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  From Russia’s Catacombs - A Holy Visitation


    "Now I shall tell you, dear hostess, what happened to us once," said the wanderer in a whisper, pouring her tea from the cup into the saucer. "Last winter we went as pilgrims to Moscow, aiming to arrive there at the Nativity of Christ and pray in the remaining churches of the city. It was a long journey, more than a month from Sarov. The winter was fierce, with snow to the waist and frosts--even the trees crackled. At first there was nothing to worry about. The further away from the towns we were, the kinder and more merciful the people. They let us stay the night and did not let us starve. But as we came closer to Moscow, the doors were not opened and they ceased giving. And so, on the Eve of Nativity we spent the night in a forest. We dug a den for ourselves in the snow--just like bears--and collected wood for a fire. We couldn't sleep; even drowsiness fled from us. Then we huddled together and wondered if dawn would ever come. And in this Way we spent the night as God ordained.

    At first, although it was very cold, it was quiet and we could see the clear sky and twinkling stars. Then, little by little, a wind started up, the treetops began to hum and the frost c1attered down from the branches. Suddenly we heard the thin voice of a child, moaning, crying somewhere. We listened but could understand nothing. Such fear fell upon us! And then it seemed that from all sides voices rang out with weeping, praying-but just what it was they were saying we couldn't make out. The trees creaked, bending to the ground, and with them an invisible host was groaning. The voices grew louder until we managed to hear the distinctly audible words:

     "Weep, little children, groan to Christ the King for your bitter lot, your torture... By your weeping, beg from Him forgiveness for the sinful world. The Lord will not turn away from the tears of children!'

"And then began another theme:

     "'O mother-wind, cover with fresh drifts our shelterless bones, cast without prayer into the earth, cover the murdered, the shot, the unjustly tortured. Blow more quickly, father-wind. From God's churches bring us the smell of burning wax, the smell of incense, for the unsung Russian people's dead; bury us with honor, bury us in a Christian manner. '

     "And what do you think, dear one? Suddenly we became aware of the smell of holy incense. At the same time there came in sight three old men swinging censors from which arose clouds of fragrance. They seemed not to walk but to glide over the snow. Their faces radiant, they chanted harmoniously: 'Give rest, O Lord, to the souls of Thy servants who have been killed and died without a Christian burial.' One of them could be recognized as St. Sergius of Radonezh, as he is portrayed on icons; the second--St. Seraphim of Sarov; and the third--Father John of Kronstadt. When the funeral service was over, the bitter voices fell silent..... The Saints passed by, and we felt somehow more peaceful and joyful..."

 

(The story of a wanderer, a sister of the Brotherhood of St. John of Kronstadt; reprinted from "The Life-bearing Source," January, 1984)


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