Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Hymn of Love of St Francis Xavier

Sometimes all our discussions about the liturgy, its principles and their application may cause the - false - impression that this is all purely an exercise of the intellect, when in fact this is all in vain if it is not motivated by a deep love of God, for "if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." (1 Cor 13, 2) Today I present to you a prayer - which no doubt many if not most of you will already know - which I have personally found a powerful means of inspiring and evoking this love. I have first found it in the appendix of a 1941 edition of the Breviarium Romanum which I received as a Christmas present when I was sixteen, and have never ceased praying it since. It is traditionally (also in said Breviary appendix) attributed to St Francis Xavier, and while this attribution, at least of this specific Latin form, has been questioned, I believe it is ultimately not decisive, as the prayer and its popularity over the centuries speak for themselves:


O Deus, ego amo Te!
Nec amo Te, ut salves me,
aut quia non amántes Te,
ætérno punis igne:
Tu, Tu, mi Jesu, totum me
ampléxus es in Cruce.
Tulísti clavos, lánceam
multámque ignomíniam,
innúmeros dolóres,
sudóres et angóres
ac mortem: et hæc propter me
ac pro me peccatóre!
Cur ígitur non amem Te,
o Jesu amantíssime?
Non ut in cælo salves me,
aut ne ætérno damnes me,
nec præmii ullíus spe;
sed sicut Tu amásti me,
sic amo et amábo Te,
solum quia Rex meus es,
et solum quia Deus es. Amen.

A rather free English translation I have found on the internet while writing this post is this one by Fr Edward Caswall:

My God, I love Thee, not because
I hope for heaven thereby;
Nor yet since they who love Thee not
Must burn eternally.
Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
Upon the Cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace;
And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
E’en death itself; and all for one
Who was Thine enemy.
Then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,
Should I not love Thee well,
Not for the sake of winning heaven,
Or of escaping hell;
Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as Thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord?
E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing,
Solely because Thou art my God,
And my eternal King.

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