Dreams and Reality – Prayers by the Lake XXXI

The following poem is from St. Nikolai’s  (Velimirovich) Prayers by the Lake. The only true Reality is God and only in Him do we find ourselves to be real.


ochridYou pour out light over the darkness, Lord, and colors and shapes emerge. You bend Your face over the abyss, whose name is Nothingness, and the abyss tries to depict the beauty of Your face in shadows. All creation expresses You the way the abyss dreams of You.

My lake is also beautiful while the peaceful face of the sun remains bent over it. And all those who pass by praise the beauty of my lake. But as soon as the sun hides its face, my lake becomes dark and abysmal. And no passerby ever offers any praise for the lake except in the presence of the sun or the sun’s radiant companions.

The face of the abyss intoxicates those who do not see the sun bent over the abyss. The beauty of things begins when an onlooker bends his face over them. There is no mirror if there is no face in front of the mirror. But even a face in front of a mirror means nothing if there is no light.

In the light of Your face I pay no attention to any creature. Without You, creatures and I would not be mirrors of one another, but rather darkness, and an abyss, and an opaque chill.

Creation distorts Your beauty the way a dream distorts reality. Creation torments me just as dreams torment me. For what is creation except dreams of Your inexpressible Reality?

My neighbors say: “We have dreamed beautiful dreams.” The universe is my witness when I tell you that you are more beautiful than your dreams. The universe also dreams, and cannot dream enough about its own beauty. O my sleepy universe: as long as a dream dreams a dream, one dream is afraid of another, even if one dream seeks an interpreter and comforter in another. Who is prophesying to whom: the dream to reality or reality to the dream?

O my beautiful universe: dream of Reality and Reality will tell you everything. Admit the Reality, of which you are a dream, and you will awaken, and will no longer ramble about beauty, but will be Beauty. There is only one Reality and only one Beauty, and it is the reason for your dream.

Do not tell me, children, about the beauty of the stars. If the Lord withdrew Himself from the stars, your mouths would be struck dumb. Stand in the thick darkness by my lake and try to sing to it. Truly you will be struck dumb and remain silent until the sun dawns, until the sun pours its beauty over the lake and gives your speechless throat its voice.

Your face pours beauty over all creation. The universe swims in Your beauty as a boat swims in the sea.

And when You bend over cold ashes, the ashes are transfigured and receive a face.

Bring my heart to its senses, my Lord, so that it may not be captivated by mortal beauty but by You, my Immortal Beauty.

O my only Beauty!

Allow me to see Your Face, just more and more–of Your Face

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.






8 responses to “Dreams and Reality – Prayers by the Lake XXXI”

  1. JLB Avatar

    There is no appropriate response to this except to be struck dumb.

  2. Marsha Avatar

    Thank you.

  3. Yudi Kris Avatar

    Great poem!

    Truly, Glory to God for all things!
    Bless me father,

    Greetings from Indonesia 🙂

  4. Audra Avatar

    Perhaps other readers have read about the ancient understanding of mirrors, as it appears in Plato’s Timaeus (“all these appearances of necessity arise, when the fire from the face coalesces with the fire from the eye on the bright and smooth surface”). Just this week I heard Father Justin of St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mt. Sinai speak of this as a way to understand St. Paul’s (and by extension, the Church Fathers’) use of the metaphor of a mirror (“now we see through a glass darkly”). It is seen as a mixing of the light and the person, not as an illusion as we currently understand mirrors to be. The ancient understanding is so clearly present in this excerpt, which is, as everything else I’ve read from Prayers by the Lake, heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Thank you for sharing, Father.

  5. AR Avatar

    Thanks, Audra, that explanation was beneficial to me.

  6. fatherstephen Avatar

    The imagery is wonderfully rich in this poem. It was something I had to sit with for a while. Well worth the read. St. Nikolai has a very great soul.

  7. Bruce Avatar

    dream of Reality and Reality will tell you everything. Admit the Reality, of which you are a dream, and you will awaken, and will no longer ramble about beauty, but will be Beauty. There is only one Reality and only one Beauty, and it is the reason for your dreams.

    My life is a dream
    It is only real because He is Real
    Without Him, I no longer am
    I am because He is the great I Am, I Am
    When I awaken to know I am a dream
    I see Him more clearly
    Because the lie of my dream is replaced by

    If I see myself (as alone and self sufficient) as a dream and Christ as Reality, we begin to put our life experience into a proper perspective. When I see my life as a dream simply designed to awaken me to His Reality and then realizing I can experience His Reality by letting go of my dream and in faith following His instructions (i.e. commandments) . I discover what is Real and let go of what is truly a lie, just a dream, and begin to see that i am only because He is and always shall be.

  8. Vasiliki D. Avatar
    Vasiliki D.

    Dear Father, I had posted this poem onto my facebook account january 25th … as a prayerful communication to another Orthodox friend … I find the prayers of St Nikolai very much like the Psalms in that they are not just prayers offered up for divine worship and understanding but they can also be for divine communication between two Orthodox souls … much like David psalms, when we pray the Prayers by the Lake for another person … they speak to each others souls.

    God Bless, Vasiliki

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