Corpus Christi, Thursday 11 June 2020
Thanksgiving for the Institution of the Holy Communion. The Choir singing Gounod’s O salutaris in C major is available for your reflections.
These prayers are printed in the Caius Chapel Service books. They are for preparation before receiving communion; and for thanksgiving afterwards.
It is a good discipline to learn by heart at least one prayer for preparation and one for thanksgiving, to use in private prayer when making your communion.
Tonight we would have had the Choir Dinner after the last choral service of the academic year. But for now we wait. And there is a stature in waiting.
The Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread,
and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said,
”This is my body that is broken for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying,
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it,
in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup,
you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
1 Corinthians 11.23
The Collect for Purity
Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, all desires known,
and from whom no secrets are hidden: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts
by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,that we may perfectly love you,
and worthily magnify your holy name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Comfortable Words
Hear the words of comfort our Saviour Christ says to all who truly turn to him: Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11.28
God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3.16
Hear what Saint Paul says: This saying is true, and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. 1 Timothy 1.15
Hear also what Saint John says: If anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the propitiation for our sins. 1 John 2.1,2
The Prayer of Humble Access
We do not presume to come to this your table, merciful Lord,
trusting in our own righteousness, but in your manifold and great mercies.
We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under your table.
But you are the same Lord whose nature is always to have mercy.
Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of your dear Son Jesus Christ and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean
by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood,
and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inspire me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Never let me be parted from you.
Defend me from ill-wishing foes.
In the hour of my death call me,
And bid me come to you,
That with your saints I may praise you
For ever and ever. Amen.
Last Choral Evensong of Easter Term, Tuesday 9 June 2020
In body we are separated, but in spirit we come together, to pray as God’s people: we pray for Caians we know who have died; for friends we share our life with,
who are now leaving College; for the dreams and hopes for the end of the year which have been broken or lost; for the Master and President, who are steering the College through difficult waters; for the Senior Bursar trying to minimise the damage done by Covid-19 to our financial security; for the Senior Tutor and all the Tutors, securing the best they can for Caius students; for the staff whose work has been disrupted and lives changed by new restrictions and responsibilities.
We pray for our College, which has stood here so long, calling its members to love learning, and to value friendship:
ALMIGHTY God, you are the Fountain of Wisdom:
without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy;
Bless this College, prosper the designs of our founders and benefactors;
and enable us - by your grace -faithfully to discharge the duties
of our several stations, remembering the account
which we must one day give before the judgment-seat of Christ.
We pray that the seeds of Humility and Virtue, sown here,
may bring forth honourable fruit,
to your glory and the benefit of our fellow creatures;
As we look now to the future of our College,
we give especial thanks for all Fellows and Members
of Gonville and Caius College who have gone to their rest before us;
and ask that we may learn here to follow their good examples.
The words of a Confederate soldier teach us to be wise in what we pray for, and by extension what we hope and strive for…
I asked for strength that I might achieve:
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things:
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy:
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men:
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life:
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I had asked for –
but everything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered:
I am, among all people, most richly blessed.
The God of peace and love remain with us always,
as we pray together the Grace...
THE grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Prayers, Thursday 4 June 2020
The celebration of Pentecost spans the whole of this week, up to Trinity Sunday. There is a prayer I have often used, and will use in my prayers this evening, which asks for the Spirit to bear fruit in me, and in my life. There is no eucharist in chapel this evening; but at least we can share in praying this. It’s adapted from something I found online.
A prayer for the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit
Lord Jesus, give me the Spirit of Wisdom,
to set my heart on things that are above,
not on things that are earthly only;
give me the Spirit of Understanding,
to illuminate my life with your divine truth;
give me the Spirit of Counsel, to help me find
the right words at the right time for the right people;
give me the Spirit of Inward Strength,
to bear my cross for your sake, and overcome with courage
all that obstructs my following in your Way:
give me the Spirit of Knowledge,
to behold the holy Trinity – one God –
and know myself, even just a little;
give me the Spirit of True Godliness,
to find your service sweet and joyful, and its own reward;
give me the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord,
to fill me with reverence and wonder at your will and works.
The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all evermore. Amen.
Prayers, Tuesday 2 June 2020
Lancelot Andrewes was a man of learning and devotion, who wrote prayers for his private use, including praying every day for every one of the churches which had formed him in his faith. He spoke to God as one beyond our knowing; and as one closer to us than we are ourselves.
