Come now, insignificant man, leave behind for a time your preoccupations; seclude yourself for a while from your disquieting thoughts. Turn aside now from heavy cares, and set aside your wearisome tasks. Make time for God, and rest a while in Him. Enter into the inner chamber of your mind; shut out everything except God and what is of aid to you in seeking Him; after closing the chamber door, seek Him out. Speak now, my whole heart; speak now to God:
I seek Your countenance; Your countenance, 0 Lord, do I seek. So come now, Lord my God, teach my heart where and how to seek You, where and how to find You. If You are not here, 0 Lord, where shall I seek You who are absent? But if You are everywhere, why do I not behold You as present? But surely You dwell in light inaccessible. Yet, where is light inaccessible? Or how shall I approach unto light inaccessible? Or who will lead me to and into this [light] so that in it I may behold You? Furthermore, by what signs, by what facial appearance shall I seek You? Never have I seen You, 0 Lord my God; I am not acquainted with Your face. What shall this Your distant exile do? What shall he do, 0 most exalted Lord? What shall Your servant do, anguished out of love for You and cast far away from Your face? He pants to see You, but Your face is too far removed from him. He desires to approach You, but Your dwelling place is inaccessible. He desires to find You but does not know Your abode. He longs to seek You but does not know Your countenance. 0 Lord, You are my God, and You are my Lord; yet, never have I seen You. You have created me and created me anew and have bestowed upon me whatever goods I have; but I am not yet acquainted with You. Indeed, I was made for seeing You; but not yet have I done that for which I was made.
0 the unhappy fate of man when he lost that [end] for which he was made! 0 that hard and ominous fall! Alas, what he lost and what he found, what vanished and what remained! He lost the happiness for which he was made and found an unhappiness for which he was not made. That without which nothing is happy vanished, and there remained what through itself is only unhappy. Man then ate the bread-of-angels for which he now hungers; and now he eats the bread-of-sorrows, which then he did not know. Alas, the common mourning of men, the universal lament of the sons of Adam! Adam burped with satiety; we sigh with hunger. He abounded; we go begging. He happily possessed and unhappily deserted; we unhappily lack and unhappily desire, while, alas, remaining empty. Why did he not, when easily able, keep for us that of which we were so gravely deprived? Why did he block off from us the light and enshroud us in darkness? Why did he take away from us life and inflict death? Wretched [creatures that we are], expelled from that home, impelled to this one!, cast down from that abode, sunken to this one! [We have been banished] from our homeland into exile, from the vision of God into our own blindness, from the delight of immortality into the bitterness and horror of death. 0 miserable transformation from such great good into such great evil! What a grievous loss, a heavy sorrow, an unmitigated plight! But, alas, unhappy me, one of the other unhappy sons of Eve who are far removed from God: what did I set out to do?, what have I achieved? For what was I striving?, where have I arrived?
To what was I aspiring?, for what do I sigh? I sought after good things and, behold, [here is] turmoil. I was striving unto God but collided with myself. I was seeking rest in my inner recesses but found tribulation and grief in my inmost being. I wanted to laugh from joy of mind but am constrained to cry out from groaning of heart. I hoped for gladness, but, lo, as a result, my sighs increase!
0 Lord, how long? How long, 0 Lord, will You forget us? How long will You turn away Your face from us? When will You look upon us and hear us? When will You enlighten our eyes and show us Your face? When will You restore Yourself to us? Look upon us, 0 Lord; hear us, enlighten us, reveal Yourself unto us. Restore unto us Yourself—without whom we fare so badly—so that we may fare well. Have compassion upon the efforts and attempts which we, who can do nothing without You, direct toward You. [As] You summon us, [so] aid us, I beseech [You], 0 Lord, that I may not despair with sighing but may revive in hoping.
I beseech You, 0 Lord: my heart is made bitter by its own desolation; sweeten it by Your consolation. I beseech You, 0 Lord, that having begun in hunger to seek You, I may not finish without partaking of You. I set out famished; let me not return still unfed. I came as one who is poor to one who is rich, as one who is unhappy to one who is merciful; let me not return empty and spurned. And if before I eat I sigh, grant at least after the sighs that which I may eat. 0 Lord, bent over [as I am] I can look only downwards; straighten me so that I can look upwards. Having mounted above my head, my iniquities cover me over; and as a heavy burden they weigh me down. Deliver me [from them]; unburden me, so that the abyss of iniquities does not engulf me. Permit me, at least from afar or from the deep, to look upwards toward Your light. Teach me to seek You, and reveal Yourself to me as I seek; for unless You teach [me] I cannot seek You, and unless You reveal Yourself I cannot find You. Let me seek You in desiring You; let me desire You in seeking You. Let me find [You] in loving [You]; let me love [You] in finding [You].
0 Lord, I acknowledge and give thanks that You created in me. Your image so that I may remember, contemplate, and love You. But [this image] has been so effaced by the abrasion of transgressions, so hidden from sight by the dark billows of sins, that unless You renew and refashion it, it cannot do what it was created to do. 0 Lord, I do not attempt to gain access to Your loftiness, because I do not at all consider my intellect to be equal to this [task]. But I yearn to understand some measure of Your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order to understand. For I believe even this: that unless I believe, I shall not understand.