Friday 29 June 2012

Anselm's Prayer to St Peter: "Shepherd of Christ, gather up the lamb of Christ"

Peter and Christ in a 20th-century window at St Peter's, Redisham, Suffolk

This is an extract from St Anselm's prayer to St Peter, quoted from Prayers and Meditations of St Anselm, trans. Benedicta Ward (London, 1973), pp. 135-140.

Holy and most kind Peter,
faithful shepherd of the flock of God,
chief of the apostles,
prince among such mighty princes.
You are able to bind and loose as you will;
you are able to heal and raise up as you will;
you can give the kingdom of heaven to whom you will.
Great Peter, rich with so many and such great gifts,
high in so many and such great dignities,
here am I, the poorest and weakest of men,
surrounded by many difficulties and hardships.
In my misery I need the help of your power and kindness,
but I have no words to express my need as it really is,
and my love is not great enough to reach up
from such a depth as mine to such a height as yours.

Again and again I try to shake the lethargy from my mind,
to prevent my thoughts from being scattered among vanities,
but when I have gathered together all my strength
I am not able to break out of the shadows of the torpor that holds me
because of the filth of my sins.
Nor do I have the strength to remain for long of the same mind.
I am the most wretched of wretches.
It really is so, it is not pretence, it is true.
Who is there to help a wretch
who has not the strength to express his trouble in words
or show the sorrow of his heart?

O great Peter,
if the cry of my trouble does not come up as far as you,
let the care of your goodness come down as far as me!
Shatter my hardness, shine on my darkness,
look upon my wretchedness.
Have a care, kind shepherd,
for the lamb of the flock committed unto you,
and have mercy on the misery in which he toils.
Do not make demands according to his wickedness,
but make allowance according to his prayer...

Remember that Christ asked you three times if you loved him,
and when three times you confessed it
he said to you, "Feed my sheep."
He is indeed a lover of the sheep
who thus sifts the love of the shepherd
before committing them to him.
When you had confessed that you loved him,
then he confided his sheep to you.
How, then, can his shepherd spurn his sheep?
Peter, shepherd of Christ,
gather up the lamb of Christ.
Your Lord sought and found him,
and bore him on his shoulders, rejoicing;
do not repel him now he comes back and prays.
The Lord bought him with his own blood
before he was born;
Christ's shepherd should not value him lightly
now he is reborn and so diligently commended to him.
Alas, how long shall I not know
that I am received, healed, cherished?


See, here is a soul needing mercy,
and here is the merciful apostle Peter
before the God of mercy,
who had mercy upon the apostle Peter
and taught him what to do and gave him power to do it.
See, here is misery, and there is mercy,
the mercy of God and his apostle Peter,
and a soul in misery, confiding in God,
and calling upon God and his apostle Peter.
O God, and you his greatest apostle,
is this misery of mine so huge
that it cannot be met by the wideness of your mercy?
Or if it can, but will not,
what is the enormity of my guilt
that exceeds the multitude of your mercies?
Is it that I have not confessed the whole of my sin?
Truly, I have confessed all I know of my sins.
Or is it because I do not make amends
by sufficient penitance?
Or because the good in me does not equal the bad?
I acknowledge that all this is true,
but this is the very misery by which I am tormented.
Is it true, then, that the more I am oppressed by misery,
the more mercy will tarry?
That is an unheard-of word from one who is merciful to one who prays...

[N. B.: this misery/mercy opposition works better in Latin, where it's miseria and misericordia. The last question here is Ergo quo plus coartat miseria, plus lenta erit misericordia?)

St Peter, prince of the apostles,
by the mercy shown you and the power given you,
loose my chains, heal my wounds.
Free me from the misery of the kingdom of sin,
and lead me into the bliss of the kingdom of heaven,
where rejoicing with you
I may give thanks and praise God for ever. Amen.

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