Mother Maria Skobtsova was born in Riga, Latvia in 1891 and died on March 31, 1945 in the gas chamber at Ravensbruck. She was arrested by the Gestapo in Paris for rescuing Jews and working with the Resistance. During the last days of her life, she traded bread for thread and embroidered an icon of the Mother of God carrying a crucified Christ in her arms.

Before becoming an Orthodox nun in 1932, Elizaveta Pilenko was a promising poet, a gifted amateur painter, and a theological student in St. Petersburg. Following the death of one of her children, she felt obliged to "become the mother of everyone." This desire to empty herself in service of others was at the core of her vision of the monastery in the world. Mother Maria saw each person as "the very icon of God incarnate in the world." Her settlement houses in France embodied the spiritual practice of hospitality; in this regard her work was similar to Dorothy Day's in America.

Read and Reap:

  • Mother Maria Skobtsova: Essential Writings, translated by Richard Pevear and Laris Volokhonsky, provides an overview of her life (by Jim Forest) and presents her ideas about the mysticism of human communion, the Second Commandment, wartime, the imitation of the Mother of God and much more.


  • See each person you come into contact with today as "the very icon of God incarnate in the world."