One of the most common and consistent texts in the late medieval Books of Hours and early Reformation prymers was the XV Oes of St Bridget. This unusual title is derived from the fact that this devotion contains fifteen prayers that all begin “O Jesus…” and is attributed to St Bridget of Sweden. It was most likely not written by her personally, but by the English strand of the Brigittine tradition (which is no stranger to these pages as the source of the Myroure of Our Layde and having strong ties to the English Anchorite tradition). It partakes of the same kind of late medieval affective devotion to the passion as the Man of Sorrows, the Image of Pity, and the Stations of the Cross all grounded in the affective theological tradition best represented by St. Bonaventure. Stylistically, I find the prayers similar to the Good Friday Reproaches in that they draw the participant into the Passion imaginatively, inviting parallels through the techniques of either ironic juxtaposition or reversal.
Since we’re speaking of a manuscript devotion, it should be no surprise to any of my regular readers that they have circulated in multiple versions. There are at least two very early English versions; William Caxton printed a version in one of his prymers, and Richard Day printed a protestantized version in his 1578 “Booke of Prayers.” I’ve not been able to locate either of these. (Though I haven’t looked terribly hard either…)
The version that I first encountered in English and seems to have a solid back story to it is this version at the ThesarusPrecum Latinarum.
Using that as a starting place and looking at a few other versions as well, I’ve come up with this text that I think both respects the traditional intent and structure while conforming to prayer book theology.
Thoughts, questions, and comments welcome.
From St Bridget’s Prayers on the Passion
[Traditionally, each prayer after the first was preceded by the Lord’s Prayer and a Hail Mary.]
O Jesus, eternal sweetness to those who love you, joy surpassing all joy and desire, Salvation and Hope of sinners, who has shown your desire to be among humanity, call to mind the sufferings endured in your Incarnation, especially the pain of your bitter Passion. In memory of these pains which you suffered for my redemption, grant me true repentance, amendment of life, and the grace and consolation of your Holy Spirit. Amen.
O Jesus, the Glory of Angels and the paradise of delights, call to mind the blows, the spitting, and the tearing of your flesh before your Passion. In memory of these torments, O my Savior, deliver me from all my enemies, visible and invisible, and to bring me, under your protection, to the perfection of eternal salvation. Amen.
O Jesus, Creator whom nothing in heaven or earth can encompass or limit, who enfolds and embraces all within your loving power, call to mind the pain you suffered when your hands and feet were stretched out and nailed to the hard wood of the cross. In memory of the suffering of the cross, O my Savior, grant me the grace to love and fear you as I should. Amen.
O Jesus, Heavenly Physician, raised high on the cross to heal our wounds with yours, call to mind the bruises you suffered and the pain of your rent limbs as you were held in torment on the cross, yet you did not cease praying for your enemies saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” In memory of this suffering, O my Savior, grant that the remembrance of your bitter passion may spur me to true contrition and the remission of all my sins. Amen.
O Jesus, Mirror of everlasting love, call to mind the sadness you felt when you looked down from the cross to see a world awash in its sin and the goodness you displayed to the thief to whom you said, “This day you shall be with me in paradise.” In memory of the depth of your pity, O my Savior, remember me in the hour of my own death, not weighing my merits but pardoning my offenses. Amen.
O Jesus, Beloved and most Desirable King, call to mind the grief you suffered when, naked and shamed upon the cross, all of your relatives and friends abandoned you but for your beloved mother whom you entrusted to your faithful disciple. In memory of the sword of sorrow that pierced your mother, O my Savior, have compassion on me in my afflictions, corporal and spiritual, and aid me in the time of trial. Amen.
O Jesus, Boundless Fountain of Compassion, who by a profound gesture of love said from the cross, “I thirst,” call to mind your suffering from the thirst for the salvation of all humanity. In memory of your mercy, O my Savior, grant that, though placed among things that are passing away, I may hold fast to those that shall endure. Amen.
O Jesus, Savor of hearts, delight of the spirit, of whom we taste and see that the Lord is good, call to mind the flavor of the gall and vinegar you tasted on the cross for love of us. In memory of this bitterness, O my Savior, grant me grace always to receive the sweetness of your Body and Blood worthily as a remedy and consolation for my soul.
O Jesus, Royal virtue, joy of the mind, call to mind the desolation of abandonment you endured at the approach of death as you cried in a loud voice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In memory of your anguish, O my Savior, do not abandon me in the terrors and pains of my death. Amen.
O Jesus, the beginning and end of all things, life and virtue, call to mind the length and breadth of your sufferings for our sake. In memory of your endurance, teach me to endure in the way of your commandments and cross, whose way is wide and easy for those who love you. Amen.
O Jesus, Unfathomed Depth of mercy, call to mind your grievous wounds that penetrated to the marrow of your bones and the depths of your soul. In memory of your piercings, O my Savior, turn the face of your anger from me and hide me in your wounds as wrath and judgment pass over me. Amen.
O Jesus, Mirror of truth, symbol of unity, link of charity, call to mind the torn flesh your body, reddened by your spilled blood. In memory of your rent body, O my Savior, teach me to live in unity and godly love with all for whom you suffered and bled. Amen.
O Jesus, Strong Lion of Judah, King invincible and immortal, call to mind the grief you endured when strength was exhausted and you bowed your head, saying: “It is finished.” In memory of your anguish, O my Savior, have mercy upon me at the hour of my death when my mind shall be troubled and my strength fail. Amen.
O Jesus, Only Son of the Father, splendor and figure of the Father’s glory, call to mind the humble commendation of your soul as with body torn, heart broken, and bowels of mercy opened to redeem us, you gave up your spirit. In memory of your precious death, O my Savior, comfort me and help me resist the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil that, being dead to the world, I may live to you in the world and, at the hour of death, be welcomed as a pilgrim returning home. Amen.
O Jesus, True and Fruitful Vine, call to mind the blood and water mingled that proceeded from your pierced side. In memory of the flowing of your blood, O my Savior, may all creation be washed clean from the stains of sin and find its reconciliation in you. Amen.
Pierce my heart, Saving Jesus, that tears of penitence and love may be my food and drink day by day that I may be converted entirely to you, my heart a constant dwelling for you, my words and works a constant witness to you, my passing a final return into you. Amen.