I am not Irish. Not even a little. But I live in the Archdiocese of New York, and our patron saint is Saint Patrick. Therefore I am going to make bold to offer two prayers for Saint Patrick’s day.
The first is an old favorite of mine: Saint Patrick’s Breastplate. I like this version because it evokes both the glories of the faith of Christians and trials that beset us. This is good dark age poetry, yet it takes but little to update it to the horrors of modern life, mutatis mutandis.
I must admit, I have been especially conscious of the frailty of flesh and of our mortality this week. The disaster in Japan, one that continues to unfold in such horrific detail, is a vivid reminder of the limits of human control over the natural environment and over our own life span and how we shall be called to spend it. The way our days are apportioned on this earth is less predictable and secure than we like to think.
As it happens, there was also a fatal bus accident only a few miles from me during the past week, in which many people died or were critically injured. Finally, a dear friend of mine has entered another stage of cancer therapy, realizing with style and grace that although no one knows the day or the hour, this round of treatment will be her last. “I bind unto myself today, the strong Name of the Trinity.”
Second, I am pleased to share with you a lovely, gentle Celtic prayer: “May the Blessing of Light Be Upon You.” This prayer is also well known evidently, though it was new to me. It too acknowledges mortality, but does it so sweetly that I feel consoled as I read it, and I would like to share that sense of consolation with you. How splendid that it should depict us as “light-bearers” who, by taking in light become light to guide the way for other wayfarers. I am reminded of the gift of our baptism, and the light of Christ that shines brightly if we let it.
Blessings for Saint Patrick’s day, everyone!
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 day to me for ever.
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in the 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 the 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 starlit 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 and 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,
Of Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.
MAY THE BLESSING OF LIGHT BE UPON YOU
L: May the blessing of light be upon you:
May you have light outside you, and light within you.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you
and warm your heart till it glows like a great fire,
so that all, whether stranger or friend,
may come and warm themselves at it.
And may light shine out of your eyes
like a candle in the window of a house,
welcoming the wanderer in out of the storm.
All: May the blessing of the light be upon us! Amen!
L: May the blessing of the rain be upon you –
the blessing of the soft sweet rain:
may it fall on your spirit,
so that all the little flowers may spring up
and shed their sweetness on the air.
And may the blessing of the great rains be upon you:
may they beat upon your spirit
and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there a shining pool
where the blue of heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.
All: May the blessing of the rain be upon us! Amen!
L: May the blessing of the earth be upon you –
the great round earth.
May you ever have a kindly greeting for those you pass
as you’re going along the roads.
May the earth be soft under you when you rest on it,
tired at the end of the day.
And may it rest easy over you when,
at the last, you lay out under it;
may it rest so lightly over you,
that your soul may be out from under it quickly,
and up, and off, and on its way to God.
All: May the blessing of the earth be upon us! Amen!