December 2018 Prayer Diary 

It may be a good idea to print out this list, so that you can have it handy! I stick mine onto the fridge door.

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Saturday 1st December

World AIDS/ HIV Day: Pray for those affected by AIDS and HIV and that there may be universal access to anti retro viral drugs.

Sunday 2nd December: Advent Sunday

Pray that we remember in our lives, the hope, the joy and the waiting of this time of Advent as we celebrate at St Pargoire

Monday 3rd December

Pray for those members of our congregation who are faced with difficulties both financial and emotional. Pray that they may know God’s supporting presence with them.

Tuesday 4th December

Pray for peace and understanding amongst people and politicians in France and a resolution of societal problems.

Wednesday 5th December

Pray for our priest Roger. Pray that God may support him in his ministry.

Thursday 6th December  

Pray for our Church Wardens, Patricia and Nigel and give thanks to God for their work.

Friday 7th December

Pray for religious toleration especially in areas of religious strife.

Saturday 8th December

Pray for the development of Anglican and Catholic relations here in the Hérault.

Sunday 9th December: 2nd Sunday of Advent

Pray for all those taking part in the Carol Service at Fontès this afternoon, for the organisers, the musicians, the leaders and the congregation. Pray that they may encounter God in the service.

Monday 10th December

Pray for those who need the help from Restos du Coeur and who are trying to celebrate Christmas on a tight budget.

Tuesday 11th December

Pray for all prisoners of conscience and for the work of Amnesty International and pray for the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Wednesday 12th December

Pray for those meeting today at St Joseph’s for the Prayer Group at Mont Rouge.

Thursday 13th December: Santa Lucia (see article)

Pray for those who are blind or those who find it difficult to see both physically and spiritually

Friday 14th December: St John of the Cross (see article)

Pray for the homeless everywhere that they may find shelter and support, especially as the cold weather begins

Saturday 15th December

Grant us, Lord, at this time of preparation, and amidst all the bustle of everyday life, to know that You are with us, every step of the way.

Sunday 16th December: 3rd Sunday of Advent

Pray for all teachers who guide and inspire others.


Monday 17th December

Pray for those who teach in Third World Countries, especially those who bring education to women and girls.

Tuesday 18th December

Pray for all those who receive help from Restos du Coeur and from Secours Populaire for all those who work for these organisations.

Wednesday 19th December

Pray for all those who will spend Christmas in hospital and for all those who have to work over Christmas.

Thursday 20th December

Pray for all those who are facing Christmas alone, especially those for whom this is their first Christmas on their own.

Friday 21st December

Pray for all those who organise or take part in carol services and Christingle services, especially for the clergy.

Saturday 22nd December

Pray for those who are travelling to be with their family or friends this Christmas.

Sunday 23rd December: 4th Sunday of Advent

That our hearts may always be open to the joy and wonder of God’s mighty works.

Monday 24th December

As we meet on Christmas Eve for Holy Communion at St Pargoire, pray that our congregation may grow in love of Christ and that our hearts may be stirred to work in His service.

Tuesday 25th December: Christmas Day

The Light of the world

Wednesday 26th December: Stephen, deacon, martyr

The Church’s solidarity with those who are persecuted. Pray especially for those Christians who are persecuted for the beliefs wherever they may be.

Thursday 27th December: John Apostle and Evangelist

Just as Jesus entrusted His mother, Mary, to St John’s care, pray that we may always care for others.

Friday 28th December: Holy Innocents

Pray for children in danger everywhere, especially children who are in refugee camps or in danger because of war.

Saturday 29th December

Pray for those Christians who are persecuted for their faith

Sunday 30th December

As we face a new year with hopes, expectations and much uncertainty may we put our trust in God to be with us at all times.

Monday 31st December (see article)

On the day commemorating John Wycliffe, give thanks for our Bible in English and for all who strive to bring the Bible to people in their own language.

 Pray for the development of Anglican and Catholic relations here in the Hérault.

Pray for those who are being trafficked and used as slaves.

If you have any comments or would like to include a prayer in this prayer diary, please do contact Julie at juliejohnson34@gmail.com or on 0467 281025  

Saint Lucy or Santa Lucia 13th December

Saint Lucy's Day is a Christian feast day celebrated on 13 December in Advent , commemorating Saint Lucy , a 3rd-century martyr under the Diocletian Persecution,  who according to legend brought "food and aid to Christians hiding in the catacombs" using a candle-lit wreath to "light her way and leave her hands free to carry as much food as possible".

The oldest archaeological evidence comes from the Greek inscriptions from the catacombs of St. John in Syracuse. By the 6th century, her story was sufficiently widespread that she appears in the Sacramentary of Pope Gregory I.  She is also commemorated in the ancient Roman Martyrology and later the Venerable Bede (English, died in 735) wrote that her popularity had already spread to England, where her festival was kept in England until the Protestant Reformation.

