About Celtic Prayers

Rock of Cashel Cross, Wikimedia Commons

CelticCapital16 t seems that Celtic people love to ponder the imponderable, so I will begin a discussion of the Celtic Christians with an imponderable. Many books have been written about Celtic Christianity, yet who they really were and what they really believed is a mystery. It seems every writer creates Celtic Christianity in his or her own image.

  • Roman Catholic writers present the Celtic Church as Catholic with emphasis on bishops (especially Patrick), saints (especially Patrick and Columba), and masses and liturgies that resemble the Roman rite, but with some minor regional differences. They calculated the date of Easter in a different way than the Roman Church, and also had some rites and practices not common in the rest of the Christian world. (See also the Celtic Rite in Wikipedia.)
  • Protestant writers present the early Celtic Church as being more like Protestantism with complete independence from Rome, more emphasis on Christ and missionary work and less emphasis on the saints. (See Celtic Christian Revivalism in Wikipedia.)
  • Strangely, Celtic spirituality is also a topic of interest among people who are not Christian at all (See Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism), and some writers present a view of Celtic Christianity that is a blend of nature worship (Druidism/Paganism) and Christianity.


CelticCapital30he Celts were a people or an ethnic group, and they seem to have been in central Europe as early as 800 B.C. (Sometimes called the Hallstatt Culture.) By 275 B.C. Celtic influence had spread to what is now England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France and Spain. The reason we associate Celts with Ireland and Scotland is that is where Celtic identity remained, and a Celtic revival of cultural identity has come and gone and come again in those countries.


efore Christian missionaries came to the Celts, the Celts were polytheistic (many gods) and animistic (belief of spirits in everything, people, plants, animals, trees, etc), which is the source of the idea that Druids (Celtic priests) worshiped trees.  Christian missionaries came into Britain after Christianity was decreed a religio licita, a legal religion, and also the religion of the Roman Empire, with a peak of missionary activity in the fifth century.

CelticCapital17Saint Patrick Catholic Church (Junction City, Ohio) - stained glass, Saint Patrick - detail.jpgatrick is the first person we think of when Celtic Christianity is mentioned, mostly because he has his own holiday. He grew up as a Christian in Roman Britain, but as a teenager, he was not serious about his faith. At age 17 he was kidnapped by Irish pirates (who were more like our image of Vikings than Captain Jack Sparrow) and taken to Ireland as a slave, where he remained for six years. He escaped and returned home to western Britain, where he studied the Christian faith more seriously, and was ordained a priest. Legend says that he had a vision of a man urging him to return to Ireland to bring the gospel. There are accounts of Patrick baptizing thousands of people, ordaining priests and setting up Christian communities in Ireland. Like Augustine, Patrick wrote his Confessions in which he described his early life and his return and growth in the Christian faith.


t. Patrick’s Breastplate is a poetic prayer that is attributed to Patrick. Like the winding lines in Celtic art, the content of the prayer seems to wind back and forth with its repetition. Here are some characteristics in the Breastplate that are common in many Celtic Christian prayers:

  • The immanence or closeness of God.  (“Christ with me, Christ before me,  Christ behind me, Christ in me, …) This may be a holdover from Celtic and Druid animism that believed spirits were in everything (a form of polytheism and pantheism). Along with immanence or closeness to God, there seems to be a sense of the presence of God in nature. God is not the same as his creation but he is in it and with it. (See Psalm 139.)
  • An understanding of prayer as tapping into God’s supernatural power. (“I arise today through a mighty strength…” The phrase is repeated several times.)
  • A delight in the Trinity because the doctrine is imponderable. (“I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity, through belief in the  Threeness, through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.”)

CelticCapital18ther Celtic prayerImage result for cross of muiredachs:

  • The Carmina Gadelica (Songs of the Gaels, see Wikipedia) is a collection of Scottish Gaelic hymns and prayers collected in the mid 1800s. Volumes I and III contain Celtic Christian prayers. Volume II contains Celtic animistic spells and incantations.  The initial capitals on this page are illustrations from The Carmina Gadelica.
  • The Antiphonary of Bangor  (Wikipedia) is an Irish liturgical text containing prayers and antiphons.  It was written in Latin, but can be considered Celtic because of it’s origin in ninth century Ireland.
  • Some scholars also see some traces of the worship of early Celtic Christians in the Mozarabic Rite (Wikipedia) (2000 Years of Prayer, ed. Michael Counsell, p. 84). As mentioned before, there were Celtic people in Spain shortly before the birth of Christ.

