St. Nikolai and Polar Bears – Prayer by the Lake #7

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March 7, 2013 by Orthodox Whitehorse

St. John Kaneo Church, overlooking Lake Ochrid, Macedonia

St. John Kaneo Church, overlooking Lake Ochrid, Macedonia

Holy Bishop Nikolai (Velimirovic), the heavenly protector of our Whitehorse Mission, is commemorated as a saint in the Calendar of the Orthodox Church on March 18th. The following poem is one of his 100 “Prayers by the Lake,” composed when he was shepherd of the Christian flock in Ochrid, in the early 1920s.

This poem, which is a deeply theological meditation, extolls the beauty of God’s active hand in Creation. Yet it is also a prophetic caution. He poetically warns believers, however, to not lose sight of the Creator when beholding His majestic works, like, for instance… polar bears.

One of God's great creatures - the polar bear

One of God’s great creatures – the polar bear


“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.


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