22 June 2021

Holy Mother Agafia the Wonderworker of Cușelăuca

Saint Agafia of Cușelăuca

Gentle readers of my blogs, I apologise. I have been struggling with some fairly severe health problems as of late, including a stay in the hospital, and I haven’t been able to put up much of anything by way of content for the past month or so, absent one or two hagiographical pieces. I hope that I am well enough now that I can get back to blogging on a regular basis.

Yesterday was the new calendar feast day of Blessed Agafia of Cușelăuca, a wonderworking monastic saint of Moldova. She spent most of her years in one of the poorest monasteries in one of the poorest parts of Europe. Although she spent most of her life in a state of pain and bodily infirmity, she continued to be sweet, kind and patient to all who met her, and healed many who came to her with their own pains and disabilities.

Agafia Maranciuc [Ru. Агафия Маранчук] was born in the year 1819, in the village of Păsățel. This Moldovan village is situated between the Bug and the Dneister, very close to the city of Odessa. Her parents, Ioan and Eudochia, were highly observant Orthodox Christians who strove to live a life of humility and service to God. They would on occasion visit holy sites nearby. On one occasion, when Agafia was only a little girl, her parents decided to take a pilgrimage to the Kiev Caves Lavra. Little Agafia begged her parents, with tears in her eyes, to be allowed to go with them. However, this was in a day and age when most pilgrimages were made on foot, and small children were at particular danger on the roads. Out of concern for her, Ioan and Eudochia decided to leave Agafia in the care of some family friends when they left for the Kiev Caves Lavra.

Agafia was not content with this. Aflame with the desire to visit the holy relics of the Russian saints in the Lavra, a few days after her parents left, she escaped her guardians’ care on her own and tried to catch up with her parents. However, as the little girl travelled by night and tried to make her way in the darkness, she fell into a deep abandoned well, mangling both of her legs. For three years, nothing was heard of her. Her guardians and parents were distraught when they learned of her disappearance, and they mourned for her, thinking she was dead. But little Agafia survived at the bottom of that well for those three years, miraculously sustained by the grace of God. Some testimonies assert that she was visited by the angels, and fed by manna from heaven during her imprisonment in the well.

She was eventually found by a local shepherd named Dimitriu Baciu. The grass was thick in the field around the well, and Dimitriu led his sheep there to graze. Once there, he began to sing Psalms to himself as he watched over his flock. As if in answer, he heard unearthly sweet angelic voices emanating from the well. Examining the well, he was shocked to find the young girl inside, alive, and having been there evidently for a long time. He managed to lift her out, and contacted her parents, who came to her. Her parents were astonished at this wonder of God, and when they asked the young sufferer how she survived those years, Agafia told them that a pair of pigeons had come to her, bringing her food and warming her to keep her alive. Being unable to walk, her parents placed Agafia in a cart and wheeled her back to their home.

Even though she was returned to her loved ones, who cared for her and looked after her with the greatest solicitude and affection, a change had come over Agafia. Formerly a curious and talkative child, Agafia had grown taciturn, and she spent several years in a state of silent prayer. The injury to her legs was severe, and she would never physically recover from it. In her childhood years, she suffered a great deal of pain and illness on account of this injury. Yet she did not become bitter because of it. Even though she was quiet, she continued to be kind and considerate to everyone, and she also was given by God the gift of healing others through her prayers. Word of this went out, and many came from the surrounding countryside to visit her, and she healed their afflictions and gave them helpful advice. Some years afterward, two monks from Athos visited Agafia at her parents’ house. They were astonished at the young woman’s patience and kindness even in her suffering, and after several discussions with her, they gave her a copy of the Holy Gospels printed on Athos, which was her constant companion for the rest of her life.

Agafia retired to Cușelăuca Monastery. As mentioned before, this was at the time the poorest monastery in Bessarabia, and consequently one of the poorest in all of Europe. Being completely bedridden, she still kept as much of the nuns’ rule as she was able in her infirmity, and did not vary it in the slightest using her disability as an excuse. She was given for her patience not only the gift of healing by God but also the gift of prophecy. She foresaw both the flourishing of her monastery, and later its persecution under the Soviets. In her final months she kept counsel with the abbess and with her monastic sisters, and urged everyone to carry their crosses in a spirit of peace and penitence. She had harsh rebukes for some of them, but she assured them of her love and prayed for them.

On the ninth of June – or rather the twenty-second of June on the new calendar – Blessed Agafia received the Gifts for the last time in this earthly life. Some witnesses report that after she took the elements, her face began to glow with an otherworldly light. She reposed in the Lord, at peace with her sisters and her family, that same day. Saint Agafia was formally glorified on the fifteenth of July, 2016, by the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, at the request of Metropolitan Vladimir and the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Moldova. Her feast day is kept on the same day as her repose. Holy Mother Agafia, patient sufferer and kindly healer, pray unto Christ our God for us sinners!

Cușelăuca Monastery, Moldova

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