7 Women and the secret of their greatness: Eric Metaxas [Part 3]

Saint Maria of Paris. Before reading Metaxas’ book I had never heard of this woman. Her life is intriguing. Maria was a Ukrainian Orthodox Christian, born in Latvia, but raised in Russia and Paris. She married, divorced, married again, had that marriage annulled, had 2 children and became a nun! As a nun she smoked, drank alcohol and did not follow the rituals required of her according to the Orthodox Church. She was not what I was expecting when I read her name in the contents page of this book!

Many in the Orthodox Church were unhappy with some of her actions, but as you read her story it is abundantly clear that she understood what it meant to serve God with her whole life. She once told a friend,

“at the last judgement....I shall not be asked whether I satisfactorily practiced asceticism, nor how many bows I have made before the divine altar. I will be asked whether I fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick, and the prisoner in his jail.”

Saint Maria lived in Paris during WWII, and ended up in a concentration camp herself. Whilst there she encouraged many by reading from the Gospels, holding prayer meetings and discussion groups. Her life was full of self sacrifice like the Lord she served. I really recommend reading her whole story. Like me, I hope you’ll find it an incredibly powerful testimony to the power of God working in the life of an ordinary woman with many flaws.

Metaxas also draws you into the life of another woman who famously helped many during WWII. Corrie ten Boom, like Saint Maria, helped many Jews find safety during the Nazi occupation of Holland. I’m sure many will be familiar with her story, especially those who have read her book The Hiding Place. The part of Corrie’s story that I found incredible was her journey towards forgiveness of the Nazis. It is clear that God has done an amazing work in her heart to bring her to the point of forgiveness despite the horrors she witnessed and endured. Corrie speaks of knowing that it was God who was able to supply her with the love she needed to forgive.

The final chapter of Metaxas’ book is devoted to Mother Teresa. It details her early life, how she became a nun and the work she did in the slums of Calcutta and speaking out against injustice. Metaxas also reveals the struggle Mother Teresa had in her faith and the “spiritual dryness” that she experienced at times.

One of the things I have really enjoyed about reading Metaxas’ book is the way he deals with the whole story of these women. In the book you don’t just hear the “highlight reel” of their lives, but the dark times, their flaws and mistakes. In their lives we see the way an extraordinary God has worked through his Spirit in the lives of ordinary women. The secret of their greatness lies not in themselves, but in the greatness of the one they humbly serve.


Writer | Stephanie Philpott Stephanie lives in South West Sydney with her husband who serves as an Assistant minister, and their 3 school aged children. She enjoys sleeping in, teaching the Bible to kids, and this year is living the dream of going to cafes kid-free!