Gallant and high-hearted happiness
Gallant and high-hearted happiness'. This phrase was like a tune on the brain. It had rattled round in my head for years before I found out where it came from, and the beautiful prayer of which it forms a part. It is the prayer of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George, which was founded in 1818 by the then Prince Regent to honour men and women who have served their country with distinction abroad.
Grant us, O Lord, the royalty of inward happiness and the serenity which comes of living close to thee. Daily renew in us the sense of joy and let Thy eternal Spirit dwell in our souls and bodies, filling every corner of our hearts with light and gladness: so that, bearing about with us the infection of a good courage, we may be diffusers of life, and meet all that comes, of good or ill, even death itself with gallant and high-hearted happiness: giving Thee thanks always for all things.
Many members of the Order will have lived lives far from home, often in the public eye, often in circumstances of danger or difficulty. This prayer asks both for the inner resources of faith and seren-
ity, and for their manifestation in outward conduct and attitude. It has always seemed to me to be a blueprint of how a Christian can try to live a life of courage and joy in a complex and often threatening world.
It is a prayer with an active ring to it, as befits the people for whom it was written. They are busy people in a busy and demanding environment, so it includes a plea for inward resources, as well as the energy and courage to play one's part in the world.
A practical blueprint
It asks for inward happiness and serenity - a royal gift, so that we may be able to live our lives of faith and hope, and moreover, it asks that the Eternal Spirit may fill us with his light and joy. How wonderfully attractive such joy can be (and not merely a mindless optimism!) when we see it illuminating and energizing everyday life. It is indeed the 'infection of a good courage'. The word 'infection, usually with such negative associations, is here stood on its head and is an infection we can all spread and we all need!
Finally, we come to the phrase I have carried with me all those years, rather like a small boy with a pebble or a precious conker in his pocket, turning it over from time to time. We all have to meet the good or ill, even death itself in our lives. Everyone knows this, and every human being, of faith or no faith, has to find their own way of living and dying. The final words of this prayer give us a vision of how we may live our lives bravely and gratefully 'with gallant and high-hearted happiness, giving Thee thanks always for all things'.
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