St. Patrick’s Breastplate

Now that I have time…

Of all the beautiful Celtic prayers, one of my absolute favorites is St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Somewhere, I can’t remember precisely where, I found it in the form of an Anglican Rosary prayer. It ends up being a perfect meditation tool for me when used with my Anglican rosary.

In general, the Anglican Rosary is thirty-three beads plus a cross or crucifix. Five of the beads are usually a little larger than the other twenty-eight. The beads are arranged as shown here:

The Cruciforms, obviously, form a Cross. Usually, a prayer is said, similar to a Marian (Roman Catholic) rosary, grasping the cross or crucifix and each bead in turn. There is an adapted Marian prayer to the Anglican rosary – the familiar “Hail Mary, full of grace, pray for us sinners now and at the our of our death.” – but there are many other prayers, and more being written, I’m sure.

Most people simply use slightly smaller beads and/or beads of a different color to the Cruciforms for the “week” beads. I use four different colors, one for each week. They have special significance to me. Going clockwise from the cross/invitatory area: blue is for the medieval alchemical element of Air and is associated with the East and the Archangel Raphael; red is for Fire and is associated with the South and the Archangel Michael; green is for Water and is associated with the West and the Archangel Gabriel; and black or brown (or sometimes a very dark green) is for Earth and is associated with the North and the Archangel Uriel or Ariel.

Raphael is a messenger and companion, and is often considered the head of the guardian angels, since he was Tobias’ companion in the book of Tobit.

Michael is a warrior, and is considered to be the general of the armies of God. There are a few traditions I’ve heard of that consider Michael an alternate name for Jesus.

Gabriel is a herald, and occasionally associated with healing as well.

Uriel or Ariel is a guardian. He’s the one I always think of when I pray “Guide us waking, Lord, and guard us sleeping, that awake we may watch with Christ and asleep we may rest in peace.” He’s also associated with death, possibly as the one who guides souls where they’re supposed to go.

The Anglican rosary format of St. Patrick’s Breastplate fits these very well.

The Cross
I bind unto myself today 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.

The Invitatory
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.

The Cruciforms
I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.

The Weeks
1. I bind this day to me for ever, by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
2. his baptism in Jordan river;
3. his death on cross for my salvation;
4. his bursting from the spicèd tomb;
5. his riding up the heavenly way;
6. his coming at the day of doom:
7. I bind unto myself today.

1. I bind unto myself the power of the great love of cherubim;
2. the sweet “Well done” in judgment hour;
3. the service of the seraphim;
4. confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,
5. the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
6. all good deeds done unto the Lord,
7. and purity of virgin souls.

1. I bind unto myself today the virtues of the starlit heaven,
2. the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
3. the whiteness of the moon at even,
4. the flashing of the lightning free,
5. the whirling of the wind’s tempestuous shocks,
6. the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
7. around the old eternal rocks.

1. I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead,
2. his eye to watch, his might to stay,
3. his ear to hearken to my need;
4. the wisdom of my God to teach,
5. his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
6. the word of God to give me speech,
7. his heavenly host to be my guard.

To me, the last three weeks are especially well-fitting. The second week describes the life of the “Christian Soldier” and the basics of that life, sort of like a boot camp cheat sheet. The third week emphasizes nature, especially the last two phrases, “the deep salt sea around the old eternal rocks” and calls to mind waves crashing against cliffs.

The last week is the best-fitting of all, though. Uriel is the taciturn guardian of the underworld and guide of souls, both to their ultimate destinations and to wisdom.

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