1. The Anselmian Pattern of Prayer

Anselm wrote no formal treatise on prayer, but his writings contain certain indications about the way in which he understood it. In a Preface to the Prayers and Meditations he explains how they are to be used, and gives the same kind of instructions to Gundolf, Adelaide, and Mathilda in the letters that accompanied the prayers he sent them. The first chapter of the Proslogion sets out the same pattern of prayer, and in the prayers themselves there are definite indications about the tradition of spirituality which they represent, especially in the Prayer to St Mary Magdalene.

There is a basic pattern that emerges from all these sources: the prayers are meant to be said in solitude, and the aim is to stir the mind out of its inertia to know itself thoroughly and so come to contrition and the love of God. This is to be done by a quiet and thoughtful reading of the text of the prayers, but only as much of them as achieves this aim; they are not to be read for the interest of reading them but as a way into prayer, and for this purpose they are divided into paragraphs. Anselm anticipates the criticism that the prayers are too long when in his letter to Gundolf he assures him that they are not meant to be read straight through, but to provide varied material to be used as needed. He is not concerned that the reader should like the prayers; he means his heart to be changed by them.

‘In cubiculum meum’

The Prayers and Meditations are not meant to be read in the congregation of the faithful but in the secret chamber, not only in the inner room of the heart, but literally apart, in solitude. The Proslogion emphasizes this inner and exterior withdrawal:

Come now, little man,

turn aside for a while from your daily employment,

escape for a moment from the tumult of your thoughts.

Put aside your weighty cares,

let your burdensome distractions wait,

free yourself awhile for God,

and rest awhile in him.

Enter the inner chamber of your soul,

shut out everything except God

and that which can help you in seeking him,

and when you have shut the door, seek him.

Now, my whole heart, say to God,

‘I seek your face,

Lord, it is your face I seek.’1

This taking oneself aside in order to have leisure for God is one of the great themes of medieval monasticism, the ‘otium’, ‘quies’, ‘sabbatum’, which is understood to be the major occupation of the monk. It means to be free from the usual occupations in order to enter more deeply into the work of prayer and this is the teaching of Cassian’s Conferences. The work of the monk is to withdraw from the common lot of men to seek purity of heart and so to see God. This approach has more in common with the desert hermits than Cluny or the Carolingian liturgy, but for all that Anselm, like indeed the hermits, has not withdrawn from the koinonia; he has only entered more deeply into the fullness of the people of God, where he talks with Christ and the saints as a man talks with his friends.

Excita Mentem

Once this withdrawal has been made, a more difficult task faces the Christian; he has been made in the image of God, but that image has been overlaid and obscured in him and he no longer knows God as he was created to do. Cassian’s Abbot Isaac compares the soul to a feather,2 which has to be freed from the earth in order to rise upwards as it was meant to do. Anselm calls that which impedes the soul ‘torpor’ – a dullness, a sloth, a weight, and the first task in prayer is to shake off torpor and so be ready to enter into the experiental knowledge of God which is prayer.

Anselm uses the same terminology of mental effort in preparation for prayer and for theological speculation, ‘excita mentem’, ‘excitandum legentis mentem’, to stir up the mind in order both to pray and to understand. For Anselm reason is a gift of God which, like the emotions, can be used to kindle the spirit. This freeing of the mind for prayer is not just a setting aside of the irrelevant; it is a complete emptying by purgation, a knowledge of sin in the light of God, and an understanding of man’s situation with regard to his Creator and Redeemer. This torpor is no easy thing to dispel and Anselm uses every means in his power to this end. The prayers demand a seriousness of purpose before they can begin to be understood; they are subtle and personal writings, requiring an effort of thought and attention in which every resource of language is used to stir the one who prays out of his self-focused state, through self-knowledge, to dependence on God, and so to the threshold of prayer. The liturgical tradition laid emphasis on the discipline of the will as the antechamber to prayer; Anselm uses in addition the intellect, the imagination, and the emotions. In both cases these are only ways into prayer; nonetheless with Anselm it is a new kind of beginning.

‘Compunctio Cordis’

The centre of Anselm’s teaching on prayer is in the word ‘compunction’. By reading the prayers one is to be ‘moved to the love or fear of God, or to self-examination’.3 The steady discipline of attention in reading continues until one is moved by love or fear, which generally begins by awareness of sin and personal self-abasement. It is a matter of seeing steadily and truly the real situation of man before his Creator, the sinner before his Redeemer and Judge. Each of the prayers contains a long passage of self-scrutiny, where the horror of sin is brought to light by knowledge of the love of God. This is the first kind of compunction, a piercing of sorrow and dread, which leads, through a realization of its resolution in the love of God, to that other compunction of longing desire for God.

This doctrine of compunction was transmitted to the Middle Ages through Cassian, St Benedict, St Augustine, and, above all, St Gregory. St Augustine’s conversion is described in terms of compunction: ‘But it was in my inmost heart, where I had grown angry with myself, where I had been stung with remorse… it was there that you had begun to make me love you…’;4 and later he wrote, ‘You touched me and I am inflamed with love of your peace.’5 Cassian’s Conferences deal with this approach to prayer and Dom Butler has shown how this was reflected in the Rule of Saint Benedict.6 It was through St Gregory and St Benedict that Anselm received this teaching.

The references in the Rule of Saint Benedict to prayer ‘with compunction and tears’ have already been discussed, but the same pattern is to be seen elsewhere in the Rule. In the Prologue the whole life of a monk is described in terms of this two-fold piercing: ‘Let us open our eyes to the divine light, let us hear with attentive ears the warning… and so our heart shall be enlarged… and we shall share by patience in the sufferings of Christ, that we may deserve to be partakers also of his kingdom.’ Among the ‘Tools of Good Works’, St Benedict lists: ‘To fear the Day of Judgement. To dread hell. To desire eternal life with all spiritual longing,’ and in the chapter on ‘Humility’ there is the same pattern: ‘The monk will presently come to the perfect love of God which casts out all fear,’ where he acts, ‘no longer for fear of hell but for love of Christ.’

In the Moralia on the Book of Job St Gregory takes up this theme of compunction and describes it more fully, especially in Books XXII and XXIII. ‘A man has compunction of one kind when he is shaken with fear at his own wickedness, and of another when he looks up to the joys of heaven and is strengthened with a kind of hope and security. One emotion excites tears of pain and sorrow, the other tears of joy.’ 7 ‘When the light of truth pierces our hearts it makes us at one time full of sorrow, from its display of severe justice, and delights us at another by disclosing inward joys.’8 ‘For the fire of tribulation is first darted into our mind from a consideration of our own blindness, in order that all rust of sin may be burnt away, and when the eyes of our heart are purged from sin, the joy of heaven is disclosed to us… for the intervening mist of sin must first be wiped away from the eye of the mind, and then it is enlightened by the brightness of unbounded light that is poured upon it.’ ‘When the virtue of compunction moves our hearts, the clamour of evil longings is silenced.’9

It is just this grace of compunction that Anselm asks for in the Prayer to St Mary Magdalene, in words and images very close to those of St Gregory:

Ask urgently that I may have

the love that pierces the heart; tears that are humble;

desire for the homeland of heaven;

impatience with this earthly exile;

searing repentance; and a dread of torments in eternity.10

This passage is set in a prayer of tears and longing and is indeed the two-edged sword of compunction, piercing with terror and tenderness, fear and delight.

