Friday in the Second Full Week of Lent
March 10, 2023

Today’s Lenten reflection takes the form of a prayer from medieval Scotland that involves the unlikely trope or theme of shape-shifting. Several early medieval Irish saints’ narratives feature the saint and his or her followers being changed into the form of a wild animal by the power of God, usually in order to escape capture by human adversaries or in order to gain new strength for the work of ministry and witness. Similarly, a number of Scottish and Anglo-Saxon sources feature the saint interacting with wild animals as a demonstration of divine favor and spiritual authority. In the case of this prayer, the petitioner seems to be asking God to impart the power of different animals, either literally or metaphorically, into an act of divine protection and strengthening. The title of the prayer alludes to justice, but we simply do not know what this might refer to. Perhaps this prayer was meant to be recited on the way to court – the medieval cultures of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Anglo-Saxon England each supported a sophisticated system of jurisprudence that was unique to their particular language and region, and free persons of any rank could represent themselves in both civil and criminal trials.

Invocation for justice

I will go in the name of God,
In likeness of deer, in likeness of horse,
In likeness of serpent, in likeness of king,
Stronger am I than all others.

The hand of God keeping me,
The love of Christ in my veins,
The strong Spirit bathing me,
The Three shielding and aiding me,
The Three shielding and aiding me;
The hand of the Spirit bathing me,
The Three each step aiding me.