Anselm was born on the Italian side of the Swiss Alps, in a place called Aosta. He spent thirty-three years as monk, prior, and abbot at the Benedictine Abbey of Bec in Normandy. With a heavy heart he accepted  the position of archbishop of Canterbury and primate of all Britain in 1093, and continued in office until his death on April 21, 1109. He was an uncompromising pastor but a poor diplomat, and thus was twice exiled from his episcopal see. He was a better monk and writer than administrator. We owe to his pen such works as Proslogion, Monologion, and Cur Deus Homo. He was also the author of Prayers and Meditations, a copy of which he sent to Matilda of Tuscany at Canossa.

 

A MYSTIC

 

Evelyn Underhill understood Anselm to be a mystic. His biographer, Eadmer, gives a description of Anselm standing in prayer enveloped by a ball of fire (Vita Anselmi, 25-26). One thing is sure, he appeared to his contemporaries as someone who walked with God and who could guide others in the same way. Anselm, indeed, has some advice on prayer for us.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF READING 

 

Being a monk, he was convinced that a most appropriate point of departure for prayer was reading:

 

The reader should strive to read
not the whole of [the text],
but only as much as, by God’s help,
will arouse the desire to pray,
or bring enjoyment to the spirit.
Nor is there any need to start always at the beginning.

[It suffices to begin] wherever one finds it pleasing to do so. (PMA, Preface)

 

The important thing is to find and ponder deeply whatever makes us want to pray. Our hearts and minds may be tightly closed: prayer stretches them and makes them capable of loving God.

 

 STIRRING OF THE MIND

 

In sending a copy of his prayers to Countess Matilda, he indicated to her that they were "arranged so that by reading them, the mind may be stirred either to love or fear God, or to a consideration of both." An anecdote relates that Anselm asked one of the novices what he had accomplished in the spiritual life. The novice answered with some pride, "I have gone through the whole Bible." "Very good," Anselm said, but has the Bible gone through you?" According to him, prayer is a way in which we let the word of God penetrate us.

 

 A PEACEFUL HEART

 

Anselm wants the faithful to come to prayer with his heart quiet, relaxed, and reflective. If you wish to experience God in your life, he remarks, you have no choice. You must find some place, some time, where, despite the inevitable turmoil that life brings, you can be silent with God. He described his inner disposition at the beginning of the Proslogion:

 

Come now, insignificant person,
flee for a while your usual occupations,
hide yourself for a time from disturbing thoughts,

cast aside for now burdensome cares,
free yourself a little for God
and rest a while in God.
Enter the inner room of your mind,
shut out everything except God
and whatever may help you in your search for God.

Close the door and seek God.
Speak now, my whole heart.
speak to God: "I seek your face,
O Lord, your face. I seek." (Proslogion, I, 1-14)

 

THE SPIRITUAL JOURNEY

 

Even more important, Anselm offers his followers a method of contemplation, which is in fact, a spiritual journey. It can be summed up in the following poem:

 

Teach me to seek you
and show yourself to me as I seek;
for I am not able to seek you unless you teach me;

nor am I able to find you unless you show me [the way].

Let me seek you in desiring you,

and desire you in seeking you.

May I find you in loving you,

and love you in finding you. (Proslogion, I, 15f)

 

Let me explain this poem. We ask God to teach us. Contemplation is not something we can achieve simply by our own efforts. We need to be taught by God and led by God's grace. God's leading is fourfold:

 

(1) God teaches us to deal with our desires. The desires of our heart must be purified. They have to be educated. They need to find rest in the "love that moves the sun and all the stars."

 

(2) God teaches us that desire (purified, educated) leads to seeking. Seeking God gives a direction to our lives. It also brings the realization that God whom I seek is the God who, ever so ardently, is seeking me.

 

(3) God teaches us that seeking leads to loving. We discover that in loving God, we learn to love all God's creatures: not in a grasping and possessive way, but in a caring and wholesome way.

 

(4) At last, God teaches us that loving leads to finding. Finding God fulfills love's yearnings. For it means loving in an absolute way. In finding God, our spiritual journey is achieved.

