14 December 2022

Praying in Advent with Lichfield Cathedral
and USPG: Wednesday 14 December 2022

Saint John of the Cross in a window by Phyllis Burke in Saint Teresa’s Church, Clarendon Street, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

Patrick Comerford

There are just eleven days to go to Christmas Day. The Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today (14 December 2022) remembers Saint John of the Cross, Poet, Teacher of the Faith, 1591.

Juan de Yepes (1542-1591) was born into an impoverished noble family near Avila in Spain, was brought up by his widowed mother and went to a charity school. He worked as a nurse and received further education from the Jesuits before entering the Carmelite order when he was 21. Having distinguished himself at Salamanca University, he was ordained in 1567 and met Teresa of Avila soon afterwards. Small of stature, he made a great impression on her and she persuaded him to help with her reform of the Carmelite order.

His labours brought him into conflict with the religious authorities, and he was even imprisoned for a period, yet these experiences prompted some of his finest poetry and mystical writing. In particular, he described the ‘dark night’ of the soul as it is purified in its approach towards God. After 10 years as superior to several different houses, he again fell out of favour and was banished to Andalusia in southern Spain, where he died after a severe illness on this day in 1591.

Later today, I hope to meet some clerical colleagues in the Milton Keynes in advance of expected Christmas ‘busy-ness’. But, before today gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for reading, prayer and reflection.

During Advent, I am reflecting in these ways:

1, The reading suggested in the Advent and Christmas Devotional Calendar produced by Lichfield Cathedral this year;

2, praying with the Lichfield Cathedral Devotional Calendar;

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

Saint John of the Cross in a window by Frances Biggs in the Chapel of Terenure College, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

John 14: 18-23 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 18 ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19 In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.’ 22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, ‘Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?’ 23 Jesus answered him, ‘Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.’

Saint John of the Cross depicted in a window in Saint Mary’s Carmelite Church, Loughrea, Co Galway (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

The Lichfield Cathedral Devotional Calendar:

Saint John of the Cross was a Spanish Carmelite priest and one gifted with a profound spirit of prayer and a mystical insight into how the soul is encountered by God. Pray today for the gift of prayer, a consciousness of God’s presence – how our lives become enfolded in God’s life, and changed, cleansed, and directed as a result.


O God, the judge of all,
who gave your servant John of the Cross
a warmth of nature, a strength of purpose
and a mystical faith
that sustained him even in the darkness:
shed your light on all who love you
and grant them union of body and soul
in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

God of truth,
whose Wisdom set her table
and invited us to eat the bread and drink the wine
of the kingdom:
help us to lay aside all foolishness
and to live and walk in the way of insight,
that we may come with John of the Cross to the eternal feast of heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme in the USPG Prayer Diary this week is ‘Walking Together.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by the Right Revd Maria Grace Tazu Sasamori, who became Bishop of Hokkaido in Japan in April 2022. She shared her reflections on this year’s Lambeth Conference with Archbishop Justin Welby.

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

Let us pray for all who gathered at this year’s Lambeth Conference. May they continue to reflect, absorb and learn from all they discovered about themselves and each other.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Saint John of the Cross depicted in a window in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2021)

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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