|Illustration of the event. Gleb Alexandrovich Feodoroff|
Meeting of a Nun and Wolves
After a long and relentless winter, sunny February days had come upon us. After finishing her work in the kitchen, Nun Nina wanted to take a walk, and to combine the pleasant with the useful, she decided that her walk be in the direction of the spring, from whence she could bring fresh drinking water for the sisters. A thick white carpet of snow still stretched around the monastery, making walking difficult.
It so happened that on that day was celebrated the memory of St. Gerasim of the Jordan (17/2 March), a saint from the fifth century whose great and good friend was a lion of the wilderness. The lion became his faithful friend when he removed a thorn from its paw. The beast showed its gratitude, and from that day on followed and served the saint wherever he went unto the very day of his death, when the lion itself died on his grave from sadness, not desiring to live any longer without its healer and defender.
It is very interesting to connect the following events with the fact that they happened on the day of this particular saint.
So, that afternoon, Nun Nina started out for the spring. She filled the water bottles there, put them in her backpack, and the pack on her back. Climbing up from the spring, which runs through a small ravine, onto the fields above, she came face-to-face with three wolves. There was hardly a meter between them and herself. It appeared to be a pair and their cub of perhaps half a year old. Both parties stood motionless, staring at each other in astonishment and confusion. It seemed as if they gazed at each other for years. Time stopped. One who knows a bit about wolves, knows that they usually attack or flee. They never stand so long in confusion, unmoving, as it is not easy to confuse a wolf.
What is interesting is that the wolves did not show any signs of aggression, of growling, or any manifestation of their wild nature. Nun Nina dared not move, take off her pack, or begin to run. It is impossible, she realized in the situation, to put what one have planned in theory into practice (such as running, climbing onto a tree, etc) when confronted with real wild beast. One is paralyzed by fear and can only pray and leave oneself in God’s hands. This kind of paralysis, of course, does not happen to hunters, as they never have encounters of this kind. Animals do not linger near armed men, and they always, according to our experience, know whether a man is armed or not and accordingly quickly get out of the line of fire, wolves especially.
After a few minutes of the wolves’ measuring up of the nun, in considerable tension, something very curious and touching happened. One of them, probably the female, approached her.
It cautiously but decisively stepped towards her and stopped at a distance of about 15 cm away, sniffing… as if to introduce itself. It had the air of people who shake hands when meeting each other. She sniffed in a completely friendly way, as a good-natured dog might any person. The other two wolves only stood by and watched.
All at once, the initial fear and shock left the nun, and she was overcome only by a feeling of love for the wolf as one of God’s creations. It was so close. Completely close. She wanted to touch it, showing her respect. The wolf stopped for a moment, then retreated, perhaps showing it was not quite time for such a close connection between itself and Man… It gave one last look, as if to say goodbye, looking almost as if it were sorry to leave its new friend… It summoned the others, of whom it appeared to be the leader, and in a second, in smooth formation, they disappeared over the snowy hills.
As soon as they departed, all seemed like it had been a dream. No witness, except for their tracks in the snow and the nun’s own quaking, showed that they had been there, within hand’s reach.
We would bring up here one saying from St. Isaac the Syrian, about life in the wilderness away from the world:
One pilgrim asked him, “Does it ever happen that someone, suddenly daring to completely renounce life with other people, and in good zeal unexpectedly going into an uninhabited and awful wilderness, dies there of hunger, nakedness, wild beasts, or other wants?”
St. Isaac replied, “He who made for the dumb beasts a habitation, before He created them, and provides for their needs, that One will not scorn His other creations, especially those who fear Him and follow Him in simplicity, without curiosity. He who completely gives over his will to God will no longer worry about the needs of his body, of his misery and suffering, but rather will wish to live a hidden life, a modest life. He will not fear misfortune, but rather isolates himself from the world: for the sake of a pure life, he considers it sweet and pleasant to exhaust himself in the hills and mountains, living like a nomad surrounded by dumb animals, never accepting bodily tranquility and a life full of uncleanness.”
We are happy that we could share with you, dear brothers and sisters, this story of a close meeting with our unusual neighbors who have recently introduced themselves to us up close, through this wild wolf family.
And if our neighbors the wolves, have shown the good will to cultivate good neighborly relations, we nonetheless hope that we will not be having such frequent meetings or socialize with them to a great extent.
In Our Lord Jesus Christ,
Your New Stjenik Sisterhood