Yesterday seemed like a perfect day to read poetry. The rain was coming down, the wind was blowing, Suzie was snuggled in my lap so I opened up two of my favorite books of poetry, Thirst by Mary Oliver, and a book of Celtic prayers collected by Alexander Carmichael titled New Moon of the Seasons, Prayers from the Highlands and Islands. A poem of Mary Oliver’s and a prayer collected by Alexander Carmichael struck me as I read them. The first was a Celtic Prayer:
The Three who are over me,
The Three Who are below me,
The Three Who are above me here,
The Three Who are above me yonder;
The Three Who are in the earth,
The Three Who are in the air,
The Three Who are in the heaven,
The Three Who are in the great pouring sea
The Celtic people lived close to land and they cherished it as a gift from G-d. They saw the creator in every plant and animal and rock. They saw the grace of G-d in rain and snow, the roar of the sea and in the breath of spring air. This simple prayer is an acknowledgment that G-d, Christ, and the Holy Spirit surround them. G-d wasn’t “out there” looking down at them, no G-d was surrounded them in grace and blessings of many shapes and colors. As I watch the rain fall outside my window and feel Suzie’s warm breathing in my lap I understood what this prayer of gratitude meant to fisherman, a farmer, a mother tending the hearth. G-d is here, now, with me, with you, with us all. For the Celts and for us today G-d lives beside and within each of us.
Mary Oliver’s poem Praying is a lovely companion to the Celtic prayer. Praying reminds us that prayer doesn’t have to be framed with elaborate words. Prays really happens in those moments when your mind has no words so your heart speaks. Some of the greatest prayers are never written down; simple words of gratitude for the healing of a friend, or gasp of awe at the beauty of a sunrise, or joy of a laughing child are beloved prayers of the heart. Here is;
by Mary Oliver
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
I invite you to read the Celtic prayer, and Mary Oliver’s poem. Look around you; do you see the work of G-d, Christ, and Holy Spirit in the everyday living of your life? Where does your heart speak when your mind has no words? Let the simple words of gratitude, sorrow, or joy shaped in your heart form the bases for a prayer that speaks to the Divine that walks beside you. May the all surrounding presence of The Three be your comforter in times of crises and dance with them when joy rings in heart.
Ruth Jewell, ©November 19, 2013