FURSA IN LENT: Day Forty by Paul Wallis

FURSA IN LENT: Day Forty by Paul Wallis

From Be Thou My Breastplate

And let this person belong entirely to God. 
(Fursa’s Breastplate)

Over the past 40 days we have learned that Fursa was a person who belonged entirely to God in a very specific way.  He belonged entirely, because the shape and course of his whole adult life was determined by his purpose as a missionary and monk.  But Fursa is the exception that proves the rule, because even such a specialized and dedicated life as his still embraced going out to manual labor and farm work.  His pattern of life included feeding and nurturing those in his households, giving time to others, taking time for rest, and, at times, even engaging in trade.  Even as a monk, Fursa’s vision of the godly life was not a narrow, religious one that valued only “spiritual” activities.

In this respect, Fursa’s Breastplate bears the family traits common to those ancient Celtic poems and prayers that history has preserved. In their writings we find a legacy of clues that the spirituality of the Brythonic-Celtic peoples was a truly integrated one.  Their prayers and breastplates invoked that desire for connection with God from waking to sleeping, and we have seen over the past days that the Celtic vision of God was one that truly filled their whole pattern of life – not just parts of it.

That wide vision of a God who encircles every aspect of the believer’s life is reflected in many of the Celtic loricas or breastplate prayers.  Phrases from Mary Byrne and Eleanor Hull’s beautiful hymn, “Be Thou My Vision,” ring with those notes as they render another famous Celtic prayer.  Phrases like these evoke something of the vision of Celtic Christianity:

In the day and the night
Both waking and sleeping
Thou ever with me
Thou in me dwelling
Whatever befall
Thou my soul’s shelter
Thou my whole armor
Be thou my breastplate

The very image of the breastplate is of a garment that embraces my whole torso, heart, lungs, and vitals in order to save my life.  It is a very powerful image of what God wants to give me as I commit myself to him.

At root, whatever my liturgy of life today this belonging entirely must begin first and foremost in my attitude of heart and mind.  I must become like a person entirely caught up in adoration of their beloved and as a lover of God I must hold on tightly to that first love.

The Prophet Jeremiah in scripture tells me to seek God with all my heart.  The Apostle John’s Revelation tells me to be hot – not cold or lukewarm.  The Apostle Paul says I should offer myself to be a living sacrifice.  And Jesus, son of God and son of Mary, tells me outright to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.  I hear Fursa’s Breastplate Prayer ring with all those notes when today it bids me to belong entirely to God.

Over the days that we have prayed Fursa’s prayer together we have thought a lot about what it is we are praying and how God might answer.  We recalled the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John telling us that the Lord is seeking persons.  Let me ask you if today you will make yourself the answer to God’s own prayer?

If today your answer is “yes,” then simply take your stand before God – just as you have these past 40 days and pray once again.  Pray Fursa’s Breastplate, thinking the meaning of each word as you pray it aloud to God.  You may feel something as you do, or you may not feel anything in particular.  The point is simply that you offer to God soberly and deliberately words that are meant from the heart.

Pray it believing that you have God’s attention as you express your faith in the Christ whom Fursa followed; the Christ of the Bible; the loving, teaching, crucified, and risen Christ.  The Christ who reveals the love of our Heavenly Father by taking away the sins of our life and filling us with his Spirit.

Have in mind a brother or sister strong in their faith in the risen Christ, whom you will tell about your recent journey.  This is so that your belonging to him is no secret and so that the promise of being acknowledged by the savior is assured.  Such a confiding also means that in the journey ahead you can share the joys and struggles of it with a godly and wise soul-friend.  This kind of Christian fellowship is crucial because a person without such a soul-friend is a body without a head.

Then, having prayed, pause again.  Be still for a moment.  For this is a threshold moment.  Know that what comes after you pray this prayer will be the presentation of daily opportunities to invite God into your waking life and to live in a way that agrees with what you have prayed.

Whenever you are able, speak freely to your Heavenly Father.  Speak honestly, openly, and in your own words about absolutely everything.  For ultimately it is absolutely everything that Fursa intended for us to share with our God when he first penned the words of his wonderful prayer.

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