Mid Week Reflection – Celtic Prayer and Life for the 21st Century
Over the last 20 weeks or so I have written a weekly prayerful reflection. It was never my intention to make these a heavy academic piece of writing rather I wanted to give them a lighter touch and perhaps prompt those who wished into a deeper understanding of what is known as Celtic Spirituality. I could not have done this without the help of others, the majority I only know through their writing. One, however, has been a weekly support and companion, walking along with me as I tried to bring the Celtic saints to life. Fr Luke read my weekly reflections and I am grateful for his encouragement.
Celtic Crosses excavated on Great Cumbrae, North Ayrshire, Scotland. Located in the Cathedral of the Isles.
Rosser1954 – Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 – Wikimedia Commons
Sister Elizabeth Rees has written a number of books on the Celtic Saints, one book in particular ‘Celtic Saints in their Landscape’ is special inasmuch it contains some lovely colour photographs. The book was published in 2001 by Sutton Publishing.
Over these 20 weeks I have included prayers from John Birch. I am indebted to him for his generosity in allowing be to use them so freely.
In the Spring 2013 edition of the CofE Reader magazine, John explains something about his approach to prayer. I include an extract:-
I see prayer in a very real sense as a conversation, because at the end of the day this is our chief means of communicating with the Almighty. But how does God like to be talked to?
As a sometime poet, I’m always drawn to the Bible and particularly the Psalms, those poetic masterpieces which have formed a centrepiece of our worship for generations. So much emotion packed into so few words. Praise, adoration, confession, thanksgiving, anger and frustration are all there, condensed at times into just a few words of raw emotion. They are given to us as examples of how folk such as King David poured out their praise and petitions, through good times and bad.
“I call on you, my God, for you will answer me; turn your ear to me and hear my prayer.” (Psalm 17:6 NIV)
Being honest seems to have been the key, not being afraid to admit that they sometimes felt God had abandoned them, and left them in peril.
I also have an abiding interest in the prayers of the early Christian Church in Britain, generally known as Celtic Christianity. I love the way that the prayer life of these early saints extended into their everyday working environment, that they felt a closeness to both their God and that which surrounded them.
Lord, be with us this day,
Within us to purify us;
Above us to draw us up;
Beneath us to sustain us;
Before us to lead us;
Behind us to restrain us;
Around us to protect us.
https://www.faithandworship.com is his web page, he adds this for US visitors
I assure you that I have no connection with a certain US society of the same name (this seems to be an issue with some folk)!
I have also found the publications of the Northumbria Community inspiring.
( https://www.northumbriacommunity.org/ ) I like how they describe themselves:
The Northumbria Community describes a diverse and dispersed network of people, alone and together, gathered around a Rule of Life as a Way to follow the Way. We’re quite messy and not always easy to define or pin down – as William Stringfellow once wrote, ‘Dynamic and erratic, spontaneous and radical, audacious and immature, committed if not altogether coherent. Ecumenically open and often experimental, visible here and there, now and then, but unsettled institutionally. Almost Monastic in nature, but most of all… enacting a fearful hope for human life in society.’
They produce two volumes of Daily Prayers along with other online material.
Finally, the is the Community of Aiden and Hilda
The Community of Aidan and Hilda is a dispersed, ecumenical body drawing inspiration from the lives of the Celtic saints.
Ray Simpson was the founding guardian of the Community and author of a number books on Celtic Prayer.
I hope you have found blessings in these prayerful reflections. A final thought
Celtic prayerfulness draws us to the man who is God, draws us to the life of Jesus and beyond. Through Jesus we can see, figuratively speaking, the face of God and experience the Spirit blowing through and around us. We know and experience the ‘Three’, the blessed and Holy Trinity.
When I was writing this piece, I had misspelled prayerfulness and the auto-correct stepped in to my assistance. The thing was I had not recognised straight away was that it had corrected my misspelling to ‘playfulness’. There’s a thought to end on! I’ll leave that thought with you!
In the unity of Father,
Son and Holy Spirit
these hearts are joined as one.
You who are in our beginning and our ending, and the journeying between, be with us in this time of refreshment, an oasis in the day, and feed us with your word.
You who are at our departing and arriving, and everything that is seen, be with us as, eyes open, we marvel at all that you have made, and fill our hearts with praise.
(As you read and listen, use the pauses to let the words speak to your hearts)
Praise the Lord from the heavens Praise him in the heights above
Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and women, old men and children.
Let them praise the name of the Lord,
for his name alone is exalted; his splendour is above the earth and the heavens. And he has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the Lord from the heavens Praise him in the heights above
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
Three in One. Amen
For Truth that speaks to hearts Lord, show us your mercy
For grace beyond imagining Lord, show us your mercy
For forgiveness from our sin Lord, show us your mercy
Lord, you call us to be different as we journey through this day, to be a guide to those who wander, offer help and seek the lost. Forgive us when we fail to become the people we should be.
Lord, you call us to be different in the ebb and flow of life, to see the good in all your children, demonstrate your love and grace.
Forgive us when we fail to become the people we should be.
Lord, you call! Equip and strengthen your people for the task, that within our daily journeying we might bless the lives we meet. Amen
The God of Love is merciful and will forgive those who in humility confess their sins.
Isaiah 40:28-31 *Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint
The Lord’s Prayer
God of morning and rising sun, with breaking dawn the beauty of your creativity is revealed for all to see.
And we shall sing your praise.
God of noontime and gentle rain, you bring to us refreshment on our daily journeying, and the strength to persevere.
And we shall sing your praise.
God of evening and setting sun, you send us out in faith and bring us safely home again, such is your love and grace.
And we shall sing your praise.
Now may the hand of God go with us on our journeying today, the love of God surround us as we venture on our way, the Spirit of God be present in everything we say and God’s blessing be the gift that we freely give away.
• This time of prayer is from John Birch’s ‘A Fragrant Offering Daily Prayers in the Celtic Tradition’
You may wish the finish this time of reflective prayer sitting silently and enjoying a peaceful moment or two. You may also think about listening to some music that has touched you or a favourite hymn or song. Enjoy these moments! God bless!