Cassian, Corvina, Paris, 1498

 (tr. mod. in part by L.Dysinger, O.S.B: from  E.C.S. Gibson, , NPNF 2nd ser. , vol 11, pp. 378-400 )

AUDIO LECTURE: Cassian on Prayer 1 (Conf. 9; see also Conf. 10)

[1] §2 The Goal of the Monk - contemplative prayer

[5] §18-24 The Lord's Prayer [is FIERY PRAYER]

[2] §3-6 “Pure Prayer”: free from sin and distraction

[6] §25-27 More Occasions of FIERY PRAYER

[3] §7 How to retain holy thoughts and “pray always”?

[7] §28-30 The Gift of Tears

[4] §8-16 Different Kinds of Prayer, incl FIERY PRAYER

[8] §32-34 How Prayers are Answered

4 KINDS of PRAYER ;   15)_FIRE-PRAYER_1  18-23)_LORD'S PRAYER ( =formula 18); 25-27) FIRE-PRAYER_2 25)_apophatic 26)_kataphatic 27)_ecstatic/conpunct.)

[Serious students of Cassian should consult Columba Stewart, Cassian the Monk (Oxford 1998), esp. ch 6-8, pp. 100 -150]







WHAT was promised in the second book of the Institutes1 on continual and unceasing perseverance in prayer, shall be by the Lord’s help fulfilled by the Conferences of this elder, whom we will now bring forward; viz., Abbot Isaac:2 and when these have been propounded I think that I shall have satisfied the commands of Pope Castor of blessed memory, and your wishes, O blessed Pope Leontius and holy brother Helladius, and the length of the book in its earlier part may be excused, though, in spite of our endeavour not only to compress what had to be told into a brief discourse, but also to pass over very many points in silence, it has been extended to a greater length than we intended. For having commenced with a full discourse on various regulations which we have thought it well to curtail for the sake of brevity, at the close the blessed Isaac spoke these words.

          I. De perpetua orationis atque incessabili iugitate quod in secundo Institutionum libro promissum est , conlationes senis huius quem nunc in medium proferemus, id est abbatis Isaac domino fauente conplebunt. Quibus explicatis et praeceptis beatissimae memoriae papae Castoris et desiderio uestro, o beatissime papa Leonti et sancte frater Helladi, satisfecisse me credo, uoluminis amplitudine primitus excusata, quae studentibus nobis non solum sermone succincto narranda praestringere, sed etiam plurima silentio praeterire in maiorem modum quam disposueramus extensa est. Praemissa namque super diuersis institutis disputatione copiosa, quam nos studio breuitatis resecare maluimus, haec ad extremum beatus Isaac intulit uerba.

 § 2 The Goal of the Monk - contemplative prayer


[1] The Goal of the Monk - contemplative prayer

§ 2



[the nature of prayer.]




 2.1 THE aim of every monk and the perfection of his heart tends to continual and unbroken perseverance in prayer, and, as far as it is allowed to human frailty, strives to acquire an immovable tranquillity of mind and a perpetual purity, for the sake of which we seek unweariedly and constantly to practise all bodily labours as well as contrition of spirit. And there is between these two a sort of reciprocal and inseparable union. For just as the crown of the building of all virtues is the perfection of prayer, so unless everything has been united and compacted by this as its crown, it cannot possibly continue strong and stable.

          II. Omnis monachi finis cordisque perfectio ad iugem atque indisruptam orationis perseuerantiam tendit, et quantum humanae fragilitati conceditur, ad inmobilem tranquillitatem mentis ac perpetuam nititur puritatem, ob quam omnem tam laborem corporis quam contritionem spiritus indefesse quaerimus et iugiter exercemus. Et est inter alterutrum reciproca quaedam inseparabilisque coniunctio. Nam sicut ad orationis perfectionem omnium tendit structura uirtutum, ita nisi huius culmine haec omnia fuerint conligata atque conpacta, nullo modo firma poterunt uel stabilia perdurare.

 2.2 For lasting and continual calmness in prayer, of which we are speaking, cannot be secured or consummated without them, so neither can those virtues which lay its foundations be fully gained without persistence in it. And so we shall not be able either to treat properly of the effect of prayer, or in a rapid discourse to penetrate to its main end, which is acquired by labouring at all virtues, unless first all those things which for its sake must be either rejected or secured, are singly enumerated and discussed, and, as the Parable in the gospel teaches,3 whatever concerns the building of that spiritual and most lofty tower, is reckoned up and carefully considered beforehand.

2. Quemadmodum enim sine illis adquiri uel consummari non potest haec de qua loquimur perpetua orationis iugisque tranquillitas, ita ne illae quidem uirtutes quae hanc praestruunt absque huius possunt adsiduitate conpleri. Et ideo nec recte tractare de orationis effectu nec ad eius principalem finem, qui uniuersarum uirtutum molitione perficitur, subitanea disputatione poterimus intrare, nisi prius uniuersa, quae illius obtentu uel abscidenda sunt uel paranda, per ordinem dinumerata fuerint atque discussa, et secundum euangelicae parabolae disciplinam ea, quae ad spiritalis ac sublimissimae illius extructionem pertinent turris, subputata fuerint ac diligenter ante congesta.

2.3 But yet these things when prepared will be of no use nor allow the lofty height of perfection to be properly placed upon them unless a clearance of all faults be first undertaken, and the decayed and dead rubbish of the passions be dug up, and the strong foundations of simplicity and humility be laid on the solid and (so to speak) living soil of our breast, or rather on that rock of the gospel,4 and by being built in this way this tower of spiritual virtues will rise, and be able to stand unmoved, and be raised to the utmost heights of heaven in full assurance of its, stability.

3. Quae tamen nec proderunt praeparata nec recte superponi sibimet excelsa culmina perfectionis admittent, nisi egesto prius omni repurgio uitiorum et effossis succiduis mortuisque ruderibus passionum uiuae ut aiunt ac solidae terrae pectoris nostri, immo illi euangelicae petrae superiecta fuerint simplicitatis et humilitatis firmissima fundamenta, quibus haec turris spiritalium uirtutum molitionibus extruenda et inmobiliter ualeat stabiliri et ad summa caelorum fastigia confidentia propriae firmitatis adtolli.

2.4 For if it rests on such foundations, then though heavy storms of passions break over it, though mighty torrents of persecutions beat against it like a battering ram, though a furious tempest of spiritual foes dash against it and attack it, yet not only will no ruin overtake it, but the onslaught will not injure it even in the slightest degree.

4. Fundamentis etenim talibus innitentem, quamuis passionum imbres largissimi profundantur, quamuis ei persecutionum uiolenti torrentes instar arietis inlidantur, quamuis inruat et incumbat aduersariorum spirituum saeua tempestas, non solum ruina non diruet, sed nec ipsa aliquatenus uexabit inpulsio.

 [2]  § 3-6 “Pure Prayer”: free from sin and distraction


[2] Pure Prayer”: free from sin and distraction

§ 3-6



[on purifying prayer.]




3.1 AND therefore in order that prayer may be offered up with that earnestness and purity with which it ought to be, we must by all means observe these rules. First all anxiety about carnal things must be entirely got rid of; next we must leave no room for not merely the care but even the recollection of any business affairs, and in like manner also must lay aside all backbitings, vain and incessant chattering, and buffoonery; anger above all and disturbing moroseness must be entirely destroyed, and the deadly taint of carnal lust and covetousness be torn up by the roots.

III. Et idcirco ut eo feruore ac puritate qua debet emitti possit oratio, haec sunt omnimodis obseruanda. Primum sollicitudo rerum carnalium generaliter abscidenda est, deinde nullius negotii causaeue non solum cura, sed ne memoria quidem penitus admittenda, detractationes, uaniloquia seu multiloquia, scurrilitates quoque similiter amputandae, irae prae omnibus siue tristitiae perturbatio funditus eruenda, concupiscentiae carnalis ac filargyriae noxius fomes radicitus euellendus.

3.2 And so when these and such like faults which are also visible to the eyes of men, are entirely removed and cut off, and when such a purification and cleansing, as we spoke of, has first taken place, which is brought about by pure simplicity and innocence, then first there must be laid the secure foundations of a deep humility, which may be able to support a tower that shall reach the sky; and next the spiritual structure of the virtues must be built up upon them, and the soul kept free from all conversation and from roving thoughts that thus it may by little and little begin to rise to the contemplation of God and to spiritual insight.

2. Et ita his ac similibus uitiis extrusis penitus et abscisis, quae hominum quoque possunt patere conspectibus, talique ut diximus repurgii emundatione praemissa, quae simplicitatis et innocentiae puritate perficitur, iacienda sunt primum profundae humilitatis inconcussa fundamina, quae scilicet turrem intraturam caelos ualeant sustinere, deinde superponenda uirtutum spiritalis extructio et ab omni discursu atque euagatione lubrica animus inhibendus, ut ita paulatim ad contemplationem dei ac spiritales intuitus incipiat sublimari.

3.3 For whatever our mind has been thinking of before the hour of prayer, is sure to occur to us while we are praying through the activity of the memory. Wherefore what we want to find ourselves like while we are praying, that we ought to prepare ourselves to be before the time for prayer. For the mind in prayer is formed by its previous condition, and when we are applying ourselves to prayer the images of the same actions and words and thoughts will dance before our eyes, and make us either angry, as in Our previous condition, or gloomy, or recall our former lust and business, or make us shake with foolish laughter (which I am ashamed to speak of) at some silly joke, or smile at some action, or fly back to our previous conversation.

3. Quidquid enim ante orationis horam anima nostra conceperit, necesse est ut orantibus nobis per ingestionem recordationis occurrat. quamobrem quales orantes uolumus inueniri, tales nos ante orationis tempus praeparare debemus. Ex praecedenti enim statu mens in supplicatione formatur, eorundemque actuum procumbentibus nobis ad precem, uerborum quoque uel sensuum ante oculos imago praeludens aut irasci nos secundum praecedentem qualitatem aut tristari aut concupiscentias causasue praeteritas retractare aut risu fatuo, quod etiam pudet dicere, cuiusquam scurrilis dicti uel facti titillatione pulsari aut ad priores faciet uolitare discursus.

3.4 And therefore if we do not want anything to haunt us while we are praying, we should be careful before our prayer, to exclude it from the shrine of our heart, that we may thus fulfill the Apostle’s injunction: “Pray without ceasing;” and: “In every place lifting up holy hands without wrath or disputing.”5 For otherwise we shall not be able to carry out that charge unless our mind, purified from all stains of sin, and given over to virtue as to its natural good, feed on the continual contemplation of Almighty God.

4. Et idcirco quidquid orantibus nobis nolumus ut inrepat, ante orationem de adytis nostri pectoris extrudere festinemus, ut ita illud apostolicum possumus inplere : Sine intermissione orate , et : In omni loco leuantes puras manus sine ira et disceptatione . Alias namque mandatum istud perficere non ualebimus, uisi mens nostra ad omni uitiorum purificata contagio uirtutibus tantum uelut naturalibus bonis dedita iugi omnipotentis dei contemplatione pascatur.



["feather-light" prayer]




4.1 FOR the nature of the soul is not inaptly compared to a very fine feather or very light wing, which, if it has not been damaged or affected by being spoilt by any moisture falling on it from without, is borne aloft almost naturally to the heights of heaven by the lightness of its nature, and the aid of the slightest breath: but if it is weighted by any moisture falling upon it and penetrating into it, it will not only not be carried away by its natural lightness into any aerial flights but will actually be borne down to the depths of earth by the weight of the moisture it has received.

          IIII. Etenim qualitas animae non inepte subtilissimae plumae seu pennae leuissimae conparatur. Quae si umoris cuiuspiam extrinsecus accedentis corruptione uitiata non fuerit uel infusa, mobilitate substantiae suae tenuissimi spiritus adiumento uelut naturaliter ad sublimia caelestiaque sustollitur. Sin uero umoris cuiusquam aspargine uel infusione fuerit praegrauata, non modo in nullos ae¬rios uolatus naturali mobilitate raptabitur, sed etiam ad ima terrae concepti umoris pondere deprimetur.

4.2 So also our soul, if it is not weighted with faults that touch it, and the cares of this world, or damaged by the moisture of injurious lusts, will be raised as it were by the natural blessing of its own purity and borne aloft to the heights by the light breath of spiritual meditation; and leaving things low and earthly will be transported to those that are heavenly and invisible. Wherefore we are well warned by the Lord’s command: “Take heed that your hearts be not weighed down by surfeiting and drunkenness and the cares of this world.”6

2. Ita mens quoque nostra si accedentibus uitiis curisque mundanis adgrauata non fuerit noxiaeue libidinis umore corrupta, uelut naturali puritatis suae beneficio subleuata leuissimo spiritalis meditationis adflatu sublimabitur ad superna, et humilia deserens atque terrena ad illa caelestia et inuisibilia transferetur. Vude proprie satis praeceptis dominicis admonemur : uidete ne quando grauentur corda uestra in crapula et ebrietate et curis saccularibus .

4.3 And therefore if we want our prayers to reach not only the sky, but what is beyond the sky, let us be careful to reduce our soul, purged from all earthly faults and purified from every stain, to its natural lightness, that so our prayer may rise to God unchecked by the weight of any sin.

3. Et idcirco si uolumus orationes nostras non solum caelos, sed etiam ea quae super caelos sunt penetrare, curemus mentem ab omnibus terrenis uitiis expurgatam cunctisque mundatam faecibus passionum ad subtilitatem perducere naturalem, ut ita ad deum oratio eius nullo uitiorum pondere praegrauata conscendat.