 

ANSELM'S PRAYERS

 

Anselm's prayers were popular during the Middle Ages, probably because they were intended for individuals, lay people and monks, and not for communities. They were widely copied and imitated, and at one time several hundreds of them were attributed to Anselm. Recent critical editions have revealed as authentic nineteen prayers and three meditations. Most of these prayers are addressed to individual saints: for example, Peter, Paul, John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of our Lord (three). Here is an example, a shortened version, of the prayer to Saint Benedict, in honor of our Pope, Benedict XVI:

 

I profess to lead a life of ongoing conversion,
as I did promise when I took the name and habit of a monk.

But so far removed am I [from this life of a monk]
that my conscience convicts me
of lying to God, to angels, and to all peoples.
Holy Father Benedict, be with me!
Do not, I beg you, be distraught
by my many failings and lies, but hear me
as I confess to you,
and grant me greater mercy
than I have a right to expect. (PMA, #15)

 

 THREE PRAYERS TO MARY

 

Among the nineteen prayers there are three that are dedicated to Mary. In a letter to Gundolf, monk at Caen and Anselm's friend, the author explains the genesis of the three prayers.

 

A certain brother asked me, not once but many times, if I would compose a prayer to the great St.Mary. What he asks me in person here, you also urge upon me in your absence. For I realized that if I did do this, I could also send it to you, so I have been more ready to agree to what he asked. I composed one prayer, as I was asked to do, but I was not satisfied, knowing what had been asked, so I started again and composed another. I was not satisfied with that either, so have done a third which at last is all right.  (letter 28)

 

Anselm wrote them for Gundolf. "If they are long, and they are indeed considerably longer than other prayers, don't blame me," writes Anselm, "but the one who commissioned them." He sent all three of them to Gundolf in 1072. The three prayers represent a three-step progression of spiritual attitudes or dispositions:

 

1) The first is said in a situation of torpor and heaviness of mind.

2) The second is intended to exorcise fear, "when the mind is anxious with fear."

3) The third prayer progresses to a compounding of loving "for her and Christ's love."

 

 THE FIRST PRAYER TO MARY

 

Anselm presents Mary as the Theotokos, her one claim to veneration away from all orders of creation. She is the most holy after God which explains her power of mercy. Human beings see themselves in her as in a mirror. They recognize their sin and are ashamed. The main sin of the sinner is dullness, which must be broken through. That's where he needs Mary's intercession.

 

Mary, holy Mary,
among the holy ones the most holy after God,
Mother with virginity to be wondered at,
Virgin with fertility to be cherished,
you bore the Son of the most High,                                                                5
and brought forth the Saviour of the lost human race.

Lady, shining before all others with such sanctity,
pre-eminent with such dignity,
it is very sure that you are not least in power and in honour.

Life-bearer, mother of salvation,                                                                    10
shrine of goodness and mercy,
I long to come before you in my misery,
sick with the sickness of vice,
in pain from the wounds of crimes,
putrid with the ulcers of sin.                                                                           15
However near I am to death, I reach out to you,
and I long to ask that by your powerful merits
and your loving prayers,
you will deign to heal me.
Good Lady,                                                                                                  20

a huge dullness is between you and me,
so that I am scarcely aware of the extent of my sickness.

I am so filthy and stinking
that I am afraid you will turn your merciful face from me.

So I look to you to convert me,                                                                     25

but I am held back by despair,
and even my lips are shut against prayer.

My sins, my wicked deeds,
since you have destroyed my soul with your poison,
why do you make it a horror with your filth,                                                   30

so that no one can look on my misery?
If your weight is so great that I have no hope of being heard,

why by your shame do you block the voice of my prayer?
If you have made me mad with love for you,
why have you made my senses unfeeling with your torpor?                             35

Alas, what a shameful thing is the filth of sin
before the brightness of holiness.
Alas, what confusion there is for an impure conscience

in the presence of shining purity.


You are blessed above all women,                                                                 40

in purity surpassing the angels,
in goodness overpassing the saints.
Already dying I long to be seen by such kindness,
but I blush before the gaze of such purity.
What I want to ask you, Lady, is                                                                    45

that by a glance from your mercy
you will cure the sickness and ulcers of my sins,
but before you I am confounded
by the smell and foulness of them.
I shudder, Lady, to show you all my foul state,                                                50

lest it makes you shudder at the sight of me,
but, alas for me, I cannot be seen any other way.


