on Contemplation of Heaven


Letter 165 (88-93) FOTC, MC, v. 7, Peter Damian, Letters 151-180, pp. 224-227   PL 145.289-290; MGH 4,1: Die Briefe der Deutschen Kaiserzeit, vol. 4, part 4, Die Briefe des Petrus Damiani. Nr. 151-180, pp.228-23080.[CAPUT XXXIII. His scriptor alloquitur venerabiles monachos Petrum et Albizonem]




88 NOW, therefore, beloved brothers, since one of you follows the elegant cenobitic way of life, while the other imitates the example of the eremitic way, I recall you to the purpose of this letter, so that as the beginning was originally meant for you, so too the conclusion of this little work, now completed, may also come to an end with you in mind.

Nunc igitur, fratres charissimi, alter scilicet teres forma coenobitarum, alter imitandum eremiticae conversationis exemplum, ad vos styli hujus articulum revoco, ut quibus primordium incipientis intenditur, in eos etiam consequenter peracti opusculi clausula terminetur.

And so, you have seen how quickly this short life passes away, and you have noted that this world gives ever more evident signs that its end is near. For the earth, having exhausted its generative juices, unwillingly, as it were, tolerates the plow as it denies a harvest to those who cultivate it, like the womb of an old woman that has withered away and grows old while there is still blood in her body, and though every effort was made at begetting, it still does not suffice for bearing children. Videtis igitur, quam celeriter brevis haec vita pertranseat, videtis, quia mundus hic vicinum sui terminum indiciis jam evidentioribus clamat. Tellus enim genitalibus effeta humoribus, quodammodo invita aratrum tolerat, dum ferre [289B] fructus suis cultoribus negat; et velut anilis alvus, dum sanguis in corpore, vulva marcescente, frigescit, etiamsi procreandi studium non defuerit, ad gignendam tamen sobolem non assurgit.
Water too may [thus] becomes sterile, so that now the fisherman refuses to invest in nets, as the profit of a meager catch is not proportionate to the hard work in this liquid element. Nor do I forget you, O air, once so fruitful, but now, as you fail to cooperate with the various tricks and snares designed to catch birds, you send the fowlers, worn out from their fruitless effort, back to tilling the soil. Aqua etiam nihilominus sterilitatem patitur, ut jam piscator retibus impendium deneget, dum inopis capturae quaestus duris per elementum liquidum laboribus non respondet. Nec te, aer olim fecunde, praeteream, qui nunc, dum diversis tendicularum argumentis in volucrum captione non provenis, nimirum aucupes casso labore frustratos, ad exercitium rurale remittis;
And a brief time ago those whom you caused to look to the heavens in snaring your gifts, now that they might remember to whom they should be grateful for the means of sustaining their life, you subject to living like farmers. And those for whom in your generosity you ordained that all rough fare give way to the delicacies you provided, now by withdrawing your hand you force to hoard left­over vegetables from the tables of the rich, as if they were the choicest food. et quos dudum ad sublimia captandis tuis muneribus faciebas intentos, jam ut meminerint, cui sustendandae vitae adminiculum acceptum referre debeant, alumnae terrae reddis obnoxios: quique [289C] tunc largus quaelibet grossiora edulia tuis jubebas deliciis cedere, jam nunc ad te manum retrahens, vilia facis oluscula, velut accuratas epulas, mensas divitum infercire.
(89)Therefore, as stated above, the world, as if weary over a long period of time, now fitly shows in all its members that it has become feeble with age because the end of its course is at hand. To this we may add that men now grow old in their youth, and while still in the spring of their lives become gray before their time. Mundus itaque, ut praedictum est, quasi longo lassatus jam senio per cuncta sua membra probabiliter indicat quia cursus sui terminos diutius non elongat. Huc accedit quod homines nunc in juventute senescunt, et juvenili adhuc decore vernante intempestivis canis verticem spargunt.
This is to say, that those whose age dictates that they should still flourish with the flower of immature comeliness, the aged world, by some violent use of its authority, commands that along with it those men should appear decrepit. Thus it happens that as fruit on a hollow tree, just as it is produced, falls before it reaches maturity, so also men, by the harsh outcome of events, if I may put it so. Nimirum quos propria dictat aetas immaturae venustatis adhuc flore virescere, senex mundus quodam violentae auctoritatis imperio secum praecipit decrepitos apparere. Quo fit ut sicut cavernosae arboris poma mox ut producta fuerint, ante maturitatem corruunt: ita [289D] nimirum homines acerbo, ut ita dixerim, exitu priusquam ad aetatis plenitudinem veniant, moriuntur.
90 Therefore, since the world rushes headlong to its fall, and already gives every sign that the end of its course is imminent, and men too are daily snatched away prematurely by death, what remains to be done but, in this brief moment when we are living, to despise this life that is collapsing about us as if it had already come to an end, and strive with all the fervor of our soul to hasten toward that life which remains forever? Indeed, the reward held out to those who run is not negligible, and the course of our journey daily grows shorter. So, let no obstacle in this present life impede our path, let no sluggishness brought on by carnal pleasure cause us to delay. Cum itaque mundus praecipitem et jamjam protinus prae oculis imminentem sui cursus minetur occasum, homines etiam quotidie immaturo praeventi rapiantur interitu, quid restat nisi ut hoc brevi puncto, quo vivimus, lapsura quaeque velut jam lapsa despicere, et ad ea quae permanent, pleno fervidae mentis studeamus desiderio festinare? Ecce non levia currentibus praemia proponuntur, et itineris nostri 281 stadium quotidie breviatur. Nulla ergo vitae praesentis offendicula nostri cursus iter impediant, nullas nobis moras carnalis illecebrae torpor innectat. [290A] 

The Loving Embrace of God


The Loving Embrace of God

WHOEVER now directs the penetrating eye of his faith to the rewards that have been promised, having broken the bonds of laziness, should transcend on the wings of a powerful hope all the barriers of earthly depravity that stand in the way. Quisque jam ad promissa munera perspicacis fidei oculos dirigat, et a brutis [f. abjectis] ignaviae vinculis obviantia quaeque terrenae pravitatis obstacula robustae spei penna transcendat.



FOR BEHOLD, He who has called us from afar, reaches out his hand to us as we draw near, and like his dearest sons who are faltering on unsure knees, Ecce enim qui de longinquo vocaverat, manum jam appropinquantibus porrigit; et quasi teneros filios vacillantibus nutantes poplitibus 

he strengthens us, inviting us caressingly and sweetly into the bosom of his love.

firmat, blandeque ac leniter in gremium suae charitatis invitat.

91 LET us therefore confidently approach the throne of glory, (Cf. Heb 4.16) let us take up the banners of his great love, and what had been a mark of our rashness to seek that which was not promised, should redound to our shame if we refuse something that is offered to us. Let us now disdain to walk frequently in the mire of this filthy world, whose love, at God’s inspiration, we have learned to tread gladly under the foot of an unfettered soul. Therefore, all bodily contact should be forbidden to him whom the soul does not love. We should judge him unworthy of our frequent visits, who ardently longs to exult at our downfall. Let our bodily absence also witness the animosity of our mind, nor should he be deemed worthy of repeated discourse with us, whose presence he habitually dishonors. Let him alone fall into the pit of his own designing, as he takes such pains to prepare deceptive traps for our every step. Thus while we peacefully take our rest, let him deplore his frustrated attempt at deceiving us, and cleverly wait for us to leave the house by night.  Adeamus ergo cum fiducia thronum gloriae (Hebr. IV), arripiamus tantae insignia pietatis; et quod temeritatis fuerat quaerere non promissum, pudoris sit nolle suscipere vel oblatum. Dedignemur jam coenosi hujus mundi lutum saepius corporaliter terere, cujus amorem Deo inspirante didicimus libero mentis pede calcare. Ab eo itaque, quem non diligit [290B] animus, ipse etiam corporeus reprimatur incessus: indignum censeamus visitationis nostrae frequentia, qui de nostra gliscit triumphare ruina. Inimicitias mentis ipsa quoque testetur absentia corporalis, nec crebro nostros mereatur ille discursus, quorum foedare consuevit obtutus; solusque in insidiarum suarum foveas incidat, qui nostris assidue gressibus deceptionum laqueos parat. Sic sic frustratas fraudum suarum excubias lugeat, dum nobis in pace quiescentibus nocturnae nostrae profectionis aditum callidus insidiator explorat.
The Practice of Monastic Lectio Divina  

The Practice of Monastic Lectio Divina

BUT let the field of God’s word suffice for our wandering. Sufficiat autem nostrae discursioni divini campus eloquii.
Let us continually proceed through this field, and there delightfully spend our time. Per hunc campum jugiter gradiamur, in eo delectabiliter spatiemur.
One can there Licet illic

[1] run freely along the equally level plains of sacred history,

liberis gressibus per parilem sacrarum historiarum planitiem currere. [290C]

[2] and there we are also able by the depth of mystical understanding to, as it were, climb slowly to the heights of the rugged mountains that are found there.

Possumus etiam per mysticae intelligentiae profunditatem quodammodo praeruptorum illic montium celsitudinem repere.

[3] There we may enjoy sweet discourse with faithful friends,

Illic perfruemur fidelium amicorum dulci colloquio,

[4] there we may sit down to the eternal banquet of varied splendor and heavenly delights.

 illic diversi apparatus, epularumque coelestium juge convivium.
Yearning for this banquet, let the faithful soul His dapibus inhians fidelis anima,

by the food of constant reading derive its nourishing strength,

assiduae lectionis alimento vegetata robur accipiat,

and from the rich supply of purest prayer enhance its stature.

et purissimae orationis adipe saginata pinguescat.
Let hunger for the world be left to those who disdain the banquet feast of God. We, however, have learned to yearn for this sumptuous food, which is wont to provide satiety and merriment for the hungry, and still is incapable of causing nausea for those who have had their fill. This food, indeed, sweetly fills the stomach of our soul, and still leaves nothing to evacuate. It allows absolutely nothing of itself to be voided, but spreads itself internally through all the veins and entrails, providing them with strength.  Relinquatur fames saeculi fastidientibus convivium mundi. Nos autem illas didicimus epulas esurire, quae et famelicis satietatem assolent cum jucunditate tribuere, et tamen satiatis nesciunt fastidium generare. Quae nimirum epulae et mentis nostrae stomachum suaviter replent, et tamen cloacarum secessibus nihil debent. Nihil enim de se prorsus egestioni relinquunt, sed ad praebendas vires [290D] per omnium se venarum poros, cunctorumque viscerum penitus interna diffundunt.
Scriptural Meditation on Heaven  

Scriptural Meditation on Heaven [92]

LET  the mind, therefore, insatiably make time [leisure] for concentrating its focus on these foods of the heavenly banquet, 282 His itaque coelestis mensae dapibus mens intenta inexplebiliter vacet,

let the eye be constantly watchful [of them],

his oculus solerter invigilet;

let the tongue pronounce the words letter by letter,

lingua articularis styli verba percurrat;

[let] the heart understand what is read

cor, quae leguntur, intelligat,

and revolve [with itself] the secrets of their hidden mystery.

et mysterii latentis arcana revolvat.

Sacred Rumination

By the practice of assiduous recollection, the sacred animals (Lev.11.3-8) continuously ruminate on this food, Hoc pabulum sacra animalia per assiduae retractationis studium jugiter ruminent,

which often flows back from the stomach of knowledge to the throat of memory. through repeated meditation

quae nimirum a ventre scientiae ad memoriae guttur saepius iterata meditatione redundent.
May the fasting soul, I say, always hunger for these foods, but once satisfied by them, may it never withdraw, and the more it is filled, the more may it yearn to taste them again. Consequently, let us occupy all our senses in seeking after this life-giving banquet, so that in becoming insensible to all worldly affairs, as truly dead to the world we may live for God alone. Accordingly, may the author and provider of this joyous food see fit to enroll us among his guests who were worthy to hear these words from the mouth of Truth itself: “And now I vest in you the kingship which my Father vested in me; you shall eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.” (Luke 22.29)  Has, inquam, dapes mens jejuna semper esuriat, ab his vero nunquam satiata recedat; sed quo magis expletur, eo rursus ad earum appetitum avidius accendatur: sicque omnes sensus nostros circa istas vitales epulas occupemus, [291A] ut cunctis causarum saecularium negotiis insensibiles facti, vere mortui mundo, soli vivamus Deo; quatenus ipse auctor, et instructor felicissimi hujus ferculi, illis suis convivis nos dignetur ascribere, qui ex ore Veritatis merebuntur audire: «Ego dispono vobis sicut disposuit mihi Pater meus, regnum, ut edatis et bibatis super mensam meam in regno meo (Luc. XXII)



My dear brothers, may almighty God, who is love, (Cf.1 John 4.8) graciously inspire your holy soul, that in your kindness you may always pray for me, a sinner. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Omnipotens Deus, qui charitas est (I Joan. IV), fratres charissimi, sancto cordi vestro clementer inspiret, ut pro me peccatore dignemini semper orare.




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