Tranlastion into English: Alexandra Algafari
Six months before the future monk was born, his mother Maria ran away from the house she was working as a servant at. She was a beautiful maiden, with a slender body and a delicate waist, a white face, blond locks, black eyes, and a white neck, smart, humble, hard-working and loving. She loved and made love the only way a maiden not older than fifteen could. Secretly. Passionately. Gently. Yearningly. Quietly. She knew she had no future with the master of the house, but she also knew she couldn’t refuse her heart and her longing. She came to terms with savouring stolen moments only. The day the master’s bride came to her and told her that after a long five years she was finally carrying their second child, Maria left their home. She did not wish her own happiness from the fact that she herself was carrying life created by her master to destroy the happiness of his wife. If she stayed, there was no way she could explain whose her child was. And if she returned to her father’s home pregnant, unmarried and without a man, her father would disown her. She left without embracing the man who gave her the most beautiful gift, without telling him the wonderful news that she, just like his bride, was carrying his child in her womb. From her belongings she took only St. Paul’s icon and, without looking back, she set out for the unknown, the difficult and the shameful. For three nights she slept in a cattle shed up in the mountains, expecting an answer from the saint who was looking at her from the icon. A hundred times per day she was asking him earnestly:
“Heavenly angel, holy guardian of mine, given to me from the Lord above to keep me safe, I ask you ardently: enlighten me today, protect me from all that is evil and lead me towards good deeds and lead me on the way to salvation. Amen! Which road should I take? Where should I go?”, she prayed.
During the day, she held the icon in her hands, at night she fell asleep with the saint next to her heart, awaiting his coming. The saint looked at her majestically and quietly from the icon, but advice never came. For three days and three nights she waited for a vision to come, to show her the right way to take, but no guidance did she receive from St. Paul. The hunger made her come down from the mountain and into town where she hid among the crowds. There was no work for a pregnant maiden. Desperation drove her to the cattle houses with the animals which took her in more amicably than the laymen who filled the churches every Sunday. She was no good at begging since she had two arms and two legs and she had no signs of the plague, leprosy or the desperate look of the elderly. The beggars had their own reserved spots around the people’s conscience so they shooed Maria to go share her food with those who cared more than the people – the dogs. She kept the child in her womb warm using the warmth of the cows and she begged her food from the farm-hand at the inns who threw the leftovers from travelers at her, always accompanied by sneering and ridicule. Maria was so confused. No one had prepared her for this. She could not ask her mother or another close woman what to do or how to do it – she did what her heart told her to do. She did not expect help or advice from the saint any longer. He, too, like all other people when facing hardship, had abandoned her. For the last time one night, she prayed to him. Not for her, but for her child, and still – no holy grace. Then, in her rage, she went to the church and threw the icon at
the temple’s gates. That same night, Virgin Mary came in her dreams. She descended from the sky in all her gilt and glory. She stopped by her side. She stroked her hair and said:
“Go to my temple, the Annunciation monastery! They will receive you there! There name him…!”
Maria woke up to the mooing of the cows and she never found out how she was supposed to name the child.
That same day, she begged one of the helpers at the inn for some food and she got it in exchange for showing him her breasts. He touched them, not for the first time, and rewarded her with half a loaf of bread and a chunk of cheese.
A few days later, she reached the Annunciation convent. They did not let her cross its threshold – only the abbess could allow that. Five days she waited at the gates. Five nights she slept in with the male animals in a shed next to the convent, waiting for the abbess to come back and lead her into the temple. The cold slowly took over her body, but Maria did not give up – Virgin Mary herself had given her a sign.
On the fifth morning, she woke up earlier because of the pains in her womb. The child inside of her was ready to set out on its way. Muddy, dirty and hungry, she went to the convent’s doors once more. She sat in front of the gates and waited. She felt her legs warming up by the breaking waters. At the end of her tether, she got up and started pounding on the convent’s doors. She screamed terrified, she yelled desperately. No one answered. She slipped into the muddy sludge. And just then, in front of her blurred vision, she appeared… her hand outstretched toward the poor wretch. Maria grabbed at her feet. She held tightly to her shoes.
“Holy mother, you came for me!”
“How do they call you, poor wretch?”, asked the abbess.
“Maria, holy mother! The Blessed Virgin Mother sent me to you. She came in my dream and told me I should come here, to her home!”
Maria raised herself off the ground and through teeth cracked from the cold and gritted to hold back the pain, she smiled. Leaning on the abbess’s body with muddy hands, she rose. The nun helped her to stand up. The convent’s gates opened. The pregnant girl wiped her hands on her raggedy clothes that hung on her body and was about to enter the temple.
“What dream do you speak of, my child?”, asked the abbess.
“The Holy Mother came in my sleep and told me to come to you and give birth to my child here!”
“But why are you alone? Where is your mother? Where is your husband?”
The pain in her womb shot her and she took a step back. She looked at her feet and cradled her groin. She raised her gaze and the beautiful black eyes and fixed them on the abbess.
“My mother is in our village”, she fell silent for a moment and then continued, “My husband?”, her voice died down again.
Maria imagined the father of her child. She saw how he was embracing his wife. How he was waiting in the other room, waiting for his child to give its first cry. She imagined how someone brings the baby to him and how happy he is. She saw the happiness in his bride’s face and said quietly:
“Husband? I have no husband.”
The nun’s face stretched long in surprise. Her body, though remaining still, withdrew from the miserable girl.
“You have no husband? And you seek refuge in the convent?”, the abbess took a few steps toward the doors of the temple. Before falling behind the convent’s walls, she turned towards the girl:
“Do not mention God’s Mother’s name in vain! The Holy Mother has taught us that no sin should ever enter this convent.”
“Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary gave me a sign that I should come here!”, Maria blurted out confused.
