I hope that it is blessed to begin a serious of posts discussing this incredible recent spiritual mother of our Church. Blessed Nun Maria was both a shining example of endurance of immense physical suffering, and of awesome spiritual struggle and virtue throughout her life. As mentioned below by Fr. Nephon, she was a physical "giant" (gigantism, I believe associated with a tumor in her head), but was also truly a spiritual giant. January 20th, 2010 was the 12th anniversary of her repose in the Lord. May we emulate her virtue, and may we have her blessing.
Blessed Nun Maria, the Tall (+1998) - Part I (Introduction and Excerpts from her Letters)
By Monk Nephon of Vatopedi
When our Jesus met the man born blind “his disciples asked Him saying: Rabbi, who sinned, he or his parents for him to be born blind? Jesus replied, neither he nor his parents sinner, but this occurred that the work of God be revealed through it.”
These words of our Lord are fulfilled in our beloved sister Maria, who passed from this earth life s bright star and lived among us to reveal through her great patience and endurance and her continuous bearing of her great cross, the work which the power and goodness of God works.
Sister Maria was truly tall. As she was in body she was in soul. Whatever she suffered, whatever pain she was in continually, she endured glorifying God, which all saw and wondered at. No one could be able to imagine the greatness and the strength of her pains and tribulations. Her works of love however, her thoughts towards everyone who suffered bodily or spiritually, her care for every one of the monasteries that she knew, her charity, her humility, her missionary works, her spiritual help which she gave to those people who asked of her, from every station and worth of life, but much more so her desire for spiritual progress, her agony that she somehow was not proceeding correctly on the road of salvation! With her spiritual struggles, her great love towards our Christ and her spiritual help which she had from Him, these few know about. Our gift-bestowing Christ knows their number, and until her end He gave her power to become a radiant example for all of us, to continue our struggles for the salvation of our eternal souls, amidst the difficult and apokalyptic times which we live in.
Because I had the special blessing from our Lord, to be among those few who knew our Sister Maria a little bit more, and after the exhortation of our beloved in Christ to write something for eternal memory, I thought that it was unjust to hide that which I know from our struggling brothers about the aforementioned virtues of our sister Maria, especially now that there is no danger of harming her spiritually, as she is reposed among the heavenly abodes and receives her portion for her efforts.
I will not say anything of my own. Later may God help us to write more. Simply I will include excerpts from some of her letters which show the greatness of her soul and the way that she bore her cross, of course with the blessing of my Geronda.
Her great martyrdom and doxology towards God
1.From Boston where she had gone for therapy in a very difficult situation where she was led to a long surgery, she wrote on October 10th, 1985: “From the day when I decided to go for therapy, I believe that the saints will help me. I swear that I will not cease to glorify our Lord and our mother”.
2.“Last year this time I was at death's door, and only the prayers of the fathers saved me. Of course death is with us and doesn't scare us, but we must prepare...Now recently I have very bad tests. The doctor told me: “May God be with you”. I left all to the Lord and because of this I live and speak. My soul is heavy, full of pain and sorrow, but I close it all peacefully with the power of prayer. From the struggle which you (monks) have, I take courage and I also become a new man. (10/9/1986)
3....Now that I am writing to you I am on the bed, and I am suffering terribly from my intestines. It is Theophany and I am in bed. I was thinking how sinful I am to be denied this service. My pains are terrible. I pray that it is something that passes. Glory to God.” (1/6/1987)
4. My news regarding my health is not good. My bones are moved high in my back and my lower left, and I am much more stooped over from the terrible pains. Glory to You O God, let His will be done and I thank Him who remembered that I am very behind [ανεπρόκοπη] on my spiritual duties.” (1990)
5. I with my sins, which appear to be many, will not have repented correctly. I am tortured and endure the greatest. This cortisone which I take removed the calcium and the bones remain hollow and growth hormone extends the bones and breaks them and dismantles them and moves them, and Maria the tall has become Maria the hunchback. My pains are great and my spiritual pain, because I can't move and do my spiritual requirements, is great. Only with the help of the wheelchair [αναπηρικό] do I move. Not at all by myself. If I want to take my plate to the table it's impossible. Glory to You O God for all.” (10/10/1991)
6. Regarding my tonsure it was something that I can't begin to describe to you. My whole heart was burning and I thought that it would break. From joy? From emotion? I can't describe it. Our Geronta in no earthly state, I will not forget it. Like I was found in heaven. I glorify the name of the Lord. I think however with fear that I took the schema, for I am unworthy (as I am) in case I do not keep the vows, may God have mercy on me.”
A small indication of the greatness of sister Maria is that the providence of God made her worthy a few years before her repose of the great and angelic schema which she desired (8/17/1993).
7. Everyone gets sick for a day, a month, a year. I suffered my whole life. My sins are many and my repentance little, and because of this I suffer...” (1994).