[How the soul is weighed down]




5.1 BUT we should notice the ways in which the Lord points out that the soul is weighed down: for He did not mention adultery, or fornication, or murder, or blasphemy, or rapine, which everybody knows to be deadly and damnable, but surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares or anxieties of this world: which men of this world are so far from avoiding or considering damnable that actually some who (I am ashamed to say) call themselves monks entangle themselves in these very occupations as if they were harmless or useful.

          V. Notandum tamen quibus ex causis grauari mentem dominus designauerit. Non enim adulteria, non fornicationes, non homicidia, non blasphemias, non rapinas, quae mortalia esse et damnabilia nullus ignorat, sed crapulam posuit et ebrietatem et curas siue sollicitudines saeculares. Quae in tantum nemo hominum mundi huius cauet aut damnabilia iudicat, ut etiam nonnulli, quod pudet dicere, semet ipsos monachos nuncupantes isdem ipsis distentionibus uelut innoxiis et utilibus inplicentur.

5.2 And though these three things, when literally given way to weigh down the soul, and separate it from God, and bear it down to things earthly, yet it is very easy to avoid them, especially for us who are separated by so great a distance from all converse with this world, and who do not on any occasion have anything to do with those visible cares and drunkenness and surfeiting. But there is another surfeiting which is no less dangerous, and a spiritual drunkenness which it is harder to avoid, and a care and anxiety of this world, which often ensnares us even after the perfect renunciation of all our goods, and abstinence from wine and all feastings and even when we are living in solitude—and of such the prophet says: “Awake, ye that are drunk but not with wine;”7

2. Quae tria licet secundum litteram perpetrata adgrauent animam atque a deo separent ac deprimant ad terrena, est tamen eorum facilis declinatio et maxime nobis, qui tam longa remotione ab omni saeculi huius conuersatione disiungimur et istis uisibilibus curis et ebrietatibus et crapulis nulla penitus occasione miscemur. Verum est alia quoque crapula non minus noxia et ebrietas spiritalis difficilius euitanda, cura quoque ac sollicitudo saecularis, quae nos etiam post omnium facultatum nostrarum perfectam renuntiationem et uini epularumque cunctarum continentiam et quidem in solitudine constitutos frequenter inuoluunt (de quibus propheta : expergiscimini, inquit, qui estis ebrii, et non a uino .

5.33 and another: “Be astonished and wonder and stagger: be drunk and not with wine: be moved, but not with drunkenness.”8 And of this drunkenness the wine must consequently be what the prophet calls “the fury of dragons”: and from what root the wine comes you may hear: “From the vineyard of Sodom,” he says, “is their vine, and their branches from Gomorrha.”

 3. Alius quoque : Obstupescite et admiramini, fluctuate et uacillate : inebriamini, et non a uino : mouemini, et non ebrietate. Cuius ebrietatis uinum consequenter necesse est ut secundum prophetam furor draconum sit, ipsumque uinum de qua radice procedat aduerte : ex uinea, inquit, Sodomorum uitis eorum et sarmenta eorum ex Gormorra .

5.4 Would you also know about the fruit of that vine and the seed of that branch? “Their grape is a grape of gall, theirs is a cluster of bitterness”9 for unless we are altogether cleansed from all faults and abstaining from the surfeit of all passions, our heart will without drunkenness from wine and excess of any feasting be weighed down by a drunkenness and surfeiting that is still more dangerous. For that worldly cares can sometimes fall on us who mix with no actions of this world, is clearly shown according to the rule of the Elders, who have laid down that anything which goes beyond the necessities of daily food, and the unavoidable needs of the flesh, belongs to worldly cares and anxieties,

4. Vis etiam fructum uitis istius atque sarmenti germen agnoscere? uua eorum uua fellis, botrus amaritudinis ipsis ), quia omnino nisi fuerimus cunctis uitiis expurgati et ab omnium passionum crapula sobrii, absque ebrietate uini epularumque omnium afluentia erit cor nostrum ebrietate et crapula magis noxia praegrauatum. Nam quia saeculares curae etiam in nos, qui nullis actibus mundi istius admiscemur, cadere nonnumquam possint, manifesta ratione monstratur secundum regulam seniorum, qui quidquid necessitatem uictus cotidiani et ineuitabilem usum carnis excedit, ad saecularem definierunt curam et sollicitudinem pertinere :

5.5 as for example if, when a job bringing in a penny would satisfy the needs of our body, we try to extend it by a longer toil and work in order to get twopence or threepence; and when a covering of two tunics would be enough for our use both by night and day, we manage to become the owners of three or four, or when a hut containing one or two cells would be sufficient, in the pride of worldly ambition and greatness we build four or five cells, and these splendidly decorated, and larger than our needs required, thus showing the passion of worldly lusts whenever we can.

5. ut uerbi gratia si, cum possit operatio unius solidi necessitatem nostri corporis expedire, ad duorum uel trium solidorum adquisitionem nosmet ipsos propensiore uelimus opere ac labore distendere, et cum duarum uelamen sufficiat tunicarum ad usum scilicet noctis ac diei, trium uel quattuor fieri domini procuremus, cumque unius siue duarum habitatio sufficiat cellularum, ambitione saeculari atque amplitudine delectati quattuor seu quinque cellas et has easdem exquisiti ornatus et capaciores quam usus desiderat extruamus, passionem libidinis mundialis in quibus possumus praeferentes.



[A vision of restless distraction]




6.1 AND that this is not done without the prompting of devils we are taught by the surest proofs, for when one very highly esteemed elder was passing by the cell of a certain brother who was suffering from this mental disease of which we have spoken, as he was restlessly toiling in his daily occupations in building and repairing what was unnecessary, he watched him from a distance breaking a very hard stone with a heavy hammer, and saw a certain Ethiopian standing over him and together with him striking the blows of the hammer with joined and clasped hands, and urging him on with fiery incitements to diligence in the work: and so he stood still for a long while in astonishment at the force of the fierce demon and the deceitfulness of such an illusion.

          VI. Quod non sine instinctu daemonum fieri manifestissima nos experimenta docuerunt. Nam quidam probatissimus seniorum cum transiret iuxta cellam cuiusdam fratris hac animi qua diximus aegritudine laborantis, utpote qui in extruendis reparandisque superfluis inquietus cotidianis distentionibus desudaret, et eminus conspexisset eum graui malleo saxum durissimum conterentem uidissetque Aethiopem quendam adstantem illi et una cum eodem ictus mallei iunctis consertisque manibus inlidentem eumque ad operis illius instantiam ignitis facibus instigantem, diutissime substitit uel inpressionem dirissimi daemonis uel fraudem tantae inlusionis admirans.

6.2 For when the brother was worn out and tired and wanted to rest and put an end to his toil, he was stimulated by the spirit’s prompting and urged on to resume his hammer again and not to cease from devoting himself to the work which he had begun, so that being unweariedly supported by his incitements he did not feel the harm that so great labour was doing him. At last then the old man, disgusted at such a horrid mystification by a demon, turned aside to the brother’s cell and saluted him, and asked “what work is it, brother, that you are doing?” and he replied: “We are working at this awfully hard stone, and we can hardly break it at all.”

2. Cum enim nimia lassitudine fatigatus frater requiescere iam finemque operi uoluisset inponere, instigatione spiritus illius animatus iterum resumere malleum nec desinere ab intentione coepti operis urguebatur, ita ut isdem eius incitamentis infatigabiliter sustentatus tanti laboris non sentiret iniuriam. Tandem igitur senex tam dira daemonis ludificatione permotus ad cellam fratris diuertit salutansque eum, quod, inquit, est, frater, istud opus quod agis? At ille : Laboramus, ait, contra istud durissimum saxum uixque illud potuimus aliquando conterere.

6.3 Whereupon the Elder replied: “You were right in saying ‘we can,’ for you were not alone, when you were striking it, but there was another with you whom you did not see, who was standing over you not so much to help you as urge you on with all his force.” And thus the fact that the disease of worldly vanity has not got hold of our hearts, will be proved by no mere abstinence from those affairs which even if we want to engage in, we cannot carry out, nor by the despising of those matters which if we pursued them would make us remarkable in the front rank among spiritual persons as well as among worldly men, but only when we reject with inflexible firmness of mind whatever ministers to our power and seems to be veiled in a show of right.

3. Ad haec senex : Bene dixisti `potuimus'. Non enim solus eras, cum illud caederes, sed fuit alius tecum quem non uidisti, qui tibi in hoc opere non tam adiutor quam uiolentissimus inpulsor adstabat. Et idcirco morbum ambitus saecularis nostris mentibus non inesse non utique eorum tantum negotiorum abstinentia conprobabit, quae etiam si uelimus expetere uel explere non possumus, neque illarum despectus rerum, quas si adfectauerimus tam apud spiritales uiros quam apud saeculi homines notabiles prima fronte reddemur, sed cum etiam illa, quae nostrae subpetunt potestati et honestate quadam uidentur obnubi, rigida mentis districtione respuimus.

6.4 And in reality these things which seem trivial and of no consequence, and which we see to be permitted indifferently by those who belong to our calling, none the less by their character affect the soul than those more important things, which according to their condition usually intoxicate the senses of worldly people and which do not allow10 a monk to lay aside earthly impurities and aspire to God, on whom his attention should ever be fixed; for in his case even a slight separation from that highest good must be regarded as present death and most dangerous destruction.

4. Et re uera non minus haec, quae parua uidentur et minima quaeque ab his qui nostrae professionis sunt cernimus indifferenter admitti, pro qualitate sua adgrauant mentem, quam illa maiora quae secundum suum statum saecularium sensus inebriare consuerunt, non sinentes deposita faece terrena ad deum in quo semper defixa esse debet intentio monachum respirare, cui ab illo summo bono uel parua separatio mors praesens ac perniciosissimus interitus est credendus.

6.5 And when the mind [soul] has been established in such a peaceful condition, and has been freed from the meshes of all carnal desires, and the purpose of the heart has been steadily fixed on that which is the only highest good, he will then fulfil this Apostolic precept: “Pray without ceasing;” and: “in every place lifting up holy hands without wrath and disputing:”11 for when by this purity (if we can say so) the thoughts of the mind [soul] are engrossed, and are re-fashioned out of their earthly condition to bear a spiritual and angelic likeness, whatever it receives, whatever it takes in hand, whatever it does, the prayer will be perfectly pure and sincere.

5. Cumque mens tali fuerit tranquillitate fundata uel ab omnium carnalium passionum nexibus absoluta, et illi uni summoque bono tenacissima adhaeserit cordis intentio, apostolicum illud inplebit : Sine intermissione orate , et : In omni loco leuantes puras manus sine ira et disceptatione . Hac enim puritate, si dici potest, sensu mentis absorto ac de terreno situ ad spiritalem atque angelicam similitudinem reformato quidquid in se receperit, quidquid tractauerit, quidquid egerit, purissima ac sincerissima erit oratio.

 [3]  § 7 How to retain holy thoughts and “pray always”?


[3] How to retain holy thoughts and “pray always”?

§ 7



[harder to preserve than to originate good thoughts]




7.1 GERMANUS: If only we could keep as a lasting possession those spiritual thoughts in the same way and with the same ease with which we generally conceive their germs! for when they have been conceived in our hearts either through the recollection of the Scriptures or by the memory of some spiritual actions, or by gazing upon heavenly mysteries, they vanish all too soon and disappear by a sort of unnoticed flight.

          VII. GERMANVS : Vtinam simili modo atque eadem facilitate, qua semina spiritalium cogitationum plerumque concipimus, etiam perpetuitatem earum possidere possimus. Cum enim fuerint siue per memoriam scripturarum seu per recordationem spiritalium quorumque actuum uel certe per intuitum sacramentorum caelestium nostro corde conceptae, insensibili quadam fuga lapsae quantocius euanescunt.

7.2 And when our soul has discovered some other occasions for spiritual emotions, different ones again crowd in upon us, and those which we had grasped are scattered, and lightly fly away so that the mind retaining no persistency, and keeping of its own power no firm hand over holy thoughts, must be thought, even when it does seem to retain them for a while, to have conceived them at random and not of set purpose. For how can we think that their rise should be ascribed to our own will, if they do not last and remain with us?

2. Cumque alias quaslibet occasiones spiritalium sensuum mens nostra reppererit, rursus aliis inrepentibus ipsae quoque quae adprehensae fuerant lubrica uolubilitate diffugiunt, ita ut nullam constantiam sui retinens animus nec potestate propria sanctarum cogitationum possidens firmitatem etiam tunc, cum eas uidetur utcumque retinere, fortuito illas et non de industria concepisse credatur. quomodo enim ortus earum nostro arbitrio putabitur adscribendus, quarum perseuerantia non consistit in nobis?

7.3 But that we may not owing to the consideration of this question wander any further from the plan of the discourse we had commenced, or delay any longer the explanation promised of the nature of prayer, we will keep this for its own time, and ask to be informed at once of the character of prayer, especially as the blessed Apostle exhorts us at no time to cease from it, saying “Pray without ceasing.”

3. Sed ne forte sub huius quaestionis indagine a coepto narrationis ordine longius euagantes expositionem propositam super orationis statu diutius retardemus, suo hanc tempori reseruantes de qualitate orationis instantissime quaesumus informari, praesertim cum nullo tempore nos ab ea cessare beatus apostolus moneat dicens : Sine intermissione orate .

7.4 And so we want to be taught first of its character, i.e., how prayer ought always to be offered up, and then how we can secure this, whatever it is, and practise it without ceasing. For that it cannot be done by any light purpose of heart both daily experience and the explanation of four holiness show us, as you have laid it down that the aim of a monk, and the height of all perfection consist in the consummation of prayer.

