Monday, May 23, 2011

On the Flightiness of Thought

The famous Irish manuscript, an leabhar breac, (the 'speckled book') preserves an interesting poem written by an Irish monk who was struggling to pay attention during Church services. Irish monks would pray the Psalms during the six different 'hours', nocturns (at night), lauds (at dawn), three times during the day (third, sixth and ninth hours), and vespers (evening time). Some of the stricter monasteries (like at Tallaght) would recite the whole Psalter of 150 psalms during this cycle of prayer. Many a sleepy monk would struggle to keep up.

"Shame to my thoughts how they stray far from me! I dread great danger from it on the day of lasting doom.

During the Psalms they wander on a path that is not right; they run, they disturb, they misbehave before the great eyes of God

Through eager assemblies, through companies of foolish women, through woods, through cities – swifter than the wind

They run (not a course of great wisdom) near, afar, after roaming of great folly they visit their own home

Though one should set about binding them or putting shackles on their feet, they lack constancy and recollection for undertaking the task of remaining still

Neither edged weapon nor the sound of whip-blows keeps them down firmly; they are slippery as an eel’s tail gliding out of my grasp

Neither lock, nor firm vaulted dungeon, nor any bond at all, stronghold, nor sea, nor bleak fastness restrains them from their course

O beloved truly chaste Christ to whom every eye is clear, may the grace of the sevenfold Spirit come to keep and check them

Rule this heart of mine, o zealous God of creation, that thou may be my love, that I may do thy will

May I attain perfect companionship with thee, o Christ: may we be together; you are neither fickle nor inconstant - not as I am."

1 comment:

  1. I love the last line. Christ's faithfulness and steadfastness are truly appreciated most when we acknowledge our own lack.