Not in Vain and Not by Chance


Not in vain and not by chance 
Was life granted me by God 
And not without God’s hidden will
Has it been condemned to death.
I myself through willful power
Summoned evil from the dark abyss
And my soul I filled with passion,
Stirring up my mind with doubts.
Remember Him whom I’d forgotten
Pierce through with light the gloom of thoughts
Then it will be, through You created
 A heart that’s pure, a mind that’s clear

St. Philaret of Moscow

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





13 responses to “Not in Vain and Not by Chance”

  1. Vlad Zarayskiy Avatar

    Father, bless.

    Interestingly, St. Philaret (at that time Metropolitan of Moscow) in that poem is responding to a following poem by his contemporary, Alexander Pushkin, the greatest Russian poet.

    “Gift without use, gift made by chance,
    Life, wherefore art thou given me ?
    Or wherefore art thou doomed to end
    By fate’s mysterious decree ?

    Who was it used a hostile power
    From nothingness to call me out
    With passion fill my soul for me
    And agitate my mind with doubt ?

    No purpose is before me set,
    Empty my heart, my mind is bare ;
    Life’s clattering monotony
    Wearies me with a dull despair.”

    After reading Metropolitan’s response, Pushkin replied with another Stanza

    In hours of amusement or idle boredom,
    Once upon a time, I used to confide
    To my lyre the cosseted sounds
    Of madness, indolence and passion.

    But even then I would arrest
    The vibration of the treacherous string
    When your majestic voice
    Suddenly struck me.

    I poured for the streams of sudden tears,
    And to the wounds of my conscience
    The balsam of your fragrant words
    Was a pure delight.

    And now from a spiritual height
    You extend a hand to me
    And with meek and loving strength
    Becalm restless dreams.

    Set a fire by your flame my soul
    Has thrown off the darkness of earthly cares,
    And in a state of holy awe
    The poet listens to the harp of the seraphim*

    (In Pushkin handwriting “the harp of Philaret”, but it was changed in publication, possibly due to censorship reasons”)

    Of course, it’s much better in Russian than in translation 🙂

  2. fatherstephen Avatar

    I am not sure that there is any poetry in the world to rival Russian poetry. There are no people in the world who have a greater love of language.

  3. Sea of Sin Avatar

    Beautiful, thank you Vlad and Fr Stephen for sharing this.

    What would these poems be
    it were not for choices made
    by minds and hearts bestowed
    with freedom true any less it would be cruelty.


  4. An Anxious Anglican Avatar
    An Anxious Anglican

    Father, bless!

    And now for my usual question: where’d you get that wonderful poem? I am unaware of any of St Philaret’s works published in English.

    Thanks again for your presence on the web and in our lives. I have lost track of the number of times that you have salvaged a day of mine that otherwise seemed lost.

  5. fatherstephen Avatar

    I found it while brousing the net. Sometimes you run across excellent material. I was looking for atonement material and just came across this page with his poem. Father Stephen +

  6. coffeezombie Avatar

    Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that such a “poetic conversation” simply wouldn’t happen in America today…and that makes me sad. :-/

  7. fatherstephen Avatar

    Or it would be in “rap”

  8. handmaidleah Avatar

    The thought of +Met. Jonah or any priest rapping gives me chills…

  9. fatherstephen Avatar

    It’s not a pretty sight… 🙂

  10. tiffanib Avatar

    “I am not sure that there is any poetry in the world to rival Russian poetry. There are no people in the world who have a greater love of language.”

    And this is absolutely the truth, Father. Words come out of Russia like they do from no other place. Nothing more frightening to its enemies, nothing more beautiful to its admirers.

  11. mary Avatar

    the serbian bishop nikolai vellimirovich,his prayers by the lake is poetry to me. i call them his love letters to God.

  12. Debbie Avatar

    That was absolutely beautiful!!!

  13. Alice C. Linsley Avatar

    I bet it is even better in Russian!

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