St Patrick’s Day

Saint Patrick is commemorated on 17 March.

Patrick was born in the north of Britain, possibly in the fifth century, into a Christian family. When he was sixteen he was captured and taken as a slave to Ireland. During this time his faith developed. After six years he escaped back to Britain. In a dream he heard the Irish people begging him to come back. He was reluctant but he went.

He travelled around teaching and baptizing but he was in constant danger from the non-Christians. He died at Saul, the site of his first church, near the mouth of the Slaney river.

By the seventh century various legends had grown up concerning him. The two most popular are that he is said to have driven the snakes out of Ireland and to have used the shamrock to illustrate the concept of the Trinity.

The hymn associated with St Patrick is called his Breastplate. This is a much shortened version of the original:

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 spiced tomb,
his riding up the heavenly way,
his coming at the day of doom,
I bind unto myself today.

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,
God’s eye to watch, God’s might to stay,
God’s ear to hearken to my need,
the wisdom of my God to teach,
God’s hand to guide, God’s shield to ward,
the word of God to give me speech,
God’s heavenly host to be my guard.

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 has creation,
eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
salvation is of Christ the Lord!

NEH 159