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The relics of the saints and their power with Father George Calciu

interviewer:
– The holy relics of the saints are venerated with great devotion by the Romanian faithful. Why is this father? Is it because of some inheritance, or is it perhaps that the people really feel their help?

Father George:
– I remember back, during the days of the communist regime, before my detention, that the holy relics were sought less by the faithful than they are today. The relics are incorrupt bodies of the saints; and there is a whole theory on the incorrupt bodies. Even after death, God will flow a special grace to those who had a higher spiritual life. However, I will not insist on this. What I want to emphasize is that, there is a close connection between the saint’s soul and his/her holy relics that we venerate, and it is proper to honor them. Undoubtedly this thirst for the veneration of the relics of the saints involves a close relationship between the believer who asks and the saint who intercedes for him. I am convinced that every believer realizes that the relics alone don’t bring healings, consolations, or relevance from temptations, but the saint through the grace given to him/her by God, can work wonders through those relics. If there are people who believe otherwise, that the relics do wonders by themselves, and not by God’ grace, it means that they fell into an error near idolatry.

In: – If the saint works through the grace granted to him/her by God, and not by this relics or his icon – sometimes called “wonders working icons” – wouldn’t just be better to pray directly to the saint without having to venerate the relics and the icons?

Fr. G: – There are people who also do that. The prayer is what matters first, but the contact with the holy relics and the icons is also useful. For man needs some steps to his ascent to the spiritual life. Man’s personal relationship with the saint is best established this way. Father Dumitru Staniloae wondered: “How is it that, a million people are praying to a saint, and the saint answers to all of them?” The explanation is that the saints receive from God the gift of listening to a million prayers at the same time, of distinguishing between the prayers and offer help to all. The presence of the relics is for most of us, that certainty that the miracle is possible.

When one sees the incorrupt body of a saint, it means that the saint can come to your help. I’ve noticed that, whether you’re a believer or an atheist, the need for the miracle is as great. For instance in the West, the witches and fortune tellers are in great demand. It is a delusion for us humans, invented by the devil, to satisfy our thirst for the miracle. Perhaps, even here in Romania, there are people who seek the relics, but also the fortune tellers. And this is a forbidden mixture.

In: – Father, but if the people are so attached to the relics of the saints, why most of them rash to bow before the relics only on feast days? Is the grace of the saint grater on that day?

Fr. G: – No, but we relate to certain dates, anniversaries and commemorations. So people think that the power of the saint increases on those occasions. And I believe they’re right, for people’ faith and hope is greater on those days so the saint responds accordingly. When I was a professor at the Theological Seminary, the students took turns guarding the holy relics in our church, to keep orderly those who came to venerate them. One day, a boy who was on duty, which I considered very sincere and humble, and with great faith, came to me and said: “Father, now I believe.” He witnessed a miracle: a paralyzed woman was cured by St. Demetrius the New.

So the miracle is done not only for the one who has been healed, but also for those who are present. Then, the prayers done in communion with each other, during the feast, is more appealing to God than the prayer done alone, as the feasts create a certain spiritual emulation, which the soul is deeply involved in. And surely we’ll receive according to our faith. So people come together and encourage each other in the spirit, for their faith, and for the veneration of the holy relics without being much aware of it. It is very important that people will not make from this a mean of idolatry. They ought not to forget that beyond the holy relics, is the spirit of the saint and especially God who gives His power to the saint and who makes the wonder happens. It is known that a faith that is based solely on miracles, is a weak faith. But many times through the miracle, conversions happen, some of which being very dramatic.

In: – How do we know that we sand before a holy relic?

Fr. G – The holy relics are consecrated by the Church, and this is the proof. The healings or the conversions to the faith are the result of the fact that the relics are enshrined by the Church.

In: – How about if we have the incorrupt remains that are fragrant and even miracle-working from a man who has not been glorified by the Church? … for instance the incorrupt body of Father Elijah (Ilie) Lacatusu from Giulesti that has all the signs of the holy relics, yet Father is not glorified by the Church? Are they holy relics or not?

Fr. G: – There are holy relics if they fulfilled all the canons of the Church and they work wonders. So the finding of the Church is important and this comes with prudence, after checking all the signs. It is not wrong that it happens this way.

In: – Elder Justin Parvu, the Abbot of Petru-Voda Monastery – Neamt [now with the Lord], warned that our country is full of holy relics unrecognized by the Church. And for this, says the holy elder, the wrath of God is upon us. Father Abbot Justin emphasized that, in the mass graves where the bodies of the political prisoners martyred for their faith in Christ, were deposited, such as the Ravine Servants (Rapa Robilor) from Aiud, there exist holy relics. Moreover, the elder collected some of their earthly remains and deposited them into a reliquary inside the monastery church. How are we to relate to these bodily remains of those faithful martyred for their faith in Christ?

