Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous woman

A virgin, devoted to God, told the following story to her spiritual Father, and he wrote it down exactly as he heard it from her mouth, so that others might learn of it and benefit spiritually.

“My parents, who brought me into the world, were completely different in character and took opposite directions in life.

“My father was a very kind man, gentle, humble, lenient, unimaginably compassionate, prudent, and sober. His health was frail. As long as I can remember, most of the time I saw him sick in bed, pale and weak. He suffered, however, with admirable patience. Never did anyone hear him complain about his distressing illness.

“In the short intervals during which he was well, he watched over his lands. The greater part of his profits he divided among the poor. With the remainder, he looked after his small family, that is, himself, my mother, and me. In addition to his other virtues, my kind father had also attained that of silence. He rarely spoke (many thought him dumb); and this, because he prayed continually to God with his mind and with his heart.

“My mother, on the contrary, was a typical woman of the world. She passionately loved a good time, diversions, many ornaments, and clothing. She led such an extravagant life, that we always had economic worries. She fought and quarreled continuously at home and away from home. And so talkative and nosey was the poor woman, that she knew well all of the news in our small city and even anything that took place outside of it. She was so egotistical that she took care of herself first and her family afterwards. She showed not the slightest love for her husband and, with her obvious disaffection, his torments were thus ever greater. Yet, despite all of her faults and the incontinent life which she led, she had her health and a strong body. I do not remember her ever to have been ill.

“While I was still a young girl, my father died after an agonizing illness. And something happened at his death that, indeed, left a lasting impression on me: There was such unprecedented bad weather, winds, rain, thunder and lightning, that it was impossible to get out to bury him. So, we kept the body unburied in our house for three days. Finally, two men from among our relatives were compelled, with great difficulty, to take the body to the cemetery and bury it in any way possible, since we could no longer endure seeing the corpse in the house. Since he did not even have a funeral, my father was scorned even at his death. Indeed, some evil neighbors, seeing such great misfortunes, spoke against him: ‘Who knows what sins he committed, since God will not even allow him to be buried?’

“My mother, less hindered after the death of my father, succumbed to moral decline and made our house a place of debauchery. But she did not live long. She died suddenly, having in the meantime wasted all that remained of my father’s estate. Her friends, however, gave her a magnificent funeral. And the weather was wonderful. This I especially noticed.

“Having passed the age of childhood, and the uneasiness of young womanhood having begun to take control of me, I found myself all alone in the world and in great perplexity as to what direction I should take. My thoughts tormented me.

” ‘I must, without fail, make it on my own in life, since I no longer have any guardians,’ I said to myself. ‘But what way shall I choose? I have before me different examples: that of my mother and that of my father. He was good, but unhappy. Persecuted in life and in death.’ It was impossible for me to get his unburied body out of my mind. ‘If he was pleasing God, why did God torment him so?’ My mother had not led a moral life. I well understood that. However, she had as many goods as anyone could desire, wealth, comfort, and many friends, and she left the world happy, one might say.

“The more I thought about the matter and made comparisons in my young mind, the more I turned away from misfortune to follow my mother’s life. God, in his benevolence, however, showed mercy and guided me to the straight path in the following, unusual manner: “One night I fell into bed, occupied once more with the same thoughts. I had a revealing vision. I felt the door of my room open, and a young man with a luminous face and of unimaginable majesty entered. He came close to me. As though searching the most hidden things of my heart, he cast a piercing glance at me.

” ‘What are you thinking about?’ he asked me in an unusually austere, but melodious voice.

“I was surprised and became frightened. I tried hard to speak. He intervened: ‘Your thoughts were immediately revealed to me.’

“The more austere this unknown interrogator became, the more I was paralyzed by fear. Since he had received no reply, he revealed on his own the thoughts which were so tormenting me. He told me in detail every thought which had passed through my mind, and which only I knew, so that I could neither deny the thoughts nor offer excuses for them. So, I fell at his feet, as though condemned, and asked him, sobbing, to forgive me. He seemed to feel sorry for me, because he immediately changed his mien.

” ‘Follow me,’ he commanded.

“He took me by the hand and, like lightning, transported me to a boundless plain, filled with light and beauty. I will not attempt to describe it, for the indescribable is not describable. Happy beings were serenely enjoying this supernatural beauty. Among them, I recognized my father. And he saw me. He came to me and took me in his arms. I felt such assurance and happiness there. I did not want to be separated from him ever again. I clasped onto him and asked him never to let me go.

” ‘Keep me near you forever, kind father.’

” ‘What you ask for cannot be at this time.’ His voice became more serious.

” ‘If you follow my steps, you will prepare a place for yourself here. It depends on what you desire.’ He looked at me with tenderness and gathered up my hair to wipe away my tears. My escort nodded to me to follow him again. But I did not want to leave my father’s arms. So, he came and pulled me by the hand.

” ‘You also need to see your mother,’ he said.

“I followed him, sorrowful that he had separated me from my happiness. Now we descended. We went deeper and deeper to an unclean, dark, and dreary place. I lost my breath from the stench and my fear. Monstrous figures were roaming all about. Unfortunate souls were being tormented without mercy by an inextinguishable flame. In their midst, I saw my mother, buried up to her neck in what appeared to me like foul-smelling lava. Her cries came forth heart-rendingly, her groans were uninterrupted, and the fearful gnashing of her teeth tore my heart apart. She must have known me, because she broke out in uncontrolled lamentation.

” ‘Woe is me, wretch that I am. Look what such little pleasure earned me: despair and torment without end.’

“Desperate words! I was nearly mortified by my grief. My unfortunate mother turned and looked at me.

” ‘Have pity, my child, on the one who gave birth to you and raised you,’ she began to cry desperately. She stretched out her hand, so that I could take her out of that grief.

“What could I do? My soul was torn by sadness. I stretched out my hand, thinking that I could help her, who brought me into the world. I felt such pain at approaching the lava, that I broke into loud cries. I stirred up the neighborhood. Shortly, my house was full of people. They found me in a bad condition. Many thought I had lost my senses. It was impossible to explain what had happened to me. I showed them the frightful wound that was left on my hand by the fire, so that they would understand that I was suffering because of it. I remained in bed a long time, gravely ill. When, by the grace of God, I became well, without delay I followed my father’s path; and I hope that, in His mercy, my Lord will save me and make me worthy to share in his happiness.”

Quite the morality tale today, isn’t it?  I think the moral of the story is so obvious it needs no words of mine to explain it.

Her dream is worth mentioning.  God uses our dreams, I think we can all agree on that.  There have been many dreams recorded in the Bible: Abraham; Abimelech; Jacob, Joseph in Genesis; various Pharoahs; Pharoah’s cupbearer; Samuel; Salomon; Daniel are some dreamers in the Hebrew Scriptures.  In the New Testament, we have Zacharias, Joseph, Pilate’s wife, Ananias, Cornelius, Peter, Paul, and John.

So this virgin has plenty of precedent for her prophetic dream.  Have you had any important dreams?

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