Monday, December 19, 2005

October 21, 2005: Parting Thoughts on Romania

I thought I'd try to round out my past messages with an overview of their contemporary spiritual situation as reflected in the book Blessed Paisius Velichkovsky: The Man Behind the Philokalia. Because as I read this, it summed up & helped explain what the people are dealing with now...While I'm traveling, I'm reading books about the holy places or people in the history of the country. For example for Romania I took the books on the lives of Paisius Velichkovsky, Elder Cleopa & the Romanian Patericon published by the St Herman's brotherhood. It has helped give me a feel for the spirituality of different periods & some background about the culture/history, etc. I especially have tried to read about certain people/places either right before or after visiting that spot. I'll try to include the other books in subsequent e-mails as background for those interested...for the Holy Land & surrounding areas I'm taking the Pilgrim's Guide to the Holy Land (published by Holy Nativity Convent of Boston) & The Desert a City by Chitty (about the history of the early desert ascetics in the region). So without much further ado, as quoted from the life of Paisius Velichkovsky based on witnesses who have lived under the former Romanian Communist yoke ( p.251-253):

"Hundreds & hundreds of ascetics, sometimes attaining the sanctity of the great desert saints of ancient times, were nurtured under the grace-filled influence of Paisius Velichkovsky. The Romanian land, Moldavia, was vouchsafed to preserve the remains of this great Elder who never returned to Russia. This territory from of old was a crossroads for various monks traveling from the East, & from Russia, thus being a source of spiritual enlightenment for the local people. Here many large foreign monasteries had their holdings, or metochia; for example, the Sinai Monastery had the 'Sinaia' next to the King's residence. There were many hesychasts. Hesychasm came from Mt Athos, Blessed Paisius being a leading disseminator of it, and it survived until our times, when, being tested by martyrdom it gave a magnificent harvest, so blinding in its spiritual beauty that the contemporary world, deep in the pollution of sin, is not only powerless to see & sense this unearthly beauty, but is already almost a participant in the rapid liquidation of this reflection of Christ. Here is what we have learned, almost as a secret.

In Romania just before our time, there were some 200 desert recluses in the mountains. They lived in caves & would die there in seclusion; only their bones would remain in the caves with signs: 'Here lived the sinful monk so & so,' and the like. To some of these monks people would bring food from monasteries and would leave it somewhere nearby for them to take. But there were some anchorites whom it was impossible to reach, & they existed by themselves without help from outside.

A certain monk was walking with a guide in these mountains. It was a fiercely cold winter. Suddenly this monk sensed an usual fragrance, as if from flowers blooming. He asked his guide: 'What kind of smell can this be in such frost?' And the guide answered as if it were something quite ordinary: 'This is from some relics. Anchorites used to live in the caves all around here.'

When the persecution of the Church began, many young people came to faith, mostly students, & especially many simple workers. All the prisons were filled with monks & nuns. Out of 6-7000 prisoners there were 2500 monastics. Of these some 500 survived--they dressed in lay clothing & hid themselves among the people.

One catholic priest, who was imprisoned together w/Orthodox monks can testify that as a certain Fr. Gerasim was dying in prison, that his face shown with the light of Mt. Tabor. Another protestant pastor relates the following story: Once they brought into the prison cell an Orthodox Elder-priestmonk, so holy & pure in heart that he was like a child; even the Communists couldn't understand why he'd been arrested. They shoved him in, saying as a sarcastic joke, 'He will confess you!' And everybody rushed to him for confession, not only Orthodox, but also heterodox & Jews, & even Communists themselves. The pastor said that he, moved by some unknown power, confessed to him everything, including shameful things which never in his whole life would he admit. But here everything by itself just poured out of him. And the worse were the things he said, the more did the face of the Elder shine with joy, because the soul of the sinner was being cleansed. He was released, & the whole day everybody, even the guards, were as if holy; but this wasn't for long. The next day everything became worse. The prisoners made a tacit agreement w/the guards: the guards would beat them as they pleased, both w/knives & bayonets, & they would not protest; but in exchange the guards would allow them to pray as much as they wanted to. Priests would serve the Divine Liturgy on the chests of the dying (new martyrs) in place of an antimension. Somehow they managed to obtain wine.

Once into the cell where an Archimandrite (high ranking priest) monk they placed a hardened criminal,who was to torture the monk every day in order to get some information from him--such was their system. But when it became apparent that it was impossible to get information from the monk under any condition, then the order came to torture the criminal to death...In the end both were dying, lying together. The torturer bitterly wept & repented. The Archimandrite was consoling & comforting him, saying: 'If I feel so sorry for you, then how much more should Christ have pity on you.' The monk-martyr confessed him & read the prayer of absolution over him. They both received Holy Communion & both died together."

I just found this entire account moving & profound...it seemed to capture the depth of faith & recent history of the people the best...

Holy martyrs of Romania, pray to God for us!
Justin

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just want to say what a great blog you got here!
I've been around for quite a lot of time, but finally decided to show my appreciation of your work!

Thumbs up, and keep it going!

Cheers
Christian, iwspo.net

Fri May 28, 03:56:00 PM CDT  

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