Celtic Spiritual Poetry (15)
The King Who rules over cold and heat,
my true King Who watches over me:
it is He Who has established every division,
the King beyond reckoning, beyond telling.
With grace the bright King of mysteries
has revealed to us every wonder,
that through them we may understand Him – a bright protection –
and through the multitude of His miracles.
The King Who has made each creature in turn,
visible and invisible:
save for the King Who made those things
there is no king upon the earth.
There is not, among strong men,
among angels or archangels,
anyone who could bring forward
anything which is marvelous set beside my King.
- Anonymous, “The Psalter of the Quatrains,” Canto I (9thor 10thcentury)
“Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the LORD Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. You shall therefore keep His statutes and His commandments which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”
- Deuteronomy 4.39, 40
The composer of Saltair na Rann moves from his introduction of the “King of noble heaven” to a catalog of His work of creation. Everything that exists, from the far-flung constellations to spiritual beings of various kinds and the creatures and powers of the earth, all are the result of this great King’s will and power. The selection for today is the culmination of this survey of creation, and brings Canto I to a fitting end: There is no God like our God. He is most glorious, most powerful, most marvelous.
And He cares for us.
The phrasing of these stanzas is important, because it teaches us how to regard our great God and heavenly Father. He rules over cold and heat; He has made each creature, visible and invisible, in its turn; He has established all the divisions of creatures and powers; and He “watches over” His people with tender loving care.
God invites His people to know Him through His works: He “has revealed to us every wonder,/that through them we might understand Him”. He Who has power to create and sustain the entire cosmos provides “bright protection” for those who know and love Him. That protection is comprehensive – as we shall see when we consider some lorica poems from this period; it is also “bright” – we can understand and dwell in it, knowing that it is God Who cares for us.
He rules over all earthly kings; indeed, no king exists but those He appoints and over whom He rules. And He cares for us. No man is stronger; no men or angels can overthrow or overpower Him. He is most marvelous over and above all things. And He cares for us.
The beauty of meditating on the works of God – meditating on the night sky, learning the birds and trees in your neighborhood, studying the petals of a flower, contemplating ants and bees, delighting in a mountain or a sunset – is that we see in all this beauty, wonder, and complexity the greatness of God, and of His infinite wisdom, goodness, and power. And then we realize that this God cares for us.
There is no God beside Him. He alone makes and sustains the cosmos, and He cares for the likes of you and me. We should receive His Word gladly, submit to it entirely, and obey it assiduously. For thus we will know the power of His grace, caring for and blessing us, making everything in our lives go well and work together for our good, and lifting us up into His presence and glory, where we are transformed into the image of Christ.
Saltair na Rannencourages us to see God as He is revealing Himself in all His works. For in His works we see that He is most marvelous, and this leads us to seek Him in His Word, to know Him there, and to grow in His grace day by day. He cares for us. Do we care?
Questions for Reflection
1. What role does contemplating creation play in your walk with the Lord? Can you think of some ways you might give this a larger place in your devotions?
2. Jesus did the same as the writer of the Saltair; He made much use of creation to teach us about God. Can you think of some examples?
Psalm 147.1, 15-20 (St. Ann: Our God, Our Help in Ages Past)
Praise God, for it is good to sing loud praises to the Lord!
With joy our songs of praise we bring to God and to His Word.
His Word to earth runs to and fro to carry out His will;
He brings the rain, He sends the snow, and none can keep Him still.
His Word He to His Church bestows – His promises and Law.
No other nation God thus knows: praise Him with songs of awe!
Thank You, Lord, than in Your greatness, majesty, power, wisdom, and goodness, You care for me, and…
The Ailbe Psalter
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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.