St Patrick’s Breastplate – with added architectural history

As a treat for St Patrick’s Day, here’s the CBSO Chorus singing what one of the greatest hymns of all time: St Patrick’s Breastplate.

The video itself is put together rather better than many YouTube videos of this type, and features an interesting slideshow of interior and exterior photographs of St Patrick’s (RC) Cathedral in Armagh, including its original, pre-Vatican II configuration; a mercifully brief glimpse of its “brutal” reordering in 1982 (with an “altar” that looks like a cross between a radio antenna and a pagan fertility symbol); and its current, “re-interpreted and restored” ordering in 2003 under Cardinal Brady. The pictures of the “re-reordered” cathedral provide, perhaps, a visual depiction of “the reform of the reform” – even if the 2003 changes were not a return to the original High Altar shown earlier in the video.

The only disappointment with the music is that the CBSO Chorus don’t sing all nine verses. For those of you playing at home, however, the full version follows:

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 the 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 judgement 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 starlit 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.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

Amen.

Ascribed to St Patrick, tr. Mrs C.F. Alexander. Based on the text here, corrected against Hymns Ancient and Modern Revised. 

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