Memories – Prayers By the Lake XXX

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.

XXX

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).

10 Responses to “Memories – Prayers By the Lake XXX”

  1. Wonders for Oyarsa Says:

    Father Stephen,

    This is one aspect of orthodoxy that I find troublesome, even as it is helpful in some respects. I mean the trivialization of temporal/historical existence. For if we are to look at the faithfulness of God, are we not to look to his mighty acts in history, and not only his eternal glory? Is the consummation of paradise in the New Jerusalem a Buddhist union of the drop with the ocean? Is it not rather the setting right of what went wrong in God’s created project of space, time, and matter? If the saints are to reign upon the earth, even if our whole notion of what it means to reign must be transformed by the cross and pascha, does that not nevertheless mean an experience of space/time life – choices, striving, speaking and waiting responses, planting and waiting patiently for fruit, spring, summer, autumn and harvest, etc?

    Am I making any sense at all?

  2. fatherstephen Says:

    I don’t think it minimalizes space, time, etc. Orthodox eschatology is not the abolition of space and time, anymore than the resurrection is the abolition of the body of Christ. But it is a hope for the union of heaven and earth. That union will redeem all things (including our memories as is appropriate).

    I have said in sermons, that forgiveness is the healing of the past, just as our hope is the healing of the future. The gospel will not be tyrannized by the “unchangeableness of the past.” There is something greater – something that wipes away every tear.

  3. readingthescriptures Says:

    In my view, St. NIcolai indeed speaks about time here, but he experiences time in a non-fragmented way. He doesn’t seek to get away from creation, but to get healed of divisions and fragmentation within creation. We shouldn’t think our fragmented experience of creation is the only possible way to experience creation.

    I agree thought that there is a danger of passiveness, of withdrawing from history. And while many Orthodox fall into that trap, I don’t think St. Nicolai is one of them…

    One more thing. Just like withdrawing from history is a mistake (in the sense that we don’t get to fulfill our potential), clinging to history is also a mistake. There are two extremes here. The latter is particularly seen in our (Western) civilization today. It shapes history, no doubt about that, but at a huge cost. St. Nicolai’s prayer on our being created “very good” by God sounds like a good antidote to both extremes.

    Err, I don’t know if that post was any help… What I meant to say, perhaps with little clarity, is that we are not just thrown into creation so that what we sense is what there is… as if creation was an isolated system… Everything for the Saint needs to get baptized in God, we need to have our eyes opened and realize the spiritual realm is bound together with the realm of the senses and renews it… Everything becomes new in Christ, and ordinary life reveals itself to be extraordinary. Nothing changes on the outside; the change is within us. The world doesn’t become extraordinary, but we get to see it for what it really is.

  4. Robert Says:

    Wonders for Oyarsa,

    Troublesome….

    “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”
    – St. Paul to his letter to the Colossians 3:2

    Should we (also) charge St. Paul with “the trivialization of temporal/historical existence”?

  5. Wonders for Oyarsa Says:

    Robert,

    Is such proof-texting and escalation helpful in an honest discussion?

    Father Stephen,

    I agree and affirm such an eschatology. What I worry about is whether one can go to far down the Platonist path – where the realities are the eternal forms (even if they are in the being of God) and the temporal expressions are illusory. The phrase that set me off was:

    “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.”

    It just seemed to imply that we should look to the eternal glory of God, rather than his saving acts in history (as if these were somehow secondary, and the creation an imperfection) – the longing for the drop to dissipate into the ocean of God.

    But perhaps I’m just being fussy about words, and the writer only speaks of wanting to remember only communion with God throughout his life, rewriting his own story by his redemptive grace. If so, I apologize for dragging the discussion to less fruitful ground.

  6. Robert Says:

    Wonders,

    No offense taken, it is a good question you asked.

  7. William Says:

    Actually, in this poem, I think that St. Nikolai is hearkening back to a distinct historical moment within physical creation, that of his own baptism, where the grace of eternity flooded into history at that moment in his own life. In his plea to remember that moment only, I didn’t read a plea to forget the truth of God’s saving acts of history (which actually would be instances of that same eternal grace being made manifest in time). Rather, I read a plea to remember a particularly profound one of those historical acts, the one that brought an end to his own “merely” earthly life and effected his rebirth into the eternal life of Christ, which is a life both here in creation and history and beyond it. He is also remember the purity of that particular historical episode in his life and regretting the way all the darkness, distraction, imbalance and lack of wholeness of this world robs himself of the original purity of his own baptism.

    I hope that makes sense and is helpful rather than confusing.

  8. Robert Says:

    William that is very helpful, thank you.

    This is also why I don’t think St. Paul is denying earthly things (such as time, places and history itself) in the least bit when he encourages his readers to set their affections on heavenly things and not on earthly things.

    We only get into trouble when we juxtapose one against the other.

  9. readingthescriptures Says:

    I’m not sure at all St. Nicolai speaks about his baptism… I think he speaks about his childhood, and about our childhood… Take into account another prayer, published from this blog earlier, where St. Nicolai prayed:

    “Children and saints cling to You, O Lord, the rest rebel against You.
    Children and saints are the boundary between the Kingdom of existence and the shadow of nonexistence.”

    I think it’s about the original blessing of our creation, and not about baptism… Why do you guys think it’s about the mystery of baptism rather than childhood?

  10. fatherstephen Says:

    Mostly because the innocence of childhoodm would not generally be described as:

    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.”

    That would seeem extremem for mere childnood.

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