Her feast once coincided with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year before calendar reforms, so her feast day has become a Christian festival of light. Falling within the Advent season, Saint Lucy's Day is viewed as an event signalling the arrival of Christmastide, pointing to the arrival of the Light of Christ in the calendar, on Christmas Day. 

Saint Lucy’s Day is celebrated most commonly in Scandinavia, with their long dark winters, where it is a major feast day, and in Italy, with each emphasizing a different aspect of the story.

14th December Saint John of the Cross

Saint John of the Cross was born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez, in Fontiveros, Avila, Spain in 1542. His father was employed by wealthy family members as an accountant, but they disowned him when he married a poor woman from the lower class. As a result of his family's poverty, John's family suffered greatly.

His father died when he was three, and his older brother, Luis died two years after that, likely because of malnutrition. John's mother eventually found work weaving which helped her to feed her family.

As a child, John was sent to a boarding school for poor and orphaned children. He was given a religious education from a young age and chose to follow a religious path, even as a child. He served as an acolyte at an Augustinian monastery. As he grew older, he went to work in a hospital while attending a Jesuit school.

In 1563, he was able to join the Carmelite Order and took the name, "John of St. Matthias." He made vows the following year, and was sent to the university in Salamanca to study theology and philosophy. He became an expert in the Bible and dared to translate the Song of Songs into Spanish, an act which was controversial since the Church forbade the translation of the Bible from Latin -a measure that was meant to protect the original meanings in the scripture.

John became a priest in 1567 and considered joining the Carthusian Order where monks lived cloistered in individual cells. He was attracted by the simple and quiet life. However, he encountered Theresa of Avila, a charismatic Carmelite nun. Theresa asked John to follow her.

John was attracted by the strict routine followed by Theresa, a routine she hoped to reintroduce to her order, as well as her devotion to prayer and simplicity. Her followers went barefoot, and were therefore known as the discalced Carmelites.

On Nov. 28, 1568, Theresa founded a new monastery. The same day, John changed his name again to John of the Cross. Within a couple years, John and his fellow friars, relocated to a larger site for their monastery. He remained at this location until 1572.

In 1572, John traveled to Avila at the invitation of Theresa to become her confessor and spiritual guide. He remained in Avila until 1577. While there, he had a vision of Christ and made a drawing that remains to this day called, "Christ from Above." The little drawing shows Christ on the cross, looking down on him from above. The image has been preserved for centuries.

Around 1575, a rift within the Carmelite order began to grow and create controversy between various monastic houses. There was disagreement between the Discalced Carmelites and the ordinary Carmelites, over reform.

The Discalced Carmelites sought to restore the original, strict routine and regimen that the order had when it was founded. In 1432, the strict rules of the order were "mitigated" relieving the Carmelites of some of their most strict rules. Some Carmelites, such as Theresa of Avila, felt this liberalization of their rule had interfered with their order and practice. Theresa, along with John, sought to restore the original rule.

The Carmelites had been undergoing reform since 1566, under the direction of two Canonical Visitors from the Dominican Order, sent by the Vatican. The intervention of the Holy See as well as the political machinations of King Phillip II and his court, led to dramatic, even violent disagreement between the Carmelites.

In late 1577, John was ordered to leave the monastery in Avila and to return to his original house. However, John's work to reform the order had already been approved by the Papal Nuncio, who was a higher authority. Based on that, John chose to ignore the lower order and stay.

On December 2, 1577, a group of Carmelites broke into John's residence and kidnapped him. He was taken by force to the order's main house in Toledo. He was brought before a court and placed on trial for disobedience. He was punished by imprisonment.

A cell was made for him in the monastery that was so small he could barely lie on the floor. He was fed only bread and water, and occasional scraps of salt fish. Each week he was taken into public and lashed, then returned to his cell. His only luxuries were a prayer book and an oil lamp to read it by. To pass the time he wrote poems on paper that was smuggled to him by the friar charged with guarding his cell.

John became known as a remarkable and influential poet, especially following his death. He has been cited as an influence to many poets, mystics, and artists, even Salvador Dali.

After nine months, John managed to pry his cell door from its hinges and escape and went to Toledo where he was looked after by Teresa’s nuns.

He is the patron of Contemplatives, mystics and Spanish poets and his feast day is celebrated on December 14.

Saint Stephen - 26 December

Stephen (Greek: Στέφανος Stéphanos, meaning "wreath, crown" and by extension "reward, honour", often given as a title rather than as a name, Hebrew: סטפנוס הקדוש‎), (c. AD 5 – c. AD 34) traditionally venerated as the protomartyr or first martyr of Christianity,[1] was according to the Acts of the Apostles a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. Accused of blasphemy, at his trial, he made a long speech denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgment on him and was then stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee who would later become a follower of Jesus and known as Paul the Apostle.

