Author: Mother Erene
I will tell you a true story from the late 1980s. It shows how the enduring of pains and trials gets us to heaven and earns us crowns and glory:
A pious married lady who lived in one of the Cairo suburbs had two children, a boy and a girl, aged four and seven respectively. She loved God; so she used to pray, go to church, confess and take Communion. However, her husband was away from God. He was bad tempered and cruel. The Devil would make him angry with her. This man used to beat her, insult her and swear loudly at her. She put up with him, and was thankful so as to be able to raise her children in the fear of God. She used to continually say, “It’s all right. I should be longsuffering for the sake of my young children. They should not be deprived of me or their father.”
One day, however, her husband was outraged at her. After humiliating and insulting her, he left the house. She could no longer endure it; so she took her children to her mother’s house and left them there. When she returned home, she was very miserable. The devil suggested to her that she should terminate her life and end all her suffering. She went into the kitchen, turned on the gas cylinder, and set fire to herself. She started screaming, but no one was at home. Then she saw Pope Kyrillos in front of her. He wrapped her in his shawl, which extinguished the fire. She fell to the floor with many injuries. The neighbours heard her screams, and broke into the apartment. They were shocked when they saw her like that and phoned her family. Her husband, mother and brothers then took her by ambulance to Al – Salam Hospital in Al – Mohandseen, where a police investigation was held. She confessed that she had burned herself.
When she arrived at the hospital, she was admitted to Intensive Care where she received all possible care. The medical report stated that her injuries were 80% third degree burns. They covered the chest, the abdomen and the legs. Her condition was critical and the doctors believed that she was about to die.
However, she remained in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) for five days. Professor Galeel Grace was the attending physician. On her release from ICU, she was deeply depressed for fifteen days, not wanting to see her husband when he visited the hospital. She did not let him go into her room; nor would she see her children. Thus, in addition to the severe pain of her burns, she suffered depression and insomnia. The nurse responsible for the night shift at that time was Sister G. Gh. She used to spend much time with her and pray the Psalms with her. She would also recount many miracles to her to try to encourage her and to relieve her depression.
The lady’s mind and heart started to be occupied with God. She asked Sister G. if God would accept her again, and if she could receive Holy Communion. Sister G. used to encourage her, telling her that God is kind and accepts us all. However, deep inside her, the lady had a terrible feeling that God was still displeased with her because of what she had done.
One day, Sister G. met that lady’s mother at the hospital. She begged her, “Sister G, please help us. My daughter has gone mad. She sometimes cries and screams and at other times sings.” Sister G. went to check on what had happened. Then the lady told her, “You are the only one at the hospital who will believe what I am going to tell you.” She then told her the following story.
It was broad daylight when she saw her hospital room with no roof. She saw heaven whose beauty and light she kept describing. She then beheld many beautiful chairs that were bathed in light with good – looking people sitting on them. But there was one empty chair, which, unlike the rest, had no light. She kept calling for the Virgin and asked her, “Whose chair is this? And why isn’t it in light?”
Our lady the Virgin appeared to her and told her, “This chair is yours, but you lost it because of what you did to yourself. If you had put up with your pain, God would have given it to you. But you lost it due to your lack of longsuffering.”
The lady kept crying and screaming. She said, “Mother of Light, I could not help it. It was much more than I could take and I was not able to bear it.”
The virgin told her, “You could regain your chair. The pain that you are bearing from your burns is more than what you put up with before.” Then the Mother of Joy patted her, gave her assurance and brought her joy as she told her, “You will get this chair back. Do not be afraid; it will be in light through you. But you should have forebearance. You will be cured; you will live and bring up your children.”
Of course, while hearing these words, she was greatly consoled; so she started screaming with joy. Our Lady the Virgin assured her that she would regain the chair, if she repented what she had done, confessed and received Communion. The lady asked her, “Our Lady, what should I do about my husband?” St. Mary replied, “He will change through prayer.”
Indeed, she was sad and wept much after seeing Our Lady the Virgin, but her tears were inward rather than outward. She said that she was happy to see the Mother of God, who is very beautiful and kind and whose face is bathed in such radiance.
That day, after hearing the Virgin’s words, she slept soundly for the first time since her admission to the hospital. Prior to that, she had been restless and worried. The next day, she woke up filled with peace and joy and was able to see her husband and children. She started talking with other people as well. Her burns were healing with remarkable speed. Amazingly, she saw the same vision three times, for three consecutive days. Each time, she would have the same mixed reaction of crying and rejoicing.
God so arranged it that while she was still in hospital, a priest visited her and heard her confession. He told her that the most important requirement for receiving Holy Communion was to harbour no bad feelings towards her husband. She was then reconciled with him and took Holy Communion. She kept telling everyone about her vision of the Mother of God. Thus she made a rapid recovery.
Ref: Tamav Erene – A torch of love in the coptic monastic life (book 6), p. 70-73