Blaise Pascal (16231662). Minor Works. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
Prayer, to Ask of God the Proper Use of Sickness
I. LORD, whose spirit is so good and so gentle in all things, and who art so merciful that not only the prosperity but the very disgrace that happens to thy elect is the effect of thy mercy, grant me the favor not to act towards me as towards a heathen in the condition to which thy justice has reduced me: that like a true Christian I may recognize thee for my Father and my God, in whatever condition I may find myself, since the change of my condition brings none to thine; as thou art always the same, however subject I may be to change, and as thou art none the less God when thou afflictest and punishest, than when thou comfortest and showest indulgence.
II. Thou gavest me health to serve thee, and I made a profane use of it. Thou sendest me sickness now to correct me; suffer not that I use it to irritate thee by my impatience. I made a bad use of my health, and thou hast justly punished me for it. Suffer not that I make a bad use of my punishment. And since the corruption of my nature is such that it renders thy favors pernicious to me, grant, O my God! that thy all-powerful grace may render thy chastisements salutary. If my heart was full of affection for the world while it retained its vigor, destroy this vigor for my salvation; and render me incapable of enjoying the world, either through weakness of body or through zeal of charity, that I may enjoy but thee alone.
III. O God, before whom I must render an exact account of all my actions at the end of my life and at the end of the world! O God, who lettest the world and all the things of the world subsist but to train thy elect or to punish sinners! O God, who allowest sinners hardened in the pleasurable and criminal use of the world! O God, who makest our bodies to die, and who at the hour of death separatest our soul from all that it loved in the world! O God, who wilt snatch me, at this last moment of my life, from all the things to which I am attached and on which I have set my heart! O God, who wilt consume at the last day the heavens and the earth with all the creatures they contain, to show to all mankind that nothing subsists save thee, and that thus nothing is worthy of love save thee, since nothing is durable save thee! O God, who wilt destroy all these vain idols and all these fatal objects of our passions! I praise thee, my God, and I will bless thee all the days of my life, that it has pleased thee to anticipate in my favor this terrible day, by destroying all things in respect to me through the weakness to which thou hast reduced me. I praise thee, my God, and I will bless thee all the days of my life, that it has pleased thee to reduce me to the incapacity of enjoying the sweets of health and the pleasures of the world, and that thou hast destroyed in some sort, for my advantage, the deceitful idols that thou wilt destroy effectively, for the confusion of the wicked, in the day of thy wrath. Grant, Lord, that I may judge myself, after the destruction that thou hast made with respect to me, that thou mayest not judge me thyself, after the entire destruction that thou wilt make of my life and of the world. For, Lord, as at the instant of my death I shall find myself separated from the world, stripped of all things, alone in thy presence, to answer to thy justice for all the emotions of my heart, grant that I may consider myself in this sickness as in a species of death, separated from the world, stripped of all the objects of my attachment, alone in thy presence, to implore of thy mercy the conversion of my heart; and that thus I may have extreme consolation in knowing that thou sendest me now a partial death in order to exercise thy mercy, before thou sendest me death effectively in order to exercise thy judgment. Grant then, O my God, that as thou hast anticipated my death, I may anticipate the rigor of thy sentence, and that I may examine myself before thy judgment, so that I may find mercy in thy presence.