4. Et ideo primum de qualitate eius desideramus institui, id est qualis debeat emitti semper oratio, deinde qualiter hanc eandem quaecumque est possidere uel exercere sine intermissione possimus. Non enim parua cordis intentione eam perfici posse et experientia cotidiana et prosecutio tuae sancitatis ostendit, qua finem monachi ac totius perfectionis culmen in orationis consummatione consistere definisti.

 [4] § 8-16  Different Kinds of Prayer, including FIERY PRAYER


[4] Different Kinds of Prayer, including FIERY PRAYER

§ 8-16



[the different kinds of prayer]




8.1 ISAAC: I imagine that all kinds of prayers cannot be grasped without great purity of heart and soul and the illumination of the Holy Spirit. For there are as many of them as there can be conditions and characters produced in one soul or rather in all souls.

VIII. ISAAC : Vniuersas orationum species absque ingenti cordis atque animae puritate et inluminatione sancti spiritus arbitror conprehendi non posse. Tot enim sunt quot in una anima, immo in cunctis animabus status queunt qualitatesque generari.

8.2 And so although we know that owing to our dulness of heart we cannot see all kinds of prayers, yet we will try to relate them in some order, as far as our slender experience enables us to succeed. For according to the degree of the purity to which each soul attains, and the character of the state in which it is sunk owing to what happens to it, or is by its own efforts renewing itself, its very prayers will each moment be altered: and therefore it is quite clear that no one can always offer up uniform prayers.

2. Et ideo licet sciamus nos pro hebitudine cordis nostri uniuersas orationum species non posse perspicere, tamen, in quantum mediocritas experientiae nostrae adsequi praeualuerit, digerere eas utcumque temptabimus. Secundum mensuram namque puritatis, in quam mens unaquaeque proficit et qualitatem status in quo uel ex accedentibus inclinatur uel per suam renouatur industriam, ipsae quoque momentis singulis reformantur : et idcirco uniformes orationes emitti semper a nemine posse certissimum est.

8.3 For every one prays 3. Aliter enim quisque supplicat

[1] in one way when he is brisk,

[2]in another when he is oppressed with a weight of sadness or despair,

[3] in another when he is invigorated by spiritual achievements,

[4] in another when cast down by the burden of attacks,

[5] in another when he is asking pardon for his sins,

[6] in another when he asks to obtain grace or some virtue or else prays for the destruction of some sin,

[7] in another when he is pricked to the heart by the thought of hell and the fear of future judgment,

 cum alacer est,

aliter cum tristitiae seu desperationis pondere praegrauatur,

aliter cum spiritalibus successibus uiget,

aliter cum inpugnationum mole deprimitur,

aliter cum ueniam peccatorum,

aliter cum adquisitionem gratiae seu cuiuslibet uirtutis exposcit uel certe extinctionem cuiuscumque uitii deprecatur,

 aliter cum consideratione gehennae ae futuri iudicii timore conpungitur,

[8]  in another when he is aglow with the hope and desire of good things to come,

[9] in another when he is taken up with affairs and dangers,

[10] in another when he is in peace and security,

[11] in another when he is enlightened by the revelation of heavenly mysteries,

[12]  and in another when he is depressed by a sense of barrenness in virtues and dryness in feeling.

aliter cum spe futurorum bonorum desiderioque flammatur,

aliter cum in necessitatibus ac periculis,

aliter cum in securitate ac tranquillitate uersatur,

aliter cum sacramentorum caelestium reuelationibus inlustratur,

aliter cum sterilitate uirtutum ac sensuum ariditate constringitur.

 CH 9. Fourfold Prayer




[Fourfold Prayer (cf. Origen, On Prayer)]




9.1 AND therefore, when we have laid this down with regard to the character of prayer, although not so fully as the importance of the subject requires, but as fully as the exigencies of time permit, and at any rate as our slender abilities admit, and our dulness of heart enables us,—a still greater difficulty now awaits us; viz., to expound one by one the different kinds of prayer, which the Apostle divides in a fourfold manner, when he says as follows: “I exhort therefore first of all that

          VIIII. Et idcirco his super orationum qualitate digestis, licet non quantum exposcit materiae magnitudo, sed quantum uel temporis admittit angustia uel certe capere tenuitas ingenii nostri et cordis praeualet hebitudo, maior nobis nunc inminet difficultas, ut ipsas singillatim orationum species exponamus, quas apostolus quadripertita ratione distinxit ita dicens : Deprecor itaque primo omnium fieri

[1] supplications,

[2] prayers,

[3] intercessions,

[4] thanksgivings

be made.”(1 Tim.2.1) 12




gratiarum actiones.

  9.2 And we cannot possibly doubt that this division was not idly made by the Apostle. And to begin with we must investigate what is meant by [1] supplication, by [2] prayer, by [3] intercession, and by [4] thanksgiving. 2. Quae non inaniter ab apostolo ita fuisse diuisa minime dubitandum est. Et primitus indagandum quid obsecratione, quid oratione, quid postulatione, quid gratiarum actione signetur.

Next we must inquire whether these four kinds are to be taken in hand by him who prays all at once, i.e., are they all to be joined together in every prayer,—or whether they are to be offered up in turns and one by one, as, for instance, ought at one time supplications, at another prayers, at another intercessions, and at another thanksgivings to be offered, or should one man present to God supplications, another prayers, another intercessions, another thanksgivings, in accordance with that measure of age, to which each soul is advancing by earnestness of purpose?

Deinde perquirendum utrum hae quattuor species ab orante sint pariter adsumendae, id est ut omnes simul in unaquaque supplicatione iungantur, an uicissim singillatimque sint offerendae, ut puta nunc quidem obsecrationes, nunc uero orationes, nunc autem postulationes seu gratiarum actiones oporteat promi, an certe alius quidem obsecrationes, alius uero orationes, alius uero postulationes, alius gratiarum actiones deo debeat exhibere secundum mensuram scilicet aetatis suae, in quam unaquaeque mens per intentionis proficit industriam.



[Fourfold Prayer]




10.1 AND so to begin with we must consider the actual force of the names and words, and discuss what is the difference between prayer and supplication and intercession; then in like manner we must investigate whether they are to be offered separately or all together; and in the third place must examine whether the particular order which is thus arranged by the Apostle’s authority has anything further to teach the hearer, or whether the distinction simply is to be taken, and it should be considered that they were arranged by him indifferently in such a way: a thing which seems to me utterly absurd. For one must not believe that the Holy Spirit uttered anything casually or without reason through the Apostle. And so we will, as the Lord grants us, consider them in the same order in which we began.

          X. Et ideo primum proprietates ipsae sunt nominum uerborumque tractandae ac discutiendum quid inter orationem et obsecrationem ac postulationem intersit, deinde similiter persecrutandum utrum singillatim sint an pariter exhibendae, tertio indagandum utrum etiam ipse ordo qui ita est apostoli auctoritate dispositus aliquid amplius instruat auditorem, an simpliciter accipienda sit ista distinctio et indifferenter putanda sit ab illo taliter fuisse digesta. Quod mihi satis uidetur absurdum. Non enim credendum est aliquid transitorie ac sine ratione spiritum sanctum per apostolum protulisse. Et idcirco eodem quo coepimus ordine, prout dominus donauerit, singula retractemus.



[1] Supplication / obsecratio.]




11.1 I EXHORT therefore first of all that supplications be made.” Supplication is an imploring or petition concerning sins, in which one who is sorry for his present or past deeds asks for pardon.

          XI. Deprecor itaque primo omnium fieri obsecrationes. Obsecratio inploratio est seu petitio pro peccatis, qua uel pro praesentibus uel pro praeteritis admissis suis unusquisque conpunctus ueniam deprecatur.



[2] prayer / vow / euche




12.1 PRAYERS are those by which we offer or vow something to God, what the Greeks call εὐχή, i.e., a vow. For where we read in Greek τὰς εὐχάς μου τῷ κυρίῳ ἀποδώσω, in Latin we read: “I will pay my vows unto the Lord; (lxx Ps 116.14))13 where according to the exact force of the words it may be thus represented: “I will pay my prayers unto the Lord.” And this which we find in Ecclesiastes: “If thou vowest a vow unto the Lord do not delay to pay it,” is written in Greek likewise: ἂν εὔξῃ εὐχὴν τῷ θεῷ i.e., “If you pray a prayer to the Lord, do not delay to pay it,”14 which will be fulfilled in this way by each one of us.

          XII. Orationes sunt quibus aliquid offerimus seu uouemus deo, quod Graece dicitur eujkhv,, id est uotum. Nam ubi dicitur in Graeco τὰς εὐχάς μου τῷ κυρίῳ ἀποδώσω, —, in Latino legitur : uota mea domino reddam quod secundum proprietatem uerbi ita exprimi potest : orationes meas domino reddam. Et illud quod legimus in Ecclesiaste : Si uoueris uotum deo, ne moram feceris reddere illud , in Graeco similiter scribitur :ἂν εὔξῃ εὐχὴν τῷ θεῷ, id est : Si oraueris orationem domino, ne moram feceris reddere illam. Quod ita ab unoquoque nostrum inplebitur.

12.2 We pray, when we renounce this world and promise that being dead to all worldly actions and the life of this world we will serve the Lord with full purpose of heart. We pray when we promise that despising secular honours and scorning earthly riches we will cleave to the Lord in all sorrow of heart and humility of spirit. We pray when we promise that we will ever maintain the most perfect purity of body and steadfast patience, or when we vow that we will utterly root out of our heart the roots of anger or of sorrow that worketh death. And if, enervated by sloth and returning to our former sins we fail to do this we shall be guilty as regards our prayers and vows, and these words will apply to us: “It is better not and not to pay,” which to vow, than to vow and not to pay can be rendered in accordance with the Greek: “It is better for thee not to pray than to pray and not to pay.”15

2. Oramus, cum renuntiantes huic mundo spondemus nos mortificatos cunctis actibus et conuersationi mundanae tota cordis intentione domino seruituros. Oramus, cum pollicemur saeculari honore contempto ac terrenis opibus spretis in omni contritione cordis ac paupertate spiritus nos domino cohaesuros. Oramus, cum promittimus nos purissimam corporis castitatem seu inmobilem patientam exhibituros esse perpetuo, uel cum de corde nostro radices irae siue tristitae mortem operantis uouemus funditus eruendas. Quae cum desidia resoluti atque ad antiqua uitia recurrentes minime fecerimus, erimus orationum nostrarum ac uotorum rei diceturque de nobis : Melius est non uouere, quam uouere et non reddere. Quod secundum Graecum dici potest : Melius est non orare te, quam orare et non reddere .



[3] intercession / postulatio




IN the third place stand intercessions, which we are wont to offer up for others also, while we are filled with fervour of spirit, making request either for those dear to us or for the peace of the whole world, and to use the Apostle’s own phrase, we pray “for all men, for kings and all that are in authority.”16

          XIII. Tertio loco ponuntur postulationes, quas pro aliis quoque, dum sumus in feruore spiritus constituti, solemus emittere, uel pro caris scilicet nostris uel pro totius mundi pace poscentes, et ut ipsius apostoli uerbis eloquar cum pro omnibus hominibus, pro regibus et omnibus qui in sublimitate sunt supplicamus.



[4] thanksgiving




THEN in the fourth place there stand thanksgivings which the mind in ineffable transports offers up to God, either when it recalls God’s past benefits or when it contemplates His present ones, or when it looks forward to those great ones in the future which God has prepared for them that love Him. And with this purpose too sometimes we are wont to pour forth richer prayers, while, as we gaze with pure eyes on those rewards of the saints which are laid up in store hereafter, our spirit is stimulated to offer up unspeakable thanks to God with boundless joy.

          XIIII. Quarto deinde loco gratiarum actiones ponuntur, quas mens, uel cum praeterita dei recolit beneficia uel cum praesentia contemplatur, seu cum in futurum quae et quanta praeparauerit deus his qui diligunt eum prospicit, per ineffabiles excessus domino refert. Qua etiam intentione nonnumquam preces uberiores emitti solent, dum illa quae reposita sunt in futuro sanctorum praemia purissimis oculis intuendo ineffabiles deo gratias cum immenso gaudio spiritus noster instigatur effundere.






