997) Nowhere Else to Turn

Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) was a British reporter in the U.S.S.R. in the 1930’s.   Here he describes two episodes which provide contrasting insights into life after the Russian Revolution.  Muggeridge had initially admired the revolution; then he saw the results of two decades of communist rule.  The Communists promised hope to the nation, but instead brought ruin and despair and fear, along with the deaths of tens of millions of their own people.  One scene of the suffering is described in the first paragraph.  The second paragraph describes how people then turned to their only real hope.

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     I tried to describe it all— the abandoned villages, the absence of livestock, neglected fields, everywhere famished, frightened people and intimations of coercion, soldiers about the place, and hard-faced men in long overcoats.  One particularly remarkable scene I stumbled on by chance at a railway station in the gray early morning; peasants with their hands tied behind them being loaded into cattle trucks at gunpoint;… all so silent and mysterious and horrible in the half light…

     In Kiev, where I found myself on a Sunday morning, on an impulse I turned into a church where a service was in progress.  It was packed tight, but I managed to squeeze myself against a pillar whence I could survey the congregation and look up at the altar.  Young and old, peasants and townsmen parents and children even a few in uniform— it was a variegated assembly.  The bearded priests, swinging their incense, intoning their prayers, seemed very remote and far away.  Never before or since have I participated in such a worship; the sense conveyed of turning to God in great affliction was overpowering.  Though I could not, of course, follow the service (it was in Russian), I knew little bits of it; for instance, when the congregation says there is no help for them save from God.  What intense feeling they put into these words!  In their minds, I knew, as in mine, was a picture of those desolate abandoned villages, of the hunger and the hopelessness, of cattle trucks being loaded with humans in the dawn light.  Where were they to turn to for help?  Not to the Kremlin and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, certainly; nor to the forces of progress and democracy and enlightenment in the West.  Honourable and Right Honourable Members had nothing to offer, (nor did) the radical free press.  Every possible human agency was found wanting.  So only God remained, and to God they turned with a passion, a dedication, a humility impossible to convey.  They took me with them; I felt closer to God then than I ever had before, or am likely to again.

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PSALM 46:1-2a…6-7…9-11:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear...

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress…

He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

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Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Kyrie eleison, An important prayer in Christian liturgy from earliest times.