A Prayer for my Enemies

Bless My Enemies O Lord

Bp. Nikolai Velimirovich

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Bp. Nikolai Velimirovich was a Serbian bishop in the last century who spoke out courageously against Nazism until he was arrested and taken to Dachau.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have.

Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself.

They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord, Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me:

so that my fleeing to You may have no return;

so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs;

so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins, arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life.

Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

From Prayers by the Lake by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, published by the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitanate of New Gracanica, 1999.


from the Abbot Jonah

“The Holy Spirit gives the Church her vision, which comes from our identity in Christ as His Body. This vision is identical with the vision of all those who have gone before us precisely because it is the same Body, with the same vocation, mission, and identity: to be the Body of Christ: the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Whenever we add elements to that vision, we distort it, no matter how noble our qualifications and agendas may be. Whenever we subtract from or diminish it, we do likewise. If we change the vision in any way, we exclude ourselves from it and from the Body which it constitutes.”


Who Are These Mad Ones?

Abba Anthony said that the time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will rise up against him, saying that you are mad, because you are not like them.

– Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Anthony
From the Stories of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov…
–The king answered, “But if we alone are the sane ones, and the rest of the world is mad, then we will be the ones who everyone will consider to be the mad ones… let us make a mark on our foreheads so that we should at least know that we are mad. I will look at your forehead, and you will look at mine, and seeing this sign, we will know that we are both mad.”
Here’s what they did
“Long ago, in a faraway land, there was a strange type of mold that affected the grain in the fields. The king knew that if his people ate this grain, they would lose their mind and go mad. He discussed the problem with his chief adviser, and they decided to use the grain in the storehouses while trying to find a remedy for the afflicted grain. Time passed and the storehouses were empty, but still no remedy was found. The king decided that it would be better to feed his people the grain that would make them lose their mind than to let them die of starvation.
“I too will eat of this grain,” he told his adviser,
“so that I will be like my people –lost in madness. From that shared place, I will be able to lead them.”
“But what of me?” said the adviser,
“I will advise you, but you will not understand me.”
“You too must eat of the grain,” said the king,
“but there is one more thing. Before we eat this grain, I will order all my people to put a mark on their forehead. Every morning, they must look at their reflection and see this mark and ask themselves who they really are.”
How tragic if they forgot to look at their reflections…
From Fyodor Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment:
“…He dreamt that the whole world was condemned to a terrible new strange plague that had come to Europe from the depths of Asia. All were to be destroyed except a very few chosen. Some new sorts of microbes were attacking the bodies of men, but these microbes were endowed with intelligence and will. Men attacked by them became at once mad and furious. But never had men considered themselves so intellectual and so completely in possession of the truth as these sufferers, never had they considered their decisions, their scientific conclusions, their moral convictions so infallible. Whole villages, whole towns and peoples went mad from the infection. All were excited and did not understand one another. Each thought that he alone had the truth and was wretched looking at the others, beat himself on the breast, wept, and wrung his hands. They did not know how to judge and could not agree what to consider evil and what good; they did not know whom to blame, whom to justify. Men killed each other in a sort of senseless spite. They gathered together in armies against one another, but even on the march the armies would begin attacking each other, the ranks would be broken and the soldiers would fall on each other, stabbing and cutting, biting and devouring each other. The alarm bell was ringing all day long in the towns; men rushed together, but why they were summoned and who was summoning them no one knew. The most ordinary trades were abandoned, because everyone proposed his own ideas, his own improvements, and they could not agree. The land too was abandoned. Men met in groups, agreed on something, swore to keep together, but at once began on something quite different from what they had proposed. They accused one another, fought and killed each other. There were conflagrations and famine. All men and all things were involved in destruction. The plague spread and moved further and further. Only a few men could be saved in the whole world. They were a pure chosen people, destined to found a new race and a new life, to renew and purify the earth, but no one had seen these men, no one had heard their words and their voices.”

Icons Piercing Space and Time

“Like the Incarnation, the icon pierces space and time, because a physical object—a piece of wood with gesso and paint and gold leaf—is shot through with God’s eternal presence.”

This from the highly recommended post here, by Susan Cushman.


Just to Clarify

secondlaw.gifBill Bryson, in A Short History of Everything, includes a section on most major fields of scientific inquiry, and makes them accessible to us amateurs. In a section on the laws of thermodynamics, here’s how Bryson clarifies each law for us (except the zeroth, which states, “If two thermodynamic systems are each in thermal equilibrium with a third, then they are in thermal equilibrium with each other.”

