A reflection by Reverend Susan Blagden, from Rowen
fel dw i wedi’ch caru chi.
Y cariad mwya all unrhyw un ei ddangos ydy bod yn fodlon marw dros ei ffrindiau. Dych chi’n amlwg yn ffrindiau i mi
os gwnewch chi beth dw i’n ddweud.
Dw i ddim yn eich galw chi’n weision bellach. Dydy meistr ddim yn trafod ei fwriadau gyda’r gweision. Na, ffrindiau i mi ydych chi.”
as I have loved you.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
You are my friends if you do what I command you.
I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends.”
Reverend Susan Blagden writes:
30th July is the International Day of Friendship, established in 2011 by the United Nations. It is intended to celebrate the power that friendship, human solidarity, can have in confronting evil and challenging unjust structures. So what might this mean for us as Christians and particularly for those of us who worship in Bro Celynnin with its strong Cistercian heritage?
In our Bible reading today, Jesus has called you to be His friend. Did you really hear that right? Jesus wants you, yes you, to be His friend. How amazing is this?! A famous hymn reminds us of ‘what a friend we have in Jesus’ but can the same be said of us? How can we be a good friend to Jesus and, by implication therefore, to each other?
Aelred, Abbot of the Cisterican community in Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire, wrote a seminal work on just this subject: Spiritual Friendship. Among the things he suggests are these encouragements:
Fruition and excellence in friendship – Aelred’s focus was always friendship with Christ and how this would result in our growth in the virtues, providing balance and stability to our lives. We rejoice in the other’s well-being. We share in their sadnesses. Our love and care for the other ensures we are not the centre of our own lives. The safety and trust allow us to unburden our souls, to share our desires, to know forgiveness, and for the fruits of the Spirit to be increasingly evident in our lives.
Sustaining an unbroken friendship – we need to cultivate vigilance, says Aelred, in our hearts to guard against vice – slander, reproach, displays of pride, indiscretion, and detraction from the other’s good. Soul friendship takes time to nurture so we should not rush that process.
Here are some practical suggestions which may be helpful:
Spend some time praying with today’s image
It is the Coptic 6th Century Icon of Christ and Abbot Mena often known as the Friendship Icon. Imagine yourself in Abbot Mena’s place. What does it feel like to have Jesus by your side; to have His arm round your shoulder; what are you looking out at together? Ask for the grace you need.
Write a list of the friends, past and current, who have been/are important in your life
Make a note of the particular gifts that they brought to you. What virtues have you seen grow in your own life as a result? Offer thanks for all this in your prayers. Maybe let your friends know the things that you are thankful for.
Consider those to whom you have offered friendship
What is your ongoing prayer for each of them?
Friendship with Jesus
Friends spend quality time together and gift each other attention. What might this look like for you if Jesus is to depend on you as one of His friends? What might He want to share with you that is on His heart? You might like to respond to this by drawing or writing, or by being creative in some other way. Give thanks for the grace of friendship.
You have blessed us, O God,
with the gift of friendship,
the bonding of persons in a circle of love.
We thank you for such a blessing:
for friends who love us, who share our sorrows,
who laugh with us in celebration, who bear our pain,
who need us as we need them,
who weep as we weep,
who hold us when words fail,
and who give us the freedom to be ourselves.
Bless our friends with health, wholeness,
life, and love. Amen.