My Prayer

Celtic prayer etched into the the beeswax coated walls of Seattle University’s St. Ignatious Chapel.


3 thoughts on “My Prayer

  1. Fabulous and layered -a soup of meanings. Reminds me of a poem by Hugh MacDiarmid:

    I’ the how-dumb-deid o’ the cauld hairst nicht
    The warl’ like an eemis stane
    Wags i’ the lift;
    An’ my eerie memories fa’
    Like a yowdendrift.

    Like a yowdendrift so’s I couldna read
    The words cut oot i’ the stane
    Had the fug o’ fame
    An’ history’s hazelraw
    No yirdit thaim.

      • Oh heck. I suppose I should have foreseen this…

        Scots, not Gaelic. Very old, Scots is known for its wonderfully rich, literal and raunchy language.

        In the hollow, dead heart of the cold harvest night,
        The world like a rocking boulder, tumbles through the sky
        And my eery memories fall
        Like the softly falling snow (that swallows ewes) on the hill.

        Like a yowdendrift, so I couldn’t read
        The words cut out of the stone
        had the moss of fame
        And history’s lichen
        Not buried them.

        It’s a mysterious, uncanny poem alluding to something in the shadows of our mind and almost impossible to catch hold of. I think that it is a discussion of mans utter isolation and condition of unknowing in relation to the universe, God or ultimate truth. The first stanza tells us that this setting and moment are propitious for some profound insight: we are invited into the utter and visceral bleakness of the night, the vertigo inducing image of the tumbling Earth and the narrators ‘eerie’ state of mind. It is the sort of night when the silent, killing drifts of snow, and memory, snuff out life. The second stanza foregrounds a paradox relating to spiritual understanding: that being, that the narrator couldn’t have understood the words cut into the stone -even if he could have deciphered them through the obscuring static of the years. The mindless, tumbling Earth spinning through space (remember the monolith at the start of Kubrick’s 2001 ?) is the existential fear, questions and loneliness of the narrator, but in macrocosm.

        The Celtic prayer on beeswax suggested something of this paradox to me -but in reverse ! Clear, confident, assertive script dancing on the surface of something much more opaque, ambiguous, and complex ?

        RS Thomas perhaps hit it on the head: ‘God will never be plain and out there, but dark rather, and inexplicable, as though he were in here ?’

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