O, I have suffered
With those that I saw suffer.
Tempest, I, ii, 5.
The words of Shakespeare’s Miranda might well have been those of Mother Maria; to whom, also, one could apply the words of an early Christian writer, Hermas: “There stood before me a woman with the face of a virgin and the white hair of an old woman. She was the Church: ever young, yet white with wisdom and experience”. Only the serenity which belongs to the Church was not hers; because her life was completely interwoven with the destiny of her contemporaries, their turmoil was hers, their tragedy was hers. And yet she was never swept away by it. She was anchored in God and her feet rested on rock.
Infinite pity and compassion possessed her; there was no suffering to which she was a stranger; there were no difficulties which could cause her to turn aside. She could not tolerate hypocrisy, cruelty or injustice. The Spirit of Truth that dwelt in her led her to criticize sharply all that is deficient, all that is dead in Christianity and, particularly, in what she mistakenly conceived to be classical monasticism; mistakenly, for what she was attacking was an empty shell, a petrified form. With the perception of a seer she saw the hidden, glorious content of the monastic life in the fulfillment of the Gospel, in the realization of divine love, a love which has room to be active and creative in and through people who have turned away from all things and – above all – from themselves in order to live God’s life, to be his presence among men, his compassion, his love. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”: this she understood, this she lived for. This also is what she died for.
Mother Maria is a saint of our day and for all day: a woman of flesh and blood possessed by true love of God who stood fearlessly face to face with the problems of this century.
May this impressive book encourage its readers to emulate her merciless criticism of all hypocrisy to follow her path with equal courage; may they find in her inspiration to live as she lived, to accept death as she did.
Published in: Sergey Hackel, One of Great Price, London, Darton, Longman & Todd, 1965