Russian Babas: Unsung Heroes of the Church

July 4/17, 2012,  Royal Martyrs: Tsar-Martyr Nicholas, Tsaritsa Alexandra, Royal Crown Prince Alexis, Grand Duchesses Olga, Maria, Tatiana & Anastasia

Our family’s name day! We attend a local parish for Liturgy in the morning and spend the rest of the day close to home. The following is the last post written on Divyevo. Tomorrow we turn our attention towards leaving to Sochi on the Black Sea, site of the upcoming 2014 winter Olympics.

Saturday, July 1/14, 2012,  Ss. Cosmas & Damian

On the second day in Divyevo, we attend the second of two morning Liturgies at 8am (the first one is at 5:30am). After breaking our fast at one of the monastery trapezas (something like a little coffeehouse) and eating a lunch offered to all the pilgrims, my daughter and I join a group of babas (Russian grandmothers) for a small obedience. We helped separate the wheat from the chaff, a very fitting duty, straight from the Gospels.

Russian Babas Separating Wheat From Chaff

The instant camaraderie and mutual loving-kindness at the table was very noticeable. These dear women, these servants of the Church would do anything you asked them to do, including the meticulous task of separating little green twigs from the grain which goes into making monastery bread. They are the unsung heroes of the Russian faithful, the unseen pillars of the Church.

The stories are countless during Soviet times of how the babas kept the faith in secret. With determination that could stop an army, they secretly prayed, baptized infants, preserved relics, tended shrines, and eagerly besought the Lord for the day of their motherland’s deliverence from atheist oppression. My own wife owes the beginning of her faith to a secret baptism by her baba when she was a child. Divyevo convent owes its preservation to three sisters who remained behind after 1600 others were sent to the Gulag in 1927. One of those three survived to see the return of St. Seraphim’s relics to Divyevo in 1991. Imagine the joy of this Mother in Christ beholding not only the fall of communism, but the return of their beloved heavenly intercessor.

An archbishop once said, “Without the women, who would have kept the church alive during the communist times?” Indeed, who would have kept it, because in many cases, they were the few faithful left behind after the Soviets sent all the other believers to concentration camps. But if the authorities did not bother with them because they deemed them weak and insignificant, they were deceived. For the very vessels they judged weakest, God showed forth to be vessels meet for his glorious work.

Glory to God who uses the weak and despised things of this world to His greater glory and honor, who casts down the proud, but gives grace to the humble!

1 thought on “Russian Babas: Unsung Heroes of the Church

  1. Pingback: The Harvard Square of Moscow | Like Mendicant Monks…

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