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I’ve been reading a book called “The Stripping of the Altars: Traditional Religion in England 1400-1580”, by Eamon Duffy, which is very well researched and written, but nonetheless depressing in its way. Apparently Roman Catholic England before the Reformation was really Roman Catholic. Even though a lot of the book is a downer for a confessional Lutheran (why did they waste all that money, time, and energy worshipping saints?), there are some things that can be appreciated as representing a common heritage. The people’s faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament, for instance, was heartening to see (but often as not, they simply watched instead of eating and drinking in faith as Jesus urges), and too often they fell off into superstition. It also remains for our age to walk the razor’s edge between a full Biblical and sacramental piety expressed liturgically, and rank superstition or magical thinking. Our Protestant past might insulate us from superstitition (or at least communal superstition…), but then we might fall short of the full sacramental appreciation and awareness which our Lutheran forefathers displayed and confessed. We all have a ways to go when it comes to living up to the light we’ve been given, I suppose.

Part of reading this book for me has been noting and appreciating things that I could use, or that are still beautiful and true. This prayer is one example. It’s a prayer that was commonly found in medieval Books of Hours (=prayer books). Much in those books was out of bounds because it involved praying to Mary, the saints, or other false doctrine, but not all of it was like that. This prayer would have been in Latin, and any Christian can use it and pray it. The two mentions of Peter, Mary Magdalene, and the penitent thief on the cross tie together the prayer and bring it home for various kinds of sinners — notorious, lifelong, those who deny Him, and so on. It’s a beautiful prayer.

Adoro Te, Domine Jesu Christe, in Cruce Pendentem

I adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, hanging upon the Cross, and bearing on Your head a crown of thorns: I beseech You, Lord Jesus Christ, that Your cross may free me from the avenging Angel.

I adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, wounded upon the cross, drinking vinegar and gall: I beseech You, Lord Jesus Christ, that Your wounds may be my remedy.

I adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, placed in the tomb, laid in myrrh and spices: I beseech You, Lord Jesus Christ, that Your death may be my life.

I adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, descending into hell, liberating the captives: I beseech You, never let me enter there.

I adore You, Lord Jesus Christ, rising from the dead, ascending into heaven and sitting on the right hand of the Father: have mercy on me, I beseech You.

O Lord Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, preserve the righteous, make righteous the sinners, have mercy on all the faithful: and be gracious to me, a sinner.

O Lord Jesus Christ, I ask You for the sake of that most bitter suffering which You bore for my sake upon the cross, and above all when Your most noble soul left Your most holy body: have mercy on my soul at its departing. Amen.

V. We adore You O Christ and we bless You,
R. Because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto You.

O most kindly Lord Jesus Christ: turn upon me, a miserable sinner, those eyes of mercy with which You beheld Peter in court, and Mary Magdalene at the banquet, and the thief on the gibbet of the cross: and grant that with the blessed Peter I may worthily lament my sins, with Mary Magdalene may perfectly serve You, and with the thief may behold you eternally in heaven; Who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever. Amen.

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