16 June 2024

Daily prayer in Ordinary Time 2024:
38, 16 June 2024, Trinity III

The altar and the holy gifts seen through the central doors of the iconostasis in Stony Stratford, open during the Divine Liturgy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Patrick Comerford

This is the Third Sunday after Trinity (Trinity III, 16 June 2024) and Father’s Day – and in Dublin today is also being celebrated as Bloomsday, one of the great literary festivals in the English-speaking world. Later this morning I hope to sing with the choir at the Parish Eucharist in Saint Mary and Saint Giles Church in Stony Stratford.

Before today begins, I am taking some quiet time this morning to give thanks, for reflection, prayer and reading in these ways:

1, today’s Gospel reading;

2, a reflection on the icons in the new iconostasis or icon stand in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford.

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary;

4, the Collects and Post-Communion prayer of the day.

The lower, first tier of the iconostasis in Stony Stratford, with the central doors open during the Divine Liturgy (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Mark 4: 24-37 (NRSVUE):

26 He [Jesus] also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle because the harvest has come.”

30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

A circular icon of the Archangel Gabriel in the central doors of the iconostasis in Stony Stratford, one of two icons depicting the Annunciation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

The Stony Stratford iconostasis 1: The Doors

At the Divine Liturgy in the Orthodox Church, the Symbol of Faith or the Creed is traditionally introduced with the exclamation: ‘The Doors! The Doors! In wisdom, let us attend!’

However, the doors referred to here are the doors of the church building, and not the doors of the iconostasis as many think. This is a call to ensure that all catechumens and non-communicants have left, and that no-one enters or leave the liturgical assembly. The historical liturgical expectation was that the Creed would be said only by those who had already officially pronounced it at baptism, and continued to confess it within the life of the Church.

Of course, visitors are now allowed to remain in the church and, because the bread and wine of the liturgy have been brought though the doors of the iconostasis, many people now believe that these are the doors referred to in the call: ‘The Doors! The Doors! In wisdom, let us attend!’

Over the last few weeks, I have been watching the building and installation of the new iconostasis or icon screen in the Greek Orthodox Church in Stony Stratford. In my prayer diary this morning and over the next few weeks, I am reflecting on this new iconostasis, and the theological meaning and liturgical significance of its icons and decorations.

The lower, first tier of a traditional iconostasis is sometimes called Sovereign. On the right side of the Beautiful Gates facing forward is an icon of Christ, often as the Pantokrator, representing his second coming, and on the left is an icon of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary), symbolising the incarnation. It is another way of saying all things take place between Christ’s first coming and his second coming.

Other icons on this tier usually include depictions of the patron saint or feast day of the church, Saint John the Baptist, one or more of the Four Evangelists, and so on.

The central doors of the iconostasis in Stony Stratford have two round or circular icons, one of the Archangel Gabriel and the other of the Virgin Mary.

When the doors are open during the liturgy, all can seen the altar and above it an iconic representation of the Crucifixion, with images on each side of it of the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Theologian or Saint John the Evangelist.

I am thinking this morning of how many people find the doors of the church are closed to them, and how often we fail to bring Christ out of the church and into the world. Bishop Rosemarie Mallett, in her reflections for the USPG Prayer Diary this morning, also discusses how many in the Windrush generation looked for welcome and hospitality from their Christian brothers and sisters but were turned away from church doors. Who else finds the doors of the church are closed to them?

A circular icon of the Virgin Mary in the central doors of the iconostasis in Stony Stratford, one of two icons depicting the Annunciation (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Today’s Prayers (Sunday 16 June 2024, Trinity III):

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 ‘Windrush Day.’ This theme is introduced today with reflections by the Right Revd Dr Rosemarie Mallett, Bishop of Croydon:

‘On Windrush Day, we remember the Caribbean migrants who, in the same year that Windrush Day was inaugurated (2018), faced deportation. Despite arriving in the UK with British passports and living here for decades, they were told they did not belong and had no right to be in the country.

‘That sense of ‘unbelonging’ and the hostile environment of racism and rejection are felt by many of the original generation and their descendants. There can be no Caribbean-diaspora person who has not personally faced or known someone who has faced overt racism, unconscious bias, and racialised arrogance due to skin colour and cultural differences from white UK society. This was no different for those who looked for welcome and hospitality from Christian brothers and sisters and were turned away from church doors. Thankfully, this did not stop that generation of migrants from envisioning a place for themselves in whatever aspect of society they wished to succeed in.

‘On this and every Windrush Day, we give thanks to those early pioneers, celebrating the successes of those individuals who believed in their talent and skills, and most often, their God. Who often worked hard to overcome prejudice and advance themselves, their families, and their community. Today, we can see the flourishing of leadership and representation of people of colour and those of Caribbean heritage and descent in all aspects of life in this country. However, though much has changed, there is still a way to go before people can truly feel welcome and accepted and that they fully belong.’

The USPG Prayer Diary today (16 June 2024, Trinity III) invites us to reflect on these words:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands (Revelation 7: 9).

The Collect:

Almighty God,
you have broken the tyranny of sin
and have sent the Spirit of your Son into our hearts
whereby we call you Father:
give us grace to dedicate our freedom to your service,
that we and all creation may be brought
to the glorious liberty of the children of God;
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 Prayer:

O God, whose beauty is beyond our imagining
and whose power we cannot comprehend:
show us your glory as far as we can grasp it,
and shield us from knowing more than we can bear
until we may look upon you without fear;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Additional Collect:

God our saviour,
look on this wounded world
in pity and in power;
hold us fast to your promises of peace
won for us by your Son,
our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Yesterday’s introduction to the Stony Stratford iconostasis

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

I have watched the iconostasis being built and put in place in Stony Stratford in recent weeks (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2024)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition copyright © 2021, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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