Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
And now, O wretched soul of mine,
what appropriately revolting words shall
I use to describe you
in this book of woes, my testament of prayers?
You who are so completely discredited that
I am at a loss for words to answer,
unworthy to communicate with God and the saints.
If I were to fill the basin of the sea with ink,
and to measure out parchment the length and
breadth of a field of many leagues
and were to take all the reeds of the forests and
woods and turn them into pens,
I still would not be able to record even a fraction of my accumulated wrong doings.
If I were to set the Cedars of Lebanon as a scale
and to put Mount Ararat on one side and my
iniquities on the other,
it would not come close to balancing.
I am like a tree, towering with branches,
covered with leaves, but barren of fruit,
a true member of the same species as that fig tree that the Lord struck dry.1
For although covered with lush flowing hair, that is,
with an attractive exterior,
as if adorned with a halo,
mesmerizing like a drumbeat at a distance,
if the sower were to come close to pick the harvest,
he would find me devoid of any goods
and revolting without beauty,
an object of ridicule for viewers and a spectacle
for the malicious.
For the bushy plant without fruit and spirit is
but a metaphor for the hapless, unprepared soul
cursed at an unvigilant moment.
If the earth, moistened with dew,
cultivated by the farmer,
does not produce crops to multiply this effort,
it is abandoned and forgotten.2
Then, you, my miserable soul,
a thinking, breathing plant
that has not given timely fruit,
shall you not suffer the same fate as those in the parable?
For you have indulged with unsparing excess
in the harvest of all the human evils
from Adam till the end of the species, and even found some new ones,
despised and repugnant to your creator, God.
And I have fixed my mind's eye upon you,
O worthless soul of mine,
sculpting a monument in words.
I cast stones at you mercilessly like some
untamed wild beast.
For although I may never chance to be called just,
still following the counsel of the wise,3
as my first rebuttal, I criticize myself of my own free will,
as if criticizing some bitter enemy,
and having confessed the angst of the
secrets of my mind, that is, the accumulated burden
of my evil deeds,
I spread them before you, my God and Lord.
With what measure I mete out reprimand to my soul,4
let your undiminishing compassion be measured for me,
that I might receive your abundant grace
many times greater than the magnitude of my sins,
though my wounds and injuries overpower me,
incurable and inescapable,
yet the genius of your curative art, exalted and
honored Physician, shines twice as brightly.
The increase of my sins is more than matched by
your generosity, my benefactor.
Blessed Lord, may you always be wreathed
in incense as in your parable.5
For yours is salvation,
and from you is redemption,
and by your right hand is restoration,
and your finger is fortification.
Your command is justification.
Your mercy is liberation.
Your countenance is illumination.
Your face is exultation.
Your spirit is benefaction.
Your anointing oil is consolation.
A dew drop of your grace is exhilaration.
You give comfort.
You make us forget despair.
You lift away the gloom of grief.
You change the sighs of our heart into laughter.
To you is fitting blessing with praise
in heaven and on earth
from our forefathers and unto all their generations
forever and ever.