|Published by Michael Topple on Wed, 17 Jun 2020 13:31|
|Church Without Walls|
Thanks be to thee,
O Lord Christ,
For all the benefits which thou hast given us;
For all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for us.
O most merciful redeemer,
Friend and brother,
May we know thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
And follow thee more nearly;
For thine own sake. Amen
Richard of Chichester 1197-1253 (attrib.)
At my primary school in Brighton (more years ago now than I would like to remember) we had a daily assembly which always included some prayers, a talk from the headmaster and a hymn or song. The hymns were taken from a book called “Day by Day”, its title taken from the first hymn in the book which was an adaptation of the prayer of St. Richard of Chichester. I suppose we used it because we were in the diocese of Chichester and Richard was the closest we had to a patron saint. I had no idea at the time who Richard was and it was not until many years later that I actually read the prayer and came to use it.
Richard himself was something of an ecclesiastical high flyer – a lawyer trained in Oxford, Paris and Bologna, chancellor to the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of Chichester. However, he actually came from quite humble origins and became highly respected. He was by all accounts a very simple man too – one who was dedicated to the reform and improvement of the church. He travelled all over his large diocese on foot, visiting and caring for his clergy and people and generally being accessible to all who needed his ministry. He insisted that the sacraments be administered with proper dignity.
His character can, I think, be seen in this simple prayer which was attributed to him. It starts with a humbling recognition of what Christ has done for us, moving on to a description of how approachable he is – we can call him friend and brother. It then finishes with those short but very powerful lines which sum up so much of what our Christian lives need to be – to know, love and follow Jesus Christ. The poetry is striking and it is hardly surprising that it soon became popular and is to this day. In my school hymn book the last line was changed to “Day by Day” which fits in quite well.
The present Bishop of Chichester, the Rt. Rev. Martin Warner, has adapted the prayer to suit the current circumstances of not being able to come to church to receive communion. We use it in our parish eucharist every week.
I find this prayer a great help and try to use it often. It is perhaps especially comforting and encouraging in these strange and challenging times.
The feast day of St. Richard of Chichester is 16th June.