"Mother Maria is a saint of our day and for our day; a woman of flesh and blood possessed by the love of God, who stood face to face with the problems of this century."—Anthony (Bloom), Metropolitan of Sourozh
Born to a prominent, devoutly Russian Orthodox family, Elizaveta Pilenko (1891-1945) renounced her belief at 14 when her father died. In St. Petersburg with her mother, she then joined the circle of symbolist poet Alexander Blok and later the Bolsheviks. But come the Revolution, she was regaining her faith. Twice married, she had three children, with whom she fled to Paris. Always a community activist, she turned to explicitly Christian charity to express solidarity with the needy, especially fellow Russian exiles in Depression-era Paris. Eventually, her second husband, Daniel Skobtsov, released her so she could become an Orthodox nun. Taking the name Maria, she realized a "new monasticism" that merged the spiritual life with service to the oppressed. Her subsequent career, as Jim Forest observes in his excellent introduction, resembled Dorothy Day's; however, circumstances didn't allow her Day's longevity. After the Nazis took Paris and persecution of the Jews began, she stood with them, was sent to the camps, and perished in Ravensbruck. Besides her inspiring life, her legacy includes much writing on the religious life. The 11 selections here, concerned primarily with living out Jesus' commandment to love your neighbor, are often literature of a very high order, none more so than the dazzling metaphoric masterpiece "The Poor in Spirit."
The introduction is by Jim Forest, secretary of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship, and author of many books including
Praying with Icons and Confession: Doorway to Forgiveness.
Softbound. 192 pp.