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“I cannot fear, for Thou art love. . .”

Filed under: History, Prayers — Jess at 8:56 am on Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Theodore Parker (August 24, 1810-May 10, 1860), a contemporary of Emerson and Channing, among others, served the West Roxbury Unitarian Church in Massachusetts beginning in 1837. Now known as Theodore Parker Church Unitarian Universalist, the congregation still celebrates and wrestles with his legacy.

Parker is credited with being a pivotal figure in bringing Unitarian theology beyond a purely Biblical basis, and was in fact denounced as not practicing Christianity, after delivering A Discourse on the Transient and Permanent in Christianity (The Works of Theodore Parker, volume 4, pg. 1) at an ordination in 1841.

For a brilliant account of Parker’s life and writings, see Dean Grodzin’s Book, American Heretic: Theodore Parker and Transcendentalism, excerpts of which are available on Google Books.

This prayer, published in 1864 in The Life and Correspondence of Theodore Parker (p. 39), illustrates Parker’s holistic view of god and his sense of the constant reaching, stretching, deepening that human beings attempt in order to be closer to what he called the “Absolute Religion” in his famous sermon in 1841.

Prayer

by Rev. Theodore Parker

O Thou eternal One, may I commune
With Thee, and for a moment bathe my soul
In Thy infinity, Mother and Sire
Of all that are? In all that is art Thou;
Being is but by Thee, of Thee, in Thee;
Yet, far Thou reachest forth beyond the scope
Of space and time, or verge of human thought
Transcendant God! Yet, ever immanent
In all that is, I flee to Thee, and seek
Repose and soothing in my Mother’s breast.
0 God, I cannot fear, for Thou art love,
And wheresoe’er I grope I feel Thy breath!
Yea, in the storm which wrecks an argosy,
Or in the surges of the sea of men
When empires perish, I behold Thy face,
I hear Thy voice, which gives the law to all
The furies of the storm, and Law proclaims,
“Peace, troubled waves, serve ye the right—be still!”
From all this dusty world Thou wilt not lose
A molecule of earth, nor spark of light.
I cannot fear a single flash of soul
Shall ever fail, outcast from Thee, forgot.
Father and Mother of all things that are,
I flee to Thee, and in Thy arms find rest.
My God! how shall I thank Thee for Thy love!
Tears must defile my sacramental words,
And daily prayer be daily penitence
For actions, feelings, thoughts which are amiss:
Yet will I not say, “God, forgive!” for Thou
Hast made the effect to follow cause, and bless
The erring, sinning man. Then, let my sin
Continual find me out, and make me clean
From all transgression, purified and bless’d!

Source: Prayer by the Rev. Theodore Parker (August 24, 1810-May 10, 1860), published in 1864 in The Life and Correspondence of Theodore Parker (p. 39)

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