Alas My Soul

From “Prayer to Christ” (ca. 1070-1080)

Would that I with happy Joseph might have taken down my Lord from the cross, wrapped him in spiced grave clothes and laid him in the tomb; or even followed after so that such a burial might not have been without my mourning. Would that with the blessed band of woman I might have trembled at the vision of angels and have heard the news of the Lord’s resurrection, news of my consolation, so much looked for, so much desired. Would that I might have heard from the angel’s mouth, “Fear not, Jesus who was crucified, whom you are seeking, is not here, he is risen.”

Kindest, gentles, most serene Lord, will you not make it up to me for not seeking the blessed incorrruption of your flesh, for not having kissed the place of the wounds where the nails pierced, for not having sprinkled with tears of joy the scars that prove the truth of your body? O wonder, beyond price and compare, “How will you comfort and recompense me for my grief?” For it cannot cease while I am a pilgrim, far from my Lord.

Alas, Lord, alas my soul. You have ascended, consoler of my life, and you have not said farewell to me. Going up on your way you blessed your own, but I did not say good-bye; “lifting up your hands” you were received by a cloud into heaven, and I did not see it; angels promised your return; and I did not hear it.

What shall I say? What shall I do? Whither shall I go? Where shall I seek him? Where and when shall I find him? Whom shall I ask? Who will tell me of my beloved? “For I am sick from love.” “The joy of my heart fails me;” my laughter “is turned to mourning;” “my heart and my flesh fail me;” “but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever.” “My soul refused comfort,” unless from you, my dear. “Whom have I in heaven, but you, and what do I desire upon earth by beside you?”

St. Anselm (1033-1109) was an Italian abbot and theologian, who served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 until his death. A gifted philosophical theologian, he developed the first ontological proofs for God’s existence and the satisfaction theory of the atonement, which is presented in his famous treatise Cur Deus Homo (“Why God Became Man”). Under his leadership, the Abbey of Bec became Europe’s foremost seat of scholarship. His feast day is April 21. Benedicta Ward, trans. The Prayers and Meditations of St. Anselm with the Proslogion (London: Penguin, 1973).


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