Be Thou My Vision

The Irish hymn of the 8th Century, “Be Thou My Vision,” reveals a rich understanding of the value of knowing God relationally in the “present tense.”  But how is it that the Irish had such a clear sense of the Vision of God?  There might be a hint here:

Irish bog Psalms

(By Shawn Pogatchnik; Associated Press; Wednesday, July 26, 2006)

DUBLIN, July 25, — Irish archaeologists heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker who spotted something while working in a bog.

The approximately 20-page book has been dated to around 1000 A.D. “This is really a miracle find,” said Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland. “There’s two sets of odds that make this discovery really way out. First of all, it’s unlikely that something this fragile could survive being buried in a bog at all, and then for it to be unearthed and spotted before it was destroyed is incalculably more amazing.”

He said an engineer was digging up bog land to create commercial potting soil in Ireland’s midlands when, “just beyond the bucket of his bulldozer, he spotted something.”

Crucially, he said, the bog owner covered up the book with damp soil. Had it been left exposed overnight, he said, “it could have dried out and just vanished, blown away.”

The book was found opened to a page with Psalm 83 in Latin:

“Deus ne taceas ne sileas et non quiescas Deus”

O God, do not keep silent; 
be not quiet, O God, be not still.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

It would be no surprise to find a copy of the Psalms if there was any passage of Scripture to  be found in an Irish bog – since it was at the Council of Toulouse in 1229, that the Psalms were allowed to be translated into the language of peoples hundreds of years before the rest of the Bible.

“We prohibit the permission of the books of the Old and New Testament to laymen, except perhaps they might desire to have the Psalter … expressly forbidding their having the other parts of the Bible translated into the vulgar tongue.” Canon 14, 1229 A.D.

Part of the reason why the Psalms were allowed to be translated into every language was because the Psalms already had become so widely translated anyways! If you possess a copy of the Psalms – you hold in your possession – the Oldest Piece of Literature still used today, known to humanity.

By 1229, the Church of the day could not hold back the tide of the daily use of the Psalms among the peoples to whom the Psalms had penetrated. There is not a lingual group where the Gospel went – that did not immediately go about translating the Psalms before all else.

Thus the Psalms became the vehicle of the gospel – for in them are the Messianic prophecies, the heart beats of the living God, and of course, the sounding of every human emotion.  Though this Irish bog copy of the Psalms was in Latin, it would go on to be translated into Gaelic and other tongues of the Isles.

Hundreds of years before the Council of Toulouse, on the outer border of the smouldering  Roman Empire, this prayer would be sung to a typical Gaelic tune:

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart, naught be all else to me, save that thou art; thou my best thought by day or by night, waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.

Be Thou my wisdom and thou my true word, I ever with thee and thou with me Lord; thou my great Father, I thy true son, thou in me dwelling, and I with thee, one.

Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight, be thou my armor and be thou my might; thou my soul’s shelter and thou my high tower, raise thou me heavenward, so far o’er my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, thou mine inheritance, now and always; thou and thou only first in my heart, high king of heaven, my treasure thou art.

High King of heaven, my victory won, may I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun! Heart of my own heart, what ever befall, still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

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About R.H. (Rusty) Foerger

As I enter the third third of life, I am becoming aware of the role of elders today “to enlarge spiritual vision, being devoted to prayer, living in the face of death, as a living curriculum of the Christian life” (Dr. James M. Houston). I am a life long and life wide learner who seeks to: *decipher the enigma of our worth *rescue from the agony of prayerlessness *integrate spiritual friendship.
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