First law:
“for a thermodynamic cycle the sum of net heat supplied to the system and the net work done by the system is equal to zero”

Bryson translation:
you can’t create energy

Second law:
entropy of an isolated system not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium”
Bryson translation:
a little energy is always wasted

Third law:
“As temperature approaches absolute zero, the entropy of a system approaches a constant”

Bryson translation:
you can’t reduce temperatures to absolute zero – there will always be some residual warmth

To be certain we understand how these laws came about, Bryson quotes the following from P. W. Atkins:

There are four Laws. The third of them, the Second Law, was recognized first; the first, the Zeroth Law, was formulated last; the First Law was second; the Third Law might not even be a law in the same sense as the others.

If only they’d have made it this clear when I was in school.


Reverse Perspective, New Perspective

The other day on a long straight run of highway I paid attention to the effect of geometric perspective and the vanishing point. Because of the geometry from our vantage point, lines (or highways) that are in fact parallel, appear to converge – coming together at a vanishing point on the horizon.

One useful effect of geometric perspective is the sense of distance it conveys. This effect is strengthened by the related effect of distant objects appearing smaller than they really are.

The effect perspective conveyed to me that day was one of “I’m here, this is the place I am, this is where my consciousness is, and whatever might be at that vanishing point is not here, is not affecting me, is less real than where I am.” My immediate environs, what all I was taking in through peripheral vision, was “what’s happening”, so to speak.

Icons depict backgrounds in Reverse Perspective. One of the resultant effects is that whatever is portrayed on the icon is the “here and now”, the “what’s happening”, and I as the observer am the one at the vanishing point, I’m the “not here”, and I’m not “what’s happening”. Here’s a crude illustration:


Reverse perspective also has, to me at least, a magnetic effect. An icon done in this way seems to be inviting participation – pulling us in. In fact, the effect seems to be one of drawing everything in – my surroundings as well as myself – functioning to reconcile here and there, then and now. Their now becomes my now, and their there becomes my there.


New Testament Presupposes Liturgical Service

From Dom Gregory Dix, widely respected Liturgical Scholar, in his work The Theology Of Confirmation In Relation To Baptism

We know now, too, that the Apostolic paradosis of practice, like the Apostolic paradosis of doctrine, is something which actually ante-dates the writing of the New Testament documents themselves by some two or three decades. It is presupposed by those documents and referred to more than once as authoritative in them. This paradosis of practice continued to develop in complete freedom from any control by those documents for a century after they were written, before they were collected into a New Testament ‘Canon’ and recognized for the first time as authoritative ‘Scripture’ beside and above the Jewish ‘Scriptures’ of the Old Testament, which alone formed the ‘Bible’ of the Apostolic Church. Now that the history of the Canonization of the New Testament is better understood, we can begin to shake ourselves free from the sixteenth century — or rather the medieval — delusion that primitive Christian Worship and Church Order must have been framed in conscious deference to the precedents of a New Testament which as such did not yet exist. The purely occasional documents now found in it do not contain, and were never intended by their authors to contain, anything like the Old Testament codes of prescriptions for the rites of worship. That was governed by the authoritative ‘Apostolic Tradition’ of practice, to which it is plain that the scattered Gentile Churches adhered pretty rigidly throughout the second century. I am not for a moment seeking to question the authoritative weight of the New Testament Scriptures for us as a written doctrinal standard. I am only trying to point out that there is available another source of information on the original and authentic Apostolic interpretation of Christianity, which the Scriptures presuppose and which must be used in the interpretation of the Scriptures. I do not deny that in time the recognition of this fact will be bound to lead to some considerable readjustment of ideas for more than one set of people. But tonight all I would say is that the liturgical tradition can be shewn to be older in some of its main elements than the New Testament Scriptures, and that down to the end of the second century, at least, it was regarded as having an ‘Apostolic’ authority of its own independently of them. We cannot look, therefore, for any attempt in this period to conform the practice of worship to them artificially. Nevertheless, the two do illustrate one another in a remarkable way.

Some thoughts on this passage:

1. “there is available another source of information on the original and authentic Apostolic interpretation of Christianity, which the Scriptures presuppose and which must be used in the interpretation of the Scriptures”… to discard this other source is to lose the ability to interpret Scripture in a consistent way, hence the extreme splintering amongst post-reform confessions.

2. “The purely occasional documents now found in (the NT) do not contain, and were never intended by their authors to contain, anything like the Old Testament codes of prescriptions for the rites of worship.”… hence the wide variety of worship rites practiced amongst the churches spawned from the reformation – a sola scriptura approach leaves one without a coherent instruction in worship

3. “in time the recognition of this fact will be bound to lead to some considerable readjustment of ideas for more than one set of people”… Dix put this out in about 1948. It’s not unusual to see a lag on the order of a couple decades between the time scholars begin publishing on a topic and the time the effects are measurable among the general populace. So I think Dix was correct judging from the growing number of converts from protestant circles to Roman Catholic and Orthodox liturgical communions.

Thanks to a guy named Andrew over at Energetic Procession for the Dix quotation.

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