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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Zhivago 1 - Remembrance, bread, wine, friends.

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At Jesus's last meal with His friends
he asked us to do what He did
and remember Him with bread, wine, and friends.

Miss Eagle fell in love with Boris Pasternak at the age of 17. She read his most famous work, Dr Zhivago - a wonderful novel whose prose reads like sheer poetry. This very Russian story covers the Russia of World War I and the Revolution. It is a novel of great spirituality reflecting the Orthodox beliefs that permeate, in spite of the efforts of Lenin and Stalin et alia, the world of eastern Europe. Tucked away in the back of the novel, under the title Zhivago's Poems, is a collection or cycle of 25 poems. Miss Eagle asks you to make yourself quiet and comfortable and take this poem from that cycle as a meditation for this day of remembrance, Holy Thursday.

From Zhivago’s Poems

The turn of the road was lit
By the unconcerned shimmer of distant stars.
The road circled the Mount of Olives;
Beneath it flowed the Kedron.

The field tailed off
Into the Milky Way.
Grey-haired olive trees tried to walk the air
Into the distance.

Across the way was a vegetable garden.
Leaving his disciples outside the enclosure,
He said to them: ‘My soul is sorrowful unto death,
Stay here and watch with me.’

Unresisting he renounced
Like borrowed things
Omnipotence and the power to work miracles;
Now he was mortal like ourselves.

The night was a kingdom of annihilation,
Of non-being,
The whole world seemed uninhabited,
And only this garden was a place for the living.

He gazed into the black abyss,
Empty, without beginning or end.
Sweating blood, he prayed to his Father
That this cup of death should pass him by.

Having tamed his agony with prayer
He went out through the garden gate.
There, overcome by drowsiness,
The disciples lay slumped in the grass.

He woke them: ‘God has granted you to live in my time,
And you loll about like this…
The hour of the Son of Man has struck,
He will deliver himself into the hands of sinners.’

Hardly had he spoke when from who knows where
A rabble of slaves and thieves appeared
With torches and knives
And in front of them Judas with his traitor’s kiss.

Peter resisted the murderers,
Struck off an ear with his sword.
‘Steel cannot decide a quarrel’, he heard:
‘Put back your sword in its scabbard.

‘Could not my Father send a host
Of winged legions to defend me?
Then no hair of my head would be touched,
The enemy would scatter and leave no trace.

‘But the book of life has reached the page
Which is the most precious of all holy things.
What has been written must be fulfilled.
Let it be so. Amen.

‘You see, the passage of the centuries is like a parable
And catches fire on its way.
In the name of its terrible majesty
I shall go freely, through torment, down to the grave.

‘And on the third day I shall rise again.
Life rafts down a river, like a convoy of barges,
The centuries will float to me out of the darkness.
And I shall judge them.’

From Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak translated from the Russian by Max Hayward and Manya Harari. The Harvill Press, London, 1996