Without Christ our world is devoid of hope, and for others to know this Christ, they must be able to see Him in us. The light of this very Christ must shine forth through the love of His Church and be made manifest in the works of His people. Without this love there is only darkness upon the face of our world, and the world will remain without hope Others can not know they need Christ if they do not see Him in us. They do not know this Christ fills hearts and transforms lives if they do not see transformation in us. If we are fearful, angry, judgmental, arrogant or aloof, the world will see nothing in our Christian faith worthy seeking. If others do not see in you a forgiving heart, how will they know there is forgiveness in Christ? If others do not see in you a heart filled with joy, how will they know they need the very Christ whom you proclaim as your Lord and Savior? If others see in you a judgmental, narrow minded, unhappy person, why would they be drawn to the Orthodoxy you claim is the true faith? With love in Christ, Abbot Tryphon
Mother Maria of Paris
On the occasion of OXI Day, when we commemorate the occasion when a tiny, run down nation had the guts to stand up against the bullying of the Nazi/fascist juggernaut, I want to bring up another underdog who deserves some recognition. No, she isn’t Greek, although she is Orthodox Christian. She isn’t American either. She probably never even stepped foot in Greece. But she is a heroine. She displays the ideal of “philotimo” (or doing the honorable thing for the honorable thing’s sake). She too had the courage to say “NO” to the Nazi murder machine. For her sacrifices to her immigrant community and the poor and the stranger, and ultimately in her ultimate sacrifice of her life, she is recognized as a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church. Her name is Maria Skobtsova or more simply Mother Maria of Paris. I can’t summarize her entire life story in one short article as this would not do justice to the complexities of her thought and her being. (But you can get a more detailed account by reading Jim Forest’s bio of her at http://incommunion.org/2004/10/18/saint-of-the-open-door/). Suffice it to say that she was a character; she, like Dorothy Day, her Catholic counterpart, believed that Christ took the guise of the poor, the wretched, the ill, and that instead of glorious towering temples,the Church could be found “in the streets.” Here are some life notes:
- she was born in Riga, Latvia, then part of Russia to a family that included politicians and the last governor the Bastille in Paris
- a socialist sympathizer, she would spend nights writing poetry and arguing about a “just society” with the radical literary groups she frequented, which included symbolist poet Alexander Blok
- although raised devoutly Orthodox, the death of her beloved father when she was 14 caused her to have a lapse of faith. As a result, she went through several years of her life a sworn atheist.
- she married a Bolshevik and was a member of the Social Revolutionary Party, much more democratic than the Bolsheviks, but her marriage ended in divorce
- she published books of poetry in the Symbolist School and later many theological essays
- she applied to an all-male theology school in St. Petersburg and was accepted as the first female student
- she escaped execution by a Bolshevik for being in the wrong party but using her gift of gab convinced him that she was a friend of Lenin’s wife
- she became deputy mayor of her home town of Anapa during the onset of the Russian Civil War in 1918, and was surprisingly able to sustain it with vital services
- when the opposing side in the civil war, the White Army took over her small town she was put on trial and would have been executed for looking too much a “red” except that her judge at the trial, a former schoolteacher she knew, fell in love with her and had it dismissed. She fell in love with him and married husband number 2 a few days after the trail
- she and her family went into exile after the Bolsheviks took over by taking a perilous journey through the Black Sea through the mountains of Georgia, to Turkey through Yugoslavia that finally ended in Paris. Two years and two newborn children later, they arrived as refugees in Paris
- she lost her daughter to the flu and meningitis, an experience that changed her life forever causing her to take on the calling as a “mother to all”
- very unconventionally, she smoked and drank beer in a nun’s habit in Parisian coffee shops
- after her second marriage fell apart, she founded a spiritual/social work house that connected spiritual life to service for the most needy, serving thousands of impoverished refugees, the mentally ill, and the poor of Paris
Mother Maria and the Trash Can RescueThe story occurs after Mother Maria had established the house with the blessing and help of her bishop, Metropolitan Evlogy Georgievsky, on rue de Lourmel. Word got out that something was happening at the stadium, not far from the house. “. . .There was a mass arrest of Jews — 12,884, of whom 6,900 (two-thirds of them children) were brought to the Velodrome d’Hiver . . . Held there for five days, the captives in the stadium received water only from a single hydrant, while ten latrines were supposed to serve them all. From there the captives were to be sent via Drancy to Auschwitz. (http://incommunion.org/2004/10/18/saint-of-the-open-door/) Mother Maria of Paris wrote both poetry and religious essays in addition to running a soup kitchen and community center in a ghetto of Paris.
