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Friday, November 25, 2022

Saint Katherine as a Model for Nuns (St. Theophan the Recluse)


By St. Theophan the Recluse
 
The life of Saint Katherine is a rich spiritual delight for those who honor her memory. For you, venerable sisters, it is a richer delight, because her life in general fully expresses the monastic life.

Turn your gaze to the icon that presents her together with the Infant-Holding Theotokos. The Saint is kneeling before the Mother of the Lord, who hands her the engagement ring. This is the most important moment of her life. It is the symbolic moment of dedication.

However, before the dedication came the desire and the search for the best bridegroom, which led her to the Lord. After the spiritual marriage, she entered the stage of martyrdom and was crowned with the unfading crown. This is generally her life. Your own life exists along the same lines as long as you live as befits your monastic calling.

The Saint had a noble origin. She was rich, intelligent, exceptionally educated. She had many gifts. However, nothing worldly satisfied her. Her soul was looking for something more perfect and she was ready to follow whoever would show her the way to a higher life.

The Lord, seeing her good will, sent her the right guide. She was thus able to free herself from worldly darkness and meet the Heavenly Bridegroom, the most beautiful and wisest of all. So she decided to dedicate herself to the Lord, to marry Him.

A soul marries the Lord after having previously made the decision to dedicate herself exclusively to Him. The decision of dedication is born from the firm and certain belief that the Lord is the source of all good.

This conviction also gave you, venerable sisters, the first impulse to give up everything worldly and surrender to the Lord. Surely this would be your first start. The difference between your call and that of the Saint is as follows: she felt dissatisfied in the worldly environment but did not know where she should take refuge. Whereas you, along with the thirst for something more perfect, had the information about where you would satisfy it. You have heard the words: "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink" (John 7:37).

Therefore, as coldness towards your environment grew, the desire for the Lord grew at the same time. His divine form was imprinted more intensely on your heart and your love for Him was burning, until you left everything, renounced the world and followed Him. The Lord may not have given a clear assurance that He accepts you and that He marries you, although it is an indisputable truth that you married Him and are now His brides.

So I want to direct your attention to what preceded your entry into the monastery, as well as to what followed after your entry. I intend thus to rekindle your first flame and to advise you: "As zealous as you were at the beginning, so shall you be until the end."

When sacred feelings are stirred in the heart, the zeal for spiritual ascents is ignited. The desire for something better, the belief that the Lord bestows perfection, the deep love for Him, the decision to serve Him, the willingness to sacrifice everything for His sake, must be your characteristic concern throughout your life. These should be the breath that will enliven and activate your existence. These will be to you what the circulation of sap is to a tree, what the beating of the heart is to man. Those who lack these feelings, lack life. And outwardly they may retain the form of the bride of Christ, but inwardly they have ceased to be. One could say to these souls: "You have a reputation for being alive, yet you are dead" (Rev. 3:1).

Now follows the third main characteristic of the Saint's life, namely martyrdom. After the selection of the Bridegroom and the dedication there followed the martyrdom. Do we see it in your own life? We certainly see it, but in a different form. From the moment the decision of dedication ripened in your heart, your martyrdom began.

Why did the pagans torture the martyrs? Because they did not want to worship false gods. The passions are also false gods. Therefore, she who does not submit to them, does what the martyrs do. In other words, she refuses to worship idols. As a consequence of the refusal of the saints to worship the idols, there was martyrdom, the torture of the body by the executioners. The consequence of the refusal to satisfy the passions is a constant internal war, a painful crucifixion, a voluntary martyrdom.

Source: From the book Letters to Nuns. Translation by John Sanidopoulos.
 
 
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