Monthly Archives: March 2014

St. Patrick’s Prayer

We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, the day of Patrick’s death in 461 CE. It is believed that St. Patrick was born around 385 CE and was taken to Ireland as a young man. In 432 CE, he returned to Ireland to serve as Bishop for almost thirty years.

ShamrockAccording to tradition, Patrick used the three leaves of the shamrock to teach the Irish about the Trinity.

The “Breast Plate Prayer” is attributed to St. Patrick. Its reminder that Christ is ever present is helpful on this day and all others.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.

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.

Frail Children of Dust, and Feeble as Frail

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, said, “There is no greater disaster in the spiritual life than to be immersed in unreality.”

Perhaps the greatest unreality we face is the denial of our mortality. Often, we act to prolong life at all costs, to seek security in things that prop up this life, and to eschew reminders of our death.

AshAsh Wednesday is one of the church’s great reminders of reality. At our church, we gather for Ash Wednesday worship, and participants receive on their foreheads ashes in the form of a cross. They hear the words, “From dust you have come, and to dust you will return.” There is no unreality here.

On Ash Wednesday, we begin Lent with a reminder of the reality of our mortality. In remembering that we will die, we also are called to remember God who is the source of our life.

There are two important lessons taught in bearing the ashes on our foreheads.

First, you are to remember that you are dust. You will die. You are frail, you have limits, you are sinful, and there are things that you cannot fix. Remembering that you are frail calls you to seek the mercy of God. You are dust!

Second, you are to remember that you are dust – dust that is beloved by God, enlivened by God, forgiven and redeemed by God. So, live into the places and ways that you sense God calling you. The ashes we receive on our foreheads are not simply a smudge; they are in the shape of the cross, which reminds us of God’s love and creative power. Remember, you are dust that is beloved by God!

This lesson of our dustiness was lived well by Sir Robert Grant, a British man born in India in 1779 as the son of the director of the East India Company. After graduating from Oxford, Grant was admitted to the bar at age 28 and elected to Parliament at 29. His life was shaped by his Christian faith, and despite his impressive pedigree and credentials, Grant always remembered the plight of those less fortunate. In Parliament, he worked to protect Jews in England. He returned to India to work with the East India Company and eventually became governor. As governor, he implemented social reforms to ease the effects of crushing poverty for many people. Following his death, Grant’s name was given to one of the oldest medical colleges in India.

Throughout his life, Grant wrote poetry and hymns. His best known hymn still is sung in many churches, and it is included in our church’s hymnal. It is “O Worship the King,” which begins,
O Worship the King all glorious above
and gratefully sing His power and His love;
Our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise.

Grant’s words in the hymn also speak to our condition as dusty creatures, which we remember on Ash Wednesday:

Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail:
Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

Grant recognized and lived the promise of Ash Wednesday. We are dust – and to dust we will return. But, we are dust that is beloved of God – invited to receive God’s love and called to share that love with others.