For Love and Light

O Lord,
in the name of Jesus Christ your Son our God,
give us that love which can never cease,
that will kindle our lamps but not extinguish them,
that they may burn in us and enlighten others.

O Christ, our dearest Savior,
kindle our lamps,
that they may evermore shine in your temple,
that they may receive unquenchable light from you
that will enlighten our darkness,
and lessen the darkness of the world.
Lord Jesus, we pray,
give your light to our lamps,
that in its light
the most holy place may be revealed to us
in which you dwell as the Eternal Priest,
that we may always see you,
desire you, look on you in love,
and long after you;
for your sake. Amen.

Source: An Ancient Collect, sixth century

Source of this version: Freely modified from Prayers of the Early Church, edited by J. Manning Potts, 1953

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About Celtic Prayers

The Celts

CelticCapital30he Celts were a people and a culture, and they seem to have been in central Europe as early as 800 B.C. (Sometimes called the Hallstatt Culture.)

rock_of_cashel-cross

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, Scotland and Wales is that is where Celtic identity remained after Europe was dominated by the Roman Empire. Celtic revivals of cultural identity have come and gone and come again in those countries. “Celt” is a broad word that covers different peoples in different places and times. When I speak of “Celtic Christians,” I mean Christians living in Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

CelticCapital27efore Christian missionaries came to the Ireland, the Irish 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.

Patrick

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. But Patrick is much more than an excuse to drink green beer (yuck!) and eat corned beef and cabbage (delicious, but unknown to Patrick and to most of the Irish). He is rightly called “the Apostle to the Irish.” 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 eventually 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. It seems that he worked with the culture, a hostile and barbaric culture, and transformed it into a Christian culture. Human sacrifices and the glory of battle was replaced with the sacrifice of Christ and the glory of rising above our broken nature by the power of Christ. Like Augustine, Patrick wrote his Confession in which he described his early life and his return and growth in the Christian faith.

CelticCapital5rom the time of Patrick (d. ca. 460) until the Synod of Whitby in 664, the Celtic church was independent of the church of Rome but did not see itself as separate from it. This was also the golden age of Irish monasteries which were centers of faith and centers of learning, both sacred and secular. Missionaries were sent out, first back to Britain, Wales and Scotland, then to mainland Europe. Traveling monks established churches and monasteries. There was a difference between the Irish churches and the churches of Rome. The Irish calculated the date of Easter with a different formula—usually resulting in celebrating their Easter a week or two after Roman Easter. Irish monks had their own tonsure (either a wedge-shaped stripe was shaved over the top of the head from ear to ear, or the front of the head was shaved to a midline from ear to ear), while Roman monks had a coronal tonsure (like Friar Tuck with a wreath of hair around a bald dome). The Irish churches had their own rites with service outlines similar to the Roman mass and liturgies of hours, but with unique prayers. Celtic churches did have a veneration of saints, but it was mostly honor for deceased bishops and abbots, along with the biblical New Testament saints. Some of the prayers ask the saints, “Pray for us.” In pre-Whitby literature, Mary is mentioned as the mother of the Lord, but gets no special honor. After the Synod of Whitby, the Celtic churches in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and all their missions were ordered to calculate the date of Easter in the Roman manner, and to adopt the Roman tonsure and other worship practices. From that point, the Celtic church began to lose its distinctiveness from the church of Rome, although some unique practices and emphases continued.

Scholarship and Celtic Revivals

CelticCapital30he mid-to-late 1800s was a time of tremendous scholarship, and because of that, it was a time of renewed interest in the early Celtic church. The Henry Bradshaw Society published scholarly editions of The Antiphonary of Bangor, The Lorrha-Stowe Missal, Liturgy and Ritual of the Celtic Church and other resources. At the same time, Alexander Carmichael was collecting Christian prayers, poems and even some pagan spells from Gaelic speaking people in Scotland. He was interested in the prayer and poetry from the Celtic folk traditions, and his work is published in the volumes of Carmina Gadelica. Kuno Meyer also collected, translated and published much old Irish literature, sacred and secular.

