I first heard “The Deer’s Cry”Â on retreat a year ago. Â One of the retreat leaders played it for a morning prayer, and it is, I feel confident saying, probably the best songÂ I can think ofÂ to greet a new day.
I arise todayÂ
Through the strength of heaven
Splendor of fire, speed of lightning
Swiftness of wind, depth of the sea
Stability of earth, firmness of rock.
The lyrics are based on a longer prayer attributed to St. Patrick, though apparently some believe it was written later, around the eighth century.
I arise to-day
Through God’s strength to pilot me:
God’s eyes to look before me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
From all who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in a multitude.
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul
See what I mean? Â This is very good thing to hear early in the morning. Â EvenÂ if your resident cruel merciless power is nothing worse than a bad morning commute, it helps to be reminded that you don’t face it alone.
Christ with me
Christ before me
Christ behind me
Christ in me
Christ beneath me
Christ above me
Christ on my rightÂ
Christ on my left
I don’t just listen to this song in the morning. It helps me at any time of day when I feel vulnerable. Â When my mother-in-law was dying last summer, and Scott was in New York with her, I remember listening to this song alone on the sofa after the kids were in bed, and I cried and cried but it was the kind of crying I needed to do. Â And I thought about Joan’s life, and all of our lives really, and how we may not always know it, but the world is positively saturated with the presence of Christ; we can’t escape it, thank God.
It’s a truly beautiful song. Â If you don’t know it, take a listen. Â There are a few versions on YouTube but somehow I really like this one, in spite of the bad video quality. Â It’s a singer named Rita Connolly singing at the inauguration of the Irish president Michael D. Higgins.
It’s a shaky recording, but it’s a rare chance toÂ witnessÂ theÂ song sung in the context of real life. Â You get toÂ see all the people at the inauguration listening to the words and, I’d venture to guess, finding the day that much better for hearing them. Â That’s always true for me, at least.