Because Mother Maria was well-known to the police and sanitation crews as she would scour the back alleys of Paris and the central market gathering day old food and recyclables for the poor of her community, she was granted access into the stadium. She quickly sized up the situation. The stadium had become a central transfer and processing hub for the thousands of Jews of Paris. She prayed for assistance. The idea came to her. By employing the confidence of the local sanitation workers in charge of hauling the garbage from the stadium, Mother Maria perpetrated a plot that would at least save the children from the gas chambers: stuff them into the garbage bins, haul them out on the trucks from the stadium, and then under the cover of night, sneak the children to the house on rue de Lourmel where she then could orchestrate their continued passage to the south of France, an area outside of Nazi control, and to safety. As her biographer recounts, “It would have been possible for her to leave Paris when the Germans were advancing toward the city, or even to leave the country to go to America. Her decision was not to budge. “If the Germans take Paris, I shall stay here with my old women. Where else could I send them?”(http://incommunion.org/2004/10/18/saint-of-the-open-door/) No one is sure how many children Mother Maria and her garbage crew saved. But what is certain is that she eventually was found out by the Nazis. The priest, Father Dimitri Klepinin who had served alongside her in the “monasticism in the world” and her son Yuri were arrested. They had been guilty of forging fake baptismal certificates for Jews who came begging for help. Yuri and Father Dimitri eventually died in Buchenwald camp while Mother Maria was sent to Ravensbruck. Even while undergoing unspeakable torment, Mother Maria still saw hope in the smoke stacks that plumed from the crematoria. “But it is only here, immediately above the chimneys, that the billows of smoke are oppressive,” Mother Maria said. “When they rise higher, they turn into light clouds before being dispersed in limitless space. In the same way, our souls, once they have torn themselves away from this sinful earth, move by means of an effortless unearthly flight into eternity, where there is life full of joy.” Even in the camp, she would give away her own meager portion of bread to others more needy. The Russian Orthodox Church took a long time to declare Mother Maria a saint probably because of her unorthodox ways and thinking
She too found escape through the smoke stacks of the gas chambers. It was Good Friday, March 30th, on the eve of the liberation of Paris, 1945, that Mother Maria was one of those chosen for death. According to other accounts, she took the place of another prisoner who was marked for the gas chamber that day.This little-known wayward nun who downed vodka and scribbled poetry had the courage to risk her life to do the Christ-like thing. (When Nazis interrogated her about whether she had seen any Jews, she would point to an icon of the Mother of God or else point to the body of Christ on her crucifix.) To stand up against injustice and hatred, not just in the abstract as she had criticized the early revolutionaries and even the ultra-nationalistic Church leaders, but in the real, the here-and-now. In the shiny-black-boots-ringing-at-the-doorbell-come-to-take-you-away real type of terror and injustice. The monster of barbarism that has mass appeal and seems unstoppable. It is in front of this monster that a tiny woman dressed in black stood up and said “NO!” No, that is not right. And it didn’t matter that those she risked her life for weren’t Russian or Greek or even Orthodox, she did it because it was the right thing to do. It was what Christ would have done. The same way the pathetic, no shoes, no power Greeks did to Hitler and Mussoulini. All they did was stand up and say “NO!” It takes courage to stand up and say “No!” when you are deemed puny and powerless. But it is that act that makes you powerful and makes all the difference; it is small acts of kindness and truth that echo down the annals of history and the alleys of Paris.
03 / 11 / 2015http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/87325.htm
St. Nikolai Velimirovich: Bless My Enemies O Lord Enemies have driven me into your embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world. Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal does, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world. They have punished me, whenever I have hesitated to punish myself. They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments. They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself. They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance. Bless my enemies, O Lord, Even I bless them and do not curse them. Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish. Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf. Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background. Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand. Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep. Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out. Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of your garment. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them. Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me: so that my fleeing to You may have no return; so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs; so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul; so that my heart may become the grave of my two evil twins, arrogance and anger; so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven; ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life. Enemies have taught me to know what hardly anyone knows, that a person has no enemies in the world except himself. One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends. It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies. Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and enemies. A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands. For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them. + St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prayers By the Lake (A Treasury of Serbian Orthodox Spirituality, Volume 5)
