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Sunday, 7 February 2021

Orthodox Icon: Christ as Light of the World

Dear Friends

It may seem strange, just as we feel that Christmas-tide is concluded, that the Gospel reading set for today is John 1:1-14 – the magnificent prologue, which is so well-known from carol services (and is also an optional reading for Christmas day itself), and which concludes with the sonorous words, ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’.

In these memorable phrases, the writer of the fourth Gospel introduces us to the heart of our faith as Christians – that, through the mystery of the Incarnation, God became human and lived among us.  As the letter to the Colossians expresses it, ‘Jesus is the image of the invisible God.  In him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell’ (Colossians 1:15-20).

But why, you may ask, is this reading chosen just as we begin to approach Lent?  The answer is that it is intended as a preparation for all that is to follow, as we begin to embark upon our Lenten journey, with the focus, during Passiontide, upon the suffering and death of Jesus.  Having celebrated the Incarnation at Christmas, and reflected upon the revelation of God’s glory during Epiphany, we have the opportunity, on this Second Sunday before Lent, to reflect once more upon Jesus’ divinity, his existence in the Godhead from before time came to be, so that this truth can be held in creative tension with the rejection and suffering he was to experience: ‘He came to his own, and his own did not receive him.’

The prologue is also a reminder that Jesus is the ‘true light’, but that this light also ‘enlightens everyone’.  All human beings are made in the image of God and have the capacity to reflect God’s light in the world – but, as we know, we often fall short in this respect.  The Church Fathers, especially those from the Greek East, used to explain this by distinguishing between the ‘image’ and the ‘likeness’ of God – we are all made in the image, but we are called to grow into God’s likeness, in other words, to become more Christ-like.

So, this reading does, in fact, begin to prepare us for the self-examination and repentance which characterize Lent - but perhaps suggests that we can undertake this best by meditating also upon the great mystery of God’s glory and unfathomable love, as revealed in his Son.

Fr Stephen

Almighty God, 
you have created the heavens and thearth
and made us in your own image:
teach us to discern your hand in all your works
and your likeness in our children;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who with you and the Holy Spirit
    reigns supreme over all things,
now and for ever.

John 1:1-14

Hear the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ according to John.

In the beginning was the Word, 
and the Word was with God, 
and the Word was God.

He was in the beginning with God. 

All things came into being through him, 
and without him not one thing came into being. 
What has come into being in him was life, 

and the life was the light of all people. 

The light shines in the darkness, 
and the darkness did not overcome it. 

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 

He came as a witness to testify to the light, 
so that all might believe through him. 

He himself was not the light, 
but he came to testify to the light. 

The true light, which enlightens everyone, 
was coming into the world. 

He was in the world, 
and the world came into being through him; 
yet the world did not know him. 

He came to what was his own,
 and his own people did not accept him. 

But to all who received him, 
who believed in his name, 
he gave power to become children of God, 

who were born, not of blood 
or of the will of the flesh 
or of the will of man, 
but of God. 

 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, 
and we have seen his glory, 
the glory as of a father's only son, 
full of grace and truth.

Service Times

Services are suspended.

The church is open during daylight hours for personal prayer and reflection.

Useful links

Here are some links to resources you may find helpful:

  1. Chichester Cathedral will be live streaming services. For the Eucharist and order of service Click here before 10:00am Sunday and follow the instructions.
  2. The BBC Daily Service is available here.
  3. Prayer for today.
  4. The C of E youtube channel.
  5. We will be updating Fr Stephens Message page on a regular basis.
  6. Hearing You is a new phone help line launched by the Diocese of Chichester in partnership with Together in Sussex in response to the impact that Covid 19 has had on Just about the whole community. It aims to provide pastoral support and a listening ear to the recently bereaved and people directly affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  7. COVID-19 advice from the Diocese of Chichester here.