Essence beyond essence, Nature increate, Framer of the world,
I set Thee, Lord, before my face, and I lift up my soul unto Thee.
I worship Thee on my knees, and humble myself under Thy mighty hand.
I stretch forth my hands unto Thee, my soul gaspeth unto Thee as a thirsty land.
Confessing mistakes and misdoings
Father of mercies, despise not thou the work of thine own hands,
despise not thine own image, though branded by sin.
Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean, Lord, only say the word, and I shall be cleansed.
Look on me with those eyes with which thou didst look upon Magdalene at the feast,
Peter in the hall, the thief on the wood; that with the thief I may entreat Thee humbly—
‘Remember me, Lord, in Thy kingdom’; that with Peter I may bitterly weep and say,
‘O that mine eyes were a fountain of tears that I might weep day and night;’
that with Magdalene I may hear Thee say, ‘Thy sins be forgiven thee,’ and, with her,
may love much, for many sins yea manifold have been forgiven me.
Prayer for Dissolving Fear of Death
Day is fled and gone, life too is going, this lifeless life.
Night cometh, and cometh death, the deathless death.
Near as is the end of day, so too the end of life.
The day is gone, and I give Thee thanks, O Lord. Evening is at hand, make it bright unto us.
As day has its evening so also has life; the even of life is age, age has overtaken me, make it bright unto us.
Cast me not away in the time of age; forsake me not when my strength faileth me.
Do Thou make, do Thou bear, do Thou carry and deliver me.
Abide with me, Lord, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent of this fretful life.
Let Thy strength be made perfect in my weakness.
The Golden Sequence, Thursday 28 May 2020
Exactly one year ago, at the Thursday choral eucharist in chapel, I used for the prayers a mediaeval poem known as the Golden Sequence. It is a prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit, and for the kindling of the Spirit’s gifts. The poem has been attributed to Stephen Langton, a 13C Archbishop of Canterbury. The prayer may be centuries old, but what it asks God to give us is as relevant now as it ever was. I’ve highlighted the bits which touch me most closely.
COME, Holy Spirit,
And send down from heaven
The radiance of your light.
Come, Father of the poor;
Come, giver of gifts;
Come, light of our hearts;
Rest from our labours,
Shade from the heat,
Solace for grief.
O most blessed Light,
Fill the inmost hearts
Of those who trust in you.
Apart from your divinity,
Humanity is formless, void;
Everything is perilous.
Wash what is unclean in us,
Water what is dry in us,
Heal what is hurt in us.
Bend what will not yield in us,
Warm what is cold in us,
Direct what is gone astray.
Grant to your faithful ones,
Who trust in you,
The sevenfold gifts of the Spirit.
Grant us goodness’s reward,
Grant us joy for evermore.
Prayer, Tuesday 26 May 2020
My sincere apologies for the late appearance of the prayers for this evening. Or, more accurately, the prayer. I have found myself turning to these words of Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott over the years. He was the man after whom was named the theological college where I trained for the priesthood. Westcott’s prayer helps students going through exams, as many are doing at the moment. But just as much it fits stressed parents with cooped-up children; and people whose jobs are starting to look shaky; and lonely self-isolaters; and overworked, overtired super-copers trying to keep the family, or business, or educational, or medical show on the road. As they have often helped me, I thought they might help you tonight. I have underlined the words which for me are the heart of the prayer:
O Lord God, in whom we live and move and have our being,
open our eyes that we may behold thy presence ever with us.
Draw our hearts to thee with the power of thy love.
Teach us to be anxious for nothing,
and when we have done what thou hast given us to do,
help us, O God our Saviour, to leave the issue to thy wisdom.
Take from us all doubt and mistrust.
Lift our hearts up to thee in heaven,
and make us to know that all things are possible to us through thy Son our Redeemer.
Ascension Day, Thursday 21 May 2020
A service for Ascension Day, led by Revd Cally Hammond is available.
Rogationtide, Tuesday 19 May 2020
A spotify playlist is available for your reflections.
