Orthodox America

   New Russian Martyr Maria

Our teacher, Maria Vasilyevna, was a wonderful person, if only because all her pupils loved her and always, when pronouncing her name, added "our." She was very attentive to all the pupils of the school. It was impossible ever to see her angry. She could get on well with everyone, and everyone confided in her as in a mother, knowing that she never caused anyone any trouble at any time. There was something elusive in her which made her different from the other teachers. This elusive something which she hid from everybody was her flaming faith in God and His Holy Providence. And therefore if she learned about somebody that he or she was from a believing home, a believing family, she was especially considerate and kind to them.

But the director of the school was not only a member of the Communist Party; he was a convinced atheist and, apparently, connected with the KGB. He suspected Maria Vasiliyevna of being a believer because she was not close to him and in a certain way distanced herself from him. And he thought up a plan to establish exactly whether she was a believer or not.

Now in the courtyard of the school there was a kind of ditch. And the director used this circumstance to conduct a test. But perhaps it was the other way round: the ditch itself was devised as a sham excuse for the test he had thought up. This trick of the director's served not only as a means of exposing Maria Vasiliyevna, but also the whole staff and all the pupils with regard to their religious convictions. With this aim a holy icon of the Mother of God and Child was laid, with the painted surface upwards, across the ditch as a little bridge. Standing on the icon, the director explained that the whole school had to assemble in classes with their class teachers in the courtyard and then walk over the icon from one side of the ditch to the other. As he said this, he knocked on the very face of the Mother of God with his heels.

After this introduction, he began to let everyone go in classes across this "bridge," following the expressions on the faces of those passing over. And in front of each class there first had to pass the class master or mistress, and then the whole class behind them. And when Maria Vasiliyevna came up with her class and had to walk over the holy icon of the Mother of God to the other side where the director was standing, she stopped and said in a loud voice:

"I consider the fulfillment of your demand to be contrary to the Constitution of the Soviet Union. I am a believing Orthodox Christian. And I shall not walk over the holy icon of the Mother of God and God-Child!" This was enough for the best teacher in the school to disappear completely, not only as a pedagogue, but also as a living person (we do not know where this happened). It was as if the earth swallowed her up. No one ever heard anything more of her... There was a rumor that, as a believing Christian, she had been shot.

Vladimir Moss

Source: Schemamonk Epiphanius (Chernov), Tserkov' Katakombnaya na Zemlye Rossiiskoi.

By God's mercy, we here in the United States do not face the kind of persecution which hundreds of thousands of our Orthodox brethren suffered under the communists, when even a simple expression of one's faith could cost one one's job or even one's life. Nevertheless, as secularism tightens its grip on our society, we will find ourselves increasingly in conflict with the world around us, particularly in the workplace, where we are subject to various rules and regulations not always compatible with the practice and confession of our faith. Some compromise is inevitable and, indeed, allowable, but where do we draw the line? And how can we prepare ourselves to stand fast when real discrimination and persecution come our way - as they surely will? Fr. David Moser offers here some pastoral recommendations on this subject, and we encourage readers to share their experiences and the difficulties they encounter in trying to be true to their faith in the workplace. - ed.