The Lorica of Saint Patrick
The Lorica of Saint Patrick has been a favorite prayer of mine for quite some time now. It is simple, elegant, beautiful, and a bit quirky sometimes, but it resonates with my soul. The prayer has a disputed history. Legend says Patrick voiced this prayer before meeting with King Leogaire as preparation for bringing the gospel to Ireland. More recent scholarship dates the prayer centuries after Patrick. It has many names: “The Deer’s Cry,” “The Lorica of St. Patrick,” “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” and as a hymn under the title “I Bind Unto Myself Today.”
The prayer has been on my mind lately, but even more so as I spent time meditating on the third chapter of Galatians. As I read Paul write about being clothed with Christ, I could think of no better explanation of that metaphor than Patrick’s prayer. This phrase has nothing to do with anything resembling body snatching, The Tommyknockers, or shape shifting, but everything to do with the identity shift that comes from following Christ. Patrick knew this well when he prayed:
Christ be with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ below me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the hearts of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of whomever speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
This simple yet precise language explicates the idea of being clothed with Christ. As one clothed in Christ, who we are is redefined by who Christ is to the extent that when we are seen, heard, thought of, and exist, we do so surrounded, covered, and permeated by the presence of Jesus. It becomes impossible to be perceived without also having Christ seen and recognized. Everything we do, say—and even our very existence—becomes tied to the actions, words, and existence of Jesus. Or as Athanasius is attributed to saying, “For the Son of God became human so that we might become God.” Or, if that doesn’t sit right with you, as Paul said, “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:19-20).
May Christ surround us, cover us, guide us, work through us, and be so united with us that the difference between us and Christ be imperceptible to the rest of the world.