[Fiery Prayer 1-A]  [cf. Evag. Prayer, 111]




AND of these four kinds, although sometimes occasions arise for richer and fuller prayers            XV. Ex quibus quattuor speciebus licet nonnumquam soleant occasiones supplicationum pinguium generari 

(for from the class of supplications which arises from[:]

[1 sorrow for sin, and

[2] from the kind of prayer which flows from confidence in our offerings and the performance of our vows in accordance with a pure conscience, and

[3] from the intercession which proceeds from fervour of love, and

[4] from the thanksgiving which is born of the consideration of God’s blessings and His greatness and goodness, 

(nam et de obsecrationis specie quae de

   conpunctione nascitur peccatorum, et

 de orationis statu quae de fiducia oblationum et consummatione uotorum pro conscientiae profluit puritate, et

 de postulatione quae de caritatis ardore procedit, et

de gratiarum actione quae beneficiorum dei et magnitudinis ac pietatis eius consideratione generatur,

we know that oftentimes there proceed most fervent and ardent prayers so that it is clear that all these kinds of prayer of which we have spoken are found to be useful and needful for all men, so that in one and the same man his changing feelings will give utterance to pure and fervent petitions now of supplications, now of prayers, now of intercessions) 

 feruentissimas saepissime nouimus preces ignitasque prodire, ita ut constet omnes has quas praediximus species omnibus hominibus utiles ac necessarias inueniri, ut in uno eodemque uiro nunc quidem obsecrationum, nunc autem orationum, nunc postulationum puras ac feruentissimas supplicationes uariatus emittat affectus),  

yet the first seems to belong more especially to beginners, who are still troubled by the stings and recollection of their sins; 

tamen prima ad incipientes uidetur peculiarius pertinere, qui adhuc uitiorum suorum aculeis ac memoria remordentur,

the second to those who have already attained some loftiness of mind in their spiritual progress and the quest of virtue; 

secunda ad illos qui in profectu iam spiritali adpetituque uirtutum quadam mentis sublimitate consistunt,  

the third to those who fulfil the completion of their vows by their works, and are so stimulated to intercede for others also through the consideration of their weakness, and the earnestness of their love;

    tertia ad eos qui perfectionem uotorum suorum operibus adinplentes intercedere pro aliis quoque consideratione fragilitatis eorum et caritatis studio prouocantur,

the fourth to those who have already torn from their hearts the guilty thorns of conscience, and thus being now free from care can contemplate with a pure mind the beneficence of God and His compassions, which He has either granted in the past, or is giving in the present, or preparing for the future, and thus are borne onward with fervent hearts to that ardent prayer which cannot be embraced or expressed by the mouth of men. 

    quarta ad illos qui iam poenali conscientiae spina de cordibus uulsa securi iam munificentias domini ac miserationes, quas uel praeterito tribuit uel in praesenti largitur uel praeparat in futuro, mente purissima retractantes ad illam ignitam et quae ore hominum nec conprehendi nec exprimi potest orationem feruentissimo corde raptantur

15.2 SOMETIMES however the mind which is advancing to that perfect state of purity and which is already beginning to be established in it, will take in all these at one and the same time, and like some incomprehensible and all-devouring flame, dart through them all and offer up to God inexpressible prayers of the purest force, which the Spirit Itself, intervening with groanings that cannot be uttered, while we ourselves understand not, pours forth to God, grasping at that hour and ineffably pouring forth in its supplications things so great that they cannot be uttered with the mouth nor even at any other time be recollected by the mind.

2. Nonnumquam tamen mens, quae in illum uerum puritatis proficit adfectum atque in eo iam coeperit radicari, solet haec omnia simul pariterque concipiens atque in modum cuiusdam inconprehensibilis ac rapacissimae flammae cuncta peruolitans ineffabiles ad deum preces purissimi uigoris effundere, quas ipse spiritus interpellans gemitibus inenarrabilibus ignorantibus nobis emittit ad deum, tanta scilicet in illius horae momento concipiens et ineffabiliter in supplicatione profundens, quanta non dicam ore percurrere, sed ne ipsa quidem mente ualeat alio tempore recordari.

15.3 And thence it comes that in whatever degree any one stands, he is found sometimes to offer up pure and devout prayers; as even in that first and lowly station which has to do with the recollection of future judgment, he who still remains under the punishment of terror and the fear of judgment is so smitten with sorrow for the time being that he is filled with no less keenness of spirit from the richness of his supplications than he who through the purity of his heart gazes on and considers the blessings of God and is overcome with ineffable joy and delight. For, as the Lord Himself says, he begins to love the more, who knows that he has been forgiven the more.17

3. Et inde est, quod in qualibet mensura quis positus nonnumquam puras intentasque preces inuenitur emittere, quia et de illo primo et humili ordine, qui est super recordatione futuri iudicii, is qui adhuc sub terroris est poena ac metu examinis constitutus ita ad horam conpungitur, ut non minore spiritus alacritate de obsecrationis pinguedine repleatur, quam ille qui per puritatem cordis sui munificentias dei perlustrans atque percurrens ineffabili gaudio laetitiaque resoluitur. Incipit enim secundum sententiam domini plus diligere, quia sibimet ampliora cognoscit indulta .



[Our prayers and state]




YET we ought by advancing in life and attaining to virtue to aim rather at those kinds of prayer which are poured forth either from the contemplation of the good things to come or from fervour of love, or which at least, to speak more humbly and in accordance with the measure of beginners, arise for the acquirement of some virtue or the extinction of some fault. For otherwise we shall not possibly attain to those sublimer kinds of supplication of which we spoke, unless our mind has been little by little and by degrees raised through the regular course of those intercessions.

          XVI. Tamen expetendae sunt nobis per profectum uitae consummationemque uirtutum illae potius supplicationum species, quae uel de contemplatione futurorum bonorum uel de caritatis ardore funduntur seu certe, ut humilius et secundum incipientium mensuram loquar, pro adquisitione quarumcumque uirtutum seu uitii cuiuslibet extinctione generantur. Aliter enim ad illa sublimiora quae praediximus supplicationum genera peruenire nullatenus poterimus, nisi per ordinem postulationum istarum sensim mens nostra fuerit gradatimque prouecta.



[Christ and the Four Kinds of Prayer]




17.1 THESE four kinds of supplication the Lord Himself by His own example vouchsafed to originate for us, so that in this too He might fulfil that which was said of Him: “which Jesus began both to do and to teach.”18 For He made use of the class of supplication when He said: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me;” or this which is chanted in His Person in the Psalm: “My God, My God, look upon Me, why hast Thou forsaken me,”19 and others like it.

          XVII. Has quattuor supplicationum species ita etiam dominus exemplo suo nobis initiare dignatus est, ut in hoc quoque inpleret illud quod de ipso dicitur : quae coepit Iesus facere et docere . Nam obsecrationis genus adsumit cum dicit : Pater, si possibile est, transeat a me calix iste , uel illud quod ex persona eius cantatur in psalmo : Deus deus meus respice me : quare me dereliquisti? aliaque his similia.

17.2 It is prayer where He says: “I have magnified Thee upon the earth, I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do,” and this: “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself that they also may be sanctified in the truth.”20 It is intercession when He says: “Father, those Whom Thou hast given me, I will that they also may be with Me that they may see My glory which Thou hast given Me;” or at any rate when He says: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”21 It is thanksgiving when He says:

2. Oratio est cum dicit : Ego clarificaui te super terram, opus consummaui quod dedisti nihi ut facerem , siuc illud : Et pro eis sanctifico me ipsum, ut sint et ipsi sanctificati in ueritate . Postulatio est cum dicit : Pater, quos dedisti nihi, uolo ut ubi ego sum et ipsi sint mecum, ut uideant gloriam meam quam didisti mihi , uel certe cum dicit : Pater, ignosce eis : non enim sciunt quid faciunt . Gratiarum actio est cum dicit :

17.3 “I confess to Thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight:” or at least when He says: “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me. But I knew that Thou hearest Me always.”22 But though our Lord made a distinction between these four kinds of prayers as to be offered separately and one by one according to the scheme which we know of, yet that they can all be embraced in a perfect prayer at one and the same time He showed by His own example in that prayer which at the close of S. John’s gospel we read that He offered up with such fulness.

3. Confiteor tibi pater, domine caeli et terrae, quia abscondisti haec a sapientibus et prudentibus, et reuelasti ea paruulis. Ita Pater, quia sic fuit placitum ante te , uel certe cum dicit : Pater, gratias ago tibi quoniam audisti me. Ego autem sciebam quia semper me audis . Quae tamen quattuor supplicationum genera licet singillatim ac diuerso tempore secundum illum quem conprehendimus modum idem dominus noster distinxerit offerenda, tamen etiam simul ea in supplicatione perfecta conprehendi posse identidem suis ostendit exemplis, per illam scilicet orationem quam ad finem euangelii secundum Iohannem legimus eum copiossime profudisse.

17.4 From the words of which (as it is too long to repeat it all) the careful inquirer can discover by the order of the passage that this is so. And the Apostle also in his Epistle to the Philippians has expressed the same meaning, by putting these four kinds of prayers in a slightly different order, and has shown that they ought sometimes to be offered together in the fervour of a single prayer, saying as follows: “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”23 And by this he wanted us especially to understand that in prayer and supplication thanksgiving ought to be mingled with our requests.

4. Ex cuius textu quia longum est uniuersa percurri, diligens inquisitor haec ita esse lectionis ipsius serie poterit edoceri. Quem sensum apostolus quoque in epistula ad Philippenses has quattuor supplicationum species aliquantum inmutato ponens ordine euidenter expressit ostenditque debere eas nonnumquam simul sub ardore unius supplicationis offerri, ita dicens : Sed in omni oratione et obsecratione cum gratiarum actione petitiones uestrae innotescant apud deum . Per quod uoluit nos in hoc specialius erudire, quod et in oratione et in obsecratione gratiarum actio debeat cum postulatione misceri.

 [5] § 18-24  The Lord's Prayer [is FIERY PRAYER]


[5] The Lord's Prayer [is FIERY PRAYER]

§ 18-24



[The Lord's Prayer]




18.1 AND so there follows after these different kinds of supplication a still more sublime and exalted condition which is brought about by the contemplation of God alone and by fervent love, by which the mind, transporting and flinging itself into love for Him, addresses God most familiarly as its own Father with a piety of its own.

          XVIII. Haec itaque supplicationum genera sublimior adhuc status ac praecelsior subsequetur, qui contemplatione dei solius et caritatis ardore formatur, per quem mens in illius dilectionem resoluta atque reiecta familiarissime deo uelut patri proprio peculiari pietate conloquitur.

18.2 And that we ought earnestly to seek after this condition the formula of the Lord’s prayer teaches us, saying “Our Father.” When then we confess with our own mouths that the God and Lord of the universe is our Father, we profess forthwith that we have been called from our condition as slaves to the adoption of sons, adding next “Which art in heaven,” that, by shunning with the utmost horror all lingering in this present life, which we pass upon this earth as a pilgrimage, and what separates us by a great distance from our Father, we may the rather hasten with all eagerness to that country where we confess that our Father dwells, and may not allow anything of this kind, which would make us unworthy of this our profession and the dignity of an adoption of this kind, and so deprive us as a disgrace to our Father’s inheritance, and make us incur the wrath of His justice and severity.

2. Quem statum debere nos diligenter expetere formula dominicae orationis instituit dicens : Pater Noster . Cum ergo uniuersitatis deum ac dominum patrem nostrum esse uoce propria confitemur, profecto de condicione seruili in adoptionem filiorum nos profitemur adscitos, adicientes deinde : qui es in caelis , ut conmorationem uitae praesentis qua in hac degimus terra uelut peregrinam atque a nostro patre nos longissime separantem toto horrore uitantes ad illam potius regionem, in qua patrem nostrum conmorari fatemur, summo desiderio properemus nihilque admittamus eiusmodi, quod indignos nos hac nostra professione ac nobilitate tantae adoptionis efficiens et hereditate paterna uelut degeneres priuet et iram nos faciat iustitiae eius ac seueritatis incurrere.

18.3 To which state and condition of sonship when we have advanced, we shall forthwith be inflamed with the piety which belongs to good sons, so that we shall bend all our energies to the advance not of our own profit, but of our Father’s glory, saying to Him: “Hallowed be Thy name,” testifying that our desire and our joy is His glory, becoming imitators of Him who said: “He who speaketh of himself, seeketh his own glory. But He who seeks the glory of Him who sent Him, the same is true and there is no unrighteousness in Him.”24 Finally the chosen vessel being filled with this feeling wished that he could be anathema from Christ25 if only the people belonging to Him might be increased and multiplied, and the salvation of the whole nation of Israel accrue to the glory of His Father;

3. In quem filiorum ordinem gradumque prouecti illa continuo quae est in bonis filiis pietate flagrabimus, ut iam non pro nostris utilitatibus, sed pro nostri patris gloria totum inpendamus affectum, dicentes ei : sanctificetur nomen tuum , nostrum desiderium, nostrum gaudium gloriam nostri patris esse testantes, imitatores effecti illius qui dixit : Qui a semet ipso loquitur, gloriam propriam quaerit : qui autem quaerit gloriam eius qui misit illum, hic uerax est, et iniustitia in eo non est . Denique uas electionis hoc repletus affectu etiam anathema fieri optat a Christo, dummodo familia ei multiplex adquiratur et ad gloriam sui patris salus totius Israheliticae plebis aderescat .

18.4 for with all assurance could he wish to die for Christ as he knew that no one perished for life. And again he says: “We rejoice when we are weak but ye are strong.”26 And what wonder if the chosen vessel wished to be anathema from Christ for the sake of Christ’s glory and the conversion of His own brethren and the privilege of the nation, when the prophet Micah wished that he might be a liar and a stranger to the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, if only the people of the Jews might escape those plagues and the going forth into captivity which he had announced in his prophecy, saying: “Would that I were not a man that hath the Spirit, and that I rather spoke a lie;”27 —to pass over that wish of the Lawgiver, who did not refuse to die together with his brethren who were doomed to death, saying: “I beseech Thee, O Lord; this people hath sinned a heinous sin; either forgive them this trespass, or if Thou do not, blot me out of Thy book which Thou hast written.”28

4. Securus enim optat interire pro Christo, qui nouit neminem mori posse pro uita. Et iterum gaudemus, inquit, quando nos infirmi sumus, uos autem potentes estis . Et quid mirum si uas electionis pro Christi gloria et fratrum suorum conuersione gentisque priuilegio anathema fieri optat a Christo, cum Michaeas quoque propheta uelit se mendacem fieri et ab inspiratione sancti spiritus alienum, dummodo plagas illas et captiuitatis exitia quae sua uaticinatione praedixerat plebs Iudaicae nationis euadat, utinam, inquiens, non essem uir habens spiritum, et mendacium potius loquerer : ut praetermittamus illum legislatoris adfectum, qui cum fratibus suis etiam perituris non rennuit interire dicens : Obsecro, domine, peccauit populus iste peccatum magnum : aut dimitte eis hanc noxam, aut si non facis, dele me de libro tuo quem scripsisti .

