Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me

St. Patrick’s Day is Saturday–a day to honor all missionaries, including the missionaries to the European tribes (like St. Patrick to the Irish, St. Boniface to the Germans, St. Augustine to the English, etc.).  (Those of us of European descent need to remember that our ancestors too were tribal pagan peoples who were brought to faith through missionaries.)

To mark the day and what St. Patrick taught, I offer you a poem/hymn/prayer attributed to him, “St. Patrick’s Breastplate.”  (Some people question the attribution, saying it was written in the 9th century, not the 5th, when St. Patrick was alive.  But the form of the work reflects a Druid incantation for protection, and I’m pretty sure the Druids were gone by the 9th century, whereas they were the ones St. Patrick converted.)

At any rate, this is a wonderful meditation.  (The link will play the haunting melody that hymnwriters have given it.)

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.

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.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

via St. Patrick’s Breastplate.

HT:  Zach Simmons

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Pete

    Wow.

  • Pete

    Wow.

  • Booklover

    Love this one. We used this as one of our first copybook assignments when I homeschooled. The shorter version.

    Can you tell us more about Gaelic? The woman who translated this did a lovely job.

  • Booklover

    Love this one. We used this as one of our first copybook assignments when I homeschooled. The shorter version.

    Can you tell us more about Gaelic? The woman who translated this did a lovely job.

  • SKPeterson

    Issues, Etc. has a wonderful hymn study discussing the hymn, St. Patrick, and the milieu in which it was written featuring the inimitable Pr. Wil Weedon. It can be found on iTunes.

  • SKPeterson

    Issues, Etc. has a wonderful hymn study discussing the hymn, St. Patrick, and the milieu in which it was written featuring the inimitable Pr. Wil Weedon. It can be found on iTunes.

  • Jonathan

    Thanks for posting this.
    In our chapter of the St. Thomas More Society, we end our meetings by praying the second-to-last stanza.

  • Jonathan

    Thanks for posting this.
    In our chapter of the St. Thomas More Society, we end our meetings by praying the second-to-last stanza.

  • Arfies

    I loved the little note that the words might be challenging to sing without seeing them connected to the notes. I find it difficult even when that connection is made–but there’s no question that this hymn is a masterpiece!

  • Arfies

    I loved the little note that the words might be challenging to sing without seeing them connected to the notes. I find it difficult even when that connection is made–but there’s no question that this hymn is a masterpiece!

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    Patrick, Boniface, Augustine, good Lutherans all.

  • http://gslcnm.com Pastor Spomer

    Patrick, Boniface, Augustine, good Lutherans all.

  • Helen K.

    I love it!

  • Helen K.

    I love it!

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