Fr. G: – In the Romanian Orthodox Church, the hierarchs have no courage to declare that the remains of the former political prisoners martyred in the communists prisons for Christ, are holy relics. Moreover, in the Patriarchate, there are several files pending decision for glorification (canonization), such as that of Father Elijah (ilie) Lacatusu, which I strongly believe that he is a saint, or that of Valeriu Gafencu’s. And the synod did not give an answer. The majority of the former political prisoners were legionaries, and the hierarchies fear that an action towards a possible glorification can be taken as being political. We need to relate to all these wisely and attentively. If God wills, through His saints, whether unknown or unrecognized officially by the church, He can offer us help.

In: – I noticed that in Bucharest, there are many churches that bear pieces of relics of the same saint. How is it that several churches can get holy relics of one saint?

Fr. G: – In general, those who are in custody of the saint’ body, when a church requests a piece, they can offer. And it happens that the priests, when they learn that a certain church has acquired the relics of a particular saint, will try to get a piece. Some relics were purchased and deposited in certain churches. But if the whole body remains incorrupt, generally is been stored as such. The body of St. Nektarios was maintained whole and incorrupt for 20 years, after which the flesh was gone and only the skeleton remained. Those who were in the care of the saint’ body, shared parts of his relics. His bodily corruption sparked some deceptions; there were people who thought that God has lifted his holiness. The priests however, have agreed that God has appointed this way, that pieces form Saint Nektarios’ body may be shared with the world, and by divine grace, to perform miracles.

In: – Isn’t there a danger, to “trade” with the holy relics?

Fr. G: – Well, even the saints are at risk of our trifles… (Father George smiles). I personally believe that, maybe the saint prayed to the Lord to be “bought” in small pieces by certain places (churches) where people need him the most.

In: – Someone foreign to the Orthodox faith could consider the sharing of dead bodies, a barbaric ritual, even if they belong to the saints …

Fr. G: – If the body remains in one place, we limit the possibility for a large number of people to experience wonders, help and comfort. Not everyone can travel to pray at the shrine with the holy relics of a certain saint, that can come to their help.

In: – In many churches in Bucharest, the pieces of garments worn by a saint are being venerated almost as much as the holy relics,…

Fr. G: – It is not proper so. I do not mean that those garments are not impregnated with the divine power, but they are not like the relics. I do not think they can heal. At most, they can help a person have a better connection to the saint they belong and with God.

In – A church building, not a community of believers, can it be consider better, stronger, or more helpful to the faithful, if it bares in it sacred relics?

Fr. G: – The saint works in this matter: people themselves are stimulated to come to the church and to believe. But all [Orthodox] Churches are full of grace, and God is everywhere, not just where the relics are present. Not all the saints become relics. God works through various gifts that He grants to certain people. The relics are only one way of divine manifestation.

In: – Your reverence, do your remember great miracles that impressed masses of people in Romania?

Fr. G – There were many wonders, as the one with my student which I mentioned to you, but they are not being advertised and it is better that way. Thus, we’ll avoid a sort of pride from the churches that bear the holy relics, where miracles happen. If there is too much publicity, and too much fidgeting, it’s not good.

In: – Father, did you experience any miracle?

Fr. G: – Yes once back in 1972 or 1973, I went with my seminary students to St. George Church, where is the hand of St. Nicholas [of Myra]. After all of us passed and bowed before the reliquary, the hand of the saint began to spread a whiff of nice fragrance. Until then, the hand did not smell, and I considered it like a sign from the saint. Maybe it predicted what would happen to me later [father is referring to his second arrest] or maybe it was the saint’ joy that those students were proper to become good priests.

In: – At the end of this interview, for which I thank you father, lets summarize: what does an Orthodox faithful need to know about honoring the holy relics and the veneration of the icons?

Fr. G: – That they are all steps, and only steps in our ascent to God. The Orthodox Christians must not limit themselves to the prayer before the relics or even to the saint invoked in their prayer. The Christian ought to be aware that is God Himself Who works through the saints and responds to our prayers before the icons or the relics. Otherwise we’ll fall closely into idolatry. The danger is very great, especially for the people who are pious, but yet do not have a basic theological understanding of God.

