Archive for the ‘St. Patrick’ Tag

My Favorite Hymn   5 comments

I Bind Unto Myself Today

Above:  The First Two Pages of “I Bind Unto Myself Today” from The Hymnal (1918)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

You might have a favorite hymn, O reader.  I have one:  “I Bind Unto Myself Today,” with original words attributed to St. Patrick (372-466) and the English translation by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895), wife of the Anglican Archbishop of Armagh.  I recall growing up in rural United Methodist congregations in southern Georgia, U.S.A.  Some of these churches considered gospel songs from the 1920s old.  How about a text which goes back the 400s in its original language?  Yes, I have a fine sense of history.  “I Bind Unto Myself Today” spans seven verses and four pages in the Episcopal Hymnal (1918) and seven verses and three pages in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982.  One of the better choices the recent hymnal committee for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) made was to include this hymn (in six verses on three pages) in Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013).


Above:  The First Page of “I Bind Unto Myself Today” from Glory to God:  The Presbyterian Hymnal (2013)

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The hymn appeals to my preference for wordy, theologically dense texts, as opposed to spirituals and “seven-eleven” songs with few, frequently repeated words.  I could nitpick the text, but why?

I bind unto myself today the strong name of the Trinity,

by invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three.


I bind this day to me for ever,

by power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;

his baptism in the Jordan river;

his death on cross for my salvation;

his bursting from the spiced tomb;

his riding up the heavenly way;

his coming at the day of doom:

I bind unto myself today.


I bind unto myself the power

of the great love of cherubim;

the sweet “Well done” in judgment hour;

the service of the seraphim;

confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,

the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophet’s scrolls;

all good deeds done unto the Lord,

and purity of virgin souls.


I bind unto myself today

the virtues of the starlit heaven,

the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,

the whiteness of the moon at even,

the flashing of the lightning free,

the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,

the stable earth, the deep salt sea,

around the old eternal rocks.


I bind unto myself today

the power of God to hold and lead,

his eye to watch, his might to stay,

his ear to hearken to my need;

the wisdom of my God to teach,

his hand to guide, his shield to ward;

the word of God to give me speech,

his heavenly host to be my guard.


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.

Is the hymn not glorious?








God Heals   1 comment

Above:  Raphael the Archangel, According to Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617-1682)


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Tobit 3:1-11, 15c-17 (Revised English Bible):

In deep distress I groaned and wept aloud, and as I groaned I prayed:

O Lord, you are just and all your ways are merciful and true; you are the Judge of the world.  Now bear me in mind, Lord, and look upon me.  Do not punish me for the sins and errors which I and my fathers have committed.  We have sinned against you and disobeyed your commandments, and you have given us up to the despoiler, to captivity and death, until we have become a proverb and a byword; we are taunted by all the nations among whom you have scattered us.  I acknowledge the justice of your many judgements, the due penalty for our sins, for we have not carried out your commandments or lived in true obedience before you.  And now deal with me as you will.  Command that my life be taken away from me so that I may be removed from the face of the earth and turned to dust.  I would rather be dead than alive, for I have had to listen to taunts I have not deserved and my grief is great.  Lord, command that I be released from this misery; let me go to the eternal resting-place.  Do not turn your  face from me, Lord; I had rather die than live in such  misery, listening to such taunts.

On the same day it happened that Sarah, the daughter of Raguel who lived at Ectabana in Media, also had to listen to taunts, from one of her father’s servant-girls.  Sarah had been given in marriage to seven husbands and, before the marriage could be duly consumated, each one of them had been killed by the evil demon Asmodaeus.  The servant said to her:  “It is you who kill your husbands!  You have already been given in marriage to seven, and you have not borne the name of any of them.  Why punish us because they are dead?  Go and join your husbands.  I hope never to see son or daughter of yours!”

Deeply distressed at that, she went in tears to the roof-chamber of her father’s house, meaning to hang herself.  But she had second thoughts and said to herself:

Perhaps they will taunt my father and say, ‘You had one dear daughter and she hanged herself because of her troubles,’ and so I shall bring my aged father sorrow to his grave.  No, I will not hang myself; it would be better to beg the Lord to let me die and not live on to hear such reproaches.

Thereupon she spread out her hands towards the window in prayer saying,

Praise be to you, merciful God, praise to your name for evermore; all creation praise you for ever!…Already seven husbands of mine have died; what have to live for any longer?  But if it is not your will, Lord, to let me die, have regard to me in your mercy and spare me those taunts.

