Mother Gavrilia (1897-1992) is another contemporary example of a person who made God present in our world. She came from Constantinople, studied podiatry in England, ministered to the poor in India, became a nun in Jerusalem, and lived out her life in Athens. Her faith and her desire to follow Christ in every way was so strong that she never travelled anywhere with money. She felt that if God wanted her to go somewhere or do something, he would provide the means; if he did not provide the means, that meant he did not want her to go.
Throughout her long life, and despite her popularity, Mother Gavrilia remained an icon of God’s presence to his people. Whether healing lepers in India or talking with bikers in Greece, she always conveyed to those around her the love of God.
I would highly recommend reading the story of her life, as well as her sayings and spiritual conferences as recorded by the Nun Gavrilia in The Ascetic of Love (3rd edition 2006).
I would like to quote here two of her spiritual counsels in order to illustrate the depth of her insight and her love. The first deals with prayer and love (p. 299).
If you don’t love, don’t dare pray. for your prayer will not reach the ears of the Lord. It is abomination to God. somebody comes and tells me: “I cannot stand this person. Of course, I do not wish him any harm, but I pray that God may guide him.” And I say: “How dare you? If I say: “Lord, please guide this person whom I do not love”, He will tell me: “why do you care, since you do not love him? First love him, then come an ask Me to guide him. I will grant it at once.” Because He said: “Love your enemies”.
The second passage is on pride (p. 300):
Mother Gavrilia in India
G.G. Father Lazarus says that the mountain we have to move with our faith is our own pride!…A big mountain! And we throw it inot the sea!
G. Fine…But how can we do this?
G.G. Onlywith the grace of God. Pray with all your heart: “Lord, take away my pride”…The next day, He starts! Today I heard on the radio the Preacher say: “St. John Chrysostom tells us that what we need, what will take us to Paradise, is the shattering of our own pride–that and nothing else!” Let me give you an example. Someone comes to see me, we discuss his problem and we find a solution. If I say: “It’s a good thing I was here to help!” Hey!…What a fall (I mean, for me)! I happened to be here to help. But if I were not, God would have sent someone else! for the Lord says: “I can make children for Abraham even out of stones.” Regrettably, that’s how things are. Man takes pride in himself…I helped! I helped! But who are you? Who? Something else, too…When someone does you a good turn, tell him: “Ah! You are greatly blessed! you must thank God for giving you the opportunity to do this. For, otherwise, He would have sent someone else instead of you.” As for me, I had to be helped: for it was God’s time. Now, whom will God send? Whoever comes will be blessed. he will be blessed for himself–not for me! Anyhow, it is very difficult to fight pride. Because our Ego is kneaded together with this monster and we cannot see it. We are blind. “Blind…leading the blind.” There is also another thing. From our early childhood we are told: “Be the first in your class…Don’t be like that child.” What does this mean? Since, “who is first will be last, and the last first.” But, by the time we understand that…Pride is man’s greatest sin. It comes from the Source of Darkness–truly from Darkness. Pride and Egoism: they go hand in hand. Where the Grace of God is, these two cannot be. This is why when we qualify somebody as a “great man,” the first trait of his character that makes us call him “great” is his humility. For humility is a synonym of Love…
God showed us the meaning of humility and love in becoming one of us, taking on our nature and living our life. As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Love and the Feast of Humility, let us examine ourselves and see where pride prevents us from love, where it stands in the way of praying for others.