Contributed by Markus Mössner
He left, after the snow had gone. That he went north, nobody understood.
"The birds are also returning;" he said. He was searching for the Queen Of The World. In an old, dusty book he had discovered a hint: "The Queen of Heaven is residing in a palace of pure crystals far away on the pole star. Answering to the prayers of Mother Katia, She made Her angels build another crystal palace, up in the north, at the shore of the ice sea. This is Her residence on earth, where saintly women and men serve Her and where She welcomes and blesses pious pilgrims."
He had been on his way for three weeks. He lived on the gifts he got from good people and the meals, he earned by one or two hours of work. Some recognized him as a pious pilgrim and asked his benediction. Then he opened the woolen bag on his chest and took out the icon of the Most Sacred Mother and blessed the people with Her.
But now he had not reached an inhabited place since four days. The dried bread, that he had carried with him, was consumed. For the first time, since he started his wandering, doubts were arising. While hunger roared in his stomach, fears and doubts attacked his heart: Maybe it was true, that religion is only the opiate of the people, as had been taught in school many years ago? Was the true reason he loved to listen to the miracle stories, the old Babushka told, to escape from the miseries surrounding him? Was this not the same reason, that made most of the others drink and many to commit suicide? "Maria, Mother of holy Russia do not leave me. Heal my bleading heart and do not let me drown in desperation." He started to pray.
The next day, the pilgrim got up early, did his morning prayer and went on his wandering again. He tried to avoid the dark thoughts of yesterday, by watching the beauty of the landscape, decorated with the first green of spring. Around midday he saw smoke, as if coming from a chimney, some distance away. He thanked the Most Sacred Mother and stepped ahead. In the evening he reached a small farm, that might have been the place of an independent farmer, before the communists centralized agriculture. There were many such farms, most of them ruined. Sometimes the pilgrim had used them, as quarters for the night. But here the farmhouse had been restored and the window was illuminated. The pilgrim knocked at the door.
An elderly woman, dressed in the garb of an orthodox nun, opened. Being surprised the pilgrim bowed down, this must be a Stareza, a holy eremite and spiritual Mistress. "Holy Mother, a pious pilgrim is asking your blessing, a meal and a place for the night." The nun gave her benediction to the pilgrim and guided him into the house. Soon after the pilgrim sat with a bowl of soup and a piece of bread in the warmth of the kitchen, stretching his cold legs and arms. After he finished his meal, the Stareza addressed him. "What is your name, pilgrim and what is the goal of your pilgrimage?" "Wanya I am named. I am on my way to the ice sea. There I want to visit the Most Sacred Mother in Her crystal palace and ask Her to make me Her servant. Blessed Mother can you also tell me your name?"
Away from It All
"Well I am Mother Olga, the eremite. So you heard the tale about Mother Katia and the crystal palace. But you should have been told, that of the many thousands of pilgrims, that went to search for the sanctuary of the Worldmother at the shore of the ice sea, none was able to reach it." "No, I know only little about the crystal palace. I read a few lines in an old book. This was enough to awaken the desire in my heart to search for the earthly residence of the Eternal One. If you know more about it, honorable Mother, please tell me."
The Stareza started to tell:
"About 150 years ago, the emperor sent expeditions of engineers and geologers to the ice sea. They drew maps and looked for resources of the earth. This expeditions set out early in spring, used the summer for their work and returned before the arctic winter started. The members of one of these expeditions met a pilgrim at the ice sea, who must have been there during the winter. He told the explorers about the crystal palace and that the Holymost Mother is residing there with Her angels.
When autumn had come and the expedition finished its work, the pilgrim joined it on the way back. Soon the message about this strange pilgrim spread. Eventually he was invited by the emperors family, to tell them about the Holymost Mother and Her miraculous palace. At that occasion, he mentioned for the first time, that the crystal palace had been erected by the angels to answer the prayers of Mother Katia. After that, the pilgrim went all across the Russian empire to preach about the Heavenly Queen and Her crystal palace. Later on he asked people to do the heartprayer of the Worldmother. This heartprayer consists of only two words: Ave Maria. When this was reported to the patriarch in Moscow, he trembled. This heartprayer seemed to be latin. And therefore must have originated in the rotten West. The message about the crystal palace on the other hand had been supported by him. Was it not a proof for the chosen status of Russia and the right belief of the Russian church, that the Holymost Mother had built her dwelling place on earth in this country? Thus a paradox situation arose. On the one side the message of the crystal palace was being spread by the church and it´s priests and on the other side they were preaching against the heartprayer of the Worldmother and forbade their followers to pray it. When the pilgrim, now known as Starez Wladimir noticed this, he retired into an eremitage. Their he gathered disciples and taught the secrets of the Heavenly Queen.