How disturbed and confused is the state of sin!
How my sins tear my heart in pieces and divide it,
gnaw at it and torment it!                                                                                55
Because of these sins of mine, Lady,
I desire to come to you and be cured,
but I flee from you for fear of being cursed.

My sins cannot be cured unless they are confessed,
but to acknowledge them throws me into confusion.                                        60

If they are concealed they cannot be healed,
if they are seen they are detestable.
They chafe me with sorrow, they terrify me with fear,

they bury me with their weight, they press upon me heavily,                             65

and confound me with shame.

 
Mary, powerful in goodness, and good in power,
from whom was born the fount of mercy,
I pray you, do not withhold such true mercy
where you know there is such true misery.
The brightness of your holiness                                                                       70

confounds the darkness of my sins,
but surely you will not blush to feel kindness
towards such a wretch?
If I acknowledge my iniquity,
surely you will not refuse to show kindness?                                                    75

If my misery is too great to be heard favourably,
surely your mercy will be less than it ought to be?
Lady, before God and before you my sins appear vile;
and therefore so much the more do they need
His healing and your help.                                                                               80

Most gentle Lady, heal my weakness,
and you will be taking away the filth that offends you.

Most kind Lady, take away my sickness,
and you will not experience the dirt you shudder at.
Most dear Lady, do not let what grieves you be,                                             85

and there will be nothing to defile your holiness.
Hear me, Lady,
and make whole the soul of a sinner who is your servant,

by virtue of the blessed fruit of your womb,
who sits at the right hand of his almighty Father                                               90

and is praised and glorified above all for ever. Amen.

  

THE SECOND PRAYER TO MARY 

 

The setting for this prayer is a law court. Christ is presiding. The sinner knows his guilt and the justice of the judge. He turns to the Mother of Christ for mercy. Anselm's idea of atonement does not separate Christ and Mary, or justice and mercy. The veritable source of mercy is Jesus Christ. Mary has by grace what is due to her son by nature. All she has, she has only from Him. She is not the one to overturn justice.

 

Virgin venerated throughout the world,
Mother dear to the human race,
Woman, marvel of the angels,
Mary, most holy.
By your blessed virginity you have made all integrity sacred,                            5

and by your glorious child-bearing
you have brought salvation to all fruitfulness.
Great Lady,
to you the joyous company of the saints gives thanks;

to you the fearful crowd of the accused flee;                                                   10
and to you, Lady of might and mercy,
I flee, a sinner every way, beyond measure distressed.


Lady, it seems to me as if I were already
before the all-powerful justice of the stern judge
facing the intolerable vehemence of His wrath,                                                15
while hanging over me is the enormity of my sins,
and the huge torments they deserve.
Most gentle Lady,
whose intercession should I implore
when I am troubled with horror, and shake with fear,                                      20

but hers, whose womb embraced
the reconciliation of the world?
Whence should I most surely hope for help quickly in need,

but from her whence I know came the world’s propitiation?

Who can more easily gain pardon for the accused                                           25
by her intercession,
than she who gave milk to Him
who justly punishes or mercifully pardons all and each one?

  

Good Lord and good Lady, dear Son and dear mother,

by this truth which is the only hope of sinners,
that you will be her Son and you will be His mother
to save this sinner.                                                                                          65

Thus, thus let this sinner be absolved and cared for,
healed and saved.
In this he shows himself to be your sinner,
as indeed he is,
for he knows you to be both son and mother                                                  70
for the salvation of sinners.
Indeed, I am the sinner who belongs to you both.


When I have sinned against the son,
I have alienated the mother,
nor can I offend the mother without hurting the son.                                        75

What will you do, then, sinner?
Where will you flee?
Who can reconcile me to the Son if the mother is my enemy,

or who will make my peace with the mother
if I have angered the Son?                                                                              80
Surely if I have offended you both equally
you will both also be merciful?
So the accused flees from the just God
to the good mother of the merciful God.
The accused finds refuge from the mother he has offended                              85

in the good Son of the kind mother.
The accused is carried from one to the other
and throws himself between
the good Son and the good mother.


