Schemanun Isidora, hermitess of the skete of Sihla-Neamt

The following fragment presents a sketchy profile of Schemanun Isidora, hermitess of the skete of Sihla-Neamt, one of the outstanding figures of the romanian Hesychasm. Translated from the Greek edition of the Romanian Patericon, compiled by the Protosinghel Ioanichie Balan, following the testimony of Archimandrite Cleopa and elder fathers of the Sihastria Monastery. The text appeared in the bimonthly periodical "The Orthodox word", bimonthly perodical of the Brotherhood of Saint Herman of Alaska.

This zealot of Christ was a native of the Neamt County and received the monastic tonsure in Varatec Monastery. In the year 1900 she departed for the sake of silence to the mountains of Sihla, to a place called `Coroi's Cliff'. There, underneath a high rock cliff, she built a small cell and a wooden chapel, and next to the cliff she hung a semantron and bell. Mother Isidora loved asceticism and monastic labors very much. All day long she read the Psalter, and at midnight she struck the semantron and bell and chanted Matins. For thirty-three continuous years Mother Isidora rang the bell in the mountains of Sihla, awakening the monks and hermits of the surrounding areas for prayer. The fathers would say to each other when they heard her bell: "Come to Matins, brothers; it is midnight. Listen, the bell of the ascetic Isidora is ringing!" The older fathers used to say that Eldress Isidora endured many temptations in the desert from the cunning devil, for he could not bear the bear the prayer and ascetic struggles she performed for the love of Christ. In the beginning he frightened her with nighttime apparitions, cries, and voices. Then he would knock at her door at the time of the prayer. later, seeing her spiritual strength, he would come near her cell and cry out with great wrath: "Foolish Isidora, why did you come here to our place? Go away from here, if you wish to escape us!". But Mother Isidora drove him away by the invocation of the name of Christ, and did not fear his cries. For the purity of her life, God adorned her with the grace of teaching and refreshing souls. Many hermits, monks, nuns and laymen ascended the mountain and sought counsel and instruction from the Eldress Isidora, for all considered her a true spiritual mother.

In this manner Shemanun Isidora lived for around forty years in hesychastic asceticism. Foreseeing her approaching death, she went to Varatec Monastery in the year 1937, and there she gave up her soul in the hands of the Lord.

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