For Days Like These…

XVII How tedious to me are the counsels of human leaders and wise men–oh how tedious they seem to me–ever since Your wisdom caused my heart and mind to tremble, Holy God. Those whom the dark desires of the heart are dragging into the abyss do not believe in Your light. There are no obstacles for a stone while it is rolling down a hill. The higher the steep slope and the deeper the abyss—the swifter and more unrestrained is the rolling of the stone. One dark desire lures another with its success; and that one hires yet another, until all that is good in a person withers, and all that is evil gushes out in a torrential flood–until, along with everything else, all that the Holy Spirit has built is washed away, both inside and out; Until the scorners of the light begin to scorn themselves and their teachers; Until the sweetest sweets begin to choke them with their stench; Until all the material goods, for which they killed neighbours and razed cities, begin to mock their monstrosity. Then they stealthily lift their eyes toward heaven, and through the dung of their profaned and putrid existence, they cry out: “Holy God!” How it irritates me like a burning arrow to hear men boasting of their power, ever since I came to know of Your powerful hand, Holy Mighty! They build towers of stone and say: “We are better builders than your God.” But I ask them: “Did you, or your fathers, build the stars?” They discover light inside the earth, and boast: “We know more than your God.” But I ask them: “Who buried the light beneath the earth for you to discover?” They fly through the air and arrogantly say: “By ourselves we have created wings for ourselves, where is your God?” But I ask them: “Who gave you the idea of wings and flying if not the birds, which you did not create?” Yet see what happens when You open their eyes to their own frailty! When irrational creatures show them their monstrous power; when their mind becomes filled with wonder at the starry towers, that stand in space without pillars or foundations; when their heart becomes filled with fear of their own frailty and insanity–then, in shame and humility, they stretch out their arms toward You and cry: “Holy Mighty!” How it saddens me to see people overrating this life, ever since I tasted the sweetness of Your immortality, Holy Immortal! The shortsighted see only this life, and say: “This is the only life there is, and we shall make it immortal by means of our deeds among men.” But I tell them: “If your beginning is like a river, then it must have a source; if it is like a tree, it must have its root, if it is like a beam of light, it must come from some sun.” And again I tell them: “So, you intend to establish your immortality among mortals? Try starting a fire in water!” But when they look death in the face, they are left speechless, and torment seizes their heart. When they smell the flesh of their dead brides; when they leave the empty faces of their friends in the grave; when they place their hands on their sons’ chests that have grown cold; when they realize that even kings are not able to buy off death with their crowns, nor heroes with their mighty deeds, nor wise men with their wisdom–then they feel the icy wind of death breathing down their necks too, and they fall down on their knees and bow their heads over their toppled pride, and pray to You: “Holy Immortal, have mercy on us!”From “Prayers by the Lake” by Saint Nikolai of Ochrid and Zirca

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