Lent • Day 7

“Look,” said Naomi, “your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; follow her back home.”

(16)But Ruth replied: 
“Do not urge me to leave you 
or to turn from following you. 
For wherever you go, I will go, 
and wherever you live, I will live; 
your people will be my people, 
and your God will be my God.
(17)Where you die, I will die, 
and there I will be buried. 
May the LORD punish me, 
and ever so severely, 
if anything but death 
separates you and me.”

Ruth 1:16-17

The trains pulled into the station after nightfall. Soldiers with machine guns stepped onto the platforms and streamed throughout the city, the region, and eventually all of Bulgaria.

For eight days the SS soldiers hunted house to house, rounding up Jews, herding them back to the train station where children were separated from parents and wives taken from husbands.

Many neighbors shuttered their windows, locked their doors, sat silently.

Not my people. Not my problem.

On the evening of March 11, 1941, the captured waited for rescue. In the darkness, shivering, frightened, angry, mourning in the barbed wire enclosure. Soon they would be crammed into box cars and carried off to Treblinka extermination camp in Poland.

Metropolitan Kirill, the bishop of Plovdiv, did not sit silently behind locked cathedral doors. He was seven feet tall with a long gray beard, wearing black robes to the floor and a golden cross the size of a small child swinging wildly from his neck as he walked. A leader of the Orthodox church in Bulgaria, Kirill was followed by three hundred from his congregation.

They say his steps were so long, his stride so quick, that the crowd behind him had to run to keep up.

His imposing figure and small army cut through the fog and bounded toward the train station at the eleventh hour. When they reached the barricades, SS soldiers brandished their rifles and forbid Kirill from going any further. He pushed them aside and entered the barbed wire enclosure, surrounded by the Jews detained there.

He spread his arms wide as if to embrace them all, raised his voice and belted a promise from the book of Ruth. “Wherever you go, I will go! Wherever you live, I will live! Your people will be my people! Your God will be my God!”

Then he walked to the front of the train, laid his body down across the tracks, and refused to move.

Not a single Jew boarded a train bound for the extermination camp that night. Or any other night. Not a single Jew from Bulgaria died in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

A fight with the Jews of Bulgaria was a fight with Metropolitan Kirill and the people of God: God, who joined people in their suffering. God, who rescued people from death. And still does.


• What needs in my community can I enter with Christlike love today?

Our Prayer

Our Rescuer, thank you for seeing us in our great poverty. Thank you for sparing no expense, for holding nothing back, but giving your one and only, your very best, to rescue us.

We are your people. You are our God. Rescue others through us – through me – today.