At that very moment the prayers of both were heard in the glorious presence of God, and Raphael was sent to cure the two of them:  Tobit by removing the white patches from his eyes so that he might see God’s light again, and Sarah daughter of Raguel by giving her in marriage to Tobias son of Tobit and by setting her free from the evil demon Asmodaeus, for it was the destiny of Tobias and of no other suitor to possess her.  At the moment when Tobit went back into his house from the courtyard, Sarah came down from her father’s roof-chamber.

Psalm 25:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

my God, I put my trust in you;

let me not be humiliated,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

Let none who look to you be put to shame;

let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3 Show me your ways, O LORD,

and teach me your paths.

4 Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.

Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,

for they are from everlasting.

Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

remember me according to your love

and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8 He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches his way to the lowly.

Mark 12:18-27 (Revised English Bible):

Next Sadducees, who maintain that there is no resurrection, came to him and asked:

Teacher, Moses laid it down for us that if there are brothers, and one dies leaving a wife but no child, then the next should marry the widow and provide an heir for his brother.  Now there were seven brothers.  The first took a wife and died without issue.  Then the second married her, and he too died without issue; so did the third; none of the seven left any issue.  Finally the woman died.  At the resurrection, when they rise from the dead, whose wife will she be, since all seven had married her?

Jesus said to them,

How far you are from the truth!  You know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.  When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; they are like angels in heaven.

As for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story of the burning bush, how God spoke to him and said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead but the God of the living.  You are very far from the truth.


The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


Voltaire wrote that, if God created human beings in his image, we have more than returned the favor.  Yes, we mere mortals carry inadequate God images in our imaginations, as J. B. Phillips argued in Your God is Too Small.   As Ron Popeil says, “But wait, there’s more.”  Our concepts of the afterlife are too small and limited, too.  They tend to reflect earthly conditions and circumstances.  Ancient Egyptians sought an idealized Egypt in their afterlife, and the popular image of Hell as a place of fire, smoke, and noxious fumes comes from the old Jerusalem garbage dump.  These are just two examples of a much greater possible number.

Likewise, many have hypothesized that human relationships carry over into the afterlife.  Notable among these are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with their concept of marriage continuing after death.  The Sadducees labored under no such idea, for they rejected the possibility of life after death.  So their question regarding the levirate marriage of one woman to seven brothers was insincere.  This story in Mark occurs in the context of attempts to entrap Jesus in his own words.  As in the cases of the other challenges, Jesus is the superior debater.

FYI:  Levirate marriage was a practice meant to continue the family name, keep property within the family, and protect a childless widow from homelessness and other unfortunate circumstances.  It comes from Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and features prominently in Genesis 38.  (Genesis 38 contains a theological hot potato of a story, the moral  implications of which I leave for you, O reader, to ponder.  But I must move along now.)

Had these Sadducees asked a sincere question, they would have received a constructive answer from Jesus.  In the Bible, God says to those ask sincere questions than to those who presume to know the answers or to those who make insincere queries.  (Read the book for confirmation of this assertion.)  Speaking of sincerity, let us turn to Tobit and Sarah.

Both were in very bad situations, and both wanted to die. Tobit, blind, helpless, and living in exile, had just accused his wife of stealing livestock.  It was a false charge, and he realized this fact after Anna, his wife, denied the accusation and berated him.  But Tobit had more on his mind.  He was part of a despised and politically weak population dispersed throughout an occupying power.  He had heard the taunts for a long time.  It all seemed like too much to bear.

And Sarah had been married to seven men yet was still a virgin.  She had developed a reputation as having bad luck and perhaps being a murderer.  She lived in a patriarchal society which presumed that a woman was supposed to be a wife and a mother.  And the author of the text presumed that she was property, too.  Pay attention to the language:  The Revised English Bible says that Tobias was destined to “possess” her.  Likewise, the New Revised Standard Version says “have” and the New American Bible translates the verb as “claim.”  (Aside:  Sarah was a woman, not a piece of furniture.  But I cannot make the text fit early 21st Century gender concepts.)

Anyhow, the author of the Book of Tobit says that God heard the prayers of Tobit and Sarah, and sent the archangel Raphael to cure them both.  Raphael means “God heals.”  Much of the rest of the book is the account of how this healing took place.  Without giving away too many details, I can say that people were part of the process.

As I typed the reading from Tobit, the prayers for death struck a chord with me.  I have been in difficult situations in which I have prayed for death.   When death did not come, I cursed the mornings on which I awoke.  And God did cure me via direct action as well as by people.  Perhaps you, O reader, have been in a similar situation or know someone who has.  In my case, it did get better.

