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Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855)

Thou art incomprehensible

Father in Heaven! Thou art incomprehensible in Thy creation;
Thou livest afar off in a light which no one can penetrate and if we recognize Thee in Thy providence,
our knowledge is feeble and veils Thy splendor,
Thou who are incomprehensible in Thy splendor.
But Thou art still more incomprehensible in Thy grace and in Thy mercy.
What is man that Thou art mindful of him,
Thou Infinite One—but even more, what is the son of a fallen race, that yea Thou wouldst visit him, Thou Holy One;
yea what is the sinner that Thy Son wouldst come into the world because of him,
not to judge but to save,
not to make known His own dwelling place so that the lost might seek Him,
but in order to seek out that which is lost,
having no dens such as wild beasts have,
having no place on which to lay his head,
knowing hunger in the desert, thirst on the Cross.
Lord, Father of compassion! What is man able to do for such great benefits;
he is not even able to give Thee thanks without Thee.
Teach us then the humble discernment of true intelligence that,
as a broken heart sighs under the weight of its guilt.
saying in its sorrow: "It is impossible! it is impossible that God is able to show such compassion,"
so that the one who appropriates this assurance in faith must also say in his joy,
"it is impossible."
If death too seemed to separate those who love one another and again they were given to each other,
their first cry at the moment of their reunion would be, "it is impossible."
And this joyous message of Thy compassion, Father in Heaven, even if man has heard it since his tender infancy, is not for that the less incomprehensible!
And even if man meditates on it day by day, it does not become for that less incomprehensible!
Was then Thy incomprehensible mercy like that of a man, which disappeared on closer acquaintance,
like the happiness of those who loved each other once in days of old incomprehensible (then) but not any more.
O torpid human reason!
O guileful earthly wisdom!
O cold thought of slumbering faith!
O miserable forgetfulness of the cold heart!
No, Lord, keep Thou everyone who believes in Thee
in the proper humble understanding and deliver him from evil.

Søren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher whose meditations, journals, and sermons were catalysts for the Christian existentialist movement. A large portion of his prayers in his journals have been edited by Perry D. LeFevre into a lovely edition with a detailed introduction called The Prayers of Kierkegaard (University of Chicago Press, 1956), from which this prayer has been taken.

Michael Fitzpatrick

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