Celtic Prayer

Celtic Prayer

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The basis of Celtic Prayer is that there is no distinction between the sacred and the secular. It’s all interconnected and interwoven. God is in the thick of it, bound up in all aspects of our lives. And every part of the life that we lead could and should be prayed about.

Celtic Spirituality has a long tradition, melding together a pre-Christian appreciation of creation with the early teachings of Patrick, Columba, Aidan and Cuthbert. Every thing and every one is a habitation for the Divine. As a result, welcome and hospitality become important qualities – just like Abraham and Sarah entertaining angels unaware.

Importance of family

Much of the Celtic prayer that we have now comes down to us across the centuries from Ireland and Western Scotland (but also Wales, Cornwall and Brittany). Places where people lived off the land and the sea. A culture where poetry and story telling were central. And somewhere too where connection to family, both immediate and extended, was a matter of survival. The extended family was the clan – and God the Father was often thought of as a Clan chieftain.

The prayers mark the seasons and turn of the tide and the milking of the cows and the stranger at the door. They are a mix of blessing and petition, praising and invocation. Thus, every action and thought, however mundane it might be, could be given a holiness in this way.

Caim and Lorica prayers

The Trinity appear often. The blessed or sacred three. Sometimes they are equated with the sky, earth and sea. At other times with father, wife and child. Prayers of protection were popular too, understandably when life was so fragile. These were called Caim or circling prayers, reflecting the encircling love of God. We could do worse, at times like these, than to pray some circling prayers for our loved ones and for those in the medical and care profession.

There were also Lorica or breastplate prayers. These were prayers of protection. They weren’t so much asking God to provide something new, more to open our eyes to what he was already doing.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

– The start of St Patrick’s Lorica

And whilst few of us now get our living from the sea or from crofting, perhaps we can compose our own prayers to reflect the reality of the lives that we now lead? The every day stuff of what we do in 2020.

The prayers are meant to be said out loud and remembered, rather than written and read silently. So, the voicing of it makes it yours, rather than someone else’s words. But we do so with respect and with good intention – rather than loudly and drawing attention to ourselves.

The Blessing of the Three

The Sacred Three, my fortress be, encircling me

Come and be round, my hearth, my home

Fend Thou my kin and every sleeping thing within, from scathe, from sin

Thy care, our peace, through mid of night to light’s release

– Alistair MacLean, Hebridean Altars

Rune of the Road

May the road rise with you. May the wind be always at your back

May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rain fall soft upon your fields

And, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand

– Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica

Peace

Deep peace of the running wave to you

Deep peace of the flowing air to you

Deep peace of the quiet earth to you

Deep peace of the shining stars to you

Deep peace of the Son of peace to you

– Iona Community

This is the third in a series on different approaches to prayer. Please also see the earlier posts on Lectio Divina and Ignatian Prayer. The next in the series is: Stations of the Resurrection. Thanks to Jon Tyson for the great photo on Unsplash.

Useful reading:

  1. Caitlin Matthews – Celtic Devotional. Godsfield Press. [Used in paragraph 2].
  2. Caitlin Matthews – The little book of Celtic Blessings. Element Books.
  3. Frances Kelly – Praying in the Celtic Spirit. Kevin Mayhew.
  4. John Pritchard – How to Pray. SPCK.
  5. Alexander Carmichael – Carmina Gadelica. Forgotten Books.
  6. Any book by David Adam!
  7. John O’Donohue – Anam Cara and Benedictus. Both with Bantam Books.
  8. Esther de Waal – The Celtic Way of Prayer. Hodder & Stoughton.
  9. And check this great website run by the Northumbria Community which gives you Celtic Daily Prayer to follow.

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5 Comments

  1. Since I am from the Celtic fringe (Isles of Scilly) I relate very much to the form of Celtic prayer. I use the book of Celtic Daily Prayer – prayers and readings from the Northumbria Community, for my daily prayer time.

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