I wonder what the spiritual lives of the Sadducees could have been if they had been interested in sincerity, not in insincerity.  When one plays semantic and mind games with God, God wins.  And God wants sincerity and humility from us.  If we argue with God, fine; let us argue sincerely.  (Read the Book of Job.)  If we pray for death during difficult times, God hears us.  And I am convinced that the most merciful answer at that time is “No.”  That was the answer God gave me, and that was the answer in the narrative of the Book of Tobit.  In the cases of Tobit and Sarah, God had something wonderful in mind, and this involved them being alive.

As St. Patrick wrote:

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.







Adapted from this post:


“The Old Eternal Rocks”   2 comments

Above:  Great Smoky Mountains


Isaiah 41:13-20 (Revised English Bible):

For I, the LORD your God,

take you by the right hand

and say to you, Have no fear;

it is I who help you.

Have no fear, Jacob you worm and Israel you maggot.

It is I who help you, declares the LORD;

your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

See, I shall make of you a sharp threshing-sledge,

new and studded with teeth;

you will thresh mountains and crush them to dust

and reduce the hills to chaff;

you will winnow them; the wind will carry them away

and a gale will scatter them.

Then you will rejoice in the LORD

and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The poor and the needy look for water and find none;

their tongues are parched with thirst.

But the LORD shall provide for their wants;

I, the God of Israel, shall not forsake them.

I shall open rivers on the arid heights,

and wells in the valleys;

I shall turn the desert into pools

and dry land into springs of water;

I shall plant cedars in the wilderness,

acacias, myrtles, and wild olives;

I shall grow pines on the barren heath

side by side with fir and box tree,

that everyone may see and know,

may once and for all observe and understand

that the LORD himself has done this:

it is the creation of the Holy One of Israel.

Psalm 145:1-4, 8-13 (Revised English Bible):

I shall extol you, my God and King,

and bless your name for ever and ever.

Every day I shall bless you

and praise your name for ever and ever.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

his greatness is beyond all searching out.

One generation will commend your works to the next

and set forth your mighty deeds.

The LORD is gracious and compassionate,

long-suffering and ever faithful.

The LORD is good to all;

his compassion rests upon all his creatures.

All your creatures praise you, LORD,

and your loyal servants bless you.

They talk of the glory of your kingdom

and tell of your might,

to make known to mankind your mighty deeds,

the glorious majesty of your kingdom.

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Matthew 11:7-15 (Revised English Bible):

(This reading occurs after Jesus has received envoys from the imprisoned John the Baptist, who experienced doubts that Jesus was what John had claimed him to be.)

When the messengers were on their way back, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John:  “What was the spectacle that drew you to the wilderness?  A reed swaying in the wind?  No?  Then what did you go out to see?  A man dressed in finery?  Fine clothes are to be found in palaces.  But why did you go out?  To see a prophet?  Yes indeed, and far more than a prophet.  He is the man of whom scripture says,

Here is my herald, whom I send ahead of you,

and he will prepare your way before you.

Truly I tell you:  among all who have ever been born, no one has been greater than John the Baptist, and yet the least in the kingdom of Heaven is greater than he.

Since the time of John the Baptist the kingdom of God has been subjected to violence and violent men are taking it by force.  For until John, all the prophets and the law foretold things to come; and John is the destined Elijah, if you will but accept it.  If you have ears, then hear.”

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


When I was a United Methodist “preacher’s kid”  growing up within the South Georgia Annual Conference my family had contact with a missionary organization called Lifeline Ministries.  I recall their yellow signs printed on heavy paper suitable for placing on desks or on refrigerator doors.  These signs features their motto, “GOD IS GREATER THAN ANY PROBLEM I HAVE.”

Our problems are real; let us never question that reality.  Doubts arise and we experience stress, but God answers our questions when we ask them.  And God is greater than any problem we have.  So let us take comfort, have well-placed faith in God, listen to and obey God, and avoid worrying.  To worry is to engage in total waste, for this exercise will bring us no closer to resolving our genuine issues.  No, it is better to focus on finding, identifying, and executing solutions.

When I became an Episcopalian I learned a new hymnody, one superior to that with which I grew up in Southern rural United Methodism.  Among the greatest hymns I learned after converting is “I Bind Unto Myself Today,” with words by Saint Patrick.  Reading this day’s lections while I typed them called two verses of that hymn to mind:

I bind unto myself today

the virtues of the starlit heaven

the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,

the whiteness of the moon at even,

the flashing of the lightning free,

the whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,

the stable earth, the deep salt sea,

around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today

the power of God to hold and lead,

his eye to watch, his might to stay,

his ear to hearken to my need;

the wisdom of my God to teach,

his hand to guide, his shield to ward;

the word of God to give me speech,

his heavenly host to be my guard.






Adapted from this post: