Saints' Prayers

selected from the annals of history unto our current day


Meditations by St. Anselm of Canterbury

from the book, 'Meditations and Prayers'

First Meditation


A consideration of our sins for the which our conscience does the more sting us and by which we have forfeited all these blessings.

But whilst thou considerest to what and how great blessings thou hast been advanced by His grace, reflect also what and how great blessings thou hast by thine own fault foregone, and into what evils thou hast fallen, overburdened by a load of sins. Ponder with sighs over the ills thou hast wantonly committed; reflect with groans and tears over the blessings which by those same ills thou hast miserably lost. For what good has not thy all-bountiful Creator of His goodness lavished on thee? And what ill hast thou not paid Him in requital, grown wanton in execrable impiety? Thou hast cast away good, and merited evil; nay, made shipwreck of good, and freely chosen evil; and, the grace of thy Creator being thus lost, or rather thrown away, thou hast miserably incurred His wrath. Thou hast no resource for proving thyself innocent when a crowd of evils done by thee surrounds thee like a countless army, here confronting thee with thy unholy deeds, there marshalling an innumerable host of unuseful and, what is more to be condemned, of harmful words; and there yet again parading an infinite array of wicked thoughts. These, then, are the price for which thou hast foregone inestimable blessings; for these hast thou forfeited the grace of thy Creator. Conjure them up, and grieve over them; grieve over them, and renounce them; renounce them, and condemn them; condemn them, and change thy life to a better course. Wrestle with thyself in thy heart of hearts, lest even for a moment's space thou give consent to any kind of vanity, whether in heart, or tongue, or, worst of all, in act. Let there be a daily, or rather an unceasing, struggle in thy heart, lest thou keep any kind of covenant with thy faults. Ever and unremittingly examine thyself severely; peer into thy secret depths; and, whatever thou findest wrong in thee, by a vigorous reproof smite it, lay it low, bruise it, crush it, fling it from thee and annihilate it. Spare not thyself, flatter not thyself; but in the light of the morning -- that is to say, in the view of the last assize, which, like morning beam, is breaking on the night of this present life -- slay all the sinners in the land -- that is to say, the sins and delinquencies of thine earthly life -- and so destroy out of the city of God which thon shouldest build to Him in thyself all those that work iniquity -- that is, all diabolical suggestions, all delights hateful to God, all deadly consents, all froward acts. From all of them must thou, as the city of God, be thoroughly cleansed, that thus thy Creator may find, possess, and keep in thee an abode pleasing to Himself. Be not of those whose obstinacy very God seems to bewail when He says, "There is none that considereth, in his heart, and saith. What have I done? (Is. lvii. 1.) If they are to be cast away who have refused to blush, and to accuse themselves for the sins they have committed, canst thou neglect to arraign, to judge, and with strict discipline chastise thyself? Review, then, in careful thought the innumerable blessings wherewith thy Creator has ennobled thee, no merits of thine own intervening, and call to mind thine own unnumbered evils, thy sole response -- O, how wicked and how undeserved! -- for all those His benefits; and cry out in the pangs of a great grief, "What have I done? Provoked my God, challenged my Creator's anger, repaid Him innumerable ills for untold goods. What have I done?" And speaking thus, rend, rend thy heart, pour forth sighs, weep showers of tears. For if thou weepest not here, when wilt thou weep?

And if the averted Face of God do not excite thee to contrition -- a Face averted from thy sins -- at least let the intolerable pains of hell, which those sins have provoked, break thy hard heart.

Return then, sinful soul, return into thyself. Draw thy foot out of hell; so mayest thou escape from the evils due to thee, and recover the lost goods of which thou art so justly bereft; for if thou revert with pleasure to thine own evils, then all the goods given thee by Him are lost and thrown away. It behoves thee, therefore, ever to keep a strict eye upon them, and chiefly those of which thy conscience does the more bitterly accuse thee, that so He may turn away His eye of anger from them. For if thou tumest aside thy sins with a due intention of satisfying for them. He turns aside His glance of retribution. If thou forgettest. He remembers.

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