CelticCapital15he Book of Kells is probably the greatest treasure of the Irish church and of Celtic Christianity. It is an illuminated hand-copied Gospel book. The initials had pictures, winding vine designs, a full spectrum of color and gilding. It wasn’t a prayer book, but no discussion of Celtic Christianity would be complete without mentioning the Book of Kells. The Celtic Christians also left many carved stone crosses like the Rock of Cashel Cross (top) and Muiredach’s High Cross (above)



About the Mozarabic Rite

The People

from Wikipedia

“Mozarabic” is really a term historians use for Christians who lived in Spain under Muslim or Arab rule. It literally means “among the Arabs.” The people never would have called themselves “Mozarabs.”

The Rite

The Mozarabic Rite (sometimes called the Visigothic, Hispanic or Andalusian Rite) had its beginnings in the seventh century with the invasion of the Arabs from the south and the southern Spanish Christians being cut off from the rest of Europe. It was a complete rite tradition, that is, they developed liturgies and prayers for the church year independently of Rome–most probably because of their isolation under Arab rule. Mozarabic liturgy and prayer are similar to the Mass and prayers of the Roman rite, only the prayers (collects) seem to be a bit freer in form and a bit more substantial in meaning than the prayers from the Gregorian or Gelasian sacramentaries. There is a connection between the Mozarabic Christians and the Eastern Rite Christians (Greek/Eastern Orthodox). Some scholars also see some traces of the worship of early Celtic Christians in the Mozarabic Rite (2000 Years of Prayer, ed. Michael Counsell, p. 84).

Why So Much Mozarabic?

MCSince the Mozarabic Rite developed its own rites and prayers for each Sunday and the liturgies of the hours each day there are a lot of prayers from the Mozarabic tradition out there. Since  A Collection of Prayers is about meaning in prayers and gathering prayers that are rich in meaning, the Mozarabic Rite has become a favorite source. The chief source for Mozarabic prayers is the book Mozarabic Collects based on the translation and arrangement from the Ancient Liturgy of the Spanish Church by the Rev. Charles R. HaleWhen I found the book last year, I got the electronic text from the pdf, and began reworking the English text to preserve and emphasize meaning. The result was The New Mozarabic Collects: A Revision and Refreshing of ‘Mozarabic Collects’ by Charles R. Hale

There are other prayers that I find from time to time that are ascribed to the the following sources:

  • B_Escorial_93v[1].jpgMozarabic Rite or Mozarabic Liturgy (this would include everything related to the worship of Mozarabic Christians.)
  • Mozarabic Sacramentary (A Sacramentary is a book that would be on the altar containing all liturgy and prayers needed to conduct a service. The Mozarabic Collects would be from the Sacramentary)
  • Mozarabic Breviary (A Breviary is a small book of prayers, or a book containing shortnened Matins and Vespers devotions, along with daily readings, based on the Church Year.)
  • Mozarabic Psalter (A psalter is a book with the text of the psalms, along with antiphons and prayers said or chanted during liturgies of the hours.)

Mozarabic Chant

Gregorian chant seems to be very even and measured. Mozarabic chant shows the middle-eastern influence with twists and turns. In many ways it resembles chants from the Maronite / Syriac Christian tradition and Islamic chants. Here’s a selection of Mozarabic chants on YouTube:

Our collection of Mozarabic prayers can be read here: https://acollectionofprayers.wordpress.com/tag/mozarabic/

Anatomy of a Collect

A collect (pronounced KAHL-lekt) is an ancient prayer form that has a certain structure. The word collect comes from the Latin phrase ecclesia collecta, which means that it is a public prayer prayed by and for the assembled church. It is modeled after the Lord’s Prayer.

The Lord’s Prayer begins with an address to God:

Our Father,

…and then has an attributive phrase that says something about God:

who art in heaven,

This is followed by one or more petitions:

Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses as
we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
But deliver us from evil:

…and it closes with a doxology:

For thine is the kingdom, and the power,
and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

A collect also begins with an address, followed by an attributive phrase (some call this the basis for the petition that focuses on some characteristic of God) and a petition. It adds some result or benefit that  is desired, followed by a termination which is also a doxology (word of praise). Classic collects are very brief and to the point (some use the word “terse”) in their choice of words, especially for the petitions.

