Things can be different. When you see a person for the first time, you hug him, notice the sincerity in his eyes, and feel that he has taken away your heart. And it's fine that he took it. And it is not a pity, and it is not scary, and you feel such ease and warmth with that wonderful person! Finally, the emptiness of hectic everyday life is filled with something light and profound. YOU ARE LOVED unconditionally and without reservations, just because YOU are there, YOU are needed…
Sunbeam as God's Blessing
It's Friday night. The cozy church in honor of Saint Nectarius of Aegina, which is located on the territory of the Boarding Home for Children with Special Needs, is full of people. The sisters of the Sisterhood in honor of the Holy Martyr Grand Princess Elisabeth are bringing the children in from their departments.
The boy on the couch gives a light smile and grasps the hem of your dress, trying to complement visual perception with tactile contact. The guy in the armchair is waving his hand friendly as a sign of greeting. A girl with a slightly detached look is trying to remember if she has seen you before.
The church is quiet and peaceful. The priest reads an akathist calmly. A nun calls upon Saint Nectarius, "Rejoice!" The sisters are praying wholeheartedly, asking the Lord and the holy hierarch to give them the power to serve these children.
Suddenly, there's a ray of sunlight at the door. It seeps through the sisters and the children, runs up to you and hugs you tightly in search of protection and warmth. There is so much sincerity, spontaneity, simplicity, and wit in this God's creation! It looks carefully into your eyes, and you can see something bigger than what you have ever seen and felt before, in the mysterious mirror of its soul. Time flies imperceptibly in the arms of your new friend…
Love and White Robes
The sisters have been visiting the Boarding Home for Children with Special Needs for nearly twenty years. Every Friday, the children are brought to St. Nectarius of Aegina Church for an Akathist, and on Saturdays they attend the Divine Liturgy. Father Valery Zakharov has been spiritually nurturing the residents of the Boarding Home for many years. Everybody receives Holy Communion: there are children who can come to the church with the sisters’ help; the rest of them are visited by Father Valery with the Holy Gifts in their departments. No one is left without the saving Body and Blood of Christ.
Some fifty sisters provide care for the children who live in the Boarding Home. There are very young smiling students, wise middle-aged women and kind old ladies who look after and care for children like mothers. It is encouraging that there are brothers who work side by side with the sisters, who disregard worldly worries and find time to give joy to the kids. Their masculine care, support, and physical strength are no less important than women's warmth and affection.
The children are not isolated or abandoned; they grow up and enjoy the fullness of life. Games, drawing, studying God's Law, making cartoons, taking walks in the open air, visiting theaters, museums, cafes, going on pilgrimages and hiking trips, having funny birthday parties with candies and entertainment... The children from the Boarding Home have staged a unique inclusive performance The Little Prince under the direction of Alexander Zhdanovich, who is an actor of the National Academic Drama Theater named after Maksim Gorky. Credit is due to those who have chosen to serve people, seeing them as the image of God and imitating the Holy Martyr Grand Princess Elisabeth.
"It Is Only With The Heart That One Can See Rightly; What Is Essential Is Invisible To The Eye"
Why do some people drown in the hustle and bustle of the world and bring themselves to a state of complete spiritual ruin, while others remain at peace and feel joy? How can we learn to see God's blessing in every day? How can we learn to rejoice in the sun and to breathe in the air as much as we can? How can we learn to give thanks to the Savior for every minute of our lives? How can we love our neighbor, at least a little?
Why don't we, who have a lot of gifts, know how to appreciate and protect them? Why do those whom we consider to be disadvantaged rejoice sincerely and love unconditionally? So who is really sick, then?
Photos by Maxim Chernogolov
September 10, 2019