A Repentant Prayer From Augustine's Book of Meditations
This prayer is from St. Augustine's book of Meditations. You can read all of his prayers here.
An Acknowledgment that sinful Man was the Cause of Christ’s Sufferings.
WHAT had you done, O charming innocence, to bring you as a criminal before your enemies’ bar? Or how had you deserved to be treated with such rude and insolent, such unrelenting and triumphant barbarity? What passage of your whole life could they fix an accusation upon, what crime allege to countenance so rigorous a sentence? If none (as none they could), why then your shameful bitter death, or how did you come to be condemned as a vile miscreant? It was I, alas! It was wretched I who gave you all those pains; it was I who deserved the death you endured; and my offences gave those scourges, those nails, that spear, the power of staying and wounding, and killing you. O wonderful process! Mystery of justice! — that the wicked should offend, and the righteous be punished for it! that the guilt and the condemnation should thus be separated! that the servant should contract a debt, and the Lord to whom it was due, make satisfaction! that man should provoke the Divine vengeance, and God should feel the smart of it! How low, O Son of God, did your humility stoop! How fervent was your love! How boundless your compassion!
24 For I have done wickedly, and you are called to account for it. I armed an angry justice against myself, and it is discharged upon your head; mine is the crime, and yours the torture: I have been proud, and you are humbled; I am puffed up, and you have emptied yourself; I have been rebellions, and your obedience has expiated for it. I have been intemperate, and you have hungered and thirsted for it: my ungoverned appetite sinned in the forbidden, and your immense love submitted to hang on the accursed, tree: I eat the fruit, and you feel the pains: I wallow in pleasures, and you are torn with nails: the honey in my mouth is turned to gall in your stomach: the tempting Eve rejoices with me, the sorrowful Mary suffers and laments with you. Thus is my wickedness and want of love to God; thus is your righteousness and inexpressible love to man, manifested in this marvellous dispensation. And now, my God and King, what reward shall I give, what return can I make, for all the benefits you have done to me? (Psa 116.12). Surely it is not in the power of man to find out any requital answerable to such bounty; for how should the narrowness of a finite mind extend to anything fit to be compared with infinite compassion? How should a poor creature be capable of any recompense suitable to the mercy of an almighty Creator? And yet, my dearest Saviour, so wonderfully is this matter ordered, that even man, even I — weak and worthless though I am — may find something which you are pleased to accept in return; if by your grace my soul be broken and humbled, and I crucify this flesh with its af ections and lusts (Gal. 5.24). When wrought up to this holy disposition, I then begin to suffer for, and live to you; and in some way pay back what you have endured when dying for me. Thus, by gaining a conquest upon the inward man, I am enabled by you to win the crown by my outward man;
25 and by triumphing over the flesh in spiritual trials, that very flesh has the courage to submit gladly for your sake to bodily persecutions and death. This is the utmost my condition will admit; and this, though but little in itself, yet when proceeding from the same principle of holy love, you are graciously pleased to accept, as the utmost poor mortals can do in acknowledgment of their great Maker. This is the cure of sinful souls; this, blessed Jesus, the sovereign antidote your mercy has provided for us! I beseech you, therefore, by your tender mercies which have ever been of old, pour such balm into my wounds as may dispel the venom of my diseases, and restore me to spiritual health and soundness (Psa 25.6). Let me drink of your heavenly sweetness, and be so ravished with the taste, as ever after to disrelish the sensual delights of the world, to despise its pleasures, and cheerfully encounter the afflictions of this present life; and to so fix my heart on true noble joys, as always to disdain the empty and transitory shadows which flesh and blood is so foolishly fond of, and so fearful of parting with. Let me not, I beseech you, esteem or delight in anything but you; let all this whole world can give, without you, be counted no better than dross and dung; let me hate most irreconcilably whatever displeases you; and what you love, let me most eagerly desire, and incessantly pursue; let me feel no satisfaction in any joys without you; nor any reluctance in the greatest sufferings for you. Let the mention of your name, always be a refreshment, and the remembrance of your goodness an inexhaustible spring of comfort to my soul. Let tears be my food day and night, so I may attain to your righteousness; and the law of your mouth always be dearer to me than thousands in gold and silver (Psa119.72).
26 Let me aim at nothing s0 much as to do you service; nor detest and avoid anything in comparison to sinning against you. And for what I have unhappily done of that kind already, I entreat you, my only refuge and hope, to pardon me for your own mercy’s sake. Let my ears be ever open to the voice of your law, and suffer not my heart to incline to any evil thing, that I never comply with those who practise wickedness, nor take shelter in trifling pretences to excuse or indulge myself in doing what I should not (Psa 141.4). And once more, I beg you, by your own unparalleled humility, that the foot of pride may not come against me, nor the hand of the ungodly cast me down (Psa 36.11).