Great Lent and Holy Week are two separate fasts, and two separate celebrations. Great Lent ends on Friday of the fifth week (the day before Lazarus Saturday). Holy Week begins immediately thereafter. Let's explore the meaning of each of the solemn days of Passion Week. Lazarus Saturday: Lazarus Saturday is the day which begins Holy Week. It commemorates the raising of our Lord's friend Lazarus, who had been in the tomb four days. This act confirmed the universal resurrection from the dead that all of us will experience at our Lord's Second Coming. This miracle led many to faith, but it also led to the chief priest's and Pharisees' decision to kill Jesus (John 11:47-57). Palm Sunday (The Entrance of our Lord into Jerusalem): Our Lord enters Jerusalem and is proclaimed king - but in an earthly sense, as many people of His time were seeking a political Messiah. Our Lord is King, of course, but of a different type - the eternal King prophesied by Zechariah the Prophet. We use palms on this day to show that we too accept Jesus as the true King and Messiah of the Jews, Who we are willing to follow - even to the cross. Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday: The first thing that must be said about these services, and most of the other services of Holy Week, is that they are "sung" in anticipation. Each service is rotated ahead twelve hours. The evening service, therefore, is actually the service of the next morning, while the morning services of Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday are actually the services of the coming evening. Understanding that, let's turn to the Services of Holy Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday (celebrated Palm Sunday , Monday and Tuesday evening). The services of these days are known as the Bridegroom or Nymphios Orthros Services. At the first service of Palm Sunday evening, the priest carries the icon of Christ the Bridegroom in procession, and we sing the "Hymn of the Bridegroom." We behold Christ as the Bridegroom of the Church, bearing the marks of His suffering, yet preparing a marriage Feast for us in God's Kingdom. Each of these Bridegroom Orthros services has a particular theme. On Holy Monday, the Blessed Joseph, the son of Jacob the Patriarch, is commemorated. Joseph is often seen as a Type of Christ. Joseph was betrayed by his brothers, thrown into a pit, and sold into slavery by them. In the same way, our Lord was rejected, betrayed by His own, and sold into the slavery of death. The Gospel reading for the day is about the barren fig tree, which Christ cursed and withered because it bore no fruit. The fig tree is a parable of those who have heard God's word, but who fail to bear the fruit of obedience. Originally the withering of the fig tree was a testimony against those Jews who rejected God's word and His Messiah. However, it is also a warning to all people, in all times, of the importance of not only hearing the God's word, but putting it into action. The Parable of the Ten Virgins is read on Holy Tuesday. It tells the story of the five virgins who filled their lamps in preparation for receiving the bridegroom while the other five allowed their lamps to go out, and hence were shut out of the marriage feast. This parable is a warning that we must always be prepared to receive our Lord when He comes again. The theme of the day is reinforced by the expostelarion hymn we sing: "I see Thy Bridal Chamber adorned, O my Savior, but have no wedding garment that I may enter. O Giver of Light, enlighten the vesture of my soul, and save me." The theme of Holy Wednesday is repentance and forgiveness. We remember the sinful woman who anointed our Lord in anticipation of His death. Her repentance and love of Christ is the theme of the wonderful "Hymn of Kassiane" which is chanted on this night, reminding us one more time, before "it is too late," that we too may be forgiven if we repent. Holy Unction: The Mystery or Sacrament of Holy Unction is celebrated on Holy Wednesday evening. Actually this service can be celebrated any time during the year, especially when one is ill. However, because of our need for forgiveness and spiritual healing, we offer this service during Holy Week for the remission of our sins. We should prepare for this service in a prayerful way, as we do for Holy Communion. Great and Holy Thursday: On Holy Thursday we turn to the last events of our Lord and His Passion. Thursday morning begins with a Vesperal Divine Liturgy commemorating the Mystical Supper. As previously mentioned, this is actually Holy Thursday evening's service celebrated in the morning in anticipation. Everyone who is able should make an effort to receive Holy Communion at this service as it was at the Mystical Supper that our Lord instituted the Holy Eucharist. At this Liturgy a second Host is consecrated and kept in the Tabernacle. It is from this Host that Holy Communion is distributed to the shut-ins and the sick throughout the coming year. Thursday evening actually begins the services of Great and Holy Friday. The service of the Twelve Passion Gospels commemorates the solemn time of our Lord's Crucifixion. After the reading of the fifth Gospel, the holy cross is carried around the church in procession, and Christ's body is nailed to the cross in the center of the church. Great and Holy Friday: This is a day of strict fast. As little as possible should be eaten on this day. It is the only day in the entire year that no Divine Liturgy of any kind can be celebrated. In the morning we celebrate the Royal Hours. These solemn hours are observed as we read the various accounts and hymns concerning the crucifixion. In the afternoon we celebrate the Vesper service of the taking down of Christ's body from the cross. During the Gospel reading, our Lord's body is taken off the cross and wrapped in a new, white linen sheet. This act commemorates the removal of Christ's body from the cross by Joseph of Arimathea (John 19:38-42). Later in the service, the Epitaphios, or winding-sheet, with Christ's body on it is carried in procession and placed in the recently decorated tomb. In the evening the Lamentations Orthros service is sung. This service begins in a solemn manner, but by the end of the service we are already anticipating the Resurrection of our Lord. Remember again, that the Holy Friday evening Orthros is actually the first service of Holy Saturday, the day in which we commemorate our Lord's body resting in the tomb while His all-pure soul descends into Hades to free the faithful of the Old Covenant. Great and Holy Saturday: This day is a day of hope and waiting. In the morning we celebrate a Vesperal Divine Liturgy which commemorates Christ's victory over death. Bright vestments are worn as we anticipate Christ's Resurrection. Laurel leaves are strewn throughout the church during the service, because in the ancient world laurel leaves were a sign of victory. As the leaves are strewn, the choir chants "Arise O God and Judge the earth, for to Thee belong all the nations." The Old Testament story of Jonah in the belly of the whale is read at this service because Jonah is seen in the Church as a Type of Christ. As Jonah was three days in the belly of the great fish, and was then safely deposited back onto land, so our Lord was three days in the tomb before His glorious Resurrection. The Vesperal Divine Liturgy of Holy Saturday concludes the services of Holy Week, and brings us to the eve of Great and Holy Pascha. from: Antiochian Archdiocese website