The Lorica of Saint Patrick

My great grandparents came from the west of Ireland at the end of the nineteenth century and ended up in Chesterfield in Derbyshire. The family story is that they lived, along with many other Irish immigrants, in Brown’s Yard and that great-gran was a laundry woman. Somewhere (I can’t find it right now) there is a picture of this powerful, well-built woman. Although she was born in England my grandmother considered herself Irish and it was from her I learnt the faith.

My Irish forebears were reversing the journey made by St Patrick. I have always loved the Lorica, St Patrick’s breastplate, in its full version (as found in the English Hymnal). The strong sense of the spiritual combat permeates the whole prayer but also the wonderful, dynamic relationship of the Trinity which is alive and powerful.

The Lorica makes a lovely little liturgy all by itself. The addition of readings, in this booklet I suggest either Ephesians 6 (the breastplate of righteousness) or Deuteronomy 6 (the Sh’ma) and that lovely verse from Hosea “I will betroth me unto thee for ever” seems to work really well.

I have used this booklet of the Lorica as a morning liturgy on retreat with parishioners and have strong memories of standing in the grounds of Llangasty Retreat House with friends from St Andrew’s, Earlsfield singing it in the morning sun. My other memory of it is on a blustery, rainy day on Dartmoor with a group of pupils from Trinity, singing it with rain blowing into my face and the booklet disintegrating in my hands. It is a bracing outdoor prayer for a stormy day.

Lorica booklet in PDF format.

 

Most hymn books omit sections of the Lorica which is a shame. For those of us who live the spiritual conflict on a daily basis (isn’t that everyone?) – it’s a powerful prayer.

I have been trying to type set a version using Saint Meinrad fonts:

Lorica 1

Lorica 2

Lorica 3

Lorica 4

From Cyberhymnal: “The lyr­ics are a trans­la­tion of a Gael­ic po­em called “St. Pat­rick’s Lor­i­ca,” or breast­plate. (A “lorica” was a mys­tic­al gar­ment that was sup­posed to pro­tect the wear­er from dan­ger and ill­ness, and guar­an­tee ent­ry in­to Hea­ven.) Ce­cil Alex­an­der penned these words at the re­quest of H. H. Dick­in­son, Dean of the Cha­pel Roy­al at Dub­lin Cas­tle. I wrote to her sug­gest­ing that she should fill a gap in our Irish Church Hymn­al by giv­ing us a me­tric­al ver­sion of St. Patrick’s “Lor­i­ca” and I sent her a care­ful­ly col­lat­ed co­py of the best prose trans­la­tions of it. With­in a week she sent me that ex­qui­site­ly beau­ti­ful as well as faith­ful ver­sion which ap­pears in the ap­pend­ix to our Church Hymn­al. This hymn can be a chall­enge to sing with­out see­ing the words matched to the notes, but it is a mas­ter­piece ne­ver­the­less.”

The text:

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 today to me forever

By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;

His baptism in Jordan river,

His death on Cross for my salvation;

His bursting from the spicèd tomb,

His riding up the heavenly way,

His coming at the day of doom

I bind unto myself today.

 

I bind unto myself the power

Of the great love of cherubim;

The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,

The service of the seraphim,

Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,

The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,

All good deeds done unto the Lord

And purity of virgin souls.

 

I bind unto myself today

The virtues of the star lit 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.

 

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.

 

Against the demon snares of sin,

The vice that gives temptation force,

The natural lusts that war within,

The hostile men that mar my course;

Or few or many, far or nigh,

In every place and in all hours,

Against their fierce hostility

I bind to me these holy powers.

 

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,

Against false words of heresy,

Against the knowledge that defiles,

Against the heart’s idolatry,

Against the wizard’s evil craft,

Against the death wound and the burning,

The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,

Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

 

Scripture Reading:

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. Eph. 6:10-18

Or:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

Dt. 6: 4-9

 

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.

 

Scripture Reading:

I will betroth thee unto me for ever;
yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness,
and in judgment, and in loving kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness:
and thou shalt know the LORD.
Hosea 2:19

 

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.

By 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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