For many centuries Christians observed the four days before Ascension Day as Rogationtide – a short season of prayer and fasting when intercessions were offered (often during processions through the fields) for a good harvest. This custom reflected an acute awareness that a bad harvest meant hunger and deprivation for the whole community, but also (more positively) an acknowledgement that human beings are God’s stewards in their care for the natural world and use of its resources.
Both remain relevant today, though the second has come to the fore in modern times as we come to appreciate more profoundly how fragile the natural world is, and the potentially catastrophic dangers to which we expose it when we greedily abuse its riches.
Here, then, are two prayers which reflect these themes: first, an old prayer by the Caiain, Bishop John Cosin (1594-1672), and secondly a modern prayer by Timothy Dudley-Smith (b.1926), a former Bishop of Thetford and well-known hymn writer.
Almighty God, Lord of heaven and earth, in whom we live and move and have our being; who doest good unto all people, making thy sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sending rain on the just and on the unjust: Favourably behold us thy servants, who call upon thy name, and send us thy blessing from heaven, in giving us fruitful seasons, and satisfying us with food and gladness, that both our hearts and mouths may be continually filled with thy praise, and we may ever give thanks to thee in thy holy Church; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God, the only source of life and energy and wealth,
defend our planet earth.
Teach us to conserve and not to squander the riches of nature,
to use aright the heritage of former generations,
and to plan for the welfare of our children’s children.
Renew our wonder, awaken our concern,
and make us better stewards and more careful tenants
of the world you lend us as our home.
Hear us, O Lord, our creator and redeemer,
in the name of Christ. Amen.
Prayers, Thursday 14 May 2020
The motet Liebe, dir ergeb’ ich mich (Love, I surrender to you) by German composer Peter Cornelius and sung by the Caius Chapel Choir is available here to support your reflections.
The Gospel passage set for today’s Eucharist is from John’s Gospel, Chapter 15.
It is a relatively familiar passage from the end of Jesus’s earthly ministry, shortly before his Passion and death, in which he tells his disciples “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.”
These words are rightly comforting, but they also come with an instruction: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
Those last words have so thoroughly entered the common consciousness as the ultimate picture of sacrificial love that perhaps they have been in danger of losing their impact.
The current crisis, however, has challenged us to look at them afresh.
Loving God, we give you thanks for all those who, in this time of great trial, have demonstrated self-giving love; those who have sacrificed their own freedoms in order to protect vulnerable members of the community and those frontline workers putting their own health and lives directly at risk in order to treat the sick.
Lord, we also give you thanks for the many thousands of small acts of sacrificial love, some seen, some unnoticed that have helped support the suffering, accompany the lonely and build up dispersed communities during this period.
Above all Father we give thanks to you, that, even when we feel unworthy, through your Son Jesus we are united with you, the source of all that is good. Help us to remember that, despite the concerns and struggles that are currently weighing down so many of us, we can abide in a love that overcomes death itself and which knows no end.
From the hymn by Robert Bridges (based on a 12th century Latin text):
Love of the Father, love of God the Son.
From whom all came, in whom was all begun;
Who formest heavenly beauty out of strife,
Creation’s whole desire and breath of life.
For Evening Prayer, Tuesday 12 May 2020
For some years now, I have been writing about St Augustine of Hippo, and lecturing and leading study groups on him. Here are some prayers I have translated which take my breath away, and give me - in its place - the Spirit.
A spotify playlist is available for your reflections.
His expression of longing for God can become ours:
O Lord my God, listen to my prayer and heed my desire,
which is not aflame for my own good only,
but wants to be at the service of brotherly love. You see in my heart that it is so.
Let me offer as a sacrifice to you the service of my mind and tongue.
O Lord, listen and have mercy, O Lord my God,
listen to my soul and hear it crying out from the abyss.
Your voice is my delight, your voice above the profusion of pleasures.
Grant what I love; for I do love, and you have given me this capacity.
Let me confess to you, and let me hear the voice of praise;
and let me drink of you; and let me meditate upon the wonders of your law:
His listening to Christ the Word can too:
I imagined within myself the stilling of the commotion of the flesh,
the stilling of every image of earth and sea and sky,
the stilling even of heaven, and the soul itself.
