Saint Maria Skobtsova

Read about the life and work of this recently glorified monastic Saint Maria Skobtsova on the thoroughly enjoyable blog of Fr Alexander Winogradsky, the only Eastern Orthodox priest (that I know of) to regularly celebrate the Divine Liturgy in Hebrew.

Here is a poem from Saint Maria, dated July 1942, titled “Israel”:

Two triangles, a star,
The shield of King David, our forefather.
This is election, not offense.
The great path and not an evil.
Once more in a term fulfilled,
Once more roars the trumpet of the end;
And the fate of a great people
Once more is by the prophet proclaimed.
Thou art persecuted again, O Israel,
But what can human malice mean to thee,
who have heard the thunder from Sinai?

We commemorate Saint Maria Skobstova on 20 July (New Calendar) and 2 August (Old Calendar). Also glorified with her were her companions, Fr Dimitri Klepinin, her son Yuri, and Elie Fondaminsky, a convert from Judaism. Fr Alexander relates this of Fr Dimitri:

As he was asked why he was helping the Jews (“these swines”, sic), Fr. Dimitri Klepinin took his Cross from under his cassock and showed it to the Nazi officer saying: “He is a Jew”.

They were arrested, sent to camps, and murdered for their undaunted assistance in helping refugess, and particularly many Jews, to escape Paris after the German invasion. St Maria died in the camp at Ravensbruck. Saints Dimitri and Yuri died in the camp at Dora. St Elie died in the camp at Auschwitz. They were canonized by His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch in 2004. Both St Maria and St Dimitri are also recognized as Righteous Among the Nations at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, for their work in having saved so many Jewish lives.

For more on St Maria Skobtsova’s life, her story is told in more detail in the book by Fr Sergei Hackel, A Pearl of Great Price.

Av Aleksandr ends thus:

The courage we need today is to patiently knit up anew the threads of identity for each community, with full respect of who everyone is, was and would think they can be. God provides when we truly listen to His commandments. But we have also to courageously meet with those who even despise or ignore such or such community or individuals. This has been the sign of contradiction that every believer has the task to assume. Contradiction does not mean “provocation” or swagging around in all kinds of groups. We have no right to mirror ourselves.

We also need believers who would never judge anybody and welcome refugees, divorcees, raped women-men-children, drug-addicted, sick people, dealer of all sorts of killing businesses. We are good at playing the game that we are open-minded. Openness requires self-abandonment that showed Mat’ Mariya.

Mat’ Mariya is a real pearl on the way to a respectful encounter.

So many of God’s holy ones are so surprising. Their lives are as much for each of us, equally, Orthodox Christian or otherwise, to be confronted by their examples, in whatever complacency to which we are accustomed. To do God’s will in every situation, regardless of the consequences, regardless of mood, regardless of how “spiritual” we are “feeling”, such is the life that every human is called to live, not merely the Saints. They, the Saints, stand for us all as signposts along the way, pointing us reliably upon a way that truly exists, certainly a narrow and difficult way, moreso at some times than others, but it is a way leading to a destination full of wonders unimaginable: the Heavenly Jerusalem.

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