A Prayer of Christian Philosophy

José de Ribera, El sueño de Jacob

Why, O Eternal Wisdom, do the heavens move as they do, the rains fall, and the windows fog? Why does my breath make clouds? Why does the oil hover on the water and the light burn up the darkness?

Why, O living Source of Life, does sickness come and go, do friends stand by and fall away?

Why, O Majesty above heaven and earth, is the world in roaring strife, ruled by men who know little more than their lowest subjects?

And it is ever on my heart, my God: why was I born so, as myself, to this family, in these days? Why have I been sent here, given this charge, these brothers and sisters to keep and to guard? Why have you planted in me this heart, set down these desires to puzzle and pull me, so many chains which tangle and pinch? Why have I been given such a mind, to seek for these answers? Is it so that only you can understand me? Is it so that I strive to understand you?

*

If it is so, then grant to me Wisdom, the attendant at your throne. Open my eyes, O Son of David, you who are undying, gladdening light. You understand all these things, I know, for they belong to you. You made them and you make them still; you know their beginning and you have fashioned their end. It is in your perfect wisdom and everlasting love that all this has been done.

But surrounding me, Lord, are those who try to silence these wonders. “It is so, and that is all,” they say to my heart, and I have believed it! But I fell into darkness—can it be true? Are there no reasons? Or do you not wish us to seek them; are they beyond our rights? Are we overstepping our bounds, neglecting our duties, seeking light in these unmoving darknesses? And what are our rights? What is our duty? What does it mean to say “truth”?

*

Have mercy, Father: you know these questions are too much for me. I seek in your Scriptures and they are for me a staircase of angels, bringing me words from your mouth, sight from your eyes. And yet these wonders do not cease; they only grow and magnify in knowing that you are higher than I dreamed.

But what of this? Those great men and women who knew you best, O Eternal Wisdom and Dearest Love, your friends and little ones: they say even on their deathbed that you remain unknown. They tell me that there is no sight of you here, but only an ever-growing fire and an infinite darkness of dwelling with you. No words come to me but these: if your light is in its depths, cast me into this darkness. Imbue me with this fire—I know that the smoke of incense always finds its way to you.

Have mercy: you know this is too much for me. You have surrounded me on every side with words I do not understand, with light I cannot see, with love that I cannot grasp or order. But I know this now, what I did not know before—that truth is in you and you are the light in my eyes. This only I ask: have mercy on me, God, have mercy.

Image: José de Ribera, El sueño de Jacob

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Br. Isaiah Beiter entered the Order of Preachers in 2015. He grew up in Charlottesville, VA, and studied philosophy at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. On DominicanFriars.org