Happy Saint Patrick's Day! Now arm yourselves!


I love St Patrick's Day, not because I love green beer, parades, or even corned beef, but because it reminds me of the great prayer attributed to the saint who drove the snakes (and the pagans?) out of Ireland. You probably know a hymn called St Patrick's Breastplate, but did you know that the hymn was not itself written by the saint, but is based on an ancient prayer attributed to the patron of Ireland?

It is sometimes called the Lorica, a word which means “breastplate,” i.e., literally a piece of armor that protects a combatant's chest, also called a cuirass. Roman soldiers wore a lorica segmentata as part of their battle armor. In the Christian era, the term lorica also came to mean a prayer of protection — no doubt with reference to the armor of faith that St Paul in the sixth chapter of his epistle to the Ephesians says will allow the believer “to stand before the wiles of the devil”:

"Roman soldier in lorica segmentata 1-cropped" by This image has been retouched by Medium69.Cette image a été retouchée par Medium69. - Self-published work by Medium69. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Roman_soldier_in_lorica_segmentata_1-cropped.jpg#/media/File:Roman_soldier_in_lorica_segmentata_1-cropped.jpg
Re-enactor dressed as
Roman soldier in lorica segmentata
[B]e strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,
and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace;
above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.
And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints … (Ephesians 6: 10-18, RSV-CE)
The Lorica of St Patrick is such a prayer, one that should be familiar to every Christian. (It is a great way to start the day.)
Before it was a popular hymn, St Patrick's
Breastplate was a powerful prayer of protection.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the judgment of Doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of heathenry,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.
If you’d like to know more about other great Celtic saints, check out my review of Andrew Seddon’s second edition of Saints Alive!, Celtic Paths.
©2015 Lisa A. Nicholas

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