IV. Grant, O my God! that I may adore in silence the order of thy adorable providence in the direction of my life; that this scourge may console me; and that, having lived during peace in the bitterness of my sins, I may taste the heavenly sweets of thy grace during the salutary evils with which thou afflictest me. But I perceive, my God, that my heart is so obdurate and full of the thoughts, the cares, the anxieties, and the attachments of the world, that sickness no more than health, nor discourses, nor books, nor thy sacred Scriptures, nor thy Gospel, nor thy most holy mysteries, nor alms, nor fasts, nor mortifications, nor miracles, nor the use of sacraments, nor the sacrifice of thy body, nor all my efforts, nor those of all the world together, can do any thing at all for the commencement of my conversion, if thou dost not accompany all these things with an extraordinary assistance of thy grace. It is for this that I address myself to thee, all-powerful God, to ask of thee a gift which all created things together cannot accord to me. I should not have the boldness to address to thee my cries, if any other had power to grant them. But, my God, as the conversion of my heart, which I ask of thee, is a work which surpasses all the efforts of nature, I can only address myself to the all-powerful Author and Master of nature and of my heart. To whom shall I cry, O Lord, to whom shall I have recourse, if not to thee? Nothing that is less than God can fulfil my expectation. It is God himself that I ask and seek; and it is to thee alone, my God, that I address myself to obtain thee, Open my heart, O Lord; enter into the rebellious place which has been occupied by vices. They hold it subject. Enter into it as into the strong mans house; but first bind the strong and powerful enemy that has possession of it, and then take the treasures which are there. Lord, take my affections, which the world had stolen; take this treasure thyself, or rather retake it, since it belongs to thee as a tribute that I owe thee, since thy image is imprinted in it. Thou formedst it, O Lord, at the moment of my baptism, which was my second birth; but it is wholly effaced. The image of the world is so deeply engraven there that thine is no longer to be recognized. Thou alone couldst create my soul, thou alone canst create it anew; thou alone couldst form thy image, thou alone canst reform and reimprint thy effaced portrait, that is, my Saviour, Jesus Christ, who is thy image, and the expression of thy substance.
V. O my God! how happy is a heart that can love so charming an object, that does not dishonor it, and the attachment of which is so salutary to it! I feel that I cannot love the world without displeasing thee, and destroying and dishonoring myself; yet the world is still the object of my delight. O my God! how happy is the soul of which thou art the delight, since it can abandon itself to loving thee, not only without scruple, but also with merit! How firm and durable is its happiness, since its expectation will never be frustrated, because thou wilt never be destroyed, and neither life nor death will ever separate it from the object of its desires; and since the same moment that will plunge the wicked with their idols into a common ruin, will unite the just with thee in a common glory; and since, as the former will perish with the perishable objects to which they are attached, the latter will subsist eternally in the eternal and self-subsistent object to which they are closely bound! Oh! how happy are those who with an entire liberty, and irresistible inclination of their will, love perfectly and freely that which they are obliged to love necessarily!
VI. Perfect, O my God, the good impulses that thou givest me. Be their end as thou art their principle. Crown thy own gifts, for I recognize that they are from thee. Yes, my God, and far from pretending that my prayers may have some merit that forces thee to accord them of necessity, I humbly acknowledge that, having given to created things my heart, which thou hadst formed only for thyself, and not for the world, nor for myself, I can expect no grace except from thy mercy, since I have nothing in me that can oblige thee to it, and since all the natural impulses of my heart, whether tending towards created things, or towards myself, can only irritate thee. I, therefore, render thee thanks, my God, for the good impulses which thou givest me, and for the very one that thou hast given me to render thanks for them.
VII. Move my heart to repent of my faults, since, without this internal sorrow, the external ills with which thou affectest my body will be to me a new occasion of sin. Make me truly to know that the ills of the body are nothing else than the punishment and the symbol combined of the ills of the soul. But, Lord, grant also that they may be their remedy, by making me consider, in the pains which I feel, those that I did not feel in my soul, although wholly diseased, and covered with sores. For, Lord, the greatest of its diseases is this insensibility and extreme weakness, which had taken away from it all feeling of its own sufferings. Make me to feel them acutely, and grant that the portion of life that remains to me may be a continual penitence to wash away the offences that I have committed.
VIII. Lord, although my past life may have been exempt from great crimes, of which thou hast removed from me the occasions, it has nevertheless been most odious to thee by its continual negligence, by the bad use of thy most august sacraments, by the contempt of thy word and of thy inspirations, by the indolence and total uselessness of my actions and my thoughts, by the complete loss of the time which thou hadst given me only to adore thee, to seek in all my occupations the means of pleasing thee, and to repent of faults that are committed every day, and are even common to the most just; so that their life should be a continual penitence, without which they are in danger of falling from their justice. Thus, my God, I have always been opposed to thee.