8. “I am experiencing difficulties with some pains in my head have passed and my soul is also affected and they feel intolerable. I seek help from all the saints. I place agiasmo of St. Nektarios continually and oil from St. Raphael, Fr. Nephon, and I think that I am such a sinner that I pity [αηδειάζω] myself. I confess but I don't weep my sins, the animal that I am, neither when I go to commune do I weep. However, I pray a lot and prepare for Holy Communion, and if I don't feel within me something beautiful and utter peace, I don't commune. May God have mercy on me the sinner!”
9. “Bless, and may you have a good stadium [i.e. good struggle for Great Lent]. May we all ascend a bit towards Golgotha and witness the holy passion and the resurrection.” (Great Lent 1997).
10. “This life does not have any significance. Hold on as the castaway that we may pass this temporary exile, that we may pass to eternity.”
11. May the grace of St. Gregory Palamas who celebrated yesterday be your help. I love and greatly reverence St. Gregory and I celebrate and greatly love his monastery in Koufalia. Now to help it I said to send me two crates of candles for the Resurrection to sell. From here where I am I want to serve. With the telephone and numerous friends I do many works. I have many monasteries in order that I help. Glory to You O God.”
A small indication of her spiritual struggle and what she believed about herself.
12. I try as much as I can to obey my spiritual father and in the advice of the books that I read from the various Gerontes and from the Acts of the Apostles and naturally from the Gospel, and it is bad if I don't continuously read the Gospel. As I am an animal, I try to bow. All in all from when you knew me I changed my ruined [life] sufficiently towards the good. That's what I think. I ceased argologian, as much that I suffer when I hear others gossip or speak badly of others. My soul weeps for this and I pity myself. Because of this I stay in the house, my fellow men who are suffering I help and speak to them of the Lord” (1986)
“Slowly our Lord helped me and I went and venerated his church. The Descent from the Cross, the All-Holy Tomb [of Christ in the Holy Sepulcher] where tears and great emotion took hold of me. What I thought and think inside me I can't describe. After we went to the Golgotha of the Lord. There I bent and sought the help of our Christ and I cried a lot. I asked him to help me pass my small Golgotha.” (From Jerusalem 1987)
13. “I with my mother live like Nuns, we don't have to say anything to anyone, we help them all...” (1989)
14. “In the morning when I awake I perform the midnight service and after the six psalms and whatever else I can and the noetic prayer...In the evening the vespers, compline and the salutations [to the Theotokos]. I can't do proper prostrations. I do half ones, as I can. The Paraklesis to the Theotokos, and sometimes of St. Raphael, I try to do every day, but now I take many pills and the growth hormone and I can't do as I used to. However I try.”
15. “God hits me two-thousand and two times that I might loose my ego...”
16. “I cried from my emotion to the Lord, Who remembers me still, the lost one and sinner. From my sins and my disobediences, I am embarassed to gaze upon the icon of our Lord in the eyes...”
17. “We here live the good life, all things passing well and our soul is utterly black and it doesn't have a crack to let in a ray of light. May God help us conquer laziness and may we come closer to our Christ. I don't want to embitter our Lord, whatever I can I do, however I try to do more...”
A multitude of young people found consolation near her and related their problems and left happy and at rest. She was found to be a contemporary Amma, and as such many opened their hearts to her, clerics, monks, abbots, abbesses, bishops and political leaders.
Sister Maria attracted the world and her refugee home in Lemeso was a pool of Siloam for tired souls. Many children took her blessing and advice before leaving for monasticism and many Christian families were created through her advice.
Cyprus is poorer with the absence of sister Marai, but much richer because close to the multitude of saints and martyrs is added another martyrical soul. Her last martyrical months that she spent in the intensive care unit of the hospital of Lemeso further purified her as gold in the furnace. It appears that God wished her to shine, as she characteristically said.
Our pain is great because of the loss, but our consolation is equally great, for we know that our worthy-to-be-blessed and ever-to-be-remembered sister in Christ Maria will intercede for us where she is.
(amateur translation of Greek text from: http://vatopaidi.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/%ce%bb%ce%af%ce%b3%ce%b1-%ce%bb%cf%8c%ce%b3%ce%b9%ce%b1-%ce%b1%ce%b3%ce%ac%cf%80%ce%b7%cf%82-%ce%b3%ce%b9%ce%b1-%cf%84%ce%bf-%ce%b2%ce%af%ce%bf-%ce%ba%ce%b1%ce%b9-%cf%84%ce%b7%ce%bd-%cf%80%cf%81%ce%bf/)
For more on the Blessed Nun Maria (in Greek), see: http://apantaortodoxias.blogspot.com/2010/02/blog-post_9730.html, http://vatopaidi.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/epikeidios-monahis-marias/, http://vatopaidi.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/viografiko-marias-monahis-psilis/.