Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

Saint Patrick did not write the the prayer known as Saint Patrick’s breastplate. It does have an Irish provenance, but it probably dates to the 8th century. The breastplate, or lorica, is a prayer for protection.

There are several versions of the prayer in circulation, but each has a similar structure. Portions of the prayer are personal and almost mystical, but other parts are historical and communal. I like that combination. The English translation repeats the phrase “I bind myself” throughout the prayer. The prayer begins and ends with what is essentially an affirmation of faith. The first and second stanzas are notably similar to the first and second stanzas of the evangelical creeds: trinitarian in structure, beginning with God the creator and following with a synopsis of Jesus’ story. In the third stanza, the author binds himself to the host of heaven and God’s people throughout the Biblical story. The fourth stanza looks at God’s visible power made visible in the natural world. The fifth proclaims God’s power to guide and protect the individual, while the sixth invokes that protection, especially against spiritual forces of wickedness.The seventh is the famous “Christ with me” passage,” affirming Christ’s beneficent presence in every place and circumstance – at home, on the road or on the sea. The final stanza repeats the first, affirming the speaker’s union with the triune God.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of the Invocation of the Trinity:
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the Incarnation of Christ with His Baptism,
The virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
The virtue of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
The virtue of His coming on the Judgement Day.

I bind to myself today
The virtue of the love of seraphim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the hope of resurrection unto reward,
In prayers of Patriarchs,
In predictions of Prophets,
In preaching of Apostles,
In faith of Confessors,
In purity of holy Virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I bind to myself today
The power of Heaven,
The light of the sun,
The brightness of the moon,
The splendour of fire,
The flashing of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of sea,
The stability of earth,
The compactness of rocks.

I bind to myself today
God’s Power to guide me,
God’s Might to uphold me,
God’s Wisdom to teach me,
God’s Eye to watch over me,
God’s Ear to hear me,
God’s Word to give me speech,
God’s Hand to guide me,
God’s Way to lie before me,
God’s Shield to shelter me,
God’s Host to secure me,
Against the snares of demons,
Against the seductions of vices,
Against the lusts of nature,
Against everyone who meditates injury to me,
Whether far or near,
Whether few or with many.

I invoke today all these virtues
Against every hostile merciless power
Which may assail 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 every knowledge that binds the soul of man.

Christ, protect me today
Against every poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against death-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 poop [deck],
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I bind to myself today
The strong virtue of an invocation of the Trinity,
I believe the Trinity in the Unity
The Creator of the Universe.