I am a sinner Baba, an old Cossack, broken and ugly, a beggar of mercy.
Who came with wounds to see faces without a name.
Names are many;
But One is Wisdom,
His Truth makes merry,
His Love never gone.
You told me to come to your parish Baba, and so I came;
And saw a Christ that God knows not.
Chants and hymns and words and noise,
A choir, to its glory many a sounds;
While His Beauty, while His Silence,
Lost in a world that spins around.
I prayed and begged words of mercy,
They sneered and jeered and showed their teeth:
God, they know Him not.
I am a sinner Baba, a blind old man with two kopecks;
Who came helpless to see more stones answer his pain.
To God I pray and rejoice always;
Every speck of time is glory and praise, love to take and love to give.
You told me to come Baba to your parish and so I came;
Before Hours, there I stood very few hearts with me to cry.
Later, then I came; and in a hall a crowd I saw,
Armed with gossips and lust and lies;
While empty laid a nave;
Ten souls or few, all to slumber.
Later still I came, and I saw a hell followed by those,
Who lit candles that give no light,
Who kiss a Bible they do not read,
Who say words they do not pray,
Who commune with mouths that speak no truth,
For bodies in works never broken,
Their blood for love never be spilled,
Bowing to a Cross their faith won’t bear,
Carried by hands that bless no more.
So I came, and death I saw,
So I came and so I cried.
So I came, and stood alone.
So I came, and so I saw,
Many eyes closed,
Alone I die, no one can mourn;
No one can cry.
You want me to stay in your parish Baba,
But if I stay, thorn in my side, will it vanish?
Blinis and perogies in your parish Baba,
But of hunger will I perish?
Speeches and pride and shallow dreams,
True heart and hope will I cherish?
Ladies of the night, men of the world in your parish Baba,
But if I stay, to rest in Christ where will I lay?
I am an old Cossack, Baba, an Orthodox, a child of God;
I am not a bear in a circus of tears enchained to dance,
for double-hearted clowns who worship a God they do not fear.
It is heart-rending how accurate this poem's description of so many of our Orthodox churches is. Apparently it was written in response to questions as to why its author, a devout Orthodox Christian who had served as an imperial Cossack until the 1917 Revolution, wasn't more involved in the life of the local Russian Orthodox parish where he had settled in Belgium. The poem was originally posted here. The painting pictured, "Russian Pascha Service at Midnight," is by Nicholas Roerich.