Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Prayers Written by Philosophers I

I thought I might do a short series on prayers written by philosophers; there are quite a few, actually, although I'll only do a few. I'll start with Nicolas Malebranche (1638-1715). Father Malebranche, who was a member of the French Oratory, was in many ways the single most important Cartesian philosopher of his day, more widely read than Descartes himself. There's a famous letter by Hume, who was answering a question about what books someone should read in order to understand his Treatise; he notes, among others, Malebranche's major work, The Search after Truth; he then goes on to add Descartes's Meditations "if you can find it." Malebranche corresponded with Leibniz, had massive public philosophical disputes with Arnauld, Regis, and Bayle, was an important influence on John Norris, Mary Astell, George Berkeley, David Hume, and Antonio Rosmini, as well as a number of poets (such as John Byrom) and theologians (such as William Law, John Wesley, Jonathan Edwards, and Hyacinthe Sigismond Gerdil). The following prayer is from Christian and Metaphysical Meditations; the translation is mine.

O eternal Wisdom, I am not a light to myself; the bodies that surround me cannot enlighten me; the intelligences themselves cannot contain in their being the Reason that renders them wise, nor can they communicate this Reason to my mind. You alone are the light of angels and of men: you alone are the universal Reason of minds: you are yourself the Wisdom of the Father, the eternal, immutable, necessary Wisdom, who renders creatures and even the Creator wise, although in different ways. O my true and only teacher, appear to me: make me to see light in your light. I address myself to none but you; I wish to consult none but you. Speak, eternal Word, Word of the Father, Word in whom all things have been spoken, who speaks and who has spoken all things: speak, and speak so loudly as to make me understand despite the confused noise that my senses and my passions ceaselessly excite in my mind.

But, O Jesus, I pray that you speak nothing in me save to your glory, and make me to know nothing save your greatness, for all the treasures of the wisdom and the knowledge of God Himself are contained in you. Those who know you, know your Father: and those who know you and your Father are perfectly happy. Therefore make me to know, O Jesus, what you are, and how all things subsist in you. Penetrate my mind with the clarity of your light: burn my heart with the ardor of your love: and give me in the course of this work, which I compose only for your glory, expressions that are clear and true, vivid and lovely, in a word, worthy of you, and such that they are able to increase in me, and in those who will meditate carefully with me, the knowledge of your greatness, and a sense of your mercies.


  1. SententiaeDeo12:05 PM

    Pascal certainly wrote some, no?

  2. branemrys12:32 PM

    Probably; I don't know that I have come across an authentic one, but I'll look around and see if I can find one whose provenance I can establish.

  3. branemrys12:34 PM

    Actually, as it turns out, there is; but it's very long, too long for a series like this, which is better suited for shorter prayers.


Please understand that this weblog runs on a third-party comment system, not on Blogger's comment system. If you have come by way of a mobile device and can see this message, you may have landed on the Blogger comment page, or the third party commenting system has not yet completely loaded; your comments will only be shown on this page and not on the page most people will see, and it is much more likely that your comment will be missed.