Saturday, March 17, 2018

This Week on the Celtic Calendar - St. Patrick and the Tradition of the Lorica

Today is St. Patrick's Day and while some may be celebrating bedecked in shamrocks with a green beer in hand, for me this is the start of the season where I turn to St. Patrick's Lorica as my morning meditation. 

A lorica, from the Latin word for body armor, is a prayer or blessing for protection.  Often said in the morning or before the start of a journey, a lorica wasn’t recited as much to invoke the Spirit, which is always present, rather to remind the one praying of the presence of the Holy that is always with us.  When these types of prayers were said  it was customary for those praying to stand and draw a circle around themselves with their index finger to symbolize the encompassing power of protection they were  invoking.

The hymn, “Be Thou My Vision,” is based on an old Irish lorica, and has been translated into these words of song:

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Be all else naught to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
Both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
Be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord;
Be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
Be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Be thou my whole armor, be thou my true might;
Be thou my soul's shelter, be thou my strong tower:
O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.
Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise:
Be thou mine inheritance now and always;
Be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of Heaven, my treasure thou art.
High King of Heaven, thou Heaven's bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won!;
Great heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

While some loricae are simple invocations, others, such as the Lorica of St. Fursey and the Breastplate of Laidcenn, go through an inventory of the body, asking for protection from head to toe, inside and out.

The Lorica of St. Fursey
The arms of God be around my shoulders
The touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,
The sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead,
The sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,
The fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils,
The vision of heaven’s company in my eyes,
The conversation of heaven’s company on my lips,
The work of God’s church in my hands,
The service of God and the neighbour in my feet,
A home for God in my heart,
And to God, the Father of all, my entire being.

The Breastplate of Laidcenn
O God, defend me everywhere
With your impregnable power and protection.
Deliver all my mortal limbs,
Guarding each with your protective shield,
So the foul demons shall not hurl their darts
Into my side, as is their wont.

Deliver my skull, hair-covered head, and eyes,
Mouth, tongue, teeth, and nostrils,
Neck, breast, side, and limbs,
Joints, fat, and two hands.

Be a helmet of safety to my head,
To my crown covered with hair,
To my forehead, eyes, and triform brain,
To snout, lip, face, and temple.

To my chin, beard, eyebrows, ears,
Chaps, cheeks, septum, nostrils,
Pupils, irises, eyelids, and the like,
To gums, breath, jaws, gullet.

Protect my spine and ribs and their joints,
Back, ridge, and sinews with their bones;
Protect my skin and blood with kidneys,
The area of the buttocks, nates with thighs.
Protect my hams, calves, femurs,
Houghs and knees with knee-joints;
Protect my ankles and shins and heels,
Shanks, feet with their soles.

Protect my toes growing together,
With the tips of the toes and twice five nails;
Protect my breast, collarbone and small breast,
Nipples, stomach, and navel.

Protect the whole of me with my five senses,
Together with the ten created orifices,
So that from soles of feet to crown of head
I shall not sicken in any organ inside or out.

The most well-known lorica today is the Breastplate of Saint Patrick, or The Deer’s Cry. While most
likely written by someone other than Patrick (calling on the strength of Heaven as demonstrated in the natural world  probably would have smacked a little too much of the pre-Christian druidic and bardic prayers for Paddy to be comfortable with), it serves as a good compass to point us back to the spiritual legacy of the saint.

THE CRY OF THE DEER  (Fáed Fíada  - St. Patrick)
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.

I arise today through the strength of Christ 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 the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance 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 secure me:
against snares of devils,                                                             
 against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature,                                                           
against everyone who shall wish me ill,                                                     
afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.
I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my 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 endangers man's body and soul.

Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning, against drowning,
against wounding, so that there may come 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 in breadth, Christ in length,  Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every one who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of every one 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.

To read more about Patrick, in his own words, his Confession can be read here.

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