The only primary source for information about Stephen is the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles.[2] Stephen is mentioned in Acts 6 as one of the Greek-speaking Hellenistic Jews selected to participate in a fairer distribution of welfare to the Greek-speaking widows.[3]

The CatholicAnglican, Lutheran, Oriental OrthodoxEastern Orthodox Churches, and the Church of the East venerate Stephen as a saint. Traditionally, Stephen is invested with a crown of martyrdom; artistic representations often depict him with three stones and the martyr's palm frond. Eastern Christian iconography shows him as a young, beardless man with a tonsure, wearing a deacon's vestments, and often holding a miniature church building or a censer.


Holy Innocents 28th December

In the New Testament, the Massacre of the Innocents is the incident in the nativity narrative of the Gospel of Matthew in which Herod the Great, king of Judea, orders the execution of all male children two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem. Most modern biographers of Herod, and probably a majority of biblical scholars, dismiss Matthew's story as an invention.  The Church has claimed the children murdered in Jesus's stead as the first Christian martyrs, and their feast – Holy Innocents Day – is celebrated on 28 December.

Matthew 2 tells how the Magi, wise men from the East skilled in the interpretation of heavenly signs, come to Jerusalem seeking the one born to be king of the Jews. King Herod, deeply disturbed, seeks the advice of his priests and scribes (the "teachers of the law"), who inform him that according to the prophets the Messiah will be born in Bethlehem, about five miles away. Herod sends the Magi there, telling them to come at once and inform him when they find the child so that he may go and pay homage. The Magi discover Jesus, but return home by another way after an angel warns them not to alert Herod because he intends to kill the infant. Matthew 2:16 continues: "When Herod realized that he had been tricked by the Magi he was furious, and he sent and killed all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under according to the time he had learned from the Magi". This, says Matthew, was in fulfilment of the words of the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more" (Jeremiah 31:15). The massacre fails to kill the infant Jesus, because his father, warned by an angel, has escaped with him and his mother to Egypt, there to wait for Herod's death and a safe return to the land of Israel.

10th-century illuminated manuscript

Most modern biographers of Herod dismiss Matthew's story as an invention. It is found in no other gospel, and the Jewish historian Josephus does not mention it in his Antiquities of the Jews(c.  AD 94), which records many of Herod's misdeeds including the murder of three of his own sons. It appears to be modelled on Pharaoh's attempt to kill the Israelite children (Exodus 1:22), and more specifically on various elaborations of the original story that had become current in the 1st century.  In that expanded story, Pharaoh kills the Hebrew children after his scribes warn him of the impending birth of the threat to his crown (i.e., Moses), but Moses's father and mother are warned in a dream that the child's life is in danger and act to save him, and Moses, like Jesus, returns only when those who sought his death are themselves dead. The story of the massacre of the innocents thus plays a part in Matthew's wider nativity story, in which the proclamation of the coming of the Messiah (the birth) is followed by his rejection by the Jews (Herod and his scribes and the people of Jerusalem) and acceptance by the gentiles (the Magi). The relevance of Jeremiah 31:15 to the massacre in Bethlehem is not immediately apparent, as Jeremiah's next verses go on to speak of hope and restoration.

December 31st John Wycliffe

John Wycliffe or Wyclif (there are several other spellings) was a Yorkshireman, born in the mid 1320s, who studied at Oxford University, became a fellow of Merton College and went on to win a brilliant reputation as an expert on theology. He was ordained priest in 1351, but spent most of his time at Oxford.

As a theologian, Wycliffe developed startlingly unorthodox opinions, which were condemned by the Pope in 1377. Wycliffe had come to regard the scriptures as the only reliable guide to the truth about God and maintained that all Christians should rely on the Bible rather than the unreliable and frequently self-serving teachings of popes and clerics. He said that there was no scriptural justification for the papacy’s existence and attacked the riches and power that popes and the Church as a whole had acquired. He disapproved of clerical celibacy, pilgrimages, the selling of indulgences and praying to saints. He thought the monasteries were corrupt and the immorality with which many clerics often behaved invalidated the sacraments they conducted. If clerics were accused of crime, they should be tried in the ordinary lay courts, not in their special ecclesiastical tribunals.

Wycliffe advanced his revolutionary opinions in numerous tracts. He thought that England should be ruled by its monarchs and the lay administration with no interference from the papacy and the Church. In his On Civil Dominion of 1376 he said:

England belongs to no pope. The pope is but a man, subject to sin, but Christ is the Lord of Lords and this kingdom is to be held directly and solely of Christ alone.

