The Breastplate

1. I bind myself today to a strong virtue, an invocation of the Trinity.
I believe in a Threeness, with confession of an Oneness in the Creator of the Universe.

2.I bind myself today to the virtue of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
to the virtue of His crucifixion with His burial,
to the virtue of His resurrection with His ascension,
to the virtue of His coming to the Judgment of Doom.

3. I bind myself today to the virtue of ranks of Cherubim,
in obedience of Angels,
[in service of Archangels]
in hope of resurrection for reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs,
in preaching of Apostles,
in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins,
in deeds of righteous men.

4. I bind myself today to the virtue of Heaven,
In light of Sun,
In brightness of Snow
In splendour of Fire,
In speed of Lightning,
In swiftness of Wind,
In depth of Sea,
In stability of Earth,
In compactness of Rock.

5. I bind myself today to God’s Virtue 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 to 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 demons,
Against seductions of vices,
Against lusts of nature,
Against every one who wishes ill to me,
Afar and a near,
Alone and in a multitude.

6. So have I invoked all these virtues between me, [and these]
against every cruel, merciless power which may come against my body an my soul
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics,
against craft of idolatry,
against spells of women and smiths and druids,
against every knowledge that defiles men’s souls.

7. Christ to protect me today,
Against poison,
against burning,
against drowning,
against death-wound,
Until a multitude of rewards come to me!

8. Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me!
Christ below me,
Christ above me.
Christ at my right,
Christ at my left!
Christ in breadth,
Christ in length,
Christ in height!

9. Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me!

10. I bind myself today to a strong virtue, an invocation of the Trinity.
I believe in a Threeness with confession of a Oneness, in the Creator of [the Universe.]
Salvation is the Lord’s, salvation is the Lord’s, salvation is Christ’s
May Thy salvation, O Lord, be always with us.

Notes

The preface to this Hymn in the Book of Hymns states that it is written “in the time of Loeghaire, son of Niall.” It is definitely not composed by St. Patrick, but it clearly shows his faith. This hymn is written in a very ancient dialect of Irish.

Cecil Alexander created an metrical version of this song.

The key to understand this hymn is probably found in Hebrew 12 and 1 Corinthians 3. As a Christian, with a vivid sense of the reality of his privileges, he felt that he was brought into union with an innumerable company of angels, with the general assembly and the church of the first-born, with God, the Judge of all, with the spirits of righteous men made perfect and with Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant. Whatever evil might confront him – moral, intellectual or physical – originating from demonic powers and initiated by spells and incantations, Patrick found himself depending on the Creator God – the Ruler of everything.

The translation and the notes are taken from “The Epistles & Hymn of Saint Patrick” by Thomas Olden, Dublin 1876. The notes have been edited by me.

1. Atomring for ad-dom-ring; the verb adring is equivalent to alligo, “I bind to,” with the personal pronoun dom “me.” This expression seems to mean: “I connect myself with” or “I claim to have on my site.”

3. Inendgai noemingen Some translate this line with “The purity of the Holy Virgin.” However, the word is clearly plural. Neither St. Patrick nor Secundinus mention the “Holy Virgin” once – in clear contrast with the veneration of her now.

4. The Irish deified the powers of nature, as appears from the case of King Laeghaire, (Leary,) who, being taken prisoner in battle, “swore by the Sun and Moon, the Water and the Air, Day and Night, Sea and Land, that he would never demand the Borumean tribute again;” but having broken his promise, “the Sun and Wind killed him.” St. Patrick, as a Christian, claims to have them all on his site. “All things work together for good for them that love God.” All things were his.

5. The bible portrays the demons as real beings, servants of Satan, fallen angels. They are active behind the scenes of the powers in the world and are ready to seduce the minds of sinful men. St Patrick recognised the danger of these powers, and of their direct servants, the druids.

10. In the original, the last three lines are in Latin.