IX. Yes, Lord, hitherto I have always been deaf to thy inspirations, I have despised thy oracles; I have judged the contrary of that which thou hast judged; I have contradicted the holy maxims which thou hast brought to the world from the bosom of thy eternal Father, and conformably to which thou wilt judge the world. Thou sayest: Blessed are those that mourn, and woe to those that are comforted! And I have said: Woe to those that mourn and blessed are those that are comforted! I have said: Blessed are those that enjoy an affluent fortune, a glorious reputation, and robust health! And why have I reputed them blessed, if not because all these advantages furnished them ample facility for enjoying created things, that is for offending thee! Yes, Lord, I confess that I have esteemed health a blessing, not because it is an easy means for serving thee with utility, for accomplishing more cares and vigils in thy service, and for the assistance of my neighbor; but because by its aid I could abandon myself with less restraint to the abundance of the delights of life, and better relish fatal pleasures. Grant me the favor, Lord, to reform my corrupt reason and to conform my sentiments to thine. Let me esteem myself happy in affliction, and, in the impotence of acting externally, purify my sentiments so that they may no longer be repugnant to thine; and let me thus find thee with-in myself, since I cannot seek thee without because of my weakness. For, Lord, thy kingdom is within thy faithful; and I shall find it within myself, if I find there thy spirit and thy sentiments.
X. But, Lord, what shall I do to force thee to diffuse thy spirit over this miserable earth? All that I am is odious to thee, and I find nothing in myself that can be pleasing to thee. I see nothing therein, Lord, but my sufferings, which bear some resemblance to thine. Consider then the ills that I suffer and those that menace me. Look with an eye of mercy upon the wounds that thy hand has made, O my Saviour, who lovedst thy sufferings in death! O God, who wert made man only to suffer more than any other man for the salvation of mankind! O God, who wert not incarnated until after the sin of mankind, and who only tookest upon thyself a body in order to suffer therein all the ills which our sins had merited! O God, who lovedst so much these suffering bodies that thou hast chosen for thyself a body more oppressed with suffering than any that has ever appeared on earth! Look with favor upon my body, not for itself, nor for all that it contains, for everything therein deserving of thy anger, but for the ills that it endures, which alone can be worthy of thy love. Love my sufferings, Lord, and let my ills invite thee to visit me. But to finish the preparation for thy abode, grant, O my Saviour, that if my body has this in common with thinethat it suffers for my offences, my soul may also have this in common with thinethat it may be plunged in sorrow for the same offences; and that thus I may suffer with thee, and like thee, both in my body and in my soul, for the sins that I have committed.
XI. Grant me the favor, Lord, to join thy consolations to my sufferings, that I may suffer like a Christian. I ask not to be exempt from sorrow, for this is the recompense of the saints; but I ask that I may not be abandoned to the sorrows of nature without the consolations of thy spirit; for this is the curse of the Jews and the heathen. I ask not to have a fulness of consolation without any suffering; for this is the life of glory. Neither do I ask to be in the fulness of evils without consolation; for this is the state of Judaism. But I ask, Lord, to feel at the same time both the sorrows of nature for my sins, and the consolations of thy spirit through thy grace; for this is the true condition of Christianity. Let me not feel sorrow without consolation; but let me feel sorrow and consolation together, that I may come at last to feel thy consolation without any sorrow. For, Lord, thou lettest the world languish in natural suffering without consolation, before the coming of thy only Son: now thou consolest and assuagest the sufferings of thy faithful through the grace of thy only Son: and thou crownest thy saints with a pure beatitude in the glory of thy only Son. Such are the admirable degrees through which thou conductest thy work. Thou hast drawn me from the first: make me pass through the second, to arrive at the third. Lord, this is the favor that I ask of thee.
