Thursday, November 28, 2013

Blessed art thou, mother earth, in thy fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last for ever.

The calendar tells me that today is Thanksgiving. Here is a text I, caught in the selfish mire of my own blind stumblings, attempt to cling to on this day, although even its origins are a bit murky. One source indicates it was written by Protopresbyter Gregory Petrov. According to another,

"The Akathist is often attributed to Priest Gregory Petrov who died in a Soviet prison camp in 1940, but also to Metropolitan Tryphon (Prince Boris Petrovich Turkestanov) +1934. The title is from the words of St. John Chrysostom as he was dying in exile. It is a song of praise from amidst the most terrible sufferings."

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Akathist

The Akathist Hymn: "Glory to God for All Things" -

The akathist (hymn) begins with the author remembering his origins, here in Russian:

Нетленный Царю веков, содержащий в деснице Своей все пути жизни человеческой силою спасительного промысла Твоего, благодарим Тя за все ведомые и сокровенные благодеяния Твоя, за земную жизнь и за небесные радости Царства Твоего будущего. Простирай нам и впредь Твои милости, поющим: Слава Тебе, Боже, во веки.

Слабым беспомощным ребенком родился я в мир, но Твой Ангел простер светлые крылья, охраняя мою колыбель. С тех пор любовь Твоя сияет на всех путях моих, чудно руководя меня к свету вечности. Славно щедрые дары Твоего Промысла явлены с первого дня и доныне. Благодарю и взываю со всеми, познавшими Тя:

Слава Тебе, призвавшему меня к жизни;
Слава Тебе, явившему мне красоту вселенной.
Слава Тебе, раскрывшему предо мною небо и землю как вечную книгу мудрости;
Слава Твоей вечности среди мира временного.
Слава Тебе за тайные и явные милости Твои;
Слава Тебе за каждый вздох грусти моей.
Слава Тебе за каждый шаг жизни, за каждое мгновение радости;
Слава Тебе, Боже, во веки.

And then in English:

Everlasting King, Thy will for our salvation is full of power. Thy right arm controls the whole course of human life. We give Thee thanks for all Thy mercies, seen and unseen. For eternal life, for the heavenly joys of the Kingdom which is to be. Grant mercy to us who sing Thy praise, both now and in the time to come. Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age.

I was born a weak, defenseless child, but Thine angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me. From birth until now Thy love has illumined my path, and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity; from birth until now the generous gifts of Thy providence have been marvelously showered upon me. I give Thee thanks, with all who have come to know Thee, who call upon Thy name.Glory to Thee for calling me into being

Glory to Thee, showing me the beauty of the universe
Glory to Thee, spreading out before me heaven and earth
Like the pages in a book of eternal wisdom
Glory to Thee for Thine eternity in this fleeting world
Glory to Thee for Thy mercies, seen and unseen
Glory to Thee through every sigh of my sorrow
Glory to Thee for every step of my life's journey
For every moment of glory
Glory to Thee, O God, from age to age

Here is Ikos 6 (basically verse 6) in the Russian:

Как молния, когда осветит чертоги пира, то после нее жалкими кажутся огни светильников — так Ты внезапно блистал в душе моей во время самых сильных радостей жизни. И после молниеносного света Твоего какими бесцветными, темными, призрачными казались они. Душа гналась за Тобою.

And in English:

When the lightning flash has lit up the camp dining hall, how feeble seems the light from the lamp. Thus dost Thou, like the lightning, unexpectedly light up my heart with flashes of intense joy. After Thy blinding light, how drab, how colourless, how illusory all else seems. My soul clings to Thee.

The phrase above, "camp dining hall" is moving to me, because I imagine the writer actually sitting in such a place, huddled, shivering over his metal bowl, slowing spooning its contents into his mouth, while I am blessed with an overwhelming abundance. However, the phrase could also be translated as "palace banquet", which puzzles me somewhat, and I invite anyone to enlighten me on this count.

Having always assumed that this hymn was written by someone in a prison camp, I was somewhat surprised to discover that this is most likely not the case:
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?topic=26481.0;wap2

According to the above source, Metropolitan Tryphon Turkestanov (passed away in 1934) was the author of the text. A description of the Metropolitan's life already reads like legend:

"The Akathist, Glory to God for all things, was written in the post-Revolutionary years by Metropolitan Tryphon (in the world, Boris Petrovich Turkestanov). He was born on 29 November 1861 in Moscow. His father, Prince Peter Nikolaievich Turkestanov (1830-1891) was the direct descendant of an ancient princely family from Georgia. His great-grandfather, Prince Boris Pankratevich Turkestanishvili, in memory of whom Metropolitan Tryphon was named, moved to Russia at the time of Peter the Great. The mother of the future cleric was Varvara Alexandrovna (born Princess Naryshkina and niece of the Decembrist Mikhail Mikhailovich Naryshkin).

When, in infancy, her son had a serious disease and the doctors had lost any hope, she would go to the church of Martyr Tryphon in Moscow to pray for his recovery, promising that, if he were cured, she would dedicate him to God, and that, if he were deemed worthy of the monastic order, he should be given the name Tryphon. The infant recovered, and soon, Varvara Alexandrovna made a pilgrimage to Optina Pustin to see the celebrated Elder Amvrosy who was known throughout all Russia. In meeting them, the Elder addressed the crowd saying, ‘make way – the archpriest is coming’. The people made way but were surprised to see not an archpriest but a woman with a child."

An alternate theory has occurred to me, that the Akathist was passed along to the Priest Gregory Petrov, although I have no facts supporting this

These are not my translations, here are links to the originals:
http://www.wco.ru/biblio/books/akafist_all/main.htm
http://www.saintjonah.org/services/thanksgiving.htm

So here I am, not any further illumined than when I started this post, but my small mind tends to dwell on these words, also from the same akathist hymn:

O Lord, how lovely it is to be Thy guest: the breeze, full of scents; mountains reaching to the skies; waters like boundless mirrors, reflecting the sun's golden rays and the scudding clouds. All of nature murmurs mysteriously, breathing the depth of tenderness. Birds and beasts of the forest bear the imprint of Thy love. Blessed art thou, mother earth, in thy fleeting loveliness, which wakens our yearning for happiness that will last for ever, in the land where, amid beauty that grows not old, the cry rings out: Alleluia!

Господи, как хорошо гостить у Тебя: благоухающий ветер, горы, простертые в небо, воды, как беспредельные зеркала, отражающие золото лучей и легкость облаков. Вся природа таинственно шепчется, вся полна ласки, и птицы и звери носят печать Твоей любви. Благословенна мать-земля с ее скоротекущей красотой, пробуждающей тоску по вечной отчизне, где в нетленной красоте звучит: Аллилуия!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Baby Philosopher

First there was a void, then a form
Out of nothing all was born
At least, thus saith the sage.
But at six months of age
The Baby Philosopher disagrees.
Because this is what he sees:
First there is a form, then there is a void,
But he would prefer to avoid
the stinky mess
called consciousness.

For my mother

The wisdom of my mother is
                                              knowing the soil,
                                              burning so bright,
                                              tending the coals,
                                              standing upright,
                                              purging the old,
                                              learning the new,
                                              pursuing goals,
                                              waiting for me ...
to understand.
                       

Emerald

I let you go, but you remain where devotion lingers with leaf-curtains drawn; and dreams gather in pools of verdigris; where c...

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