Realism of the Orthodox Faith

Cover art for Realism of the Orthodox Faith

Lydia Gysi was born in Basle in May 1912. She came from Swiss lineage which included rich and poor, squires and peasants. Typically, she delighted in the fact that there was also a professional jester in her family history. She was baptised Lydia in a Swiss Methodist Chapel in June 1912.  Having been educated at the Gymnasium, Lydia then trained as a nurse. During her training she met Father Dimitri Klepinin (Saint Dmitri of Paris) in 1935, himself a student.  Lydia found a home in Paris in 1937 with Mother Maria Skobstova (Saint Maria of Paris) and became orthodox through Father Lev Gillet. It is understood that she worked in the resistance movement and also nursed in the camps of southern France. On returning to Switzerland in 1943 she studied Theology and Philosophy at the University of Basle. It was while she was researching her doctoral thesis on Ralph Cudworth that she came to England. Lydia waited patiently in a “temporary” situation at St Mary’s Abbey from 1951 until September 1958 to be professed by Father Anthony (later Metropolitan) with the name Maria. Mother Thekla (before being professed: Marina Scharf) eager to become a monastic was directed to Mother Maria by Father Anthony. Together they formed a small monastery at Filgrave and were joined by Mother Katherine who was previously Dame Mary Thomas, the novice mistress who was charged with the welfare of Mother Maria whilst at the Abbey in West Malling.

            Mother Maria was a sweet and gentle soul who always managed to take the sting out of any inflamed situation. I remember once taking a walk with Mother Thekla to discuss whether I could become Orthodox even-though I had certain “hang-ups” about leaving the Anglicans. Mother Thekla simply harrumphed and dragged me -painfully- by the ear back to Mother Maria’s room, pleading; “Please, Mother, do something with this idiot: he doesn’t know whether he is coming or going”.

                Calmly and resting on her bed overlooking the great vista of Whitby, Mother Maria spoke of her own decision making process and why it was so important to have faith as well as self-belief, and to move onwards – forever onwards.

            I am indebted to Mother Maria, Mother Thekla and Mother Katherine for their patience with an idiot. I am also incredibly grateful to Father Deacon Ian Thompson who has proof read yet another in the Library of Orthodox Thinking. I leave this preface with words of his “It is a very clever and stimulating thesis and adds a whole dimension to the study of icons. I find it very valuable…. like all good writing, it opens the door to yet another chamber which remains to be explored.”


From Fr Christopher