Friday, June 18, 2010

"The meaning and significance of the cross are inexhaustible"

St. Maria Skobtsova of Paris is a modern saint. Her manifest holiness of life and her martrydom in a Nazi concentration camp were formally recognized in January 2004 by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul along with that of her son, Yuri, her friend and supporter, Fr. Dimitri Klépinin, and her close friend and collaborator Ilya Fondaminsky. All four died in German concentration camps. Their feast day is observed on 20 July, just two days before that my beloved Magdalene. Of course, they are not on the Catholic calendar.

I suppose if one had to find a more familiar analogue for her it would be Dorothy Day, but such analogies only have the effect of diminshing the martyria of both women in just the way Dorothy Day was worried about being dismissed. To push the analogy a bit further, she is Day with some Blessed Teresa of Calcutta thrown in. Jim Forest, who edited Mother Maria Skobtsova: Essential Writings for Orbis Books' Modern Spiritual Master series, has a great introductory article to the life of this modern saint Saint of the Open Door.

Icon of Sts. Maria Skobtsova, her son Yuri, Fr. Dimitri Klépinin, Ilya Fondaminsky

In addition to this introductory piece, In Communion also provides several short articles and essays by Mother Maria, who shows herself to be no mean theologian. One of my favorite pieces is her Taking Up the Cross, a particularly appropriate piece for a Friday:

"warnings sound from two different sides. On one side, the humanistic world, even as it accepts the foundations of Christian morality in inter-human relations, simply does not need any further deepening, any justification that does not come from itself. This world keeps within three dimensions, and with those three dimensions it exhausts the whole of existence. On the other side, the world connected with the Church also warns us: often the very theme of man seems something secondary to it, something that removes us from the one primary thing, from an authentic communion with God. For this world, Christianity is this relation to God. The rest is christianizing or christianification.

"We must be deaf to these two warnings. We must not only suppose, we must know that the first of them, coming from a world deprived of God, destroys the very idea of man, who is nothing if he is not the image of God, while the second destroys the idea of the Church, which is nothing if it does not imply the individual human being within it, as well as the whole of mankind.

"We must not only be deaf to these warnings, we must be convinced that the question of an authentic and profound religious attitude toward man is precisely the meeting point of all questions of the Christian and the godless world, and that even this godless world is waiting for a word from Christianity, the only word capable of healing and restoring all, and perhaps sometimes even of raising what is dead."
St. Maria Skobtsova, pray for us.

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