There lived in Egypt in the fourth century a young Christian girl by the name of Taisia. Orphaned at an early age, she decided never to marry and to dedicate her life to serving the God she loved. With the money left after her parents' death, she fed beggars, cared for the sick, and gave lodging to pilgrims. In this way she gradually exhausted her wealth and fell into poverty.
Whatever his state, man faces a struggle with various temptations. Those who are rich and fortunate may become prideful and forget God and their neighbor, while poverty brings another kind of trial-- for example, the temptation to acquire money by dishonest means. Taisia succumbed to this kind of temptation. Frightened by poverty and want, she began to live in sin and turned her back on the Lord's commandments. The desert fathers of Sketis, near Alexandria, heard about this. They knew Taisia, because when she was still living a righteous life they used to visit her and she gave them a place to spend the night and took care of their needs. Deeply saddened on learning of her fall, they asked their superior, Abba John "the Dwarf," to go see her. "She was so kind to us," they said. "She took us in and fed us. And now we can help her, in our concern for her salvation. You, holy Father, are gifted with wisdom. Go to her and try to save her soul which is perishing. Meanwhile, we shall all pray that the Lord help you."
Abba John made his way to the city where Taisia lived. When he knocked at the door, her servant didn't want to let him in, but he insisted: "Tell your mistress that I have brought her something valuable.'' The maid-servant passed on the message. "While walking along the Seashore," said Taisia, "these monks Sometimes find pearls. Show him in."
The monk entered. He sat down near Taisia and, looking at her in silence, bowed his head and began to weep. Taisia was bewildered. "Why are you crying, holy father?" she asked.
"How can I not weep," answered Abba John, "when I see that you have forsaken the eternal God, scorned His bright bridal chamber and are pleasing the devil with your deeds?" Like a flaming arrow, these words pierced Taisia's heart. Suddenly she understood the sinfulness of her present life, and she asked the monk: "Will God accept the repentance of such a sinner as I?"
"He will!" replied the monk joyfully. 'The Lord is waiting for you to turn to Him once again. He will welcome you with love and lead you into His bridal chamber; and the angels will rejoice over you, for according to the words of the Saviour Himself, a single repentant sinner causes all the powers of heaven to rejoice."
"Holy father," begged Taisia, "take me away from here at once!"
Abba John arose, and Taisia followed him then and there. She didn't even say a word to her servants, thinking of one thing only--how to find the path to salvation. The elder was amazed at her sudden terror, and prayed to God that He support her in her good intent and help her return to Him.
They left the city and walked for a long time. In the evening they reached the desert. The elder advised Taisia to rest. She lay down on the sand while he, protecting her with the sign of the Cross, went a short distance away to Pray. After praying he, too, lay down to rest. The monk awoke about midnight.
He was struck by an unusual brilliance: from heaven a stream of light was directed to the very place where Taisia was lying, and the monk could see that along this stream angels were carrying a soul to heaven. Astonished, he went up to Taisia and, bending down, he saw that she had died. The elder fell to his knees and began to pray. Suddenly he heard a voice: "The Lord accepted her repentance. She did not spend a long time in repentance, but it was more fervent and deeply heartfelt than many who have been serving the Lord for a longer time."
Abba John buried the body of the righteous Taisia and, returning to Sketis, told the brethren what had happened. All glorified and gave thanks to God Who showed His mercy to a repentant sinner, calling her to Himself in the opportune moment of repentance.
(Translated from Izbranniye Zhitiya Sviatikh, compiled by A.N. Bakhmeteva; Moscow, 1872)