ‘Pray with the World Church.’

Saint Teresa of Avila … one of a series of windows of Carmelite saints by Frances Biggs in the Carmelite chapel in Terenure College, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 21: 20-28 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 20 ‘When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation has come near. 21 Then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those inside the city must leave it, and those out in the country must not enter it; 22 for these are days of vengeance, as a fulfilment of all that is written. 23 Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people; 24 they will fall by the edge of the sword and be taken away as captives among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

25 ‘There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in a cloud” with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.’

Saint Teresa of Avila … a stained-glass window by Phyllis Burke in Saint Teresa’s Carmelite Church, Clarendon Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Nikos Kazantzakis, 4:

Last month marked the 65th anniversary of the death of the Greek writer and philosopher Nikos Kazantzakis in Freiburg, Germany, on 26 October 1957.

Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) is a giant of modern Greek literature, and he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature on nine separate occasions. His books include Zorba the Greek, Christ Recrucified, Captain Michalis (also published as Freedom or Death), and The Last Temptation of Christ (1955). He also wrote plays, travel books, memoirs and philosophical essays such as The Saviours of God: Spiritual Exercises.

His fame spread in the English-speaking world because of the film adaptations of Zorba the Greek (1964) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).

Alongside Saint Francis of Assisi, who inspired him to write a semi-fictional biography, The Poor Man of God, Kazantzakis admired and wrote about two other post-schismatic Carmelite saints and mystics, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross, in their ‘dark night of the soul’. In spite of his hesitation and impatience, Kazantzakis discovered that the darkness can be fertile, a dwelling place of God, where all is renewed.

He had a particular interest in the places and churches in Spain associated with Saint Teresa of Avila, with whom he enjoyed a lifelong fascination. From her he also derived his metaphor of silkworms, one of his favourite metaphors.

He wrote about her: ‘For Teresa the holy life was not a mad fury that sprouts wings and tries to escape from the world. It was a patient hard-working life of love … Patience, logic, gaiety, love – these are four mares that pulled the carriage of Saint Teresa and her soul’ (Nikos Kazantzakis, Spain, trs Amy Mims, New York, 1963).

And he wrote: ‘Even the most mystical of Spanish women, Saint Teresa, never lost the sacred mean. And if there is a paradise, and if they tackle housekeeping up there too, and if there things up there too that need locking up, surely Saint Teresa, the Spanish woman, will keep the keys.’

In this way, he suggested too that if Saint Teresa of Avila was alive today she would be a political activist, for this is the contemporary form the soul takes in its struggle to ascend.

Saint John of the Cross by Phyllis Burke in Saint Teresa’s Church, Clarendon Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)


Eternal Father,
whose Son Jesus Christ ascended to the throne of heaven
that he might rule over all things as Lord and King:
keep the Church in the unity of the Spirit
and in the bond of peace,
and bring the whole created order to worship at his feet;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Stir up, O Lord,
the wills of your faithful people;
that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works,
may by you be plenteously rewarded;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Additional Collect:

God the Father,
help us to hear the call of Christ the King
and to follow in his service,
whose kingdom has no end;
for he reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, one glory.

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘Prophetic Voice of the Nation.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by Bishop Matthew Mhagama, from the Diocese of South-West Tanganyika in the Anglican Church of Tanzania.

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us pray for the leaders of Tanzania to serve impartially and revive the economy for the benefit of all.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Saint John of the Cross depicted in a window by Frances Biggs in the Chapel of Terenure College, Dublin (Photographs: Patrick Comerford)

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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