18.5 But where it is said “Hallowed be Thy name,” it may also be very fairly taken in this way: “The hallowing of God is our perfection.” And so when we say to Him” Hallowed be Thy name” we say in other words, make us, O Father, such that we maybe able both to understand and take in what the hallowing of Thee is, or at any rite that Thou mayest be seen to be hallowed in our spiritual converse. And this is effectually fulfilled in our case when “men see our good works, and glorify our Father Which is in heaven.”29

5. Potest autem congrue satis istud quod dicitur sanctificetur nomen tuum etiam taliter accipi : sanctificatio dei nostra perfectio est. Itaque dicentes ei sanctificetur nomen tuum aliis uerbis hoc dicimus : tales nos facito, pater, ut sanctificationem tuam uel intellegere quanta sit uel capere mereamur, uel certe ut in nostra conuersatione spiritali sanctus appareas. Quod tunc efficaciter impletur in nobis, quando uident homines opera nostra bona et glorificant patrem nostrum qui est in caelis .



[Your kingdom come]




THE second petition of the pure heart desires that the kingdom of its Father may come at once; viz., either that whereby Christ reigns day by day in the saints (which comes to pass when the devil’s rule is cast out of our hearts by the destruction of foul sins, and God begins to hold sway over us by the sweet odour of virtues, and, fornication being overcome, charity reigns in our hearts together with tranquillity, when rage is conquered; and humility, when pride is trampled under foot) or else that which is promised in due time to all who are perfect, and to all the sons of God, when it will be said to them by Christ: “Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;”30 (as the heart) with fixed and steadfast gaze, so to speak, yearns and longs for it and says to Him “Thy kingdom come.” For it knows by the witness of its own conscience that when He shall appear, it will presently share His lot. For no guilty person would dare either to say or to wish for this, for no one would want to face the tribunal of the Judge, who knew that at His coming he would forthwith receive not the prize or reward of his merits but only punishment.

XVIIII. Secunda petitio mentis purissimae aduenire iam iamque regnum sui patris exoptat, uel istud scilicet quo cotidie Christus regnat in sanctis (quod ita fit, cum diaboli imperio per extinctionem foetentium uitiorum de nostris cordibus pulso deus in nobis per uirtutum bonam fragantiam coeperit dominari et deuicta fornicatione castitas, superato furore tranquilitas, calcata superbia humilitas in nostra mente regnauerit), uel certe illud quod praestituto tempore omnibus est perfectis ac dei filiis generaliter repromissum, in quo eis dicetur a Christo : uenite benedicti patris mei, possidete paratum uobis regnum a constitutione mundi , intentis illud quodammodo obtutibus ac defixis desiderans et expectans dicensque ad eum : ueniat regnum tuum . Nouit enim testimonio conscientiae suae, cum apparuerit, mox eius se futuram esse consortem. Haec enim dicere uel optare criminosorum nullus audebit, quia nec uidere tribunal iudicis uolet, quisque sub aduentu eius non palmam nec praemia suis meritis, sed poenam nouit protinus repensandam.



[Your will be done]




20.1 THE third petition is that of sons: “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth.” There can now be no grander prayer than to wish that earthly things may be made equal with things heavenly: for what else is it to say “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,” than to ask that men may be like angels and that as God’s will is ever fulfilled by them in heaven, so also all those who are on earth may do not their own but His will? This too no one could say from the heart but only one who believed that God disposes for our good all things which are seen, whether fortunate or unfortunate, and that He is more careful and provident for our good and salvation than we ourselves are for ourselves.

          XX. Tertia supplicatio filiorum est : Fiat uoluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra . Non potest esse iam maior oratio quam optare, ut terrena mereantur caelestibus coaequari. Nam quid est aliud dicere fiat uoluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra quam ut sint homines similes angelis, et sicut uoluntas dei ab illis inpletur in caelo, ita etiam hi qui in terra sunt non suam, sed eius uniuersi faciant uoluntatem? Hoc quoque nemo ex affectu dicere praeualebit nisi is solus, qui deum credit omnia quae uidentur uel aduersa uel prospera pro nostris utilitatibus dispensare, magisque eum pro suorum salute et commodis prouidum atque sollicitum quam nos ipsos esse pro nobis.

20.2 Or at any rate it may be taken in this way: The will of God is the salvation of all men, according to these words of the blessed Paul: “Who willeth all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”31 Of which will also the prophet Isaiah says in the Person of God the Father: “And all Thy will shall be done.”32 When we say then “Thy will be done as in heaven so on earth,” we pray in other words for this; viz., that as those who are in heaven, so also may all those who dwell on earth be saved, O Father, by the knowledge of Thee.

2. Vel certe taliter accipiendum : uoluntas dei salus omnium est secundum illam beati Pauli sententiam : Qui omnes homines uult saluos fieri et ad agnitionem ueritatis uenire . De qua etiam uoluntate Esaias propheta ex persona dei patris et omnis, inquit, uoluntas mea fiet . Dicentes ergo ei fiat uoluntas tua sicut in caelo et in terra hoc eum aliis oramus uerbis, ut sicut hi qui in caelo sunt, ita omnes qui in terra consistunt tua, pater, agnitione saluentur.



[Give us this day]




21.1 NEXT : “Give us this day our bread which is πιούσιον (epiousion)” i.e., “supersubstantial,” which another Evangelist calls “daily.”33 The former indicates the quality of its nobility and substance, in virtue of which it is above all substances and the loftiness of its grandeur and holiness exceeds all creatures, while the latter intimates the purpose of its use and value. For where it says “daily” it shows that without it we cannot live a spiritual life for a single day.

          XXI. Deinde panem nostrum ejpiouvsion, id est supersubstantialem da nobis hodie . Quod alius euangelista cotidianum dixit. Illud nobilitatis ac substantiae eius significat qualitatem, qua scilicet super omnes substantias sit atque omnes creaturas sublimitas magnificentiae eius ac sanctificationis excedat, hoc uero proprietatem usus ipsius atque utilitatis expressit. Nam cum dicit cotidianum, ostendit quod sine ipso nullo die spiritalem uitam capere ualeamus.

21.2 Where it says “today” it shows that it must be received daily and that yesterday’s supply of it is not enough, but at it must be given to us today also in like manner. And our daily need of it suggests to us that we ought at all times to offer up this prayer, because there is no day on which we have no need to strengthen the heart of our inner man, by eating and receiving it, although the expression used, “today” may be taken to apply to his present life, i.e., while we are living in this world supply us with this bread. For we know that it will be given to those who deserve it by Thee hereafter, but we ask that Thou wouldest grant it to us today, because unless it has been vouchsafed to a man to receive it in this life he will never be partaker of it in that.

2. Cum dicit hodie, ostendit eum cotidie esse sumendum et hesternam praebitionem eius non sufficere, nisi nobis hodie quoque similiter fuerit adtributus. Omnique nos tempore hanc orationem debere profundere indigentia eius cotidiana conmoneat, quia non est dies quo non opus sit nobis huius esu ac perceptione cor interioris nostri hominis confirmare, licet istud quod dicitur hodie et ad praesentem uitam possit intellegi, id est : dum in hoc saeculo conmoramur, praesta nobis hunc panem. Nouimus enim eum his qui meruerint a te et in futuro esse praestandum, sed rogamus ut eum nobis hodie largiaris, quia nisi eum percipere quis in hac uita meruerit, in illa eius particeps esse non poterit.



[Forgive us our trespasses]




22.1 AND forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.” O unspeakable mercy of God, which has not only given us a form of prayer and taught us a system of life acceptable to Him, and by the requirements of the form given, in which He charged us always to pray, has torn up the roots of both anger and sorrow, but also gives to those who pray an opportunity and reveals to them a way by which they may move a merciful and kindly judgment of God to be pronounced over them and which somehow gives us a power by which we can moderate the sentence of our Judge, drawing Him to forgive our offences by the example of our forgiveness: when we say to Him: “Forgive us as we also forgive.”

          XXII. Et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris . O ineffabilis dei clementia, quae non solum nobis orationis tradidit formam et acceptabilem sibi morum nostrorum instituit disciplinam ac per necessitatem traditae formulae, qua se praecepit a nobis semper orari, irae pariter ac tristitiae euellit radices, sed etiam occasionem rogantibus tribuit eisque reserat uiam, qua clemens ac pium erga se prouocent dei iudicium promulgari, et quodammodo potestatem tribuit qua iudicis nostri possimus sententiam temperare, ad ueniam delictorum nostrorum exemplo eum nostrae remissionis artantes, dum dicimus ei : dimitte nobis sicut et nos dimisimus.

22.2 And so without anxiety and in confidence from this prayer a man may ask for pardon of his own offences, if he has been forgiving towards his own debtors, and not towards those of his Lord. For some of us, which is very bad, are inclined to show ourselves calm and most merciful in regard to those things which are done to God’s detriment, however great the crimes may be, but to be found most hard and inexorable exactors of debts to ourselves even in the case of the most trifling wrongs.

2. Itaque securus huius orationis fiducia de suis admissis ueniam postulabit, quique remissus erga suos dumtaxat, non erga domini sui extiterit debitores. Solemus etenim nonnulli, quod est deterius, erga illa quidem quae admittuntur ad iniuriam dei, quamuis magnorum sint criminum, placidos nos et clementissimos exhibere, erga nostrarum uero uel paruissimarum offensionum debita exactores inmites atque inexorabiles inueniri.

22.3 Whoever then does not from his heart forgive his brother who has offended him, by this prayer calls down upon himself not forgiveness but [condemnation, and by his own profession asks that he himself may be judged more severely, saying: Forgive me as I also have forgiven. And if he is repaid according to his own request, what else will follow but that he will be punished after his own example with implacable wrath and a sentence that cannot be remitted? And so if we want to be judged mercifully, we ought also to be merciful towards those who have sinned against us. For only so much will be remitted to us, as we have remitted to those who have injured us however spitefully.

3. Quisquis igitur in se delinquenti fratri non ex corde remiserit, non indulgentiam, sed condemnationem deprecatione hac sibimet inpetrabit, suaque professione semet ipsum poscet dirius iudicari dicens : remitte mihi sicut et ego remisi. Quod cum illi secundum suam petitionem fuerit repensatum, quid aliud subsequetur quam ut exemplo suo inplacabili ira et inremissa sententia puniatur? Ideoque si clementer uolumus iudicari, nos quoque erga illos qui in nos deliquerunt oportet esse clementes. Tantum enim remittetur nobis, quantum nos remiserimus eis qui nobis quacumque malignitate nocuerunt.

22.4 And some dreading this, when this prayer is chanted by all the people in church, silently omit this clause, for fear lest they may seem by their own utterance to bind themselves rather than to excuse themselves, as they do not understand that it is in vain that they try to offer these quibbles to the Judge of all men, who has willed to show us beforehand how He will judge His suppliants. For as He does not wish to be found harsh and inexorable towards them, He has marked out the manner of His judgment, that just as we desire to be judged by Him, so we should also judge our brethren, if they have wronged us in anything, for “he shall have judgment without mercy who hath shown no mercy.”34

4. Quod formidantes nonnulli, cum in ecclesia haec oratio ab uniuersa plebe concinitur, hunc locum taciti praetermittunt, ne scilicet semet ipsos obligare potius quam excusare sua professione uideantur, non intellegentes quod frustra cauillationes has iudici omnium praetendere moliantur, qui quemadmodum iudicaturus sit supplicibus suis uoluit praemonstrare. Dum enim erga eos non uult inmitis atque inexorabilis inueniri, formam sui iudicii designauit, ut quemadmodum nos ab illo iudicari cupimus, ita nostros fratres, si quid in nobis deliquerint, iudicemus, quia iudicium sine misericordia ei qui non fecit misericordiam .



[Lead us not into temptation]




23.1 NEXT there follows: “And lead us not into temptation,” on which there arises no unimportant question, for if we pray that we may not be suffered to be tempted, how then will our power of endurance be proved, according to this text: “Every one who is not tempted is not proved;”35 and again: “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation?”36 The clause then, “Lead us not into temptation,” does not mean this; viz., do not permit us ever to be tempted, but do not permit us when we fall into temptation to be overcome. For Job was tempted, but was not led into temptation.

          XXIII. Deinde sequitur : et ne nos inducas in temptationem , de quo non minima nascitur questio. Si enim oramus ne permittamur temptari, et unde erit in nobis uirtus constantiae conprobanda secundum illam sententiam : omnis uir qui non est temptatus, non est probatus , et iterum : beatus uir qui suffert temptationem ? Non ergo hoc sonat ne inducas nos in temptationem, id est : ut non permittas nos aliquando temptari, sed : ne permittas nos in temptatione positos superari.

23.2 For he did not ascribe folly to God nor blasphemy, nor with impious mouth did he yield to that wish of the tempter toward which he was drawn. Abraham was tempted, Joseph was tempted, but neither of them was led into temptation for neither of them yielded his consent to the tempter. Next there follows: “But deliver us from evil,” i.e., do not suffer us to be tempted by the devil above that we are able, but “make with the temptation a way also of escape that we may be able to bear it.”37

2. Temptatus est enim Iob, sed non est inductus in temptationem. Non enim dedit insipientiam deo nec ad illam ad quam trahebatur temptatoris uoluntatem ore impio blasphemus intrauit. Temptatus est Abraham, temptatus est Ioseph, sed neuter illorum inductus est in temptationem, quia nullus eorum consensum praebuit temptatori. Denique sequitur : sed libera nos a malo , id est, ne permittas nos a diabolo temptari supra id quod possumus, sed fac cum temptatione et exitum, ut sustinere possimus .



[Spiritual Perfection of the Lord's PRayer]




YOU see then what is the method and form of prayer proposed to us by the Judge Himself, who is to be prayed to by it, a form in which there is contained no petition for riches, no thought of honours, no request for power and might, no mention of bodily health and of temporal life. For He who is the Author of Eternity would have men ask of Him nothing uncertain, nothing paltry, and nothing temporal. And so a man will offer the greatest insult to His Majesty and Bounty, if he leaves on one side these eternal petitions and chooses rather to ask of Him something transitory and uncertain; and will also incur the indignation rather than the propitiation of the Judge by the pettiness of his prayer.

