The Breastplate of St. Patrick

The Breastplate of St. Patrick

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I bind to myself to-day,
The strong power of the invocation of the Trinity:
The faith of the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the elements.

I bind to myself to-day,
The power of the Incarnation of Christ, with that of his Baptism,
The power of the Crucifixion with that of his Burial,
The power of the Resurrection, with the Ascension,
The power of the coming of the Sentence of Judgement.

I bind to myself to-day,
The power of the love of Seraphim,
In the obedience of Angels,
(In the service of Archangels,)
In the hope of Resurrection unto reward,
In the prayers of the noble Fathers,
In the predictions of the Prophets,
In the preaching of Apostles,
In the faith of Confessors,
In purity of Holy Virgins,

I bind to myself to-day,
The power of Heaven,
The light of the Sun,
(The whiteness of Snow,)
The force of Fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The velocity of Wind,
The depth of the Sea,
The stability of the Earth,
The hardness of Rocks.

I bind to myself to-day,
The Power of God to guide me,
The Might of God to uphold me,
The Wisdom of God to teach me,
The Eye of God to watch over me,
The Ear of God to hear me,
The Word of God to give me speech,
The Hand of God to protect me,
The Way of God to prevent me,
The Shield of God to shelter me,
The Host of God to defend me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the temptations of vices,
Against the (lusts) of nature,
Against every man who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
With few or with many.

I have set around me all these powers,
Against every hostile savage power
Directed against my body and my soul,
Against the incantations of false prophets,
Against the black laws of heathenism,
Against the false laws of heresy,
Against the deceits of idolatry,
Against the spells of women, and smiths and druids,
Against all knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me to-day
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wound,
That I may receive abundant reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me,
Christ behind me, Christ within me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ at my right, Christ at my left,
Christ in the fort,
Christ in the chariot-seat,
Christ in the mighty stern.

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks to me,
Christ in the eye of every man that sees me,
Christ in the ear of every man that hears me.

I bind to myself today,
The strong power of an invocation of the Trinity,
The faith of the Trinity in Unity
The Creator of the Elements.

Salvation is the Lord’s
Salvation is the Lord’s
Salvation is Christ’s
May thy salvation, Lord, be always with us!

Translation by James Henthorn Todd, St. Patrick, Apostle of Ireland: A Memoir of His Life and Mission (1864), 426–429.

Commentary by Alister McGrath:

This hymn sets out the richness and the depth of the Christian understanding of God. The hymn begins by surveying the vast panorama of the works of God in creation—one of the great themes of Celtic Christianity. The wonders of nature are reminders that God’s presence and power undergirds the world of nature.

The hymn then turns its attention to the work of God in redemption. It declares that the same God who created the world—the earth, the sea, the sun, moon and stars—acted in Jesus Christ to redeem us.

We are thus invited to reflect upon the history of Jesus Christ: his incarnation, baptism, death, resurrection, ascension and final coming on the last day. These powerful ideas do not displace the belief that God created the world, and may be discerned in its wonders; it supplements this, by focusing on another area of the power and activity of God. All these, Patrick affirms, are the actions of the same God who created us and redeems us through Jesus Christ.

Yet the hymn has not quite finished; there is another aspect of the activity and presence of God to be surveyed. Again, this is not to be seen as an alternative or substitute for what is already believed; it rounds off the full and authentic Christian vision of the character and power of God. The same God who called the universe into being and redeemed us through Jesus Christ is also the God who is present with here and now.

The hymn thus affirms that the one and the same God created the world, entered into our work and redeemed us in Christ, and is present as a living reality this present moment. No other account of the nature and activity of God is adequate to do justice to the Christian witness to God, and no other doctrine of God can therefore be thought of as “Christian.”

Excerpt from Alister McGrath, Glimpsing the Face of God: The Search for Meaning in the Universe (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), pp. 106–108.