As a result, there was a renewed interest in Celtic languages and attempts at revive their use and also much imitation the old literature from the 1880s to 1920s. There was also renewed interest in Celtic art. We seem to be in another Celtic revival. There are now many books on Celtic prayer and Celtic spirituality. Some of this seems to be a repristination movement—a desire to return to a simpler Christianity that is not separated from daily life with no conflict and more in tune with nature. But life for the early Celtic Christians was not always simple, peaceful or innocent. Read the loricas. The Celtic Christians of that time made long lists of things they wanted God’s protection from: the Red Plague, the Yellow Plague, marauders, thieves, nakedness, drought, famine. Read the penitential manuals (Celtic Spirituality, p. 227-245), and you will see that some of the Celtic Christians were doing shameful, wild and vulgar things they needed to confess and receive forgiveness for. They were Christian people, like us, who lived, worked, sweated and struggled through life, and they committed their cares to God in carefully worded, poetic prayers.

St. Patrick’s Breastplate
Unique Celtic Theological Emphases
Unique Celtic Style

CelticCapital14t. 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, …) In his Confession, Patrick rejects any kind of animism, polytheism or pantheism and confesses a biblical theology of God, very much like what is seen in the Nicene Creed (see The Creed in the Confession of St. Patrick and St. Patrick’s Creed). Yet he retains an emphasis of immanence or closeness to God, along with 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).
  • The transcendence or other-ness of God. We see this in the appeals to God’s mighty strength. The Breastplate also calls him “the Creator of creation.” Other prayers refer to God as “high King of heaven.”
  • An understanding of prayer as tapping into God’s supernatural power. Some scholars see connections between the pagan Celtic charms and incantations and the Celtic Christian prayers for protection, yet the prayers for protection are completely in line with “Calling upon God’s name in the day of trouble” (Psalm 50:15) and “Putting on the full armor of God” (Ephesians 6:10).
  • A delight in the Trinity because the doctrine is imponderable. There is a special Trinity affinity in the Celtic prayers with phrases like “through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the Oneness…”
  • A love of lists. A prayer for protection from danger may ask for protection from every angle, protection for every part of the body, or protection from every evil imaginable. A confession of sin may ask for forgiveness of sins committed in different places, with different things or by different parts of the body and deliverance from temptation from many sources.
  • A love of repetition. Repetition of the last line of a prayer is seen in many of the prayers of Carmina Gadelica and is seen in some of the old prayers, too. This seems to be done for emphasis, and to bring the prayer to a conclusion.

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 for the liturgy of hours (the daily offices or services in the monasteries).  It was written around A. D. 680, and seems to present pre-Whitby rites and practices.
  • The Lorrha-Stowe Missal (Wikipedia) is a post-Whitby book with materials for the performance of the Mass, probably written after A. D. 792. Even though it is post-Whitby, there are some prayers and practices that may be remnants of pre-Whitby rites.
  • Some scholars also see traces of the worship of early Celtic Christians in the Mozarabic Rite (Wikipedia) (2000 Years of Prayer, ed. Michael Counsell, p. 84).
  • The Book of Cerne (Wikipedia) is an illuminated manuscript, similar in artistic style to the Book of Kells, containing the Gospels, prayers, hymns, and other liturgical materials. It is really an Anglo-Saxon book, but it also shows Celtic / Irish influence in its art and texts.

CelticCapital15he Book of Kells (Wikipedia) 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)

 

Alexander’s Breastplate

This lorica (breastplate) prayer is called “Alexander’s Breastplate” because it is between two poems about Alexander the Great in the Welsh Book of Taliesin.

On the face of the earth
his equal was not born,
Three persons of God,
one gentle Son
in the glorious Trinity.
Son of the Godhead,
Son of the Manhood,
one wonderful Son.
Son of God, a fortress,
Son of the blessed Mary,
Son, Servant, Lord.
Great his destiny,
great God supreme,
in heavenly glory.
Of the race of Adam
and Abraham,
and of the line of David,
the eloquent psalmist,
was he born.
By a word he healed
the blind and deaf
from every ailment;
the gluttonous, vain
iniquitous, vile, perverse,
to rise toward the Trinity
by their redemption.
The Cross of Christ
is our shining breastplate
against every ailment.
Against every hardship
may it certainly be
our city of refuge.

Source: Book of Taliesin, Welsh, 10th-14th Century, excerpt
The Four Ancient Books of Wales, 1868, p. 557-558.

Source of this version: Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church.

Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church is a collection of prayers from the time of Patrick (d. ca. 460-493) to the Synod of Whitby (664), and also from the Celtic Christian tradition that remained after Whitby. A few of the prayers in this book may be familiar from their appearance in other prayer books. Some may be appearing in English for the first time. All prayers (with one exception) are rendered or revised into contemporary English with the hopes that they will be useful in private and corporate worship. Includes prayers from The Antiphonary of Bangor, The Lorrha-Stowe Missal, The Book of Cerne, The Book of Dimma, St. Patrick, St. Columba and many other sources.

Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church is available in paperback through Amazon.com. It is also available for Amazon Kindle.

Prayers for the Sick from the Book of Dimma

The Evangelist Mark, from the Book of Dimma

Let us pray, brothers, to the Lord our God for our brother _____, who now suffers under severe hardships, that the goodness of the Lord may heal him with heavenly medicine. May he who has given the soul, also preserve it; through our Lord. [1]

To the almighty living God, who restores and strengthens all his works, let us pray, dear brothers, for our sick brother, that either in renewal or recovery the creature may feel the hand of the creator; in the man of his making may the tender Father recreate his work; through our Lord. [2]

O Lord, holy Father, author of the universe, almighty and eternal God, to whom all are alive. You bring the dead to life and call things that are not as those that are. Since you are the maker, in love do your work  for this person you have fashioned; through our Lord. [3]

To God, in whose hands are the support of the living and the life of the dead, we pray that this infirm body may be cured  and this soul be healed, that what he does not deserve by merit, he may receive by our prayers for your mercy’s sake; through our Lord. [4]

O God, you do not desire the death of a sinner but that he turn and live. Forgive the sins of this man who has turned to you with all his heart, and give him the grace of eternal life; through our Lord. [5]

O God, you always govern your creatures with tender affection. Hear our prayers for your servant _____, who is suffering from bodily sickness.  Visit him with your deliverance, and give him the medicine of your heavenly grace; through our Lord. [6]

Source: The Book of Dimma, 7th century. Prayer #6 is also found in Gelasian sources.

Source of this version: Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church, © 2018, Paul C. Stratman

Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church is a collection of prayers from the time of Patrick (d. ca. 460-493) to the Synod of Whitby (664), and also from the Celtic Christian tradition that remained after Whitby. A few of the prayers in this book may be familiar from their appearance in other prayer books. Some may be appearing in English for the first time. All prayers (with one exception) are rendered or revised into contemporary English with the hopes that they will be useful in private and corporate worship. Includes prayers from The Antiphonary of Bangor, The Lorrha-Stowe Missal, The Book of Cerne, The Book of Dimma, St. Patrick, St. Columba and many other sources.  Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church is available in paperback through Amazon.com. It is also available for Amazon Kindle.

Originals in Latin:

Oremus, fratres, dominum deum nostrum pro fratre nostro .n. quem duri adpresens malum langoris adulcerat, ut eum domini pietas caelestibus dignetur curare medicinis ; qui dedit animam det etsalutem, perdominum nostrum. [1]

Deum uiuum omnipotentem, cui omnia opera restaurare [et] confirmare facillimum est, fratres carissimi, profratre nostro infirmo supliciter oremus, quo creatura manum sentiat creatoris aut inreparando aut inrecipiendo ; inhomine suo pius pater opus suum recreare dignetur, perdominum nostrum. [2]

Domine, sancte pater, uniuersitatis auctor, omnipotens aeternae deus, cui cuncta uiuunt, qui uiuificas mortuos et uocas ea quae non sunt, tanquam ea quae sunt, tuum solitum opus, qui es artifex, pie exerce in hoc plasmate tuo, perdominum. [3]

Deum in cuius manu tam alitus uiuentis quam uita morientis, fratres dilectissimi, deprecemur, ut corporis huius infirmitatem sanet et animae salutem prestet; ut quod per meritum non meretur, misericordiae gratia consequatur, orantibus nobis, perdominum. [4]

Deus, qui non uis mortem peccatoris, sed ut conuertatur et uiuat, huic adte excorde conuerso peccata dimite, et perennis uitae tribu[e] gratiam, perdominum. [5]

Deus, qui facturam tuam pio semper do[mi]nares afectu, inclina aurem tuam suplicantibus nobis tibi; ad famulum tuum .n. aduersitate ualitudinis corporis laborantem placitus respice; uisita eum insalutare tuo, et caelestis gratiae ad medicamentum, per dominum. [6]

 

My God, Help Me

Deus meus adiuva me, [My God, help me.]
Give me your love, O Son of God,
Give me your love, O Son of God,
Deus meus adiuva me.

