“Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?”

As the light at the end of the tunnel draws closer, and begins to chase away all the surrounding darkness, we can each breathe a little more hopeful! At last, we can begin to step out beyond the walls of our homes and the paths of our neighborhood. It’s not so much a returning but more a moving onward. These past months have marked us for sure, changed us for certain, and I trust reoriented us for the good.

Many are the books written on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner published in 1798. The space here is too limiting to unpack this marvelous poem, future visits to his words there will be! For now, take a moment to ponder the words below. Although we were not on our way to a wedding feast when the word came to shut down, close the doors, and stay at home, it was a moment of incredible interruption – why we ask has this “stopp’st thou me?”

It is an ancient Mariner,
And to stoppeth one of three.
By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

In this long period of interruption we have become aware with sharper focus of how broken humanity is. Racism rages, creation crumbles, the environment spoils, and political power in too many places is sought and seized, only to rule not to serve. I texted with a friend in early 2020 and he commented that he looked forward to the stories we would tell of how we survived Covid-19. Tragically he died, suddenly (though not from covid-19) yet telling stories is important for all of us. Toward the end of Coleridge’s poem the Mariner with his long grey beard and glittering eye says farewell to the wedding guest he has stopped with these words of cheer and wisdom.

Farewell, farewell but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you,
Wherever He may send you.
May He guide you through the wilderness,
Protect you through the storm.
May he bring you home rejoicing
At the wonders He has shown you
May He bring you home rejoicing.
In the name of the Father
And of the Son
And of the Holy Spirit (Celtic prayer from the Northumbria Community.)

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