Here is a collect from the Book of Common Prayer for the Second Sunday in Advent (in traditional English):

Merciful God, who sent thy 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 liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

This has all the parts. We will use this color coding for identification:

Address, attributive phrase, petition, result, termination.

Merciful God, who sent thy 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 liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy
Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

A collect may omit one of these and still be considered a collect. The collect for the First Sunday in Advent in the Book of Common Prayer has no attributive phrase.

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the
works of darkness, and put upon us the armor of light, now
in the time of this mortal life in which thy Son Jesus Christ
came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when
he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the
quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through
him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Some collects, especially the longer prayers in rites found in agendas (liturgy books), are extended collects. An extended collect sometimes has longer phrases, or sometimes has more than one attributive phrase, petition or result. Look at this extended collect by Veit Dietrich:

Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank you that you have sown the good seed of your holy Word in our hearts. By your Holy Spirit cause this seed to grow and bring forth fruit, and defend us from the enemy, that he may not sow weeds there. Keep us from worldly security, help us in all temptations and give us at last eternal salvation; through your beloved Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

See how the attributive phrase that says something about our heavenly Father becomes a petition of thanks by itself, “…we thank you that you have sown the good seed of your holy Word in our hearts.” And then there are several petitions alternating with two results.

The termination is a reminder of Jesus’ invitation for us to bring all things to the Father in his name (John 15:16). “Through Jesus Christ our Lord” is a simple or short termination. The full termination is also a confession of faith in the Triune God. “….through (your Son,) Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.” Some scholars believe that this full trinitarian termination was added shortly after the Council of Nicea in A. D. 325 as an added confession that we pray to and confess the one true God who reveals himself to us in Scripture as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

St. Paul used a form, very much like a collect, in the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians. Look at the attributive phrases (…who has blessed us in Christ with every spritiual blessing…), the phrases that express desired results (…to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.)

To read classic collects, click here:  https://acollectionofprayers.wordpress.com/tag/collect/

To read extended collects, click here: https://acollectionofprayers.wordpress.com/tag/extended-collect/

See Luther D. Reed in The Lutheran Liturgy, p. 279-287, and Fred Precht in Lutheran Worship, History and Practice, p. 411-412.

See also “How to Make a You-Who-Do-To-Through Prayer.”

About the Pomeranian Agenda


Pomerania was a territory in Germany that occupied what is now northwestern Poland along the coast. It was one of the first German territories after Saxony to receive the Reformation due to the efforts of Dr. Johannes Bugenhagen, an associate of Martin Luther.

Dr. Johannes Bugenhagen

Lucas_Cranach_(I)_-_Johannes_Bugenhagen[1]Bugenhagen was not only a missionary and defender of the faith, he was also a skilled liturgist. In bringing the Reformation to Pomerania, he made a translation or an adaptation of Luther’s translation of the Bible into middle-low German, and also prepared a church agenda, which was published under the auspices of Duke Bogislav X (d. 1523), Duke Barnimus IX and Duke Philippus I in the year 1535. (See part of the article in Wikipedia.) In our time, an agenda is a book of services for use in the church. Then, an agenda contained those services, along with setting a standard for good practices within the church–a combination of a pastoral theology textbook and a church constitution.


Some of the prayers appear to be by Martin Luther with a few prayers enlarged and expanded from Luther’s prayers. Some prayers are modified slightly from the gospel collects of Veit Dietrich. The rest of the agenda is likely the work of Johannes Bugenhagen.


PommeranianAgendaThe prayers in the Pomeranian Agenda are theological and pastoral: theological because they speak and breathe the Scriptures and teach the truth of God and the grace of Christ; pastoral because they speak to the needs of people, their doubts and fears, and assures them with the hope that is in Christ alone.

The edition these prayers were taken from Die pommersche Kirchen-Ordnung und Agenda: nebst den Legibus praepositorum, statutis synodicis und der Vistitations-Ordnung von 1736. Evangelisch-Lutherische Landeskirche in Pommern, ed. C. A. Koch, 1854. It is a later edition, but the prefaces and forewords indicate that efforts were made to be faithful to the earliest editions.

All the prayers from the Pomeranian Agenda can be downloaded as a pdf.  Prayers from the Pomeranian Agenda

The Pomeranian Agenda also had music. Although it is sung in English in this recording, this setting of the Nunc Dimittis is from the Pomeranian Agenda (p. 385-386):

NuncDimittisfrom Book of Hymns (WELS, 1920)