Saints' Prayers

selected from the annals of history unto our current day


Meditations by St. Anselm of Canterbury

from the book, 'Meditations and Prayers'

First Meditation


The duty of praying to he drawn out of the pit of misery and the mire of dregs.

What then remains but, duly considering all these things, by all means possible to rouse thy heart's ardours towards the attainment of so great blessings, and to implore Him who created thee for their possession to snatch thee out of the pit of misery and out of the mire of dregs, and to make thee possessor of so great happiness? For what is the "pit of misery" but the gulf of worldly desire? And what is the "mire of dregs" but the filth of carnal pleasure? For these, that is to say cupidity and pleasure, are two bands or leashes by which the human race is checked and held back lest it should attain the blessed liberty of heavenly contemplation. For in truth earthly desire is a pit of misery, a pit which engulfs the soul it has enthralled by numberless desires, and drags, as strongly as ever chains could drag, into a deep, a gulf of vices; and then allows her to have no rest. For the mind of man, once crushed by the yoke of cupidity, is dissipated from without by the love of visible things, and distracted from within by conflicting passions. Toil in acquiring, anxiety in multiplying, delight in possessing, fear of losing, distress at having lost; these all make havoc of her, nor do they allow her to see what danger she is in. This is the pit of misery, and these are the ills with which worldly cupidity for ever stores it. From this pit it was that the blessed David rejoiced that he had been rescued, when he broke forth into thanksgiving, and exclaimed, "He hath brought me out of the pit of misery and the mire of dregs" (Ps. xxxix. 3). And the "mire of dregs," what is that? It is the delight of unchaste pleasure. Cry aloud, then, with the blessed David, and say to thy Creator, "Draw me out of the mire, that I may not stick fast" (Ps. Ixviii. 15). Cleanse thy heart from every stain of carnal delight, shut out impure musings from thy soul, if thou dost really long to get free out of the filth of this mire. But when by penance, by confession, by tears, by carefully inviting holy thoughts into the heart, thou hast clean escaped, then beware that thou fall not back; but from the deep of thy heart of hearts sigh thou in the sight of God, and implore His mercy that He would set thy feet upon the rock; ask Him, that is to say, to establish thy heart's affections in the strength of Christ; that thy mind may root itself on the solid ground of justice, clinging inseparably to Christ, of whom it is said that He is "made unto us of God wisdom and justice and sanctification" (1 Cor. i. 30). Pray Him also to direct thy steps that they turn not back to sins, but may advance with unvarying course and inflexible intent in the way of His heavenly precepts, and may hasten on with full determination to the angels' blissful home.

But, in aspiring to such a goal as this, be not remiss in praising thy Creator; rather supplicate His mercy that He would put a new song in thy mouth, and help thee to sing with due devotion a hymn to our God. For it is meet that a soul united to God in a new life should ever sing a new song in His praise, despising temporal things and yearning only for eternal; obeying the Divine law now no more from fear of punishment, but from love of justice. For the singing of the new song to God is this, to crush the desires of the old man, and with thy whole heart's endeavour, and with a sole desire of eternal life, to walk the ways of the new man which have been pointed out to the world by the Son of God. And he sings a hymn to God who treasures in pure mind's recollection the joys of that heavenly home and strives to reach them, supported by the consciousness of a holy life, and relying on the gift of supernatural grace.

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