St. Patrick of Ireland

Below are two versions of the stunning poem known variously as “The Breastplate” or “Lorica” or “The Deer’s Cry,” which is ascribed to him:

This is the traditional text:

The Breastplate of 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, splendour 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 man who thinks of me,
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.

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.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.

It has been beautifully shaped into this hymn by Cecil F. Alexander:

I Bind Unto Myself Today

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 day to me forever, by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
His baptism in the Jordan River; His death on the cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced 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 the Cherubim;
The sweet “Well done” in judgement; the service of the Seraphim;
Confessors’ faith, apostles’ word, the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
All good deed done unto the Lord, And purity of virgin souls.

I bind unto myself today the virtues of the starlit heav’n,
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.

Christ be 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.
Of whom all nature hath creation; Eternal father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Amen.

Also see Patrick’s autobiography, The Confession of St. Patrick, and the Wikipedia article on Patrick.

Prayer and Sweat

Of course, besides recharging throughout the day and practicing “city Zen,” those more intense and concentrated times of refreshment are also vital. I went to a “prayer lodge” meeting on Saturday, led by a Native American shaman, Rev. Lakotahasie Frazier.

Hasie, as she is known to her friends, has adapted the traditional sweat lodge ceremony slightly for Westerners, and so that men and women can participate together. That said, its substance is still the same: prayer and sweat. It strikes me, that we’re creatures of prayer and sweat, spirit and matter.

Catholic spirituality is built upon the principle of sacramentality, the awareness that God is within, and working through the material of the world. The idea behind the sweat lodge is to return the favor to God–to give substance to our prayers, to bind them up with tobacco in bundles, to breathe them in through a pipe, to sweat our prayers as a purification and offering to God.

I think something that makes contemporary city life so sick is the lack of earthiness and loss of contact with nature. During the course of a day, how many things do we see, really see that are not man-made? What is God-made is largely obscured by buildings, walls, floors and doors. But much more is obscured by our concepts and perceptions.

I don’t often see my co-workers as gods and goddesses, images of the One. Something about the lodge helps me see a bit more clearly when I return to work.

City Zen Citizen

My teacher made the observation that citizen can be divided into city Zen. He stressed the importance of being able to find stillness within, not just in the special environments and times we occasionally set aside for that, such as retreats, but whenever we can in the everyday, workaday world.

Within the course of any given day, we are often subtly drained by the tides of negativity, wants, and fears, and we tend to regard this broken, depleted state as “normal.”

Far from being selfish, “city Zen” is necessary for being a true citizen of the Kingdom, anchored in truth, unswayed by circumstances, resentment, and gossip. It’s necessary to have peace to share peace, it’s necessary to have love to give love. It’s necessary to drink the living water to have abundant life that can be shared, or even to survive yourself.

I love this story from the Gospel of Thomas:

Jesus said: “Look at that man. He’s running circles trying to catch that lamb.”
His disciples said: “Yes, he’s going to kill it and eat it.”
Jesus said: “and of course, he can’t eat it until he catches it and kills it. . . You too, must find your place of repose, or else you will also be caught and devoured.”

Poems without words

My teacher told me to enter meditation as though writing a poem without words. That delighted me, because I’ve often sensed that what I write is not the actual poem, the words are just markers for the indescribable feeling or thought.

The Singing Sings the Singer

I sing songs of God
or so it seems to me.
Words and tunes and names have changed,
or so it seems to you.
Sunday-school rhymes, speaking in tongues,
Gregorian chants, Buddhist mantras,
and the words I string because I must.
 
I take what words I find
and use them though they're useless.
It's building rafts of pebbles,
and somehow sailing anyway.
 
Don't listen to the words,
Don't listen to the notes.
Before the words--
This!
Before the notes--each note--
This!
Do you see it?
Can you feel it?
It's all I am, and all you are.
 When my bones have turned to dust,
and the oceans sink in sand,
still This!
 
