Togetherness and Protection

A little late with this post today, as today brought all kinds of new anxieties and stresses. Amazing how hard it can be to stay in one place, right? For my child, online school started for real today, and my spouse is in their second day of being a stay-at-home therapist.

The streets up here in Inwood are really starting to clear out. As of Sunday – two days ago – you wouldn’t know anything out of the ordinary was happening up here. We’re far away from the parts of Manhattan that everyone knows about. But today –  emptiness, isolation, people walking six feet away from each other, and… stillness.

Luke discovered one joy of online school – his friend who moved to Luxembourg last year is also stuck at home because of the pandemic, and Luke was able to text with him in real time, which doesn’t usually happen because of the time difference.

So, lots of disconnection today and also lots of new connection. And, of course: St. Patrick’s Day.

In case all you know of St. Patrick is leprechauns and beer, let me share with you an excerpt from St. Patrick’s Breastplate, a prayer traditionally attributed to him.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendour of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
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 to me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me,

From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From every one who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in a multitude.
I summon today all these powers
between me and those evils,

Against every cruel 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 women 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 there come to me 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 every one who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye of every one who 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.

When I read this prayer, I feel two things: a celebration of connectedness and a plea for protection. Togetherness and protection often go together, although “togetherness” also occasionally leaves others out (think of Jesus’ parable of the 99 sheep, for example.) But I’m thinking of the few disasters that I’ve been through that have led to this sense of temporary social cohesion: September 11th, the DC sniper, huge snowstorms, dangerous storms, long-term power outages. With all of them, I remember various ways my friends, neighbors, and total strangers pulled together.

Today I did not do so well with remembering our togetherness. I was tired, my child was unhappy, my spouse doesn’t like stay-at-home psychology, and I don’t love teaching online classes to seminary students.

But tomorrow, I’m going to wake up, and remember that the sun is still shining, the rivers are still flowing, babies are still being born, and I am still a part of it all.

Thanks be to God.

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