Sunday within Lent

Saint Panteleimon the martyr and healer.

In the entry room, Silvester looked at Arseny, questioning.  Arseny knew that look very well but had not seen it before on a child.  He could not fathom what he should say to a child who wore that look. 

Things look bad, you know (Arseny turned away).  I feel pained that I cannot save her.

But you saved the princess, said the boy.  Save her, too. 

Everything is in God’s hand. 

You know, for God, it would be such an easy thing to heal her.  It is very simple, Arseny.  Let us pray to Him together. 

Let us.  But I do not want you to blame Him if she dies anyway.  Remember: she is likely to die. 

You want us to ask Him but not believe that He will grant this for us? 

Arseny kissed the boy on the forehead. 

No.  Of course not. 

Arseny made a bed for Silvester in the entryway and said, you will sleep here. 

Yes, but we will pray first, said Silvester. 

Arseny went to the room and brought out the icons of the Savior, His Virgin Mother, and the great martyr and healer Panteleimon.  He took to dippers off a shelf and put the icons in their place.  He and the boy knelt.  They prayed for a long time.  When Arseny finished reciting prayers to the Savior, Silvester tugged at his sleeve. 

Wait, I want to say it in my own words.  (He pressed his forehead to the floor, which made his voice sound more muffled.)  Lord, let my mother live.  I need nothing else in the world.  At all.  I will give thanks to you for centuries.  You know, after all, that if she dies I will be left all alone.  (He looked out from under his arm at the savior.)  With no help. 

Silvester did not fear for himself when he informed the Savior of these possible consequences: he thought of his mother and chose the weightiest argument in favor of her return to health.  He hoped he could not be refused.  And Arseny saw that.  He believed the Savior saw it, too. 

Then they prayed to the Mother of God.  Arseny glanced back when he did not hear Silvester’s voice.  Still kneeling, Silvester slept, leaning against a storage chest.  Arseny carefully carried him to the bed and prayed, now alone, to the healer Panteleimon.  At around midnight, he went in to begin taking care of Kesniya.  Eugene Vodolazkin ‘Laurus’

A review of the novel from The American Conservative by Rob Dreher

Last night, after midnight, I read the last lines of Laurus, a newly translated Russian novel by Eugene Vodolazkin, and thought it surely must be the most perfect ending ever. There is no way it could have ended any more perfectly or profoundly. And then I did what I have done nearly every time I’ve put this astonishing novel down over the last few days: I picked up my chotki (prayer rope) and prayed, as I was first taught to do in an Orthodox parish in the Russian tradition.

What kind of novel makes you want to enter into contemplative prayer after reading from its pages? I’ve never heard of one. But Laurus is that kind of novel. It induces an awareness of the radical enchantment of the world, and of the grandeur of the soul’s journey through this life toward God. It is so strange and mystical and … well, to call a novel “holy” is too much, but Laurus conjures on every page an awareness of holiness that is without precedence in my experience as a reader. Holiness illuminates this novel like an icon lamp.

A simple strange novel reviewed well.  The Russian influence continues to pervade my life.  Visiting the Lakewood Library, accompanied by the significant other, we happenstanced upon a musical show of a Russian folk musician, Oleg Kruglyakov, playing his balalaika.  The delightful man of simple charming disposition astounded with his skill upon the peasant three stringed instrument.  Wonderfully entertained, we sat mesmerized by the stories of Russia, the instrument, and the background of the songs Oleg played. The show complimented the powerful sacred performance of The Passion of John we witnessed the previous evening by the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hasll.  Unfortunately, Oleg’s piano partner from Cleveland Heights was not there for the afternoon performance, although he did have taped accompaniment with her.  I spoke with the amiable man after the performance, sharing my new found love of Russian smoked salmon with him.  He vows to visit the Cleveland Heights Russian deli and meet his countrymen I praised so highly.  Enjoy the video, this man is a treasure, embodying the simple, while profound, heartwarming depth I am encountering in the novel Laurus.


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