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  • 1. Echoes of Creation Reflections On Celtic Spirituality Part ThreePrayer and Protection
  • 2. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 2 Celtic Spirituality Part 3 : - Prayer & ProtectionOPENING PRAYER I Weave a Silence to my lips I Weave a Silence to my mind I weave a Silence to my heart I close my eyes to attentions. I close my mind to inventions I close my heart to temptations. Still me , O King of Kings And keep me from harm Calm me O Son of sons As You stilled the storm Enfold me O Spirit of all In Your Loving Peace In the name of God the High King and of the Son the beloved and of the Spirit the enfolding One Let all tumult, noise and uncertainty Within me cease This day and all the days AmenTHE WORD OF GODBe strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armour of Godso that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggleis not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, thepowers of this dark world and the forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Therefore, put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes,you may be able to stand your ground. ..Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with thebreastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with thereadiness that comes from the gospel of peace.In addition to all this, take upthe shield of faith which can extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one.Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word ofGod. And pray in the Spirit at all occasions with all kinds of prayers andrequests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all thesaints’ Ephesians 6 : 10-18©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 3. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 3 The Deer’s Cry ( St Patrick’s Breastplate set to Music ) Participants sit and listen to music and words This is one of the most famous ‘Lorica’s or Caim from the Celtic Tradition. These are prayers of encirclement or protection I arise today, Through the strength of Heaven: Light of Sun, radiance of Moon, splendour of Fire, Speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of the Sea, Stability of Earth, firmness of Rock. I arise today, through God’s strength to pilot me: God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look before 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 and merciless power That may oppose my body and my soul. Christ be with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left. Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me. I arise today( Trans Bruno Keyer)©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 4. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 4NOTEThis is the third in a series of five presentations on Celtic Spirituality.These notes form part of a series of workshops with music, song,poetry and experiential exercises, all an essential part of gaining anunderstanding of Celtic Spirituality. Therefore, these notes , as do allothers, need to be read ( and used) in this context.INTRODUCTION and RESUMEParts one and two of this series on Celtic Spirituality explored how the Celtsretained a strong sense of Presence (Part 1) within and around all. How theearth, the Cosmos and all that exists, lives and breathes ‘groans in eagerexcitement, expectancy and awe at the Presence of God . This indwellsand enfolds all and therefore people and places are holy. Everything istouched by the Glory and Beauty of God and the sense that certain placesassist us in feeling the ‘Presence’ more keenly, this was referred to as ‘ThinPlaces’ ( Part 2).These notes (Part 3) revisit further aspects of the Indwelling Presence, whichalong with the sense and experience of God’s Protection form the twin pillarsof Celtic Spirituality. It will look briefly at Pre-Christian Celtic culture andcompare it with our own scientific/rational culture and the then prevalentGreco/Roman culture. It will also explore how the Celtic ‘sense’ of the allencompassing Presence is lived out in the richness of prayer and also thewonder of the Celtic CAIM , often referred to as a Lorica or Breastplate.But first let us reflect and share on our Journey to date and particularly onSession 2 – Those Thin Places.PRAYER AND PROTECTION‘ Since we belong to the Light, let us be self-controlled, putting onFaith and Love as a breastplate, and the Hope of salvation as ahelmet’ ( 1 Thes 5 . 8 )The twin pillars of Celtic Spirituality are the awareness of the Power ofPresence and Protection. To understand more of this and also some of themain differences between Celtic and main-stream Western Christianity, it ishelpful to reflect on some of the differences between pre-Christian Celticcivilisation and that of the Greco/Roman civilisations.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 5. