Thanks to you, O God, that I have risen today,
to the rising of life itself;
may it be to your own glory,
O God of every gift,
and to the glory of my soul likewise.
O great God, aid my soul
with the aiding of your own mercy;
even as I clothe my body with wool,
cover my soul with the shadow of your wing.
Help me to avoid every sin,
and the source of every sin to forsake;
and as the mist scatters
on the crest of the hills,
may each ill haze clear from my soul, O God.
I come before your sight, O Lord,
as one accused with my conscience as witness.
I pray, not daring to ask what I am not worthy to receive.
But Lord, you know everything
that drives us to confess to you;
what we are ashamed of,
and the sins we were not afraid to commit.
With these words we yield to you our hearts and minds,
and commend to you what we say,
but not what we have done.
Spare us, O Lord, and forgive the sins we confess.
Have mercy on those who call to you.
And because my senses are weak
in comprehending your mysteries,
grant, Lord, the things we do not ask
because of the hardness of our hearts,
and grant us pardon;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Source: Book of Cerne,
Ante oculos tuos domine reus conscientiae testis adsisto rogare non audeo quod impetrare non merear . Tu enim scis domine omnia quae aguntur in nobis erubescimus confitere quod per nos non timemus conmittere . Uerbis tibi tantum obsequimur corde autem mentimus . et quod uelle nos dicimus nolle nostris actibus adprobamus . parce domine confitentibus ignosce peccantibus . miserere te rogantibus . et quia in sacramentis tuis meus sensus infirmus est . praesta domine ut qui ex nobis duri cordis uerba non suscipis . per te nobis ueniam largiaris iesus christus dominus noster . Amen.
Almighty God and Father, Lord of heaven and earth, I pray, in your mercy lead me: where thousands of angels always reflect the exceeding glory of the King of kings, praising him; where the twenty-four elders fall before the throne of the Lamb of God, praising him; where the four living creatures surround the throne, and every eye sees his wonderful works; where the four rivers flow from their one source; where the patriarchs, the first to believe in God, rule with him in his divine city; where the prophets, full of the pure Holy Spirit, praise Christ together in the purest light of truth; where Christ with the apostles Peter and Paul rule, sitting on their thrones; where the flower of the state of virginity of the innocent with the pleasantness of the people of flourishing are following the Lamb; where the martyrs of Christ are dressed in white robes and singing and waving palm branches; where the holy, pure virgins hold palms for the king of kings; where the crowd of saints sings to the Lord with constant peace in the land of the living; where there is happiness; where there is security; where there is always health where there is purity of mind; where there is no pain; where there are no problems, no anger, no pain of labor; where there is no hunger; where there is no deep water; where no fire burns; where no one perishes; where there is no old age; where youth flourishes; where there is no groaning; where the poor do not weep; where there is eternal peace; where there is joy; where there is no trouble; where there is true life; where there is no bitter death; where it is always divine; where no one knows evil; where love is strong; where the nourishing glory of Christ the King reigns; where there is true joy; where the cup is full of constant life; where the clear name of Christ rules upon his throne; where all things are made right; where there is salvation for all; where there is unity; where there is Trinity; where there is real truth; where there is divine virtue; where there is the God of gods; where there is the Lord of lords; where there is the King of kings; where there is the choir of heaven; where there is the Light from Light; where there is the source of life, flowing in the heights of the city; where the voice of praise resounds for the Lord; where there is no darkness of night; where the King of kings rules forever and ever.
Source: The Book of Cerne, p. 106-108
Original in Latin:
Deus pater omnipotens domine caeli ac terrae deduc me obsecro te per misericordiam pietatis tuae Ubi resplendent semper angelorum milia regem regum laudantes cum ingenti gloria . Ubi uiginti quattuor seniores sunt proni agnum dei laudantes ante conspectum throni . Ubi mystica quattuor animalia tota oculis plena tarn mira magnalia . Ubi ilia flumina bis bina manantia uno e fontis rore inrigati . Ubi patriarchae primi credentes deo ciues urbis diuinae regnantes sine (fine) cum eo . Ubi prophetae puri spiritu sancto pleni christum conlaudant clara causa luminis ueri . Ubi sancta maria sanctis cum uirginibus uitae fruentes prmiis & in thronis sublimibus . Ubi petrus et Paulus christi cum apostolis regnant cum rege sedentes in cathhedris . Ubi sequuntur agnum turbae innocentium uirginitatis flore amoeno florentium . Ubi martyrum chori amicti stolis albis christo canentes habentes uitae palmam . Ubi uirgines sanctae castitatis nimiam habent palmam gloriae regni regiae . Ubi sanctorum turbae domino canentium gaudent cum pace firma in terra uiuentium . Ubi est felicitas . Ubi et securitas . Ubi semper sanitas . Ubi mentis puritas . Ubi nullus dolor . Ubi nee mentes nee irae furor Nee dolor laborantibus . Ubi nullus esurit . Ubi nee ullus bibit . Ubi ignis non urit . Ubi nullus peribit . Ubi senex non manet . Ubi iuuenis florebit . Ubi lesus non gemit . Ubi pauper non plorat . Ubi pax perpetua . Ubi et laetitia . Ubi nee molestia . Ubi uita est uera . Ubi nee mors amara . Ubi semper diuina . Ubi non nocent mala . Ubi caritas firma . Ubi alma gloria christi regis regiae . Ubi lumen diuinum . Ubi gaudium uerum . Ubi poculum purum uitae perennis plenum . Ubi nomen praeclarum Christi regnantis (in) thronum . Ubi est rector rerum . Ubi salus cunctorum . Ubi unitas . Ubi diuinitas . Ubi trinitas . Ubi ueritas uera . Ubi uirtus diuina . Ubi deus deorum . Ubi dominus dominorum . Ubi rex regum . Ubi caelorum chori . Ubi lux lucis . Ubi fons uiuus fulget in summa poli . Ubi uox laudis resonat domino regi . Ubi nox nulla tetra . Ubi regnum regnorum saeculorum in saecula . Amen .
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
he 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.)
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.
efore 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.
atrick 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.
rom 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
he 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
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, …) 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.
ther Celtic prayers:
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.
he 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)
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 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.
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
Deus, qui non uis mortem peccatoris, sed ut conuertatur et uiuat, huic adte excorde conuerso peccata dimite, et perennis uitae tribu[e] gratiam, perdominum. 
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.