Book Review: A Celtic Liturgy by Pat Robson

A Celtic Liturgy

A Celtic Liturgy

“The Celtic saints prayed by chatting to their loving Savior as they walked through life.”
~ Pat Robson

A Celtic Liturgy by Pat Robson is a small prayer book that fits into the palm of one’s hand. Though diminutive in size, it contains a multi-coursed feast for the hungry soul.

Pat Robson is a writer and an Anglican priest who lives along the Celtic fringes of Cornwall. In the opening pages of A Celtic Liturgy, Robson writes,“…there seems to be a need for a simple liturgy to help us recapture something of the essence of the spirituality of the early Celtic Christians… to recreate the naturalness and verve of their worship… and bring a fresh vision and real understanding of God and His love.”

A Concise Celtic Spirituality Manual

Pat Robson penned A Celtic Liturgy as a response to this need. Essentially, it is a concise Celtic Spirituality Manual composed of prayers, readings and liturgies rooted in the worship traditions of Celtic peoples living in  Ireland, Britain, France and Spain during the Middle Ages. Here the reader can learn about the spirituality and lives of the Celtic Saints as well as engage in the type of worship that nourished this vibrant form of Christian faith in years past.

An Introduction to Celtic Christianity

The Introduction to A Celtic Liturgy contains a brief overview of Celtic spirituality, an explanation of the book’s format, as well as helpful suggestions for use.

Celtic Worship

The body of the text is patterned loosely after the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. There is a section of liturgies or simple worship services, special prayers, a calendar of special days, and a psalter. Following the Celtic Christian practice of weaving prayer into every area of daily life, the author includes liturgies for beginning and ending each day, as well as those that address significant events of  life such as marriage, funerals, and sickness. Most of the liturgies are arranged for group worship with a role for a minister, reader, and places for group response. The shorter, more personal services of ’Early Morning Prayer’ and ‘Night Prayer’ were created for individual devotions.

The final portion of the book introduces the Celtic Saints through a calendar of saint days and a series of short biographies about the most prominent of these heroes and heroines of the faith. A psalm and gospel reading is suggested with each biographical sketch. The psalm readings are printed for easy access. The historical timeline on the final pages indicates the historical context within which each of the featured saints lived.

Celtic Prayers

The author integrates ancient Celtic prayers as well as contemporary prayers throughout the book. This interweaving of prayers old and new is evident in the opening chapter entitled ‘Prayers Before Worship.’

Here, one finds the traditional prayer, ‘O Son of God, Change my heart.’

“O Son of God, change my heart.

Your Spirit composes the songs of the birds

and the buzz of the bees.

I ask of you only one more miracle;

beautify my soul.”

Several prayers composed by the author, such as the lovely prayer that follows, are also found in this chapter:

 “Dear Lord,

The noise and hurry of the day

have broken their hold

and I have slipped away.

For this small moment in time

I am free to melt into you.”

A Wonderful Resource for Personal Devotions and Groups

Of the many Celtic prayer books on the market today, I regard A Celtic Liturgy to be among the cream of the crop. The compact  5’ x 6’ size makes it very portable, able to fit into a pocket, backpack or suitcase. It contains the essentials needed to pray like the Celts’ prayers, Scripture, inspirational stories about Celtic saints, and a number of liturgical services that can be used to punctuate one’s day with prayer. This book is nicely organized and user-friendly. Although the author intended that some of the liturgies be used for private and others for public worship, they are easily adaptable to any setting.

A Celtic Liturgy is also noteworthy because of the beauty of the writing. The author also integrates those key elements of ancient Celtic prayers into her own compositions: that of praise, gratitude, a sense of wonder of creation, and intimacy with God. Weaving words into lovely poetic patterns similar to the vine and knotwork designs found in the Book of Kells in the following segment of ‘Evening Prayer:’

“Eternal God, you have lowered the canopy of night

and its gentle shadows cover us with your peace.

May the dews of heaven heal our wounds

and wash the tears from our eyes.

And may the burning light of Christ

banish forever the darkness from our souls,

that we may be at peace.”

A Celtic Liturgy in Ireland

A Celtic Liturgy accompanied Culture Honey Touring to Ireland last June. While Georgia and I sought to follow in the footsteps of the Irish saints, A Celtic Liturgy enabled us to pray like them on the very ground upon which they trod. We used Morning Prayer to invite God to accompany and guide the expedition of each day, while Night Prayer was gratefully uttered at day’s end. It was so meaningful to read prayers by Saint Patrick while sitting in a pew at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Armagh and to recite those prayers penned by Saint Columba when we discovered the site of his monastery in Durrow. A Celtic Liturgy proved to be a vital companion on our journey.

Wherever you are on your own pilgrimage, may this prayer from A Celtic Liturgy bless your journey:

“May God’s blessing surround you

And love fill your hearts

May Christ walk beside you

And never depart

Holy Spirit keep you faithful

And strong to the end

As the stars light your pathway

Sweet blessings descend.”

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