St. Patty deserves a little bit of love. Not just for his pretty incredible holiday, but also because he put into a prayer a world view that helps us the value in each person – in other words it reframes the conversation on living out the two fold commandment of Loving God and Neighbor.
It’s such a profound way of refocusing on the world that over a millennium and a half later Bonhoeffer was offering something similar in his work “Life Together”.
Here are the words in the lorica that I’m referring to:
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 in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
As a series of words it has a resounding rhythm that punches rather than falls off the tongue. It’s punctuated. Sharp. Repetitive.
I really wish I had a better feel for latin to be able to offer some comment about it’s quality there. Patrick was not versed in latin, in his formative years for education he was kidnapped as a slave. Yet, the writing he leaves behind has a grasp for structure that lends itself to easy memorization.
But all that is not why this passage hits me.
Frankly, you could read it a multiple of times without ever sitting there thinking about what it means to live out this reality. It’s when you turn your head to living out this prayer that it becomes something so much more than it first appears.
While Augustine was busy writing that we should enjoy only God, Patrick composed an easy to remember poem prayer that showed away forward. In the midst of a world where people easily fall into judgment, frustration, and petty differences – he invites us into a new way of looking at the world.
Where Christ is all and in all, the redemption of the world on the cross comes into sharp relief. In this view we see that we are not capable of maintaining just and happy relationships without Christ. To paraphrase what Bonhoeffer would later write, the community of the church knows not it’s own merit but comes together on the basis of Christ.
Imagine a world where we did not see ourselves as entitled to the gift of the ground beneath us, the sky overhead. Nor did we expect to be understood or understand or even see clearly. Instead we’re pushed into a world view punctuated by thankfulness for the world we have and the people around us – on our right and left.
Augustine may have talked the talk, but Patrick prayed the prayer that taught us to enjoy God in ourselves, in our neighbors, in all of creation. As they say, lex orandi (what we pray) lex credendi (we believe)… But I could be butchering the latin, I share that limitation with Patrick.