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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Deer’s Song: Lorica of St. Patrick

A few years ago, I attempted a translation on the Breastplate of St. Patrick. In this latest attempt, I want to stir a sense of both the spiritual battle as well the power of the Creed that is part of the very structure of this great prayer. Indeed, there are even hints of the Eastern liturgies of Egypt that live in this prayer if a soul is attentive enough to pick them up. Scholars and translators of this text probably have greater insight into such things and I must admit having to indulge in a little dynamic equivalence that a true translator might find extremely imprecise. But I think there is a certain accuracy captured below. Indeed, I do not know how to better bring out the full sense of this ancient text in a way that would evoke the confidence and courage it did for those who first prayed it. But we certainly need the faith they had all those centuries ago renewed today in us. Indeed, to arise, to stand and to bind is language that speaks of a pledge to fight unto death. And so our faith is a spiritual battle and we must stand with courage against fear and anxiety and anything else that would threaten our love for one another or for God. At the same time, these words also convey that one girds, one clads, one arrays oneself with strength and power for the fight. God Himself has given us the power of the Holy Spirit, the fortitude that comes from Him, and through Him, all the wonders of creation stand with those who stand with God. It is said that St. Patrick offered this prayer with his brethren as they walked into an ambush. His enemies were prepared to kill him and his comrades. Yet he was somehow invisible to his would be assailants. Indeed, all they saw was a few deer walking across a meadow and their evil designs were not realized. If true, the story is not surprising - I have heard many stories of missionaries being delivered in miraculous ways. The Gospel of Christ is always a threat to the status quo and to those who fear losing their power. So, they try to silence it. But a new power that evil cannot overcome is unleashed - the same Power that holds together Creation is poured out for the salvation of those who will cry out to Christ.

Over thirty years ago, my spiritual director gave me a small part of this prayer. Later, I discovered songs written based on a much longer text. This Lorica is a frequent part of my daily prayer. In a special way, I ask you to pray this Deer's Song in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Ireland, England and France - all places that were part of St. Patrick's pilgrimage of faith -- for their safety and protection during these days of great trial. I arise clad for battle today in That Mighty Power of the Name of the Trinity: Believing in the Three-ness, Holding fast the One-ness Creator of Heaven and Earth. This day I array myself with The power of Christ’s Birth and Baptism; The power of his Crucifixion and Burial; The power of His Resurrection and Ascension; The Power of His coming to Judge on judgment day. I stand this day By virtue of the Seraphim’s devotion, By angels’ obedience, By resurrection’s hope unto reward, By Patriarchs’ prayers By Prophets’ word of power, By Apostles’ preaching By Confessors’ faith, By Holy Virgins’ purity, By righteous men’s deeds. I gird myself this day With heaven’s might, With sun’s light, With moon’s shine, With fire’s glow, With lightning flash, With wind swift, With sea deep, With land stable, With rock solid. Today, I rise for battle withGod's Power guiding me, God's Might upholding me, God's Wisdom teaching me, God's Eye watching over me, God's Ear hearing me, God's Word giving me speech, God's Hand guiding me, God's Way stretching before me, God's Shield sheltering me, God's terrible Army protecting me, Against demon’s snares Against vicious seductions Against nature’s lusts Against everyone who meditates injury to me, Whether far or near, Whether few or many. I invoke today all these powers Against every hostile merciless force Which may assail my body and my soul, Against the false seer’s enchantments, Against paganism’s dark laws, Against heresy’s false standards, Against idolatry’s deceits, Against spells of witches, and smiths, and druids, Against every knowledge that binds the soul of man. Christ, protect me today Against every poison, against burning, Against drowning, against death-wound, That I may receive abundant reward. Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ within me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ at my right, Christ at my left, Christ keeping the defense, Christ setting the course, Christ giving the orders, Christ in every heart that thinks of me, Christ in every mouth that speaks to me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me. Today I bind unto myself Mighty Power: The Name of the Trinity: Believing in the Threeness, Holding Fast the Oneness Of all Creation’s Creator. Dominus est salus, Domini est salus, Christi est salus; Salus tua, Domine, sit semper nobiscum.

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