“Defend us from all perils and daggers of this night,” intoned my older son yesterday evening. We haven’t been reading Compline at bedtime for long, and though he’s only six, he wanted his turn at reading the prayers. His three-year old brother, who usually has a foam sword tucked into his belt was delighted, and repeated “daggers, daggers” in a pirate’s growl throughout the rest of the Office.
Praying with children almost always makes me smile, but today it made me think as well. My son was reading a collect first written in the perilous days of the early Middle Ages, the Illumina, quaesumus, Anglican Evensong’s “Lighten our darkness.” It calls for God’s help in uncertain times, when the forces of evil seem strong and we cannot rely on our own power.
I think of my brothers and sisters, the Christians of the Middle East who live under the threat of persecution, the “daggers of the night.” Today, we remember Saint George, the patron saint of Ethiopia, among many lands. I pray for the souls of those 28 Ethiopian men, fellow “people of the Cross” killed by terrorists in Libya this week.
The legends, as my youngest son can recount in great detail, tell that Saint George killed the dragon, and defended the weak. What we know more clearly is that he was a fourth century martyr, slain for our common faith. “Christ my captain,” Saint George prayed, “my Lord I have no strength but what Thou shalt give. Help me this day and the glory shall be thine forever and ever.” (The Glorious Company, 113)
May Saint George pray for them, and for us. Christ is our captain, the one who strengthens us to stand firm in the evil day and who protects us through the perils of the night. We rest in His peace, which is the only true safety.