in the Life and Prayer of Orthodox Christians
“My soul trembles and is afraid when I consider the glory of the Mother of God.
She put not in writing the tale of her soul’s affliction, and we know little of her life on earth. Her heart, her every thought, her entire soul were wrapped in the Lord; but to her was given something further: she loved mankind and prayed ardently for people, for newly-converted Christians that the Lord might sustain them, and for the whole world that all might be saved. This prayer was her joy and comfort on earth.
We cannot fathom the depth of the love of the Mother of God, but this we know:
The fuller the love, the fuller the knowledge of God.
The more ardent the love, the more fervent the prayer.
The more perfect the love, the holier the life.”
We’re meeting here today to share our common experience of the Mother of God at the heart of the Church’s life, of the Church’s prayer. The quotation from St Silouan emphasises that the love and ardent prayer of the Mother of God is for all mankind, that her love is universal. One of my main concerns when preparing this talk was to avoid duplication of what other speakers were going to say, precisely because the Mother of God’s prayer and presence is universal and all of us must to a certain extent have a similar experience of her. On the other hand, as a representative of the Orthodox Church here today, I’m sure you want me to share with you something which is specific to the Orthodox experience of her. With this in mind I decided to look at her intervention and impact in the lives of some Orthodox saints and at some Orthodox prayer texts.
I find that reflections about the Mother of God tend to settle into three recurring and interpenetrating themes: joy, the cross and prayer. Therefore I’m going to divide my talk in three sections under these headings and use material from the life Orthodox saints and liturgical texts to illustrate the themes.
My hope and prayer is that at the end of the talk I will have been able to convey something of the way that the Mother of God is at the very heart of our Church’s life as a living presence, and the way she has taken initiatives in the lives of believers to deepen and strengthen the prayer of whole communities.
So, to my first theme – joy. Any discussion of the intervention of the Mother of God in the lives of saints must surely include St Seraphim. A Russian who died in 1833, after nearly half a century of ascetic struggle and preparation in the northern “desert” of Sarov he spent the last eight years of his life in a public ministry of miracle working, teaching and counsel in which he enabled countless people to experience the love and consolation of God. He is particularly well known for his frequent use of the paschal greeting: “Christ is Risen!” and calling all the people he encountered “My Joy!” I hope it is not fanciful to suggest that the particularly joyful nature of spiritual encounter with Saint Seraphim is due, at least in part, to his extraordinary close relationship with the Mother of God.
Particularly famous are three occasions when she healed him from serious illness, once as a child, and twice during his monastic life, when she appeared, accompanied by the apostles Peter and John and saying as she blessed Seraphim: “He is one of ours”. These miraculous healings were by no means the only occasions when the Mother of God appeared to Seraphim, we know there were many others. As far as his care for the community of nuns at Diveyevo, for which he was responsible, is concerned, he said that he had given not one single direction to the community except that which had been given to him by the Mother of God herself.
The Community of Diveyevo today is a thriving community of some 200 nuns and a centre of pilgrimage for the faithful worldwide. A focal point for the nuns and for the pilgrims is the Kanavka, the raised path surrounded by a moat, which St Seraphim directed to be built enclosing the community, himself beginning the enormous project of digging it. He said that the Mother of God had directed that the Kanavka should be built, marking out the path by walking it. He referred to it as “The Virgin’s Path”. Each sister was to walk the approximately kilometre-long Kanavka every day, reciting the prayer: “Rejoice Virgin, full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee. Blessed art Thou among women and blessed is the fruit of Thy womb, for Thou hast born the Saviour of our souls”.
A contemporary description of the life of the community enumerates five activities of the sisters, prayer, obedience, fasting, kanavka and church services if time permits. So the daily walking of the Virgin’s Path, silently praying, “Rejoice O Virgin Mother of God, Mary full of grace…” is seen as even more crucial than the services in church! To the best of my knowledge this kind of veneration of the Mother of God in unknown elsewhere in the Orthodox Church, although to those who pray the rosary, it must seem strikingly familiar. I wonder if, with very large doses of humility, tact and prayer, the similarities of these forms of devotion to the Mother of God could be a fruitful ground for pursuing a deep ecumenical exchange and encounter?
