25 May 2023

Morning prayers in Easter
with USPG: (47) 25 May 2023

The Ascension depicted in the East Window in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral (Church of Ireland), Armagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

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

Today, the calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship remembers the Venerable Bede (735), Monk at Jarrow, Scholar, Historian, and Aldhelm (709), Bishop of Sherborne. 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 Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, was designed by Sir Thomas Drew and executed by Heaton, Butler and Bayne (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The East Window, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh:

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, is the seat of the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and the Diocese of Armagh. The origins of the site are said to date back to the fifth century and the foundation of a monastery by Saint Patrick.

When Brian Boru, High King of Ireland, visited Armagh in 1004, he acknowledging it as the head cathedral of Ireland. He was buried at Armagh cathedral after his death at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. However, Armagh’s claim to the primacy of Ireland was not formally acknowledged until the Synod of Ráth Breasail in 1111.

Throughout the Middle Ages, the cathedral was one of the most important churches in Ireland, although the archbishops of Armagh sometimes lived, at various time in Dundalk, Drogheda or Termonfeckin in Co Louth.

The East window in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral depicts the Ascension. It was designed by Sir Thomas Drew and executed by Heaton, Butler and Bayne in 1903. It replaced a Warrington window of 1849.

Four of the lower panels with the exception of the centre panel quote Psalm 68: 18 from left to right: ‘Thou art gone up on high’, ‘Thou hast led captivity captive’, ‘and received gifts for men’, ‘yea: even for thine enemies’ – probably a reference to Archbishop Marcus Gervais Beresford’s role in negotiations during the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.

The centre panel in the lower row depicts Saint Patrick with the coat of arms of the Archbishops of Armagh and a reference to the year 445 when Saint Patrick supposedly built the first church at Armagh.

The window has five lancets, measuring 5580 mm tall, the four side panels 820 mm wide, and the centre panels 920 mm, and 16 tracery-lights.

The window is in memory of Archbishop John George Beresford, Archbishop Marcus Gervais Beresford and Alexander James Beresford-Hope.

Lord John George de la Poer Beresford (1773-1862), a younger son of the 1st Marquess of Waterford, was Archbishop of Armagh for 40 years (1822-1862).

The window also commemorates his immediate successor as archbishop and first cousin once removed, Marcus Gervais Beresford (1801-1885), who was Archbishop of Armagh (1862-1885) at the time of the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.

Their kinsman, Sir Alexander James Beresford Beresford Hope (1820-1887), was, along with John Mason Neale and Benjamin Webb, a founder of the Cambridge Camden Society, later the Ecclesiological Society. He also supervised the commissioning and construction of All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street, London, to the designs of William Butterfield on behalf of the Ecclesiological Society.

The East Window and the chancel in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Matthew 9: 35-10: 20 (NRSVA):

35 Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; 38 therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’

10 Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” 8 Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. 9 Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for labourers deserve their food. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town.

16 ‘See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles. 19 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’

The window is in memory of Archbishop John George Beresford, Archbishop Marcus Gervais Beresford and Alexander Beresford-Hope (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 on Sunday, when she reflected on accountability on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death today (25 May 2023).

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Thursday 25 May 2023):

Let us pray for the Black Lives Matter movement. May we work towards a world free from prejudice and may all who seek racial justice be upheld by the power of solidarity.


God our maker,
whose Son Jesus Christ gave to your servant Bede
grace to drink in with joy the word
that leads us to know you and to love you:
in your goodness
grant that we also may come at length to you,
the source of all wisdom,
and stand before your face;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Merciful God,
who gave such grace to your servant Bede
that he served you with singleness of heart
and loved you above all things:
help us, whose communion with you
has been renewed in this sacrament,
to forsake all that holds us back from following Christ
and to grow into his likeness from glory to glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh, is the seat of the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and the Diocese of Armagh (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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