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 5The Celts were a rural, de-centralised people. For example, there were nolarge settlements, or even small villages in Ireland until about the 6th or 7thcentury. In fact, it was the Danes and Vikings who founded the first reallylarge settlements ( e.g Dublin, Wexford and Limerick)The Celts were aloosely knit society of clans and tribes, whose people owed their allegiancethrough their Chief and through him or her to a High Chief of High King.Unlike the Roman model of absolute power, the Celts were more communal,whose land, possessions, property etc were either shared out directly or heldin trust and used wisely by the chief and the ruling classes of Druids, bardsand chieftains. All had a duty of care to each other and to the clan. Thiscultural bias was part of their spiritual belief and therefore God (often Godsin groups of Three – a Sacred number) was seen as a caring High Chief orKingly Father or Parent. This was not too dissimilar to the Yahweh of theJews, but with a less prominent emphasis on the masculine and a culture ofacceptance of the femininity of God. Therefore, when Christianity arrived, possibly as early as the 1st or earlypart of the 2nd century, ( most probably via Egypt) the concept of God –Trinity, Love etc was familiar. There are many similarities between earlyCeltic Christianity (not to be confused with the watered-down versionenforced by Rome from the 7th century onward) and the Coptic and EasternOrthodox Churches. (Unfortunately, we do not have time to trace these inthis series of essays and complementary talks).So in contrast to the hierarchical Roman Church, the Celtic ChristianCommunity , for it CANNOT be called a Church, was based on communityand on holy places inhabited by wise and holy men and women. It was notuntil the 12th Century that Ireland developed a full diocesan system withparishes. The Celtic Church in Wales held out until the 13th century. Thecentre of spiritual life was the hermitages and the simple monasteries withthe learning and direction of holy sages.Another aspect of difference was the Celtic sense of the super-natural,creation, imagination, of angels and demonic powers. But above all this wasthe sense of Power-Presence and Protection allied with a deep belief, notonly in the after life but, that this life and the after life were connected andonly separated by a thin veil. Hence we have the Celtic custom of celebratingdeath and mourning a birth. The former is still widely practiced.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 6. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 6With all these elements, Celts had a vibrant prayer life. They rarely prayed inthe ‘Vocative Mode’ i.e. directly asking for temporal favours. No, Celts prayedindirectly and with a deep Faith for blessings and protection from the eternalstruggle between Light and Darkness. Their God was a High Chief or Kingand therefore a loving, caring, parental and protecting God. Also, because oftheir communal life and belief in the thin connection with after-life, theybelieved that all are surrounded by, and in community with, the vast angelicand saintly host and therefore the power of God and of Light is Infinite !They had many prayers invoking protection, prayers for all seasons, timesand occasions. A famous one is the following ancient Irish Prayer – God beWith Me. This is an ancient Irish prayer which , although it was written inthe 9th Century, is connected with Saint Colmcille and his teachings.Now, Colmcille ( Irish for Dove of the Church) was one of the trinity offamous Irish saints – Patrick, Brigid and Colmcille. He is known in Scotlandas Saint Columba and is credited with bringing Christianity to Scotland. Hefounded the famous monastery on Iona.It was from Iona that Columba sendhis disciples out across Scotland and it was his monks who foundedLindisfarne and brought Christianity to Northern England.Readers and participants could find it helpful to read it slowly and thenreflect on its words. These demonstrate the height, the depth, the length andthe breath of its deep and Godly Faith.Be PRESENT to the POWER of its PRESENCE. For this prayer is a Caim –a protective breastplate.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 7. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 7 GOD BE WITH ME God be with me against all trouble, Noble Trinity which is one, Father, Son and Spirit. May every hurtless blessing, every pure prayer,Every ladder which reaches Heaven, be of help to me. Every good saint who suffered on the face of the earth below, Every pious disciple who believed in Christ. Everyone meek, everyone quiet, everyone sincere, everyone unsullied. Every confessor, every soldier who exists beneath the sun. Every glorious pilgrim, every rich person of goodly power, Every destitute person, every saint who has abandoned the land. Every tongue without fail upon which grace has been bestowed, Every heart throughout the world who never covenants treachery. Every modest righteous one beneath the plane of bright Heaven, From the West where the sun sets, eastwards to Mount Sion.From here may they protect me against the fog-surrounded demons, these Companions of the King’s Son from the lands of the living. May my King guard me, may He aid me always; May I be at every need beneath the protection of God’s hand ( Anonymous Irish 9th Century Monk)This simple but deeply spiritual prayer from an anonymous monk clearlyexpounds the richness, depth and profoundness of Celtic Prayer and Faith( Readers and Participants may wish to pause for silent Reflection)©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 8. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 8CAIM Presence & ProtectionArguably, Western Christianity (both pre and post Reformation) has stressedthe Transcendence of God. This a God who is seen as somehow a being whois ‘up there ‘. Considered to be like a King on His throne in Heaven andthis ‘place’ ( often called heaven) where God dwells, is depicted assomewhere ‘up in the clouds’. In other words , other worldly and removedfrom mere humans.In addition, Western Christianity has often failed to truly emphasise theTrinity. Sometimes seeming Unitarian ( Jesus only) or at the best twopersons – The Father and Jesus , with little reference to the Spirit. CelticChristianity has never fallen into this ‘habit’. It is firmly Trinitarian with astrong emphasis on both the Transcendence and the Immanence of God –the Indweller or Spirit and Jesus the Immanuel – the Word made flesh. Godis seen as non-dual. This is similar to the Hindu concept of Advaita ( non-dual)Celts lived their lives in the ‘presence’ of the Presence’, who is God. This canbe seen in the day-to day prayers which filled their life. God was both upthere and present in all things and at all occasions. So we have manyexamples of everyday prayers on awakening, on lighting the fire, on eating,on working, on smooring the fire and on going to sleep. There were prayersabout tasks, rooms in the house for travel, for every main event in life. Thereare many, but the following two examples are given.1 GENERAL BLESSING FOR ANY OCCASION May the Love of the Father enfold us. May the Peace and the Wisdom of the Son enlighten us. May the Joy and Fire of the Spirit inflame us. May the Love-Peace and Joy and Blessings of The Father, Son and Spirit be with us. This day and every day. AMEN©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 9. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 92. WELSH PRAYERFather ,You are always more ready to hear than we are to either listen orpray. And to give us more than we desire.Jesus, You are more ready to heal than we are to be healed and to forgivethan we are prepared to forgive others and to be forgiven.Spirit, You are more ready to intercede for us than we are ready to intercedefor ourselves or others.Forgive us, Father, Son and Spirit – for our lack of faith. AMEN ( Adapted from Welsh Celtic Prayer)So for Celts there was ‘no between’ , no gap, no separation between Godand them (Mother Julian of Norwich expressed this almost 10 centurieslater). There was ‘no between’ God and their experience of life, nor betweenlife and death. They were a people confident in their understanding that theywere surrounded by angelic powers and a saintly host. Goodly Powers thathelped in the fight and the struggle against evil powers. It was a sense ofLight against Darkness, Good versus Evil. But above, beyond and around allwere the Trinity of Father-Son and Spirit.This brings us to the ‘power of the Caim’. This was, and is, a way of prayerthat Celts carried with them. It involved the Celtic cross and all the elementsof Good. This will be outlined in a moment and then we will prepare for apersonal experience of the CAIM.Before outlining in greater detail the Caim, it is important to reiterate severalpoints concerning Celtic Spirituality. The first point is the Celtic sense of the‘Presence’ of God. This can be likened to both the Hindu practice of‘Awareness’ or the Buddhist practice of ‘Mindfulness’.If you read and reflect many Celtic poems and prayers you can clearly seethe strong comparison between Celtic, Hindu and Buddhist concepts.. Forexample, read Amergin’s famous poem ( see Part 1) and it has echoes ofsome of the passages from the Hindu Upanishads and the Buddhist Sutras.So this ‘Presence’ is in and all around us. Another great connection is theposition of the Druids. These were wise and holy men and women who weremuch like the Sannyasis and Sadhus of Hinduism.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 10. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 10The second point is the Celtic sense of the ‘circle of life’. This involved boththis earthly life, where we live out our experiences through the body-psycheand the next life, or life after death, where we live in the spiritual realm. Pre-Christian Celts believed in an afterlife and had a strong sense of itsimportance. In fact, for them the afterlife was a better place to be than thepresent life in this world. This gave them a strong sense of the connectionbetween life and death. Death led to new life and life was a form of death, sothe cycle went on.Unlike the Eastern Traditions, they did not believe in re-incarnation but in aconnection between the twin worlds of this world and the next world. Theadvent of Christianity, with a Master (Jesus the Christ) whose selfless andvoluntary death brought liberation and life to us in this world made greatsense to the Celts. In addition, He (The Master) had gone before them intothe afterlife world and therefore was present as a great protector. Thesetruths of the Christian Faith echoed much of what pre-Christian Celtsbelieved.The third and final point is the Celtic sense of Presence and Protection. Thiswas allied to their understanding of the constant struggle between thepowers of Light and