The Lorica

A lōrīca in the Latin world was armor, often the breastplate. As Christianity grew in the Roman empire, a lorica increasingly referred to a protective prayer, often recited as the soldier equipped and strapped on his armor. Celtic Christianity, which I’m noting today on St. Patrick’s Day, especially continued this tradition, and I list three loricas below.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me

A few things stand out from these prayers for protection. First, these prayers within the Protestant, Reformed tradition are noted for their reference to the Triune Lord, and not angels or saints (as most loricae were). Second, the prayers are very tactile and sensory; no Gnosticism here, they drip and hum from living in the Creator’s world. Third, notice how ancient these prayers are; our piety did not begin in the 1950’s, or at the Reformation. As Belgic Confession article 27 reminds us, the Church of Christ has existed from “the beginning of the world.” Fourth, there is an unmistakable desire for holiness and sanctity. Whether it is heavenly conversation (no Gaelic filth here!), or desires aligned by Divine power and vision, these prayers are not talismans of power, but instruments for sanctification. Especially in what would become “Be Thou My Vision,” there is an obvious (albeit unnamed) understanding of our union with Christ.

Fifth, I would concede there is something lacking in the piety of these prayers. I believe that what is lacking is an emphasis (certainly not the absence) of the Cross, and the Spirit’s power to make us cruciform, to make us Christ-like. It might be a quibble, or it might be a matter of emphasis, but the prayers of something like The Valley of Vision or Rutherford’s letters show (in my opinion) a maturation of piety.

Without further ado, three prayers of protection:

Lorica of St. Fursey (c. 650)
The arms of God be around my shoulders
The touch of the Holy Spirit upon my head,
The sign of Christ’s cross upon my forehead,
The sound of the Holy Spirit in my ears,
The fragrance of the Holy Spirit in my nostrils,
The vision of heaven’s company in my eyes,
The conversation of heaven’s company on my lips,
The work of God’s church in my hands,
The service of God and my neighbor in my feet,
A home for God in my heart,
And to God, the Father of all, my entire being.

Lorica of St. Patrick (c. 377)
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
…Continue reading →

Lorica of Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride (c. 6th C)
You’ll recognize this lorica as the basis of the beloved hymn, “Be Thou My Vision”

Irish Gaelic text:
English text:
1. Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride.
1. Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart.
Ní ní nech aile, acht ri secht nime.
None other is aught but the King of the seven heavens.
2. Rob tu mo scrutain i llo ’san-aidche.
2. Be thou my meditation by day and night;
Rop tu atcheur im cotlad caidhce.
May it be thou that I behold ever in my sleep.
3. Rob tu mo labhradh, rob tu mo tuicsi,
3. Be thou my speech, be thou my understanding,
Rob tusa damsa, rob misi duitsi.
Be thou with me, be I with thee.
4. Rob tusa m’ athair, rob me do mac-sa.
4. Be thou my father, be I thy son.
Rob tusa lemsa, rob misi latsa.
Mayst thou be mine, may I be thine.
5. Rob tu mo cathsciath, rob tu mo cloidem.
5. Be thou my battle-shield, be thou my sword,
Rob tusa m’ ordan, rob tusa m’ airer.
Be thou my dignity, be thou my delight.
6. Rob tu mo didiu rob tu mo daingen.
6. Be thou my shelter, be thou my stronghold.
Rob tu romtogba a n-aontaig aingel.
Mayst thou raise me up to the company of the angels.
7. Rob tu gach maithus dom curp, dom anmain.
7. Be thou every good to my body and soul.
Rob tu mo flaithus a nim occus i talmain.
Be thou my kingdom in heaven and on earth.
8. Rob tusa t’ oinar sainṡerc mo cridhe.
8. Be thou solely chief love of my heart.
Ni rob nech aile, a airdrig nime.
Let there be none other, O high King of Heaven.
9. Co talla orm rondul it lama
9. Till I am able to pass (?) into thy hands,
Mo cuid, mo cuisle ar med do grada.
My treasure, my beloved, through the greatness of thy love.
10. Rob tusa at’ aonar m'[ḟ]erann uais ammra
10. Be thou alone my noble and wondrous estate.
Ni cuinngim doine na maine marba.
I seek not men, nor lifeless wealth.
11. Rob tusa dinsir cech selb, cech saoghal;
11. Be thou the constant guardian of every possession and every life (?).
Mar marb ar mbrenadh art fegad t’ aonar.
For our corrupt desires are dead at the mere sight of thee.
12. Do serc am anmiun, do grad im craidhe
12. Thy love in my soul and in my heart—
Tabuir dam amlaidh, a ri secht nime.
Grant this to me, O King of the seven heavens.
13. A ri secht nime, tabair dam amlaidh
13. O King of the seven heavens grant me this—
Do gradh im cride, do serc im anmain.
Thy love to be in my heart and in my soul.
14. Ac righ na n-uile ris iar mbuaid leire
14. With the King of all with (?) Him after victory won by piety
Robeo i flaith nime, a gile grene.
May I be in the kingdom of heaven, O brightness of the sun.
15. Athair inmain, cluin, cluin mo nuallsa.
15. Beloved Father, hear, hear my lamentation;
Mithig monuarán lasin truagan truaghsa.
Timely is the cry of woe of this miserable wretch.
16. A cride mo cridhe, cipead dommaire,
16. O heart of my heart, whate'er befall me,
A flaith na n-uile, rob tu mo boile.
O ruler of all, be thou my vision.

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