So Great a Cloud: A Celtic Litany
(Hebrews 11:4-12:1)
Ye sons and ye daughters! Come gather around!
Find drink for your thirst at the wells of thin places;
Turn homeward your hearts to God’s verdant oasis,
Where grace glints like dewdrops on this sacred ground.
And tho’ time should fail us, and evening draw nigh,
Our fathers and mothers in faith let us ponder;
Tho’ humble and meek, theirs to labour and wander,
In glory they shine now with angels on high.
These Isles were not worthy by such to be bless’d,
Yet while we lay lifeless, the heavens were gracious;
From isles of deep darkness a Paradise spacious
They wrought on these shores by their heavenward quest.
Armagh’s holy boast and great preacher of grace
Immersed all of Eire in birth-giving waters,
The whole land becoming his sons and his daughters,
The north and the south, safe in Patrick’s embrace.
Rejoice, O Iona, and Lindisfarne too!
Exult in Columba, and Cuthbert, and Aidan;
They planted among you their deserts fruit-laden,
Forsaking the old life in search of the new.
Raise voices in song to the heavens above,
Cry out with elation, O Wales and thou Cornwall!
In nowise deprived of a saint’s quiet footfall,
Praise David and Ia with hearts full of love.
O Brendan, and Brigit, and Findbarr, and Hild,
And Winifred, Ita, and Glendalough’s Kevin;
O fathers and mothers, here earth became heaven
On this soil of ours, which your gentle hands tilled.
By faith, glens and mountains and seas you traversed,
By faith, you shed light on those sitting in bleakness,
By faith, you healed all; and exalted in meekness,
With angels and otters and bears you conversed!
Ye sons and ye daughters, behold this great cloud
In heaven resplendent, God’s glitt’ring reflection—
Our homeland the place of their own resurrection,
These Isles once the land where the heavens were bowed.
O fathers and mothers, all saints of our land!
Orate pro nobis! With voices e’er holy
Beg Christ for your children, unworthy and lowly,
To count us among you, there at His right hand.
An Unworthy Priest
5 April 1999