Before concluding this brief section about St Seraphim I would like to share something from a conversation I had this summer with a nun (who has lived in Russia and is called Seraphima) about the impact of his life on Russian society in recent years. St Seraphim’s relics were confiscated during the Soviet regime and the monastery of Diveyevo closed along with his own monastery of Sarov. However, in 1991, just before the collapse of the Soviet regime, his relics were found in a former “museum of atheism” in St Petersburg. They were then taken by train to Moscow, and then on to their final resting place, as he had foretold, at Diveyevo. The outpouring of devotion which accompanied these processions defies description. Mother Seraphima told me of the testimony from a bishop who was on the train carrying the relics as it pulled out of the station at St Petersburg. It was January and there was a sharp frost. He said he could never forget the sight of the thousands of people kneeling in the snow holding lighted candles praying fervently. He said it was just the same when the train arrived in Moscow. My own reflection as I imagined the scene was that this was particularly remarkable when one considers the viscous ness of the previous seventy years of persecution. Mother Seraphima said that she found it especially significant that three weeks after the arrival of the relics at Diveyevo the Soviet regime fell. Whatever the truth of that view, it does seem that after such demonstrations of faith an officially atheistic regime must have seemed rather irrelevant!
So now to a prayer text that particularly reminds us of the joy associated with the Mother of God. One of the best-loved prayers to the Mother of God in Orthodox use is the Akathist, or Akithistos hymn, to her, composed around 6202. One of the translators of the service into English describes it as a “brilliant firework display” and in his introduction to his translation he stresses that the hymn “bristles with puns, witty rhymes, antitheses, allusions, alliteration, homophones and other tropes”. It’s an acrostic poem in 24 stanzas, alternately long and short, and is sung standing, (a-kathist means not sitting). The first twelve stanzas are a narrative describing the gospel story from the Annunciation to the presentation of Christ in the Temple, and the second twelve are theological, reflecting on the mystery of the Incarnation. The poem was originally part of the services for Annunciation, but has somehow got “stuck” now as part of the services for the fifth Saturday in Lent, and in Greek and Arab practice, every Saturday, or Friday evening, in Lent.
The joyful nature of the Akathist becomes apparent as soon as one looks at the text. The first long stanza of the Akathist begins with the words, “Rejoice for through thee joy will shine forth”. Each sentence in each of the long stanzas begins with the word Rejoice, the salutation of the Angel Gabriel to the Virgin at the Annunciation, Chaire in Greek. The short stanzas all conclude with a person mentioned in the narrative singing: Alleluia, (with the exception of “raving Herod”, “who knew not how to sing Alleluia”).
In Orthodox countries this much-loved hymn is sung with great fervour by large congregations and also by small groups of people and by individuals in both monasteries and homes. To share some of these texts with you I’ve used Roger Green’s translation rather than the more dignified version we use liturgically, because I have an idea that it conveys a little more of the complexity of the text.
Rejoice, mother of lamb and shepherd:
rejoice, fold of sensible sheep.
Rejoice buttress against invisible predators:
rejoice portress of the gates of paradise.
Rejoice, because heaven exults with earth:
Rejoice because earth dances with the heavens,
Rejoice, loquacity of the apostles that cannot be struck dumb:
rejoice audacity of the victorious martyrs that cannot be overcome.
Rejoice, solid fortification of faith:
rejoice, lucid indication of grace.
Rejoice, through whom Hades has been stripped bare:
rejoice through whom we have been clothed in glory.
Rejoice, bride unbrided.
Unto those in darkness appearing
We behold the holy Virgin as a lambent torch:
For, kindling the insubstantial light,
She leads everyone towards divine knowledge,
Illumining the mind with dawn’s radiance, honoured with this utterance:
Rejoice, gleam of the thought-begetting sun:
rejoice, beam of the never-setting moon.
Rejoice, because you diffuse the light that broadly glows:
rejoice because you effuse the river that broadly flows.
Rejoice, who portray the font’s prefigurement:
rejoice, who remove our sin’s disfigurement.
Rejoice washing-bowl cleansing the conscience,
rejoice, mixing-bowl dispensing enjoyments.
Rejoice, fragrance of Christ’s sweet exhalation:
rejoice, existence of mystic exaltation.
Rejoice, bride unbrided.
