“Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness (Ephesians 6:14).”
As this Holy Feast Day of Saint Patrick occurs during the Liturgical Season of Lent- a time set aside for robust prayer- it is fitting to post the beloved and powerful Lorica, or St. Patrick’s Breastplate Prayer. The original text of this prayer dates to the 5th century and is attributed to St. Patrick. According to tradition, St. Patrick wrote it in 433 A.D. in supplication for Divine protection before his successful conversion of the Irish King Leoghaire and his subjects from paganism to Christianity.
Throughout Sacred Scripture the image of the breastplate of armor is used to not only to convey the might and power of God, but also to call to men to emulate that same righteous strength within their humanity by wrapping themselves in the Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Love. The Lorica of St. Patrick magnificently inter-weaves both the praise of the Divine might and a human supplication for the requisite strength to replicate it in battle.
The inspiration for the Breastplate of St. Patrick can thus be found in Sacred Scripture:
In Isaiah 59:17, the Omnipotence of God is depicted: “He put on righteousness like a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle.”
Again in Wisdom (5: 17-19) we read: “The Lord will take his zeal as his whole armor, and will arm all creation to repel his enemies; he will put on righteousness as a breastplate, and wear impartial justice as a helmet; he will take holiness as an invincible shield.”
Likewise, man is exhorted to “Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness,” in Ephesians 6: 14. Again in Thessalonians (5: 8), we are called to clothe ourselves in the Theological Virtues, “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation, “ that we might belong to Christ.
My favorite version of this prayer was penned by Cecil Francis Alexander in the year 1889 at the request of H.H. Dickenson, the Dean of the Chapel Royal at Dublin Castle. This current version has been set to music and is cherished by the faithful of many Christian denominations. May the beautiful words of this prayer touch your heart as deeply as they do mine, when I pray this each and every day.
Lorica of St. Patrick: Faeth Fiada
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 forever.
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.
Blessed St. Patrick’s Day to you and yours,
Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit!
Ad Jesum per Mariam,