Now dreams grew silent, and symbolic revelations,
every tongue, and every sign; and everything that comes to be;
and all things turned their attention to him who made them:
and he spoke alone, not through them, but by his own self—and I heard his Word –
not by means of a tongue of flesh, nor by the voice of an angel,
nor by the thundering of a cloud, nor by the mystery of a mental image;
no, I hear the Word himself, the one we love in all these things:
His hunger for the divine presence gives voice to our unspoken longings:
O Truth, light of my heart: do not let my darkness speak to me!
I have deviated towards earthly things, have fallen into shadow:
but from here, even from here I have truly loved you.
I wandered from the path: and then remembered you.
I heard your voice behind me, calling me to come home:
but I only just heard it over the outcry of the unquiet.
And now, look!—I am returning now, hot and thirsty, to drink at your fountain.
Let no-one stand in my way: let me drink from it, and hereafter let me live.
Let me not be my own life: from my own self I have lived badly.
To myself I was death: but in you I come to life again.
Converse with me, commune with me: I have believed
in your holy books and their words are full of mystery.
The God of peace and love remain with us always. Amen.
For Evening Prayer, Tuesday 5 May 2020
When we are under pressure, and our faith is tested, we have a chance to show the quality of that faith. For centuries, the Jewish law code called the Decalogue or Ten Commandments has shaped the lives of Christians; and tonight we ask that it will continue to do so in centuries to come.
Prayers based on Exodus 20
Gracious Father, you have commanded us
to have no other gods. Keep us faithful to you alone,
and dethrone the idols we make for ourselves.
Gracious Father, when we use your holy name in unholy ways,
call us back to you. Let the name we bear be carried all our lives in honour;
and may we trust the holy name of Jesus, using that name in prayer & praise.
Gracious Father, you created six days in which to work
and made the seventh a day of rest.
On the day of Resurrection bless us with your nearer presence.
Gracious Father, all of us are someone’s child.
Guide parents to bring their children up to love you;
and make family life a school of tolerance and co-operation.
Gracious Father, you give life to all people.
By your grace may we respect the sanctity of life,
not holding cheap the lives of the voiceless and vulnerable.
Gracious Father, you have taught us that it is not good for us to live alone.
Bless those who are called to the holy estate of matrimony,
and keep them faithful to their promises.
Gracious Father, you give us what we need, not what we want.
Help us to value honesty as your gift;
and to honour integrity in all people.
Gracious Father, grant us the inward happiness to be
content with what we have, and are, not to envy anyone’s goods, or successes;
always less ready to judge than to forgive.
The God of peace and love remain with us always. Amen.
Learning against the odds
As we make our way through this strangest of Easter terms, with many of us gearing up for taking exams in a variety of different circumstances, some of them very challenging, none of them anticipated, I wonder if we might take some inspiration from Pandita Mary Ramabai, who the Church commemorates today (30th April).
Mary Ramabai was born in 1858 in British India, the daughter of a Sanskrit scholar. Against all the odds, especially as a woman and a single mother, she carved out a distinguished career as a scholar. She was passionate about the education of women and became a significant reformer and well-respected lecturer.
Ramabai came to the UK in 1883 to start medical training but was rejected because of her progressive deafness. Not to be deterred, she focused on translating textbooks and giving lectures, including in the United States and Canada and also had her own work published. She was a distinguished linguist, accomplished in seven languages and translated the Bible into Marathi (her mother tongue) from the original Hebrew and Greek.
She was the first woman to be given the title of “Pandita” as a Sanskrit scholar after being examined by the faculty of the University of Calcutta.
Pandita Mary Ramabai stands as a great example of a woman who embraced her calling to scholarship, despite the incredibly difficult circumstances she faced.
Let us pray:
Loving God, as we face examinations and assessments during this difficult time, strengthen us for the tasks ahead and help us to be grateful for the support of our College, our family and our friends.
Be with all those around the world who undertake learning in difficult circumstances, even without the current pandemic to contend with.
We thank you for the courageous and independent spirit of Pandita Mary Ramabai and we pray that we, like her may embrace the gift of learning, educating and caring, especially for those less fortunate than ourselves.
Jeremy Taylor on the Resurrection Hope
Jeremy Taylor was a poor scholar of Caius who grew up to be a Fellow of the College; and later a Bishop. He was the most celebrated Christian spiritual writer of his generation.
In these words he converses with Jesus about the meaning of the resurrection for all of us, and the reassurance of God’s eternal love, whatever hardships we are called to face.