Like St Gregory Anselm is not concerned with a transitory feeling of sorrow. After describing the state of prayer which may follow from compunction St Gregory says, ‘The more a man contemplates heavenly things, the more does he amend his life,’11 and this is a connection which Anselm takes for granted. In the Prayer to God this intimate connection of the life of prayer with the life of Christian charity is made explicit: he asks for the mercy of God and for this piercing of the heart, but along with it go the living of a good life and the following of the will of God. This sober moral basis for the life of prayer is fundamental to an understanding of the prayers, and was by later imitators easily blurred.

‘In Caelis’

The tears that God gives begin as sorrow for sin, and that is the first stage of compunction. There may be despair or terror at the horror of sin and the judgement it deserves, as in the first of the meditations, but this is not the end. ‘Whither shall I flee?’12 the sinner asks when faced with his doom, but the tears of this compunction turn into tears of love and longing and delight: ‘But it is he, it is Jesus; the same is my judge between whose hands I tremble.’ Like St Gregory, Anselm is a doctor of suspira, the longing for heaven, for union in love with God. The end of all the prayers is the same, union with God, the Blessed Trinity, in the bliss of heaven. For it is not on earth that Anselm expects to know God in his fullness; there is a foretaste given sometimes in prayer, but, like John of Fécamp, he does not expect it to last long; it is a rare gift of God’s mercy, not the habitual state of any man. We see here indeed in a glass darkly, and, as St Gregory says, ‘The mind falls back at once to itself, having seen some traces of truth before it, it is recalled to a sense of its own lowliness.’13 It is in heaven that the full vision will be known. The Prayer to St Stephen and the twenty-fifth chapter of the Proslogion are marvellous examples of this devotion to heaven and the longing which the soul has for it.

2. The Content of the Prayers

It is a traditional and simple way of prayer that Anselm sets out, though ‘costing not less than everything’, but there is nothing austere or simple about the language he uses to convey it. The prayers are written in a rhymed prose which is mannered and elegant to a fault; they are polished literary products, every word in its right place, ‘the whole consort dancing together’. There is antithesis, the use of parallel grammatical constructions, the rhetorical question, the careful build-up of each phrase and sentence to a climax, combined with balance and form. What makes them highly mannered works of medieval literature and of no other age is the almost childish play with words, the love of a jingle, so that ‘horror terribilis’ inevitably becomes ‘terror horribilis’, and ‘electa dilectrix’ is sure to be also ‘dilecta electrix’.

But most of the time in Anselm’s prayers these are not mere exhibitions of literary skill. He is not using words for their own sake; they are for him, as for the whole monastic school of ‘grammatica’, an expression of inner coherence, and their order and balance are vital to his meaning. Moreover, these are no literary compositions in their own right, they are prayers, and they have a definite aim. If their language is subtle and complex, demanding an effort, this is a part of the ‘excita mentem’ which is the first stage of the way. The effort required ‘stirs up the mind’ from its ‘torpor’, not for the sake of the words, but for the freeing of the soul from itself for God.

This is not to say that the prayers are uniformly of the highest literary quality. There are passages, especially in Meditation 2, which are overwrought and artificial. But at their best they combine clarity of thought and intensity of feeling in language finely wrought and expressive.

The imagery of the prayers is as vivid as the style; images are used that recur in devotional literature throughout the Middle Ages. They include the similes of sin as dryness; and of grace as a dew, a rain, a stream, to ‘make fresh my dry places’. Others include the likeness of devils to wolves, the soul without God to an orphan, as well as the familiar Christian images of the Christian life as a warfare, the Fall as the overlaying of the image of God in man, self-knowledge as seeing oneself in a mirror. The absence of images of the Christian life as a journey or an ascent is interesting: perhaps there is something here of the monk and scholar, who preferred to see life from within the cloister.

One side of Anselm’s imagery, however, needs more comment: he has, and this might almost be called his distinctive quality, an interest in spiritual psychology. When he addresses the saints he is interested only in two things, what God has done in them and how they have experienced his work. It is not their miracles, their appearance, their glory even, but themselves as people that Anselm cares about. Thus St John the Baptist is the friend of the Bridegroom; St Peter is the shepherd who, after his repentance, cares for Christ’s flock; St Mary Magdalene is pre-eminently the lover, the one forgiven and therefore loving much; St John the Apostle is the intimate friend of the Lord. To take instances from only one prayer: in Prayer 14 the reason given for the Lord’s delay in appearing to St Mary Magdalene at the tomb is ‘for only in such broken words can she tell out a grief as great as hers’. When the Lord does speak to her, ‘she responded to the gentle tone in which he was wont to call, “Mary” ’; and when Mary’s tears eventually turn to joy they do not end in a shout of rejoicing, rather they continue to ‘flow from a heart exulting’. This is a new way of imaginative insight into the sensations of scriptural persons which later found expression in Jesu Dulcis Memoria, and the Stabat Mater.

This interest in persons was also expressed in the prayers on the theme, new in intensity in the eleventh century, of tenderness and compassion for the Saviour and his Mother. It was no desire for an outpouring of emotion, nor was it an early instance of ‘humanism’, that caused this, but a radical change in theological understanding of the doctrine of the Atonement. A new dimension of love and understanding was replacing the remote, objective, salvation act, and in this the Cur Deus Homo was to play its part. Already in the prayers Anselm has made this revolution in understanding, and sees man as face to face with God, a sharer in the redemption of Christ. ‘Would that I with happy Joseph might have been there’ at the taking down of the body of Christ from the Cross; this is a far cry from the Vexilla Regis and the Christus Victor; it is the beginnings of the devotio moderna and the imitation of Christ.

The notes that follow on each of the prayers and the meditations are not intended to be exhaustive; they are simply indications of what is there. The basic structure of the prayers and the elements they contain are the same throughout, but they are assembled in a variety of ways. Most of them are set in the form of a dialogue: the person praying addresses the saint, relates him to Christ, and to himself, and the prayer is woven around these three. Scriptural incidents and phrases are taken up and made the pivot of the developing meditation. Each prayer begins with praise and adoration; then follows self-abasement and contrition, leading on to compunction of heart, and desire for God; there is some form of petition, and the end is renewed thanksgiving and adoration. But within this framework each prayer has its own tone and colour. Because of their importance the Proslogion and the Meditation on Human Redemption have been given separate consideration.

3. The Prayers

1. Prayer to God

This is the shortest of the prayers, with brief petitions, and it is in the style of the Carolingian prayers. It may be a pattern prayer for the rest, or, alternatively, a prologue to praying the rest. It is based on the last part of the Lord’s Prayer, in a series of petitions for forgiveness and for help in making progress in the Christian life. It is in this prayer that Anselm is most explicit in linking prayer to the whole Christian life of charity. The request for ‘a true and effective mind’ is typical of Anselm and the school of monastic scholarship which he represents.

