The Sacrament of the World

 The world is a friendly place when friends share their news.
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In those years I personally knew Mother Maria, and often visited her. An old house on a poor and run-down Paris lane, a tiny courtyard, a few scraggly trees, an old garage in the back turned into a chapel. . . . In the house day and night: crowds, activity, the poor, ragged, unemployed, forgotten and abandoned. Everyone is being fed, attempts made to find work for all, and mainly—everyone is received with love and brotherliness.

In the middle of everything, a large red-cheeked, always smiling woman in monastic garb, flitting about in some unstoppable, seamless action. She is making soup in the kitchen, sweeping stairs, painting icons on the damp walls of the garagechapel, embroidering vestments, and in the evenings sitting in the half-lit sparse living room, greedily absorbing a passionately debated lecture.

What a panoply of stars met on those evenings: that’s where I will always recall the Assyrian head of Berdyayev, the scraping voice—he had throat cancer—of Father Sergius Bulgakov, the fragile, tender, kind countenance of Constantine Vasilievich Mochulsky.

Soup, the poor, hospitality—all this was during the daytime, but at evening—the deep problems of life, poetry, and culture. She sits embroidering under a lamp, and her vestments are always bright, paschal, radiant with flowers. There was not one iota here of anything formal or sanctimonious, or rigoristic, but always the lightness and joy of love, the freedom of faith.

— Alexander Schmemann, Sunday Talks, Radio Liberty, trans. Alexis Vinogradov. Alexander Schmemann was an Orthodox Christian priest, teacher, and writer who taught in Paris from 1946 to 1951 later in New York. Here he speaks of Mother Maria Skobtsova. This was passed on by Kelly Jolley who found it in Jim Forest who found it in a forthcoming book by Michael Plekon, The Sacrament of the World. The world is a friendly place when friends share their news.


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