Just listen to the Singing
from which we are sung.

Nevertheless, if you want to share, words become unavoidable!

New page

I’ve created a new page for bad music videos I’ve got *five* different versions of “Maya Hee” there now, and a new one by a Japanese group called *Happatai* singing “Yatta!”. Yesterday, I had posted the Yatta clip here, but I think interpersing this high silliness in the middle of this blog might be disorienting to some visitors.

God, grace, Greece, ganglia, and tacos

While I was eating lunch at Taco Bell today, I began thinking about the custom of saying grace. It’s a wonderful custom, meant to bring divine awareness and blessing into the world, which is something very useful. It seems to me that the trend is just the opposite–for the world to invade sacred space. I’ve seen churches where no one thinks about saying grace even in their main fellowship meals.

But as I was eating my taco, savoring its taste, (and no, I didn’t say grace, either) I realized that the “blessings” we use are essentially ego-centric. The purpose of saying grace is to bless *our* food, *our* nourishment, *our* fellowship, yada, yada, yada. It not only reinforces the idea that God is “there”, but it very much reinforces the idea that “we” are here and “we” are important.

The Jewish idea of saying grace is far different–every traditional Jewish blessing begins, “Barukh Atah, Adonai, Eloheynu Melekh haOlam…” which means, *blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the Universe…” Blessings are directed to God, not funneled down upon ourselves. Besides blessings at meals, there are traditional blessings to God for almost every conceivable activity.

I thought briefly about how almost everything in pagan Greece was dedicated
to the gods–the performances of the tragedies and comedies of Greek theater were considered acts of worship, offerings to the gods, no matter how ribald, silly, or tragic, and going to the theater **was** going to church. Similarly, the Olympic Games were held to honor the gods–the festival of exploring the limits of the human body was an offering of sweat and celebration for the enjoyment of the divine Olympians.

Both Greek polytheism and Jewish monotheism had the idea that awareness of the divine should permeate all human life and activity.

I’m a panentheist–I believe that God both permeates and inconceivably transcends the Universe, or to put it another way, that God is the Ground of Being, and everything that has being, arises from this unmanifested Source. The Bible says we are the Body of Christ. We are his hands and feet, and everything else–although we do not believe it.

I wondered if instead asking God to bless my food for me, it might be more fitting for me to consciously dedicate all my actions to God, who is enjoying them not on Mount Olympus, but right here, in this body. When eating a taco, I’m his mouth, teeth, tongue and taste buds–I am the vehicle through which God enjoys salsa. If I drive home, I’m the vehicle through which God enjoys my vehicle. When I post an entry here, God enjoys blogging like a fool who thinks he knows something about God!

If I forgive someone, I’m the conduit of divine forgiveness. Jesus said, “if you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven, and if you do not forgive them, they aren’t” (Jn 20.23). Amazing the agony we’ve put into “interpreting” something so simple that our response to it should be “Duh!” (Or when we realize the privilege, “Wow!” Or “Frimmin’!“) God forgives when Jesus proclaims forgiveness. Or when any of us do. And Jesus said we are to follow him and realize the same union with the Father he had (Jn 17.22).

God created the Universe for his own enjoyment, and the Eternal One lives in space-time through us. What if this awareness–that God does through us, lives through us, works through us, was really the guiding prinicple of our lives?

How do we want God to work, to be? Do that. Do you want God to forgive? then forgive. Should Christ be respectable? St. Paul said that we shouldn’t unite his “members” with prostitutes. (1 Cor 6.15) Yep, we are *those* parts, too.

What if we’re the ganglia and nerves of God–the conduits of spiritual awareness and divine action here in the Matrix? What if we could get rid of the worry of being our “selves” and just be the embodied energy of God in the world? What if I could die to the burden of maintaining my “self” and become truly alive, a living space for God to be in?

Halfway through my taco, I offered its taste to the Infinite. He was enjoying it already.