Darkness, Good and Evil, Life and Death. Christ was, forthem, a liberator who had conquered evil and saved a basically good peoplefrom the powers of evil. So therefore, the Cross and Light, often signified byfire, were strong symbols of protection. In addition, because of their belief inthe connection between this world and the next, their was a sense of beingin communion with the saints and angels who had gone before into theafterlife.The Caim So a combination of all these points led to an extremely strongsense of the protectiveness of God, the Angela and Saints and on thecapacity of all to call down this protection. This ancient belief in NOTsuperstition but is a deep and living sense of awareness of the Presence ofGod. The Caim is an ancient symbolic ritual that calls down the power of God’sprotection. It is almost certainly pre-Christian. It involves drawing a circle,normally with the index finger of the right hand, around yourself and whatand who it is you want to protect. Until relatively recently, in the Hebrides,new-born babies were passed around the fire (a sign of the Light of Christ) ina circle. This was to bless and protect them from the powers of darkness andevil.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 11. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 11In a gathering, the group would sit in a circle, the perfect figure, and eachlights a candle so that a living circle of light is formed. No power of darknessor doubt can break through this circle of good and therefore prayers ofprotection are invoked for all.NOTE. In the experiential Workshop accompanying these notes,participants experience the power of the Caim , allied to the powerfulsymbolism of the Celtic Cross. ( See Part 2 – Those Thin Places – fora description of the meaning and power of the Celtic Cross)FINAL PRAYERAs with all these short notes, each theme is set in the context of bothopening and closing prayer. One of the great gifts of Celtic Spirituality is itssense of prayer at all times and for al occasions. Celts saw NO distinctionbetween secular and holy. All was and is holy. Therefore, God, and the senseof God’s Presence is in and around us at all times and therefore we mark thiswith prayers suitable for all times. The following is a typical Celtic prayerbefore going to sleep. It is said in two parts. Part 1 in normal print, part 2 emboldened A PRAYER ON LYING DOWN TO SLEEP I lie down this night with God, and God will lie down with me. I lie down this night with Christ , and Christ will lie down with me. I lie down this night with the Spirit , and the Spirit will lie down with me. ( Said by all ) God and Christ and the Spirit Be lying down with me.(Carmina Gadelica – An Anthology of 5 Volumes – Collected by AlexanderCarmichael Published by. Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh )©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 12. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 12NOTEParticipants spend time sitting in silence , with the trinity of candles lit.Music plays and as it fades the following prayer is said after which all leavequietly O lord we pray That you will be the Light in our darkness That we might sleep well this night And awake tomorrow more aware of your all pervading and enfolding presence That we might awake tomorrow and live our lives in confidence And great joy.©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections
  • 13. An Introduction to Celtic Spirituality 13BIBLIOGRAPHYThe following are some of the main sources which support all chapters/short papersin this series on Celtic Spirituality. Other sources are quoted in the text as theyoccur. In addition, many of the opening and closing prayers have been adaptedand/or compiled or written by the author (Peter Creagh) in the ‘style’ of CelticSpirituality.Adam, David,(1987) The Cry of the Deer , London, Triangle/SPCKAdam, David,(1985) The Edge of, London, Triangle/SPCKGlory Backhouse,H & Pipe,R ( Eds)( 1987) Revelations of Divine Love – Mother Julian ofNorwich , London, Hodder & StoughtonBamford, C & Marsh,WP (1986) Celtic Christianity – Ecology and Holiness, Edinburgh, FlorisBradley,I (2003) The Celtic Way, London , Darton-Longman-ToddCahill,T (1995) How the Irish Saved Civilization - New York, DoubledayBeresford-Ellis,P (1992) Celtic Inheritance – London, ConstablLleelyn,R (1990) The Dart of Longing Love – Daily Readings from the Cloud of Unknowing,London, Darton-Longman-ToddMatthews,J & C (1993) The little Book of Celtic Wisdom, Dorset, ElementMatthews,C (1994) The little Book of Celtic Blessings, Dorset, ElementMatthews,C (1989) THe Celtic Tradition , Dorset, ElementMcKinney,D ( 2004) Walking the Mist- Celtic Spirituality for the 21st Century, London ,Hodder& StoughtonO Fiannachta,P (1988) Saltair – Prayers from the Irish Tradition , Dublin, Columba PressO Malley,B ( 1998) Celtic Blessings , Norwich, Canterbury PressO Malley,B ( 2002) A Celtic Primer , Norwich, Canterbury PressStreit, Jakob (1977) Sun and Cross, Edinburgh, Floris PressTobin, G (1999), The Wisdom of St Patrick, New Yourk, BallantineToulson, S (1993) The Celtic Year, Dorset, ElementVardey,L (1996) God In All Worlds, New York, Vintage Books©Peter Creagh (2005,2010) Celtic Christianity – A Series of Lenten Reflections