In meum cor, ut sanum sit, [Into my heart, that it may be sound,]
O noble King, give your love quickly,
O noble King, give your love quickly,
In meum cor, ut sanum sit.

Domine da quod peto a te, [O Lord, give what I ask of you,]
Give, give quickly, O clear, bright sun,
Give, give quickly, O clear, bright sun,
Domine da quod peto a te.

Hanc spero rem et quaero quam, [This thing I hope for, and this is what I ask,]
Your love to me in this world,
Your love to me in the next world,
Hanc spero rem et quaero quam.

Tuum amorem, sicut vis, [Your love, as you wish,]
Give me quickly what I ask again,
Give me quickly what I ask again,
Tuum amorem, sicut vis.

Quaero, postulo, peto a te, [I search, I ask, I beg of you,]
My life in heaven, Son of God,
My life in heaven, Son of God,
Quaero, postulo, peto a te.

Domine, Domine, exaudi me, [O Lord, O Lord, hear me,]
Fill my soul with your love, O God,
Fill my soul with your love, O God,
Domine, Domine exaudi me.

Deus meus adiuva me,
Deus meus adiuva me.

Source: Mael Ísu Ua Brolcháin, d. 1086 The Poem-Book of the Gael, 1912, p. 140-141, translation composite.

Included in Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church, © 2018, Paul C. Stratman

Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church is a collection of prayers from the time of Patrick (d. ca. 460-493) to the Synod of Whitby (664), and also from the Celtic Christian tradition that remained after Whitby. A few of the prayers in this book may be familiar from their appearance in other prayer books. Some may be appearing in English for the first time. All prayers (with one exception) are rendered or revised into contemporary English with the hopes that they will be useful in private and corporate worship. Includes prayers from The Antiphonary of Bangor, The Lorrha-Stowe Missal, The Book of Cerne, The Book of Dimma, St. Patrick, St. Columba and many other sources.  Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church is available in paperback through Amazon.com. It is also available for Amazon Kindle.

Original in Latin/Old Irish:

Deus meus adiuva me
Tabhair dom do shearch,a Mhic ghil Dé
Tabhair dom do shearch,a Mhic ghil Dé
Deus meus adiuva me.

In meum cor, ut sanum sit,
Tabhair, a Rí rán, do ghrá go grip;
Tabhair, a Rí rán, do ghrá go grip,
In meum cor, ut sanum sit.

Domine da quod peto a te,
Tabhair dom go dian a ghrian ghlan ghlé,
Tabhair dom go dian a ghrian ghlan ghlé,
Domine da quod peto a te.

Hanc spero rem et quaero quam,
Do shearc dom sonn, do shearc dom thall;
Do shearc dom sonn, do shearc dom thall,
Hanc spero rem et quaero quam.

Tuum amorem, sicut vis,
Tabhair dom go tréan, a déarfad arís;
Tabhair dom go tréan, a déarfad arís,
Tuum amorem, sicut vis.

Quaero, postulo, peto a te,
Mo bheatha i neamh, a mhic dhil Dé;
Mo bheatha i neamh, a mhic dhil Dé,
Quaero, postulo, peto a te.

Domine, Domine, exaudi me,
M’anam bheith lán de d’ghrá, a Dhé,
M’anam bheith lán de d’ghrá, a Dhé,
Domine, Domine exaudi me.

Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

This litany from an Irish prayer book asks Jesus for mercy appealing to who he is, his attributes, his virtue, his love and his work. A shorter Litany on the Name of Jesus is found at Litany (Name of Jesus).

Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Jesus, hear us.
Jesus, graciously hear us.

God the Father of heaven, have mercy.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy.

Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy.

Jesus, Son of the living God,
Jesus, Splendor of the Father,
Jesus, Brightness of eternal light,
Jesus, King of glory,
Jesus, Sun of justice,
Jesus, Son of the virgin Mary, have mercy on us.

Jesus most lovable,
Jesus, most adorable,
Jesus, most admirable,
Jesus, the mighty God,
Jesus, Father of the world to come,
Jesus, Angel of great counsel,
Jesus, most powerful,
Jesus, most patient,
Jesus, most obedient.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, have mercy on us.

Jesus, Lover of chastity,
Jesus, Lover of us,
Jesus, God of peace,
Jesus, Author of life,
Jesus, example of all virtues,
Jesus, zealous Lover of souls,
Jesus, our God,
Jesus, our Refuge,
Jesus, Father of the poor,
Jesus, Treasure of the faithful, have mercy on us.

