October 5, 2013

I Bind Unto Myself This Day (St. Patrick's Breastplate)

Christ Behind Me, Christ Before Me

I Bind Unto Myself This Day is a translation of the ancient Gael­ic po­em, St. Pat­rick’s Breast­plate, also known as St. Patrick's Lorica (the word 'lorica', is Latin for armour). Attributed to the famous 5th century Irish Missionary and Bishop, St. Patrick; the oldest written copy is an 8th century manuscript included in the collection, Liber Hymnorum. Scholars have noted that it is similar in style to a Druidic incantation for protection on a journey. St. Patrick is therefore utilizing a form of prayer that the Irish people of his time would have understood to invoke the Christian's 'spiritual lorica': the armour of God that St. Paul speaks of in Ephesians 6:10-17: "Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness." (v.14). In 1889, working from existing prose translations in English, the Irish hymn-writer and poet, Mrs. Ce­cil Francis Al­ex­an­der (1818-1895) penned I Bind Unto Myself This Day. Her husband, William Alexander was a Bishop in the Church of Ireland. In 1902, the Irish composer Charles V. Stan­ford (1852-1924) arranged the piece by adapting two traditional Irish folk tunes: St. Patrick and Deirdre (note the change in melody for verse #8 below).

Choir Version (Verses: 1-5, 8-9)

ST. PATRICK’S BREASTPLATE translated by Ce­cil F. Al­ex­an­der, 1889 (Public Domain)

1. I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

2. I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in 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.

3. I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of 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.

4. I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

8. 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.

9. 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.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Instrumental Version (Organ)

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