The Transformation of an Atheist

Ksiusha, Xenia, Oksana—our heroine was addressed by her friends, acquaintances and colleagues in different ways. She gladly responded to all these names, loved the way they sound very much and venerated Blessed Mother Xenia of St. Petersburg; but she still considered Blessed Mother Matrona of Moscow her helper, patroness and intercessor. Nothing doing! The heart does not obey orders.

Xenia’s birthday fell on the feast of Blessed Matrona, who shows untiring care for suffering Muscovites. Perhaps that’s why, finding herself in unfortunate circumstances, the young woman decided to go to Matronushka’s grave, which was then, before her canonization, at the Danilovsky Cemetery.

She first heard about Blessed Matrona back in 1993, five years after she had begun to attend church services and read the spiritual ascetic’s Life. She did not like the book—the memoirists attributed dark superstitions and wild prejudices to Matronushka. It made an unpleasant impression on her. But deep in her heart Xenia understood that the blessed eldress and her admirers were quite different. And yet, on the way to the cemetery an uneasy feeling of anxiety, suspicion, and slight confusion did not leave her.

Once Ksiusha got to Matronushka’s grave, the heaviness that had weighed on her heart vanished like a thundercloud torn apart by a fierce wind. Trying not to lose her quiet joy, the young lady was in no hurry to leave and, as if from another world, watched a drama unfold before her eyes.

The woman who tended the grave was arguing with an aggressive middle-aged man who apparently came from afar. Did the eccentric really travel such a long distance here, to a foreign city cemetery, to convince with fury the first people he met that “there is no God”? Shaking a newspaper with testimonies of Matronushka’s help to people, he indignantly argued that the stories about Matronushka’s miracles were the ravings of benighted old women, that it couldn’t have happened “because it was impossible”. He shouted that he couldn’t be fooled, and now he would teach them and bring them out into the open... He would not allow anyone to lead him up the garden path with “cheap tricks”... Such “savagery” and “stupid ignorance” on the threshold of the twenty-first century!


His agitation reached its climax when he opened the gate of the railings around Matronushka’s grave and seemed to be looking forward to the triumph of atheism over “obscurantism” and “opium for the people.”

The next minute something happened to the failed victor. His eyes expressed the amazement of a man who had just been carried from a torture chamber to the gardens of Babylon, and his face was like that of a teenager who had long been thrown about by a wave in the sea that had bowled him over, and then he had finally found the ground under his feet. It seemed that now the man would come out of the gate and start shaking everyone, indignant at the fact that no one shared his astonishment at the miracle of God’s revelation. So he went out. And for some time he stood silently, opening his mouth and swallowing the air, like a fish thrown ashore. And then he began to nag at those gathered around, just as a child nags at his parents who do not accept the rules of his game. “Do you understand? No, you don’t understand! I have been there! Here is the newspaper! It is written here... Everything is true here! Don’t you understand?”

He kept saying that Matronushka heard him, that God exists and that he would tell everyone about it; he was now astounded that no one was impressed with his delight and astonishment and did not share his happiness caused by the Meeting... He so wanted to get through to everyone at once with his Discovery! He was so annoyed at the everyday composure of those around him! He was so offended by their adult imperturbability! God exists!!! And that means the world is different now. God exists!!! Therefore, there is Harmony, Love, Justice, Truth. God exists!!! Therefore, there is a future and there is hope. God exists!!! That means life is worth living.

The transformation of an atheist... Isn’t that the greatest of miracles?

Ludmila Kolokoltseva
Translation by Dmitry Lapa


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