  It is almost hallucinatory how Father George exhumation was broadcasted over the local media, TV stations and blogs in Romania. As the events unfolded, upon opening father’ tomb by several monastics during his seven years memorial, we can only say how right was Father George in the statements that he made in his last will, and how the devil can use the spirit of piety manifested upon finding soneone’s incorrupt body, to deceive many.

Father George Calciu

  It’s even more troubling to see, after father passing in the Lord, how the devil continues to fight even with his remaining, trying to stain the memory of a man who sanctified his whole life through many hardships. One can wonder, how is this man pleasing to Christ’s rest now?… when his body became the target of attacks that are foreign to the spirit of Orthodoxy.

   And if we understood that someone’ martyrdom happens usually during his life time, in this case Satan is showing a new face, battling in our times even the bodies of those pleasing to God who have stepped into eternity.

Just as Father George once said:

  “Between our bodies and our souls, there exist a relationship that it’s never lost. Even if the body returns to earth, this connection between the body and the soul is not disbanded, as something that will be fulfilled at the last judgment. “

 And despite the hate that the devil manifests towards those pleasing to Christ, I believe that Father George who was tested in the fire of communist prisons, will come out victorious once again from this battle, after his falling asleep.

  And if the Lord allowed this to happen, may it be towards a greater glory to him. May it be that the machinations that took place at the uncovering of Father George relics, will strengthen our prayers and bring us even more in the communion with Father, and with all the saints pleasing to God, part of His Triumphant Church.

  Father George passed on November 21, 2006. According to his last wish, he was buried in the land that he loved and never forgot, at Petru Voda Monastery, Romania. In his last will father said:

“First, you must know that the Father Abbot of Petru Voda Monastery, Archimandrite Justin Pārvu, offered my wife and I, two near by graves in the monastery cemetery, because as I had lived my life near my wife Adriana, I want to be joined with her after death, as the one who helped me in many difficult circumstances, with a courage that I never suspected at her before. In front of our toms, please place a single stoned cross, barring our names, our date of birth and repose and, a call to those who will visit our tombs to pray for us.

  According to the U.S. custom, my body will be deposited in a funeral home that will fulfill the procedures for a reposed body to be transported in Romania.

  After the washing of my body by the funeral home, ask an Orthodox priest to wash my flesh with wine and oil, saying the customary prayers of the Church over by body. Then dress me with priestly garments and place on my chest the icon of the Virgin Mary, carved in bone and framed in wood, which was given to me at the hospital in Bucharest by his Beatitude Patriarch Teoctist of Romania, which gave the blessing to do so. In my right hand place the Holy Cross and the prayer rope offered to me by the nuns of Diaconesti Monastery; these I will take with me to the grave ‘

(Father George Calciu’ will, November 12, 2006, Military Hospital in Bucharest).

  As if he oversaw what will happen over the years, Fr. George left a very clear and uncontested will:

  “I know that my funeral will be surrounded by a certain solemnity, which I do not merit upon death, neither that I deserved it during my life time. People will talk and create legends, but God will distinguish the truth from the legend and will reveal me as been a sinner and an unworthy (…)

 I spoke above about that spirit of piety manifested among faithful that can go wrong, and can create false miracles. Therefore, please dear Reverend Father Abbot Justin, find a way to prevent such things: whether you leave a document at the monastery or place it in my coffin. The devil might use this popular piety to prevent my body corruption and then to become the works of error.

  If over the years, due to construction needs or for other reasons, my body will be uncovered, and to the astonishment of many, will be found incorrupt, have the priests read prayers over it, for my body to be decomposed into the earthly elements, as not from God was this miracle, but through the deception of the devil.

Let the priests who saw this, be silent, and not speak about this false miracle, and my body be placed in another tomb to be eternally forgotten.”

(Father George Calciu, October 28, 2006, Military Hospital, Bucharest, published in he book “The Life of Father George Calciu, Christiana Press, 2007)

  One of the theologian and father’ spiritual child (Lucian Popescu) present at father 7 years memorial at Petru-Voda, wrote:

  “I recently learned that the body of Father George was uncovered, that it has the appearance of the relics of the saints, that it is fragrant and it was placed in the Elder Justin Pārvu’ cell!

  However, Elder Justin Pārvu, who passed away seven months before Father George’ seven years memorial, instructed that the body of Father George may be unearthed at 7 years. I was aware of this fact, but I’m not in the position to give or find a justification for the decision of Archimandrite Justin. There are spiritual perspectives that are impossible to probe with logic, due to lack of an appropriate forum to judge such.

  At this point, I do not know the details of opening Father George’ tomb and I think they are less important. It is something done, which cannot be undone.

 The important point is that the testamentary letter that Father George left (see above) can be taken as the equivalent of any righteous  attitude before his death, who says with conviction that he is the greatest sinner that ever lived.

