Anglican, Feast day
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The Breastplate of St. Patrick

I look forward every year to St. Patrick’s Day and Trinity Sunday because of singing “The Lorica [or Breastplate] of St. Patrick.” It is a glorious expression of the cosmic realities of our Christian faith. Here is a beautiful arrangement by Melville Cook, sung by St. Peter’s Singers of Leeds:

What is a Lorica?

The original meaning of “Lorica” is armor or a breastplate. It developed, in the Christian monastic tradition, to mean a prayer of protection. These meanings merged in the reality that knights would often inscribe prayers upon their armor or pray these prayers before they went into battle.

Are there other examples of loricas?

Yes, there is the “Lorica of Gildas.” The Lorica, Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride, forms the basis for the hymn “Be Thou My Vision.” The Fursey Lorica is also particularly beautiful:

The arms of God be around my shoulders
The touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,
The sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead,
The sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,
The fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils,
The vision of heaven’s company in my eyes,
The conversation of heaven’s company on my lips,
The work of God’s church in my hands,
The service of God and the neighbour in my feet,
A home for God in my heart,
And to God, the Father of all, my entire being.

What is the history of the Lorica of St. Patrick?

Evidently, the Lorica of St. Patrick is St. Patrick’s revision of an Old Irish prayer. It is part of the Libor Hymnorum, which was published in 1903 in the Thesaurus Paleohibernicus, as well as the following quotation of how St. Patrick used this prayer:

“Patrick sang this when an ambush was laid against his coming by Loegaire, that he might not go to Tara to sow the faith. And then it appeared before those lying in ambush that they (Patrick and his monks) were wild deer with a fawn following them.”

For this reason, the prayer has also been called the “Deer’s Cry.”

The metrical version that we sing of this hymn was composed by C.F. Anderson. The music is by Charles Villiers Stanford. Here is the full text that we sing:

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

2 I bind this day to me forever,
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.

3 I bind unto myself today
the virtues of the starlit heaven,
the glorious sun’s life-giving 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.

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

5 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.

6 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 has creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
salvation is of Christ the Lord!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

This entry was posted in: Anglican, Feast day

by

Wife of Jon, mother of two little girls, and reader of all the things. I am committed to cultivating and passing down a love for the true, good, and beautiful.

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: St Patrick’s day | Selah

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