Now, to my second theme: that of the cross. The person I would like to talk about here is Mother Maria Skobtsova, an Orthodox nun who died in that paradigm of human suffering: Ravensbrück; after a ministry to the destitute of Paris which turned into an all out struggle to rescue Jews during the nazi occupation.
The theme of the maternal love comes up again and again in Mother Maria’s writing as an overwhelming and compelling force in her own life. The major direction of her life was formed by the heartrending experience of the death of one of her children. It is perhaps not surprising then that some of her most powerful writing is about the Mother of God at the cross.
Mother Maria makes a distinction between the suffering that Christ experienced, in that it was voluntary and freely chosen, and the suffering that the Mother of God, and we experience, which is not voluntary or freely chosen. She extends her thought to the suffering of those around us and says that the challenge for the believer is to accept and carry the suffering of others, in the way that the Mother of God experienced the suffering of her Son.
Here is a quotation from her writing which illustrates her approach: “A sword will pierce your heart” says Simeon speaking of the double-edged sword of the Mother of God (Luke 2:35). When men of letters use the expression “cross and sword”, the cross symbolises a passive way of enduring suffering, while the sword refers to activity. In the Gospel, it is the other way round. On the one hand the cross is lifted actively by the Son of Man. On the other hand, the sword which breaks the heart and goes through our soul in an inescapable way, symbolises suffering which is undergone passively and is far from being freely chosen. The cross, which Christ freely accepted becomes for the Mother of God a double-edged sword which cuts through her heart. She did not choose it of her own free will. She could not help sharing her Son’s sufferings.”
“The Mother of God… teaches us to accept humbly the crosses of others. She calls each of us to repeat after her, even though she is drenched in blood and her heart is pierced by the sword: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.” This is how love is measured, this is the limit towards which the human soul must strive; it can even be said that this is the only possible attitude, the only genuinely human way to behave towards one’s neighbour. Only when we carry the cross of others, their doubts, mourning, temptations, falls, other people’s sins, can we be talking of a decent attitude towards our neighbour ……In the perspective of the law of nature, the cross-sword of the Mother of God is as much a temptation and a folly as the cross of Christ. For a Christian, on the contrary, the cross, and also the cross turned into a sword, must be experienced as strength and wisdom from God. This is how we must see it, and disregard any more or less reasonable evaluation of our own strength.”
Mother Maria was arrested in February 1943 and survived 2 years at Ravensbrück. Her witness there was extraordinary. She did everything in her power to help her fellow prisoners, sharing her food, talking, encouraging. In the words of eyewitnesses: “wherever and whenever she could, she would sustain the as yet incompletely extinguished flame of humanity, no matter what form it took”. “We were cut off from our families, and somehow she provided us with a family.” She organised study and discussions, encouraging people to talk and think, concluding these sessions with prayers and readings from the Gospels. In the last six months of her life the conditions in the camp deteriorated. M Maria was weak and ill. She bartered food for thread and did the embroidery which speaks so eloquently of her teaching: the Mother of God, holding Christ, not as a baby, but crucified. Some accounts of her death say that on Holy Friday, 1945 she voluntarily took the place of another woman selected for death, others say she was selected along with the others to die that day. Wherever the truth lies, we know that on Easter Saturday she was killed, on Easter day the camp was liberated.
.“A sword will pierce your heart also”. Luke 2:35. The suffering of the Mother of God at the foot of the cross is indicated in iconography and in numberless hymns. Throughout the liturgical year very Wednesday and Friday are dedicated to the passion of Christ and the Mother of God is never omitted from this reflection.
“Beholding you, O Jesus and Master, nailed on the cross and voluntarily accepting the passion,
Your Mother, the Virgin cried out: O my sweet child!
How unjustly you suffer these wounds O Physician;
Through your mercy you have healed our infirmity,
And delivered all from corruption.”
I would like to look now at a particular block of material which is sung at the Matins of Holy Saturday, much of which is words put into the mouth of the Mother of God as she mourns for her dead son. To the best of my knowledge this is the only time that the Church sings a melody which is common to Greek, Arab and Russian practice, a melody of great beauty.
These hymns are read in front of the epitaphion, or winding sheet, a piece of fabric on which is embroidered the figure of Christ after he has been taken down from the cross. This occupies the centre of the church on Holy Friday and Saturday, surrounded by flowers and is venerated with profound love and awe by the faithful. The verses of the hymn are sung alternately with verses Psalm 118/119.
