Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 - 1945)

Today, April 9, marks the 63rd anniversary of the death of Lutheran Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer, martyred by the Nazis in the final days of World War II in Europe.

In June, 1944, as he remained in prison, Bonhoeffer wrote a poem, known in English as "Who am I?" In many ways, it sums up the entirety of his life.

Who am I?
They often tell me I stepped from my cell’s confinement
Calmly, cheerfully, firmly,
Like a squire from his country-house

Who am I?
They often tell me I used to speak to my warders
Freely and friendly and clearly,
As though it were mine to command.

Who am I?
They also tell me I bore the days of misfortune
Equally, smilingly, proudly,
Like one accustomed to win.

Am I then really all that which other men tell of?
Or am I only what I myself know of myself?
Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,
Struggling for breath,
As though hands were compressing my throat,
Yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,
Thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,
Tossing in expectation of great events,
Powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,
Weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,
Faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army,
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

Who am I?
They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!

Martyr Dietrich, ora pro nobis!

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