In the meantime, the message about the crystal palace had spread far and wide. So pilgrims from all areas of Russia set out to the ice sea for visiting the Eternal One. Their longing for the Worldmother and Her house of justice was so strong, that they took any hardship to go to this harsh northern land. It might be a fake of history, that at the same time in America too their was a wandering to the icy north. But not out of a longing for Mary the Queen Of Heaven, many thousands went north. They were driven by the greed for the gold, that had been discovered in Alaska.
But as many pilgrims went to the ice sea, nobody was able to find the crystal palace. One of the last groups of pilgrims, that got there, met an old Babushka at the icy shore. She adviced the pilgrims to seek Mary first in ones own heart and to live Her love in ones own life, before hoping to meet the Holymost Mother at the ice sea. The Babushka reported to the astonished pilgrims, that she was a peasant from the upper wolga area. She had been worshipping the Worldmother all of her life. When she heard about the crystal palace, she prayed to Mary for the boon to visit Her there. In the evening of that very day , she heard a heavy knocking at her door. She opened and was surprised to see the winged lion of st. Marc waiting in front of her house. The celestial animal asked the Babushka to climb on his back. As soon as she did so, it opened it´s wings and took her into the sky. After a wonderful flight across the Russian empire they landed in front of the crystal palace. There the Babushka saw the Queen Of Heaven face to face. She received all the treasures of wisdom and experienced beautitude. By the order of Mary she had left the Crystal Palace to tell the pilgrims her story and to ask them, not to try any longer to reach the Crystal Palace out of their own strength.
When the Babushka had finishes her story, suddenly a dense fog spread from the ice sea . After a short span of time the air became clear again, but the Babushka had gone. The pilgrims went on their way back and told everybody of their experience. Soon after the stream of pilgrims to the ice sea stopped. The church lost it´s interest, and when the communists started their campaigns against religion, they destroyed everything that reminded on the great pilgrimage to the ice sea ." Mother Olga ended her report. Wanya, the young pilgrim sat silently. Eventually he started to speak: "That means that my pilgrimage is futile. But I cannot go back. Where I came from, there is no hope. Vodka and violence are ruling. Young people are choosing suicide, because they lost all hope." Tears were flowing from his eyes. He covered his face with his hands and cried desperately. Mother Olga layed her hand on his shoulder and waited until he stopped crying. "Your pilgrimage was not in vain, because the Holymost Mother has sent you to me. I had prayed to Her, to send me a young and serious disciple, whom I can introduce to the heartprayer of the Worldmother and who will assist me in my day to day work. I am inviting you to stay with me and learn from an old Stareza."
She stood up, went to the samovar in the corner, filled two cups with tea, and returned to the table. The hot liquid refreshed Wanya and he gratefully accepted the offer of the wise woman. "Well," she said. "I am going to show you your chamber. But first we will practice the heartprayer together." The Stareza handed an oriental rosary to Wanya and took another one for herself. She said: "The heartprayer of the Worldmother consists of only two words, `Ave´ and `Maria´. While repeating these words we enter the innermost realm of our heart. This is the place of eternal peace where we remain safe in the lap of the Worldmother. You will experience this yourself. Let us start now."
Mother Olga started to repeat the heartprayer and her disciple joined in. The soft rhythm of the sacred words led Wanya gradually into an inner peace that he did not knew before. "Ave Maria, Ave Maria, Ave Maria, Ave Maria, ..." Like on mystic stairs Wanya walked on the repetitions of the heartprayer down into the innermost core of his heart. There he remained in peace and inner joy, filled with the mighty name of the Holymost Mother, which rocked him softly like gentle waves rocking a boat on the sea.
Eventually the Stareza ended the prayer and said the benediction. "Stay on your seat for a short time." She ordered her disciple, while she got up to look for some blankets for him. When she returned, she put the blankets on the kitchen bench and said: "You will sleep here. Tomorrow morning, after you wake up, the first thing you do, will be to pray the heartprayer 108 times. This is one oriental rosary. So, now go to bed. May the angels protect your sleep and may Mary bless you." The wise woman smiled at him and left the kitchen.
While Wanya prepared the bench with the blankets he thought about what had happened to him this day. His pilgrimage has taken a miraculous change. And now he was no more a pilgrim, he has arrived.
Peruvian, Cuzco School