Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Would that I could make all things glorify You

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

How oblivious we have become to the presence of the Lord even at the altar.  We gorge ourselves upon the what has no substance and passes away while giving a passing and often reluctant nod to He who waits for us so patiently and lovingly - the Bread of Life.  In our laziness and indolence we scorn God's humble gifts.  We cannot bear them.  Yet, though they are blasphemed and treated with contempt, the saints see their glory in their smallness. What is held in low regard, they treasure.   

Would that I could make musicians out of stone, and dan­cers out of the sand of the lake, and minstrels out of the leaves of all the trees in the mountains, so that they might help me glorify the Lord-and so that the voice of the earth might be heard amidst the choirs of angels!

The sons of men gorge themselves at the table of the absent Master, and do not sing for anyone except themselves and their mouthfuls, which must eventually return to the earth.

Exceedingly sad is the blindness of the sons of men, who do not see the power and glory of the Lord. A bird lives in the forest, and does not see the forest. A fish swims in the water, and does not see the water. A mole lives in the earth, and does not see the earth. In truth, the similarity of man to birds, fish, and moles is exceedingly sad.

People, like animals, do not pay attention to what exists in excessive abundance, but only open their eyes before what is rare or exceptional.

There is too much of You, O Lord, my breath, therefore people do not see You. You are too obvious, O Lord, my sighing, therefore the attention of people is diverted from You and directed toward polar bears, toward rarities in the distance.

You serve Your servants too much, my sweet faithfulness, therefore You are subjected to scorn. You rise to kindle the sun over the lake too early, therefore sleepyheads cannot bear You. You are too zealous in lighting the vigil lamps in the firmament at night, my unsurpassed zeal, and the lazy heart of people talks more about an indolent servant than about zeal.

O my love, would that I could motivate all the inhabitants of the earth, water, and air to hum a hymn to You! Would that I could remove leprosy from the face of the earth and turn this wanton world back into the sort of virgin that You created!

Truly, my God, You are just as great with or without the world.

You are equally great whether the world glorifies You or whether the world blasphemes You. But when the world blas­phemes You, You seem even greater in the eyes of Your saints.

Prayers by the Lake
St. Nikolai of Ochrid

Friday, September 11, 2015

fill me with Your eternal matinal light

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Always seek to produce the fruit of repentance and humility.  Acknowledge the greatness for which God has created you and do not allow yourselves to be drawn to what is banal.  Likewise do not let your smallness and weakness become an excuse for drawing back from the holiness to which God has called you. Let not your eyes be turned to trifles of this world which will crumble into nothingness.  Call out to your Beloved who can shape you anew - who can remove from your hearts all that is malevolent, diseased, or anxious.  Then your hearts will become fertile ground!

Onto your knees, generations and nations, before the majes­ty of God! You are quick to fall down on your knees before your bandit leaders, yet you hesitate to fall down on them before the feet of the Almighty!

You say: "Will the Lord really punish us who are so small? If He had made us bigger and stronger, then He would punish us. But as it is, take a look—we are scarcely any taller than a thorn bush along the road compared to the roaring universe around us, yet do you threaten us with punishment by One who is incomparably greater than we are?"

Fools! When your bandit leaders summon you to evil that even causes the universe to tremble, you still say that you are too small. You excuse yourselves by reason of smallness or weakness only when it comes to performing illustrious deeds.

Even if you are small in your own eyes, you are recorded in the book of fate under a great name. Your forefather Adam used to have the greatness of an archangel and used to glisten with an angelic countenance. Therefore, either the reward of an archangel or the punishment of an archangel is designated for you.

When the desire of your forefather creeps into your heart without a sound, the desire to know creation without the Creator, his archangelic countenance darkens like the earth, and his greatness cmmbles into trifles—into you, his seed. For he wishes to know trifles and to cmmble into trifles, so that he might enter into the trifles, taste them, and test them.

All trifles, all trivial trivia, most come together and turn their face from the earth to the Creator, so that your archangelic forefather may be established once again and so that his face may shine once again with the radiance of a mirror turned toward the sun.

O my Lord and my Creator, establish man as You first created him. This sort of man is not Your work. This sort of man created himself. His name is disease—how was there ever disease in Your hands? His name is fear—how could fear have ever come from the Fearless One? His name is malevolence —how could malevolence ever have come from the Benevolent One?

