A Prayer of St. Anselm

A prayer of St. Anselm

Lord Jesus Christ; Let me seek you by desiring you,
and let me desire you by seeking you;
let me find you by loving you,
and love you in finding you.

I confess, Lord, with thanksgiving,
that you have made me in your image,
so that I can remember you, think of you, and love you.

But that image is so worn and blotted out by faults,
and darkened by the smoke of sin,
that it cannot do that for which it was made,
unless you renew and refashion it.

Lord, I am not trying to make my way to your height,
for my understanding is in no way equal to that,
but I do desire to understand a little of your truth
which my heart already believes and loves.

I do not seek to understand so that I can believe,
but I believe so that I may understand;
and what is more,
I believe that unless I do believe, I shall not understand.

Source: The Oxford Book of Prayer, George Appleton (gen. ed.), 1985, 2002.

Thoughts on the Mercy of God

A Liturgical Christian’s Understanding of Mercy

Bryan’s note: As I travel the internet I occasionally find something out of the ordinary.  Something that stands out and blesses me.  The following text is a wonderfully precise definition and application of God’s mercy.  I hope it blesses you the way it blessed me.

…………………………………………………………………….

Many people remember the Russian couple, the Rosenbergs, who were tried in court for treason against the United States. The trial was a long and bitter one. As the final sentence was pronounced, the lawyer for the Rosenbergs cried out, “Your Honor, what my clients ask for is justice!”

Judge Kaufman replied, “What the court has given them is what they ask,  justice! What they really want is mercy. But mercy is something this court has no right to give them.”

The One who has the right to give mercy is God.

The Theme of God’s Mercy

This is brought out in the Gospel reading of the Pharisee and the Publican. “God, be merciful to me the sinner,” prayed the Publican. His only plea was for mercy, Kyrie Eleison!  Without this prayer Christianity would be a philosophy, a history, a code but not a religion that saves.

The same theme of God’s mercy is expressed again in the Gospel lesson of the Prodigal Son. Listen to the words of the following hymn from the vesper service of the Prodigal Son:

“As the Prodigal Son I come to you, merciful God. I have wasted my whole life in a foreign land; I have scattered the wealth which You gave me, O Father.

“Receive me in repentance, O God, and have mercy upon me.”

One of the most beautiful examples of God’s mercy is the prodigal son, who leaves home, wastes all his father’s resources in sin, ends up living with pigs, remembers his father, repents, and returns home where he is embraced by the waiting father, who declares a feast to celebrate his return. That is God’s mercy.

The same theme of mercy is emphasized again in the Gospel reading which deals with the second coming of Christ. Listen to the words of the following hymn from the Orthros:

“Have mercy, O Lord, have mercy upon me. I cry to you, when you come with your angels to give to every person due return for his/her deeds.”

From the Matins’ Services of Lent
 After the Gospel reading at matins on each Sunday during Lent, we hear the following beautiful hymns of repentance:

“Open to me the doors of repentance, O Life-Giver …But in your compassion purify me by the loving kindness of your mercy.

“When I think of the many evil things I have done, wretch that I am, I tremble at the fearful day of judgment, but trusting in Your loving-kindness, like David I cry out to You. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your great mercy.”

These hymns are preceded by the reading of Psalm 51, one of the most used psalms in Orthodox worship services. In this Psalm, David asks God’s mercy for his sins and proclaims that God’s steadfast love and mercy are greater than the sins of His creatures:

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love. According to Thy abundant mercy, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Ps. 51.1-2) .

From the Penitential Canon of St. Andrew of Crete
 Another place where the call to God for mercy is heard during the first week of Lent is in the penitential canon of St. Andrew of Crete sung each evening during compline. Listen to some of the hymns:

“I have sinned, Lord, I have sinned against you.
Be merciful to me though there is no one whose sins I have not surpassed.
I cry to You, O Lord: Have mercy, have mercy on me!
When You come with Your angels to give due reward to each person for his deeds.

“I have sinned as no other person before,
I have transgressed more than any other, O Lord.
Before the Day of Judgment comes be merciful to me, O Lover of Man.

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!”

David once showed us the image of true repentance in a psalm he wrote exposing all that he had done:

“Be merciful to me and cleanse me!” he wrote,

“For against You only have I sinned, the God of our fathers.
Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!
I have distorted Your image, O Savior, and broken Your commandments.
The beauty of my soul has been spoiled, and its light extinguished by my sins.”
in David’s words, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.”

“But have pity on me and,”

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!
Return! Return! Uncover what is hidden!”

“Say to God who knows all things:
‘You are my only Savior and know my terrible secrets.’
Yet in David’s words I cry to You:
‘Be merciful to me, O God, according to Your steadfast love.'”

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me!”

http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7124

C.S. Lewis takes on the Incarnation

 
The central miracle asserted by Christians is the Incarnation.  They say that God became Man.  Every other miracle prepares for this, or exhibits this, or results from this. . . .
 
“In the Christian story God descends to re-ascend. He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity . . . down to the very roots and sea-bed of the Nature He has created.
 
But He goes down to come up again and bring the ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.
 
Or one may think of a diver, first reducing himself to nakedness, then glancing in mid-air, then gone with a splash, vanished, rushing down through green and warm water into black and cold water, down through increasing pressure into the death-like region of ooze and slime and old decay; then up again, back to colour and light, his lungs almost bursting, till suddenly he breaks surface again, holding in his hand the dripping, precious thing that he went down to recover. He and it are both coloured now that they have come up into the light: down below, where it lay colourless in the dark, he lost his colour, too.
 
In this descent and re-ascent everyone will recognise a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into something hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life re-ascends.
 
It is the pattern of all animal generation too. There is descent from the full and perfect organisms into the spermatozoon and ovum, and in the dark womb a life at first inferior in kind to that of the species which is being reproduced: then the slow ascent to the perfect embryo, to the living, conscious baby, and finally to the adult.
 
So it is also in our moral and emotional life. The first innocent and spontaneous desires have to submit to the deathlike process of control or total denial: but from that there is a re-ascent to fully formed character in which the strength of the original material all operates but in a new way. Death and Rebirth–go down to go up–it is a key principle. Through this bottleneck, this belittlement, the highroad nearly always lies.
 
The doctrine of the Incarnation, if accepted, puts this principle even more emphatically at the centre.  The pattern is there in Nature because it was first there in God.  All the instances of it which I have mentioned turn out to be but transpositions of the Divine theme into a minor key.  I am not now referring simply to the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ.  The total pattern, of which they are only the turning point, is the real Death and Re-birth: for certainly no seed ever fell from so fair a tree into so dark and cold a soil as would furnish more than a faint analogy to this huge descent and re-ascension in which God dredged the salt and oozy bottom of Creation.” 
 
C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: Macmillan, 1947), 112, 115-17.
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