Mother Maria, On Startling Glimpses of God in Others

I’m just a few essays into The Essential Writings of Mother Maria Skobtsova, and I already heartily recommend it. It’s on my reading list for 2018, because everything I’d heard about the life of Mother Maria from friends was terrifying and wonderful (one of my friends was chrismated in the Orthodox church with Maria as her patron). But it turns out my friends hadn’t exhausted the catalog of her incredible acts (I made my husband read one part of the biographical summary aloud).

But it’s most wonderful to read her in her own words. This is my favorite passage (so far):

In turning his spiritual world toward the spiritual world of another, a man encounters the terrible, inspiring mystery of the authentic knowledge of God, because what he encounters is not flesh and blood, not feelings and moods, but the authentic image of God in man, the very incarnate icon of God in the world, a glimmer of the mystery of the Incarnation and Godmanhood. And man must unconditionally and unreservedly accept this terrible Revelation of God, must bow down before the image of God in his brother. And only when he feels it, sees it, and understands it, will yet another mystery be revealed to him, which demands his most strenuous struggle, his greatest ascetic ascent. He will see how this image of God is obscured, distorted by an evil power. He will see the human heart, where the devil wages a ceaseless struggle with God. And in the name of the image of God, darkened by the devil, in the name of love for this image of God that pierces his heart, he will want to begin a struggle with the devil, to become an instrument of God in this terrible and scorching work. He will be able to do it if all his hope is in God and not in himself; he will be able to do it if he has not a single subtle or mercenary desire; if he lays down his armor like David, and with nothing but the name of God rushes to do battle with Goliath.