Tuesday, 15 March 2011

St Patrick's Breastplate

The Breastplate Prayer of St. Patrick also called "The Lorica" and "The Deer's Cry" is one of the most beautiful Irish Celtic invocations.

Tradition has it that it was written by the saint to place himself completely under God's protection as he prepared to confront the hostile Leogaire, High King of Ireland. But it probably comes later than Patrick's fifth century. It is first  found in the ninth century Book of Armagh.

Most people just know the section "Christ be beside me" that has become a favourite hymn. But in this ancient prayer we bind the Triune God, then Christ’s Gospel history to ourselves, followed by the spiritual powers of the universe, of Scripture, and of Christian history. We also bind to ourselves the elemental powers. Finally we immerse ourselves in Christ. The hymn offers us a thorough-going vision of the Christian faith.

This prayer reminds us of the spiritual resources that are ours as we trust in God's saving power. Scripture speaks of clothing ourselves in "the armour of light", and putting on the "full armour of God". This prayer gives us a way of intentionally clothing ourselves in the Spirit protecting presence.  What is remarkable is the thoroughness with which we are called to bind God’s spiritual power to ourselves.

This prayer is a beautiful example of the Celtic emphasis on the pervasiveness of the Divine in the world around us. 

I Rise Today
I rise today
in the power’s strength, invoking the Trinity
believing in threeness,
confessing the oneness,
of creation’s Creator.

I rise today
in the power of Christ’s birth and baptism,
in the power of his crucifixion and burial,
in the power of his rising and ascending,
in the power of his descending and judging.

I rise today
in the power of the love of cherubim,
in the obedience of angels
and service of archangels,
in hope of rising to receive the reward,
in the prayers of patriarchs,
in the predictions of the prophets,
in the preaching of apostles,
in the faith of confessors,
in the innocence of holy virgins,
in the deeds of the righteous.

I rise today
in heaven’s might,
in sun’s brightness,
in moon’s radiance,
in fire’s glory,
in lightning’s quickness,
in wind’s swiftness,
in sea’s depth,
in earth’s stability,
in rock’s fixity.

I rise today
with the power of God to pilot me,
God’s strength to sustain me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look ahead for me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to protect me,
God’s way before me,
God’s shield to defend me,
God’s host to deliver me,
from snares of devils,
from evil temptations,
from nature’s failings,
from all who wish to harm me,
far or near,
alone and in a crowd.

Around me I gather today all these powers
against every cruel and merciless force
to attack my body and soul,
against the charms of false prophets,
the black laws of paganism,
the false laws of heretics,
the deceptions of idolatry,
against spells cast by women, smiths, and druids,
and all unlawful knowledge that harms the body and soul.

May Christ protect me today
against poison and burning,
against drowning and wounding,
so that I may have abundant reward;
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me;
Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me;
Christ to the right of me, Christ to the left of me;
Christ in my lying, Christ in my sitting, Christ in my rising;
Christ in the heart of all who think of me,
Christ on the tongue of all who speak to me,
Christ in the eye of all who see me,
Christ in the ear of all who hear me.

I rise today
in power’s strength, invoking the Trinity,
believing in threeness,
confessing the oneness,
of creation’s Creator.

For to the Lord belongs
and to the Lord belongs salvation
and to Christ belongs salvation.
May your salvation, Lord, be with us always.

[Saint Patrick’s BreastplatePrayer from Oliver Davies and Fiona Bowie, Celtic Christian Spirituality: An Anthology of Medieval and Modern Sources (SPCK, 1995).]