Saturday, July 15, 2017

Not to get to heaven


I read this prayer not long ago and thought it was beautiful. I struggled a bit with the ancient language. It already is a translation and it might be considered cheating somehow, but this is my "translation" where I take out some of the "-st" words (like "didst") and a few others that make it difficult for me to keep my flow of thought and understanding as I read it.

Prayer
 
O God, I Love Thee
 
O God, I love thee, I love thee,
Not out of hope of heaven for me
Nor fearing not to love and be
In the everlasting burning.
 
You, you, my Jesus, after me
Did reach your arms out dying,
For my sake suffered nail, and lance,
Mocked and marred countenance,
Sorrows passing number,
Sweat and care and cumber,
Yes and death, and this for me,
 
And you could see me sinning:
Then I, why should not I love thee,
Jesus, so much in love with me,
 
Not for heaven's sake;
Not to be out of hell by loving thee;
Not for any gains I see;
 
But just the way that you did me
I do love and I will love thee:
 
What must I love you, Lord, for then?
For being my king and God.
Amen.
 
—St. Francis Xavier, translated by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ

I remember talking to my high school friends about why they believed in Jesus. Their answer was basically "in order to get to heaven." I remember saying I thought there had to be a better reason than that, but I could not figure out what to say about what that reason would be. I think I tried to say something like loving him because he loved me, but somehow it did not come out very well.

This poem says much more eloquently why we love the Lord, and how he loved us.

Original translation:

Prayer

O Deus Ego Amo Te

O God, I love thee, I love thee,
Not out of hope of heaven for me
Nor fearing not to love and be
In the everlasting burning.
Thou, thou, my Jesus, after me
Didst reach thine arms out dying,
For my sake sufferedst nails, and lance,
Mocked and marred countenance,
Sorrows passing number,
Sweat and care and cumber,
Yea and death, and this for me,
And thou couldst see me sinning:
Then I, why should not I love thee,
Jesus, so much in love with me,
Not for heaven’s sake;
Not to be out of hell by loving thee;
Not for any gains I see;
But just the way that thou didst me
I do love and I will love thee:
What must I love thee, Lord, for then?
For being my king and God.
Amen.

—St. Francis Xavier, translated by Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ

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