XII. Suffer me not to be so far removed from thee, that I can consider thy soul sorrowful unto death, and thy body a prey to death for my own sins, without rejoicing to suffer both in my body and in my soul. For what is there more shameful, and yet more common in Christians and in myself, than that, whilst thou sweatest blood for the expiation of our offences, we live in delights; and that those Christians who profess to belong to thee, that those who by baptism have renounced the world to follow thee, that those who have sworn solemnly in the presence of the Church to live and die for thee, that those who profess to believe that the world has persecuted and crucified thee, that those who believe that thou wert exposed to the wrath of God and the cruelty of men to ransom them from their crimes; that those, I say, who believe all these truths, who consider thy body as the victim that was yielded up for their salvation, who consider the pleasures and the sins of the world as the only cause of thy sufferings, and the world itself as thy executioner, seek to flatter their bodies by these very pleasures, in this very world; and that those who cannot, without shuddering with horror, see a man caress and cherish the murderer of his father, who would devote himself to give him life, can live as I have done, with full joy, in the world that I know to have been veritably the murderer of him whom I acknowledge for my God and my Father, who has delivered himself up for my own salvation, and who has borne in his person the penalty of my iniquities? It is just, Lord, that thou shouldst have interrupted a joy so criminal as that in which I was reposing in the shadow of death.
XIII. Remove from me then, Lord, the sadness that the love of self might give me for my own sufferings and for the things of the world that do not succeed to the satisfaction of the inclinations of my heart, and that do not regard thy glory; but create in me a sadness in conformity with thine. Let my sufferings serve to appease thy wrath. Make of them an occasion for my salvation and my conversion. Let me henceforth desire health and life only to employ them and end them for thee, with thee, and in thee. I ask of thee neither health, nor sickness, nor life, nor death; but that thou wilt dispose of my health and my sickness, my life and my death, for thy glory, for my salvation, and for the utility of the Church and of thy saints, of whom I hope by thy grace to form a part. Thou alone knowest what is most expedient for me: thou art the sovereign master, do what thou wilt. Give to me, take from me; but conform my will to thine; and grant that in humble and perfect submission and in holy confidence, I may be disposed to receive the orders of thy eternal providence, and that I may adore alike all that comes to me from thee.
XIV. Grant, my God, that in a constantly equal uniformity of spirit I may receive all kinds of events, since we know not what we should ask, and since I cannot desire one more than another without presumption, and without rendering myself the judge of and responsible for the results that thy wisdom has rightly been pleased to hide from me. Lord, I know only that I know but one thing, that it is good to follow thee and that it is evil to offend thee. After this, I know not which is the better or worse of any thing; I know not which is more profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, nor of all the things of the world. This is a discernment that exceeds the power of men or of angels, and that is hidden in the secrets of thy providence which I adore, and which I wish not to fathom.
XV. Grant then, Lord, that such as I am I may conform myself to thy will; and that being sick as I am, I may glorify thee in my sufferings. Without them I could not arrive at glory; and thou, too, my Saviour, hast only wished to attain it through them. It was by the tokens of thy sufferings that thou wert recognized by thy disciples; and it is by sufferings also that thou wilt recognize thy disciples. Acknowledge me then for thy disciple in the evils which I endure both in my body and my mind, for the offences that I have committed. And since nothing is pleasing to God if it be not offered through thee, unite my will to thine, and my sorrows to those which thou hast suffered. Grant that mine may become thine. Unite me to thee; fill me with thyself and with thy Holy Spirit. Enter into my heart and soul, to bear in them my sufferings, and to continue to endure in me what remains to thee to suffer of thy passion, that thou mayest complete in thy members even the perfect consummation of thy body, so that being full of thee, it may no longer be that I live and suffer, but that it may be thou that livest and sufferest in me, O my Saviour! And that thus having some small part in thy sufferings, thou wilt fill me entirely with the glory that they have acquired for thee, in which thou wilt live with the Father and the Holy Spirit through ages upon ages. So be it.