Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Four Angels Round My Bed

Crib of the Infant Jesus, 15th Century.  Metropolitan Museum of Art
Every night when I put my mom to bed, I say this prayer:

God bless this house from roof to floor
The twelve apostles guard the door.

Four great angels round my bed
Two my feet and two my head.

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
Bless the bed that I lie on.

Sometimes I am really tired and say the meal blessing without realizing it, which prompts my mother to giggle, which makes me laugh, which makes it harder to remember the prayer I am supposed to be saying.  Usually she'll prompt me after I make a few false starts.

Anyway, in trying to learn more about the prayer, I discovered that the most common version goes like this:

Four corners to my bed,
Four angels round my head;
One to watch and one to pray
And two to bear my soul away.

Apparently the one I am saying is an amalgamation of several different prayers, but we like it that way, so I am okay with that.  The way I learned it from a children's prayer book includes this ending:

Now I lay me down to sleep, 
I pray the Lord my soul to keep, 
If any danger come to me, 
Sweet Jesus Christ deliver me.

And if I die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

The Crib of the Infant Jesus photo above reminded me of the prayer.  I saw it in the Met's twitter feed and was immediately enchanted.  Here's the description of the crib from the museum's web site:
Miniature cradles for the Christ Child were popular devotional objects in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and were venerated, especially in convents, where they were often presented to women taking their vows. This splendid cradle comes from the Grand Béguinage of Louvain, Belgium, established for lay women in the twelfth century. It is decorated with carved representations of the Nativity and the Adoration of the Magi on either end. The biblical family tree of Christ is illustrated on the embroidered coverlet.

There are eight other photos, including close-ups of the head and foot board carvings.  Take a look.

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