Archive for September 29th, 2008

Longing for Jerusalem

September 29, 2008

My wife and I, as well as other pilgrims from our group, have been spending our time since coming home letting our bodies adjust to the “jet-lag.” It is easy to blame many things on jet-lag until the excuse will no longer work. I noticed towards the end of last week, that beyond any expectation, I simply missed being in Jerusalem. In truth, I had spent several months ahead of our pilgrimage slightly afraid of what was ahead of us. Our media only report violence from the Mideast – not daily life.

I had no idea, that after a week at home I would feel a certain emptiness that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was not a 20 minute walk from my dwelling. And there are many other places that I came to value, even in a single visit – with the thought that I may not see them again in this life bringing a great sorrow. I understand the drive that took root in the hearts of faithful Christians – from the time of St. Helena forward. We were told at the beginning of our pilgrimage that the average medieval pilgrimage could expect that 30 per cent of its pilgrims would die in the effort. We had no casualties. What is of great interest is that such casualities did not discourage ancient pilgrims.

I have some sense of understanding, now, and pray that if God should so permit, I may return again and stand in those Holy Places. I know that every place I stand is a holy place and I do not mean to increase one or diminish the other. I only know what my heart longs to do. I love Jerusalem, and pray for its peace and all who dwell there.

What I would grieve most of all is the idea that I might have gone there and not brought home in my heart some portion of what was given to me. I do not think I was sent for myself alone. What I saw and what I heard was not “this happened here,” or “this is where so-and-so used to live, etc.”, but a living Church and faithful Christians. The monks of Mar Saba still encounter the great saint from time to time. He still visits the monastery after 1700 years. The keeper of the shrine of the home of the Mother of God in Jerusalem has seen her in a waking vision, in which, in tears, she thanked him for taking care of her home. Such stories abound in the Holy Land if you get out of line and just hang around. Faith speaks to faith.

But I long for faith to speak to faith – mine to yours and yours to mine. May God give us grace in the midst of this world to see with faith, to speak with faith, and to be so blessed as to encounter faith in the lives of others.

Memories – Prayers By the Lake XXX

September 29, 2008

This poem by St. Nikolai Velimirovich should not be read as looking back to a pre-existence of souls – but to the fullness of our Baptism and the purity that was ours at the font. It emphasizes in the imagery of memory, the desire to have communion with God above all else.


Blot out, O Lord, all my memories–except one. For memories make me old and feeble. Memories ruin the present day. They weigh down the present day with the past and weaken my hope in the future, for in legions they whisper in my ear: “There will only be what has already been.”

But I do not wish for there to be only what has been. I do not wish and You do not wish, O Lord, for the future to be the past repeated. Let things happen that have never appeared before. The sun would not be worth much, if it only watched repetitions.

Worn paths mislead a wayfarer. Earth has walked over the earth a long time. Earthly walkways have become boring, for they have been traveled again and again from generation to generation throughout all time. Blot out, O Lord, all my memories except one.

Just one memory do I ask You not to blot out, but to strengthen in me. Do not blot out but strengthen in my con­sciousness the memory of the glory that I had when I was en­tirely with You and entirely in You, before time and temporal illusions.

When I, too, was a harmonious trinity in holy unity, just as You are from eternity to eternity.

When the soul within me was also in friendship with consciousness and life.

When my soul also was a virginal womb, and my consciousness was wisdom in virginity, and my life was spiritual power and holiness.

When I, too, was all light, and when there was no darkness within me.

When I, too, was bliss and peace, and when there were no torments of imbalance within me.

When I also knew You, even as You know me, and when I was not mingled with darkness.

When I, too, had no boundaries, no neighbors, no partitions between “me” and “you.”

Do not blot out this memory, my Father, but strengthen it. Even if it reveals to me the abyss along which I am journeying in humbleness and nothingness.

Even if it separates me from friends and pleasantries, and demolishes all the barriers between Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.1

Even if it leads me outside of myself, and makes me seem mad in the eyes of my fellow wayfarers.

In truth, no companionship pleases me except Yours, and no memory pleases me except the memory of You.

O my Merciful Father, blot out all my memories except one alone.


1. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).