PRAYERS BY THE LAKE
Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic, a bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church, is regarded by many as a saint yet to be canonized. Little by little his writings are being translated into English. He died in 1956. He is best known for The Prologue from Ochrid, a four-volume work on the lives of the saints (published by the Lazarica Press, 131 Cob Lane, Birmingham B30 1QE, England). The first volume of The Holimies will soon be available from the same publisher. Our thanks to Sinisa Rakic of the Wolkentheater in Amsterdam for suggesting publication of several of his "Prayers by the Lake" and to Mother Maria Rule for the translation.
Men can do me no evil as long as I bear no wound.
I saw two caves, one of which gave off an echo, while the other was dumb. Many curious children visited the former, incessantly engaged in shouting matches with the cave. But visitors quickly left the other cave, because it gave them no echo in return.
If my soul is wounded, every worldly evil will resound within it. And people will laugh at me, and will bear more and more strongly on me with their shouting.
But evil-speaking people will not really harm me, if my tongue has forgotten how to form evil words.
Nor will external malice sadden me, if there is no malice in my heart to resound like a goatskin drum.
Nor shall I be able to respond to wrath with wrath if the lair of wrath within me has been vacated and there is nothing to be aroused.
Nor will human passions titillate me if the passions within me have been turned to ashes.
Nor will the untruthfulness of friends sadden me if I have chosen Thee for my friend.
Nor can the injustice of the world overwhelm me if injustice has been banished from my thoughts.
Nor will the deceitful spirits of worldly pleasure, honor and power delude me, if my soul is like a spotless bride, who receives only the Holy Spirit and yearns for Him alone.
Men cannot send anyone off to hell unless that person sends himself, nor can men hoist anyone up on their shoulders to the throne of God, unless that person elevates himself.
If my soul has no open windows, no mud can be thrown into it.
Let all nature rise up against me; it can do nothing to me except a single thing -- to become as soon as possible the grave of my body.
Every worldly crop is covered with manure, so that it will sprout as soon as possible and grow better. If my soul were, alas, to abandon its virginity and receive the seed of this world into itself, then it would also have to accept the manure that the world casts on its fields.
But I call upon Thee day and night: "Come, dwell in my soul and close all the places where my enemies can enter. Make the cavern of my soul empty and dumb, so that no one from the world will desire to enter it."
O my soul, my only care, be on guard and learn to distinguish between the voices that smite your ears. Once you hear the voice of your Lord, abandon your dumbness and echo it with all your strength.
O my soul, thou cavern of eternity, never allow temporal thieves to enter into thee and kindle their fire within thee. Be dumb when they shout at you. Stay still when they bang on you, and patiently await your Master -- for He will truly come.
* * *
Thou hast filled thyself with peace, O Glory of the realms on high, and the anger of all lands cannot shake Thy peace.
Among mortals there is little peace; therefore anger has gained in strength.
Anger makes its nest in the breast of arrogance and murder lies in the breast of anger.
All sins tend to murder, and none stands so close to murder as anger.
One-eyed earthly laws do not punish anger, because they do not see that anger kills. But Thy discerning law, O Glory of the realms on high, calls anger murder.
I have striven, in sunlight and moonlight, to penetrate the mystery of Thy law and, once my striving began to wear away all my worldly hopes, I began to perceive how my anger towards neighbors was killing me.
The children of anger are slaves, while the children of peace are sons. Therefore Thy wisdom speaks to men and reiterates to them: Be sons! A son looks into the face of his father, and turns his own face towards that of his father. When he sees peace in his father's face, how can he distort his own face with anger, and yet not turn his gaze away from his father?
Anger brings infirmity into both the one who is angry and the one against whom the anger is vented. And infirmity is the precursor of death.
A wonder worker does not work miracles among children of anger, for the children of anger bring infirmity unto him.
O my neighbors, why do you feel stronger among those who love you, and weaker among those whom your presence angers? Is it not because the former add to your life by love, and the latter take from it through anger?
It is therefore my delight to be constantly with thee, O Glory of the realms on high. For only in Thy presence I neither kill them nor they me.
Just as drop after drop of water wears away even the hardest stone, so anger wears away the life of two people.
Like a murderer waiting in ambush with a knife, so anger turns in a proud heart.
Truly, arrogance knows that it is guilty; therefore it places anger at the gate, to act as its sentry.
Arrogance knows that it is sinful; therefore it has found itself an advocate in another sin.
Fill my heart with humility, O Glory of the realms on high, with the humility of the angels before Thy throne, for humility gives no abode or resting place to anger.
Grant me the humility of a son, and I shall be ashamed to become angry at slaves or kill slaves. Arm me with Thy peace, that the anger of the children of anger will not be able to confound.
* * *
The Father looks down from heaven and sees me all covered with wounds from the injustice of men, and says: "Take no revenge."
On whom should I take revenge, O Lord? On part of a flock on its way to slaughter?
Does a doctor take revenge on his patients for cursing him on their death beds?
Or whom should I take revenge? On the snow for melting, or on the grass for withering? Does a grave digger take revenge on those going down into the grave?
On whom shall I take revenge? On simpletons, for thinking that they can do evil to someone else in the world besides themselves? Does a teacher take revenge on illiterate children for not knowing how to read?
Eternity is my witness that all who are quick to take revenge are slow to read and comprehend its mysteries.
Time is my witness that all who have taken revenge have accumulated poison in themselves and have, with this poison, blotted themselves out of the Book of Life.
In what can you avengers boast before your adversaries, except my being able to repeat their evil? Are you not thereby saying: "We are no better than you?"
God is my witness that both you and your adversaries are equally reckless and equally incapable of good.
I have seen a cherry tree stripped of its bark and set fire to by children, yet it gave ripe fruit to those same children.
And I have seen cows, which men tormented with heavy burdens, patiently give milk to those same men.
Tears welled up in my eyes, and I asked: Why is nature more compassionate to men than man is to his fellow man?
Nature is my witness, O ye avengers, that only he is more powerful than those who do him evil who is powerless to copy their evil deeds.
There is no end to vengeance, and the descendants continue the work of their fathers and then go hence, leaving it unfinished.
Evil hastens along a wide road, and from each new duel it gains strength and territory, and increases its retinue.
A wise man gets off the road and leaves evil to hurry on.
A barking dog is more quickly silenced by a piece of bread than by many hurled stones.
He who taught men: "An eye for an eye," also taught them how they would all be left blind.
On whom shall I take revenge, O my heavenly Father? On part of a flock on its way to slaughter?
Ah, how wretched are all evildoers and all who take revenge! Truly, they are like a flock of sheep on the way to slaughter that, unaware of where they are heading, butt horns with each other and wreak a slaughter before the slaughter.
I do not seek vengeance, my Father; I do not seek vengeance, but rather that Thou grant me a sea of tears, so that I can bewail the wretchedness of those who are on their way to slaughter, not knowing where they are going.
[ from In Communion number 5 / Apostles Fast 1996]