2. Prayer to Christ

This is the prayer that belongs most completely to the ‘new style’ of devotion of the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It is first found in the collection sent to Countess Mathilda in 1104.

The goad Anselm uses to stir up the spirit to desire God is a passionate lament for not having seen Christ after the flesh. In a dialectic of the absence and presence of God he uses the image of an orphan deprived of his father to express this grief. It is not, as in the other prayers, the estrangement caused by sin that Anselm is thinking of here; it is quite definitely the fact that he did not know the Lord in his earthly life that grieves him. He dwells in imagination on the details of the passion of Jesus; it is the nails, the spear, the wounds, the suffering of the man who ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate’ that move him, and beside the figure of ‘the Lord of angels humbled to converse with men’ he sees the figure of Mary as the Mother of Sorrows. From the text of John 19, 25, he draws a detailed picture of her grief, especially of her tears; it was a picture that was to become very familiar in medieval art and piety.

But it is not only the sufferings of Christ that he wants to share; the meditation is truly theological, for it goes from the Cross to the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the second coming. In the passage about the myrophores at the tomb it is possible to see a reflection of the way of dramatizing Easter which had its roots in the liturgical drama of Easter night, but was taking more definite form as a liturgical play at this time.1

The prayer ends with an expression of longing, put in the words of the psalms. The ending is of a piece with the tone of the prayer – instead of asking for union with God, ‘blessed forever’, as in other prayers, here Anselm is concerned with the coming of Christ: ‘Until I hear, Soul, behold your bridegroom.’

3. Prayer before Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ

This prayer was included in the collection sent to the Countess Mathilda. For notes on this prayer, see Introduction p. 30.

4. Prayer to the Holy Cross

Another of the prayers included in the collection of 1104. For a discussion of this in relation to other Adoratio Crucis prayers, see Introduction pp. 31–2.

5. Prayer to St Mary (1)

This is the first of three prayers to St Mary that Anselm sent to Gundolf in 1072. It was written at the request of an importunate monk of Bec and did not satisfy the author. The titles of this and the other two prayers mark a familiar progress, from the ‘torpor’, ‘the mind weighed down with heaviness’, of the first, to the piercing fear, ‘when the mind is anxious with fear’, of the second, to that other compunction of longing, ‘for her and Christ’s love’, in the third prayer.

Here Mary is given her true place in the economy of salvation as ‘the most holy after God, because she bore the son of the most high’: it is as the God-bearer, Theotocos, that she is honoured. She is acclaimed as above women, angels, saints, but only for this reason, ‘that she brought forth the Saviour of the lost human race’.

Before the light of her sanctity the sinner sees his falling short and is ashamed. Sin is called a wound, a bite, an ulcer, a poison, a bad smell, but most of all it is a ‘torpor’, a huge dullness that must be broken through. In his need the sinner asks for Mary’s intercession, and uses a reason that recurs in other prayers and has something unexpected to say about the intercession of the saints: ‘If you refuse to help me, will not your mercy be less than it ought to be?’ It is for the honour of God, and that his will of love should be fulfilled, that sinners and saints alike should ask for mercy. The prayer ends with the familiar ‘that God may be glorified forever’.

6. Prayer to St Mary (2)

This second prayer did not satisfy Anselm either. It is longer than the first and is concerned with the intercession of Mary as Mother of men.

After a series of titles for Mary, as Virgin and Mother, the sinner is introduced and this time the setting is a law court. The throng of heaven looks on at the judgement of the accused, and the Judge is Christ himself. The sinner knows his guilt and the justice of the Judge, so he turns to the Mother of Christ to be his advocate, as being the one closest to the mercy of his heart. This image has a meaningful place in the whole context of Anselm’s understanding of the Atonement and the relationship of justice and mercy which he worked out later in Cur Deus Homo; it was a good thing to say, but it proved a dangerous way of saying it. Out of its context such a scene could easily be seen as ascribing justice to Christ and mercy to Mary, as two opposing forces. Nothing was further from Anselm’s intention; he asks here for Mary’s intercession just because of her unique share in that aspect of the love of God which we call mercy:

The son of Man in his goodness came

of his own free will to save that which was lost;

how can the mother of God not care

when the lost cry to her?

Mary has by grace all that her Son has by nature, and all she has, she has only from him; this is the place given her in the awed theology of the early Church. But after Anselm this unity was lost in the West, and became a source of division – mercy belonged to Mary, justice to her son. She was seen popularly as a capricious goddess who would treat her devotees with unscrupulous favouritism and a doubtful kindness, as witness the unfortunate ‘yonge Hugh of Lyncoln’ in the Canterbury Tales, who for his love of the Lady found himself in the unenviable position of continuing to sing her praises with ‘my throte kut into my nekke boon’. In popular miracle stories of Our Lady, the devils called her ‘illa mulier’, ‘that woman’, and protested that she overthrew justice, ‘doing just what she likes with God and we cannot complain’.

7. Prayer to St Mary (3)

This third, ‘great’ prayer to St Mary contains Anselm’s reflections on the place of Mary in redemption; he worked over the prayer with great care and considered it still to contain all he had to say about her to the end of his life.

Here Mary is honoured as ‘Mother of my Lord and God’. Because she bore Christ through her all good comes to men, and she is the Mother of all the redeemed. The main section of this very long prayer deals with the relationship of God and Mary in creation and recreation, analysing the way in which the initiative of God has chosen to be contingent upon the assent of man. This is done in a passage of great beauty which inevitably loses much in translation: ‘God gave his own Son… that all nature in you might be in him.’

The salutation of the Angel and of Elizabeth, the proclamation of Emmanuel, God with us, leads to a deeper joy: ‘The Saviour and Judge of the world is our brother’; mercy and justice are one in ‘the blessed fruit of thy womb’. Not only is all mankind saved by the ‘fiat mihi’ of Mary, but the whole creation can again become transparent with glory. Through her child-bearing the four elements, ‘heaven, stars, earth, waters, day and night’, which were corrupted by the misuse of fallen man, ‘rejoice in their loss, for they have been given life again’. And not only are they restored to the original glory of their creation, but God is among them, ‘visibly sanctifying them by use’.

This restoration of life is not even limited to the visible creation; through the son of Mary, ‘those in hell rejoice that they are delivered’, ‘all just men who died before his birth exult that their captivity is broken’, and ‘the angels wish each other joy in the rebuilding of their half-ruined city’. It is a cosmic view of redemption in which, as in an icon, Christ is the central figure, and Mary shows him us and us him, while all around redemption is poured out in earth, heaven, and hell.

What Anselm honours in each of the saints is what God has done in them, and that is the basis on which he asks their prayers. In the case of Mary, in whom God has done everything and who has no other claim than to be ‘full of grace’, Anselm pours forth prayer and praise without reticence. In the end he sees the interpenetration of God and Mary in the work of salvation as a whole: ‘I love you both… and I serve you both…

And in this let my life be consummated

that for all eternity all my being may sing

‘Blessed be the Lord forever. Amen.’

