Saturday, May 1, 2010

Living Icons, Chapter 4

To write of Mother Maria (Skobtsova), the subject of the fourth chapter of Fr Michael Plekon’s Living Icons, is not an easy task, given that she was numbered among the saints by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in 2004, along with her companions, Priest Dmitri Klepinin, her son George (Yuri) Skobtsov), and Elie Fondaminsky. One isn’t called upon to question the motives and actions of a saint. But Mother Maria was anything but a traditional nun; Fr Plekon speaks of her “maverick monasticism.” She considered traditional monasticism an outdated luxury, one that was to be replaced by radical social engagement. She had particularly antipathy for Athos and Valaam. The centerpiece of Fr Plekon’s chapter is Mother Maria’s essay on the types of religious lives. She, not surprisingly, rejected most of the traditional modes of piety: the Synodal (which includes a dig at ROCOR by the author), the ritualistic, he aesthetic, and the ascetic. Her type of choice is the evangelical. It’s hard to know what to make of Mother Maria, the chain-smoking, beer drinking, twice divorced nun who could not live in monastic stability with anyone (and particularly not with Fr Kiprian Kern). The is indeed something deeply evangelical about her writings and her life, however eccentric both may be. It is odd that the author makes no special notice of Mother Maria’s death, which was the cause of her canonization: she died in the gas chamber in the camp in Ravensbruck, Germany, perhaps in place of another. That certainly outweighs all her personal recklessness.


Elijahmaria said...

I thought that there were several schools of thought in Orthodox monasticism? One being more active than the other.


Ostensive Lyme said...

Christ is risen!

Trying to learn a bit more about Simone Weil, I came circuitously to this old series.
I so looked forward to your in depth consideration of St Maria of Paris... and this is all you had to say?
It is disappointing.

Can you offer anything more? Any consideration of where her eccentric ideas came from; her influences; how she managed to become holy nevertheless (or a critique of holiness based on martyrdom alone??); something with which to engage in conversation or deeper reflection?

I ask in love;
-Mark Basil