19 June 2023

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (22) 19 June 2023

The Monastery of Chryssoskalitíssa, or the golden step, is perched above the Libyan Sea on the south-west tip of Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

This week began with the Second Sunday after Trinity (18 June 2023) and Father’s Day. The calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship today remembers Sundar Singh of India, Sadhu (holy man), Evangelist, Teacher of the Faith (1929).

Before the day begins, I am taking some time for prayer, reading and reflection.

Over these weeks after Trinity Sunday, I am reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass window in a church, chapel 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.

Elafonísi and the crystal clear waters of the lagoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford; click on image for full-screen viewing)

The Monastery of Chryssoskalítíssa, Elafonisi, Crete:

This week I am reflecting on Orthodox churches named after the Holy Trinity. These Trinity reflections continue this morning (18 June 2023) with photographs and images from the Monastery of Chryssoskalítíssa (Μονή Χρυσοσκαλιτίσσας), at the south-west tip of the island of Crete.

The Monastery of Chryssoskalitíssa is perched on rocks above the lagoon of Elafonisi and is 35 metres high, overlooking the Libyan Sea. This monastery once had a community of 200. But like many monasteries in Crete, numbers have dwindled and today there is only one nun and one monk.

The monastery, which dates from the 13th century, is dedicated to the Holy Trinity (Agia Triada) and the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (Koimisis Theotokou). But the popular name comes from a local tradition that one step in a set of 98 leading up to the monastery appears as a golden step (chryssí skála) to those who are pure of heart.

The Monastery, which celebrates its feast on 15 August (Δεκαπενταυγουστος, Dekapendavgoustos), was built during the Venetian era on the site of Saint Nicholas monastery. Before the first monastery was built, there was another church on the site dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary.

It is said the staircase and the golden step were sold to the Turks to pay off taxes demanded by the Sultan. The legend also says that at Easter 1824, after the massacre of Christians by the Ottomans of Ibrahim Pasha on Elafonísi, Turkish soldiers went to the monastery with a plan to plunder the place. At the entrance to the monastery, however, they were attacked by a swarm of bees that saved the monastery from looting.

The church seen today was built in 19th century. The monastery was dissolved in 1894, along with other monasteries on the island, but was re-established in 1940.

During the Nazi occupation of Crete, several resistance fighters were given refuge there. German soldiers expelled the monks and occupied the monastery in 1943. When the Nazi forces left, the monks returned to the monastery.

Elafonísi (Ελαφονήσι, ‘deer island’), also known as the ‘Pearl of the West,’ is a popular destination for day trippers. No buildings are allowed on the lagoon and the island, which helps to keep the feeling that this is a wilderness away from everything.

The beautiful sandy beaches of Elafonísi and the lagoon are fringed with pink coral sand and the sea and the lagoon have crystal clear waters so that there is a unique feeling of being on a desert island or in a South Seas lagoon while still being in the Mediterranean.

The lagoon is rimmed with sun beds and there is a small number of beach bars supplying drinks and snacks. From the beaches that fringe the lagoon, one can wade knee-deep across to the island, which is a protected nature reserve and where there are no sun beds or beach bars. The further one walks, the quieter this tiny island becomes. At the western end there is a promontory with a small lighthouse, and chapel. Out in the distance is the Libyan Sea.

The church in the Monastery of Chryssoskalítíssa (Photograph: Chania Vacation)

Matthew 5: 38-42 (NRSVA):

[Jesus said:] 38 ‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39 But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40 and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41 and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42 Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.’

The Monastery of Chryssoskalítíssa dates from the 13th century and is dedicated to the Holy Trinity and the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘The snowdrop that never bloomed.’ This theme was introduced yesterday.

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (19 June 2023, International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict) invites us to pray:

We pray for everyone affected by sexual violence, particularly survivors of conflict. May we continue to raise our voices against this abhorrent weapon of war.


Lord, you have taught us
that all our doings without love are nothing worth:
send your Holy Spirit
and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,
the true bond of peace and of all virtues,
without which whoever lives is counted dead before you.
Grant this for your only Son Jesus Christ’s sake,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Loving Father,
we thank you for feeding us at the supper of your Son:
sustain us with your Spirit,
that we may serve you here on earth
until our joy is complete in heaven,
and we share in the eternal banquet
with Jesus Christ our Lord.

Reflections of Elafonísi in the crystal-clear waters of the lagoon (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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