In 1381 he denied the doctrine of transubstantiation, that in the Eucharist the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ. Parliament condemned his teachings the following year, but he was allowed to retire to his parsonage at Lutterworth.

The corollary of Wycliffe’s belief that all Christians should learn the faith for themselves was that Scripture needed to be translated into their own languages. His most important achievement was the first complete English translation of the Bible, issued from 1382. Whether he translated any of the Latin Vulgate himself is uncertain and disputed, but there is no doubt of its impact at all social levels. The remarkable number of copies which have survived show how widely esteemed it was. This was before the invention of the printing press and so everything was copied by hand.

At Christmas in 1384 Wycliffe was at Mass in the church at Lutterworth on December 28th when he had a stroke and collapsed and died. His body was buried in Lutterworth churchyard, where it remained until 1428 when, following the orders of the Council of Constance, it was dug up and burned. The ashes were scattered in the nearby River Swift.

Wycliffe’s followers were known scornfully as Lollards, thought to be derived from a Dutch word meaning ‘mumbler’, though it acquired the implication of ‘lolling about’ and ‘idling’. There were groups of them at Oxford and elsewhere and some blamed the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, led by Wat Tyler and others, partly on their influence. Some Lollards were burned as heretics and a Lollard rising in 1414, led by Sir John Oldcastle, was suppressed. All the same their influence persisted and Lollard ideas blended with the rising tide of Protestantism in the 16th century. Indeed, Wycliffe has been hailed as the Morning Star of the Protestant Reformation.

Advent Wreath

The Advent wreath first appeared in Germany in 1839. A Lutheran minister working at a mission for children created a wreath out of the wheel of a cart. He placed twenty small red candles and four large white candles inside the ring. The red candles were lit on weekdays and the four white candles were lit on Sundays.

Eventually, the Advent wreath was created out of evergreens, symbolising everlasting life in the midst of winter and death. The circle reminds us of God’s unending love and the eternal life He makes possible. Advent candles are often nestled in the evergreen wreath. Additional decorations, like holly and berries, are sometimes added. Their red colour points ahead to Jesus’ sacrifice and death. Pinecones can symbolise the new life that Jesus brings through His resurrection.  

The most common Advent candle tradition involves four candles. A new candle is lit on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Each candle represents something different, although traditions vary. Often, the first, second, and fourth candles are purple; the third candle is rose-coloured. Sometimes all the candles are red; in other traditions, all four candles are blue or white. Usually, a fifth white candle is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day to celebrate Jesus’ birth.

On the first Sunday of Advent the first candle is lit. It symbolises hope and is called the “Prophet’s Candle.” The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival:

“Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, NIV)”

On the second Sunday of Advent, the first and second candle are lit. This second candle typically represents love. Some traditions call this the "Bethlehem Candle," symbolising Christ's manger:

"This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2:12, NIV)

The the first, second and third candles are li This third candle symbolises joy and is sometimes called the “Shepherd’s Candle.” To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too. In liturgy, the colour rose signifies joy and this candle can also be called the “gaudete candle”.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. (Luke 2:8–11, NIV)

The fourth candle represents peace and is called the “Angel’s Candle.” The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace--He came to bring people close to God and to each other again.

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests." (Luke 2:13–14, NIV)

The candle in the centre represents light and purity and is called “Christ’s candle.” It is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day. 

Prayer for Reconciliation after the EU Referendum (from Church of England website)

Eternal God, Light of the nations,

in Christ you make all things new:
guide our nation in the coming days through the inspiration of your Spirit,
that understanding may put an end to discord and all bitterness.
Give us grace to rebuild bonds of trust
that together we may work for the dignity and flourishing of all;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

There is also this Litany of Reconciliation which can be used for private prayer

A Litany of Reconciliation

Holy God, in whom we live and move and have our being,
we make our prayer to you, saying,
Hear us, Lord of life.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Guide our nation in the days and months ahead
to walk the paths of peace and reconciliation.
Hear us, Lord of life.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Give to our leaders wisdom and sensitivity
to work for unity and the common good.
Hear us, Lord of life.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Mend broken relationships
and restore to wholeness whatever has been damaged by heated debate.
Hear us, Lord of life.
Lord, graciously hear us.

Sustain and support the anxious and fearful
and lift up all who are dejected.
Hear us, Lord of life.
Lord, graciously hear us.

With you, Lord, is the well of life
and in your light do we see light.

Hear us, Lord of life and peace:
and make us whole.

With you, Lord, is the well of life
and in your light do we see light.

Hear us, Lord of life:
Heal us and make us whole.

A period of silence follows.

Lord our God,
accept the prayers of your people
and in your mercy look with compassion upon our nation,
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Amen.

If you have any comments or would like to include a prayer in this prayer diary, please do contact Julie at juliejohnson34@gmail.com or on 0467 281025