20 July 2023
Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (53) 20 July 2023
We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and this week began with the Sixth Sunday after Trinity (16 July 2023).
Today (20 July 2023), the Calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship celebrates the lives of Margaret of Antioch, Martyr, 4th century, and Bartolomé de las Casas, Apostle to the Indies, 1566.
Before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.
Over these weeks after Trinity Sunday, I have been reflecting each morning in these ways:
1, Looking at relevant images or stained glass windows 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.
Holy Trinity Church (Biserica Grecilor), Brașov, Romania:
For some years, I was a regular visitor to Romania, for family reasons, working as a journalist with The Irish Times, and then working in partnership with Church of Ireland and Romanian Orthodox parish churches on projects in Bucharest and Brașov.
Brașov in Transylvania has a population of almost 250,000 and is the sixth most populous city in Romania. Brașov is in central Romania, surrounded by the Southern Carpathians and about 166 km north of Bucharest and 380 km from the Black Sea.
Historically, the city was the centre of the Burzenland (Țara Bârsei), once dominated by the Transylvanian Saxons. It was a significant commercial hub on the trade roads between Austria and Turkey (then Ottoman Empire). It is also where the Romanian national anthem was first sung.
The landmark church in Brașov is the Black Church (Biserica Neagră or Die Schwarze Kirche), a Gothic church dating from 1477. Some accounts claim it is the largest Gothic church in south-east Europe. It got its name after being blackened by smoke in a great fire in 1689.
Bran Castle, close to Brașov, is a major tourist attraction, said (incorrectly) to have been the home of Vlad the Impaler, often identified with Dracula.
Brașov is 48 km north of Sinaia, where King Carol I of Romania built Peleș Castle, his summer residence, in the late 19th century. The Sinaia Monastery, which gives its name to the town, was founded by Prince Mihail Cantacuzino in 1695 and named after the Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai. Today, the monastery has about a dozen Orthodox monks.
In the past, I have worked closely with the Greek Church (Biserica Grecilor or simply Greci) on Gheorghe Barițiu Street in Brașov. The church is formally dedicated to the Holy Trinity.
The church was built in 1787 by Orthodox guild members and merchants of various nationalities: Romanians, Greeks, Aromanians or Vlachs, Serbs and Bulgarians, all living in Brașov. The first parish priest, Father Macarie, came from Sinaia Monastery in 1788. A church school was built in 1799.
This was a wealthy church, and from the 1780s competing language and cultural groups in Brașov disputed the control of both the church and school. Initially, the vying ‘Greek’ and ‘Romanian’ parties were split along socio-economic lines, with Greeks and Romanians in both parties. Eventually, they acquired an ethnic character and relations between the two communities were poisoned.
The Greek faction was successful in the courts, and the language of both church and school continued to be Greek under Austro-Hungarian rule.
However, the local Greek community in Brașov declined numerically and economically in the late 19th century, and in 1892 Xeropotamou Monastery on Mount Athos refused to send a new priest to the church, citing the church’s poor condition. By then, most Greek speakers in Brașov seem to have adopted a modern Romanian identity.
Due to a shortage of students, the Greek school closed in 1908. The last Greek priest, Father Neofitos Stamatiades, left the parish for Greece in 1946. The church reopened in 1956. The Revd Professor Nicolae Moșoiu has been the parish priest since 1999.
The church is 20.5 metres long, 8.5 meters wide and 11 meters high. The walls are of stone and brick. It is shaped like a ship, with arches and lengthy semicircular windows. The baroque façade is richly ornamented with stucco plants and flowers.
The interior of the church was painted with floral motifs in 1859 by the painter Guliemievici who also gilded the iconostasis. The icons of Christ the Pantocrator and the Mother of God with the Christ Child on the vault of the nave have a special beauty.
Over time, the church has seen many changes. A small entrance porch was added in 1958, and an inscription in Romanian in 1977 translated the original inscription in Greek from 1787. The interior painting was last restored in 1987 to mark the 200th anniversary of the church, when Father Zenofie Moşoiu was the parish priest (1972-1999).
A tower, known as the Bastion Gate Tower or the Powder Tower, forms part of the citadel wall and adjoins the church wall. The tower is 12-15 metres high, and includes bells and a semantron. It leads into the cemetery, where the burials include Dositei Filitti, Bishop of Wallachia, who died in 1826 and Panaiot Hagi Nica (1709-1796), the principal founder of the church and school. A number of royal figures are buried in the Brâncoveanu family crypt.
The Romanian Orthodox Parish of the Holy Trinity has over 600 families of parishioners. The church is open daily from 7 am to 7 pm. The church and the cemetery are listed as a historic monuments by Romania’s Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs.
Matthew 11: 28-30 (NRSVA):
[Jesus said:] 28 ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’
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 ‘Abundant life – A human right.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.
The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (20 July 2023) invites us to pray in these words:
Help us remember Lord, in all that we do, that we are all your children. We are all equal.
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding:
pour into our hearts such love toward you
that we, loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
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.
God of our pilgrimage,
you have led us to the living water:
refresh and sustain us
as we go forward on our journey,
in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.
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