March 17 is the date the Church has set aside to commemorate St. Patrick, the bishop who brought the Christian faith to Ireland in the fifth century. This year, March 17 falls on the Third Sunday in Lent. Because Lent is a privileged season, the individual Sundays in Lent outrank other feasts and commemorations that might coincide. As a result, FLC will celebrate the Third Sunday in Lent on March 17, rather than the Feast of St. Patrick. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still honor the commemoration of this very important saint in the history of the Church. The standard way to commemorate a feast within the liturgy of a higher-class feast is to pray a second collect after the Collect for the Day. So, after the Collect for the Third Sunday in Lent, Pastor Dutzmann will pray the Collect for St. Patrick.
We will also commemorate St. Patrick on March 17 by singing his brilliant hymn, “I Bind Unto Myself This Day” (LSB 604). This hymn is also called “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” or “The Lorica of St. Patrick.” A lorica is a repetitive prayer for protection in the form of a hymn, similar to a litany. The entire text of St. Patrick’s hymn is worthy of reading. The sturdy tune to which we sing the hymn reflects the seriousness of the subject matter, which deals with Lenten themes of spiritual warfare, faith, and deliverance, and the certainty of God’s protection in such times of adversity.
One poignant section of St. Patrick’s Lorica was unfortunately omitted from Lutheran Service Book:
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 who love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.
This section, in which the repetitive nature of the lorica is especially evident, is traditionally sung to a different hymn tune than the rest of the hymn and is inserted between stanzas 4 and 5. This Sunday the choir will sing this section of the lorica in its proper place (the FLC choir at 8am and a children’s choir at 11am).
St. Patrick’s Breastplate is one of Christendom’s strongest hymns, confessing the Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity, the omnipotence of Christ, and the certainty of salvation. Its reflection on spiritual warfare is especially appropriate during the first three Sundays of Lent, the Gospels for each of which deal heavily with demons. For the sake of the opportunity to sing this hymn, it is especially felicitous that March 17 frequently falls within this period of the liturgical year. We sing this hymn at least three times each year: on the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, and on the Sunday nearest the Feast of St. Patrick, and it often is requested at baptisms at other times of the year as well.