St. Patrick’s Adventurous Prayer

As we anticipate the feast of St. Patrick, we celebrate the holistic spirituality of Celtic Christianity. In a time in which we are rediscovering the profound interdependence of life, Celtic Christianity gives us the vision of a lively, enchanted world, in which God’s presence can be found in every grove and meadow, in the wild goose flying over Iona and in the hearts of all human beings. God’s presence can be found in us!

In contrast to Calvinist and Augustine doctrines of predestination, election, original sin, and human depravity, the Celtic tradition saw life as an open-ended call and response between God and humankind in which our efforts can shape our lives and the future of the planet. God’s goodness lures us forward and is part of our inherent nature, regardless of how far we have fallen from God’s vision for us. We are not passive recipients of grace, but can be active agents in personal transformation and partnership with God.  This was the belief of Patrick as well as that grossly maligned – and insightful and graceful – theologian, Pelagius.

To the Celtic Christians, life is adventurous and filled with surprises, whether or not we seek them out. According to legend, Celtic missionaries set off on voyages, without a rudder for steering, in order to find their place of resurrection, the place where they would experience God’s calling for their lives. They trusted God’s movements in the winds and waves to inspire them to find the place where their vocations would meet the needs of the world.

St. Patrick shared that same adventurous spirit as he spread the good news of Jesus as Healer and Savior. Like the other great Celtic spiritual guide Columba of Iona, he used the language of druid religion. Celtic Christians often described Christ as their “druid,” teacher, guide, and healer. As legend has it, Patrick was being pursued by a local chieftain, who was planning to capture and kill him. Just as the chieftain’s troops were bearing down on him, Patrick disappeared. All they saw was a deer bounding across the pathway. God was at work, Patrick believed, in providing him shelter along with insight for the journey. This was the origin of the prayer attributed to Patrick.

In the spirit of Patrick, Celtic Christians often rotated in a clockwise direction, drawing a circle around themselves whenever they left on a journey, whether across the neighborhood or into unknown lands. They recognized the adventure of each day, and their need for God’s guidance and protection. This encircling reminded them – and us today – that we are always in the circle of God’s care and that as we travel forth, God always guides our pathways. I use the prayer of St. Patrick, along with the Celtic caim, or encircling prayer, whenever I feel anxious, at risk, or embark on a new enterprise.

I believe the Celtic encircling is a visible reminder of the affirmation, “God in all things; all things in God.” I believe that the Celtic caim can enrich your spiritual life, awaken you to God’s lively presence, and give you courage to face the challenges of day to day life, illness, and planetary survival. If you are in a public place, hospitalized or facing an interpersonal challenge, you may say St. Patrick’s prayer in your imagination.

Here are the words from Patrick’s “Breastplate” or “Lorica.” He invoked a prayer of God’s presence as a talisman of protection. Celtic wisdom can transform your life and give you energy and hope for the political and social challenges of our times. Take them as a companion on your adventures.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through the belief in the threeness,

Through confession of the oneness

Of the Creator of Creation.

 

I arise today

Through the strength of heaven:

Light of sun,

Radiance of moon,

Splendor of fire,

Speed of lightning,

Swiftness of wind,

Depth of sea,

Stability of earth,

Firmness of rock.

 

I arise today

Through God’s strength to pilot me:

God’s might to uphold me,

God’s wisdom to guide me,

God’s eye to look before me,

God’s ear to hear me,

God’s word to speak for me,

God’s hand to guard me,

God’s way to lie before me,

God’s shield to protect me,

God’s host to save me.

 

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,

Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,

Christ on my right, Christ on my left,

Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,

Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,

Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,

Christ in every eye that sees me,

Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,

Through belief in the threeness,

Through confession of the oneness,

Of the Creator of Creation.

On this St. Patrick’s season, embrace God’s circle of care and inspiration. You are always in the dynamic circle of divine adventure. Your life is a holy adventure in companionship with an adventurous God.

 

About Bruce Epperly

Bruce Epperly is a theologian, spiritual guide, and Pastor of South Congregational United Church of Christ, Centerville (Cape Cod), Massachusetts. He is the author of twenty five books, including Process Theology: A Guide to the Perplexed, Philippians: An Interactive Bible Study,The Center is Everywhere: Celtic Spirituality for the Postmodern Age, and Emerging Process: Adventurous Theology for a Missional Church. He also writes regularly for the Process and Faith lectionary. He has served as chaplain, professor, and administrator at Georgetown University, Lancaster Theological Seminary, Wesley School of Theology, and Claremont School of Theology. He may be reached at drbruceepperly@aol.com for lectures, workshops, and retreats. His latest book is Healing Marks: Healing and Spirituality in Mark’s Gospel (Energion).

  • Dave Nash

    Bruce: Thanks for the reminder.

  • http://indiahensonyoga.blogspot.com India

    Each week I post a sentence or two on my facebook page citing the author, of course. May I use this? “In contrast to Calvinist and Augustine doctrines of predestination, election, original sin, and human depravity, the Celtic tradition saw life as an open-ended call and response between God and humankind in which our efforts can shape our lives and the future of the planet.” —-Bruce Epperly

  • Susan Barton

    Wow….thank you for this. Well written….a good reminder….inspiring!


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