“To Love, to Serve, to Forgive.”
Our Prioress, Amma Beth, suggested that we ‘solitaries’ of the Lindisfarne Community take a look at the summary of our Rule (quoted above) “from the standpoint of the solitary life.”
The first thing that popped into my head was, “Does the solitary life even have a standpoint?” I think it might, but I don’t think it looks like the usual sort of standpoint.
One of my favorite passages of scripture is the one from Ephesians that talks about ‘putting on the whole armor of God.’ It’s trendy now for preachers to disparage the metaphor of “armor” as being less than politically correct because of its association with warfare and violence. I think that’s a bit disingenuous, and generally misses the point. (I could get sidetracked into a discussion about that, but I will restrain myself.)
I mentioned that passage because of a quote from it that I liked so much that I made it into a motto: “And having done all, to stand.” In Latin, that’s “Et Omnibus Perfectis Stare.” I like mottos. Merriam-Webster says that a “motto” is ‘a short expression of a guiding principle.’ If that’s so, then the motto of the Lindisfarne Community would be “To Love, To Serve, To Forgive.” I tried to turn it into a Latin motto, but I was really dubious about the translation I found online: “Diligere, ut Serve, sed Oblivione Obliviscar.” It just doesn’t roll off the tongue gracefully at all! Oh, well. Besides, I think it might mean something more along the lines of, “To Cherish, To Grovel, To Obliviate.”
I found another word for ‘serve’ in Latin, also online: “adpareo” (verb)— ‘appear, be evident, show up, occur’. I liked that one.
Here’s another version (and I have no idea if it’s conjugated correctly) that seems to have the same shape in Latin that it does in English: “Dīlĭgěre, Appōněre, Rěmittěre.”
Anyway, about now, you might be thinking, “What’s the point here?; this is just trivia!”
There is method in my madness, though. I started with the question, “What does the phrase mean: ‘to love, to serve, to forgive’?” It’s catchy, that’s for sure. When reading the Bible, I often gain insight from reading interlinear translations, and looking up the meaning of Greek and Hebrew words in context. So, it’s clear that all of the words in the Summary are being used as verbs. They are things we are supposed to do. On the other hand, they are all quite capable of functioning as nouns and, as nouns, they might serve even better as expressions of a set of values, or a principle.
That brings me back to “standpoints,” and my motto which concludes with a verb: “to stand.” From the “standpoint” of a solitary, it occurs to me that, in general, we don’t really “do” much of anything.
When it comes to language, we solitaries hang out in the liminal spaces between nouns and verbs. Adjectives and adverbs are our friends. Metaphors are our beloved cellmates.
When it comes to action; to the idea of doing Love, doing Serve, doing Forgive; it gets pretty exciting. Maybe I’m just messing with language, but I think not. In English, we can say, “Do nothing.” It’s a perfectly acceptable phrase. So, “doing” doesn’t necessarily imply movement.
So, could it be that as solitaries, we are bidden to reverse the polarity? We don’t stand over here and look at “Love, Serve, Forgive.” Nope. We stand on them and look around.
“Love” is the Standpoint.
“Serve” is the Standpoint.
“Forgive” is the Standpoint.
If we can stand on them,
we can also sit on them,
or even kneel on them.
They uphold us.
They support us.
They carry us.
They sustain us.
They are the Ground beneath us;
The Lookout where we stand watch;
The Source of our trust.
From that Standpoint
no action is called for,