Dear Lord, spare the servant of your mother;                                                 90

dear Lady, spare the servant of your Son.

Good Son, make your servant’s peace with your mother;

good mother, reconcile your Son to your servant.
When I throw myself between two
of such unbounded goodness                                                                         95

I shall not fall under the severity of their power.
Good son, good mother,
do not let me confess this truth about you in vain,
lest I blush for hoping in your goodness.
I love the truth I confess about you,                                                               100

and I beg for that goodness which I hope for from you.


Tell me, judge of the world, whom you will spare,
tell me, reconciler of the world, whom you will reconcile,
if you, Lord, condemn, and you, Lady, turn away
your goodness and love from this little man                                                    105
who confesses his sin with sorrow?
Saviour of each one, tell me whom you will save,
mother of salvation, tell me for whom you will pray,
if it is by your command, Lord,.
and with your consent, Lady,                                                                        110
that torments vex the sinner
who blames himself and prays to you,
that hell absorbs the prisoner
who accuses himself and entreats you,
that Tartarus devours the poor man                                                               115
who despairs of himself and hopes in you.


God, who was made the Son of a woman out of mercy;

woman, who was made mother of God out of mercy;

have mercy upon this wretch,
you forgiving, you interceding,                                                                       120
or show the unhappy man to whom he may flee for safety

and point out in whose power he may more certainly confide.

 

If it is—or rather because it is—

that my sin is so great and my faith so small,
so cool my love, so feeble my prayer,                                                            125
so imperfect my satisfaction,
that I deserve neither the forgiveness of sins
nor the grace of salvation,
for this very reason I ask that in whatever way
you see that my merits are not sufficient for me,                                             130

there in your mercy you will not be found wanting.
So I ask you to hear me
by your own merits rather than mine,
so that by the goodness you pour forth
and the power in which you abound,                                                             135

I may escape the sorrows of damnation which I deserve
and enter into the joy of the blessed
to praise you, God,
who are worthy to be praised and exalted for ever. Amen.

 

 THE THIRD "GREAT" PRAYER TO MARY 

 

It reflects Mary's place in redemption. She is the mother of all the redeemed. The central piece deals with the relation of God and Mary in creation and recreation: God gave His own Son ... that all nature in you might be in Him. Mercy and justice are one in Mary's womb. The four elements, the whole of creation, have been given life again. Anselm develops a cosmic vision of redemption with Christ as the central figure, and Mary the one who shows Him us and us Him. As mentioned, the central idea is to "ask for her and Christ's love."

 

Mary, great Mary,
most blessed of all Marys,
greatest among all women,
great Lady, great beyond measure,
I long to love you with all my heart,                                                                 5
I want to praise you with my lips,
I desire to venerate you in my understanding,
I love to pray to you from my deepest being, 
I commit myself wholly to your protection.
 
Heart of my soul, stir yourself up as much as ever you can                              10

(if you can do anything at all),
and let all that is within me praise the good Mary has done,

love the blessing she has received,
wonder at her loftiness, and beseech her kindness;
for I need her defense daily,                                                                           15
and in my need I desire, implore, and beseech it,
and if it is not according to my desire,
at least let it be above, or rather contrary to, what I deserve.

 
Queen of angels, Lady of the world,
Mother of Him who cleanses the world,                                                         20
I confess that my heart is unclean,
and I am rightly ashamed to turn towards such cleanness,

but I turn towards it to be made clean
in order to come to it.                                                                                    25
Mother of Him who is the light of my heart,
nurse of Him who is the strength of my soul,

I pray to you with my whole heart
to the extent of my powers.
Hear me, Lady, answer me, most mighty helper;
let this filth be washed from my mind,                                                             30
let my darkness be illuminated, my lukewarmness blaze up,

my listlessness be stirred.
For in your blessed holiness you are exalted above all,

after the highest of all, your Son,
through your omnipotent Son, with your glorious Son,                                    35
by your blessed Son.
So as being above all after the Lord,
who is my God and my all, your Son,
in my heart I know and worship you,
love you and ask for your affection,                                                               40
not because of my imperfect desires,
but because it belongs to your Son to make and to save,
to redeem and bring back to life.


