Thursday 29 December 2016

Prayer of Saint Aireran the Wise

December 29 is the feast of Saint Aireran the Wise, a scholarly saint associated with the monastery of Clonard. Below is a paper from the Irish Ecclesiastical Record taken from a series on the legacy of Professor Eugene O'Curry, a nineteenth century scholar of the Irish Church. One of the items which O'Curry published in translation was a prayer ascribed to Saint Aireran the Wise and I reproduce the text and its introduction below. The prayer is a wonderful litany of praise in honour of the Holy Trinity. The 'great work' to which the writer of the introduction refers is O'Curry's Manuscript Materials of Early Irish History, published in 1861 and available to read online.



Prayer of St. Aireran the Wise, ob. 664.

[In the first number of the RECORD we published from the manuscripts of the late Professor O'Curry the Prayer of St. Colga of Clonmacnoise. We now publish another beautiful devotional piece from the same collection.

Speaking of ancient Irish religious works now remaining, O'Curry says (at page 378 of his great work): "The fifth class of these religious remains consists of the prayers, invocations, and litanies, which have come down to us". The Prayer of St. Colga, published in our last number, is placed by O'Curry in the second place among these documents, which he sets down in chronological order.

"The first piece of this class (adopting the chronological order) is the prayer of St. Aireran the Wise (often called Aileron, Eleran, and Airenan), who was a classical professor in the great school of Clonard, and died of the plague in the year 664. St. Aireran's prayer or litany is addressed, respectively, to God the Father, to God the Son, and to God the Holy Spirit, invoking them for mercy by various titles indicative of their power, glory, and attributes. The prayer consists of five invocations to the Father, eighteen invocations to the Son, and five to the Holy Spirit; and commences in Latin thus: 'O Deus Pater, Omnipotens Deus, exerci misericordiam nobis'. This is followed by the same invocation in the Gaedhlic; and the petitions to the end are continued in the same language. The invocation of the Son begins thus: ' Have mercy on us, Almighty God! Jesus Christ! Son of the living God! Son, born twice! O only born of God the Father'. The petition to the Holy Spirit begins : ' Have mercy on us, Almighty God ! Holy Spirit! Spirit the noblest of all spirits!' (See original in APPENDIX, No. CXX.)

"When I first discovered this prayer in the Leabhar Buidhe Lecain (or Yellow Book of Lecain), in the library of Trinity College, many years ago, I had no means of ascertaining or fixing its date ; but in my subsequent readings in the same library, for my collection of ancient glossaries, I met the word Oirchis set down with explanation and illustration, as follows:

"'Oirchis. id est, Mercy ; as it is said in the prayers of Airinan the Wise' : Have mercy on us, God the Father Almighty I" See original in APPENDIX, No. CXXI.

"I think it is unnecessary to say more on the identity of the author of this prayer with the distinguished Aireran of Clonard. Nor is this the only specimen of his devout works that has come down to us. Fleming, in his Collecta Sacra, has published a fragment of a Latin tract discovered in the ancient monastery of St. Gall in Switzerland, which is entitled 'The Mystical Interpretation of the Ancestry of our Lord Jesus Christ'. A perfect copy of this curious tract, and one of high antiquity, has, I believe, been lately discovered on the continent.

"There was another Airenan, also called 'the wise', who was abbot of Tamhlacht [Tallaght] in the latter part of the ninth century; but he has not been distinguished as an author, as far as we know".

It seems to us that there are three things specially worthy of our consideration in this beautiful prayer.

In the first place, we find in it an explicit and most clear declaration of the Catholic Faith regarding the Blessed Trinity, especially the distinction of three persons, and the Divinity of each of these Divine Persons. " God the Father Almighty, O God of Hosts, help us! Help us, Almighty God! O Jesus Christ! Help us, Almighty God, Holy Spirit!"

