Jul 20 - “St. Maria Skobtsova” © icon by Br. Robert Lentz, OFM. Happy Feast Day St. Maria!
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Mother Maria Skobtsova is at first glance a startling candidate for Orthodox sainthood. A former Communist, married twice, and a mother of three children, she eventually became an Orthodox nun in Paris, with the condition that she would not have to live in a monastery, secluded from the world. As abbess of an urban convent, she wore a ragged habit and men's cast-off shoes. She gave up her room to someone who needed it worse and then slept in a broom closet. She smoked cigarettes and often missed church services--so that she could beg for food for the poor at the city market.
Like Dorothy Day, Mother Maria gathered to herself the destitute and derelicts of Paris. The large rented house that served as her convent was a refuge for refugees and others whose world had collapsed. It also became a center for intellectual and theological discussion. After the fall of France in 1940, she and Father Dimitri, her chaplain, helped a great number of Jews escape from the Nazis. Eventually arrested by the Nazis, she was sent to Ravensbruck concentration camp, where she died on Holy Saturday, 1945, taking the place of a Jewish woman who was to be sent to the gas chamber.
However startling her life, she is in fact a prophetic voice for Orthodox Christians and for all who strive to follow Christ in the modern world. When other Russians lamented the loss of "Orthodox Russia," Maria answered, "We must be honest and severe to the end. We must liberate the real and the authentic even from layers to which we are most accustomed and which we hold most dear. We must deny ourselves any stylizations or aesthetic reformulations of these essentials. We must scrupulously distinguish Orthodoxy from all its decor and its costumes. In some sense we are called to early Christianity. In a word, it is in freedom that we must work as members of the Church."
Mother Maria was also a talented poet and iconographer. In this icon she is shown embroidering a cloth icon, like the many she created during her life. Even at Ravensbruck she managed to create beauty, by embroidering a miniature "tapestry" on a handkerchief, using colored thread other women managed to smuggle from the Nazi factory in the camp.
Her feast day is July 20.https://www.trinitystores.com/artwork/st-maria-skobtsova