O Life how canst Thou die? How canst Thou dwell in a tomb? Yet Thou dost destroy death’s kingdom and raise the dead from hell.
Fairer in His beauty than all mortal men, He appears now as a corpse without form or comeliness, He who has made beautiful the nature of all things.
O Jesus, my sweetness and light of salvation, how art Thou hidden in a dark tomb? O forbearance ineffable, beyond all words!
The flesh of God is hidden now beneath the earth, like a candle underneath a bushel, and it drives away the darkness of hell.
The whole creation was altered by Thy passion; for all things suffered with Thee, knowing, O Word, that Thou holdest all things in Unity.
To earth hast Thou come down, O Master, to save Adam: and not finding him on earth, Thou hast descended into hell, seeking him there.
Thou art the Joy of the angels, O Saviour, but now Thou art become the cause of their grief, as they see Thee in the flesh a lifeless corpse.
Of old the Lamb was sacrificed in secret; but Thou, longsuffering Saviour, wast sacrificed beneath the open sky and hast cleansed the whole creation.
A sword was sharpened against Thee, O Christ: but the sword of the strong was blunted, and the sword that guards Eden was turned back.
The Ewe, seeing her Lamb slaughtered, was pierced with anguish, and she cried aloud in grief, calling the flock to lament with her.
Through Thy burial, O Christ, Thou dost destroy the palaces of hell: by Thy death Thou slayest death, and dost deliver from corruption the children of the earth.
Seeing Thy body laid in the tomb O Christ, Thy Mother brings Thee the offering of her tears, and she says: Arise, my Child, as Thou hast foretold.
Thy Mother saw Thee drink the bitter vinegar, O Sweetness of the world, and her cheeks were wet with bitter tears.
O Savour, Son of Righteousness, Thou dost set beneath the earth: there fore the Moon, Thy Mother, is eclipsed in grief, seeing Thee no more.
Thine undefiled Mother, seeing Thy death, O Christ, cried to Thee in bitter sorrow: ‘Tarry not, O Life, among the dead’.
‘O my sweet springtime, O my sweetest Child, where has all Thy beauty gone?’
and the hymns conclude with
Grant to us thy servants to behold, O Virgin, the Resurrection of thy Son.
While these hymns do not minimise for one moment the horror and anguish of the Mother of God, they also have a note of joy, and certainly contain many references to the hope of the Resurrection. The services of Holy Saturday have an incomparable sense of anticipation about them. As the Lord rested on the seventh day after the work of creation, so he rested on this Sabbath from his work of recreation. The services on this day have a joyful sense of an ineffable victory achieved for humanity and the whole cosmos, but that it is not yet apparent. I believe that by their frequent references to the resurrection, these hymns of the Mother of God play an important part in conveying this.
And now: prayer. Saint Silouan is surely a perfect of example of direct intervention by the Mother of God to bring prayer to birth in a person’s soul, and through that person in the souls of many, many others. I’m sure St. Silouan needs little introduction to this gathering: a Russian peasant from the area of Tambov he went to the Holy Mountain in 1892, where he spent the rest of his life in ascetical struggle, dying in 1938. His disciple, Archimandrite Sophrony, left the Holy Mountain in the fifties and came first to France, then to England to disseminate his teaching.
The Mother of God intervened directly in St Silouan’s life twice. After an initial time of religious fervour in boyhood, the young Simeon began to loose interest in the spiritual life and turned to a more rowdy lifestyle, including heavy drinking and occasional brawling. This is how Father Sophrony describes it:
“Thus did the clamour of youth begin to drown the first summons to a monastic life of spiritual striving, but Simeon, chosen of God, was called again, this time by means of a certain vision, which followed on a period of wild living. He had dozed off and was in a light sleep, when he dreamed that he saw a snake crawl down his throat. Feeling sick with revulsion, he awoke to hear a voice saying: ‘Just as you found it loathsome to swallow a snake in your dream, so I find your ways ugly to look upon’.
Simeon saw no one: he only heard the voice, unusually sweet and beautiful; but for all its gentleness, the effect it had on him was revolutionary. He was convinced beyond doubt that he had heard the voice of the Mother of God herself, and to the end of his days he gave thanks to her for coming to raise him from his degradation.”