We are in the next place struck by the extraordinary familiarity with the Holy Scripture which the writer evinces. There is scarcely one of the epithets which is not found in the sacred pages, almost in the precise words used by him, beginning with the first words, addressed to the Eternal Father. " O God of Hosts", the Deus Sabaoth of the Prophets, and going on to the last invocation of the Holy Ghost, " Spirit of love", which comprises in itself the two inspired phrases : " Spiritus est Deus", and "Deus Charitas est” We may also remark the coincidence between Saint Aireran and the liturgical prayers of the Church, especially in the invocations of the Holy Ghost found in the office of Whitsuntide and in the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation. "Tu septiformis munere: Digitus Paternae dexterae". " Finger of God! Spirit of Seven Forms".

In fine, we find our Irish saint applying to the Son of God the vision of the Prophet Ezechiel regarding the four mysterious animals: "0 true Man! Lion! young Ox! Eagle!"

The prophecy is commonly interpreted of the Four Evangelists. Saint Augustine and Saint Jerome are quoted as authorities for this interpretation. But it is worthy of remark, that Saint Gregory the Great, whilst giving the same interpretation, applies the mysterious vision also to God the Son [Hom. iv. in Ezech.]. And Saint Aireran, by adopting this opinion, seems to afford us another proof of the great familiarity of our Irish scholars with the writings of the great Pontiff and Father of the Church. And this familiarity is rendered still more remarkable, and serves to give another proof of the constant communication between Rome and Ireland, from the close proximity of the times of our Saint and of Saint Gregory.]

Prayer of St. Aireran the Wise.

O Deus Pater omnipotens Deus exerce tuam misericordiam nobis!

O God the Father Almighty! O God of Hosts, help us.

O illustrious God! O Lord of the world! O Creator of all creatures, help us.

O indescribable God! O Creator of all creatures, help us.

O invisible God! O incorporeal God! O unseen God! O unimaginable God! O patient God! O uncorrupted God! O unchangeable God! O eternal God! O perfect God! O merciful God! O admirable God! O Golden Goodness! O Heavenly Father, who art in Heaven, help us.

Help us, O Almighty God! O Jesus Christ! O Son of the living God! O Son twice born! O only begotten of the Father! O first-born of Mary the Virgin! O Son of David! O Son of Abraham, beginning of all things! O End of the World! O Word of God! O Jewel of the Heavenly Kingdom! O Life of all (things)! O Eternal Truth! O Image, O Likeness, O Form of God the Father! O Arm of God! O Hand of God! O Strength of God! O right (hand) of God! O true Wisdom! O true Light, which enlightens all men! O Light-giver! O Sun of Righteousness! O Star of the Morning! O Lustre of the Divinity! O Sheen of the Eternal Light! O Fountain of Immortal Life! O Pacificator between God and Man! O Foretold of the Church! O Faithful Shepherd of the flock! O Hope of the Faithful! O Angel of the Great Council! O True Prophet! O True Apostle! O True Preacher! O Master! O Friend of Souls (Spiritual Director)! O Thou of the shining hair! O Immortal Food! O Tree of Life! O Righteous of Heaven! O Wand from the Stem of Moses! O King of Israel! O Saviour! O Door of Life! O Splendid Flower of the Plain! O Cornerstone! O Heavenly Zion! O Foundation of the Faith! O Spotless Lamb! O Diadem! O Gentle Sheep! O Redeemer of mankind! O true God! O True Man! O Lion! O young Ox! O Eagle! O Crucified Christ! O Judge of the Judgment Day! help us.

Help us, O Almighty God! O Holy Spirit! O Spirit more noble than all Spirits! O Finger of God! O Guardian of the Christians! O Protector of the Distressed! O Co-partner of the True Wisdom! O Author of the Holy Scripture! O Spirit of Righteousness! O Spirit of Seven Forms! O Spirit of the Intellect! O Spirit of the Counsel! O Spirit of Fortitude! O Spirit of Knowledge! O Spirit of Love! help us.

Irish Ecclesiastical Record, Vol.1 (1865), 63-4.

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