Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Breast-plate of St. Patrick

The year is 433. The shoreline slowly materializes off the ship’s bow, emerging from a grey, cloudy shroud of fog. Verdant green bedecks craggy rocks where the Vantry River empties itself into the sea. Already a group of druids stands on the land to meet them with swords. St. Patrick and his companions are turned away, sent elsewhere to find entry into Ireland, a wild land of sorcery and violence, a land Patrick had escaped from a few years earlier. At sixteen he had been kidnapped by Irish marauders and sold into slavery for six years. During that time he worked as a shepherd, learning to speak the Celtic tongue and learning to talk to God throughout each treacherous day. Now he was returning voluntarily, charged by Pope St. Celestine I with carrying the message of Christ's redemptive power to the Irish people. Many dangers would ensue, culminating in a wizard's duel that, according to the details recorded in church history, would make Harry Potter seem relatively pallid. St. Patrick's victory through Christ over the demonic magic of Arch-Druid Lochru and his fellows resulted in the allowance of Christianity's message being proclaimed, and that message seems to have proved more compelling than that of the pagan druid's. What followed, according to tradition, was the composition by St. Patrick of one of my all-time favorite prayers, The Breast-plate of St. Patrick:

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession
of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ 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 Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour 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 secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose
my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of women [any witch] and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning, against drowning,
against wounding, so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height, 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 belief in the Threeness, through confession of the
Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

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