The second direct intervention in the life of St Silouan happened not long after his arrival on Mount Athos. Father Sophrony again:
“Brother Simeon spent a short while, some three weeks in all, praying the Jesus Prayer, and then, one evening as he stood before the icon of the Mother of God, the prayer entered into his heart, to continue there, day and night, of its own accord. But not until later did he realise the sublime and rare gift he had received from the Mother of God.”
This happened at the beginning of St Silouan’s ascetic struggles and was by no means the end of the story. For us who know at least part of the outcome, the Staretz’s emphasis on prayer for the whole world, the inspired way in which he lived and interpreted the ascetic tradition, the degree to which his teaching has inspired prayer in so many, and indeed brought salvation to so many, I think we can see here the Mother of God, intervening in a way which would have extraordinary repercussions.
Now to look at prayer texts which convey something of the Orthodox experience of the Mother of God and prayer. Where on earth is one to start in making a choice? One writer speaks, I think appropriately, of her “omnipresence” in the prayer life of our Church. Any purely visual encounter with an Orthodox church, or the smallest chapel, gives an idea of the central place the Mother of God has in our worship: the icon of her which matches the icon of the Christ on either side of the Royal Doors of the iconostasis, the many other icons of her, the flowers, candles and lamps placed in front of these icons, not to mention the numerous miraculous icons of the Mother of God worldwide which are venerated with particular devotion. A look at our services will reveal countless prayers to her; almost every page in any service book will contain at least one prayer to her.
I think it is important in this context to emphasize that the Mother of God herself has never been a subject of theological debate for Orthodox Christians, nor the subject of dogmatic formulation. The debates about her title in the fifth century were fundamentally Christological, about the divine and human nature of Christ. The approach of the Orthodox is doxological, we speak about her theologically through praying to her.
I’d like to illustrate this by looking at the icon and some of the texts for the feast of Dormition, the Falling Asleep of the Mother of God, celebrated on 15th August. Here we see the Mother of God surrounded by the apostolic community at the moment of her death. Behind her stands her resurrected Son, holding the soul of his mother. Orthodox Christians believe that Mary anticipates the general resurrection of all believers through the resurrection of Christ and it is through the resurrection that she intercedes for the world. The exapostilarion for the day says:
O ye apostles, assembled here from the ends of the earth, bury my body in Gethsemane: and thou, O my Son and God, receive my spirit.
The kontakion for the day says:
“Neither the tomb nor death had power over the Mother of God who is ever watchful in her prayers and in whose intercession lies unfailing hope. For as the Mother of Life she has been transported into life by Him who dwelt within her ever-virgin womb”.
The emphasis of these texts, and I would say, the experience of the feast by the worshipping church is that the Mother of God is present in the Church as a loving and powerful intercessor, but that she remains part of the Church, she is never seen as being above it, or in any other way separate from it. Indeed, during the Divine Liturgy the word we use when remembering her is the same word we use for praying for the rest of the faithful: “Commemorate”. (One could also point to St Silouan’s experience as in example of the Mother of God acting as part of the symphony of the life of the Church. The course of St. Silouan’s life was affected dramatically by the prayers of St. John of Kronstadt as well as the prayers of the Mother of God.)
One of the most striking examples of the Mother of God as a person of prayer which I have come across relates to the Feast of her Entry into the Temple, which we keep on 21st November. The material for this feast comes from the protevanglion and is based on the idea that the Mother of God was taken to the Temple by her parents when she was three years old, as a thank offering for her miraculous birth. Its importance certainly can’t come from its’ historical basis, (or lack of it!) but I include this last section of my talk as something which I think will be of interest to this gathering of monastics. I’m using material from an article by Bishop Kallistos entitled “The Silence of Mary”.
The texts of the service are typical of so many of our texts about the Mother of God, in that they overflow with allegorical images about her, describing her as Temple, burning bush, unblemished lamb, a gate, a palace etc. However, what I want to concentrate on here is the idea of the feast as a symbol of the mystical ascent of the soul to God. This is an idea put forward in a sermon on the feast by St Gregory Palamas (1296 – 1359). Bishop Kallistos says this seems to be an original idea of Palamas but it surely isn’t a very big leap from basic theme of the feast which describes Mary as leading a life of prayer at the heart of the prayer of her own people in preparation for her adult life.