8. Prayer to St John the Baptist

This prayer was probably among those sent to Adelaide in 1070. It is addressed to John as the baptizer and witness to Christ as the Lamb of God. It begins with praise of the infant John ‘You knew God before you knew the world’, and in contrast to his holiness Anselm sees himself as ‘a guilty, creeping thing’. He explores the truth about the fall of man in vivid and perceptive terms:

What was I, O God, as you had made me –

and how have I made myself again!

God has created man in his own image, and man in heedless ingratitude has persisted in choosing evil and obscuring the image of God by the image of sin. This theme of the imago dei is familiar in the Eastern Fathers, especially in Gregory of Nyssa, and it occurs again in the Prayer to St Peter.

Anselm sees himself as worse than the devil, with less excuse for sinning, and this self-knowledge sickens him:

If I look within myself, I cannot bear myself;

if I do not look within myself, I do not know myself.

In this dilemma he acknowledges his guilt and the justice of any punishment decreed for him, but he turns for help to the witness of ‘him who takes away the sin of the world’, John the Baptist. There follow several brief meditations on this phrase, and the prayer ends on a note of confidence in the promises of God in Christ.

9. Prayer to St Peter

Peter is here addressed as the prince of the apostles, the shepherd of the sheep, and door-keeper of the kingdom of heaven. This is vividly depicted in the illuminated letter at the beginning of this prayer in the Littlemore Anselm: the first half of the picture shows Peter receiving a key from Christ while some sheep graze at his feet; in the ‘S’ itself Peter leans over and beckons to some Christians who look up trustingly as he points them towards the gates of heaven.

In the first half of the prayer the image of the sinner as a sickly sheep is worked out in great detail, but Anselm himself seems to have felt that the imagery had run away with him, so he explains its meaning more plainly. Then he recounts his misery again, putting it more clearly, before both Christ and Peter. He reminds Peter both of his denial of Christ and of the commission given him by the Lord to ‘feed my sheep’, and asks,

is this misery of mine so huge

that it cannot be met by the wideness of your mercy?

He prays for the bread of mercy rather than the stone of justice, and ends with a prayer to the ‘door-keeper’ to lead him from the kingdom of sin into the kingdom of heaven.

10. Prayer to St Paul

This prayer also was probably one of those sent to the Princess Adelaide; it falls clearly into two parts, the first doctrinal, the second more personal. The image of motherhood recurs through all the prayer, and it is with this that the prayer begins.

After addressing Paul as mother and nurse of sons in the faith Anselm discusses sin, in the setting of the Last Judgement, where the sinner is accused by his own sins, by good and by evil spirits, and by the whole creation which he has misused. In this condemnation he finds himself too hardened by sin to pray, and because he cannot pray he loses hope. The virtue of faith also is lacking to him (here there is surely a reference to 1 Corinthians 13), and he has nothing to show. Thus in coming to Paul, he finds he has a deeper need than he thought – he is dead in sins and needs to be given life again. Once more the humility of self-knowledge is the turning point of the prayer. The idea of life from the dead leads him to refer to Elijah and Elisha and the raising of the son of the Shunammite; this leads into the second half of the prayer, which is a meditation on the motherhood of Paul and even more of Jesus.

This second half of the Prayer to St Paul contains one of the most famous texts in Christian spirituality about the motherhood of God. It is interesting that this reflection of the re-creative love of Christ, the maternal aspect of the second person of the Trinity, comes in the Prayer to St Paul rather than in the Prayers to St Mary.

He refers to Paul as his mother in the faith, and this leads him to speak of Christ as mother of both Paul and himself, ‘Jesus, are you not also a mother?’ and he goes on to use the words of the Lord to justify this, in the text from Matthew 23, 37, ‘Are you not the mother who, like a hen, gathers her chickens under her wings?’

This idea goes back to the Old Testament references to God as a mother. Especially in Isaiah God is compared to a mother in his love for Israel (Isaiah 49, 15, and 66, 13). It is an important concept in the predominantly male idea of God in the Old Testament, and one that has been too little used in Christianity. Anselm here presents the idea of God as Father too, and works out the interplay of male and female aspects of the nature and work of God in a way that goes deep into the understanding of things, and which has a curiously modern ring.

The idea of Christ as mother had a steady though not copious history after Anselm. Aelred of Rievaulx wrote of ‘the maternal breasts of Jesus’,2 and the idea is found in Margaret of Oyngt (d. 1310) and St Mechtild of Hackeborn (d. 1298). It also found expression in the Middle English prayers collected by the author of The Talkyng of the Luv of God and in the Ancren Riwle,3 where it is connected with the thought of Christ giving suck to his redeemed by the blood flowing from his wounds. In painting and devotion this idea had a certain popularity later. The development which is closer to Anselm, however, is that contained in the Revelations of the Divine Love, where Julian of Norwich makes the Motherhood of Christ one of the central points of her teaching: ‘Moreover I saw that the Second Person who is our Mother with regard to our essential nature, that same dear person has become our Mother in the matter of our sensual nature… in our Mother, Christ, we grow and develop,’ which she continues to expand in chapters 59, 60, and 61.4

The prayer ends with this theme of the Christ-mother, who gathers sinners like a hen gathering her chickens under her wings, and Anselm prays for his mercy and grace, by the knowledge he has of his compassion.

11. Prayer to St John the Evangelist (1)

The two prayers to St John the Evangelist form a dyptych, one showing the compunction that comes with fear, the other the compunction of love. They may have been among the collection sent to Adelaide.

In the first prayer John is addressed as the beloved disciple, and the ‘reclinatio pectorum’ is given a prominent place. Perhaps this is one of the earliest instances of this picture of Christ with the beloved disciple being detached from the whole setting of the Last Supper, and used as an instance of friendship. Anselm approaches John as ‘the friend of God’, but he finds that very intimacy daunting; anyone who loved God must hate the enemies of God, even God’s creation must reject such. Yet he still asks John and the other friends of God to pray for him, not to defend or minimize his sin, but to reconcile him to his Creator and lord. He then turns to Jesus, as the friend of John, with the same request.

12. Prayer to St John the Evangelist (2)

This follows on from the first prayer, although the two can be used independently. This is a prayer of desire, a long petition for an increase in the love of God. The central image, taken from I John, 3, 17, is of the beggar who is in need and the rich man who can give. The ending of the prayer is a true theology, a true praising, where the soul rejoices in the love and redemption of Christ.

13. Prayer to St Stephen

This was among the prayers sent to Adelaide in 1071, and it and the Prayer to St Mary Magdalene are mentioned in Anselm’s covering letter as prayers that ‘tend more to the increase of love’.

Love is indeed the theme of the prayer, but it is neither easy nor sentimental love. The last part of it contains a deeper meditation on the joy of God and the bliss of heaven than any other of the prayers, but it is the love that is the other side of martyrdom. It is therefore no contradiction to find in the first half of the prayer one of Anselm’s most stern and austere descriptions of sin and judgement. He is following the familiar way of compunction – the piercing of fear and shame leading on to the love and desire for God.

