First, the preposition, which we love for its startling power to affirm and reframe relationships. Think, for instance, how much prepositional theology is imbedded in the words of the hymn taken from an ancient Celtic prayer, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”:
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort me, and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
Each of those prepositions – with, within, behind, behore, beside, beneath, above, and in – opens an avenue of reflection on the mysterious and manifold nature of relationship to Christ – how Christ leads, accompanies, backs us up, holds us up, protects, sustains indwells. Or think of the rhetorical formula we still cling to as Americans who still share some common vision of constitutional democracy in “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” each preposition making its own political claim, bearing its own vision of justice. Though we continue to have our regional differences about whether we stand “in” line or “on” line, and though there remains some play of meaning around what’s “in” and what’s definitely “not on,” prepositions, even at their most idiosyncratic, do good service in the ways they locate and organize and help us, as Henry James put it, to “understand things in relation,” which he claimed, is the only way they can be rightly understood.
From “Caring for Words In A Culture of Lies” by Marilyn McEntyre – Eerdmans Publishing