20 April 2023

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (12) 20 April 2023

The new Church of Aghios Ioannis towers over the village of Piskopianó in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This is the second week of Easter and Sunday (16 April 2023) was Easter Day in the calendar of the Orthodox Church.

Later this afternoon (20 April), the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is holding an online seminar, ‘Preaching for God’s World,’ asking how we include the environment in our preaching.

Before this day begins, I am taking some time early this morning for prayer, reflection and reading. As this is Easter Week in the Orthodox Church, I am reflecting each morning this week in these ways:

1, Short reflections on an Orthodox church in Crete;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The churches of Piskopianó:

I have been visiting Crete almost every year since the 1980s. My photographs this morning (20 April 2023) are from the modern Church of Aghios Ioannis (Saint John) in the village of Piskopianó, in the mountains above Hersonissos, and the older Church of Eisodia Theotokou (the Presentation of the Virgin Mary).

I first visited Piskopianó in 1994, I spent weeks on end there throughout the 1990s, and I have stayed there often since. Today, a new church towers over the stepped, narrow streets of Piskopianó.

Piskopianó is a parish within the Diocese of Petras and Cherronisou, and, for a short time, Piskopianó was the centre of a diocese. When Arab pirates started attacking Crete in the seventh century, many early Christian churches and basilicas were destroyed. At this time, Hersonissos was abandoned, and the see of the diocese was transferred to Piskopianó, and remained here until the ninth century, when the diocese was relocated to Pedialos.

The name of Piskopianó may hint at its earlier, historical, episcopal importance, or it may describe the village’s location looking out as a balcony over this stretch of the north coast of Crete.

The old basilica in Piskopianó was a three-aisled basilica built in the sixth century. It was 45 metres long and 20 metres wide, it had an interior arch that was 9.4 metres in diameter, and its floor was covered with marble.

While the Bishops of Cherronisou were seated in Piskopianó, they are mentioned in official documents from the eighth to the tenth centuries, and the Bishop of Cherronisou took part in the Seventh Ecumenical Council in Nicea in 787 AD.

The diocese was relocated to Pediados in the tenth century, and in the 19th century it was seated in the Monastery of Agatathos.

Meanwhile, the Church of Eisodia Theotokou, a small single-nave, barrel vaulted church, was built in the 16th century, and has been renovated a few times since then. The iconostasis is woodcut, with gold encrusted leaves, and the icons on the iconostasis date from 1863. The marble in the sanctuary probably comes from the earlier Basilica of Pikcopianó, which has not been excavated yet.

The neighbouring large parish church, the Church of Aghios Ioannis, was built in 2009 and stands above the village with the mountains as a stunning backdrop. Two 19th century buildings between the old and the new church have been renovated and serve as the priest’s office and as a guesthouse. The parish priest is Father George Kokkiadis.

Inside the Church of Eisodia Theotokou in Piskopianó, built in the 16th century (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 3: 31-36 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 31 ‘The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. 34 He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.’

Inside the Church of Aghios Ioannis in Piskopianó (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme in this week’s prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Safeguarding the Integrity of Creation.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday by USPG’s Regional Manager for East Asia, Oceania and Europe, Rebecca Boardman, who reflected on ways to get the climate justice conversation started, in the light of this week’s International Earth Day (22 April 2023).

The prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (20 April 2023) invites us to pray:

Let us pray for preachers, lay and ordained. May they be attentive to the needs of the world and have the courage to be prophets of our time.


Almighty Father,
you have given your only Son to die for our sins
and to rise again for our justification:
grant us so to put away the leaven of malice and wickedness
that we may always serve you
in pureness of living and truth;
through the merits of 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:

Lord God our Father,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ
you have assured your children of eternal life
and in baptism have made us one with him:
deliver us from the death of sin
and raise us to new life in your love,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The earlier Church of Eisodia Theotokou in Piskopianó, with its Byzantine-style doorframe (Photograph: 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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