The first part of the prayer is this realization of sins that are ‘too great’ and all-pervasive. He is a sinner before the ‘intolerably strict judge’, aware of his own guilt and its deserts. He cannot ask to be ‘let off’, or to have the sentence changed; it is the same problem as that of all mankind, seen here in the person of one man, which he deals with in the Meditation on Human Redemption and the answer is the same: the mercy of God and the love of the Redeemer.

The second part of the prayer is a meditation on the martyrdom of St Stephen and more particularly on the love that made him pray for his enemies. Like the Prayer to the Cross these paragraphs about love and suffering set out the deepest truth about the evil men do and the way it is redeemed. Evil men crucified the Lord, and stoned Stephen, but the very things that were meant to harm were turned into the means of salvation for them. From the sight of such love Anselm argues that Stephen, who showed such kindness to his enemies, will show at least as much to his friends. He asks therefore for his prayers, that God ‘lay not my sins to my charge’, and concludes with a passage as ‘joyful as the first part of the prayer was severe. He considers the words about Stephen’s death, ‘He fell asleep in the Lord’, and draws from it a meditation on the bliss of heaven. The prayer ends with longing to share in that bliss, and a lament that the ‘body of this death’ still holds him back.

14. Prayer to St Nicholas

This prayer is mentioned in the letter Anselm wrote to Prior Baudry and the monks of Bec in 1093. He was in England as abbot of Bec on business of the monastery, which he found William Rufus slow to regulate. This was his fourth journey to England and it began on 7 September 1092; in the letter he foresees that he will be in England for Lent, but in fact it was ten years before he returned to Bec. He was made Primate of England in March 1093, and when he came again to his monastery it was as an exile. In this letter he asks them to send him ‘the prayer to St Nicholas that I composed’.

It seems probable that the prayer had been occasioned by the translation of the relics of Nicholas of Myra to Bari on 9 May 1087, in which Bec seems to have taken a special interest.

The prayer occurs in all collections of the prayers, though in a few it is directed to St Martin. It is addressed to one who is not a biblical saint nor a martyr, but an Eastern confessor, around whom legends grew apace. The image of the three deeps, of sin, judgement, and mercy, is carefully worked out, and indeed this is one of the greatest of the prayers for its balance of the sense of the holiness of God and the peril of sin.

15. Prayer to St Benedict

This seems to have been written while Anselm was Prior of Bec, but there is no direct information about its composition. It was included in the collection sent to Mathilda, and it would hardly have been composed specially for that purpose. On the other hand it makes no mention of the cares of office, which seems to indicate a date before he became abbot. It follows the teaching of Anselm on the monastic life as a conversion, a continual turning to God, and uses the Rule of St Benedict as its basis. He does not so much quote the Rule as speak its language; the doctrine of reminiscence applied as much to the Rule as to scripture – to know both was to have made them a part of life.

The main part of the prayer is built around three images, all of which can be found in the Rule: the king and his knight, the master and his pupil, the abbot and his monk. The monastic life is described as a warfare in which the soldier is pledged ‘to fight under your leadership’: it is a training, for ‘you have placed me under your tuition’. And in each case the relationship is based on complete and wholehearted obedience. The contrast is made throughout the prayer between the ‘name and habit’ of the monk and the reality of the life. The false monk is one who does not fulfil what he has promised, and he is bound by ‘the ropes of sin’; the obedient, genuine monk is the one who is truly free. Balancing this awareness of falling short there is also delight in the monastic life and in Christ. The end echoes the penultimate chapter of the Rule, ‘Let them prefer nothing whatever to Christ and may he bring us all alike to life everlasting.’

16. Prayer to St Mary Magdalene

This prayer was also sent to Adelaide, and this too, Anselm says, tends ‘to increase love,… said slowly and from the depths of the heart’.

It is a prayer of love and tears – the title it is given in some manuscripts, ‘Recalling the love between her and Christ’, is one of love, and it begins in tears: ‘You came with springing tears to the spring of mercy, Christ.’ This leads at once to the biblical setting of Mary as the woman who was a sinner and washed the Lord’s feet with tears in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Next Anselm, also a sinner, comes into the picture and the prayer revolves around the three relationships. The setting is mostly in the garden of the resurrection, when Mary was outside the tomb weeping.

This is most of all a prayer of compunction – there is sorrow for sin, grief at the suffering of the Lord, out of which come tears of love and longing and joy. In this passionate and lyrical prayer there is nonetheless a plain and unexpected piece of theology where Anselm asks Christ, ‘Have you put off compassion now you have put on incorruption…?’

The prayer ends with longing to share in the penitent love of Mary Magdalene; it asks ‘my most dear Jesus’ for the ‘bread of tears and sorrow’ in order to come to ‘the everlasting sight of your glory’. There is a reference to ‘the greater Mary’ also, presumably because they stood together at the Cross, which is the only reference to St Mary in the prayers, apart from the passage in the Prayer to Christ and the three prayers to St Mary herself.

17. Prayer by a Bishop or Abbot to the Patron Saint of his Church

This prayer may have been written after Anselm became abbot; it belongs to the monastic period of his life, and is about the responsibilities of office. As in the Prayer to St Benedict the contrast is made between what one is and what one seems to be, in this case, abbot. He asks for the prayers of the patron of the abbey and shares the responsibility with him.

The name of the patron is left blank, but it seems to suppose an apostle. (In the Littlemore Anselm the name of St Peter is inserted, and St Augustine substituted for St Benedict; canon replaces monk wherever it comes.) It seems likely that St Aelred knew this prayer before he wrote his Pastoral Prayer.

18. Prayer for Friends

The theme of friendship held an important place in the thought of the ancient world and the Middle Ages; from Cicero and Cassian, to Bernard and Aelred, the ideal of the union of the souls of good men in the pursuit of virtue grew and achieved a place in Christian theology.

In Anselm’s letters from Bec the affection of friendship is very much stressed, but, as Professor Southern has shown, this was not an expression of personal or sentimental feeling: ‘He (Anselm) bends his mind to the contemplation of an ideal image, he attaches himself to it with a passionate intensity, he defines its nature and he gives it a name. Here the name is that of friend. In his prayers and meditations, formed under the influence of a similar impulse, the name is that of a saint of God.’5 This intellectual conviction formed the Prayer for Friends which Anselm was probably writing at the same time as the early letters of friendship. It is the love that God in Christ has for men that interests him, and it is from this that he draws his love for other men. Christ is ‘the good friend’ and it is in that friendship that men find fellowship with each other. Yet within this love Anselm recognizes quite simply that there are some whom Christ’s love has impressed on his heart ‘with a special and more intimate love’, and so he prays specially for them. What he asks for them is in this objective, sober tone: ‘Make them to love you with all their heart… and come at last to your glory.’ This is not in the effusive tone of the letters but is closer to the description of friendship in heaven which comes at the end of the Proslogion: ‘… they will love God more than themselves, and each other as themselves; God will love them more than they love themselves, because it is through him that they have love for him and themselves and one another; and it is through his own self that God loves both himself and them.’