The grave could not hold thee long, O holy and eternal Jesus;
thy body could not see corruption,
neither could thy soul be left in hell; …
thou breakest the iron gates of death.
When thou didst arise from thy bed of darkness,
and leftest the graveclothes behind thee,
and didst put on a robe of glory,
then the powers of hell were confounded,
then death lost its power and was swallowed up into victory.
But when a man suffers in a good cause, or is afflicted,
and yet walks not perversely with his God,
then St. Paul’s character is engraved in the forehead of our fortune; ‘We are troubled on every side, but not distressed;
perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken;
cast down, but not destroyed.
And who is he that will harm you,
if ye be followers of that which is good?’
The greatest evils are from within us,
and from ourselves also we must look for our greatest good;
for God is the fountain of it;
and when all things look sadly round about us,
then only we shall find how excellent a fortune it is
to have God to our friend.
In place of Choral Service for St George's Day, Thursday 23 April 2020
Religious people are often thought of as credulous. Sometimes that may be true; but, people of faith more often see extraordinary meaning in ordinary things, rather than regarding the supernatural as natural. No saint has a more supernatural opponent than St George, whose feast day is today. In his life, George was an ordinary man, a soldier; but people came to see him as conquering a gigantic uncontrollable force of evil. The appeal of this story is the appeal of David against Goliath; the victory of weakness over strength. It is the message of another saint, Michael, archangel-captain of the forces of heaven:
War broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels fought back, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming, “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah,
for the accuser of our comrades has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. But they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they did not cling to life even in the face of death. Revelation 12.7-9
If we want to find a message for the present time in the story of George, let it be this:
Strength is no substitute for courage. Insuperable difficulties can be overcome. Whatever darkness envelops us, the powers of heaven are there to guide us to victory.
Let us pray:
COLLECT (Prayer) for St George
God of hosts, who so kindled the flame of love in the heart of your servant George that he bore witness to the risen Lord by his life and by his death:
give us the same faith and power of love that we who rejoice in his triumphs may come to share with him the fullness of the resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Psalm verse for meditation
From the depths I have cried out to you, O Lord: Lord, hear my prayer.
The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said, ‘Peace be with you.’
Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. Alleluia.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.
First Evensong of Easter Term, Tuesday 21 April 2020
These prayers are based on a poem of Henry Vaughan, The World. They are meant to remind us that even now there is more to life than this little moment.
I saw Eternity the other night,/ Like a great ring of pure and endless light,
All calm, as it was bright;
God our Father, as this Easter Term begins, we turn to you in prayer. We think back to Easter Day, and its message of universal hope that death shall have no dominion; and we look ahead to ask your blessing on us, and on our friends, in the term which lies before us:
Grant us, dear Lord, a vision of the eternity you have promised; bestow on us that pure and endless light to dispel all darkness of self-doubt; and that tranquillity and calm which come from a quiet conscience, and reliance on your goodness.
V Lord hear us R Lord graciously hear us.
The darksome statesman hung with weights and woe,
Like a thick midnight-fog mov’d there so slow,…
Condemning thoughts (like sad eclipses) scowl/ Upon his soul
God our Father, hear our prayers for this United Kingdom; that even in times of greatest stress our union be in more than name and title—instead in shared adherence to truth and goodness; to liberty and human dignity:
GRANT us, Lord God, a vision of our land as your love would make it: a land where the weak are protected, and none go hungry or poor; a land where the benefits of civilised life are shared, and everyone can enjoy them; a land where different races and cultures live in mutual respect; a land where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love. And give us the inspiration and courage to build it.
V Lord hear us R Lord graciously hear us.
The fearful miser on a heap of rust / Sate pining all his life there, … but lives /In fear of thieves;
God our Father we pray tonight for anyone we know whose life, whose peace of mind, is overwhelmed by anxiety for loved ones or themselves, by fears about the future, by the sudden unpredictability which has overtaken our ordered lives:
Dear Father in heaven, it is so hard for us not to be anxious. We worry about work and money, food and health, politics and justice; about loving and being loved. Let your Holy Spirit guide us to trust in Scripture’s teaching, that perfect love casts out fear, and help us to believe in our hearts that often all that stands between us and happiness is us.
V Lord hear us R Lord graciously hear us.
The God of peace and love remain with us always, as we pray together the Grace...
