Arvo Pärt: The Deer’s Cry

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 in me,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me,
Christ with me.

Attributed to St. Patrick, 385-461(translation by Kuno Meyer)

The coming of Patrick to Ireland about the middle of the fifth century initiated the “most peaceful invasion and lasting conquest of all”. This hymn is attributed to Patrick and certainly reflects many of the themes found in Patrick’s thought. The version we have today was likely written in the late 7th or early 8th century. The hymn is a celebration of the wisdom and power of God both in creation and redemption.  It is an excellent example of a lorica — a “breastplate” or corslet of faith recited for the protection of body and soul against all forms of evil — devils, vice, and the evil which humans perpetrate against one another.  The name of the hymn derives from a legend of an incident when the High King of Tara, Loeguire resolved to ambush and kill Patrick and his monks to prevent them from spreading the Christian faith in his kingdom.  As Patrick and his followers approached singing this hymn, the King and his men saw only a herd of wild deer and let them pass by.  The word ‘cry’ also has the sense of a prayer or petition.


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