Speaking with God from the Depths of the Heart
In describing my imprisonment and captivity,
I have recounted some of the wicked torments
that have afflicted me one after another,
most unfortunate soul that I am.
Now I change my figure of speech,
but not the subject of my laments.
The ways of my life are like the waves of the sea,
my soul tossing in this world upon countless,
riding in the shell of my body
like the ship lost at sea, as the prophet Isaiah1
once said mourning the sudden destruction of Jerusalem and Samaria by Persian hordes.
Would I then be wrong to use similar sounds and
images to describe the spiritual destruction that crashed upon me?
For as I strode through life free of doubts and cares,
I had no inkling of the peril lying in wait for me
between work and rest.
It arrived like the winter’s blast on a summer’s day,
a turbulent front thrusting me into turmoil.
Wrecked by the blows of the wild waves of the sea,
like a ship
whose rudder has become unhinged,
whose tall mast has been ripped from the deck,
whose flapping sails are in shreds,
whose well-built frame has lost its form,
whose ropes have unravelled,
whose lookout has been laid low,
whose cable strands have snapped,
whose anchor has come loose,
whose joints are unjointed,
whose guiding oar is bent,
whose keel is submerged,
whose helm is detached,
whose steering mechanism is gone,
whose backbone has snapped,
whose ribs are undone,
whose underbelly is shattered,
whose deck burst loose,
whose cabin has collapsed,
whose railing has fallen,
whose captain’s chair has tipped,
whose deck planks have split apart,
whose fastening nails are out.
This image of destruction reminds me of my misery,
like a captain mourning his ship,
chin in hand,2
tears streaming down,
viewing traces of the wreckage
bobbing on the crest of the waves.
My slain sanity sobs with pitiful grief.
I did not stray from the truth
in selecting these words to mourn
the shattered ark of my intellect.
For the Good Captain with his heavenly host
took pity on the sea of humanity in just this way.
Indeed, our merciful Lord,
wept like one of us mortals for the death of a friend3
and shed tears for fallen Jerusalem and
Those two, like sunken ships, were lost beyond hope,
but the first, having hit bottom,
was lifted up into tranquil peace,
by the thread of hope held in the hand of our deliverer.
Will I ever see the battered ark of
my body restored?
Will I ever see my shipwrecked soul healthy again?
Will I ever see what has been separated by
so great a chasm rejoined?
Will I ever see the sad and tired heart of
this grieved spirit in bliss?
Will I ever see the defiled image of
nature once again in full bloom?
Will I ever see the destroyed temple of
my miserable self standing?
Is there hope I might see this exiled slave set free?
Indeed, may one fallen from grace expect
to be lifted once more to the light?
Will I ever see the native splendor of
your radiance appearing to me in mercy?
Will I ever see the saddest aspect of my soul smile?
Will I ever hear good tidings instead of bad news?
Will I ever see the thousand cracks in
my vessel mended?
Will I see through the windows of
my mind’s eye the bond of my debt torn up?4
Will I see the goodness of forgiving grace
dawn upon the days of my anguish?
Will you lead me again into the joyous altar of light?
Will my dried bones come alive again like Ezekiel’s
through your life-giving breath?5
Will I again set eyes upon your holy cathedral,
I who cry forth like the prophet from
the belly of the whale,6
rejected from the light, standing
before you in shame?
And will morning’s light ever dawn to
dispel my gloom,
I, who was reared in darkness?
Will one tormented in the deep frost of
winter ever see spring?
Will the mist of the rain restore the green
pasture of my soul?
Will the lost sheep, gashed by wild beasts,
be again counted among your flock
through your merciful will?
For as Job said, the snares of evil are all around,
from these I cannot escape.7
But by your good will
if the light of compassion should shine,
if the door of your mercy should open,
if the rays of your glory should spread,
if the care of your hand should be revealed,
if the dawning sun of life should break forth,
if the sight of your beautiful morn
should be unveiled,
if the bounty of your sweetness should flow forth,
if the stream from the maker’s side should run,
if the drops of your pure love should shower down,
if the good news of the dawn of your
grace should resound,
if the tree of your gift should blossom,
if the parts of your blessed body are distributed,
if the dashed expectations should be reassembled,
if the silenced sound of your beckoning voice, Lord,
should again be heard,
if your banished peace should return,
then with this blessing
shall the faith of steady hope be forever mine
finding refuge in the Holy Spirit,
who with the Father is worshiped with
the voice of sweetness
and together with you bathed in light too bright for human eyes.8
Grant life, forgiveness and heavenly bliss to me, a sinner,
holding your incorruptible grace, the true token of faith,
as an indestructible legacy.
This we pray in the name of your awe-inspiring,
mighty and holy oneness
and the lordship of your three-fold person
beyond human words and understanding
to you, who are in essence and in existence eternally
exalted, crowned, clothed and
enthroned with sweetness, mercy and benevolence.
Indeed through you, O merciful Lord,
all things, in all ways, for all people, are possible.
To you glory here, now and forever and in the eternity to
come on the great day of revelation.