          XXIIII. Videtis ergo qualis nobis ab ipso qui per illam exorand est iudice orationis sit modulus et forma proposita, in qua nulla diuitiarum petitio, nulla memoria dignitatum, nulla potentatus ac fortitudinis postulatio, nulla corporeae sanitatis seu temporalis uitae mentio continetur. Nihil enim caducum uult a se, nihil uile, nihil temporale aeternitatum conditor inplorari. Itaque magnificentiae eius ac munificentiae maximam inrogabit iniuriam, quisque his sempiternis petitionibus praetermissis transitorium aliquid et caducum ab eo maluerit postulare, et offensam potius quam propitiationem iudicis sui uilitate orationis incurret.

 [6]§ 25-27 More Occasions of FIERY PRAYER


[6] More Occasions of FIERY PRAYER

§ 25-27

 CH 25:   FIRE-PRAYER 2-A 






25.1 THIS [i.e. the Lord's] prayer then though it seems to contain all the fulness of perfection, as being what was originated and appointed by the Lord’s own authority, yet lifts those to whom it belongs to that still higher condition of which we spoke above, and carries them on by a loftier stage to that ardent prayer which is known and tried by but very few, and which to speak more truly is ineffable; which transcends all human thoughts, and is distinguished, I will not say by any sound of the voice, but by no movement of the tongue, or utterance of words, but which the mind enlightened by the infusion of that heavenly light describes in no human and confined language, but pours forth richly as from copious fountain in an accumulation of thoughts, and ineffably utters to God, expressing in the SHORTEST POSSIBLE SPACE of TIME such great things that the mind when it returns to its usual condition cannot easily utter or relate. And this condition our Lord also similarly prefigured by the form of those supplications which, when he retired alone in the mountain He is said to have poured forth IN SILENCE, and when being in an agony of prayer He shed forth even drops of blood, as an example of a purpose which it is hard to imitate.

          XXV. Haec igitur oratio licet omnem uideatur perfectionis plenitudinem continere, utpote quae ipsius domini auctoritate uel initiata sit uel statuta, prouehit tamen domesticos suos ad illum praecelsiorem quem superius commemorauimus statum eosque ad illam igneam ac perpaucis cognitam uel expertam, immo ut proprius dixerim ineffabilem orationem gradu eminentiore perducit, quae omnem transcendens humanum sensum nullo non dicam sono uocis nec linguae motu nec ulla uerborum pronuntiatione distinguitur, sed quam mens infusione caelestis illius luminis inlustrata non humanis atque angustis designat eloquiis, sed conglobatis sensibus uelut de fonte quodam copiosissimo effundit ubertim atque ineffabiliter eructat ad deum, tanta promens in illo breuissimo temporis puncto, quanta nec eloqui facile nec percurrere mens in semet ipsam reuersa praeualeat. Quem statum dominus quoque noster illarum supplicationum formula, quas uel solus in monte secedens uel tacite fudisse describitur, similiter figurauit, cum in orationis agonia constitutus etiam guttas sanguinis inimitabili intentionis profudit exemplo.







26.1 BUT who is able, with whatever experience he may be endowed, to give a sufficient account of the varieties and reasons and grounds of conviction, by which the mind is inflamed and set on fire and incited to pure and most fervent prayers? And of these we will now by way of specimen set forth a few, as far as we can by God’s enlightenment recollect them[:]

          XXVI. Quis uero possit diuersitates et causas ipsas atque origines conpunctionum quantalibet experientia praeditus sufficienter exponere, quibus inflammata mens atque succensa ad orationes puras ac feruentissimas incitatur? Quarum pauca, quantum potuerimus ad praesens per inluminationem domini reminisci, exempli gratia proponemus.

[1] For sometimes a verse of any one of the Psalms gives us an occasion of ardent prayer while we are singing.

Nonnumquam etenim psalmi cuiuscumque uersiculus occasionem orationis ignitae decantantibus nobis praebuit.

[2] Sometimes the harmonious modulation of a brother’s voice stirs up the minds of dullards to intense supplication.

 Interdum canora fraternae uocis modulatio ad intentam supplicationem stupentium animos excitauit.

[3] 26.2 We know also that the enunciation and the reverence of the chanter adds greatly to the fervour of those who stand by.

2. Nouimus quoque distinctionem grauitatemque psallentis etiam adstantibus plurimum contulisse feruoris.

[4] Moreover the exhortation of a perfect man, and a spiritual conference has often raised the affections of those present to the richest prayer.

Nec non exhortatio uiri perfecti et conlatio spiritalis frequenter ad uberrimas preces iacentium erexit affectum.

[5] We know too that by the death of a brother or some one dear to us, we are no less carried away to full conviction.

Scimus etiam fratris seu cari cuiuslibet interitu non minus nos ad plenam conpunctionem fuisse raptatos.

[6] The recollection also of our coldness and carelessness has sometimes aroused in us a healthful fervour of spirit.

Recordatio quoque teporis ac neglegentiae nostrae nonnumquam nobis salutarem spiritus inuexit ardorem.

 And in this way no one can doubt that numberless opportunities are not wanting, by which through God’s grace the coldness and sleepiness of our minds can be shaken off.

  Atque in hunc modum nulli dubium est occasiones innumeras non deesse, quibus per dei gratiam tepor ac somnolentia nostrarum mentium ualeat excitari.




Ecstatic Silence and Compunction



BUT how and in what way those very convictions are produced from the inmost recesses of the soul it is no less difficult to trace out. For often through some inexpressible delight and keenness of spirit the fruit of a most salutary conviction arises so that it actually breaks forth into shouts owing to the greatness of its incontrollable joy; and the delight of the heart and greatness of exultation makes itself heard even in the cell of a neighbour. But sometimes the mind hides itself in complete silence within the secrets of a profound quiet, so that the amazement of a sudden illumination chokes all sounds of words and the overawed spirit either keeps all its feelings to itself or loses38 them and pours forth its desires to God with groanings that cannot be uttered. But sometimes it is filled with such overwhelming conviction and grief that it cannot express it except by floods of tears.

          XXVII. Quemadmodum uero uel quibus modis istae ipsae conpunctiones de intimis animae conclauibus proferantur, non minoris difficultatis est indagare. Frequenter enim per ineffabile gaudium et alacritatem spiritus saluberrimae conpunctionis fructus emergit, ita ut etiam in clamores quosdam intolerabilis gaudii inmensitate prorumpat et cellam uicini iucunditas cordis et exultationis penetret magnitudo. Nonnumquam uero tanto silentio mens intra secretum profundae taciturnitatis absconditur, ut omnem penitus sonum uocis stupor subitae inluminationis includat omnesque sensus adtonitus spiritus uel contineat intrinsecus uel amittat ac desideria sua gemitibus inenarrabilibus effundat ad deum. Interdum uero tanta conpunctionis abundantia ac dolore suppletur, ut alias eam digerere nisi lacrimarum euaporatione non possit.

 [7]§ 28-30 The Gift of Tears


[7] The Gift of Tears

§ 28-30



[Tears cannot be summoned at will]




28.1 GERMANUS: My own poor self indeed is not altogether ignorant of this feeling of conviction. For often when tears arise at the recollection of my faults, I have been by the Lord’s visitation so refreshed by this ineffable joy which you describe that the greatness of the joy has assured me that I ought not to despair of their forgiveness. Than which state of mind I think there is nothing more sublime if only it could be recalled at our own will.

          XXVIII. GERMANVS : Hunc equidem conpunctionis affectum ex parte aliqua mea quoque exiguitas non ignorat. Frequenter enim recordatione delictorum meorum obortis lacrimis ita sum hoc ineffabili ut praefatus es gaudio uisitante domino uegetatus, ut desperare me illorum ueniam non debere laetitiae ipsius magnitudo dictaret. Quo statu reor nihil esse sublimius, si reparatio eius nostro subiaceret arbitrio.

28.2 For sometimes when I am desirous to stir myself up with all my power to the same conviction and tears, and place before my eyes all my faults and sins, I am unable to bring back that copiousness of tears, and so my eyes are dry and hard like some hardest flint, so that not a single tear trickles from them. And so in proportion as I congratulate myself on that copiousness of tears, just so do I mourn that I cannot bring it back again whenever I wish.

2. Nam nonnumquam cupiens ad similem me lacrimarum conpunctionem totis uiribus excitare omnesque errores meos atque peccata ante oculos statuens ubertatem illam fletuum reuocare non possum, et ita oculi mei in modum cuiusdam durissimae silicis praedurantur, ut nulla prorsus ex eis umoris gutta destillet. Et ideo quantum mihi in illa lacrimarum profusione congaudeo, tantum doleo quod illam, cum uoluero, recuperare non possum.



[different sources of tears]




29.1 ISAAC: Not every kind of shedding of tears is produced by one feeling or one virtue. For in one way does that weeping originate which is caused by the pricks of our sins smiting our heart, of which we read: “I have laboured in my groanings, every night I will wash my bed; I will water my couch with my tears.”39 And again: “Let tears run down like a torrent day and night: give thyself no rest, and let not the apple of thine eye cease.”40

          XXVIIII. ISSAC : Non omnis lacrimarum profusio uno adfectu uel una uirtute depromitur. Aliter enim ille emanat fletus, qui peccatorum spina cor nostrum conpungente profertur, de quo dicitur : laboraui in gemitu meo, lauabo per singulas noctes lectum meum : lacrimis stratum meum rigabo , et iterum : deduc quasi torrentem lacrimas per diem et per noctem : et non des requiem tibi, neque taceat pupilla oculi tui :

29.2 In another, that which arises from the contemplation of eternal good things and the desire of that future glory, owing to which even richer well-springs of tears burst forth from uncontrollable delights and boundless exultation, while our soul is athirst for the mighty Living God, saying, “When shall I come and appear before the presence of God? My tears have been my meat day and night,”41 declaring with daily crying and lamentation: “Woe is me that my sojourning is prolonged;” and: “Too long hath my soul been a sojourner.”42

2.aliter qui de contemplatione aeternorum bonorum et desiderio futurae illius claritatis exoritur, pro qua etiam uberiores lacrimarum fontes de intolerantia gaudii et alacritatis inmensitate prorumpunt, dum sitit anima nostra ad deum fortem uiuum dicens : quando ueniam et apparebo ante conspectum dei? fuerunt mihi lacrimae meae panis die ac nocte , cum heiulatu cotidie et lamentatione proclamans : heu mihi, quod incolatus meus prolongatus est , et : multum incola fuit anima mea .

29.3 In another way do the tears flow forth, which without any conscience of deadly sin, yet still proceed from the fear of hell and the recollection of It hat terrible judgment, with the terror of which the prophet was smitten and prayed to God, saying: “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified.”43 There is too another kind of tears, which are caused not by knowledge of one’s self but by the hardness and sins of others; whereby Samuel is described as having wept for Saul, and both the Lord in the gospel and Jeremiah in former days for the city of Jerusalem, the latter thus saying: “Oh, that my head were water and mine eyes a fountain of tears! And I will weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people.”44

3. Aliter profluunt lacrimae, quae absque ulla quidem letalium criminum conscientia, sed tamen de metu gehennae et terribilis illius iudicii recordatione procedunt, cuius terrore propheta perculsus orat ad deum non intres, inquiens, in iudicio cum seruo tuo : quia non iustificabitur in conspectu tuo omnis uiuens . Est etiam aliud lacrimarum genus, quod non pro sua conscientia, sed pro aliena duritia peccatisque generatur : quo Samuhel Saulem , quo illam quoque ciuitatem Hierusalem uel dominus in euangelio uel in praeteritis Hieremias fleuisse describitur, ita dicens : quis dabit capiti meo aquam, et oculis meis fontem lacrimarum: et plorabo in die et in nocte interfectos filiae populi mei .

29.4 Or also such as were those tears of which we hear in the hundred and first Psalm: “For I have eaten ashes for my bread, and mingled my cup with weeping.”45 And these were certainty not caused by the same feeling as those which arise in the sixth Psalm from the person of the penitent, but were due to the anxieties of this life and its distresses and losses, by which the righteous who are living in this world are oppressed. And this is clearly shown not only by the words of the Psalm itself, but also by its title, which runs as follows in the character of that poor person of whom it is said in the gospel that “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven:”46 “A prayer of the poor when he was in distress and poured forth his prayer to God.”47

4. Vel certe quales illae sunt lacrimae, de quibus in psalmo centensimo primo canitur : Quia cinerem sicut panem manducaui, et poculum meum cum fletu miscebam . Quas certum est non illo adfectu promi, quo in sexto psalmo ex persona paenitentis emergunt, sed pro anxietatibus uitae huius atque angustiis et aerumnis, quibus iusti in hoc mundo positi deprimuntur. Quod etiam psalmi ipsius non solum textus, sed etiam titulus euidenter ostendit, qui ex persona pauperis illius de quo in euangelio dicitur : beati pauperes spiritu, quoniam ipsorum est regnum caelorum , ita describitur : Oratio pauperis, cum anxiatus fuerit, et coram deo effuderit precem suam .



[Tears should not be forced]




30.1 FROM these tears those are vastly different which are squeezed out from dry eyes while the heart is hard: and although we cannot believe that these are altogether fruitless (for the attempt to shed them is made with a good intention, especially by those who have not yet been able to attain to perfect knowledge or to be thoroughly cleansed from the stains of past or present sins), yet certainly the flow of tears ought not to be thus forced out by those who have already advanced to the love of virtue, nor should the weeping of the outward man be with great labour attempted, as even if it is produced it will never attain the rich copiousness of spontaneous tears.

