The last practice from Joyce Rupp that I am observing this holy season is repeating the “lorica,” a Celtic prayer attributed to St. Patrick, invoked for protection and mindfulness. Last week on St. Patrick’s Day my inbox was filled with images and versions of that prayer, in calligraphy, icon and song. I knew that I was going to pray it myself this week, so I enjoyed the diversity of forms that were shared. From the extended prayer, I especially like these parts:
I arise today with the strength of God to comfort me, the might of God to uphold me, the wisdom of God to guide me…
Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ with me, Christ within me, Christ around me, Christ about me, Christ on my left, Christ on my right…Christ in the heart of everyone that thinks of me, Christ in each mouth that speaks of me, Christ in each eye that sees me, Christ in each one that hears me.
The cadence and the tempo of the prayer ground me in my present moment, who I am right now, and from whence my help comes. But the image of a lorica is an armored breastplate–from medieval times, metal, sturdy impenetrable. Whether it is too remote by centuries or location or I am not a military type, I don’t find that image helpful. Nor, as I looked through books of painting and sculptures of Christ at the end of his life, did I find one that represented the sense on presence and protection that the lorica gives me. Then I remembered that for several decades I have always carried with me a postcard of Rembrandt’s “Christ in the Storm.” The painting was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum many years ago, but before it was stolen, I was able to see it hanging there. The painting is huge, impressive, compelling. From the first glance I was captivated by it–the contrast of light and dark, the characters of fear and confusion, and in half-light down toward the right of the painting is Jesus asleep in the boat. The image of the sleeping, yet powerful Christ, stays with me, especially when my own “rough seas” seem to be gigantic and overwhelming. No matter what, I can trust the One who is at rest because he knows that all will be well, and at the right moment, he will rise and say, “Peace, be still,” to the madness, the wreckage, the terror that swirls around me, that swirls in our systems of work and connection, that swirls in the chaotic world.
So in these last days of Lent and Holy Week, I wake each morning saying the words of the Lorica, keeping in the eye of my heart the Christ whose knowledge and power and grace will bring all things to wholeness in the fullness of time.
May Christ guard me today from poison and fire, from drowning and wounding, so my mission may bear fruit in abundance.
I prefer my image of Jesus from Rembrandt to the art in this youtube from the Celtic Women, but the song with the words helps me in my planting myself at peace with Jesus in the boat. May each of you have holy days of trust and peace despite the raging of the storm and the roiling of the waters!