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Prayer on the Grave of a Sister, by Marcus Heinrich Bresslau (1852)

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Lord of the universe, my God, and the God of my fathers! at this awful ground, where already tears innumerable have been shed for dear and beloved dead, where more than on any spot the nothingness and perishableness of everything earthly is so powerfully urged upon our minds: here, on the tomb of my pious sister, my truest friend, let me pour out my heart, All-just Ruler! Let me beseech Thee to strengthen me in my faith, to fortify me in the practice of virtue, so that I do not despair in misfortune, not waste my health in excessive grief, not dream away my time in activity, nor seclude myself from the world. The heavier I feel the loss of a sisterly companion from my side, full of love and noble-mindedness, the more will I endevour to manifest at all times, and in every place, a genuine sense of religion. The more I acknowledge that neither personal attractions nor the multitude of mundane treasures are able to save us, when Thy impenetrable decree, Heavenly Father recalls us from the scenes of this life, the more will I strive to prepare myself for immortality; thus whilst I live I shall feel no horror or fear of death, but receive with composure and resignation every fate which Thou mayest decree upon me.

Yet, how unstable and deceptive is the heart of mortals! do not our firmest resolves, our gravest determinations, our longest matured designs dissolve as quickly as a bubble? True, at the present moment, in this mournful place, the alluring charms of the outer world can exercise no influence upon me. But shall I not become wavering in these pious sentiments when I am again in the midst of the living, surrounded by the dazzling show and pomp of life? Will not vanity, eagerness for display and other weaknesses, gain power over me? Be Thou, O Lord, my protector, my refuge, and my stay, in the hour of trial; may, then, be present to my mind, the image of her who now reposes in the shadow of death, of her whose sisterly love and truth warned me of dangers and impiety during her lifetime. O, let me with renewed vigour leave this silent abode of peace, for the active scenes of life, so that as a useful member of society I may serve my fellow creatures. Mayest thou, beloved sister, resting in the land of bliss, enjoy eternal salvation, whilst I, by the gracious assistance of our heavenly Father, will strive to serve Him, whose name be blessed to all eternity. Amen.

“Prayer on the Grave of a Sister” was first published in Marcus Heinrich Bresslau’s collection of teḥinot, Teḥinot Banot Yisrael: Devotions for the Daughters of Israel (1852).

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