Saturday, October 29, 2016

An Old Nun Prayer.

Abbess Thaisia of Leushino.

   I could not fail to see that the Lord Himself was guiding me along the path of my hard (monastic) life, which was spiritu­ally almost a helpless one. Involuntarily I remembered Father Laurence's words that he had addressed to me while bidding me farewell: "The Lord Himself is guiding you, as if taking you by the hand. He has taken you out of the world and as­signed you to serve Him. He will not abandon you." Not only in dreams, however, did the Lord give me clear indications of the right way to follow, but also in my everyday life. For example, He brought me to witness the fervent, meaningful prayer of an aged nun. This is how it happened.
   It was a beautiful evening. After Vespers, dinner was usual­ly served; but only a few sisters went to the trapeza for their meal most of them ate in their cells, especially the elderly ones.
One elderly nun, “Mother Glafira”, had sent me on some errand to another very old nun, “Mother Theoktista”, telling me, by the way, that if I wished I could take a little walk on my way back. When I came to “Mother Theoktista's” cell, I re­cited the Jesus Prayer, as is customary in monasteries. There was no answer. Supposing that “Mother Theoktista” had not heard me, I opened the door just a little and repeated the prayer, this time somewhat louder. But again I received no answer. Then, supposing that “Mother Theoktista” must be resting behind the partition, or else that she was taking her meal alone, her cell-attendant having gone to the trapeza, I resolved to enter her cell. Having said the Jesus Prayer for the third time, I opened the door, stepped over the threshold -and was unable to make another move, struck with rever­ence and surprise by what I saw. “Mother Theoktista” was on her knees in the foremost corner of her room, with her arms lifted. Her lips were moving, and her face was wet with-tears, which were streaming also down her clothes. Every now and then she prostrated herself and remained for a long time in that position. Only her sobs showed her state. Then she would come up again and lift her arms. It was evident that she was beyond all her surroundings, beyond everything earthly. I felt ill at ease for having entered the room. Involun­tarily I had become a witness of the inner secret of an aged nun's soul. It had taken me quite unawares-or could it have been an indication from the Lord, Who was showing me this either to give me a lesson on prayer, or to shatter my doubts as to whether there were any old nuns in our convent who were leading a high spiritual life?. I remained standing still, fearing to move lest my movement would disturb the old nun's prayer. Nor did I dare to leave without having accomp­lished the errand entrusted to me. Anyway, I did not want to leave before the end of this fervent prayer. But I had to wait for more than an hour before finally “Mother Theoktista” be­gan to rise from her knees, wiping her face and blowing her nose, her gaze still directed toward the icon of Christ, in Whose realm her soul was still abiding. Not wanting to dis­turb her or let her know that I had witnessed her prayerful ecstasy, I pretended I had just arrived, and recited the Jesus Prayer aloud. "Amen," she replied, according to the monastic custom, and went quickly behind the partition, which was near to the corner where she had been kneeling. Then she came out again, rubbing her eyes as if she had been asleep, and said, "Well, my Anna asked me for permission to take a little walk, and I ... well, I took a little nap in the meantime. Is supper already over?".
   "It was finished over an hour ago, Mother," I replied, hardly being able to keep back my tears after all I had seen, and now heard from the old nun. She looked at me inquisitively.
   "And you, my little swallow, have you been here for some time?".
   "No, Mother, I have just come in."
   "And why are your eyes full of tears?. Do you have any sorrow in your heart?. You must have had it hard at times, my little swallow. Let's sit down and have a nice heart-to­-heart talk," the kind old nun urged me, sitting down with me in the same corner where she had been praying. A heart­-to-heart talk ... indeed it was!. I did not dare hide from her that I had witnessed her prayer. She sighed deeply, but then said peacefully:
   "For sure God Himself arranged that. But, pray, not a word about this to anyone, not even to your eldress. Let it remain your own secret."
   I did not have to tell anyone about this. My eldress was satisfied with the answer I brought her, and did not ask me anything more. As for me, this incident brought much ben­efit to my soul. I had seen how nuns pray, and I began try­ing to emulate them.

Abbess Thaisia: An Autobiography (1989), St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood Press, Platina, California, U.S.A.