Treasure Trove: Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

Saint Patrick.jpgIn honour of Saint Patrick’s day, I’m sharing a prayer traditionally attributed to the ‘Apostle of Ireland’, Saint Patrick’s breastplate.

Tradition tells that Patrick was a young Briton of Roman extraction who in the fifth century was kidnapped by pirates and spent six years as a slave in Ireland. After escaping and returning to Britain he subsequently chose to return in order to share the gospel with the Irish, who at that time were pagan. His ‘breastplate’ is based upon a prayer for divine protection that the saint is reputed to have offered up when facing opposition from King Loegaire, High King of Ireland. The precise details are a matter of myth but may have included some form of armed ambush or pursuit. It may have worked, as some accounts hold that Loegaire was ultimately converted to Christianity and baptised by Patrick.

Today there are several English versions of the Breastplate, also known as The Lorica (of Saint Patrick), Saint Patrick’s Hymn, or the Deer’s Cry. The one which appears here is taken from A New Zealand Anglican Prayer Book, the current prayer book of the Anglican Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. I love it for its rhythm, its Trinitarian emphasis, and the rich natural imagery it contains.

I bind unto myself today
the strong name of the Trinity.
By invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.

I bind this day to me for ever,
by power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan river;
his death on cross for my salvation.
His bursting from the spiced tomb;
his riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the star-lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s lifegiving ray,
the whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
the power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay,
his ear to hearken to my need;
The wisdom of my God to teach,
his hand to guide, his shield to ward,
The word of God to give me speech,
his heavenly host to be my guard.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort 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.

I bind unto myself the name,
the strong name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three,
Of whom all nature hath creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation:
salvation is of Christ the Lord.

 

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