Christ is Risen!
(An excerpt from Abbess Thaisia’s book Letters to a Beginner: On Giving One’s Life to God, pp. 90-91)
The event which I want to tell you about took place on one of the Saturdays of Great Lent. After dinner both novices went away somewhere, and the nun, taking advantage of the solitude, wanted to pray. Here is what she told me about this occurrence: “I remember only that I began to recite the Akathist to the Sweetest Jesus, Whose presence I still felt in my heart, for that day I had received the Holy Mysteries. I read an ikos, I read another, and I felt that my soul became ever more and more moved and warmed by the love towards the Lord. I remember that I gradually began to wholly tremble both in soul and body, pouring out tears. My physical powers failed me, and in order not to fall I knelt and prostrated before the holy icons, continuing to read the Akathist mentally. It seems that I read it to the middle, but after that I don’t remember anything. Everything around me in the cell, the very floor on which I lay prostrate, everything as it were vanished somewhere, and it seemed to me all different, as though afar off was the Throne of God with Jesus Himself seated on it. Around the Throne was a very great number of those who stood – I don’t know whether they were people or angels – but they all sang wonderfully, wonderfully well. I stood there behind everyone and rejoiced. Anything more I don’t remember and cannot say. Whether this vision lasted long I also don’t know; only afterwards my cell attendants told me that when they came into the cell and saw me cast down before the icons, they thought at first that I was praying, but then seeing that I didn’t arise for a long time, they took me for being asleep and began to call me by name, but without success – and left me in peace. When I came to myself from the wonderful rapture and vision, there was again no one in the cell, for which I was very glad. The floor, on the place where my head had lain, was copiously wet with tears, as though water had been spilled on it. That meant that my bodily members were not devoid of life at that time – my eyes shed streams of tears, but I didn’t feel it and didn’t know. Or to speak more correctly, I didn’t know at all what was happening with me; but the sweetness which filled my heart in those most holy moments long remained in it, as a pledge of the heavenly visit.”
You see Sister, examples of lofty, contemplative prayer of nuns contemporary to us. Who hinders you and us from attaining this height? In the books of the Holy Fathers there are very many similar kinds of examples, but I purposely brought you ones from lives of our own times, because we, reading and listening to narratives about the great exploit of the saints often say in our justification: “Then there were saints!… That was in those former times! But now people are weak and our time is not then!” So, behold, understand from experience that even now there are true strugglers. Neither the time nor the place makes a man holy, but his good free volition and firm will. Pray unremittingly, and the Lord will not deprive you of His blessing.