Green Beer, Shamrock Shakes, and the Holy Trinity

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that today is Saint Patrick’s day, and like Saint David’s Day for the Welsh, Saint George’s Day for the English, or Saint Andrew’s Day for the Scots, it is the day on which we celebrate all things Irish. However, somewhere amid all the swilling of green beer, shamrock shakes, and parades I’m hoping to hear  Saint Patrick’s Breastplate. People think of Saint Patrick as a strictly Irish saint, patron of New York City, or even a strictly Roman Catholic saint, but he’s an important saint in the Orthodox Church as he comes from a time of a truly Catholic Church.

Here’s my favorite telling of Saint Patrick’s story:

There are many more like this, and I highly recommend looking up “Give Up Yer Aul Sins” on Youtube.

I sometimes feel like the Trinity gets short shrift, but there is one day a year, aside from Trinity Sunday, that I usually get to hear something of the Holy Trinity. Saint Patrick’s Breastplate, or Lorica, is a prayer of protection, which invokes the Trinity. Some of the things that I love about Saint Patrick’s Breastplate are the inculturation of a Celtic idiom in to Christian tradition, and the bookends that confess the Trinity. The shamrock is also a representation of the Trinity: three in one and one in three.

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate

I arise today
Through the mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth 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 Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet the reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor 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 guide me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and near,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft and idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me 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 when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
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 the almighty strength, the invocation of the trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
of the creator of creation.

Saint Patrick’s Breastplate somehow reminds me of a creed, with the stanza about Christ. It especially reminds me of the Athenasian Creed. Many people have a problem understanding the concept of the Trinity. Call me odd, but I’ve always found the Athenasian Creed, or Quicunque vult, to be the simplest and best explanation of there is.

Quicunque vult

Whosoever would be saved needeth before all things to hold fast to the catholic faith.
Which faith except a man keep hole and undefiled, without doubt he will perish eternally.Now the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity;
Neither confusing the Persons, nor dividing the substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost;
But the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is all one: the glory equal the majesty co-eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and Such the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, the Holy Ghost uncreated;
The Father infinite, the Son infinite, the Holy Ghost infinite;
The Father eternal, the Son eternal, the Holy Ghost eternal.
And yet there are not three eternals, but one eternal.
Also there are not three uncreated, nor three infinites, but one infinite, and one uncreated.
So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, the Holy Ghost almighty;
And yet there are not three almightys, but one almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son God, the Holy Ghost God;
And yet there are not three Gods, but one God.
So the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, the Holy Ghost Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to confess each Person by himself to be both God and Lord;
So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to speak of three Gods or three Lords.
The Father is made of none, nor created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone: not made nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Ghost is of the Father and the Son: not made nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
There is therefore one Father not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity there is no before or after: no greater or less;
But all three persons are co-eternal together, and co-equal.
So that in the ways aforesaid, both the Trinity is to be worshiped in Unity and the Unity in Trinity.
He therefore that would be saved let him thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore it is necessary to eternal salvation that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is both God and man.
HE is God of the substance of the Father, begotten before all worlds: and he is man, of the substance of his Mother, born in this world;
Perfect God: perfect man, of reasoning soul and human flesh subsisting;
Equal to the Father as touching Godhead: less than the Father as touching his manhood.
Who although he be God and man, yet he is not two but one Christ;
One however not by conversion of Godhead into flesh: but by taking manhood into God;
One altogether: not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.
For as reasoning soul and flesh is one man: so God and man is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again from the dead;
Ascended into heaven, sat down at the right hand of the Father: from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
At whose coming all men must rise again with their bodies: and shall give account of their own deeds.
and they that have done good will go into life eternal: they that have done evil into eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith, which except a man do faithfully and steadfastly believe, he cannot be saved.
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end.

St Patrick’s Breastplate


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