"My illness is a gift from Heaven. It is better to suffer the mercies of God here than to go to hell..."
On the grave cross we see a photo. It depicts a very young girl with a beautiful face, marked by the stamp of severe illness.
How many pictures of young faces I have seen on gravestones. All these pictures were taken when the souls of these people were rejoicing and happy in a healthy, strong and vigorous body. At that time they did not think about death, assuming that they had long and happy years of life ahead of them. But fate had other plans.
The photo of the heroine of today's story is different. She is wearing the monastic schema, and at the time the picture was taken, the girl was not just about to die, she was looking forward to death. Twenty years of life, is that a lot or a little? It depends on what you judge it by. After all, a person's maturity does not depend on how many beats the heart has made before it stops, but on the quality to which the soul has come to during the period of life lived.
Unfortunately, old age does not always equal wisdom. Sometimes youth can be far more mature than the most venerable of wrinkles and gray hair. It has long been my observation that maturity of soul is in one way or another associated with suffering. Children of the war years are very different from their peers who lived in the peaceful years. Outwardly they look alike, but you can tell by their eyes that there is a difference of tens of years between them.
Olga Sarsyanova entered Magnitogorsk University and, like many of her peers at that age, did not think about God. New impressions from studies, acquaintances, hobbies. The life was flowing and gave hopes for the bright future. This hope faded after Olga was diagnosed with an inoperable form of cancer. Who knows what was going on in the young girl's soul when she was told to prepare for death?
But what is death? Superficially, we are all familiar with it from the way our nearest and dearest relatives die. The phrase, "Oh, he died recently," said of someone we know, does not evoke strong emotions in us. Dead is dead, all people die. But, that is until the word "all" includes ourselves. As soon as the office of death sends us a summons warning us that death is coming for us personally and will arrive shortly without specifying a date, the world around us turns upside down. Then the eternal questions of the meaning of life, previously abstract and distant, become concrete and close at hand.
Even those who have long had ready answers to all these questions very rarely pick up the notice of their imminent death without shudder and fear. And what can you say about a girl who just turned nineteen?
Anyway, Olga went with her mother to one of the monasteries. The life in her was melting away right before her eyes, and it was obvious to everyone that Olga had very little time left. But you want to live, especially when you stand at the beginning of the path of life. Her childhood has passed, and her youth has just begun. It is one thing when a person is dying, having been through the years, and another when a dying person has just begun his or her life's journey.
Doctors gave Olga no more than a month to live. A brain tumor had already squeezed out her left eye and came out on her forehead. But to God all things are possible! The girl began to pray that He would perform a miracle. He would heal her from the disease and bring back the joy of life. What price could be paid for this miracle? Any price, of course. What could be given for life? Probably a price equal to this life. And Olga promised God that she would become a nun and spend the rest of her life in prayer in a monastery.
After that, things began to happen that none of the doctors could believe. The tumor began to shrink. Even her eye, which had been closed by metastasis damage, began to heal. The girl felt better every day. As time passed, she became certain that the disease had left her completely. Along with the illness, the fear for the future was gone. University friends began to come to the monastery to visit Olga. They talked a lot, talked about classes, new impressions from such a distant life outside the monastery walls.
In spring, everything comes alive. Birds begin to sing loudly, meadows are dressed with field grasses, trees are covered with fragrant flowers. Along with the birds' trills and the spring bees' buzzing in Olga's head, her thoughts begin to buzz. There, behind the fence of the monastery, sparks a joyful life. Girls are running on dates, laughing with friends in cafes, trying on bright new clothes, rejoicing and having fun... And what is here? Black clothes, simple food, service, obedience, service again, prayer in a cell, a short nap, and all over again... A year goes by, then two, three, ten... How much longer? A whole life as in prison? No, I don't want that. I want a place where music plays, cars drive, people go shopping. Why do I need this monastery? Maybe I need to have more children, bring up grandchildren. I have to get out of here...
The illness came back suddenly, and with even more force. A miracle, it turns out, can sometimes have an expiration date. So it has exhausted its resources. Olga didn't ask God for healing anymore. She continued to live quietly and humbly in the monastery. Usually people who endure terrible pain are seldom restrained. They often break down and scream, not having the strength to carry their cross. Olga bore her cross as a nun should, quietly and patiently. She took her tonsure with the name Evdokiya. At that time she could still walk independently, so the rites were performed in the temple. When her health began to deteriorate sharply, Matushka Evdokia took the veil and took the name Anna. She at that time was twenty years old.
Terrible headaches were not relieved even by drips with potent painkillers. But along with the pain came something new to Mother Anna that cannot be described in words.
"How happy I am that God sent me this disease", she once told her mother, "I could have lived my whole life without knowing God, Communion, or eternal life".
Shortly before her death, when many people went into the dying woman's cell, they felt a special spiritual silence near her bed. As if there, near her, was the boundary between Heaven and Earth, beyond which began the mystery of Eternal Life.
On April 21, 2006, during the Good Friday observance of Good Week, the time when the Savior was pouring out His blood for each of us, the soul of Matushka Anna left her tortured body. She had lived about a year since crossing the threshold of the monastery. She was buried at the beginning of Easter week to the joyful cry of "Christ is Risen!
In her twenties, Matushka managed everything: to find faith, to drink the cup of suffering, and to save her soul. Some of the monks of the Holy Mountain spoke of seeing the soul of schema Anna, who ascended to Heaven, bypassing the tollhouses, and reposed in the eternal bliss of the Heavenly Kingdom. From her photograph on the gravestone cross, Matushka looks out as if through the world with a faint smile. A couple of weeks before she died, she told her mother: "If someone told me: 'pass on your disease to another person', I would never do it. My illness is a gift from Heaven. It is better to suffer the mercies of God here than to go to hell. Now I can firmly say that I am happy: God and Our Lady love me so much. And death... I look at it with humility. And if it pleases God, He will soon take me from this earthly life to the next... Everything with God is providential, and I am eternally grateful to Him".
God rest the soul of your servant schema Anna, and have mercy on us sinners through her holy prayers!
Source: spzh.ru (Russian)
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