O Searcher of My Heart

From “The Pastoral Prayer” (ca. 1167)

Lord, look at my soul’s wounds. Your living and effective eye sees everything. It pierces like a sword, even to part asunder soul and spirit. Assuredly, my Lord, you see in my soul the traces of my former sins, my present sins, my present perils, and also motives and occasions for others yet to be. You see these things, Lord, and I would have you see them. You know well, O searcher of my heart, that there is nothing in my soul that I would hide from you, even had I the power to escape your eyes. Woe to the souls that want to hide themselves from you. They cannot make themselves not to be seen by you, but only miss your healing and incur punishment.

So see me, sweet Lord, see me. My hope, most merciful, is in your loving kindness; for you will see me, either as a good physician sees, intent upon my healing; or else as a kind master, anxious to correct; or a forbearing father, longing to forgive.

This, then, is what I ask, O font of pity, trusting in your mighty mercy and merciful might; I ask you, by the power of your most sweet name, and by the mystery of your holy humanity, to put away my sins and heal the langours of my soul, mindful only of your goodness, bot of my ingratitude.

St. Aelred of Rievaulx (1110-1167) was an English Cistercian monk and spiritual writer who served as abbot of Rievaulx in Yorkshire from 1147 until his death. He wrote several histories and spiritual treatises, as well as On Spiritual Friendship, which draws on Cicero and St. Augustine to describe how true friendship is rooted in fellowship in Christ. His Pastoral Prayer, which is modeled on the prayers of St. Anselm, survives in a single manuscript, and may not have been circulated during his lifetime. His feast day is January 12.


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