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Commemoration of St. Patrick, Bishop and Evangelist

March 17th, 2012
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As an Irishman, on my father’s side, I’m very pleased to celebrate Saint Patrick’s day as the day to honor the one who was instrumental in bringing the Gospel to my ancestoral people and home. Here from “Crosstalk.com” is the real story of Saint Patrick:

If you ask people who Saint Patrick was, you’re likely to hear that he was an Irishman who chased the snakes out of Ireland. It may surprise you to learn that the real Saint Patrick was not actually Irish-yet his robust faith changed the Emerald Isle forever. Patrick was born in Roman Britain to a middle-class family in about A.D. 390. When Patrick was a teenager, marauding Irish raiders attacked his home. Patrick was captured, taken to Ireland, and sold to an Irish king, who put him to work as a shepherd. In his excellent book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, Thomas Cahill describes the life Patrick lived. Cahill writes, “The work of such slave-shepherds was bitterly isolated, months at a time spent alone in the hills.” Patrick had been raised in a Christian home, but he didn’t really believe in God. But now-hungry, lonely, frightened, and bitterly cold-Patrick began seeking out a relationship with his heavenly Father. As he wrote in his Confessions, “I would pray constantly during the daylight hours” and “the love of God . . . surrounded me more and more.” Six years after his capture, God spoke to Patrick in a dream, saying, “Your hungers are rewarded. You are going home. Look-your ship is ready.” What a startling command! If he obeyed, Patrick would become a fugitive slave, constantly in danger of capture and punishment. But he did obey-and God protected him. The young slave walked nearly two hundred miles to the Irish coast. There he boarded a waiting ship and traveled back to Britain and his family. But, as you might expect, Patrick was a different person now, and the restless young man could not settle back into his old life. Eventually, Patrick recognized that God was calling him to enter a monastery. In time, he was ordained as a priest, then as a bishop. Finally-thirty years after God had led Patrick away from Ireland-He called him back to the Emerald Isle as a missionary. The Irish of the fifth century were a pagan, violent, and barbaric people. Human sacrifice was commonplace. Patrick understood the danger and wrote: “I am ready to be murdered, betrayed, enslaved-whatever may come my way.” Cahill notes that Patrick’s love for the Irish “shines through his writings . . . He [worried] constantly for his people, not just for their spiritual but for their physical welfare.” Through Patrick, God converted thousands. Cahill writes, “Only this former slave had the right instincts to impart to the Irish a New Story, one that made sense of all their old stories and brought them a peace they had never known before.” Because of Patrick, a warrior people “lay down the swords of battle, flung away the knives of sacrifice, and cast away the chains of slavery.” As it is with many Christian holidays, Saint Patrick’s Day has lost much of its original meaning. Instead of settling for parades, cardboard leprechauns, and “the wearing of the green,” we ought to recover our Christian heritage, celebrate the great evangelist, and teach our kids about this Christian hero. Saint Patrick didn’t chase the snakes out of Ireland, as many believe. Instead, the Lord used him to bring into Ireland a sturdy faith in the one true God-and to forever transform the Irish people.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate

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 today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit 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,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

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.

By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord
(public domain)

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  1. March 17th, 2010 at 08:07 | #1

    I’m about as Irish as the man in the moon, but we engineers claim him as our patron saint.

    You’re welcome to hear this hymn performed on Time Out tomorrow. Kantor Beethe did a great job on the organ. :)

    Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Pastor.

  2. Michael Sullivan
    March 17th, 2010 at 09:32 | #2

    Erin go Bragh!

    I always loved this prayer, especially the version that adds: “Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me, Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.”

    However, I have always wondered how exactly to understand the phrase “I bind to myself. . .” especially when it refers to “All good deeds done unto the Lord. And purity of virgin souls” and the the forces of nature. Any thoughts on this?

  3. Steve
    March 17th, 2010 at 10:56 | #3

    A pastor, now retired, from my old church would use a part of St. Patrick’s breastplate as a blessing after a person is baptized. For the longest time, I didn’t realize that this is from St. Patrick.

    “Christ be with you, Christ within you,
    Christ behind you, Christ before you,
    Christ beside you, Christ to win you,
    Christ to comfort and restore you.”

  4. Rev. David (O’Beirne) Sidwell
    March 17th, 2010 at 13:27 | #4

    My church can sing “I Bind Unto Myself Today” with vigor and passion– full of Welsh and Irish voices– When we finish the hymn I am in tears with emotion — so Irish– Luther must have been at least a little Celtic to give us a singing church!

    • March 17th, 2010 at 14:22 | #5

      Glad to hear somebody, somewhere, can sing that dreadful tune! Egads, is it terrible. LSB 604 is a nightmare to sing.

  5. March 17th, 2010 at 15:48 | #6

    A Scots-Irish descendant of Clan Cahill, I couldn’t agree more. Fascinatingly researched story. I may be incorrect, but I think Cahill’s previous book was How Scotland Saved Civilization, or something along that. If this book is anywhere near as compelling as cited here, I’ll definitely search for it. I’d say he’s on target. “Only this former slave had the right instincts to impart to the Irish a New Story, one that made sense of all their old stories and brought them a peace they had never known before.”

  6. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    March 19th, 2010 at 05:10 | #7

    Hmm. I was adopted and raised by an Irish-American family, which means RC, shanty on one side, lace curtain on the other (which terms I will not explain as none is necessary for those who know and none are sufficient for those who do not).

    I was raised to regard the day as a holy day of obligation and stand apart from the distinctly un-Irish secular Americanisation of the holiday. Later, on studying Irish history and culture because I didn’t know yet what mine was (Angle) I read that the day should be a day of mourning for one of the many losses of Irishness to the violence of foreigners in a Druid land with a Druid tune, to borrow from Yeats.

