Nun Lyubov (Nikolayeva)
Nun Lyubov (Nikolayeva) was born on the day of the Protecting Veil of Theotokos. When she was a little girl, she felt warmth, light and protection without realising that it was the Mother of God who spread wide Her Protecting Veil over the future nun. Read the story of the sister of our Convent about an unusual path to God and the intercession of the Queen of Heaven.
I was born on 14 October, on the day of the Protecting Veil of the Theotokos. I always looked at this feast as a symbol of Rus' and associated Rus' with holiness and the Church. Although I wasn't baptised, when I was a child, I felt warmth, light and a kind of protection. Now I understand that it was the Protecting Veil of the Most Holy Mother of God.
When I was five, I asked my father, "What's the meaning of life?"
At that age I viewed people in the way God meant them to be — very beautiful. When people quarrelled, I couldn't understand why that happened. One person is good and the other one is good, so why do they quarrel? My soul was aching and I wanted to make peace between all of them.
Before I became a Christian, I looked for the meaning of life in sports, music and reading, and all that time God kept me away from deadly sins. God works in mysterious ways. Maybe there were people of great prayer among my ancestors or maybe our Lord saw that I wouldn't follow a secular path and was getting me ready for monastic life.
And here, I am 14. The feast of the Protecting Veil of the Most Holy Mother of God. I opened our letter box and saw the Gospel addressed to me. I still have no idea whose gift it was. I read it through at once and felt that Christ was by my side.
In my childhood, my search for the meaning of life always led to a dead end, but the Gospel made me see the light—I understood what I should live for. That year a church was opened in the garrison at the Baikonur Cosmodrome where we lived.
At the age of 15 I decided to get baptised. The miracle of baptism was that I saw the world in the uncreated light. I remember me saying again and again, "I don't want to leave the church. The light is different here!"
And a feeling of freedom inside me: you are walking along the street and looking at the sky—and it’s different; you are looking at people—they’re different too. My soul was full of peace and love to people.
Church of Saint George the Victory-bearer at the Baikonur Cosmodrome
After finishing school, I was admitted to a religious college in Rostov-on-Don. I got acquainted with archpriest Mikhail Trukhanov. He suggested, "Consider going to Moscow after finishing college and studying there."
At that time a college for nursing sisters was opened in Moscow at the First Municipal Hospital under the aegis of St. Dmitry of Uglich Church. I asked father Mikhail, "Father, may I go and become a nursing sister?"
He gave me his blessing. Medicine, people and practice in the hospital—all had spirit in it. We didn't just learn to give injections and perform other medical procedures but saw it as our service to God and our neighbours.
I didn't study long. My mother got ill and I had to leave Moscow. I thought I'd come back, but father Mikhail said, "I prayed for you and God revealed to me that you should become a nun."
He asked me a question about monastic life three times. And each time I said "yes", without full comprehension, from somewhere deep inside me.
Did I accept his word about monastic life? Yes and no. There was a time when tragedy struck our family. My grief was so great that I asked God, "If you like, take my personal happiness but save them." Perhaps my praying zeal when I was 15 was accepted, but I forgot about that for some time.
Then I happened to get the Life of Ambrose of Optina. I opened the book at the page where the elder was telling that, although he was blessed to enter a monastery, he did it only in a year. Suddenly my temperature spiked to 40ºC. Doctors couldn't find the reason; so I stayed in bed and kept hold of the book. I was reading, losing consciousness, coming to myself, reading again and losing consciousness again. I felt St. Ambrose of Optina was by my side.
At one moment, the doctors said, "We don't know what's going on with her. She's dying..." I said a prayer then, "Father Ambrose, tell me what my path is?" and opened the book at the page where the elder gives his blessing to his spiritual child to join the monastery.
As soon as I said "Got it" my temperature dropped. I still felt weak but I was on the way to recovery already. I phoned father Mikhail, "Father, I will enter a convent."
I lived for five years in the Intercession Convent in Moscow, where the remains of the Blessed Matrona are kept. I had to bring my nephews to the Convent (my sister was in a difficult situation) and my paralyzed mother as well. That was hard. Strong temptations came down. Mostly it was me to blame because I had no humility. Humility opens a right view on the situation while human truth distorts it.
The Intercession Convent in Moscow
In some time my bedridden mum and I had to leave the convent. I had already become a rassaphore and my mother a novice. But that was by Providence. Father Mikhail blessed my mum and me to go to Kostroma. We rented an apartment there.
After my mother passed away, I went to Father Mikhail. I was thinking, "Mommy died, and now I can return to the convent; no good for a rassaphore to hang around in the world." Father Mikhail told me, "Back to the convent is good but later."
I left him and went to a church. I kissed the icons and was standing still and grieving. The Prime started, and I was thinking, "I must obey..." Suddenly I felt someone was looking at me. I looked up and saw an icon of the Most Holy Mother of God. She was looking at me from the Kazan icon. It occurred to me that I kissed all icons but this one. And I heard Her saying, "I am your Mother and you are My daughter." My soul became quiet and calm...
I was a different person when I came back to Kostroma. Feeling the motherly love of Our Lady, I understood that my staying in the world was by God’s Providence. I got a blessing to enter a seminary. It was also providential.
Nun Lyubov (Nikolayeva) near St. John of Shanghai church of Saint Elisabeth Convent in Minsk
In Kostroma I got acquainted with Father Andrei Logvinov, who took an active part in my life. He was the first to tell me about our convent. Father Andrei gave me advice, "Go and visit Minsk."
So, I arrived in Belarus. I stepped in the Reigning Icon Church at St Elisabeth Convent, looked up, saw the mosaic of the Mother of God and all my sorrowful thoughts faded away... I remember my first words, "Wish I could stay here forever."
Father Andrei Logvinov
They lavished care on me at our Convent. Father Andrei, Mother Hegumenia and senior sisters were very attentive to me. I felt their love and took root in the Convent step by step. There is a lot of freedom here. Such conditions help a person to get a sturdier internal frame and give birth to the person's inner life along with the outer one.
Our senior sisters are very nice. With them, we are as safe as in Lord's pocket because they are people who look at God.
Once I was asked, "What do you fear most?" I replied, "Myself." Passions, sins, lack of gratitude, habits... Perhaps the most frightening thing in one's self is not being lukewarm but having lost the fear of God. If you lose it, you constantly fall down. It's very difficult, however, to be extremely sober all the time...
The altar mosaic in the Reigning Icon Church at St Elisabeth Convent
Everything in my life is connected with the Mother of God. She is Mommy for all Christians. Certainly, She helps monks and nuns as well — because She is the first nun.
Let me tell you a striking thing: although I was my parent's most favourite in my family, we celebrated my birthdays very seldom. However, when I started going to church, I felt the feast to the full. Sure, it was more about feeling joy on the feast of the Protecting Veil of the Theotokos than about my birthday. It's a gift of God that I was born on such a day...
The Protecting Veil of the Mother of God is everything for me. At the confession, I often say, "I only rely on our Lord and our Most Holy Mother of God." Sometimes I can't struggle with a sin, do bad things... But here, a call from the Mother of God and such warmth comes down on me. You feel you sin, but a hope for the Mother of God lives in your heart — we are Her children after all...
Interviewed by: Daria Goncharova