“The Devil is he who sends you!”, the abbess cut her short and stepped within the walls. She looked back for a moment:
“Go give birth to it wherever you have sinned!”
The gates shut under Maria’s nose. She wedged her bare foot in the door. One hand holding the child inside her womb, with the other she forced the door open using the last strength left in her. She drew her face near the abbess’s face. The tears rolling down her cheeks melted the dry mud.
“The king allows but the shepherd does not! I would have called you “mother” again but you have no heart to be one. You have not carried a child underneath your heart and you know nothing about being a mother! You want me to have a man! Who do you think created the child inside of me? Yes, I may not be married but I have created this child with love. And who was Virgin Mary’s husband? It was Joseph, wasn’t it? And who was the father of Jesus Christ? Eh? Was it Joseph? No, it wasn’t! Was Mary wedded to God? This child…” – Maria pointed at her belly – “it was created like any other child in this world. It carries the Holy Spirit inside of it like every other child does, does it not?”
The scream that was welling up in her throat choked her and she fell to the ground. The abbess kicked the mother’s bare foot out of the door and the bolt slammed home.
Alone with her shame, dirty and rejected by God’s deputies, Maria curled up next to the convent’s wall, determined to give birth here as was St Mary’s will. She closed her eyes and pushed. The fetus edged closer to the world. After that she felt how her flesh tore as if
thousands of blades were cutting into it at the same time. Her pains gave her peace for a brief moment and her eyes rolled towards the heavens. Somewhere there, she believed, Jesus, the virgin who gave birth and all the saints were watching her. Whether they were pointing their fingers at her and mocking her she did not know. But two eyes watched her secretly through the slit in the doors. The eyes of the youngest novice were watering and her lips were begging God that someone would help the poor wretch.
Just then, the old shepherd, who took care of the male animals at the convent, passed by. His two strong arms lifted the convulsing Maria by her shoulders and straightened her up. Awaiting God’s mercy, he helped her drag herself to the shed where he had let her sleep.
There, Maria gave birth to her one and only child. She cut the umbilical cord on her own. Not knowing why, as if God was guiding her, she grabbed the tiny legs and she turned her child upside down so the water could drain out of it and so it could announce through its cry that one more pious soul had come to this world. She washed her baby with the water left for the studs. She took the rags off herself and wrapped the baby in them, then raised it to her bosom. She held out the stiff, half-frozen breast to the tiny lips. The baby began sucking feverishly the first drops of life. The angry blizzard gathered the snow off the road, raised it high in the sky and slammed it with all its might into the convent’s walls. Then the offended snowstorm raged towards the mountains.
“Hush little baby, don’t say a word!”
The mother picked the song up softly, somehow unsure. Her voice gently settled where the blizzard was howling a moment ago. Both all that was mortal and what was immortal abated and leant an ear to the motherly song. Her child stopped sucking and, cuddled up, dozed off into bliss. The naked and shivering from the cold mother gingerly placed the baby in the straw. She scooped up some hay and propped her child on it so it didn’t fall over. She watched the sleeping angel, which was still smacking its lips, for a little while. Motherly tears welled up in her eyes. She got up, leant over her child and drew her cracked lips closer to its forehead. A tear rolled down her face and splashed on its tiny balled fist. She stroked its head and withdrew. Then she went to the wooden bench under the beam on the ceiling, she put the noose around her neck and began singing again. The last she heard before kicking the bench under her feet… were the silent bells which picked up the mother’s song.
They buried her with no funeral service and with no one to ask forgiveness for her. No one wanted to take in her bastard boy either. The constantly drunk shepherd begged childless mothers, widows, old maids for days to take him in, but their fear from his sinfulness left him at the shepherd’s shed. There, among the animals, Bojidar, was raised by the crippled man. Bojidar, God’s gift – that is what the youngest novice named him. Only she, although in secret, brought him food – however much she could hide under her austere monastery garments. Her sisters shunned him, they did not talk to the bastard who was carrying God’s Holy Spirit inside of him. They did not touch him. And when he was in their way they spat at him and crossed themselves. No one had ever hugged him, no one had ever spoken to him kindly. No one had ever sung him a lullaby. When Bojidar grew up, he ate whatever he could steal or whatever the shepherd would spear out of mercy.
Fourteen years passed like this since the first gulp of air that Bojidar took. Many a time he wished to see what was the mystical secret that lay beyond the convent’s walls. Gentle feminine voices poured out, praising the Holy Mother and her son. Voices, which sent thrills, unfamiliar desire and yearning through him. They made him feel the pleasure flowing down his body towards the place which the crippled shepherd deemed as the most sinful and accused it for being responsible for all evils in the world. One day, the desire urged him on and he mustered the courage to jump over the fence. He hid behind the rose bushes watching the beautiful naked calves of one of the novices who was hanging the washing up. Her breasts, as large as lamb’s heads, were bouncing up and down, ready to burst out of the shirt that was stopping them. Bojidar touched his manhood. His hand wrapped around his private parts. He swelled up. Wanting. Yearning. He was squeezing it. The pleasure was increasing. It rose up headstrong. He half-closed his eyes. He felt the sweetness, the beauty, the power, the man inside of him. A slap across the face opened his eyes. The next one, stronger, broke his cover from behind the rose bushes. And the sound of the third one drew the gazes of the maidens in the courtyard upon him. The screams of the nuns mixed with the hysterical shrieking of the abbess. The strong hand of the shepherd hit him again. Bojidar held up his hands, protecting himself from the blows and his breeches fell to the ground. His impudence was still pointing at the sky and his hand, smeared with a whole inconceived human race, was wiping his tears. Before evening fell, he took several beatings by the shepherd – beatings that he had deserved because he had violated the Lord’s abode and had desired one of His brides for himself.Kozma’s mother