22 May 2023

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (44) 22 May 2023

The Ascension depicted in the East Window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Eastertide and Ascensiontide continue throughout this week, until the Day of Pentecost next Sunday (28 May 2023).

Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection. I am reflecting each morning during Ascensiontide in these ways:

1, Looking at a depiction of the Ascension in images or stained glass windows in a church or cathedral I know;

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

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The East Window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, is in memory of Bishop William Higgin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The East Window, Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry:

This morning (22 May 2023) I am looking at images of the Resurrection in the East Window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry.

Saint Columb’s Cathedral, the Church of Ireland cathedral in Derry, is dedicated to Saint Columba, who is one of the three patron saints of Ireland, alongside Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid.

Also known as Saint Colmcille, he established a monastic settlement in the Derry area before he was exiled from Ireland to Iona. His disciples and monks later introduced Christianity to Scotland and northern England.

The best-known stained-glass window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral is, perhaps, the window commemorating the hymnwriter Cecil Frances Alexander, wife of William Alexander, Bishop of Derry. This window illustrates three of her hymns: ‘Once in Royal David’s City,’ ‘There is a green hill far away,’ and ‘The golden gates are lifted up.’

Mrs Alexander is remembered as the author of children’s hymns, but visitors should not overlook the East window in the chancel, depicting the Ascension and Christ with the Apostles. This East Window is in memory of William Higgin, who was Bishop of Derry from 1853 to 1867.

William Higgin (1793- 1867) was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating BA in 1813. He was the Rector of Roscrea, Co Tipperary (1828-1835) and then became Vicar General of Killaloe. He became Dean of Limerick (1844-1853), and then Bishop of Limerick, Ardfert and Aghadoe (1849-1853). He became Bishop of Derry and Raphoe in 1853 and died on 12 July 1867. He was succceeded as Bishop of Derry by William Alexander (1824-1911), later Archbishop of Armagh (1896-1911) and husband of the hymnwriter Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895).

The upper lights in the East Window depict the Ascension of Christ, while the lower lights depict Christ with the Apostles.

This window is of five lancets, measures 3540 mm x 460 mm, is mullioned and transomed and has 22 tracery-lights. It is the work of the studio of William Wailes (1808-1881) in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Wailes ran one of the largest and most prolific stained glass workshops in Victorian England. He had studied with Mayer of Munich and later worked closely with AWN Pugin. His famous works include the windows of Gloucester Cathedral, the East Window in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth, the Transfiguration East Window in Saint Saviour’s Dominican Church, Limerick, and many of the windows in Saint Mary’s Church, Killarney. Wailes also designed the window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral erected in memory of Brutus or Brute Babington, Bishop of Derry for a few months from his consecration in 1610 until he died on 10 September 1611.

‘Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples’ (Mark 10: 23) … the lower lights in the East Window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, depict Christ with the Apostles (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Mark 10: 17-27 (NRSVA):

17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 18 Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother”.’ 20 He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’ 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27 Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’

The Cecil Frances Alexander window in Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘Accountability and Care.’ USPG’s Research and Learning Advisor, Jo Sadgrove, introduced this theme yesterday, when she reflected on accountability on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death on Thursday (25 May 2023).

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Monday 22 May 2023):

Let us pray for all who study the past. May lost histories be brought to light and shameful histories be named that we may build honest relationships in the present.


O Lord, from whom all good things come:
grant to us your humble servants,
that by your holy inspiration
we may think those things that are good,
and by your merciful guiding may perform the same;
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Gracious God, lover of all,
in this sacrament
we are one family in Christ your Son,
one in the sharing of his body and blood
and one in the communion of his Spirit:
help us to grow in love for one another
and come to the full maturity of the Body of Christ.
We make our prayer through your Son our Saviour.

Saint Columb’s Cathedral, Derry, is dedicated to Saint Columba, one of the three patron saints of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

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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