It’s always good to have one’s prejudices challenged.
This Advent, I’ve been reading Celtic Advent by fellow BRF author, the excellent David Cole. In one of the daily reflections, he writes about the hymn known as ‘St Patrick’s Breastplate’. Now, a long time ago, this was sung in a Sunday morning service: all nine verses of it… or was it ten… what a dirge it was and I have never liked it since.
But like many prejudices, our judgment on things once encountered, forever discounted is due to the fact we don’t understand things fully.
Attributed to St Patrick, it’s a prayer of protection and was subsequently translated by Cecil Frances Alexander (she of ‘All things bright and beautiful’ – another victim of prejudice, perhaps…). It is in a tradition of Irish Celtic prayers and can be found again in a version called ‘God’s Aid’ in the Carmina Gadelica and more recently, the song ‘Everything’ by Tim Hughes.
David Cole writes, ‘The verse which sits as the key point of this prayer is the one which states that Christ is within us and in every other surrounding area of us and our life:
Christ be with me, Christ with me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me
Christ in mount of friend and stranger.’
Advent is a time of preparation. Preparing for the first coming of Christ in human form, as a baby at Christmas. Advent is also a time to remember we are preparing for the second coming of Christ: returning in glory to the earth at a time to come.
In Celtic Christian spirituality, there is a third coming that sits in-between the two:
The coming of Christ into our own selves.
‘This is not just a single event,’ Cole writes, ‘a moment of conversion or becoming a Christian. This is a continual activity in every part of our lives on a daily basis.
‘(This) may happen multiple times a day, and in every decision we make… This isn’t about eternal salvation; this is about Christ being intrinsically involved and interwoven in every part and aspect of our everyday lives.’
This Christmas, and in the days before and beyond it, may we all experience the coming of Christ into our own selves.