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Each spring, an ancient fresco stirs my imagination and relocates me to another world in which greening is paramount.

Only 38 x 22 cm in size, the fresco depicts the Roman Goddess Flora, barefoot, her back to us as she plucks a white flower from a nearby tree to add to the basket in her other arm. Her full figure suggests pregnancy, fathered by the Spring Wind, Zephyrus. Their story is recorded in Metamorphoses (8 BCE) composed by the Roman poet Ovid.

An unknown artisan fashioned this fresco of Flora upon the one of the bedroom walls of the Villa Arianna in Stabiae, a wealthy seaside resort known for its architecture, frescoes, and statuary. Unfortunately, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in southern Italy, 79 CE., buried the resort and neighboring towns under five meters of tephra ash where Flora remained until 1749; then, archeologists under the initiative of Charles III of Spain discovered Flora and numerous other artifacts that were later restored to the National Archeological Museum of Naples.

Yet, there’s something about Flora’s graciousness, stopped in time for our continued reflection. Perhaps that unknown artist caught her splendor-in-living for which she was revered, first by the Greeks under the name of Chloris, then, Romanized by Flora. Her devotees glimpsed in her the continuation of flowering, both plants and themselves, critical for survival.

Within such freshness and delicacy as Flora images, I glimpse Eternal Spring for which we all yearn—Thus her appeal through the centuries.

From smarming mists beyond telling emerged the Celtic Druids with their rituals, prayers, stories, and incantations that swelled their oral tradition for long centuries and steeped their followers in a natural wisdom. Even though their power was indisputable, lawlessness still terrorized the land.

To ward off protection from bandits, travelers often invoked Nature in The Celtic Breastplate:

I arise today

Through the strength of heaven:

Light of sun,

Radiance of moon,

Splendor of fire,

Speed of lightening,

Swiftness of wind,

Depth of sea,

Stability of earth,

Firmness of rock.

Centuries later, when St. Patrick and his monks were evangelizing fifth-century Ireland, he spotted Celtic marauders on the road, intent upon their destruction. He remembered this prayer and used its blessing as a protection. “Immediately, a cloak of darkness went over them so that not a man appeared.”

The story from The Celtic Tradition by Caitlin Matthews continues: their enemy only saw a troop of eight deer and a fawn with a white bird on its shoulder. Patrick and his cohort continued their journey, unharmed.

So the Celtic Breastplate has become the St. Patrick’s Breastplate: I Bind unto Myself Today.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

From the side of the solitary crocus in my flowerbed another gleams in the sun, cheered by fresh greening—More winking from Creator God.

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