Mother of the life of my soul,
nurse of the redeemer of my flesh,                                                                 45
who gave suck to the Saviour of my whole being—
but what am I saying?
My tongue fails me, for my love is not sufficient.
Lady, Lady, I am very anxious to thank you for so much,
but I cannot think of anything worthy to say to you,                                        50
and I am ashamed to offer you anything unworthy.
How can I speak worthily
of the mother of the Creator and Saviour,
by whose sanctity my sins are purged,
by whose integrity incorruptibility is given me,                                                55
by whose virginity my soul falls in love with its Lord

and is married to its God?
What can I worthily tell of the mother of my Lord and God

by whose fruitfulness I am redeemed from captivity,

by whose child-bearing                                                                                 60
I am brought forth from eternal death,
by whose offspring I who was lost am restored,
and led back from my unhappy exile
to my blessed homeland?


‘Blessed among all women,’                                                                          65

all these things were given to me
by ‘the blessed fruit of your womb’
through his baptism of regeneration,
some in fact, others in hope;
yet by sinning I put it all away from me                                                          70

so that now I have nothing and scarcely any hope.
What then?
If they vanished because of my guilt
surely I will not be ungrateful to her
by whom so many good things came to me?                                                  75

Stop, lest I add iniquity upon iniquity!
I give great thanks for what I have had,
I weep for what I have not,
I pray so that I may have them again.
For I am sure that since through the Son                                                        80

I could receive grace,
I can receive it again through the merits of the mother.

Therefore, Lady,
gateway of life, door of salvation,
way of reconciliation, approach to recovery,                                                  85

I beg you by the salvation born of your fruitfulness,
see to it that my sins be pardoned
and the grace to live well be granted me,
and even to the end keep this your servant
under your protection.                                                                                   90                   

Palace of universal propitiation,
cause of general reconciliation,
vase and temple of life and universal salvation:
I have made too little of your praises,
and in a little man like me it is especially vile                                                   95

to belittle your merits.
For the world rejoices in your love
and so proclaims what you have done for it.
O Lady, to be wondered at for your unparalleled virginity;

to be venerated for a holiness beyond all reckoning—                                   100

you showed to the world its Lord and its God
whom it had not known.
You showed to the sight of all the world
its Creator whom it had not seen.
You gave birth to the restorer of the world                                                    105

for whom the lost world longed.
You brought forth the world’s reconciliation,
which, in its guilt, it did not have before.
Through your fruitfulness, Lady,
the sinner is cleansed and justified,                                                                110

the condemned is saved and the exile is restored.
Your offspring, Lady, redeemed the world from captivity,

made whole the sick, gave life to the dead.
The world was wrapped in darkness,
surrounded and oppressed by demons under which it lay,                              115

but from you alone light was born into it,
which broke its bonds and trampled underfoot their power.


Heaven, stars, earth, waters, day and night,
and whatever was in the power or use of men was guilty;
they rejoice now, Lady, that they lost that glory,                                            120

for a new and ineffable grace
has been given them through you.
They are brought back to life and give thanks.

For all things were as if dead,
since they had lost that inborn dignity by virtue of which                                 125
they were ruled and used to the praise of God
for which they were made.
They were buried by oppression,
and tainted by being used in the service of idols
for which they were not made.                                                                      130
But see now, how they are raised to life, and praise the Lord,
for they are ruled by the power of those who confess God,
and are honoured by the use they put them to.
And now they bound with joy,
in a new and inestimable grace,                                                                     135
for they know the very God, the Creator,
not only ruling invisibly over them all
but visibly among them, sanctifying them by use.
So much good has come into the world
through the blessed fruit of Mary’s womb.                                                    140


But, Lady, why do I only speak
of the benefits with which you fill the earth?
They go down to hell, they go up to heaven.
For through the fullness of your grace
those in hell rejoice that they are delivered,                                                   145
and those in heaven are glad at that restoration.
By the glorious Son of your virginity,
all just men who died before his birth exult
that their captivity is broken down,
and the angels wish each other joy                                                                150
in the rebuilding of their half-ruined city.


