This story of a woman stricken by family problems shook me to the core.
Her once happy family was shaken by sudden discord that destroyed her relationship with her husband of more than a dozen years. Beguiled by his passion for another woman, he simply ignored his wife, never talking to her except to make an occasional disparaging remark. Living in such an environment and knowing that her children were distressed was really devastating for her. One evening, feeling that she could no longer stay at home she went to a nearby park. Although she wasn’t a religious person, she was so emotional that she cried out inwardly, “Help me, God!” Shortly after that, out of the corner of her eye, she saw someone pass her by. It was a woman who looked like a nun. When the woman was already far behind her, she felt an inexplicable urge to talk to this strange woman and tell her about her problem. She turned around, followed the woman and caught up with her.
The two women sat on a park bench and talked till late. Amazingly, this woman she had just met found all the right words to soothe her soul, and she made her feel peaceful and calm for the first time in a long while. After a while, her new acquaintance said that she had a car nearby and gave her a ride home. Before saying goodbye, the woman even wondered aloud if this meeting was a miracle and her new acquaintance simply smiled in response. When asked what her name was, she answered “Paracleta”. The woman never heard this name before, so when she got home she and her daughter started looking for the meaning of the name on the Internet. They were surprised to find that it meant “the Comforter”…
A religious person is more likely to know this name in its masculine form as we use the word “Paraclete” in reference to the Holy Spirit. However, this name is not included in the Menologion in either the masculine or feminine form, so even among our monks and nuns there is nobody with such a name! A reference to it can be found in the hagiography of St. Maximus the Greek who was unjustly accused, thrown into the dungeon of Volokolamsk Monastery and subjected to many torments. Once the saint was comforted and encouraged by a Heavenly Messenger. An angel appeared to him and said, “Be patient, elder!” In memory of this consolation, St. Maximus took a piece of charcoal and wrote the Canon to the Divine, Worshipful and All-Holy Spirit, the Paraclete (the Comforter) on the walls of his cell…
It is difficult to say who that mysterious comforter was, who came into the life of this woe-stricken woman so opportunely and provided such an amazing consolation. It is obvious, however, that this meeting was a manifestation of God’s grace and His response to the sincere plea of a woman with a grieving heart. Incidentally, the next day this woman went to the park again and tried to find somebody who knew anything about the woman she met there yesterday, but the park patrons said that they never saw such person before.
What struck me in this story was not the amazing consolation sent by God, because for a believing person it cannot be totally unexpected. I was rather amazed by how this Divine response came in the form of routine events that may seem ordinary to us: a meeting in a park, a heart-to-heart talk, a ride home. Other than the circumstances of this meeting, there was nothing supernatural or extraordinary about it. If it weren’t for her acquaintance’s unusual name, the woman might not have even thought that this was God’s help. However, it is the ordinary nature of the miraculous help of the Creator that amazes us the most. It makes us take a closer look at our lives, for it is quite possible that we too have had a few such meetings or circumstances that we ignored at the time, failing to understand that they were arranged by the Hand of God and through His Grace.
I think that one of the most important aspects of Christian life is the ability to recognize God when He is manifested in the most natural circumstances, visiting us in the most ordinary situations. In a way, this experience of recognizing Christ is described in the Gospel. When the apostles, who were regular people of their times, met the Son of God, for them it was just like meeting a “regular man” and they needed their faith to recognize Him as the Messiah Who came to save this world! Today, we still face this challenge: We need to recognize God in our routine lives and break through the ever-changing backdrop to see the reality. This will help us see the true image of our compassionate Savior who called on us to do small things in order to become worthy of receiving great things in return, and to accomplish feats in our mundane lives in order to attain an incorruptible treasure.