Jesus, Good Shepherd,
Jesus, True Light,
Jesus, Eternal Wisdom,
Jesus, Infinite Goodness,
Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life,
Jesus, Joy of angels,
Jesus, Master of apostles,
Jesus, Teacher of evangelists,
Jesus, Strength of martyrs,
Jesus, Light of confessors,
Jesus, Purity of virgins,
Jesus, Crown of all saints, have mercy on us.

Be merciful to us: Spare us, O Jesus,
Be merciful to us: Hear us, O Jesus.

From all evil,
From all sin,
From your wrath,
From the snares of the devil,
From the spirit of fornication,
From everlasting death,
From neglect of your holy inspirations, Lord Jesus, deliver us.

Through the mystery of your holy Incarnation,
through your nativity,
through your divine infancy,
through your sacred life,
through your labors,
through your agony and passion,
through your cross and dereliction,
through your pains and torments,
through your death and burial,
through your glorious resurrection,
through your ascension,
through your joys and glory,
in the day of judgment, Lord Jesus, deliver us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: Spare us, Lord Jesus.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: Hear us, Lord Jesus.
Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: Have mercy on us, Lord Jesus.

Christ Jesus, hear us.
Christ Jesus, graciously hear us.

V. May the name of the Lord be praised.
R. Now and forever.

Let us pray.
O Lord Jesus Christ, you said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Mercifully hear our prayers and give us your gift of divine charity, that we may always love you with all our heart, and always praise your holy name; for you live and reign, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Source: Modified from The Irish Handbook of the Holy League, called the Apostleship of Prayer, Dublin, 1890, p. 59-62

Source of this version: Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church, © 2018, Paul C. Stratman

Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church is a collection of prayers from the time of Patrick (d. ca. 460-493) to the Synod of Whitby (664), and also from the Celtic Christian tradition that remained after Whitby. A few of the prayers in this book may be familiar from their appearance in other prayer books. Some may be appearing in English for the first time. All prayers (with one exception) are rendered or revised into contemporary English with the hopes that they will be useful in private and corporate worship. Includes prayers from The Antiphonary of Bangor, The Lorrha-Stowe Missal, The Book of Cerne, The Book of Dimma, St. Patrick, St. Columba and many other sources.  Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church is available in paperback through Amazon.com. It is also available for Amazon Kindle.

The Lorica of St. Fursa

3_add_ms_30512_f035v
The Lorica of St. Fursey begins in the right column, by the capital R.

May the guiding hands of God be on my shoulders,
may the presence of the Holy Spirit be on my head,
may the sign of Christ be on my forehead,
may the voice of the Holy Spirit be in my ears,
may the smell of the Holy Spirit be in my nose,
may the sight of the company of heaven be in my eyes,
may the speech of the company of heaven be in my mouth,
may the work of the church of God be in my hands,
may the serving of God and my neighbor be in my feet,
may God make my heart his home,
and may I belong to God, my Father, completely.

Source: Lorica of St. Fursa (Fursey), 7th Century.

Source of this version: Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church, © 2018, Paul C. Stratman

Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church is a collection of prayers from the time of Patrick (d. ca. 460-493) to the Synod of Whitby (664), and also from the Celtic Christian tradition that remained after Whitby. A few of the prayers in this book may be familiar from their appearance in other prayer books. Some may be appearing in English for the first time. All prayers (with one exception) are rendered or revised into contemporary English with the hopes that they will be useful in private and corporate worship. Includes prayers from The Antiphonary of Bangor, The Lorrha-Stowe Missal, The Book of Cerne, The Book of Dimma, St. Patrick, St. Columba and many other sources.  Prayers from the Ancient Celtic Church is available in paperback through Amazon.com. It is also available for Amazon Kindle.

Original in old Irish:

Robé mainrechta Dé forsind [f]ormna-sa,
robé torruma in spirta naoimh for in cend-sa,
robé airde Críst isin édan-sa,
robé ésdecht in spirta náimh isna clúasaib-sea,
robé bolltanugad in spirta nóib isna srónaib-sea,
robé imfaiccsin fer nime isna súilib-sea,
robé comlabra fer nime isna bélaib-sea,
robé lubair eculsa Dé isna lámaib-sea,
robé les Dé ocus a choimnesa isna cosaib-sea,
roba locc do Día in cride-sea,
rob la Día athair uile in duine-sea!

Credo ocus pater.

Source: https://celt.ucc.ie//published/G400079/index.html