Was speaking with a close friend the other night and quoted the text about the threefold cord that is not easily broken. The faithful strengthening that comes from woven companionship has been important in this and many friendships.
Decided to play around with this maxim from Ecclesiastes, that good natured Jew who was gently sceptical about life, God and the elusiveness of happiness: “a three stranded cord is not easily broken.” (4.12).
Tried a little Midrash on this, exploring the multiple choice interpretations, not to choose the right one but to see the rich possibilities in each. The complete verse says, “If one person can overpower another who is alone, two can resist his opponent. A three stranded cord is not easily broken.”
The Jewish setting and background is that of a journey. The danger of being on the road alone. Vulnerability and risk are lessened when there are those who stand with you, one on each side. That’s what friendship is. Those who stand on either side of you, between you and those who mean harm or hurt.
Or from another angle, this time Christian, the threefold strand could be the companionship of the Triune love that is God. In the old Irish prayer, “I bind unto myself today, the strong name of the Trinity.” The grace of Christ, the love of God, the fellowship of the Spirit.
Then again, from an ethical perspective “these three abide, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” Yet they belong together in a threefold strand. Love without faith and hope lacks trust and promise. But where there is trust, and forward looking promise, then love lives again and abides.
Whichever way we take it, the three stranded cord of human friendship, of God’s enfolding love, of the cardinal virtues, provides support and strength that is beyond any one of us, but belongs to us together. Indeed human friendship, entwined with divine love, and kept faithful by the three virtues, is just about the most secure place any of us can be.