From Be Thou My Breastplate
The Breastplate of Fursa
May the yoke of the Law of God be upon this shoulder,
The coming of the Holy Spirit on this head,
The sign of Christ on this forehead;
The hearing of the Holy Spirit in these ears,
The smelling of the Holy Spirit in this nose;
The vision that the people of Heaven have be in these eyes,
The speech of the people of Heaven in this mouth;
The work of the church of God in these hands,
The good of God and of neighbor in these feet.
May God dwell in this heart,
And this person belong entirely to God, the Father.
And let this person belong entirely to God.
In the one who prays this lorica sincerely, Fursa does not want to present God with a monk, or a priest, or deacon, or a worker. This prayer offers God a person. Not half a person.
How often I have offered God little bits of myself. “Lord, I give you my Sunday mornings, Tuesday and Friday evenings. I would really like to give you more time but, Lord, I really do need the rest of the week for going to work, quality time with my wife and family, or with friends, doing the shopping, and keeping and maintaining the house. Plus I do need just a little time for sleep and rest. Sorry, Lord!”
Such a prayer offers God some parcels of my time but not a whole person – not myself. I may pray with this “parcels” attitude, not out of any half-heartedness towards God, but not of a real misunderstanding as to what it is that God wants – as if God only values the activities my culture might label as “spiritual.” Do I really believe that the only me that God is interested in is “me in a church group” or “me at prayer” or “me in a religious service” or “me in a Bible study”? Such a piecemeal view of life is not the gospel vision of things: it it the way if disintegration.
In the Gospel of John we hear Jesus tell the woman at the well that what the father is seeking is worshipers. If we understand that word rightly, we realize that God is seeking people. For a worshiper is a specific kind of person: a person who holds to God, a person who will fall before God and unashamedly bow to him; a person who will serve him and fear him, people who acknowledge their own lowness to God’s highness. That kind of person.
If I am to do as the prayer leads me to and give God my person then it is all of me I must dedicate to him. What that does not mean is that I must now remove all the other items from my schedule. Rather it means that the me I offer to God must include the me at work, the me at the shops, the me who keeps house and attends to family and neighbors and does all those other things. That composite is the real me – the real person.
To live the way of disintegration devalues every aspect of my life. It devalues God – by giving him only bits of myself – and devalues family, friends, community, work, and rest – by regarding all those things as somehow less than worthy of a holy God’s interest and care. Even a cursory reading of scripture will quickly show me that in truth God values all those things. The God of all things doesn’t want me to offer him a week consisting only of activities that I might regard as “spiritual.” He does not want me to offer him a week with no rest in it, for example. The Lord of the Sabbath values my leisure time, sometimes more than I do.
In fact, taken together, the Scriptures show me that God doesn’t want me to give him weeks in which I haven’t given time to loving my spouse, or honoring my parents, guarding my children’s happiness, trading fairly, settling my bills promptly, engaging compassionately with the wider community, earning my keep and sharing my home with others – especially those of the household of faith. These are all aspects of the blessed life to which God guides us in his Scriptures.
Sometimes an overscheduled church may pressure us to value only the aspects of our lives that serve the corporate agenda. But, informed by his Celtic faith, Fursa reflects in his breastplate prayer the true breadth of Biblical spirituality and bids us bring to God the treasure of a whole life – the reality of a whole person.
So, as I pray this closing line of Fursa’s prayer, I will bring to God my whole self and all my activity. Of course the Lord may wish to change what I am offering, to fine tune or transform it, but the point is that I will have dedicated it all to him for his good pleasure. “Let this person belong entirely to God.”