Christ with me…
The Lorica of Saint Patrick (St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer)
Christ with me…
Today we come to the most famous stanza of the Breastplate Prayer. These 15 lines are often used by themselves and they offer a powerful reminder of God’s continual presence in our lives. Let us take a moment to pray this segment together, slowly, line by line, breathing deeply between each line.
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.
How do you feel?
For some, this may be a comforting prayer knowing that Christ is truly present in us and around us at every turn. For others, it may be a bit unsettling. We don’t mind going to God’s house for a weekly visit, but do we really want God hanging out in our house? It’s one thing to clean things up for an occasional guest, but we can’t keep everything straight all the time. What if Jesus sees how I really live? What will he say about the mess in the house of my life?
“Christ with me…”
Honestly, this is a summary of the next 14 lines. We could simply pray, “Christ with me” and everything that follows would already be implied. But there is a reason the writer broke it out in such detail. So rather than glossing over these feelings, whether comforting or worrisome, let’s take some time to really unpack each line and what it looks like for Christ to be present in all these ways.
It’s such a small and seemingly insignificant preposition, easy to read past without much thought. We see the word “with” and we immediately know there is a connection between two or more things or people. “I would like mashed potatoes with gravy” or “She is with her mom”. We wouldn’t bother taking time to analyze the meaning of such statements. It simply means that the two things or two people are together. We get it. Move on.
But what does it really mean for you to be “with” someone?
Am I “with” my daughter when she is watching a favorite show while I am on the couch reading? Well, yes… sort of. Are we “with” our friends when we are all sitting around the table at a restaurant on our phones while barely speaking to one another? Again, yes… sort of.
Technically we are with each other because we are “together” in the same place. If someone asked where I was, I would say I was in the living room with my daughter. If asked what we did last night, we might say we were out with some friends. And these would be honest answers.
But were we really “with” them? Physically, yes. But being together physically in the same space is not the same as being present with one another. In our world of constant distractions, being fully present in any moment is not easy. There are a million concerns that turn our thoughts away from whatever we are doing and whoever we are with in a given moment. We are not even good at being present in conversations because we tend to think more about what we are going to say or do next than about what the other person is actually saying.
And so when we pray, “Christ with me”, here is the question?
Are we simply aware that Christ is with us because, as the Psalmist writes, there is nowhere we can hide from God’s presence (Psalm 139:7-12)? Do we just live our lives with the Spirit hanging out in the same room without acknowledging Christ’s presence or do we live fully present “with” Christ who by the Spirit, chooses to be fully present “with” us?
Is the thought of Christ being “with you” more comforting or discomforting and why? Is the feeling different in different times, places or situations? Are there some places in your life you would rather Christ was not “with” you?
Reflect on a time when you knew God was “with you” but you were not fully present “with” God.
What steps will you take this week to be fully present “with” Christ?
Our journey through St. Patrick's Breastplate Prayer continues next week:
Christ before me,
Christ behind me…