Monday, 8 May 2017

I Bind Myself

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 Jordan river;
his death on cross for my salvation;
his bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb;
his riding up the heavenly way;
his coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.

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 today
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.

This great and wonderful hymn was the offertory hymn at the ordination service last Wednesday when the assistant curate in our parish, Stephen Green,was ordained a priest along with another candidate Lisa Poultney.  It was a great service (we Anglicans know how to do these services really well) with and an inspiring sermon by Rev’d. Dr. Lizette Larson Miller of Huron University College. 
I have known and loved this hymn for many years.  It is an ancient one with the text being attributed to St. Patrick (fourth century CE), the one who is credited with driving the snakes out of Ireland.  However, whether it was the circumstances or the wonderful singing and accompaniment, or that I hadn’t sung it for a long time, singing this hymn moved and resonated with me more than I remember it affecting me in the past.

The hymn is truly a wonderful expression of the faith and belief of a saintly man   It is also an expression of wonder and awe at the glories of God and of God’s creation.  On reflection, it struck me that it is much more meaningful to me as a creedal statement than the creeds that we recite in worship.  The two creeds in our prayer book, the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed, can lead to some dispute and dissension as some Christians today object to having to recite a statement of faith that they cannot agree with totally.  Some people may object the theological implications in these creedal statements e.g. the virgin birth or Jesus descending to the dead between his crucifixion and resurrection.  I have even heard of one person who refuses to recite the phrase “holy catholic church” because in their mind it refers to the Roman Catholic Church and, after all, we are Anglican and not Roman Catholic.  This despite, I presume, knowing that catholic refers to the universal church as opposed to the Roman branch of Christianity.  However, appropriateness of reciting the creeds in worship is another topic for another day. 

I will say that I am a true believer in the benefit of having Christians proclaim what it is that Christians believe in and have no trouble reciting either Creed.  I have a personal preference for the Athanasian Creed for a somewhat obscure reason which I also won’t elaborate on today.  However, my experience of the St. Patrick’s Hymn is, for me, a more meaningful statement of belief that any of those Creeds.   This is in part because it is beautiful poetry which resonates with me.  But more to the point, it is grounded in a sense of who and what God is to the world and for me in my life each and every day.

It beings with the wonderful idea and expression of “binding” to myself.  This speaks of relationship rather than a somewhat dry theology in the formal Creeds.  It proclaims that I am in relationship to all of God and all of creation.  This is true whether I am always aware of it (and I am not) and whether I live as if I am but it is a reality which need to be reminded of.  The song of St. Patrick proclaims the reality of the Trinity which I have come to know is true for me (despite not being truly able to proclaim that for many years).  However, it doesn’t go into the specifics of the what the Trinity is or is not.  Rather than speaking of the Son being begotten, not made and the substance of the Trinity, St. Patrick speaks of the fact of the Trinity and does not attempt to split hairs about the nature of the mystery which is the Trinity.  In a similar way, it speaks of the incarnation but does not dwell on the nature of that mystery but treats it as a mystery which is beyond our capacity as creatures of the Creator to truly understand as much as we have struggled to do so.

The poem then speaks of the personal relationship with Christ which is possible for all Christians; Christ with me, within me, beside me, behind me, before me, beneath me, above me, in quiet, in danger, in all that love me, in friend and stranger; above all, Christ to win me.  That is the best expression of what Christ means to and for me and what I strive for even though I do not always of even often experience. 

I have not spoken of the music setting by Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895).  This is wonderful setting which does the poetry justice.  This is particularly true of the verse noted above in which expounds of the relationship with Christ, the melody in this verse is completely different to the rest to the hymn, which for me wonderfully expresses that nature of teat relationship which is unique in all of God’s creation and central to us as Christian. It also makes it a bit of a challenge for congregational singing but well worth it.
If you are not familiar with the hymn and the music it is easy to find many different versions on line.  Here is a link to one which has the version we sang,

Blessings on your journey; may it be filled with beautiful music.

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