THE grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Te Deum Laudamus
This ancient hymn is packed with theology and spiritual wisdom.
I’ve highlighted one section in bold for each, for you to explore in prayer this week, or this Eastertide.
WE praise thee, O God : we acknowledge thee to be the Lord.
All the earth doth worship thee : the Father everlasting.
To thee all Angels cry aloud : the Heavens, and all the Powers therein.
To thee Cherubin and Seraphin : continually do cry,
Holy, Holy, Holy : Lord God of Sabaoth;
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty : of thy glory.
The glorious company of the Apostles : praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets : praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs : praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world : doth acknowledge thee;
The Father : of an infinite Majesty;
Thine honourable, true : and only Son;
Also the Holy Ghost : the Comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory : O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son : of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man :
thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death :
thou didst open the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the right hand of God : in the glory of the Father.
We believe that thou shalt come : to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants :
whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy Saints : in glory everlasting.
O Lord, save thy people : and bless thine heritage.
Govern them : and lift them up for ever.
Day by day : we magnify thee;
And we worship thy Name : ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord : to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us : have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us : as our trust is in thee.
O Lord, in thee have I trusted : let me never be confounded.
A Caius Chapel Prayer Cycle: Easter Term 2020
A poem for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday from The Dean
Stabat Mater Dolorosa
It was written in the 13C, as a meditation, an imaginative reconstruction of what that first Good Friday must have been like. Instead of taking the viewpoint of the Crucified, or those who gazed upon him, it imagines the viewer, the pray-er, watching Mary the mother of Jesus; it explores the puzzle of how the sufferings of those we love but cannot help may dwarf even our own pain or sorrow. It makes a great imaginative leap, asking for a like experience of suffering, as a way of entering more deeply into the agony of Christ’s Passion. This means it is not an easy prayer, not all of us can pray it all and mean it. I may want my heart ‘to burn with love for Christ’; indeed I do. But do I dare to pray to be wounded with his wounds? No, I don’t. Yet I can wish that I was brave enough; and be glad that other are, and have been. And I can pray for a goal more suited to my faith and person. I can still pray to understand the sacrifice of Christ through the eyes of his blessed mother, I can still pray (and mean it) – ‘make me a companion of your grief.’
Weeping beside the cross, as her son hung dying, stood a grieving mother.
Through her keening, sorrowing, pain-filled soul there struck a sword of prophecy.
O how blest in sadness, suffering, was the mother of the sole-begotten,
Devoted mother, grieved, in pain, she saw her son of glory slain.
Who would not weep, looking upon Christ’s mother, in this extreme agony?
Who would not lament beside her, as they looked upon Christ’s mother, while she suffered with her son?
She saw Jesus in his torment suffer scourging for the sins of his own people.
She looked upon her own dear son, forsaken, dying, giving up the ghost.
O mother, source of love, help me feel the sense of pain, help me mourn along with you!
Make my heart to burn with love for Christ my God, to win his sweet ‘well done!’
Holy mother, let it be so – set the wounds of Christ crucified always firmly in my heart.
Share with me the punishment of your wounded son, who deigned to suffer for me.
With you let me weep tears of devotion, enduring with the crucified, as long as I live.
I long to stand with you beside the cross, joining my lament with yours.
Virgin of virgins, incomparable, do not be unkind, make me a companion of your grief.
Let me bear the death of Christ, suffer with him in his passion, feel his pain anew.
Let me be wounded with his wounds, and know the ecstasy of his cross, the blood of the son.
O holy virgin be my defence against the fires of Hell, on the day of judgement.
O Christ when comes my time to let go life, by your mother let me win the crown of victory.
When my body shall decay, let my soul attain the prize, the glory of paradise.
[This poem is written in stanzas of 3 lines each (8-8-7); it is exceptionally difficult to sustain this in translation.
Instead I have treated each stanza as a single strand of thought]
STABAT Mater dolorosa/ iuxta Crucem lacrimosa,/ dum pendebat Filius.
Cuius animam gementem,/ contristatam et dolentem / pertransivit gladius.
O quam tristis et afflicta / fuit illa benedicta, / mater Unigeniti!
Quae maerebat et dolebat, / pia Mater, dum videbat / nati poenas inclyti.
Quis est homo qui non fleret, / matrem Christi si videret/ in tanto supplicio?
Quis non posset contristari/ Christi Matrem contemplari / dolentem cum Filio?
Pro peccatis suae gentis / vidit Iesum in tormentis, / et flagellis subditum.
Vidit suum dulcem Natum / moriendo desolatum, / dum emisit spiritum.
Eia, Mater, fons amoris / me sentire vim doloris / fac, ut tecum lugeam.
Fac, ut ardeat cor meum / in amando Christum Deum / ut sibi complaceam.
Sancta Mater, istud agas, / crucifixi fige plagas / cordi meo valide.
Tui Nati vulnerati, / tam dignati pro me pati, / poenas mecum divide.
Fac me tecum pie flere, / crucifixo condolere, / donec ego vixero.
Iuxta Crucem tecum stare, / et me tibi sociare / in planctu desidero.
Virgo virginum praeclara, / mihi iam non sis amara, / fac me tecum plangere.
Fac, ut portem Christi mortem, / passionis fac consortem, / et plagas recolere.
Fac me plagis vulnerari, / fac me Cruce inebriari, / et cruore Filii.
Flammis ne urar succensus, / per te, Virgo, sim defensus / in die iudicii.
Christe, cum sit hinc exire, / da per Matrem me venire / ad palmam victoriae.
Quando corpus morietur, / fac, ut animae donetur / paradisi gloria. Amen.
Prayer suggestions from Nicholas Thistlethwaite, the Dean's Vicar
Holy Week is the most solemn season of the Church’s Year. It is the week when Christians endeavour to walk with Christ in the way of the cross, beginning with his entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, moving on to the Last Supper in the upper room, and arriving finally at Golgotha as Jesus is nailed to the cross and dies ‘for the sins of the whole world’, as St John puts it (1 John 2.2).
In normal times, we make our pilgrimage through Holy Week supported and enriched in prayer and reflection by the great liturgies of the Church including the Palm Sunday procession, the Eucharist of the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, and the Liturgy of Good Friday with the singing of the reproaches and the veneration of the Cross. This year, we approach Holy Week with closed churches and the inability to gather with our fellow Christians to share the story of Christ’s Passion and to prepare ourselves for the joy of Easter Day.
Try therefore to read through the Passion narrative for yourselves from one of the Gospels. You may find it helpful to read short sections and then pause for reflection. The following prayers, too, may help. They come from the Book of Common Prayer and Common Worship, and are accompanied by a note of the relevant passages from the Gospels.
Matthew 21. 1-11
Almighty and everlasting God, who of thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Matthew 26. 20-30
God our Father, who hast invited us to share in the supper which thy Son gave to his Church, that it may proclaim his death until he comes: we pray that he may nourish us by his presence and unite us in his love, and that he may give us grace to walk with him in the way of the cross; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
John 18 and 19
Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for which our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given up into the hands of wicked men, and to suffer death upon the cross, who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.
Prayers from Cally, the Dean
Over more than 15 years as Dean I have written, edited, and borrowed hundreds of prayers and meditation texts; and made translations from Greek and Latin originals into English.
I thought some of them might prove helpful, or at least a welcome distraction.
Anselm of Canterbury’s prayer to the Cross is, from a critic’s point of view, an essay in paradox; but to the person of faith its focus is on agony and ecstasy. Some question whether it slides from devotion to idolatry; but Anselm uses the cross before which he is praying only as an icon of the actual Cross of Christ. On one level, contemplating the Cross prompts theological insight; in Holy Week, we pray before a cross to contemplate the Cross, emptying ourselves of all but love for Christ, who emptied himself for us. Image: Crucifixion by Eric Gill (1917)
Here is a prayer for challenging times. I use it as the vestry prayer before a big service, to remind those of us who lead the worship how precious is the gift entrusted to us:
O Lord God, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter
Grant us also to know that it is not the beginning,
but the continuing of the same until it be thoroughly finished,
which yieldeth the true glory: through Him that for the finishing of Thy work
laid down His life, even our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
It is attributed to Sir Francis Drake in 1587, on the eve of an attack on the Spanish fleet.
Its value in the present crisis lies in its insistence that whatever hardship we undertake, we must see it through to the end, as Jesus did for us. A proper message for a corona-virus lockdown. And for Passiontide.
Peace & blessings –