From Prayers by the Lake…

Think of yourself as though you were dead, I say to myself, and you will not feel the coming of death. Blunt the barb of death during life, and when it comes it will not have the means to sting.

Think of yourself every morning as a newborn miracle, and you will not feel old age.

Do not wait for death to come, because death has indeed already come and has not left you. Its teeth are continually in your flesh.  Whatever was living before your birth and whatever will survive your death–that even now is alive within you.

One night an angel unwound the tape of time, the end of which I was unable to perceive, and he showed me two dots on the tape, one next to the other. “The distance between these two dots,” he said, “is the span of your lifetime.”

“That means my lifetime is already over,” I shouted, “and I must be prepared for the journey. I must be like a diligent hostess, who spends the present day cleaning house and making preparations for tomorrow’s slava1 celebration.”

Truly, the present day of all the sons of men is for the most part filled with concern for the next day. Yet few of those, who believe in Your promise, concern themselves with what will happen the day after death. May my death, O Lord, be my last sigh not for this world, but for that blessed and eternal Tomorrow.

Among the burned out candles of my friends, my candle, too, is burning down. “Do not be foolish,” I reprimand myself, “and do not regret that your candle is burning out. Do you really love your friends so little, that you are afraid to set out after them, after the many who have strolled away? Do not regret that your candle is burning low, but that it is leaving be­hind unclear and dim light.”

My soul has become accustomed to leaving my body every day and every night, and to stretch herself out to the limits of the universe. When she has sprouted in this way, my soul feels as though suns and moons are swimming over her even as the swans swim over my lake. She shines through suns and supports life on earthly planets. She supports mountains and seas; she controls thunder and winds. She completely fills Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.2 And she returns to shel­ter in a cramped and dilapidated habitation on one of those earthly planets. She returns to the body that she still, for another minute or two, calls her own, and which sways like her shadow among mounds of graves, among lairs of beasts, among howls of false hopes.

I do not complain about death, O Living God, it does not seem to me to be anything sad. It is a terror that man has created for himself. More strongly than anything on earth, death is pushing me to meet You.

I had a walnut tree in front of my house, and death took it from me. I was angry at death and cursed it saying: “Why did it not take me, an insatiable animal, instead of something sinless?”

But now I think of myself as though I were dead, and near my walnut tree.

O my Immortal God, look mercifully upon a candle that is burning out, and purify its flame. For only a pure flame rises toward Your face, and enters Your eye, with which you watch the whole world.

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