    These days I am quite content, though legally saddled with an Irish surname, to let 17 March be 17 March, period.

  7. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    March 19th, 2010 at 05:24 | #8

    PS. As to no snakes, that is because God never put them there. What is now Ireland was under a glacier for most of history, and like other island land masses that emerged in the “thaw” has no native snakes (New Zealand and Hawaii for example) and no land bridges to places that do have them, but unlike the others does have pious legends, read folk myth, as to why this is so, as unconnected to reality as all this St Patrixk’s Day stuff.

    And you know guys, neither the Irish nor the Scots saved civilisation, the Benedictines did! Learned that right from them, and would a monk lie?

  8. Bob Gruener
    March 16th, 2011 at 10:58 | #9

    @Michael Sullivan

    When I read, “bind myself,” I think, “embrace”. As a paraphrase, at least, it resonates.

  9. Rev. Steve Bagnall
    March 17th, 2011 at 10:24 | #10

    There is a measure of truth to the fable that Patrick chased the snakes from Ireland. The word he proclaimed drove the old Serpent Satan from the hearts of the people and made that stronghold of the devil a Christian land. Sort of like, “Depart you unclean spirit and give way to the Holy Spirit.”

  10. Rev. Michael Penikis
    March 17th, 2011 at 14:57 | #11

    @ Rev. Bagnall,
    I was going to make a similar point. Perhaps we could call this a figurative way of describing the results of Patrick’s work in Ireland. “Myth” and “fable” tend to translate as “fiction” in most people’s minds, unfortunately.

    As for “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” it’s one of my favorite hymns. (I have a lot of favorites, but this is in my Top Ten.) Sure the tune is challenging, and it is Victorian-era, but I don’t think it’s dreadful. There does seem to be a bit of a Lutheran connection to the tune. Charles Stanford did his Master’s studies in Leipzig and Berlin (1874-76), and conducted the London Bach Choir (1885-1902).

    I do agree that the music for part of the hymn is dreadful; but it’s for “Christ be with me, etc.” (original stanza 8), which is omitted in LSB and LW. Usually it’s set to a tune called DIERDRE, which lacks the robust Celtic character of the main tune. Others have successfully used other LMD tunes. (BTW, our hymnals list “St. Patrick’s Breastplate” as “Irregular Meter” when really it’s basically LMD with some slight variation.)

    The prayer in its original Old Irish starts “Atomriug indiu,” and English versions translate it as “I arise today” or “I go forth today.” Cecil Alexander’s paraphrase, “I bind unto myself today,” refers to the prayer’s use as a “breastplate” or “lorica.” It asks the Triune God to use His power and His creation to protect the supplicant. It has been likened to St. Paul’s admonition to “put on the full armor of God.” How do you put on a breastplate or other body armor? You BIND it to yourself.

    Cecil Alexander was an accomplished hymnwriter in her own right. Among her best known texts are “Once in Royal David’s City,” “Jesus Calls Us O’er the Tumult,” “There Is a Green Hill Far Away,” and “All Things Bright and Beautiful.”

    Sorry for the longish post (esp. a first-timer), and thank you, Brother McCain, for passing along the true story of St. Patrick. It is one I like to tell, and well worth telling.

    • March 17th, 2011 at 15:00 | #12

      Great comment! Thanks for the great information. Since I use this post every year for St. Patrick’s day, your comment will now be traveling along with it.

  11. Rev. Michael Penikis
    March 17th, 2011 at 15:02 | #13

    Also: Thank you for posting Mrs. Alexander’s original wording in stanza 2.4. “His death on Cross” — no need to mess with that fine word-picture (contra LSB 604)! (And why did LSB remove original st. 4? That decision will always irk me.)

  12. Jonathan Trost
    March 17th, 2012 at 07:14 | #14

    Thanks for that informative post, Pastor!

    I, too, am Irish-American, for my mother’s mother, as the song goes, “came across the sea from Ireland”. (She was, however, very “Orange” and Presbyterian from County Anrim, Ulster.)

    When JFK was elected, many U.S. newspapers and other media referred to him as “America’s first Irish-American President”. They meant to say, or should have said, however, “first R.C. Irish-American President”.

    In fact, of America’s 44 Presidents, exactly one-half have had Irish ancestry. Of those 22, only one (JFK) was Roman Catholic. All of the other 21 Irish-American U.S. Presidents were from Protestant roots.

  13. Laurie Trlak
    March 17th, 2012 at 07:38 | #15

    My ancestors on my father’s side were from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland, Scotch-Irish and Protestant, but because of his role in bringing the Gospel to Ireland, I am proud to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day.

  14. March 17th, 2012 at 10:22 | #16

    Steve’s comment is now two years old, but I’d like to thank him for it (and you, Pr. McCain, for “renewing” it here). I have a baptism tomorrow morning and the baby’s mother is quite connected to her Irish heritage – I think they might appreciate a bit of the breastplate as a blessing!

  15. Neely Owen
    March 18th, 2012 at 10:06 | #17

    Having been kidnapped as a youth from Roman Britain, many fail to recognize that the area he was taken from was the Welsh coast. This part of Great Britain was quite civilized at the time as it was under Roman domination — one of three Roman legions (6,000 soldiers) in the British Isles was stationed at Caerlon, just north east of the modern capital of Cardiff. When the Romans abandoned the British Isles, it was the Welsh who fought to protect their native lands against the invasion of the Angles and the Saxons. I am quite happy on each St. Patrick’s day to join in the celebration of the world’s most famous Welshman, who did so much to bring the Word of God and His salvation to my Celtic brothers — the Irish.

  16. March 30th, 2012 at 08:03 | #18

    A Byzantine Style Icon of an Irish saint on a Lutheran blog. awesome.

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