Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beyond Breastplates

Anima Christi was my favorite prayer as a little boy, about second or third grade, the one I always turned to after receiving Communion.

Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632- 1687), an Italian (Florentine) composer in the court of King Louis XIV, composed a petit motet for three sopranos and basso continuo under this name, and musicians such as Giovanni Valentini performed it.

Anima Christi, sanctifica me.
    Soul of Christ, sanctify me.
Corpus Christi, salva me.
    Body of Christ, save me.
Sanguis Christi, inebria me.
    Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Aqua lateris Christi, lava me.
    Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passio Christi, conforta me.
    Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O bone Jesu, exaudi me.
    O good Jesus, hear me.
Intra tua vulnera absconde me.
    Within Thy wounds hide me.
Ne permittas me separari a te.
    Separated from Thee let me never be.
Ab hoste maligno defende me.
    From the malicious enemy defend me.
In hora mortis meae voca me.
    In the hour of my death call me.
Et iube me venire ad te.
    And bid me come unto Thee.
Ut cum Sanctis tuis laudem te.
    That with thy saints I may praise Thee.
In saecula saeculorum. Amen.
    Forever and ever. Amen.

I cannot be certain, but it appears to have been inspired by part of an ancient Gaelic prayer known as the Faeth Fiada, or the Lorica (Breastplate) of Saint Patrick. When Christendom College has its annual Saint Patrick's Day celebration, for all the good clean fun kind of ruckus that ensues, it is preceded by the proclamation of this poem (followed in short order, naturally, by the “Forógra na Poblachta” or 1916 Proclamation of Irish Independence). I have seen many versions. The following appears to be the longest.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through 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 of Doom.

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 with 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 guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
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 of 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 everyone 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.

I don't think I'll be hitting the bars tonight. After all, "Sal" will be out with the girls, probably singing "Danny Boy" in Tagalog on the karaoke machine. But without her running interference, I can't keep the lasses from begging me to dance with them. So I may stay home and have a slice of that corned beef brisket, touched off with sauerkraut out of a can. (Obviously still a bachelor at heart.) Oh, and I'll watch Braveheart. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Scalia (aka The Anchoress) calls attention to a poetic version of the prayer, which would be very easy to memorize.

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.


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