          XXX. Ab his ergo lacrimis multum distant illae quae obdurato corde de siccis oculis exprimuntur. Quas licet non penitus infructuosas esse credamus (bono enim proposito earum adtemptatur emissio, ab his praesertim qui necdum uel ad scientiam peruenire perfectam uel pristinorum seu praesentium uitiorum potuerunt ad purum labe mundari), ab his tamen qui in affectum iam transiere uirtutum nequaquam debet hoc modo extorqueri profusio lacrimarum nec exterioris hominis magno opere adfectandi sunt fletus, qui etiamsi fuerint utcumque producti, numquam pertingere illam spontanearum lacrimarum poterunt ubertatem.

30.2 For it will rather cast down the soul of the suppliant by his endeavours, and humiliate him, and plunge him in human affairs and draw him away from the celestial heights, wherein the awed mind of one who prays should be steadfastly fixed, and will force it to relax its hold on its prayers and grow sick from barren and forced tears.

2. Magis enim supplicantis animum suis conatibus detrahentes humiliabunt atque ad humana demergent et ab illa caelesti sublimitate deponent, in qua adtonita mens orantis indeclinabiliter debet esse defixa, eamque conpellent precum suarum intentione laxata erga steriles et coacticias lacrimarum guttulas aegrotare.



[Antony on prayer]




AND that you may see the character of true prayer I will give you not my own opinion but that of the blessed Antony: whom we have known sometimes to have been so persistent in prayer that often as he was praying in a transport of mind, when the sunrise began to appear, we have heard him in the fervour of his spirit declaiming:           XXXI. Et ut orationis uerae percipiatis adfectum, non meam uobis, sed beati Antoni sententiam proferam. Quem ita nonnumquam in oratione nouimus perstitisse, ut eodem in excessu mentis frequenter orante cum solis ortus coepisset infundi, audierimus eum in feruore spiritus proclamantem :

Why do you hinder me, O sun, who by your arising withdraw me from the brightness of this true light?”.

quid me impedis, sol, qui ad hoc iam oreris, ut me ab huius ueri luminis abstrahas claritate?
And his also is this heavenly and more than human utterance on the end of prayer: cuius etiam haec quoque est super orationis fine caelestis et plus quam humana sententia :

It is not, he said, “perfect prayer, if a monk [remains] aware of himself and the words he prays.”

non est, inquit, perfecta oratio, in qua se monachus uel hoc ipsum quod orat intellegit.

And if we too, as far as our slender ability allows, may venture to add anything to this splendid utterance, we will bring forward the marks of prayer which are heard from the Lord, as far as we have tried them.

  Et ut nos quoque secundum mensuram tenuitatis nostrae huic admirandae sententiae superadicere aliquid audeamus, orationis quae exauditur a domino, in quantum experti sumus, indicia proferemus.

 [8] § 32-34How Prayers are Answered


[8] How Prayers are Answered

§ 32-34



[Effective prayer]




WHEN, while we are praying, no hesitation intervenes and breaks down the. confidence of our petition by a sort of despair, but we feel that by pouring forth our prayer we have obtained what we are asking for, we have no doubt that our prayers have effectually reached God. For so far will one be heard and obtain an answer, as he believes that he is regarded by God, and that God can grant it. For this saying of our Lord cannot be retracted: “Whatsoever ye ask when ye pray, believe that you shall receive, and they shall come to you.”48

          XXXII. Cum orantes nos nulla interpellauerit haesitatio et fiduciam petitionis nostrae quadam desperatione deiecerit, sed obtinuisse nos ipsa orationis effusione quod poscimus senserimus, non ambigamus preces nostras ad deum efficaciter penetrasse. Tantum enim quis exaudiri atque obtinere merebitur, quantum uel inspici se a deo uel deum crediderit posse praestare. Inretractabilis namque est domini nostri illa sententia : Quaecumque orantes petitis, credite quia accipietis, et ueniet uobis .



[Confidence and purity]




GERMANUS: We certainly believe that this confidence of being heard flows from purity of conscience, but for us, whose heart is still smitten by the pricks of sins, how can we have it, as we have no merits to plead for us, whereby we might confidently presume that our prayers would be heard?

          XXXIII. GERMANVS : Hanc exauditionis fiduciam nimirum de conscientiae puritate credimus emanare.Ceterum nos, quorum cor adhuc peccatorum spina conpungit, quemadmodum eam habere possumus nullis patrocinantibus meritis, quibus exaudiendas orationes nostras fiducialiter praesumamus?



[How prayer is answered]




34.1 ISAAC: That there are different reasons for prayer being heard in accordance with the varied and changing condition of souls the words of the gospels and of the prophets teach us. For you have the fruits of an answer pointed out by our Lord’s words in the case of the agreement of two persons; as it is said: “If two of you shall agree upon earth touching anything for which they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.”49 You have another in the fulness of faith, which is compared to a grain of mustard-seed. “For,” He says, “if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain: Be thou removed, and it shall be removed; and nothing shall be impossible to you.”50

          XXXIIII. ISAAC : Diuersas exauditionum causas esse secundum animarum diuersum ac uarium statum euangelica siue prophetica testantur eloquia. Habes enim in duorum consensione fructum exauditionis dominica uoce signatum secundum illud : si duo ex uobis consenserint super terram de omni re quamcumque petierint, fiet illis a patre meo qui in caelis est . Habes aliam in fidei plenitudine quae grano senapis comparatur. Si enim habueritis, inquit, fidem sicut granum senapis, dicetis monti huic : transi hinc, et transibit, et nihil inpossibile erit uobis.

34.2 You have it in continuance in prayer, which the Lord’s words call, by reason of unwearied perseverance in petitioning, importunity: “For, verily, I say unto you that if not because of his friendship, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as much as he needs.”51 You have it in the fruits of almsgiving: “Shut up alms in the heart of the poor and it shall pray for thee in the time of tribulation.”52 You have it in the purifying of life and in works of mercy, as it is said: “Loose the bands of wickedness, undo the bundles that oppress;”

2. Habes in adsiduitate orationum, quam propter indefessam petitionum perseuerantiam inportunitatem sermo dominicus nominauit : Amen enim dico uobis, quia si non propter amicitiam, uel propter inportunitatem eius surget et dabit ei quantum opus habuerit . Habes in elemosynarum fructu : Include, inquit, elemosynam in corde pauperis, et ipsa exorabit pro te in tempore tribulationis. Habes in emendatione uitae et operibus misericordiae secundum illud : Dissolue conligationes inpietatis, solue fasciculos deprimentes .

34.3 and after a few words in which the barrenness of an unfruitful fast is rebuked, “then,” he says, “thou shall call and the Lord shall hear thee; thou shalt cry, and He shall say, Here am I.”53 Sometimes also excess of trouble causes it to be heard, as it is said: “When I was in trouble I called unto the Lord, and He heard me;”54 and again: “Afflict not the stranger for if he crieth unto Me, I will hear him, for I am merciful.”55 You see then in how many ways the gift of an answer may be obtained, so that no one need be crushed by the despair of his conscience for securing those things which are salutary and eternal.

3. Et post pauca quibus infructuosi ieiunii sterilitas castigatur : tunc, inquit, inuocabis, et dominus exaudiet te : clamabis, et dicet : ecce adsum . Nonnumquam sane exaudiri etiam tribulationum nimietas facit secundum illud : Ad dominum cum tribularer clamaui : et exaudiuit me , et iterum : ne adflixeritis aduenam, quia si clamauerit ad me, exaudiam eum, quia misericors sum . Videtis ergo quot modis obtineatur exauditionis gratia, ut nullus ad inpetranda ea quae salutaria sunt et aeterna conscientiae suae desperatione frangatur.

34.4 For if in contemplating our wretchedness I admit that we are utterly destitute of all those virtues which we mentioned above, and that we have neither that laudable agreement of two persons, nor that faith which is compared to a grain of mustard seed, nor those works of piety which the prophet describes, surely we cannot be without that importunity which He supplies to all who desire it, owing to which alone the Lord promises that He will give whatever He has been prayed to give. And therefore we ought without unbelieving hesitation to persevere, and not to have the least doubt that by continuing in them we shall obtain all those things which we have asked according to the mind of God.

4. Vt enim miseriarum nostrarum contemplatione concedam nos omnibus quas supra memorauimus penitus destitutos esse uirtutibus et nec illam nos habere laudabilem duorum consensionem nec illam fidem grano senapis conparatam nec illa opera pietatis quae propheta describit, num uel inportunitatem quae omni uolenti subpeditat habere non possumus, per quam etiam solam daturum se dominus quidquid oratus fuerit repromittit? et idcirco absque haesitationis infidelitate precibus insistendum est obtenturosque nos earum iugitate cuncta quae secundum deum poposcerimus minime dubitandum.

34.5 For the Lord, in His desire to grant what is heavenly and eternal, urges us to constrain Him as it were by our importunity, as He not only does not despise or reject the importunate, but actually welcomes and praises them, and most graciously promises to grant whatever they have perseveringly hoped for; saying, “Ask and ye shall receive: seek and ye shall find: knock and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh it shall be opened;”56 and again: “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing ye shall receive, and nothing shall be impossible to you.”57

5. Hortatur enim nos dominus uolens ea quae sunt aeterna caelestiaque praestare, ut eum inportunitate nostra quodammodo coartemus, qui inportunos non modo non despicit nec refutat, sed etiam inuitat et laudat, eisque praestiturum se quidquid perseueranter sperauerint benignissime pollicetur dicens : petite, et accipietis : quaerite, et inuenietis : pulsate, et aperietur uobis, omnis enim qui petit accipit, et qui quaerit inuenit, et pulsanti aperietur , et iterum : omnia quaecumque petieritis in oratione credentes accipietis, et nihil inpossibile erit uobis .

34.6 And therefore even if all the grounds for being heard which we have mentioned are altogether wanting, at any rate the earnestness of importunity may animate us, as this is placed in the power of any one who wills without the difficulties of any merits or labours. But let not any suppliant doubt that he certainly will not be heard, so long as he doubts whether he is heard. But that this also shall be sought from the Lord unweariedly, we are taught by the example of the blessed Daniel, as, though he was heard from the first day on which he began to pray, he only obtained the result of his petition after one and twenty days.58

6. Et idcirco si cunctae nos exauditionum quas praediximus causae omnino deficiunt, saltim animet inportunitatis instantia, quae absque ulla uel meriti uel laboris difficultate in cuiuscumque uolentis sita est potestate. Pro certo autem non exaudiendum se supplicans quisque non dubitet, cum se dubitauerit exaudiri. Quod autem infatigabiliter sit domino supplicandum, etiam illo beati Danihelis docemur exemplo , quod exauditus a prima die qua coepit orare post primum et uicensimum diem consequitur suae petitionis effectum.

34.7 Wherefore we also ought not to grow slack in the earnestness of the prayers we have begun, if we fancy that the answer comes but slowly, for fear lest perhaps the gift of the answer be in God’s providence delayed, or the angel, who was to bring the Divine blessing to us, may when he comes forth from the Presence of the Almighty be hindered by the resistance of the devil, as it is certain that he cannot transmit and bring to us the desired boon, if he finds that we slack off from the earnestness of the petition made. And this would certainly have happened to the above mentioned prophet unless he had with incomparable steadfastness prolonged and persevered in his prayers until the twenty-first day.

7. Vnde nos quoque non debemus a coepta orationum nostrarum intentione cessare, si nos exaudiri tardius senserimus, ne forte aut exauditionis gratia dispensatione domini utiliter differatur aut angelus diuinum ad nos beneficium delaturus a facie omnipotentis egressus resistente diabolo demoretur : quem certum est transmissum muneris desiderium ingerere non posse, si nos a propositae petitionis intentione cessasse reppererit. Quod etiam supra dicto prophetae procul dubio accidere potuisset, nisi uirtute inconparabili in primum atque uicensimum diem orationum suarum perseuerantiam protelasset.

34.8 Let us then not be at all cast down by despair from the confidence of this faith of ours, even when we fancy that we are far from having obtained what we prayed for, and let us not have any doubts about the Lord’s promise where He says: “All things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing, ye shall receive.”59 For it is well for us to consider this saying of the blessed Evangelist John, by which the ambiguity of this question is clearly solved: “This is,” he says, “the confidence which we have in Him, that whatsoever we ask according to His will, He heareth us.”60

8. Ab huius igitur fidei confidentia nulla penitus desperatione frangamur, cum orata nostra nos obtinuisse minime senserimus, nec haesitemus super domini sponsione dicentis : Omnia quaecumque petieritis in oratione credentes accipietis . Retractare namque nos conuenit illam beati euangelistae Iohannis sententiam, qua ambiguitas huius quaestionis euidenter absoluitur : Haec est, inquit, fiducia quam habemus ad eum, quia quidquid petierimus secundum uoluntatem eius, audit nos .

34.9 He bids us then have a full and undoubting confidence of the answer only in those things which are not for our own advantage or for temporal comforts, but are in conformity to the Lord’s will. And we are also taught to put this into our prayers by the Lord’s Prayer, where we say “Thy will be done,”—Thine not ours. For if we also remember these words of the Apostle that “we know not what to pray for as we ought”61 we shall see that we sometimes ask for things opposed to our salvation and that we are most providentially refused our requests by Him who sees what is good for us with greater right and truth than we can.

