St. Patrick's day

St. Patrick’s Breastplate: A Poem for St. Patrick’s Day

Today is St.Patrick’s Day. A day we wear green to avoid being pinched. The holiday that makes us think of four-leaf clovers, and also the luck of the Irish. When I was a kid, my sister and I would set traps for leprechauns in hopes that one would grant us a wish or a pot of gold. Back then, I never gave much thought to St. Patrick himself, the missionary to Ireland who lived from 390 AD to 460 AD.

At age 16, Magonus Sucatus Patricius was stolen from his home in Britain and sold into slavery in Ireland for six years. Some time after he escaped his captivity, Patrick returned to Ireland to further Christianity in the region. Despite having first encountered the nation as a slave and prisoner, Patrick came back voluntarily to share his faith and love.

In honor of St.Patrick’s ministry and the role of Celtic Christianity in the history of our faith, I wanted to share today a poem traditionally attributed to Patrick. Whether he truly was the writer of these words or not, the poem is a powerful statement of trust in our Creator. Alister McGrath explains that the poem is an “example of a lorica or ‘breastplate’-a prayer or statement of faith to be recited for protection.”

With everything that has happened so far in 2020, we are definitely in need of protection.

All around us, people worry about the results of the fires that have just ended and the impact of the global outbreak of COVID-19. Even while the world churns in uncertainty, we can find peace in the presence of an all-powerful Creator.

“St.Patrick’s Breastplate” reminds us of the strength to be found in our faith. The descriptions of God’s character in Scripture assure us of His ability to protect us. If God is in control and has overcome the world, then why should we be afraid? In nature, we find painted plainly the promise of God’s provision. He who sustains the mountains, who calms the seas and counts the stars, also created us. The Lord has numbered the hairs on our head, so how could He not know our needs? Not only does He know our needs before we ask, but He is mighty to sustain us. Because the God of the universe loves us, we can escape the snares of fear.

So as you read the words of this poem, read them aloud. Let the prayer seep into your bones. These words are bold. Strong. They don’t shy away from the sources of fear, but instead, they name the sources and place those fears at the throne of God. With confidence, the poem claims God’s power over anything and everything that the reciter might face. Even in the midst of trials, the poet recognizes where his strength and courage reside. Our strength resides in Christ.

We arise today, and arise in strength, through the power of the Creator of Creation.

 

St.Patrick’s Breastplate, or The Deer’s Cry

“I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness, 
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today 
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with his baptism, 
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial, 
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension, 
Through the strength of his descent for the judgement of Doom. 
I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim, 
In obedience of angels, 
In the service of archangels, 
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward, 
In prayers of patriarchs, 
In predictions of prophets, 
In preaching of apostles, 
In faith of confessors, 
In innocence of holy virgins, 
In deeds of righteous men. 
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun, 
Radiance of moon, 
Splendor of fire, 
Speed of lightning, 
Swiftness of wind, 
Depth of sea, 
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock. 
I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s might to uphold me, 
God’s wisdom to guide me, 
God’s eye to look before me, 
God’s ear to hear me, 
God’s word to speak for me, 
God’s hand to guard me, 
God’s way to lie before me, 
God’s shield to protect me, 
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils, 
From temptations of vices, 
From everyone who shall wish me ill, 
Afar and anear, 
Alone and in multitude. 
I summon today all these powers between me and those evils, 
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul, 
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics, 
Against craft of idolatry, 
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards, 
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul. 
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning, 
Against drowning, against wounding, 
So that there may come to me abundance of reward. 
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, 
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, 
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise, 
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, 
Christ in every eye that sees me, 
Christ in every ear that hears me. 
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, 
Through a belief in threeness, 
Through a confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.” 

Sources:

“The Deer’s Cry.” Christian Literature Anthology, edited by Alister McGrath, Blackwell Publishers, 2001, pp. 134-136.

“Introduction.” Christian Literature Anthology, edited by Alister McGrath, Blackwell Publishers, 2001, pp. 121-125.

 

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