St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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And death can never break the bond of love…

On this year’s anniversary of my father’s death lo those many years ago, I read in the course of my daily prayers and devotional reading:

God gave: God takes:

And death can never break

The bond of love which God’s own hand

Has wrought.

Silent they homeward turn,

No words could ever make

Fit utterance for that love which in

Such silence spake.[1]

This poem reflects and muses on a conversation between monk Diarmid and his spiritual father Columba, that great Celtic Saint who lived for most of the 6th Century and who founded the monastery on Iona, as recorded by Columba’s biographer Adamnan.  The guide for devotion that I use devotes an entire month to the life of St Columba, since he was so instrumental in the spread of Christianity in the Celtic world.  But that’s not really what is important to me in this ironic overlap between reading and anniversary.

I’ve said this to many people over the last dozen years: I had an intellectual concept and a basic understanding of the Communion of Saints before I entered fully into Orthodoxy, but it was not experiential.  Since immersion into Orthodoxy involves a lot of time spent with the living dead, given all the saints we commemorate over the course of a year, the Communion of Saints has moved – and rather swiftly – from a concept to an experience, to a reality that I know in my own life.

What is most important to me personally is that the felt presence of those who have gone before me in my family remains, and in fact, grows stronger rather than dissipates at the years go by.  I am grateful that, through immersion in Orthodoxy in particular, I have learned the truth of the poem.  I can say with conviction of my parents and my brothers:

And death can never break

The bond of love which God’s own hand

Has wrought.

I no longer think this is true, I know it is true.


[1] By R. M. Benson, quotes p.478 of Celtic Daily Prayer, New York: HarperCollins, 2002.

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