Fill me with Yourself, O my health; fill me with your eternal matinal light, and make disease, fear, and malevolence evaporate out of me-even as a marsh evaporates in the presence of the sun and is transformed into a fertile field!

Prayers by the Lake
St. Nikolai of Ochrid

Thursday, September 10, 2015

journey just a little longer

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Persevere a little longer and remain on the narrow and steep path that leads to the Beloved.  Though this world would seek to drag you down into the depths, hold fast to He who is the Conqueror of death. Have no fear in the face of the expanding darkness.  The abyss seems to grow ever larger, but the greater it appears in this world the further it is from the Lord.  Therefore, hide yourself in His Heart and nourish yourselves upon His love. Seek the solace and company of the poor in spirit - the despised of this world - and journey just a little longer. . .  .

Just a little longer and my journey will end. Keep me on the steep path to You just a little longer, O Conqueror of death; because the higher I climb towards You, the more people try to drag me down—into their abyss. The fuller their abyss becomes, the greater their hope is of defeating You. In truth, the fuller the abyss becomes, the further away from the abyss You are.

How stupid the servants of the tree of knowledge are! They do not measure their strength in You, but in their num­bers. They do not adopt a law of justice in Your name, but by their numbers. Whichever way the majority of them choose is the way of truth and justice. The tree of knowledge has become the tree of crime, stupidity, and icy darkness.

Truly, the knowledgeable men of this world know every­thing except that they are servants of Satan. When the last day dawns, Satan will rejoice in the number of people in his harvest. All the meager ears of grain! But in his stupidity, even Satan counts on quantity rather than quality. One of Your ears of grain will be worth more than the entire harvest of Satan. For You, O Conqueror of death, rely on the fullness of the bread of life, and not on numbers.

In vain I tell the godless: "Head for the Tree of Life and you will know more than you could possibly wish to know. From the tree of knowledge Satan fashions a ladder for you to descend into the nether world."

The godless ridicule me and say: "Through the Tree of Life you want to convert us to your God, whom we do not see."

In truth, you will never see Him. The Light that even blinds the eyes of the seraphim will burn your pupils forever.

Of all that thrives in the putrescence of the earth, those who believe in God are the rarest. O lake and mountain, help me to be glad that I, too, am journeying with these most rare, most unlearned, and most despised believers.

Just a little longer, brethren, and our journey will end.

Sustain us just a little longer, O Conqueror of death.

Prayers by the Lake
St. Nikolai of Ochrid

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Now I only gaze at You

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Ask yourselves what is real.  Both the heavens and the earth as you know them may conceal their frailty and only the busyness around you prevents you from seeing how quickly they sink into nothingness.  But evil that surrounds you exposes its feebleness and infirmity.  Therefore, nourish yourselves upon the Lord alone; seek to quench your thirst with His love, for it alone endures.  Only in His heart will your soul find rest and only the labors placed at His feet will bear fruit unto eternity.  

Set your gaze upon Him alone.

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 labors.

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
St. Nikolai of Ochrid

my eyes shall bathe in You

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Do not be tempted by the illusions of the world; for they are passing yet the sin in them remains.  The levity that this life offers is often a false light; something that promises warmth but leads one only into great darkness.

Rather let your hearts long for the Day when you are one with the Lord; where there is no beginning or end but only Love.  Don't cling to passing moments of happiness.  For each dissolves into shadow.  Let the Lord awaken you from the dream to the Reality, the tears of repentance cleanse your eyes to see the radiance of His Light.   

Are there days gone by, O daughter, to which you would wish to return? They all attracted you like silk, and now remain behind you like a cobweb. Like honey they greeted you, like stench you bade them farewell. All were totally filled with illusion and sin.

See how all the pools of water in the moonlight resemble mirrors; and how all the days that were lit up with your levity resemble mirrors. But as you stepped from one day to the next, the false mirrors cracked like thin ice, and you waded through the water and mud.

Can a day that has a morning and an evening as doorways be a day?

O luminous Lord, my soul is burdened with illusions and longs for one day—for the day without doorways, the day from which my soul has departed and sunk into the shifting shadows—for Your day, which I used to call my day, when I was one with You.

Is there any happiness gone by, O daughter, to which you would wish to return?

Of two morsels of the same sweetness the second is the more trite. You would turn your head away in boredom from yesterday's happiness, if it were set out on today's table.