19. Prayer for Enemies

Anselm balances the Prayer for Friends with a Prayer for Enemies. That they do go together is proved by the last lines of the Prayer for Enemies, where the prayer widens out into a prayer for all men: ‘I have prayed,’ he says, ‘for my friends, and for my enemies.’

There is a prayer for enemies in the Manual of St John Gualbert;6 it prays simply for ‘any who hate me’ and asks for grace to love them. Anselm was at once more discerning and more hopeful. As in the Prayer to St Stephen he knows that enmity is only answered by the humility of love, and so he begins with an acknowledgement of his own failure to love. Then he prays for himself alongside his enemies on the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer: ‘Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.’ The end he looks towards is fellowship with them in Christ, ‘that we may obey with one heart in love one Lord and one Master’. We know from Eadmer a few of the men who might be counted as ‘enemies’ of Anselm, and we know of many more whom he called ‘friends’, but these two prayers are not the limited petitions he might have made for these people he knew. They are universal because they are based on the truths about God’s love and forgiveness and reconciliation.

4. Meditations 1 and 2

Meditation 1

This meditation is mentioned in a letter from Durandus, Abbot of Casa-Dei; he calls it a prayer which has caused much heart-searching and tears, and asks for others like it. In his reply Anselm does not answer his request, and does not make much response to the somewhat effusive compliments of the abbot.

It may have been joined to Meditation 2 – Dom Wilmart calls them ‘the two halves of a dyptych’1 – but each is complete in itself and a distinct difference of style makes it possible to treat them separately.

The form of this meditation is a soliloquy, which ends in more direct prayer. Instead of an address to a saint it begins with a terse statement: ‘I am afraid of my life.’ Then follows a sober and searching consideration of the state of the soul before God, passing from the image of the barren tree to the more dramatic picture of the Last Judgement with its terrifying echoes of the Dies Irae. This analysis of the horror of sin and its punishment is meant to provoke repentance while there is time, but from this almost hysterical pitch of fear at this picture of judgement the prayer swings over into its remedy: ‘But it is he… Jesus. The same is my judge, between whose hands I tremble.’ The prayer concludes with a lyrical meditation on the name of Jesus, which was the forerunner of so much in later devotion, especially in St Bernard, Richard Rolle, and the author of Dulcis Jesu Memoria. The repeated use of the Name may derive from Celtic sources.

Meditation 2

This has the appearance of being one of the earliest of the prayers. The rhetoric is heightened and the emotion verges on the hysterical at times; the literary devices used become almost transparently artificial in places.

It is called a lament for the loss of virginity, and there are two senses in which this can be understood. Dr Pusey asserted firmly that the fornication referred to was any tendency of the soul to fall away from the love of Christ;2 it was to be understood only in a spiritual sense, mostly, one feels, because Dr Pusey thought it was more edifying that it should be so. But there seems to be no reason for not taking it in its natural sense, as the lament of someone, not necessarily Anselm himself, who has in some way sinned sexually, and sees this in terms of estrangement from Christ. The language of the meditation seems to lead to this view when it is compared with the letters Anselm wrote to Gunhilda when he was upbraiding her for adultery with Count Alan. The picture of the hell prepared for fornicators in the meditation is described in words very like those in the letters: ‘You loved Count Alan Rufus and he you; where is he now? What has become of the lover you loved? Go and lie now with him in the bed where he lies; gather his worms into your bosom; embrace his corpse; kiss his bare teeth from which the flesh has fallen. He does not now care for your love in which he delighted while he lived; and the flesh which you desired now rests.’3

This does not, of course, exclude the possibility of both interpretations of the prayer being used.

5. Meditation on Human Redemption and Proslogion

The Anselmian pattern of prayer is seen most clearly in the prayers to the saints, but there are two longer pieces by Anselm which are of special interest in this connection. The Meditation on Human Redemption and the Proslogion are like, and yet unlike, the Prayers and Meditations. They are written in the same heightened oratorical style, in rhymed prose, with the same literary skill and finish; they have the ardour of the prayers and they are as searching as the meditations; and above all, they have the same purpose; the knowledge of God, the transitus from the land of unlikeness to the vision of God in the land of the living. They both have, however, special claims to consideration. For one thing they are both much longer than any of the prayers or meditations; they are libelli, small books, on their own account, and deserve much fuller treatment than can be given here. They are of great importance as the prayed framework of Anselm’s greatest works: the discussion about the existence of God in the Proslogion, and the restatement of the doctrine of the Atonement in the Cur Deus Homo.

Nevertheless they are included here because they are prayers, and show in a special way the connection between thought and prayer which has been noticed in the other meditations and prayers. Anselm was a theologian in the ancient sense of the word, ‘one whose prayer is true’, and as Dr McIntyre says, ‘We dare not dismiss unthinkingly… anyone who prays as Anselm prays… and who makes his theology a prayer.’1 This combination of theological veracity and personal ardour is what most distinguishes Anselm’s writings from similar prayers, and makes him both traditional and revolutionary. It is the ground of all the prayers, but especially of the Proslogion and the Meditation on Human Redemption where speculation is continually breaking out into prayer, dialectic turning into humility and praise.

Meditation on Human Redemption

The Meditation on Human Redemption was written much later than the rest of the Prayers and Meditations. Eadmer, who was there, says it was written at Lyons, when the archbishop was in exile after the Council of Bari in 1099. He was living in Liberi, a village ‘which, being on the top of a mountain, has always a healthy and cool air’.2 He had completed the Cur Deus Homo, and he now wrote a meditative summary of the longer work. Eadmer calls it ‘a small work (opusculum) which found favour and gave joy to many, which he entitled a “Meditation on Human Redemption” ’.3

It is set in the form of a meditation, with a summary of chapters 4 to 11 of the first book of the Cur Deus Homo inset as the middle eight paragraphs. Out of his reasoning about the why of the Crucifixion Anselm has created a deeply personal meditation on the Cross of Christ, without losing theological clarity. He begins by apostrophizing himself, ‘Christian soul’, and urging himself to ‘excita mentem’, to shake off torpor, in order to know the things of God. Then he puts forward the scandal of the Cross as the mystery of salvation, which must be not only understood but assimilated. The arguments from Cur Deus Homo follow, showing the relationship of man to God, the debt which man must but cannot pay, the free offering of one who is both God and man as the reconciliation in Christ. The next two paragraphs are a meditation on the Cross and the obedience of the Son of God, as the answer to the ‘Christian soul’: here is ‘the strength of your salvation’. This is the turning point of the prayer, where the mind has been roused from lethargy and now comes to the piercing of the first compunction of sorrow, in realization of the need of man and the cost of his redemption. This part of the prayer takes the form of a dialogue between the soul and Christ which is unique in Anselm’s prayers. This sorrow leads to a whole-hearted desire for dedication to Christ, and the prayer concludes with that longing for heaven and the vision of God which is the compunction of love.

It is the greatest of the meditations, and shows how Anselm himself prayed his theology till there was no difference between theology and prayer. It can be seen as an example of how the reasoning of the other treatises, like the De Spiritu Sancto, could become prayer, though they are not in fact written in that form.


