« Prev I. To Ralph. Next »


To Ralph.221221   This is Letter XI. of Book I. in Gerberon’s edition. The person to whom it was addressed was, as it would seem, a monk of the abbey of Bec (of which Anselm was at the time of writing Prior, but not as yet Abbot) who was detained by Archbishop Lanfranc in England on some ecclesiastical business.

BROTHER Anselm to his dear brother Ralph. Although you have forbidden me in your letters to address you at the beginning as Dom Ralph, yet my sentiments towards you constrain me to show myself in the rest of my letters your obedient servant. For I am ready to be the obedient servant of Dom Ralph in the same spirit of love in which I love him as the brother, not of my flesh, but of my soul. And so if you bid me not call you what notwithstanding, in virtue of your superiority of character you really are (if I speak my mind candidly) to me, let me at any rate follow my original wish of calling myself what I really am to you. I will then no longer address you as Dom Ralph and sign myself Brother Anselm, but will address you as Brother Ralph and sign myself your obedient Servant, Anselm.222222   This passage has been difficult of translation, owing to the absence of any term in modern English exactly corresponding to the dominus, the use of which as addressed to himself Ralph had desired Anselm to discontinue. It was the ordinary term of respect, used to persons of a certain position, and still commonly prefixed, in the shortened form Dom, to the names of Benedictine monks. But preserving its proper meaning of lord or master it immediately suggested the antithesis of servant which Anselm here insists on using of himself, even though he consents to call his correspondent brother.


As to your charitable desire that you should be with me wherever I am, that comes to the same thing as my own hearty wish to be with you wherever you are. And as you ask me for advice how this may be, I pray God to help us so that it may be impossible for it to be other wise. For, if God shall vouchsafe to hear us, may our life together be by His assistance such that so long as life shall last it may be all one act of thanksgiving to Him. But since neither you nor I are our own; for whether we live or die we are the Lord’s;223223   Rom. xiv. 8. if He, who knows better than we what is pleasing to Himself or expedient for us, shall dispose of us otherwise than we wish, let us endure in patience whatever we perceive to be His pleasure concerning us, if we have resolved not to displease Him. For our life is short, and therefore the time is near when we shall rejoice together in an everlasting union with Him and with one another, if by His grace we take care to pass this brief life in submission to His will in all things. Nevertheless, in the meantime, in whatever places we 138may be, however near to one another or far from one another, may love ever make our spirits one. As to that, however, which you so anxiously entreat me to beg of Archbishop Lanfranc when he comes from England, that you should be with me, I answer that as I wish you that which I understand to be most pleasing to God and most profitable to you, I will, if I find I can, try to bring it about. Meanwhile do cheerfully the business which you are about: for God loveth a cheerful giver.224224   2 Cor. ix. 7.

As to your complaint of being hindered by your business from close attention to reading or prayer, let it be a great consolation to you that charity covereth the multitude of sins.225225   1 Pet iv. 8. For by your being drawn back another is drawn on; by your carrying of the burden another is relieved; by your being heavy laden another is carried on his way. And remember that the servant who returns with his hands empty, runs quicker; but it is the servant who comes home laden that the whole household meets with greater joy.

Nor is he blamed by any because he came more slowly than the other; but because he is tired by useful work, he is bidden sit down and rest. But if you say that your zeal or diligence are not sufficient for the duty laid upon you, I answer that (taking you at your own estimation, not at mine) one weak eye cannot see as well as two, yet it does not refuse to do what it can, since no other part of the body can do it.


But because my letter is already too long, and your other matters will be better discussed by word of mouth than in writing; for written advice you will find in abundance in Holy Scripture; we will for the while commit them in trust to God and pray earnestly concerning them, looking forward both of us to meeting and agreeing to end our correspondence here.

« Prev I. To Ralph. Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection