Prayer governs time and space (Orthodox Christianity).

Prayer governs time and space (Orthodox Christianity).

…We walked without thinking about time. And no one had a watch back then. We were guided by the stars, the sun, or the roosters… We walked and prayed.


In my youth, I was very much surprised by the story of my grandmother Pelageya, simply called Poli, about their walking tours to Chernihiv.

Before the war, she lived in a village where there was a church in the name of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, but it was closed in 1938, and the nearest church was 62 km away in Chernigov. My grandmother told me how they used to go to the regional center at least once a month for the Twelve Great Feasts.

Before the war there were quite a lot of wolves in that area, which in winter gathered in large packs and often attacked people. Therefore we would gather in groups of 10-15 people and set out on their journey. They set out very early, after the third cock crows[1]. We took teenagers with us. We walked slowly and quietly. And somehow it turned out that they came to the Chernigov church accurately to the beginning of services.

That’s what I could not understand. If the average speed of a person walking was 5 km / hour, then they would have needed at least 12 hours one way. They would have spent no more than 7 hours!

After the service (another 3 hours), after taking something to eat and some rest (another 1-2 hours), they would head back. In summer we would go back by sunset, in winter — when the chickens had been on the roost for a long time already (another 12 hours).

If you add up all my calculated hours, you get 12+3+1 (or 2) +12 = 28-29 hours. And there are only 24 hours in a day! But even those hours were not fully used, not more than 18…

This was an inexplicable mystery to me.

As a student, young and healthy and into sports, I found myself in that area. I had a great bike, an accurately laid out route that my grandmother had once taken, a good day, and a good mood.

Since the average speed of a cyclist, as my school textbook said, is 12 km / hr, then on the road there and back I set aside for myself 10-11 hours, well, another 1-2 hours for lunch and rest in Chernihiv. Leaving at 9 am, I planned to return at 9-10 pm, that is, by sunset.

With that I set off, figuring that my speed was much faster than that of the pre-war travelers.

The road was asphalt, only in some places I had to take an unpaved road. It was a pleasure to drive.

I turned my head to the sides, watched the changing scenery, flashed birds, gave way to cars and counted crows.

I had already been on the road for almost four hours, but hadn’t even made it halfway. After quickly calculating that it would take me at least another 3 hours to get to Chernihiv, I realized just as quickly that I would not make it back in time by midnight. In Chernihiv I had nowhere to stay, so I decided to turn back.

How is that possible? It turns out that I rode my bicycle slower than the pilgrims walked?

I rode and wondered: how was it that I, being so fast, young and healthy, could not get ahead of the slow-walking worshipers — old people and children?

My grandmother was no longer alive, and it was impossible to ask everything again, but my aunt Evdokiya[2], who went with my grandmother to Chernigov as a teenager, was alive.

So I asked her how it was possible that they managed to make it there and back in less than a day, and I did not!

Continue reading →