Anna Melnikova

Anna Melnikova

a parable of life

Once it happened to me.
Two Muslim friends and I were visiting an orthodox monastery, which was 300 km from Moscow. We were staying in guest quarters, needed to cross the street to use the bathroom, and washed up in a water hole in the forest. It was summer.

We had a cat in the house that had just borne kittens, and a dog that checked in with them twice a day to make sure everything was alright. In the village lived a cow whose milk we drank. There was also a nightly dinner for those in need which we did not participate in, and a church for pilgrims, which I entered.

… I was looking at one of the icons. For a long time. A very long time. Longer than I thought. I was looking at this one icon while all the others were moving from one saint to the next, lighting candles for them, and praying to themselves. I kept on looking at the same icon, because He was looking back.

In His glance I could see everything He had ever seen.

A lot.

… As I later sat on the church stairs watching an old woman peacefully leading her cow home through the twilight, the notion of staying in this place forever didn’t seem so crazy to me. I needed to pull myself together and remember that religion was just another drug. Drinking or praying – after all, both were to escape from reality and I wasn’t looking for that. The famous communist phrase, “Religion is opium for the people”, made me so happy to have withstood temptation. In the evening I drank milk with my Muslim friends, petted the cat, and went to bed early. Amen.

The next morning – but only out of curiosity – I snuck into the church to the same image. Just like the dog, to check if everything was allright. Everything was allright; Everybody was moving, lighting candles and praying. Only His eyes were not looking at me anymore.

In vain.

He had accepted my decision and I had no choice to accept His.

The same day, we drove back.

Anna Melnikova