Category Archives: saints

Height and depth in a prayer song.

In “The Deer’s Cry,” or “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” it is the saint’s prayer that Christ would be in the heart of “everyone who thinks of me.” Amen! Dear Father Patrick, your prayer has been for me the height and depth of encouragement over the last years, as it leads me straight to Christ Who is the Source of all courage and hope and strength. Because of it and flowing from it, you are in my mind and my heart, and so is He.

I did write before about this prayer when I first started to memorize and to sing it in the form of a hymn composed by Charles Villiers Stanford, using two traditional Irish tunes. The poetry was written in 1899 by Cecil Frances Alexander and is based upon a translation of the ancient Irish by Whitley Stokes.

Thanks be to God, this saint and prayer belong to all Christians (although, interesting fact, he has never been canonized by a pope). Patrick was a witness and missionary for Christ centuries before church unity was broken. You might like to read what one Orthodox site says about him: St. Patrick the Bishop of Armagh and Enlightener of Ireland.

The lyrics as I have sung them at least a thousand times are those of the hymn known as “I Bind Unto Myself Today.” One can find on YouTube many renditions of this one sung beautifully by choirs such as the Kings College Choir, and many of them are cluttered with distracting and even, to my mind, inappropriate images. This is one of the better ones. Because the choir’s sung version is abbreviated, I am posting the entire text.

Only now do I notice two verses that I’d never seen before, and which I am glad to know Alexander included in her poem, as they are definitely part of the ancient prayer as it’s come down to us, and they round out the expression of our need for God’s help in every area of life. Though we moderns might not worry about the kind of “poisoned shaft” St. Patrick knew, that phrase and other vivid images are good metaphors for realities we do face, and for attacks from without and within.

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 for ever,
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 the 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 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,
Among 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.

This morning I spent a little more time working on the version of this ancient and rich prayer that is my current stream of grace: Lisa Kelly singing “The Deer’s Cry”. Soon I will have learned it “by heart.” But CHRIST in ME — that is my prayer.

St Benedict

Our Father James knows quite a bit about St. Benedict of Nursia, founder of western monasticism. Once on this saint’s feast day day our rector asked Fr. James to “say a few words” about the man behind the Benedictine Rule. He said he thinks of him as a link between the East and West before they split. St. Benedict referred to St. Basil as his father, and his rule is very Eastern in content.

One anecdote: Benedict was known for his piety, so some monks asked him to be the abbot of their monastery. The level of asceticism he expected of them was found to be more than they bargained for, and they put poison in his wine glass. When he blessed the food the glass shattered.

St. Benedict is commemorated March 14.

 

He started off by fasting.

“… Adam chose the treason of the serpent, the originator of evil, in preference to God’s commandment and counsel, and broke the decreed fast. Instead of eternal life he received death and instead of the place of unsullied joy he received this sinful place full of passions and misfortunes, or rather, he was sentenced to Hades and nether darkness. Our nature would have stayed in the infernal regions below the lurking places of the serpent who initially beguiled it, had not Christ come. He started off by fasting (cf. Mk. 1:13) and in the end abolished the serpent’s tyranny, set us free and brought us back to life.”

— St. Gregory Palamas, The Homilies Vol. II

Patience, with pebbles and a saint.

I have very much enjoyed reading about St. Raphael of Brooklyn whom we commemorate today on the anniversary of his repose in 1915. He was born in Beirut where his parents had fled, because of persecution of Christians in their home city of Damascus, and he spent most of his life going where he was most needed, mostly Russia and America. It is astounding how much he accomplished in his zeal to care for his flock. He was the first Orthodox bishop to be ordained in America, in 1904, and Tsar Nicholas II gifted the new bishop’s vestments.

In those days all the Orthodox in America were together under one heirarch: “There were no parallel jurisdictions based on nationality. The Church united those of diverse backgrounds under the omophorion of the Russian Archbishop. This was the norm until the Russian Revolution disrupted church life in Russia, and also in America.” oca.org

Today is the first day since I returned from India that I feel normal again. While the traveling itself felt easy enough in the 33 hours of moments, the recovery has been a process requiring patience! It took me a week to get to church, and it was a joy to be back there. My goddaughter Mary seems to have grown a lot in two months, in size and maturity. She hadn’t forgotten me. 🙂 And I had one of those experiences I’ve described before, where for about ten minutes the sun shines through a window of the dome at the perfect angle to warm my face and head, and blind me to everything but the candles before the altar, which shine like stars in my momentary darkness.

Saturday I got to see both Pippin and Soldier!! That comforted my heart that was in mourning from the separation from Kate and her family, to whom I had grown so attached in all those weeks of living with them. Some of us spent happy hours on a windy beach that was perfect for the weather because instead of sand it was composed of little pebbles that did not blow into your eyes or stick to your food or skin. We examined hundreds of of the tiniest stones, pieces of white shell or green sea glass, and whole grey-blue mussel shells.

Ivy loves climbing the way her mother also has done from a young age, and these rocks were perfect for scrambling up, and then jumping down into the sand.

It feels cold here in sunny California, compared to winter in smoggy Bombay. I guess I didn’t stay long enough for winter to pass me by altogether; I’m glad I have a woodstove. I did go out in the garden a couple of times and see that in the midst of the chilling wind and dormant gray and brown, many little things are budding and even blooming. Quite a few of them are pink, like the native currants:

If Winter will bring rain, as it’s done today, I’ll welcome it to stay months longer. But perhaps Spring could bring some rain, and let Winter say good-bye?