9. Ergo super his tantum plenam nos et indubitabilem iussit exauditionis habere fiduciam, quae non nostris commodis nec solaciis temporalibus, sed domini congruunt uoluntati, Quod etiam in oratione dominica admiscere praecipimur dicentes fiat uoluntas tua, tua scilicet, non nostra. Si enim et illud apostoli recordemur, quoniam quid oremus secundum quod oportet nescimus , intelligimus nos nonnumquam saluti nostrae contraria postulare et commodissime nobis ab eo qui utilitates nostras rectius quam nos ac ueracius intuetur ea quae poscimus denegari.

34.10 And it is clear that this also happened to the teacher of the Gentiles when he prayed that the messenger of Satan who had been for his good allowed by the Lord’s will to buffet him, might be removed, saying: “For which I besought the Lord thrice that he might depart from me. And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee, for strength is made perfect in weakness.”62 And this feeling even our Lord expressed when He prayed in the character63 of man which He had taken, that He might give us a form of prayer as other things also by His example; saying thus: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will but as Thou wilt,”64 though certainly His will was not discordant with His Father’s will,

10. Quod illi quoque magistro gentium accidisse non dubium est, cum oraret auferri a se angelum Satanae, qui utiliter ad colafizandum eum adpositus fuerat domini uoluntate, dicens : Propter quod ter dominum rogaui ut discederet a me. Et dixit mihi : sufficit tibi gratia mea : nam uirtus in infirmitate perficitur . Quem sensum dominus etiam noster orans ex persona hominis adsumpti, ut formam quoque orandi nobis quemadmodum cetera suo praeberet exemplo, ita cum oraret expressit : Pater, si possible est, transeat a me calix iste : uerumtamen non sicut ego uolo sed sicut tu , cum utique eius a patris uoluntate non discreparet uoluntas.

34.11 “For He had come to save what was lost and to give His life a ransom for many;”65 as He Himself says: “No man taketh my life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again.”66 In which character there is in the thirty-ninth Psalm the following sung by the blessed David, of the Unity of will which He ever maintained with the Father: “To do Thy will: O My God, I am willing.”67 For even if we read of the Father: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son,”68 we find none the less of the Son: “Who gave Himself for our sins.”69

11. Venerat enim saluare quod perierat, et dare animam suam redemptionem pro multis , de qua ipse dicit : Nemo tollit animam meam a me, sed ego pono eam a me ipso : potestatem habeo ponendi eam, et potestatem habeo iterum sumendi eam . Ex cuius persona super unitate uoluntatis suae quam cum patre iugiter possidebat per beatum quoque Dauid in psalmo tricensimo nono ita cantatur : Vt facerem uoluntatem tuam : deus meus uolui . Nam et si de patre legimus : Sic enim dilexit deus mundum ut unigenitum filium suum daret , et de filio nihilominus inuenimus : Qui dedit semet ipsum pro peccatis nostris .

34.12 And as it is said of the One: “Who spared not His own Son, but gave Him for all of us,”70 so it is written of the other: “He was offered because He Himself willed it.”71 And it is shown that the will of the Father and of the Son is in all things one, so that even in the actual mystery of the Lord’s resurrection we are taught that there was no discord of operation. For just as the blessed Apostle declares that the Father brought about the resurrection of His body, saying: “And God the Father, who raised Him from the dead,”72 so also the Son testifies that He Himself will raise again the Temple of His body, saying: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.”73

12. Et quemadmodum de illo refertur : Qui etiam proprio filio non pepercit, sed pro nobis omnibus tradidit eum , ita de isto narratur : Oblatus est quia ipse uoluit . Et ita patris ac filii uoluntas una per omnia designatur, ut etiam in ipso resurrectionis dominicae sacramento operatio non dissona fuisse doceatur. Nam sicut resurrectionem corporis eius patrem operatum beatus apostolus praedicat dicens : Et deum patrem qui suscitauit eum a mortuis , ita filius suscitaturum se templum sui corporis protestatur soluite, inquiens, templum hoc, et ego in tribus diebus suscitabo illud.

34.13 And therefore we being instructed by all these examples of our Lord which have been enumerated ought to end our supplications also with the same prayer, and always to subjoin this clause to all our petitions: “Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”74 But it is clear enough that one who does not75 pray with attention of mind cannot observe that threefold reverence76 which is usually practised in the assemblies of the brethren at the close of service.

13. Et idcirco his quae praediximus exemplis dominicis eruditi cunctas obsecrationes nostras simili nos quoque debemus oratione concludere et hanc uocem cunctis petitionibus nostris semper adiungere : Verumtamen non sicut ego uolo sed sicut tu . Satis uero constat illum trinae curuationis numerum, qui solet in congregationibus fratrum ad concludendam synaxin celebrari, eum qui intento animo supplicat obseruare non posse.

 [9]§ 35-36Silent and Brief Prayer


[9] Silent and Brief Prayer

§ 35-36



[silent prayer "with closed doors"]




Before all things however we ought most carefully to observe the Evangelic precept, which tells us to enter into our chamber and shut the door and pray to our Father, which may be fulfilled by us as follows: We pray within our chamber, when removing our hearts inwardly from the din of all thoughts and anxieties, we disclose our prayers in secret and in closest intercourse to the Lord. We pray with closed doors when with closed lips and complete silence we pray to the searcher not of words but of hearts. We pray in secret when from the heart and fervent mind we disclose our petitions to God alone, so that no hostile powers are even able to discover the character of our petition. Wherefore we should pray in complete silence, not only to avoid distracting the brethren standing near by our whispers or louder utterances, and disturbing the thoughts of those who are praying, but also that the purport of our petition may be concealed from our enemies who are especially on the watch against us while we are praying. For so we shall fulfil this injunction. “Keep the doors of thy mouth from her who sleepeth in thy bosom.”77

          XXXV. Ante omnia sane illud euangelicum praeceptum diligentius obseruandum est, ut intrantes in cubiculum nostrum cluso ostio nostro oremus patrem nostrum. Quod a nobis ita inplebitur. Intra nostrum cubiculum supplicamus, cum ab omnium cogitationum siue sollicitudinum strepitu cor nostrum penitus amouentes secreto quodammodo ac familiariter preces nostras domino reseramus. Clauso oramus ostio, cum strictis labiis omnique silentio supplicamus non uocum, sed cordium scrutatori. In abscondito oramus, quando corde tantum et intenta mente petitiones nostras soli pandimus deo, ita ut ne ipsae quidem aduersae ualeant potestates genus nostrae petitionis agnoscere. Propter quod cum summo est orandum silentio, non solum ne fratres adstantes nostris susurris uel clamoribus auocemus et orantium sensibus obstrepamus, sed ut ipsos quoque inimicos nostros, qui orantibus nobis maxime insidiantur, lateat nostrae petitionis intentio. Ita enim praeceptum illud inplebimus : Ab ea, quae dormit in sinu tuo, custodi claustra oris tui.



[the value of short and silent prayer]




36.1 Wherefore we ought to pray often but briefly, lest if we are long about it our crafty foe may succeed in implanting something in our heart. For that is the true sacrifice, as “the sacrifice of God is a broken spirit.” This is the salutary offering, these are pure drink offerings, that is the “sacrifice of righteousness,” the “sacrifice of praise,” these are true and fat victims, “holocausts full of marrow,” which are offered by contrite and humble hearts, and which those who practise this control and fervour of spirit, of which we have spoken, with effectual power can sing: “Let my prayer be set forth in Thy sight as the incense: let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.”78

          XXXVI. Ob quod frequenter quidem sed breuiter est orandum, ne inmorantibus nobis inserere aliquid nostro cordi insidiator possit inimicus. Istud namque est sacrificium uerum, quia sacrificium deo spiritus contritus: haec salutaris oblatio, ista sunt pura libamina, istud sacrificium iustitiae, istud sacrificium laudis, hae sunt uerae ac pingues hostiae, ista sunt holocaustomata medullata , quae contritis et humiliatis cordibus offeruntur, quaeque hac qua diximus disciplina et intentione spiritus exhibentes efficaci poterimus uirtute cantare : Dirigatur oratio mea sicut incensum in conspectu tuo : eleuatio manuum mearum sacrificium uespertinum.

36.2 But the approach of the right hour and of night warns us that we ought with fitting devotion to do this very thing, of which, as our slender ability allowed, we seem to have propounded a great deal, and to have prolonged our conference considerably, though we believe that we have discoursed very little when the magnificence and difficulty of the subject are taken into account.

2. Quod etiam nos oportuna commonet deuotione persoluere horae ipsius ac noctis aduentus : de quo quidem licet pro tenuitatis nostrae mensura multa prolata uideantur diuque sit protracta conlatio, pro sublimitate tamen ac difficultate materiae paucis admodum credimus disputatum.

36.3 With these words of the holy Isaac we were dazzled rather than satisfied, and after evening service had been held, rested our limbs for a short time, and intending at the first dawn again to return under promise of a fuller discussion departed, rejoicing over the acquisition of these precepts as well as over the assurance of his promises. Since we felt that though the excellence of prayer had been shown to us, still we had not yet understood from his discourse its nature, and the power by which continuance in it might be gained and kept.

3. His sancti Isaac sermonibus stupefacti potius quam repleti uespertina synaxi celebrata sopore paululum membra laxauimus, primoque diluculo sub placito plenioris tractatus iterum reuersuri ad nostra discessimus tam de praeceptorum adquisitione quam de promissorum securitate gaudentes. Excellentiam siquidem orationis nobis tantummodo praemonstratam, ordinem uero atque uirtutem, qua etiam perpetuitas eius uel adquirenda est uel tenenda, necdum nos integre percepisse illis disputationibus senseramus.




1 See the Institutes Book II. c. ix.

2 Isaac was, as we gathered from c. xxxi., a disciple of St. Antony, and is mentioned by Palladius Dial. de vita Chrysost. There are also a few stories of him in the Apophegmata Patrum (Migne, Vol. lxv. p. 223); and see the Dictionary of Christian Biography, Vol. iii. p. 294.

3 Cf. S. Luke xiv. 28.

4 Cf. S. Luke vi. 48.

5 1 Thess. v. 17; 1 Tim. ii. 8.

6 S. Luke xxi. 34.

7 Joel i. 5.

8 Is. xxix. 9.

9 Deut. xxxii. 32, 33.

10 Sinentes, though the reading of almost all mss. must be an error either of the author or of a copyist for sinentia.

11 1 Thess. v. 17; 1 Tim. ii. 8.

12 1 Tim. ii. 1.

13 Ps. cxv. 4 (cxvi. 14).

14 Eccl. v. 3.

15 Eccl. ver. 4.

16 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2.

17 Cf. S. Luke vii. 47.

18 Acts i. 1.

19 S. Matt. xxvi. 39; Ps. xxi. (xxii.) 2.

20 S. John xvii. 4, 19.

21 S. John xvii. 24; S. Luke xxiii. 34.

22 S. Matt. xi. 25, 26; S. John xi. 41, 42.

23 Phil. iv. 6.

24 S. John vii. 18.

25 Cf. Rom. ix. 3.

26 2 Cor. xiii. 9.

27 Micah ii. 11.

28 Exod. xxxii. 31, 32.

29 S. Matt. v. 16.

30 S. Matt. xxv. 34.

31 1 Tim. ii. 4.

32 Is. xlvi. 10.

33 Here Cassian is relying entirely on Jerome’s revised text of the Latin, which has supersubstantialis  in S. Matt. vi. 11, as the rendenng of ejpiouvsio" but translates the same word by quotidianum in the parallel passage in S. Luke xi. 3. It is curious that Cassian should have been thus misled, with his knowledge of Greek, as well as his acquaintance with the old Latin version which has quotidianum in both gospels Cf Bishop Lightfoot “On a Fresh Revision the New Testament,” p. 219.

34 S. James ii. 13.

35 Ecclus. xxxiv. 11.

36 S. James i. 12.

37 1 Cor. x. 13.

38 Petschenig’s text reads “amittat.” v. l. emittat.

39 Ps. vi. 7.

40 Lam. ii. 18.

41 Ps. xii. (xliii.) 3, 4.

42. Ps. cix. (cxix.) 5, 6.

43 Ps. cxlii. (cxliii.) 2.

44 Jer. ix. 1.

45 Ps. ci. (cii.) 10.

46 S. Matt. v. 3

47 Ps. ci. (cii.) 1.

48 S. Mark xi. 24.

49 S. Matt. xviii. 19.

50 S. Matt. xvii. 19.

51 S. Luke xi. 8.

52 Ecclus. xxix. 15.

53 Is. lviii. 6, 9.

54 Ps. cxix. (cxx.) 1.

55 Exod. xxii. 21, 27.

56 S. Luke xi. 9, 10.

57 S. Matt. xxi. 22; xvii. 20.

58 Cf. Dan. x. 2 sq.

59 S.Matt. xxi. 22.

60 1 John v. 16.

61 Rom. viii. 26.

62 2 Cor. xii. 8, 9.

63 Ex persona hominis assumpti. The language is scarcely accurate, but it must be remembered that the Conferences were written before the rise of the Nestorian heresy had shown the need for exactness of expression on the subject of the Incarnation. Compare the note on “Against Nestorius,” Book III. c. iii.

64 S. Matt. xxvi. 39.

65 S. Matt. xviii. 11; xx. 28.

66 S. John x. 18.

67 Ps. xxxix. (xl.) 9.

68 1 John iii. 16.

69 Gal. i. 4.

70 Rom. viii. 32.

71 Is. liii. 7. (Lat.)

72 Gal. i. 1.

73 S. John ii. 19.

74 S. Matt. xxvi. 39.

75 Non” though wanting in most mss. must be read in the text.

76 Reading “curvationis” with Petschenig: the text of Gazaeus has “orationis.”

77 Micah vii. 5.

78 Ps. l. (li.) 19, 21; xlix. (l.) 23; lxv. (lxvi.) 15; cxl. (cxli.) 2.


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