|Scott Erickson St Patrick (2011) by kind permission of the artist|
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.
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 hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
St Patrick's Breastplate
Psalm 97:1-2,7-12 or
"We had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts."
There is an irony in the fact that this passage from Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians should be appointed for St Patrick's Day. Far from Patrick meeting "opposition" today, he has been almost wholly commandeered by nationalistic, commercial and cultural causes whose aim precisely is "to please mortals' and which, not infrequently, spring from "impure motives". A google image search provides copious confirmation of this.
Yet to those who have ears to hear past this popular din, Patrick the disciple of Christ still speaks powerfully across the centuries. At the request of an Irish Anglican priest, the most familiar English versification of his 'Breastplate' -- in Gaelic Lorca -- was made in just a few days by Mrs Cecil Frances Alexander, more famous as the author of 'Once in Royal David's City'. Scholars say that the Gaelic text probably does not date from the time of Patrick (c. 387-460 AD), but however this may be, its spirit unquestionably reflects what we know of him -- and brings alive each year his faith in the sentence that ends the Gospel for the day -- "Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age".