St Anthony of the Desert

Orthodox Christian Mission

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Fr Gabriel

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Celtic Orthodoxy?

Both Rome and Constantinople were in hot pursuit of both commercial interest and ecclesiastical supremacy in the British Isles, symbolized by the “Synod” of Whitby in 664, a sort of capstone to the competition.  Archaeology shows that the tin trade was alluring, but we know that those who sought this particular metal on the Cornish coast brought with them their own spirituality as well.  So Britain became a crossing point for the two strands of Christian spirituality, from the East and from the West.  Christianity had shown up on the Isles by the 2nd Century.  Tertullian mentions this in his writings.  But there’s another tip-off.

It’s my personality that I like to vary the resources I use for morning and evening prayer.  I have many Orthodox prayer books, but I have many Celtic prayer books as well, assembled over the years of my interest in that part of my heritage.  But there’s another reason as well.  If you explore Celtic prayer books you will discover a clear affinity to Orthodox prayers.  The cadences match between the two sources, and you notice that the repetitions – mostly threefold – that characterize Orthodox prayer are found in Celtic prayer as well.  Both no doubt go back to the parallelism of the Book of Psalms.  Read this aloud:

“O thou who at every season and every hour in heaven and on earth art worshipped and glorified, O Christ our God – longsuffering, greatly merciful, and deeply compassionate, who lovest the just and showest mercy upon the sinner; who callest all men to salvation through the promise of good things to come:

“Do thou, the same Lord, accept also our prayers at this hour, and direct our lives according to thy commandments.  Sanctify our souls, purify our bodies, guide aright our minds, cleanse our thoughts, and deliver us from every affliction, evil and sickness.  Compass us about with thy holy angels, that guarded and guided by their legions we may attain unity of faith and the knowledge of thine unapproachable glory, for blessed art thou unto ages of ages.  Amen.”

That you will recognize as the Prayer of the Hours, said at the conclusion of those services that begin Sunday before the Divine Liturgy in many churches.  Now read this:

The Compassing of God and his right hand

Be upon my form and upon my frame;

The compassing of the High King

And the grace of the Trinity

Be upon me abiding ever eternally,

Be upon me abiding ever eternally.


May the compassing of the Three shield me in my means,

The compassing of the Three shield me this day,

The compassing of the Three shield me this night

From hate, from harm, from act, from ill,

From hate, from harm, from act, from ill.

That comes from volume III of the collection known as Carmina Gadelica, compiled in the 19th C by Alexander Carmichael.  These are known as caim prayers, and the idea is that you call upon the Presence of God to surround you with his grace and protection.  These two prayers, one from the Orthodox and one from the Celtic tradition, are related in their vision.  Many others could be cited.  I have mused on this topic before in one podcast in my series on Celtic Christianity, but the overlap between Celtic and Orthodox resources continues to enliven my own personal prayer life, as I offer it for you to enliven yours.


Adam, David.  The Open Gate:  Celtic Prayers for Growing Spiritually.

____________.  The Rhythm of Life:  Celtic Daily Prayer.

Newell, J. Philip.  Celtic Prayers from Iona.

Simpson, Ray.  Celtic Blessings: Prayers for Everyday Life.

____________.  Celtic Worship through the Year.

The Northumbria Community.  Celtic Daily Prayer.


Adam’s Rhythm of Life contains a plan for daily morning, midday, evening, and night prayer; Newell’s contains a plan for morning and evening prayers; Simpson’s Celtic Worship contains plans for seasonal morning, midday, and evening prayer; and the Northumbria Community’s book is the most compendious of the lot, with readings for each day of the month, a saints’ list (including some not recognized by any church at this point) with readings, two sets of daily readings throughout the year (the Aidan and the Finan readings), morning and evening prayer, eleven prayer services for special occasions and/or needs, and a brief Compline for each day of the week.

I am assuming that readers are familiar with Orthodox Prayer Books.



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One Response to “Celtic Orthodoxy?”

by John Corcoran October 12th, 2013 at 4:59 am

Very interesting comparison of the Orthodox and the Celtic Prayer traditions.

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