Love suffers long and is kind.
Love envies not.
Love exalts not itself and is not puffed up.
Does not behave unseemly, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil.
Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.
Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never fails.
—1 Corinthians, chapter 13)
Today these words are still some of the most profound and beautiful written about love. But one of the most amazing things they can teach us is found in the life of the man who wrote them, Saint Paul.
Saint Paul was a fierce, tough, and superintelligent man. We’re introduced to him, as Saul, during the story of Saint Stephen, where he holds the cloaks for those murdering the young deacon. His zeal increases from there, and in his persecution of the early Church he brings to bear all his strength. But, then, while traveling the road to Damascus he meets Christ in glory and his life changes.
At that moment, his name is changed to Paul, and this saint’s zealousness becomes steadfastness. And, for the rest of his life, he endures—bearing the unbearable. He looses his renown, going from being a respected leader to providing for his needs as a tentmaker. He is unbending, arguing with Saint Peter and loosing friends like Barnabas. And his life is hard. On his missionary journeys he’s ship-wrecked and thrown in prison. His writings are filled with phrases like, “barely escaped death”.
It is at the end of all his work, while awaiting death in Rome, that Saint Paul writes the words above about love. Words of divine clarity, simplicity, and truth—but, words also from his experience.
The ministry of Saint Paul continues to inspire in many different ways. Both newlyweds and rockstars find inspiration in his words. His Ode to Love, as his words from 1 Corinthians have become known, is a popular text at weddings. And, as Bono, the lead singer of U2 reflected about his own time enduring hardship in his 2017 interview with Rolling Stones Magazine:
“How do you write these things when you are at your lowest ebb? ‘Cause I didn’t. I didn’t. I didn’t deepen myself. I am looking to somebody like Paul, who was in prison and writing these love letters and thinking, “How does that happen? It is amazing.”
This icon of Saint Paul is in the Conestoga style but created primarily out of local colours and materials of the village of Londonderry in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was created for the Pilgrimage: Finding Canada’s Local Colours exhibition at the Craig Gallery in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in 2015.