O woman, uniquely to be wondered at,
and to be wondered at for your uniqueness,
by you the elements are renewed, hell is redeemed,

demons are trampled down and men are saved,                                            155

even the fallen angels are restored to their place.
O woman full and overflowing with grace,
plenty flows from you
to make all creatures green again.
O virgin blessed and ever blessed,                                                                160
whose blessing is upon all nature,
not only is the creature blessed by the Creator,
but the Creator is blessed by the creature too.
O highly exalted,
when the love of my heart tries to follow you,                                                165
whither do you escape the keenness of my sight?
O beautiful to gaze upon,
lovely to contemplate, delightful to love,
whither do you go to evade the breadth of my heart?
Lady, wait for the weakness of him who follows you;                                    170

do not hide yourself,
seeing the littleness of the soul that seeks you!
Have mercy, Lady,
upon the soul that pants after you with longing.


A thing to be wondered at--                                                                         175
at what a height do I behold the place of Mary!
Nothing equals Mary,
nothing but God is greater than Mary.
God gave his own Son, who alone from his heart
was born equal to him, loved as he loves himself, to Mary,                            180

and of Mary was then born a Son
not another but the same one,
that naturally one might be the Son of God and of Mary.
All nature is created by God and God is born of Mary.
God created all things, and Mary gave birth to God.                                      185
God who made all things made himself of Mary,
and thus he refashioned everything he had made.

 

He who was able to make all things out of nothing
refused to remake it by force,
but first became the Son of Mary.                                                                 190
So God is the Father of all created things,
and Mary is the mother of all re-created things.
God is the Father of all that is established,
and Mary is the mother of all that is re-established.
For God gave birth to Him by whom all things were made                             195

and Mary brought forth Him by whom all are saved.
God brought forth Him without whom nothing is,
Mary bore Him without whom nothing is good.
O truly, ‘the Lord is with you,’
to whom the Lord gave himself,                                                                    200
that all nature in you might be in him.


Mary, I beg you, by that grace
through which the Lord is with you
and you willed to be with him,
let your mercy be with me.                                                                            205
Let love for you always be with me,
and the care of me be always with you.
Let the cry of my need, as long as it persists,
be with you,
and the care of your goodness, as long as I need it,                                        210

be with me.
Let joy in your blessedness be always with me,
and compassion for my wretchedness, where I need it,
be with you.

 
O most blessed,                                                                                            215
all that turns away from you, and that you oppose,
must needs be lost,
and equally it is not possible that whatever turns to you

and you regard with favour, should perish.

For just as, Lady, God begat Him                                                                  220

in whom all things live,
so, O flower of virginity,
you bore Him by whom the dead are raised up.
And as God through his Son
keeps the blessed angels from sin,                                                                  225

so, O glory of purity,
through your Son you save unhappy men who have sinned.

For just as in some way the Son of God
is the bliss of the just,
so in some way, O rich in saving grace,                                                          230
your Son is the reconciliation of sinners.
For there is no reconciliation
except that which you conceived in chastity,
there is no salvation
except what you brought forth as a virgin.                                                      235
Therefore, Lady,
you are mother of justifier and the justified,
bearer of reconciliation and the reconciled,
parent of salvation and of the saved.


Blessed assurance, safe refuge,                                                                      240

the mother of God is our mother.
The mother of Him in whom alone we have hope,
whom alone we fear,
is our mother.
The mother of Him who alone saves and condemns                                        245

is our mother.


You are blessed and exalted
not for yourself alone but for us too.
What great and loving thing is this
that I see coming to us through you?                                                               250

Seeing it I rejoice, and hardly dare to speak of it.
For if you, Lady, are His mother,
surely then your sons are His brothers?
But who are the brothers and of whom?
Shall I speak out of the rejoicing of my heart,                                                 255

or shall I be silent in case it is too high for me to mention?
But if I believe and love
why should I not confess it with praise?
So let me speak not out of pride but with thanksgiving.

For He was born of a mother to take our nature,                                            260

and to make us, by restoring our life, sons of His mother.

