Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A mother’s prayer

goravski-molyashasya-staryhka.jpg In 1942 I stayed overnight with a poor peasant family in a small village of the Solets region, which at that time was occupied by the German army.
The hostess of the hut was old and ailing, but worked all day. That evening she told me about her sorrow. Four of her sons were at the front, in the Red Army. She missed them very much, and feared that she would never see them again. However, hoping in the endless mercy of the Lord, she prayed for them zealously every day.
That night I heard her Russian, motherly prayer.
I slept in the small room next to her. In the dark of the night, when her husband, the daughter-in-law and granddaughter were fast asleep, she knelt in front of the Kazan Mother of God icon, and started praying in a loud whisper.
I woke up and listened. I realised it was a prayer, and even without meaning to, I “listened in”. Every word was clearly audible. The meaning of the prayer was obvious. The praying woman’s religious mindset was flaming, pure, and deep.
Here is her prayer, nearly word for word. A prayer which impressed itself on my heart.

O Most-pure Mother, Theotokos, Most-Holy Sufferer, Virgin Mary. Hear me, the sinner, calm my motherly soul, fulfil my prayer and safekeep my children’s life – Dimitry, Alexey, Vasily and Ivan. Where are my poor little ones struggling now? Only You know, o Heavenly Queen. Save, keep and return them to me! If it is impossible to return them, then at least return two, or even just one, the youngest little one, Vaniushka. I don’t have anywhere to turn with my sorrow, except to You, o Mother of God…
You are a Mother too! You understand my motherly sorrow!
You also sorrowed and suffered, when You saw the sufferings of Your Son, Christ our God, on the Cross. What did Your soul not experience when they tortured Your Son, spat Him in the face, and beat Him with a stick on the head…?
My dear! John the Theologion lovingly took You into his home when You returned from Golgotha after the death of Your Son, Who was crucified on the Cross for us sinners…
But now we crucify Him again with our sins, we spit on His face again, and beat Him with a stick on the head again, and tear apart Your motherly heart!
The Lord was right…! He is right to punish the Russian people so harshly. He is calling us to repent and to be purified by sorrows.
We should carry our sorrows with patience and humility, in order to receive forgiveness, and lighten the sufferings of Your Son, and Your sufferings, Mother of God!
If I, the sinner, can do that, if even my sorrows are needful for You, Mistress, then accept them please, as a gift, o Queen of earth and Heaven. If it has to be that my children suffer, in order to redeem the sins of all our people, then take all my four sons….But pray to God for forgiveness for the Russian people, and have pity on all the mothers, who in their tears and motherly sorrows have forgotten about Your Motherly sorrows and Your tears, o Mother of God…!

I did not hear any more – I couldn’t listen any more to what this Russian mother whispered to the Mother of God, quieter and quieter…
My chest filled up with emotion, my heart with compunction, and I started to cry. The whispering on the other side of the wall stopped. Quiet sobbing was heard. The earthly mother prayed to the Heavenly Mother with wordless tears….
The sorrow was diluted into those tears, and imperceptibly turned into a quiet joy.
The black, sorrowful night came to its end, and a sweet, pink sunrise took its place.
In the morning, I reverently kissed the hand of this Russian mother.
She became confused - “what are you doing, Batiushka, what’s this” – and she kissed my hand in return, which I did not manage to pull away in time.
Her face was full of light, calm, clear, with holy eyes.
As she went outside, in an old and shabby coat, a young, clean-shaven and stylish German soldier passed by, and cast a disdainful glance at the poorly clad and beggarly Russian woman.
Then I remembered the words of our Russian poet, Tiutchev:

No understanding and no reverence
In the prideful look of the foreigner
For that which penetrates and mysteriously shines
Through your humble nakedness

Ivan Andreev

Monday, July 7, 2014

Service at the Monastery of St John of Shanghai, Nov 2013


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