heavenly glory · martyrdom · suffering

“The one who thankfully accepts sickness is on the same level as the martyrs”

A young lady known to the convent of St George in Old Cairo relates:

I met Mother Anastasia (1996) for the first time in March 1994, at El Salaam Hospital. At that time, I was experiencing a very difficult psychological crisis. It was just after I found out that I had cancer in the blood cells (leukaemia). I was still doing many blood tests without even telling my family.

Mother Anastasia of St George’s convent in Old Cairo

When I entered the room of Mother Anastasia, I found her sitting on her bed and some other nuns were with her. She already heard about my case from a person who works at the hospital laboratory.

Once I started talking to her, I burst in tears and could not control my feelings. I was sad and afraid of facing this disease that I never thought I could get. But she embraced me with her sweet smile and with much love. She felt sorry for me and began to talk to me with words so sweet that they deeply affected me. She managed to change my condition and even my life. I will never forget her sweet words. It was like receiving a message from heaven through the mouth of this kind nun. In spite of her condition, the smile never left her face.

She said to me, “Why are you weeping…? You are lucky. God loves you so much, more than anybody else. You are very special in His eyes, therefore He granted you this gift. Don‘t you know that the one who thankfully accepts his sickness, is placed by God on the same level as the martyrs? God wants to have martyrs in our time. But there is no persecution as it was at the period of martyrdom. So He used this specific disease and gave it to the one He loves. That is how God made new martyrs in this time. God loves you more than all of us. You are very special in His eyes…”

Her words deeply affected me. It made me happy and I managed to smile. I felt that God truly loves me and, as a gift, he gave me this disease. Not because I am less than others because of my illness, but because I am special. God loved me and chose me specifically.

The echo of these words remained in my ear… I sat with our Mother Anastasia who welcomed me much. She had a bag and she took from it a leather cross and a pen that has the picture of St. George on it. Then she said to me: “Take the cross and wear it. You are lucky. I wish I get that same disease… It is the disease of paradise. Don‘t you know that Fr. Bishoy Kamel called it the disease of paradise!”

After spending some time with Mother Anastasia, I left in a completely different state. I kept on reminding myself of her words, especially when I face a problem or meet another person who is suffering from the same disease. It was as if she transferred to me her feelings and her thoughts about this disease. It was obvious from her actions that she had the same feelings concerning her own illness, that it was a special gift from God. So I repeated my visits to her.

It was very amazing how every time I visited her in hospital while she was having much pain, she used to forget about herself and ask about me. She wanted to know everything and all the details, as if she was not suffering. She was always smiling and never complained or murmured. By doing that, she was giving me a lesson in endurance and patience and thanksgiving. She was teaching me that no matter how much pain she was having, yet she was not thinking about herself. But she endured with thanks. To teach me the life of submission, she used to say to me, “When they said to me they were going to amputate my leg, I said to them, “The whole of me is for God. Do what you want.”

While she was in much pain, and if a bishop or a priest came to visit her, she would forget about herself and direct their attention to me, asking them to pray for me. That was her complete self-denial, as if she was stepping above pain to care for others.

When I went to the convent, some of the nuns knew me and others heard my name from Mother Anastasia as she promised me, after my first visit to her, that she was going to pray for me and ask the other nuns in the convent to pray for me too. And so it happened that they were praying for me without knowing me. It was just because Mother Anastasia used to persist in asking all to pray for me.

In every trial that I faced, I used to hurry to her and tell her what was worrying me. I found her very understanding, as if she felt exactly what I was feeling. She used to guide me and teach me. In many cases, she was very firm, yet with much compassion and sensitive feelings. For example, if she heard me repeating words that reflect doubt, she would rebuke me firmly. She always directed me to practical solutions, as if she previously experienced the same trial and war and knew how to combat and win.

I learnt many lessons from her and it is a credit to her that I managed to break the self from which I was suffering.

Mother Anastasia

Mother Anastasia learnt once that I was about to start very expensive analysis and I did not want to take money from anyone, even my own father. I wanted to bear all the expenses and that was not easy, as I was not ready for that. So she took money from a small bag where she kept what was needed for her treatment at the hospital and asked me to take that amount. Of course I refused to take any, but she insisted firmly and asked me never to think of returning them. Then she said to me, “That will teach you never to think in that way again.” When I told her that I am fine and cannot take money from anyone she said to me, “We live on alms, which is a great blessing. Don’t you want to be like us?!” I was very embarrassed and said: “Would that I was like you!” And I took the money from her, which covered the expenses of the tests and it was also a great blessing for me. It was amazing how she did that while she had a long stay at the hospital and needed much money to cover her treatment. But she never thought of herself, only of others. And she also lived the life of complete submission.

Mother Anastasia stood by my side in many situations, some of them personal and embarrassing. But I discovered, during that time, that I am dealing with a person very, very deep in her spirituality and her compassion. I realized that she had a very deep understanding of the Holy Bible and spiritual matters. So I learnt so much from her that, as long as I live, I will never forget her words and her guidance that greatly affected my life.

Ref: Mother Anastasia the Nun – a model of enduring pain, p. 33 – 35

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