Blessed Maria of Diveyevo
Blessed Maria (Maria Zakharovna Fedina) was born to a peasant family in the village of Goletkov, Elatomsky District of Tambov province. From her early childhood, she sought solitude and prayer. Maria’s father died when she was thirteen, followed by her mother’s death a year later. An orphan at 14, she would wander in the area between Diveyevo and Sarov in search of food. She disregarded any weather, in summer or winter, in scorching heat or during winter storm, at a spring thaw or autumn’s drizzling rain, as she kept on walking, wearing just bast shoes, often in tatters, without leg wrappers. Once, during the Passion Week, she traveled to Sarov knee-high in the muddy snow of the spring thaws. A man, riding a horse-drawn cart, caught up with her, felt pity and offered her a ride, but she refused. During the summer, Maria seemingly took refuge in the woods, as when she used to come to Diveyevo, her skin was entirely covered with ticks, and sores turning into abscesses. It was said that, before she settled in Diveyevo, she spent 40 years under the bridge praying unceasingly. Mother Hegumenia Alexandra had a custom to send for Maria’s advice over some baffling matters.
No one ever heard any complaints or moans of desolation, neither was she bad tempered or ever lamented her life’s unfairness. The Lord Himself, seeing her God-pleasing life, extreme humility and patience, has glorified her among the people. They would often take notice that, whatever she told them or warned them about, would happen. When she stayed with someone, they would receive grace from God.
Blessed Paraskevi Ivanovna, foreseeing her own death, used to tell her near and dear ones: “I am still alive and well behind the walls, while the next one is scurrying and scouting about, as she then will settle here.”
On the day of blessed Paraskevi Ivanovna’s death, the nuns chased the blessed Maria away from the monastery annoyed by her antics. Suddenly, one peasant came to the monastery and said: “What a great servant of God you just kicked away, she told me everything about my sins and about my life. Bring her back or else you will lose her forever.” Immediately, someone was dispatched to get her. It was not long before she returned to the monastery.
When asked why she was called Ivanovna, she explained: “All of us, the blessed ones, are Ivanovnas, after St. John the Baptist.”
Maria Ivanovna talked fast and a lot, at times in rhymes or in curses, more so after 1917. In this way, she disguised her clairvoyant accusations. Through the prayers of a blessed one, who greatly suffered herself from self-inflicted grievous illnesses and accidents, the Lord repeatedly healed the afflicted, the fact supported by multiple witness accounts.
During the dark times of Russia’s revolutionary trials, a flow of the destitute in need of counsel and prayerful intercession increased. Her prophecies and predictions helped many people to avoid danger and death, and to find a right path out of dire straits. Soviet authorities raised persecution of the blessed elder and prohibited her from accepting visitors. After the monastery closed in 1927, Maria Ivanovna found refuge in the homes of other believers. Shortly before her death, the blessed one was subject to arrest and interrogation, but she was found delusional and thus released.
Maria Ivanovna, foreseeing future trials of concentration camps, exiles and years of godlessness, used to strengthen the sisters foretelling about the rebirth of the Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery. Someone told her: “You speak about the monastery, Maria Ivanovna! There will be no monastery!” “There will be! Yes! There will be!” as she banged on the table.
A genuine ascetic and God-pleasing person, she possessed a gift of healing and clairvoyance. As the sisters used to say, at night from fourth to fifth of July, 1918, the day of the martyrdom of the Royal family, Maria Ivanovna ranted terribly crying: “The tsarevnas, by bayonets! Damn Jews!” She raged terribly, but the reason why she screamed about became known later.
After the monastery’s dissolution, she stayed at the village of Puzo at first, but later moved to Elizarovo as per the blessing of Hegumenia Alexandra. She lived there till spring, when she was moved again to Diveyevo and cared for by a deaf-mute brother and sister until 1930. At that time, she was moved to a farmstead near the village of Pochinok and, lastly, to Cherevatovo, where she died on September 8, 1931. Maria Ivanovna was buried at a local village cemetery.
The holy elder was glorified in the rank of the local saints in July 2004 during the celebrations commemorating 250th anniversary of the birth of Venerable Seraphim of Sarov. In October of that year, she was glorified for universal veneration. Currently, the holy relics of holy and blessed Maria, uncovered on September 14, 2004 at the cemetery of Bolshoye Cherevatovo, rest at the Kazan church of the Seraphim-Diveyevo Monastery next to the relics of holy blessed elders Pelagia and Paraskevi Ivanovna.