Chancing One’s Arm

There is an ancient door on display in St. Patrick’s cathedral in Dublin, Ireland. The rough hewn door has a rectangular hole hacked out in its center. It is called the “Door of Reconciliation,” and gives rise to the Irish expression of “chancing one’s arm.” In 1492, two prominent Irish families, the Ormonds and Kildares, were in the midst of a bitter feud. As the feud grew and turned into an all out fight, the Earl of Ormand was besieged by the Earl of Kildare. The Earl of Ormand and his family and followers took refuge in the chapter house of St. Patrick’s cathedral and bolted themselves in. However, as the siege wore on, the Earl of Kildare concluded the feuding was foolish. Here were two families worshiping the same God, in the same church, living in the same country, trying to kill each other. So Kildare called out to the Earl of Ormand and pledged that he would not seek revenge or indulge in villainy—he wanted the Ormands to come out and the feud to be over. But the Earl of Ormand was convinced that it was a scheme full of treachery and refused to come out of the cathedral. So Kildare grabbed his spear, chopped a hole in the door with it, and thrust his hand through. There was a tense moment until his hand was grasped by another hand inside the church. The door was opened and the two men embraced, thus ending the family feud. From Kildare’s noble gesture came the expression, “chancing one’s arm.”

Hopefully, these days will be marked by God’s people “chancing the arm.” There is always the chance that the hand will be cut off, but there is also the chance that it will be grasped and that an embrace will follow. May God give us courage and grace.

Contributed by: Rodney Buchanan

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