In the Preface to the Proslogion Anselm makes it clear that his aim in writing it is theological and devotional rather than philosophical and speculative. Like the Monologion the Proslogion is to be an ‘exemplum meditandi’, and it is written for ‘someone trying to raise his mind to the contemplation of God, and seeking to understand what he believes’. For Anselm faith and love come first, ‘seeking to understand’ is the means to increase them, to bring them to fuller ‘contemplation of God’. It is a matter of pondering the mysteries of the faith in order to understand them better and by them to come to an experiential knowledge of God, in so far as that is possible in this life. In the first chapter Anselm expands and explains his title for the work, ‘Fidens quaerens intellectum’, in just this sense:

but I do desire to understand a little of your truth

which my heart already believes and loves.

I do not seek to understand so that I may believe,

but I believe so that I may understand;

and what is more,

I believe that unless I do believe I shall not understand.

The Proslogion was written during Anselm’s time as Prior of Bec, when he was writing the Prayers and Meditations; Eadmer says he gave it that title because ‘in this work he speaks either to himself or God’.4 He sent it to Lanfranc for his approval in 1078, by which time most of the Prayers and Meditations seem to have been completed. The situation in which it was written and the motive behind it is in a way much the same as that which inspired the prayers, especially perhaps the three prayers to Our Lady. Of the prayers in general Eadmer says they were written ‘at the desire and request of his friends’,5 who knew him as a man of prayer; and of the prayers to St Mary, Anselm himself explains in the letter to Gundolf how ‘a certain brother asked me, not once but many times, if I would compose a prayer to St Mary’. But the prayer which he wrote on request was followed by the third and greatest prayer to St Mary, proceeding out of Anselm’s own interest and affection. So with the Proslogion: he wrote the Monologion ‘at the pressing entreaties of the brethren’,6 but its sequel, the Proslogion, came from Anselm’s own inspiration and thought. It came, in fact, against his will: when ‘I had grown weary resisting its importunity’,7 and it was written down so that others might share his own pleasure in the work.

There is, however, a difference of approach in the prayers and the Proslogion: the prayers are centred around the response of man to God’s work of salvation, and the Meditation on Human Redemption is about the nature of that salvation which was wrought in Jesus Christ; in the Proslogion, the subject is the nature of God himself and, from that point of view, man’s relationship to him. This is a different emphasis, shifting from the consideration of man’s mean condition to the search for the vision of the everlasting God, and in this sense the Proslogion can be said to be more ‘contemplative’. But the contrast should not be pressed. There is another difference between the prayers and the Proslogion, this time one of form – most of the prayers are addressed to the saints and ask their help: the meditations and the Proslogion are soliloquies of the soul directly addressed to God; but in both kinds of devotion prayer and meditation are constantly mingled, so that the difference is more one of emphasis than of kind.

The Proslogion is set in the form of a prayer and follows the Anselmian pattern of withdrawal, self-knowledge, and compunction. The first chapter is a long prayer, which goes through all the stages of compunction: there is, first, the withdrawal into solitude, both of place and of mind, in order to free himself for God; then there is the stirring up of the mind, and the compunction of sorrow, when the estrangement of man from God is first experienced:

I sought for peace within myself,

and in the depths of my heart I found trouble and sorrow.

Out of this experience there rises a longing for God, which is the second compunction of desire. This leads on to thanksgiving for all that God has done and promised, and a resolution to continue in this way of vision and faith.

In the next three chapters Anselm expounds his ‘single proof’ of the existence of God: ‘God is that than which nothing greater can be thought.’ This so-called ‘ontological argument’ is one of the great contributions of Western thought to philosophy, and one of the few ideas in medieval philosophy to be of interest today. It has provided Karl Barth with a basis for theological reinterpretation, and is still as capable of arousing argument and discussion as when it was first propounded. It is perhaps important here to see the ‘argument’ in its context, as part of a prayer, and as something ‘given’, rather than as an abstract and logical argument. Both Eadmer and Anselm say that it came into his mind as a gift, a sudden illumination, and that this happened during Matins, that is, during a period of corporate prayer: ‘Suddenly one night during Matins the grace of God shone in his heart, the whole matter became clear to his mind, and a great joy and jubilation filled his inmost being.’8 There is a quality in the ‘argument’ which defies logical definition; the more it is refuted, the more it seems to convince. It is a statement about what is beyond our thought; it is, in fact, a matter of the kind of knowledge of God which belongs to prayer and contemplation more than the narrower sense of knowledge. This kind of awe and wonder in expressing the inexpressible convinces despite itself; it is this quality that Dr Pusey found in the writings of Newman, and his comment on them seems applicable: ‘These words exhibit God’s works with a sort of wondering awe… and do in fact convince much more than those which make conviction their professed object and recall our minds from the contemplation of those works to reflect on their own convincingness. We are not framed to seek conviction but to have it.’9 The Proslogion argument is convincing when the mind is concerned with the God about whom it speaks rather than with the details of the argument itself.

The rest of the Proslogion is about the nature and attributes of God: again and again, as Anselm understands more of the vision of God and his relationship to men, he breaks out into praise. The goodness and the mercy of God move him especially:

Ah, from what generous love and loving generosity

compassion flows out to us!

Ah, what feelings of love should we sinners have

towards the unbounded goodness of God!10

In chapter 14 he returns to the theme of longing and seeking for God, and the mystery of light inaccessible. The last chapters praise God and the bliss of heaven, where God is all in all; and the whole concludes with the most moving of all Anselm’s prayers, which could also be taken as a summary of his life and thought:

God of truth,

I ask that I may receive,

so that my joy may be full.

Meanwhile, let my mind meditate on it,

let my tongue speak of it,

let my heart love it,

let my mouth preach it,

my flesh thirst for it,

and my whole being desire it,

until I enter into the joy of my Lord,

who is God one and triune, blessed forever. Amen


Anselm appeared to his contemporaries to be pre-eminently a man of prayer, someone who walked with God and who could guide others in the same way. He came to Normandy at a turning-point in the spiritual life of northern Europe, where a growing compassion for the Saviour and more personal emotion and affection for his Mother were already finding expression in hymns and prayers. He gave impetus to these trends in a unique and powerful way, till it could be said that the dialectic he fathered and the affective devotion he developed changed the whole atmosphere of Western spirituality for the rest of the Middle Ages and beyond. But Anselm himself was no revolutionary theologian; rather he was a bridge, a link with the tradition of the undivided church. In many ways his clear and independent mind gave new life to traditional teaching, and carried it through into a new age. He prayed in the tradition of the Fathers, but he gave this received teaching expression in the concepts and language of his times, with the result that the later outpouring of devotion to the humanity of the Saviour had its roots in the tradition of the church.

The form of the prayers meant that they would be imitated, taking on the colour of other men’s devotion, but it is significant that Anselm’s imitators caught only parts of his thought and style (see Appendix). The prayers themselves proved inimitable, the products of supreme genius, and they stand out clearly from their successors. Today they do not yield their riches at a casual reading, nor can they be easily appreciated; the affective devotion and ardour of the eleventh century is at a discount in this age. Yet there is here a unique combination of theological veracity and personal ardour that has value at any time. They are ultimately prayers that are meant to be prayed; that is, they are ways to come to God, preparations for that silence of soul which is prayer.