He invites us to confess ourselves His brethren.
So our judge is our brother,
the Saviour of the world is our Brother,
and finally our God through Mary is our Brother.                                            265

With what confidence then ought we to hope,
and thus consoled how can we fear,
when our salvation or damnation hangs on the will
of a good Brother and a devoted mother?
With what affection should we love                                                                270

this Brother and this mother,
with what familiarity should we commit ourselves to them,

with what security may we flee to them!
For our good Brother forgives us when we sin,
and turns away from us what our errors deserve,                                            275

he gives us what in penitence we ask.
The good mother prays and beseeches for us,
she asks and pleads that he may hear us favourably.
She pleads with the son on behalf of the sons,
the only-begotten for the adopted,                                                                 280

the lord for the servants.

 

The good Son hears the mother on behalf of His brothers,

the only-begotten for those He has adopted,
the lord for those He has set free.


Mary, how much we owe you, Mother and Lady,                                          285

by whom we have such a Brother!
What thanks and praise can we return to you?
Great Lord, our elder Brother,
great Lady, our best of mothers,
teach my heart a sweet reverence in thinking of you.                                       290
You are good, and so are you;
you are gentle, and so are you.
Speak and give my soul the gift
of remembering you with love, delighting in you,
rejoicing in you, so that I may come to you.                                                    295

Let me rise up to your love.
Desiring to be always with you, my heart is sick of love,

my soul melts in me, my flesh fails.
If only my inmost being might be on fire
with the sweet fervour of your love,                                                                300

so that my outer being of flesh might wither away.
If only the spirit within me
might come close to the sweetness of your love,
so that the marrow of my body might be dried up.
Lord, son of my lady,                                                                                    305
Lady, mother of my lord,
if I am not worthy of the bliss of your love,
certainly you are not unworthy of being so greatly loved.

So, most kind, do not refuse what I ask,
for though I confess I am not worthy of it,                                                      310
you cannot worthily refuse it.
Give me not according to my deserts when I pray,

but something that will be worth your loving.
Give me, unworthy as I am,
something that I can worthily give back to you.                                               315

If you are not willing to give according to my desire,
at least do not refuse to give
what I ought to give back to you.


Perhaps I am presumptuous to speak,
but the goodness of you both makes me bold.                                                320
So I speak thus to my lord and my lady,
I, ‘who am dust and ashes.’
Lord and Lady, surely it is much better for you to give grace

to those who do not deserve it
than for you to exact what is owing to you in justice?                                      325

The first is praise-worthy, the other is wicked injustice.
Give us then your grace,
so that you may receive what is owing to you.
Show me your mercy,
for I need it and it is right for you to give it,                                                     330

lest I act towards you unjustly,
which no one needs and is no good to anyone.
Be merciful to me because I ask it,
lest I be unjust towards you by whom I am cursed.
Kind Lord and Lady, do not make it difficult to pray to you,                           335

but give my soul your love,
which not unjustly it asks and you justly expect it to ask,

lest I be ungrateful for your good gifts
because of that which in justice it shudders at
and you not unjustly punish.                                                                            340

Surely Jesus, Son of God, and Mary his mother,
you both want, and it is only right,
that whatever you love, we should love too.

So, good Son,
I ask you through the love you have for your mother,                                      345

that as she truly loves you and you her
you will grant that I may truly love her.
Good mother,
I ask you by the love you have for your Son,
that, as he truly loves you and you him,                                                           350

you will grant that I may love him truly.
For see, I am asking what it is indeed your will to do,

for why does He not act as my sins deserve
when it is in his power?
Lover and ruler of mankind,                                                                           355

you could love those who accused you even to death,
and can you refuse, when you are asked,
those who love you and your mother?
Mother of our lover who carried him in her womb
and was willing to give him milk at her breast --                                              360

are you not able or are you unwilling to grant your love
to those who ask it?

 

So I venerate you both,
as far as my mind is worthy to do so;
I love you both,                                                                                             365

as far as my heart is equal to it;
I prefer you both,
as much as my soul can;
and I serve you both,
as far as my flesh may.                                                                                   370

And in this let my life be consummated
that for all eternity all my being may sing
'Blessed be the Lord for ever. Amen.’

 

by Fr. Johann G. Roten, S.M.

   
   

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