“But what, we may ask, was the particular form taken by this preparation? She was prepared, answers Palamas, by acquiring that inner depth which is conferred by silence. Palamas sees her as a contemplative, as the supreme hesychast, the one who more than any other has attained true hesychia, stillness or silence of heart. Entering the temple, she severed all links with secular and earthly things, renouncing the world, living for God alone, choosing a hidden existence invisible to outside eyes… Enclosed within the Holy of Holies, her life was like that of the hermits and ascetics who dwell in ‘mountains and deserts and caves of the earth’ (cf Hebrews 11:38). Her period in the temple was thus a ‘desert’ experience, an anticipation of monasticism.”
Bishop Kallistos says that while some of Palamas’ eloquent portrayal of Mary as a hesychast may sound a bit remote from the village girl of Nazareth described in the Gospel.
“Yet, is there not in fact a connection? Hesychia, stillness or silence of heart, is basically nothing else than an attitude of attentive listening. In the words of Max Picard, ‘Listening is only possible when there is silence in man: listening and silence belong together.’ ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10): the Psalmist’s phrase sums up the essence of silence. To be silent in prayer is to listen to God. ‘Silence is a presence’, says Georges Bernanos; ‘at the heart of it is God.’ Silence, so understood, is not emptiness but fullness, not the absence of speech but the awareness of God’s immediacy. Silence is waiting on God. Now in the gospels Mary is depicted precisely as the one who listens: who listened to the word of God at the Annunciation (Luke 1:38) cf 11:28), who kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart’ (Luke 2:19; cf 2:51), who told the servants at the marriage fest in Cana to listen to her Son (John2:5). The Mary of Palamas, Mary the hesychast of the temple, turns out in the end to be not so very different from the Mary of St Luke’s Gospel who listens to God in humble and attentive silence.”
This afternoon I have underlined the strong link between the joy associated with the Mother of God and her participation in the resurrection of Christ. I would also like to mention that it must be strongly linked to the love between her and her Son. When St John of Damascus says about the Incarnation “He came not through a tube” he is surely emphasising that, as for all human beings, the greatest joy of the Mother of God is to love and be loved. In her relationship with her Son this joy is beyond our imagination, but it spills over in all the ways in which she has an impact on the life of the Church. As the Protevangelion says about her entry into the Temple: “The priest received her and kissed her and blessed her… And the Lord put grace upon her and she danced with feet and all the house of Israel loved her.”
It must also be said that Orthodox devotion to the Mother of God is strikingly free from sentimentality. Mary, like all believers, had to carry her own cross which had its own distinctive character and was surely linked to her motherhood. The Mother of God is not a cosy companion and a relationship with her will surely lead to the same place where she entered the household of the beloved disciple.
I have given some examples of the way in which the Mother of God had intervened and been responsible for great outpourings of prayer in the life of the Church. The examples I gave were all Russian and from the nineteenth and twentieth century. There are of course countless others from all geographical areas and historical phases of the Church’s life. There are examples of her intervention in some of the great figures of the Byzantine era and the hesychast movement and the Holy Mountain of Athos is known as the Garden of the Mother of God.
I would like to end, as I began, with a quotation from Saint Silouan:
“O if only we knew how the most holy Mother loves all men who keep the commandments of Christ, and how she pities and sorrows over sinners who do not repent! I had experience of this. Of a truth I say, speaking before God whom my soul knoweth: in the spirit I know the Most Pure Virgin. I never beheld her, but the Holy Spirit allowed me to know her and her love for us. Had it not been for her compassion I should have perished long ago; but she was minded to come to me and show me, that I might not sin. …. And her words, soft, quiet and gentle, wrought upon my soul. More than forty years have passed since then but my soul can never forget those sweet words, and I know not how to give thanks to the good and forbearing Mother of the Lord.
Truly is she our advocate before God, and the very sound of her name gladdens the soul. But all heaven and earth too rejoice in her love.
Here is a wonderful thing which passes the understanding: she dwells in heaven and continually beholds the glory of God, yet she does not forget us, poor wretches that we are, and spreads her compassion over the whole earth and all peoples.
And this most pure Mother of His the Lord has bestowed on us. She is our joy and our expectation. She is our mother in the spirit, and kin to us by nature as a human being, and every Christian soul leaps to her in love.