The Liturgy

1. The Book of Cerne, ed. Kuyper, A. B., Cambridge University Press, 1909, Liturgical Note V, by Bishop, Edmund, p. 234.

2. Rule of St Benedict, ed. McCann, J., Orchard Books, London 1952, chapter 8.

3. Constitutions of Lanfranc, ed. Dom David Knowles, Nelson, 1967.

4. Augustine, Enarrationes in Psalmos, PL 136, 123.

5. Wilmart, A., Prières pour la Communion, en 2 psaltiers du Mont-Cassin, Ephemerides Liturgicae, 1929.

6. Pilgrimage of Etheria: Latin text printed in Duchesne, L., Christian Worship, S.P.C.K., 1904.

7. The Dream of the Rood, translated by Kennedy, Charles W., Mills and Carter, 1952.

8. VA, II, iii.

9. cf. Wilmart, Prières médiévales pour l’Adoration de la Croix, Ephemerides Liturgicae, 1932; and Gjerløw, Lilli, Adoratio Crucis, Norwegian University Press, 1961.

10. Barré, H., Prières anciennes de l’Occident à la Mère du Sauveur, Paris, 1962.

11. Saxer, Victor, Le culte de Marie Madeleine en Occident des origines à la fin du moyen âge, Paris, 1959.

The ‘Preces Privates’

1. Alcuin, PL 101, 465–6.

2. Canones Hippolyti 233–5, Appendix 6, in Duchesne, op. cit.

3. Brou and Wilmart, The Psalter Collects of the V-VI Centuries, Henry Bradshaw Society, London, 1949

4. MS. D’Orville 45; text also printed in Bianchini, Thomasii Opera, vol. 2, 526–8.

5. Precum Libelli, pp. 82–85.

6. ibid., pp. 14–16.

7. ibid., pp. 11–13.

8. ibid., p. 44.

9. cf. MS. D’Orville 45, 40–41.

10. Genesius of Rome, in Hamaan, A., Early Christian Prayers, Longmans, 1961, p. 54.

11. PL 142, 934.

12. Precum Libelli, p. 140.

13. PL 158, 946.

14. Book of Cerne, prayer 52. For discussion of this prayer see Wilmart, Auteurs spirituels et textes dévots du moyen âge latin, Paris, 1932, pp. 474–564.

15. PL 158, 959.

16. Book of Cerne, prayer 60.

17. Rouen Psalter, prayer 13 in Gjerløw, Adoratio Crucis, op. cit., appendix.

18. Book of Cerne, prayer 59.

19. Rouen Psalter, prayer 15.

20. cf. Liber de Beatitudine Caelestis Patriae, chapter 10, PL 159, 638.

21. Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, Penguin Books, 1966, ch. 43, pp. 129–30.

22. Precum Libelli, p. 56.

23. Wilmart, Le Manuel de Prières de S. Jean Gualbert, Rev. Bén., July-December 1936, pp. 259–99.

‘Meditari aut Legere’

1. Meditation on Human Redemption.

2. Apostolic Constitutions, trans. Donaldson, J., in Ante-Nicene Christian Library, XVII, 1870, Part 2.

3. Origen, Patrologiae Graecae, 13, 235D.

4. Hilary, de Trinitate, PL 10, 49.

5. Augustine, Confessions, Penguin Books, 1961, p. 21.

6. Butler, C., Benedictine Monachism, Longmans, 1919, pp. 61–7.

7. Cassian, John, Conferences, English trans. Gibson, E. C. S., Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 2nd Series, vol XI, Oxford 1894; 1st Conference of Abbot Nestorius, p. 440.

8. ibid., Conference of Abbot Isaac, pp. 387–409.

9. Rule of St Benedict, ed. cit., ch. 52.

10. ibid., ch. 20.

11. ibid., ch. 49.

12. ibid., ch. 48.

13. Anselm, Prayer to St Paul, line 273.

14. Anselm, Prayer to St Mary (3), line 148.

John of Fécamp

1. Confessio Fidei, III, xi. The text of the works of John of Fécamp have been published by Leclercq and Bonnes, Jean de Fécamp, un maître de la vie spirituelle au moyen âge, Paris, 1956.

2. Confessio Theologica II, iv.

3. Wilmart, Revue d’ Ascétique et de Mystique, 1937, p. 338.

4. Confessio Theologica, III, xi.

5. Leclercq and Bonnes, op. cit., Introduction, p. 80.

6. ibid., Letter to Agnes, pp. 211–17.

7. Introduction by Wilmart to Dom Castel’s translation of Les Prières et Méditations, Paris, 1923, p. lxii.

The Anselmian Pattern

1. Proslogion, ch. 1.

2. Cassian, Conference IX, on Prayer, trans. Gibson, op. cit., pp. 387–409.

3. Prayers and Meditations, Preface.

4. Augustine, Confessions, ed. cit., p. 188.

5. Augustine, ibid., p. 232.

6. Butler, op. cit.

7. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Job, book XXIII, PL 76, 292.

8. ibid., book XXIII, PL 76, 296.

9. ibid., PL 76, 277.

10. Anselm, Prayer 16.

11. Gregory the Great, op. cit., PL 76, 277.

12. Anselm, Meditation 1.

13. Gregory the Great, loc. cit.

The Prayers

1. See Young, K., The Drama of the Mediaeval Church, Oxford, 1933, vol 1, pp. 239 ff.

2. Aelred of Rievaulx, Speculum Caritatis, Part 2, 19, PL 195, 568C.

3. Ancren Riwle, ed. Salu, M. B., Burns Oates, 1955.

4. Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, op. cit., ch. 58 ff.

5. Southern, R. W., St Anselm and His Biographer, Cambridge University Press, 1963, p. 73.

6. Le Manuel des Prières de S. Jean Gualbert, Prayer 89, ed. Wilmart, Rev. Bén., July-December 1936, p. 293.

Meditations 1 and 2

1. Wilmart, Introduction to Prières et Méditations, trans. Castel, Paris, 1923, p. xxiv.

2. Meditations and Prayers to the Holy Trinity and Our Lord Jesus Christ by St Anselm of Canterbury, Innes and Co., 1856; see note on p. 31: ‘Sin is continually in Holy Scripture spoken of as adultery against God and is so below.’

3. Letter 157, Schmitt, vol. 4, p. 24.

Meditation on Human Redemption and Proslogion

1. McIntyre, J., St Anselm and his Critics, Edinburgh, 1954, p. 16.

(Meditation on Human Redemption)

2. VA II, xxx.

3. VA II, xliv.


4. VA I, xix.

5. VA I, viii.

6. Proslogion, Preface.

7. ibid.

8. VA I, xix.

9. Dr Pusey, quoted by Allchin, A. M., in The Rediscovery of Newman, Coulson and Allchin, S.P.C.K., 1967, p. 62.

10. Proslogion, ch. 9.

If you find an error please notify us in the comments. Thank you!