St. Bernard’s prayer to the Virgin

O virgin mother, daughter of thy Son,
humble beyond all creatures and more exalted;
predestined turning point of God’s intention;

Thy merit so ennobled human nature
that its divine Creator did not scorn
to make Himself the creature of His creature.

The Love that was rekindled in Thy womb
sends for the warmth of the eternal peace
within whose ray this flower has come to bloom.

Here to us, thou art the noon and scope
of Love revealed; and among mortal men,
the living fountain of eternal hope.

Lady, thou art so near God’s reckonings
that who seeks grace and does not first seek thee
would have his wish fly upward without wings.

Not only does thy sweet benignity
flow out to all who beg, but oftentimes
thy charity arrives before the plea.

In thee is pity, in thee munificence,
in thee the tenderest heart, in thee unites
all that creation knows of excellence!

Now comes this man who from the final pit
of the universe up to this height has seen,
one by one, the three lives of the spirit.

He prays to thee in fervent supplication
for grace and strength, that he may raise his eyes
to the all-healing final revelation.

And I, who never more desired to see
the vision myself that I do that he may see It,
add my own prayer, and pray that it may be

enough to move you to dispel the trace
of every mortal shadow by thy prayers
and let him see revealed the Sum of Grace.

I pray the further, all-persuading Queen,
keep whole the natural bent of his affections
and of his powers after his eyes have seen.

Protect him from the stirrings of man’s clay;
see how Beatrice and the blessed host
clasp reverent hands to join me as I pray.

—from Paradiso, Canto 33