Today I will share with you a small (rough) translation I’ve done from the newly released book on the Ever-memorable Abbess Macrina of Volos, Λογία Καρδιάς (Words from the Heart). Although I only planned on translating the section on the angel’s instructions on prayer, I decided that since the Gospel for this past Sunday entreated us to cultivate memory of death, “And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you’… He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Luke 12:19-21), it would be more fitting to translate the whole passage.I found Gerontissa’s vision of hell rather disturbing; it is disturbing. But then again so is the “worm that dies not and the fire that never ceases to burn” (Mark 9:48).Gerontissa Macrina had the gift of prayer, [a gift] which she had cultivated since she was young. Her soul found respite and she confided all her requests [to God] in prayer. Once with tears she asked God to show her how we ought to pray so as [to have] pure prayer,free from self-conceit, so that the one who prays might freely be united to God. That evening an angel of the Lord appeared to her [dressed] all in white. He taught her how a person should pray according to his spiritual state. According to the suggestions of the angel, when the soul feels perfect love toward God, a person raises his hands high [in prayer]. When humility and the memory of the Lord’s Passion overcome him, a person crosses his arms and lowers his head. When from warring with his passions the soul feels the highest [level of] humility, then the person prays with his hands behind his back, like a convict. At some point the angel began to pray kneeling down and weeping as if he was clasping the feet of Christ, showing how, when a person becomes aware of his nothingness, he prays like so and he is met with inexpressible joy and consolation from God.
Following [the angel’s instructions] an enormous ladder appeared which stood in the air; the rungs of which had large distances between them. The angel told [Gerontissa] to follow [him] and holding her by the hand, he began to ascend. Gradually a dark, black, tangible darkness encircled [them] which smelt [like] sulfur. The higher they climbed the more difficult it became for Gerontissa to breath. They finally arrived at a prison which enclosed those [who committed] mortal sins. In that undesirable place with deep darkness, the roar of those burning was overwhelming; the sound was horrible. From everywhere wailing and lament were heard. In all her life Gerontissa was never able to forget [the sound of] that wailing.
During this [experience] Gerontissa didn’t notice the passage of time and her tears ran ceaselessly. [Even afterward] she was overcome with weeping; for ten days she was not able to stop her tears. On the one hand, she felt exaltation at the angelic visitation and the angel’s teachings on prayer, but on the other hand, mourning on account of the vision of hell. [But] after this [angelic] visit she [experienced even] more compunction in prayer.
Don’t be disheartened by Gerontissa’s vision, be encouraged! We should take the angel’s advice and pray with reverence, love, and (if we can) tears. And since the whole Nativity fast is a preparation to receive Christ, let’s take this opportunity to put into practice the above methods of prayer and cleanse our hearts, making them proper dwelling places for the Lord Almighty.