Shield of virtue

A Spiritual Journey Thursday offering

with thanks to my Spiritual Journey writing friends and to Karen Eastlund for hosting on this first Thursday in September. Our theme is “virtue.” I began writing on this topic last month: What is virtue?

Allow me to start my circuitous spiritual journey route today with a question, Dear Readers: Do any of you remember a vintage device called Viewmaster? From back in the olden days before cable, videos, DVDs, movie channels, and Virtual Reality headsets?

My grandmother bought one for me in the early ’70s. It looked exactly like this:

My Batman & Robin Viewmaster 3D Viewer and Reels. 1966. Jimmy Big Potatoes. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

You’d remove the reels, ever so carefully holding them by the rim, not getting your fingerprints on the little squares of film. Notches on the rim indicated proper insertion; these would be centered at the top. Then you’d hold the Viewmaster up to your eyes, aim for a light source—lamp, overhead fixture, or window—and voilà! The magical 3D scene would draw you in. When you were ready for the next scene, you’d push down the little lever on the right.

I didn’t have Batman reels as pictured in the photo above. I had Lassie, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Bambi, some others I can’t recall at the moment, and the first set Grandma ever purchased for me: Sleeping Beauty.

I recall my childhood horror of Disney’s Maleficent and her curse on Princess Aurora, who was subsequently disguised as Briar Rose, relegated to living in the woods. My child’s blood ran cold at the spindle scene in which the young girl pricked her finger (creepy multiple hands appeared there), which ushered in her enchanted sleep instead of death…

Enter Prince Philip, her rescuer.

The good fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, always working on Aurora’s behalf, gave two objects to the Prince: The Sword of Truth and the Shield of Virtue.

That Shield of Virtue has lain dormant in my memory for decades.

Today I retrieve it, blow off the layers of dust, and consider its gleaming significance.

The Shield of Virtue (vignette). C-Lemon. CC BY-NC-ND.

The shield, emblazoned with a cross, protected Philip from Maleficent’s fiery breath when she transformed into a dragon; in the movie, she cries: “Now you shall deal with me, O Prince, and all the powers of hell!” (yes, this is an animated Disney movie made for children. Fairy tales, as you know, can be quite Grimm).

As I contemplated writing on the topic of virtue again, this shield kept rising to the viscous surface of my thoughts. It is more than a magical token.

There’s a real Shield of Virtue. A gold one, awarded to the first Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus (Octavian), so inscribed: The senate and the Roman people give to Augustus, son of the divine Caesar, in his 8th consulate, the shield for virtue, clemency, justice, and piety towards the gods and his native land.

Marble copy of the Shield of Virtue (Clipeus Virtutis) of Augustus. Carol Raddato. CC BY-SA

The Shield of Virtue is a thing that was given. It denotes battle. Above all, valor. It is a defense. By very nature of its name, the Shield of Virtue represents high standards, mercy, fairness, loyalty, acting on behalf of others.

I return now to the spiritual journey. A path of treacherous turns, often littered with brokenness. Dark forests of encroaching thorns and dragonfire as ever the fictitious Prince Philip faced. Ongoing warfare, threat of destruction…

Armor is desperately needed. As Paul wrote to the Ephesian believers:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm…in all circumstances, take up the shield of faith, with which can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one…(Ephesians 6:11-16).

The spiritual battle is real. A shield is given; one of faith. It occurs to me that virtue and faith are inextricably intertwined. Courage is born of believing in something greater than oneself (my favorite definition of awe). Tapping into this disperses unique fuel in one’s veins, enabling one to grasp the shield and to power through, trusting. Scriptures repeat that the battle isn’t even ours, but the Lord’s. His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart… (Psalm 91:4).

Somehow, an acrostic seems called for.

Valor. Let it not be born of vainglory but of an
Infusion of love, of mercy, of divine strength.
Righteousness not fashioned by humanity,
Tempered and refined in heat of battle.
Upward, toward the light, let me always cast my
Eyes.

Strength to all.

