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O SWEET and gracious Lord Jesus Christ, who hast shown unto us such charitable love as no man hath greater, nor can any man have so great; Thou who didst not deserve to die,199199 In the famous treatise on the Atonement called Cur Deus Homo, or Why God became Man, St Anselm makes much of the thought that the man Christ, being free alike from original and from actual sin, discharged in dying no debt of nature, but did something over and above what was required of Him (namely, a righteous life) and offered to God something which indeed belonged to God already, as does everything which He created, but which God did not exact, and could thus be reckoned as a satisfaction for the sins of others. To this thought he here refers, saying that Christ owed no debt which was paid by Him in dying. and yet didst lay down Thy life in Thy goodness for Thy servants, and didst pray even 127for Thy murderers,200200 Luke xxiii. 34. that Thou mightest make them Thy brethren and sharers in Thy righteousness, and reconcile them to Thy merciful Father and to Thyself; Thou, O Lord, who didst show this great charity to Thine enemies, didst also command Thy friends to show the like. O good Lord, with what affection shall I call to mind Thine inestimable charity? What reward shall I give201201 Ps. cxvi. 11. for Thine unspeakable benefit? For the sweetness of Thy grace exceedeth all affection, and the greatness of Thy benefit surpasseth all reward. What reward then shall I give unto Him who created me, and created me anew? What reward shall I give unto Him that had mercy upon me and redeemed me? O Lord, Thou art my God, my goods are nothing unto Thee.202202 Ps. xvi. 2. The whole world is Thine and all that is therein.203203 Ps. l. 12. What reward shall I, who am poor and needy,204204 Ps. xl. 20. who am a worm,205205 Ps. xxii. 6. who am dust and ashes,206206 Gen. xviii. 27. give unto my God, except to obey His commandment from my heart. And this is Thy commandment. That we love another.207207 John xv. 12.
O Thou that art good as man, as God, as Lord, as friend, as whatsoever Thou art, Thy humble, Thy despicable servant desires to obey this Thy commandment. Thou knowest, O Lord, that I am in love with that love which 128Thou commandest.208208 The elaborate phrase of Anselm here, quia dilectionem quam jubes amo, amorem diligo, caritatem concupisco, using a number of synonyms for love which we can scarcely parallel in English, I have not attempted to translate closely. I seek that love, I follow after it, for the sake thereof I, thy poor and needy209209 Ps. xl. 20. servant knock and cry out at the door of Thy mercy. And in so far forth as I have already received the sweet alms of Thy free bounty, and love all men in Thee and for Thy sake, though not as I ought, nor as I would, I entreat Thee to show mercy to all men.
Nevertheless, as there are some the love of whom Thy loving-kindness hast in an especial manner more intimately impressed upon my heart, I do more ardently wish them well and desire more earnestly to pray for them. Very great is Thy servant’s longing210210 Here too I have not kept closely to the original which repeats the word Vult, wishes, three times. to pray for them, O good God: yet he is afraid to appear in the company of his loved ones, because he is guilty before Thee. For with what countenance shall I, who am not worthy to ask pardon for myself, presume to entreat Thy favour for others? And I who anxiously seek others to pray for me, with what confidence can I pray for them? What shall I do, Lord God, what shall I do? Thou biddest me pray for them, and my love desires to pray for them, yet while my conscience cries out that I should tremble 129for my own sins, I am afraid to speak for others. Shall I then disobey Thy bidding, because I have done what Thou hast forbidden? Nay rather, since I have presumed to do what Thou hast forbidden, I will embrace that which Thou hast commanded, if perchance obedience may treat my presumption, if perchance charity may cover the multitude of my sins.211211 1 Peter iv. 8.
Therefore I pray to Thee, O good and gracious God, for those who love me for Thy sake, and whom I love in Thee; and for those most earnestly, in whose love toward me and in my love toward whom Thou knowest to be the most sincerity. And I do this, O my Lord, not as a righteous man, without fear for his own sins, but as one who is afraid out of his poor charity for the sins of others. Do Thou therefore be loving unto them, O Fountain of love, who commandest me to love them, and givest me love toward them. And if my prayer be unworthy to profit them, because it is offered unto Thee by a sinner, let it yet prevail on their behalf, because it is made at the instance of Thy commandment. Therefore for Thine own sake, O author and giver of love, for Thine own sake, not for mine, do Thou show love towards them; and make them love Thee with all their heart, with all their mind, with all their soul; so that they may will, speak and do only those things that please Thee and are expedient for themselves. Too lukewarm, O my Lord, 130too lukewarm is my prayer, because my love is too little fervent. Yet bestow not Thy benefits upon them, O Thou that art rich in mercies, according to the measure of my slothful devotion; but, as Thy goodness exceedeth all the love of man, so may Thine answer exceed the affection of my supplication. Do unto them and concerning them, O Lord, that which is expedient for them according to Thy will, that they may so be guided and protected by Thee at all times and in all places as to come at last to a glorious and everlasting security. Who livest and reignest, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, world without end. Amen.
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