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Our own evil inclinations are far more dangerous than any external enemies.

— St.Ambrose

Be Merciful To Me

Posted in Lent

Early in Lent one morning, I started as usual with the hymn in Magnificat’s February 2020 issue. Not always, but this time my needy heart synced completely with every line. The author’s longing united with mine. It brought me in touch quickly with Ash Wednesday’s first reading from the prophet Joel which I love to read through Lent. Here it is:

Thy faithful servant, Lord, doth yearn

For thy consoling grace;

Spread over him its healing wing,

His guilt do thou efface.

Were not thy word: Turn back from sin

And I will turn to thee,

I, like a helmsman in the storm, Would, helpless, face the sea.

To thy despondent servant show

The path of penitence;

He striveth painfully for words

To tell how he repents.

O let my penitence today

My own soul’s surety be:

Contrite, I vow to serve thee well;

Be merciful to me!

by Solomon ibn Gabirol, 11th century, tr. by Addie Funk, 19th century

 

One thing bugged me a bit, though. The use of thee, thy, thou, striveth, etc.

I first encountered this irritating archaic English trying to read Shakespeare plays in High School.

Here’s a great website for those who honestly and mysteriously love it and for those like me who are interested in it’s history and use despite having an aversion to it. http://unenlightenedenglish.com/2009/07/thou-thee-thy-thine-ye-shakespearean-english/

Back to my main point. The archaic language had me distracted so much from the full experience of the hymn that I decided to write my version rather than ditch the hymn and move on with morning prayer.

As I started writing a strange kind of bond with the author stirred in me. I started praying for him and to him. I felt the Lord’s presence even more with a growing desire to write something coming from my heart yet not drastically different from Solomon’s hymn. Here’s my version:

O Lord I do so yearn

For your consoling grace;

Spread over me its healing wing,

My guilt please do efface.

If not for Joel’s eternal word:

Away from sin and turn to me

I, like helmsman in the storm

Would helpless face the sea.

To your despondent servant show

The path of penitence;

He strives so painfully for words

To tell how he repents.

O let my heart’s contrition be

The way into your tender heart;

O Lord Be merciful to me!

 

If you made it this far you probably have a preference. Let me know what you think in “Question/Comment”.