*******

Another lens through which to view virtue, from my previous post on this theme:

Within the angelic hierarchy of Judeo-Christian tradition is a class of angels known as Virtues. They are connected to motion and order of the cosmos, dispensers of grace, exceptional courage, unshakeable faith, and miracles. They are balance-bringers; in a world so unbalanced of late, the angelic Virtues must have their hands full. As I write, I imagine them roaming the streets, unseen, fervently seeking ways they can impart divine strength.

15 thoughts on “Shield of virtue

  1. I have two of these Viewmasters. Mine from the 1950s, it’s brown and some reels and also the white and red one I got either from my younger sister’s old toys or second hand. I loved mine. Now to your poem and your post. You remind me of where our strength comes from. Thank you again, Fran. I love this. In the brokenness always look to the light. Hugs for a good day and school year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mine was the gray Viewmaster and I wish I still had it! Thank you as always for your words, wishes, and hugs – school is off to a good beginning, despite masks and creative seating! Blessings to you and yours, Janet.

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  2. Oh Fran! I needed this – we all need your words. I don’t know where to start – but your words bear repeating:

    The spiritual battle is real. A shield is given; one of faith. It occurs to me that virtue and faith are inextricably intertwined. Courage is born of believing in something greater than oneself (my favorite definition of awe). Tapping into this disperses unique fuel in one’s veins, enabling one to grasp the shield and to power through, trusting. Scriptures repeat that the battle isn’t even ours, but the Lord’s. His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart… (Psalm 91:4).

    So true – so helpful – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your thoughts and words are always a gift. I am grateful. It means much to know that you found the post helpful and meaningful. For me, writing like like an unraveling – or kind of like dismantling a gold ball; peeling away the exterior and lots of wound-up rubber to get at what lies in the center. Not sure I am always successful at that, but it’s how I write. Thanks so much for this meaningful response.

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  3. Wow, Fran, what a rich post, as usual. It is a lovely pairing with last month’s virtue angels. Your poem captures the source of valor, born of:
    “Infusion of love, of mercy, of divine strength.
    Righteousness not fashioned by humanity,”
    Praise be to God!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I am in awe of your post, Fran! Beautifully framed! Thank you so much. I think that virtue is a tricky focus for us… it was for me… for one thing, the word itself seems weighted with a negative vibe from our culture, and we have forgotten what the virtues are in some sense. I think they used to be taught. Anyway, I appreciate you going along with this theme, and I appreciate everything that it took out of you as you worked on it. You battled and were victorious! Brava! (Yes, we had a Viewmaster, but I don’t remember our reels, though I suspect they were highlights from the National Parks.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s sad to think of virtue as “weighted with a negative vibe,” yet there’s truth in that, Karen. I believe it was Carol’s post that mentioned humility as a facet of virtue. Not something we tend to connect in this way. Selflessness is absolutely virtuous. I so appreciate the challenge of this theme, so thank you for that and for your words here. I enjoyed my walk back into Viewmaster days, led by that shield!

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  5. I was really hoping I could get through this post without having to think too much. It’s Sunday afternoon and I’m tired, but you are never going to let me rest. You have to make me go looking for the Viewmaster that I Know I stored away somewhere. But that was just the beginning. I’ll have to read again to get to the meat of the matter, but oh how I do love the ending. We have the shield and it is given…faith. We must accept this gift to truly hold the armor. Yes!

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    • Alas, Margaret – how can I be both sorry and glad you were inspired, tired as you were, to go hunt for the Viewmaster? I hope it has turned up. Will be a fun things to share with your little grandchildren. Writing this post took a lot of me – it wouldn’t let me rest, either. So grateful for your words.

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    • Ruth, what a magnificent, majestic hymn! How could it not be, sung with such gusto in that glorious cathedral. Thank you for the link. “Valor” encapsulated the level of exceptional courage I was striving to connect with the Shield of Virtue – for life is such a spiritual battle. I so appreciate your associations here.

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  6. I truly enjoy your writing because of your excellent blend of history and story, enchanting the reader to follow you come what may.
    Where were you when I battled my way through History classes, abhorring the listless drone of unflavored dates and facts?
    Jill 😊

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    • Oh my – I wasn’t such a fan of history when I was in school, either! Begs the question of why, when there is such a wealth of incredibly rich stories buried in it…therein I think lies the answer. Finding the stories. That’s what makes things come to life, what sticks with us. Many thanks, Jill!

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