Moments of happiness are given to you only in order to leave you longing for time happiness in the bosom of the everhappy Lord; and ages of unhappiness are given to you, to waken you out of the drowsy dream of illusions.

O Lord, Lord, my only happiness, will You provide shelter for Your injured pilgrim?

O Lord, my ageless youth, my eyes shall bathe in You and shine more radiantly than the sun.

You carefully collect the tears of the righteous, and with them You rejuvenate worlds.

Prayers by the Lake III
St. Nikolai of Ochrid

Saturday, September 5, 2015

let a single ray of light from Your kingdom shine upon me and raise me

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

The awareness of the poverty of your sin and that of the world will make all too clear the need for God's mercy.  It will arise from the depths of your being as a wordless groan. For what can capture how far-reaching the darkness can be?  What can express the breaking of the human heart, the devastation that seeks to consume you?

Yet, cry out for deliverance from He who is hope, strength and light.  One touch from the Beloved, one single ray piercing the darkness of despair shall raise you up and cause the shadows to fade.   

Who put me in this bed of worms? Who buried me in the dust, to become a neighbor of snakes and a banquet for worms?

Who pushed me off the high mountain, to become a companion of bloodthirsty and godless men?

My sin and Your justice, O Lord. My sin stretches from the creation of the world, and it is swifter than Your justice.

I count my sins throughout my entire life, throughout the life of my father and all the way back to the beginning of the world, and I say: Truly, the name of the Lord's justice is mercy.

I bear the wounds of my fathers on myself-wounds that I myself was preparing while I was still in my fathers—and now they have all appeared on my soul, like a spotted hide on a giraffe, like a cloak of vicious scorpions that sting me.

Have mercy on me, O Lord, open the floodgate of the heavenly river of Your grace, and cleanse me of leprous evil, so that without this leprosy I may dare to proclaim Your name before the other lepers without them ridiculing me.

At least raise me up by a head above the rotten stench of this bed of worms, to inhale the incense of heaven and return to life.

At least raise me up as high as a palm tree so I can laugh at the serpents chasing my heels.

O Lord, if there has been even one good deed in the course of my earthly journey, for the sake of that one deed deliver me from the companionship of bloodthirsty and godless men.

O Lord, my hope in despair.

O Lord, my strength in weakness.

O Lord, my light in darkness.

Place just one finger on my forehead and I shall be raised. Or, if I am too unclean for Your finger, let a single ray of light from Your kingdom shine upon me and raise me- raise me, from this bed of worms, O my beloved Lord.

St. Nikolai of Ochrid
Prayers by the Lake, II

Friday, September 4, 2015

A reflection of the Beloved

Dear Daughters of St. Philip Neri,

Let the eye of your heart be constantly fixed upon the Lord, who alone sees into the depths of all things.  His gaze, while penetrating, soothes even as it wounds.  His light reveals the shame of your sin, yet shrouds your nakedness from the eyes of others.  The darkness of this world may cast its shadow, but His love warms the hopeless soul.  Tears of repentance may fall, but they alone sate the One who cries "I thirst". 

Pray daughters that when others cast a glance in your direction it may be only a momentary reflection that guides them to the Beloved.   

Who is that staring at me through all the stars in heaven and all the creatures on earth?

Cover your eyes, stars and creatures; do not look upon my nakedness. Shame torments me enough through my own eyes.

What is there for you to see? A tree of life that has been reduced to a thorn on the road, that pricks both itself and others. What else-except a heavenly flame immersed in mud, a flame that neither gives light nor goes out?

Plowmen, it is not your plowing that matters but the Lord who watches.

Singers, it is not your singing that matters but the Lord who listens.

Sleepers, it is not your sleeping that matters but the Lord who wakens.

It is not the pools of water in the rocks around the lake that matter but the lake itself.

What is all human time but a wave that moistens the burning sand on the shore, and then regrets that it left the lake, because it has dried up?

O stars and creatures, do not look at me with your eyes but at the Lord. He alone sees. Look at Him and you will see yourselves in your homeland.

What do you see when you look at me? A picture of your exile? A mirror of your fleeting transitoriness?

O Lord, my beautiful veil, embroidered with golden seraphim, drape over my face like a veil over the face of a widow, and collect my tears, in which the sorrow of all Your creatures seethes.

O Lord, my beauty, come and visit me, lest I be ashamed of my nakedness—lest the many thirsty glances that are falling upon me return home thirsty.

Prayers by the Lake
St. Nikolai of Ochrid