Celtic Spiritual Poetry (14)
My King, the King of noble heaven,
without pride, without boasting,
made the world with its true nature –
my King ever living, ever triumphant;
King over creation, on which the sun looks down,
King over the depths of the ocean,
King south, north, west, and east,
against Whom no struggle can be maintained;
King of mysteries, Who has been, Who is,
before the creation, before the ages,
King living forever still, fair His semblance,
King without beginning, without end.
- Anonymous, “The Psalter of the Quatrains, Canto I” (9thor 10thcentury)
…you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory.
- 1 Thessalonians 2.11, 12
The Celtic Revival began to wind down in the 9thcentury, but the effects and memory of it lingered for another 300 years; and measures were taken to ensure, as much as possible, that the great lessons and experiences of the Revival would not be soon forgotten.
The Saltair na Rann (The Psalter of the Quatrains) is a collection of poems, the centerpiece of which are 150 cantos celebrating the greatness of God and His works. It is an attempt to situate all of reality – seen and unseen – under the footstool of Christ, the King of Mysteries. Written in Irish, it was intended as a song for everyday folk, to sing individually or in gatherings, to help them keep focused on Jesus as their Savior and Lord, and on the vast creation as His domain.
We’re going to look at excerpts from several of the cantos of this magnificent poem, with a view to fixing more firmly in our minds the glories of Christ our King, and our calling to His Kingdom and glory.
The Psalter is a gem of Irish Christian creativity. Carey observes, “Probably the most interesting aspect of the Saltairas a whole is the way in which, in the process of putting the Bible story into medieval Irish verse, it transforms and imbues it with an Irish flavour.” The three stanzas quoted above are almost breathless in ascribing greatness to God – one long sentence celebrating Christ as Creator, King, and Sovereign. Here are words to take on our lips, to extol the greatness of our King, to enlarge in the eye of our hearts His beauty and majesty, and to deepen our affection for and commitment to Him. Go back and read these lines aloud right now. Imagine reciting these lines together at your dinner table, or in a small group of Christian friends, or during a service of worship. It is to be greatly deplored, how we deprive ourselves, through ignorance and neglect, of such excellent tools for nurturing our faith and expressing our devotion to our God.
These verses invite us into the victory of Christ, to take our seat with Him in heavenly places (Eph. 2.6), and to see all of creation and all aspects of culture and society from the vantage point of our King. The victory of King Jesus is an irreversible, ever-unfolding, always-advancing triumph, which comes to expression on earth, as it is in heaven, as the followers of Christ grow in their Kingdom-and-glory calling. We share together in the “wonness” of Jesus – that ongoing, ever-advancing victory that we know in Him.
The Kingdom of Christ extends in all directions – “south, north, west, and east” – and nothing can prevent its progress (cf. Dan. 2.44, 45). We who believe in Jesus are called to this Kingdom, to seek it diligently, advance it prayerfully, proclaim it joyfully, and embody it in every aspect of our lives and Personal Mission Fields. Thus we glorify the Lord by cultivating our vision of His glorious, all-comprehending rule, and by taking up our daily calling in that Kingdom, for the glory of our King.
Where are the poets, hymn writers, worship leaders, and artists with this kind of Kingdom vision today? O, how we need them to enlarge the scope of our aspirations, hopes, and undertakings as the followers of this King of Mysteries! Let us allow the great visionary poets of the Celtic Revival to fill some of the gaps in our lives, by committing to memory excerpts such as today’s poem, and sharing them with other believers as far as our Personal Mission Field extends.
Questions for Reflection
1. Make a copy of the three stanzas of the Psalter that are quoted today. Carry it with you throughout the day, and refer to it often as a source of meditation and prayer. At the end of the day, pray these words to our King and Savior.
2. Share these stanzas with a Christian friend, and invite your friend to join you in the exercise described above.
Psalm 93 (Trinity: Come, Thou Almighty King)
The Lord in majesty reigns, girded and clothed in strength!
Earth stands secure: Nor shall it e’er be moved;
God on His throne above set it in place with love – His reign is sure!
What, though the floods arise, raising their voice to the skies,
Strong though they be, God on His mighty throne,
drowns out their fearsome drone, hasting to save His own, eternally.
Almighty God on high, Your Word can never lie!
Your truth is sure – holy and just are they
Who tread Your holy way; Yours shall they ever stay, Lord, evermore.
The Ailbe Psalter
The Ailbe Psalter contains all 150 psalms set to familiar hymn tunes. Order a copy for yourself, and begin experiencing the joy and strength that come from singing the Lord’s Word back to Him (click here).
You can support and further our work
Share today’s Crosfigell with a friend, and encourage your friend to subscribe by going to our website, www.ailbe.org. Pray for our work at The Fellowship of Ailbe, and, as the Lord leads, share in our work by your giving. It’s easy to give to The Fellowship of Ailbe, and all gifts are, of course, tax-deductible. You can click here to donate onlinethrough credit card or PayPal, or send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452.
T. M. Moore, Principal
All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
All quotes from Saltair no Rann are from John Carey, King of Mysteries(Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998), pp. 98 ff.