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Love One Another – A Reflection

March 17, 2020
P1000812
A church in Glastonbury, Somerset, England

With today being St Patrick’s Day, I spent a little bit of time thinking about my time in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales during my two tours of duty with the Air Force in the UK. Did you know that there are legends that dispute St Patrick’s being buried in Downpatrick in Ireland? The monks of Glastonbury Abbey claimed that Patrick retired from his episcopate in Ireland to Glastonbury Abbey where he became the first Abbot. Supposedly he was buried next to the high altar in the “Old Church” while King Arthur and his Queen Guinevere were buried in the old cemetery.

The supposed burial place of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in the Old Cemetery at Glastonbury Abbey.

There are so many legends built around Saint Patrick and yet there are some beautiful writings attributed to him. The most famous one is Saint Patrick’s Breastplate which is a blessing for the journey:

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.
I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.
I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.
I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

The most famous portion of this blessing is similar to what Denise and I pray as a part of our Morning Prayer using the Northumbria Community’s Celtic Daily Prayer.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Christ be in the heart of each to whom I speak and in the mouth of each to whom I speak. Isn’t this the sort of Community we are called to? As we continue this journey with COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus and self-isolation, I believe we are called in a special way to be Community. In the song, “We are Community” (from the CD Alone Together) we sing the following phrase:

Scattered through the land, we come from far and wide
Together, yet alone, yet oneness deep inside
Who is it that we seek?
We seek the Lord our God
With heart, soul, mind and strength,
we are community,
we are community.

This brings me around to a quote about love and community from Thomas Merton’s book, No Man is an Island.

We are obliged to love one another. We are not strictly bound to ‘like’ one another. Love governs the will: ‘liking’ is a matter of sense and sensibility. Nevertheless, if we really love others it will not be too hard to like them also.

If we wait for some people to become agreeable or attractive before we begin to love them, we will never begin. If we are content to give them a cold impersonal ‘charity’ that is merely a matter of obligation, we will not trouble to understand them or to sympathize with them at all. And in that case we will not really love them, because love implies an efficacious will not only to do good to others exteriorly but also to find some good in them to which we can respond.

We are incredibly vulnerable and often will be isolated and alone during this time in the world. Even though we are vulnerable and alone, I believe we are obliged, as Merton states, to love one another. May we focus on that as a community, nation, and world as we walk together through this difficult time.

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