Reverent Ioan Istrati
When I was a priest at St. Friday’s Cathedral in Iasi, there was a devoted elderly woman named Maria who attended every church service. She always carried a nearly empty bag from Lidl, swinging it around like a toy. Some believed she was not in her right mind, while others wondered about the purpose of her bag. It left me perplexed.
One day, I took Maria aside in the church. I offered her a pie from the Altar and said a prayer for her health.
She began to share her story with me:
“Father, about twenty years ago, I used to be very nervous and quick-tempered. I would mistreat my children and shout at my late husband, may he rest in peace. During my visit to Horaița Monastery, Father Zenobius, a saintly figure, advised us to pray to see God. So, I started praying constantly: ‘Lord Jesus, I beg you, I want to see You.’
One night, during the Christmas Fast, after finishing my prayers, I said as usual, ‘Lord, I want to see You.’ And then I fell into a deep sleep. In that sleep, I found myself in a marvelous luminous mist, and there He was—I saw Him.
Overwhelmed with emotion, Maria started to cry. I comforted her by gently patting her head and allowed her to regain her composure.
She continued with her account:
“He appeared to me as a small and fragile Child, but I knew He was the Savior. His gaze penetrated the depths of my soul.”
Then she revealed the profound words the divine Infant spoke to her:
“‘I feel so cold here on Earth.’”
Those were His exact words. The more I pondered on them, the more I realized the significance. I delved into the Bible and the teachings of the Holy Fathers, discovering that the Infant God was born in a humble cave, warmed by sheep and donkeys, rejected and expelled from the world He had created.
He experienced hardship, traveling on a rocky road to Egypt carried by a donkey, fleeing from the murderous King Herod. He had nowhere to lay His head, sleeping under the open sky in the piercing cold of winter nights.
He yearned for the warmth of our love, loving us ardently. He sweat on the Cross for our sake, endured excruciating pain, and died because of His love for us. He descended into the depths of hell to rescue us from darkness and suffering.
Maria’s encounter with the divine presence awakened a deep sense of compassion within her. She made a vow to always carry a bag of hand-knitted woolen socks and distribute them to impoverished children she encountered. For the past twenty years, she has faithfully fulfilled this promise.
As she shared her story, Maria took out a pair of gray woolen socks and offered them to me.
“Allow me to give a pair to Your Holiness as well,” she said.
In that moment, I realized that there are holy individuals passing by, unnoticed by us priests, either due to our indifference or superficial concerns. People may ridicule them unknowingly, oblivious to their profound faith and purity.
I embraced the tearful old woman, and I felt that the Infant Jesus had become everything within her.