Vultum tuum, Domine, requiro

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Holy Mandylion.jpg

For the feast of Saint Anselm, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, here is a selection from Chapter One of the Proslogion of Saint Anselm (1033-1109). This magnificent text is intrinsically related to everything that Vultus Christi is about. My own comments, following each section, are in italics.

Lesson I

Up now, slight man! flee, for a little while, thy occupations; hide thyself, for a time, from thy disturbing thoughts. Cast aside, now, thy burdensome cares, and put away thy toilsome business. Yield room for some little time to God; and rest for a little time in him. Enter the inner chamber of thy mind; shut out all thoughts save that of God, and such as can aid thee in seeking him; close thy door and seek him. Speak now, my whole heart! speak now to God, saying, I seek thy face; thy face, Lord, will I seek. And come thou now, O Lord my God, teach my heart where and how it may seek thee, where and how it may find thee.

If you have ever asked yourself how to go about praying, here Saint Anselm gives you the perfect account of his own approach to prayer. The phrase, "Yield room for some little time to God," is a brilliant translation of the Latin, "Vaca aliquantulum Deo." I would like to give this phrase, written in an elegant calligraphy on cards, to all who come to me for ghostly counsel!

Lesson II

Lord, if thou art not here, where shall I seek thee, being absent? But if thou art everywhere, why do I not see thee present? Truly thou dwellest in unapproachable light. But where is unapproachable light, or how shall I come to it? Or who shall lead me to that light and into it, that I may see thee in it? Again, by what marks, under what form, shall I seek thee? I have never seen thee, O Lord, my God; I do not know thy form. What, O most high Lord, shall this man do, an exile far from thee? What shall thy servant do, anxious in his love of thee, and cast out afar from thy face? He pants to see thee, and thy face is too far from him. He longs to come to thee, and thy dwelling-place is inaccessible. He is eager to find thee, and knows not thy place. He desires to seek thee, and does not know thy face.

Here Saint Anselm describes the existential anguish of every soul. The longing to behold the Face of the Lord is a salutary and blessed torment. The desire for prayer -- communion with God -- is itself the beginning of prayer, and the fruit of prayer.

Lesson III

Lord, thou art my God, and thou art my Lord, and never have I seen thee. It is thou that hast made me, and hast made me anew, and hast bestowed upon me all the blessing I enjoy; and not yet do I know thee. Finally, I was created to see thee, and not yet have I done that for which I was made. And thou too, O Lord, how long? How long, O Lord, dost thou forget us; how long dost thou turn thy face from us? When wilt thou look upon us, and hear us? When wilt thou enlighten our eyes, and show us thy face? When wilt thou restore thyself to us? Look upon us, Lord; hear us, enlighten us, reveal thyself to us. Restore thyself to us, that it may be well with us,--thyself, without whom it is so ill with us. Pity our toilings and strivings toward thee since we can do nothing without thee. Thou dost invite us; do thou help us.

"I was created to see thee," says Saint Anselm. Then he gives a word with which each of us might well begin his personal prayer: "Thou dost invite me, O Lord; do thou help me."

I beseech thee, O Lord, that I may not lose hope in sighs, but may breathe anew in hope. Lord, my heart is made bitter by its desolation; sweeten thou it, I beseech thee, with thy consolation. Lord, in hunger I began to seek thee; I beseech thee that I may not cease to hunger for thee. In hunger I have come to thee; let me not go unfed. I have come in poverty to the Rich, in misery to the Compassionate; let me not return empty and despised.

This portion of the text very much resembles the well known Prayer Before Holy Communion attributed to Saint Thomas Aquinas.

Be it mine to look up to thy light, even from afar, even from the depths. Teach me to seek thee, and reveal thyself to me, when I seek thee, for I cannot seek thee, except thou teach me, nor find thee, except thou reveal thyself. Let me seek thee in longing, let me long for thee in seeking; let me find thee in love, and love thee in finding.

Therein lies the perfection of all prayer: it is to seek the Face of Christ in longing; to long for the vision of His Face in seeking; to find Him in love; and to love Him in finding Him. And where do we find His Face? In the Word of God, most certainly, and in the Sacrament of His Love whence His Eucharistic Face, though veiled by the sacred species, shines forth to warm the cold heart, to illumine the heart darkened by sin, to heal every brokenness.



"Cast aside, now, thy burdensome cares, and put away thy toilsome business. Yield room for some little time to God; and rest for a little time in him."

I might also call this the blessed torment of the Oblate. It is the thing so hard to do. In the midst of family life, work, and sheer pointless busy-ness; to wrest time to spend with the Summation of All Longing. How one thirsts to see Him, and what piercing pain there is to know that the world, and one's own concupiscent sloth, forces down the eyes, and keeps them from meeting His.

Thank you Father Mark, and thank you, Jon, for your comment.
Saint Anselm, pray for us!


Thank you for introducing me to this beautiful text!

This invitation of St. Ambrose "Vaca aliquantulum Deo" is now posted in as elegant a calligraphic script as I could muster in our home. Already it has opened up conversations, and is seeping like a marvelous balm into our day-to-day life. Thank you, Father.
F.R. Maich

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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