The Carmina Gadelica Series: Sleep Prayer

The Carmina Gadelica Series: Sleep Prayer November 4, 2021

A major tenet of both Celtic faith and spirituality is the understanding that God is everywhere and within everything. This is also true in states of mind. The Celtic follower of Christ seeks Christ in every aspect of life. Sleep is a huge part of life and so it makes perfect sense that one would seek Christ in the going to sleep and the waking up of ones life. In the Carmina Gadelica we find that their is a prayer specifically for going into sleep:

Sleep Prayer

I AM now going into the sleep,
Be it that I in health shall waken;
If death be to me in the death-sleep,
Be it that on Thine own arm,
O God of Grace, I in peace shall waken;
Be it on Thine own beloved arm,
O God of Grace, that I in peace shall waken.

Be my soul on Thy right hand, O God,
Thou King of the heaven of heavens
it was you who bought’st me with Thy blood,
Thou it was who gavest Thy life for me,
Encompass Thou me this night, O God,
That no harm, no evil shall me befall.

Whilst the body is dwelling in the sleep,
The soul is soaring in the shadow of heaven,
Be the red-white Michael meeting the soul,
Early and late, night and day,
Early and late, night and day.

No Matter What, We Will Awaken

One of the distinct beauties of this prayer is that it is unassuming. There is no assumption that one will simply awaken in the morning. The prayer seems to cede control to God, an art long lost in Western Christianity. The person praying is stating that God alone will decide the fate of the person going to sleep. All the prayer asks for is that if it be the death sleep, that God would allow this person to hang onto his arm. The prayer states that either way, waking to life or death, that they will awaken into peace.

We must understand that in many things, not just sleep, that we will awaken. Instead of trying to control things of which we will never control, maybe we could look to this prayer and understand that no matter what, we are going to wake up. May we learn to pray for things that are within our control. We cannot control what we wake up to, but we can control how we respond to what we wake up to. May we be like this humble soul and simply ask to wake up with the peace of the Lord. It is my hope that we could wake and face whatever may come, with peace of mind that God is with and within us. We can face anything in the morning, if we wake and go with The Lord.

Encompass Me O God

The unassuming nature of this poem also provides some surety. The person praying is assured that God will encompass them while they sleep. This harkens to the reality of God everywhere that Celts understood. It is also a comfort to know that no matter what happens, God is with you. God is both present in your sleep, as well as encircling the physical body outside of the mind. Can you imagine what the church in the west would look like if we truly believed God was in everything? If the church understood the entirety of the world was encompassed by the love of God, how would we treat the world and the people that live within.

This prayer reaches to us and pleads with us to treat the world as God does. We are called to encompass the world with our love, not just in our mind but in our actions in the physical world. Christianity was never meant to be an abstract faith of cute words. Christianity is a faith born in the dirt and the grime, with people and with the earth. May we truly begin to understand that Christianity is a “do” faith, and simply a thought faith. May we encompass and care for the place we live and the people in it, as God encompasses us.

Early and Late, Night and Day

The prayer closes with the understanding that while one sleeps, the soul recharges. The prayer asks that God send Michael and Gods presence, to be their at all times. In the same way we ask for God to send Gods presence through the angelic host in our sleep, may we also allow Gods presence to flow through us as we meet with friend and stranger while awake.

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One response to “The Carmina Gadelica Series: Sleep Prayer”

  1. Hi John, My only difference in thought is that for me Gods ceded total control of human beings action to allow free will. And so much of what determines what happens to us is not in God’s direct control. I control whether I smoke, am over with, decide to run a traffic light, etc. I have seen in many instances over 50 years of parish ministry the harm that comes to an individual’s faith and understanding of God when we press the concept that God determines the time and causality of each death.

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