St. Patrick’s Day
Yellow-white light limns the east facing edges of the dark branches outside my window as the sun creeps into the palest blue sky you can imagine. Now their little swollen bud fists, thrust high into the air, are gently caressed in luminescence.
From the dark lacework of trees at the bottom of that portion of the world my window reveals, a spray of black sparrows erupts. Like fireworks it fans out ever higher and wider, and drops away again, out of the picture. Then, as though orchestrated, an arrow of geese sails into the top of the frame. But, croaking at one another like bad tempered commuters, the birds sort of spoil the poetic effect. Nonetheless they, too, are gilded in radiance. Their flapping wings cover and reveal, cover and reveal the sun’s blessing.
When they are gone my eye slips down to the top branches of the Ponderosa Pine across the yard. Usually they look like inky bottle brushes attached by gracefully bending appendages to a common trunk. But right now each individual needle is visible, illuminated in brilliant white gold, and in some places they even sparkle.
I have been musing on the words of St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Here’s what I’ve come to understand. If the rays of the early sun caress each individual thing as they fully reveal what they touch, how much more does the light of Christ embrace us as it names us, illuminating all our edges in light. Our hearts, so cradled, proclaim our true selves, and we are glorified as children of God.
This is not something that happens by our volition. Like the geese, we can be locked in our muttering. We can even be consumed by rage or by fear. But Christ comes along, invited or not, recognized or not, just like the sunrise comes. Like the prickly old bottle brush pine needles, we are often not very helpful to the process. Even so we are made to shine like gold. Christ with us, within us, beside and before us – it’s a prayer, an invocation, but it is also an acknowledgment. Christ wins us, comforts and restores us, just like the poem says, whether or not we can manage to muster whatever it takes to behold that he is doing so. Christ is there, radiating, and we are defined in love.
Still your mind and breathe deeply. Open your heart, and pray:
Christ be with me, Christ within 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 mouth of friend and stranger.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.