St. Nikolai Velimirovich of Ochrid
Prayers by the Lake
Poem IV (4)
My elders taught me, when I was a youth, to cling to heaven and earth, lest I stumble. For a long time I remained a child, and for a long time I used to lean on the crutch that they gave me.
But once eternity flooded through me and I felt like a stranger in the world, heaven and earth snapped in two in my hands like a frail reed.
O Lord, my strength, how frail are heaven and earth! They look like palaces built of lead, but they evaporate like water in the palm of the hand in Your presence. Only by their bristling do they conceal their frailty, and frighten uneducated children.
Get out of my sight, suns and stars. Sunder yourselves from the earth. Do not entice me, women and friends. What help can I receive from you, who are helplessly growing old and sinking into the grave?
All your gifts are an apple with a worm in its core. All your potions have passed through someone’s entrails many times. Your garments are a cobweb that my nakedness mocks. Your smiles are a proclamation of sorrow, in which your feebleness is screaming to mine for help.
O Lord, my strength, how feeble heaven and earth are! And all the evil that men do under heaven is an admission of feebleness and—infirmity.
Only someone strong dares to do good. Only someone who is nourished and watered with You, my strength, is filled with strength for goodness.
Only someone who sleeps in Your heart knows rest. Only someone who plows before Your feet will enjoy the fruit of his labours.
My childhood, nourished with fear and ignorance, came to an end; and my hope in heaven and earth vanished. Now I only gaze at You and cling to Your gaze in return, O my cradle and my resurrection.
Prayers by the Lake, IV (4), by St. Nikolai Velimirovic
Written at Lake Ohrid 1921-1922.
Man is sublime when he cares for the living; man is more than sublime when he cares for the dead. when a living man buries a dead one, he buries a part of himself with the dead man and returns home carrying a part of the dead man in his soul. This is especially clear – terribly clear – when a kinsman buries a kinsman, and a friend a friend.
O gravediggers, in how many graves have you already been buried, and how many corpses live in you!