  And it is also essential that no treasure, if proven to be true, may be misused, wasted, or worse, turned into a scandal.

 For father George was right when he said that the spirit of popular piety can wander in error and this kind of mistake is still an error…

  A lot has been said when Father Calcium fell asleep, but even more now, after the discovering his relics, due to the fact that Father, wrote in his will addressed to Abbot Justin of Petru Voda Monastery, the following:

  “If over the years, due to construction needs or for other reasons, my body will be uncovered, and to the astonishment of many, will be found incorrupt, have the priests read prayers over it, for my body to be decomposed into the earthy elements, as not from God was this miracle, but through the deception of the devil.

Let the priests who saw this, be silent, and not speak about this false miracle, and my body placed in another tomb to be eternally forgotten.”

  As we will see below, in an interview given by Father George in 2006 and in other sources, Fr. George knowing people thirst for the miraculous, whether being believers or atheists, feared that such event will be speculated by the devil who wants to lead many astray, separating them from God. Father didn’t want that after falling asleep, to become a source of stumbling error for any of his younger brother, and his body, if found incorrupt, to become a means of idolatry for those weak in faith.

  For such reasons, father specified in his will that if his body will be found as such, “to be reburied and forgotten”, and priests be bound “not to ever talk on this.”

 Also kindly Father George gave a similar word in his will, if at his funeral or memorial “will come a bishop who would like to talk, let him talk” but “if no bishop will come, no one may give a sermon”. We can understand from this that if during his relics discovery, any priest saw them, they were bound to silence, however “the local bishop or any hierarch” are not under this infringement regarding desire expressed by Father’ will.

 It is especially the duty of the local bishop to take a wise decision regarding Father exhumation and the finding of his incorrupt body, as this raises questions in relation to father last’ will, more so because the way it was taken out of the grave. Besides the local bishop, it also the duty of the Synod of the Orthodox Church to speak on the finding of any relics, such as Father’s Elijah Lacatusu and more recently of Father George Calciu. (…)

  Personally, I believe that Father George Calciu’ wish for his body to be “placed in another tomb to be eternally forgotten”, provides a deep sense of brotherhood with those who also suffered in communist prisons, yet a lot of them having been thrown by the communists into mass unknown graves.

  Thinking of them, father didn’t want to be honored by people, while the bodies of his brothers in suffering are still hidden in the womb of the earth. It is a great mystery of God, and this does not diminish at all the holiness of those worthy, although some of them are (yet) unknown to us or without any trace of their earthly remains, while others also God-holy pleasers, have holy relics that can be touched and venerated by the faithful.

 The veneration of the holy icons and the veneration of the relics of the saints must have reference to God, as One Who made them worthy of His grace, and Who comes to our help by His great mercy. Consequently, overlooking or hiding under the veil of forgetfulness, and not honor what was left to us as a bridge to Him, will impoverish our communion with God through the personal connection with His saints.

  However we must never lose sight of the wiles of the devil who will use the holy objects to mislead those weak in faith, those whose faith is synonymous to superstition, those who find opportunities to confuse holiness with magic, or those who exult themselves though the grace of the saints. All these and many other falls wonderings the enemy of mankind works, from which one can escape only thorough the power of blessed humility.

  May we ask in all things, that the will of God be done first and completely, as we pray that in Father’ case things may happen according to His will. “

 Father George’ body that has been taken out of the tomb few weeks ago was re-buried Tuesday, December 9, in another tomb in the Petru-Voda monastery’ cemetery, following the decision of the local Metropolitan of Moldovia and according to Father George’ will.

May his memory be eternal!

Excerpt from the sermon given by Father George Calciu, December 4, 2005 at Holy Cross Orthodox Church, Falls Church, VA

[…] You have heard of weeping icons, of icons that spring mirth or icons that heal. You have heard of saints who have passed and were found incorrupt. You have heard of saints whose bodies although dead, instead of spreading bad odor, spring nice fragrance. You have heard of relics that spring mirth. All these are things that are against nature, but God, in His power make all these happen. How does God work, for a saint’ body not to become corrupt? How does God work for example, for the holy relics to spring forth mirth? How does the saint work the miracle?

  The Holy Orthodox Church says that, between our bodies and our souls, it exists a relationship that it’s never lost. Even if the body becomes corrupted, this connection between the body and the soul is not disbanded, as something that will be fulfilled at the last judgment.

  At the last judgment we all shall rise again. All the billions of people that ever lived on earth and have died will be resurrected and will have a thinned body, a spiritual body, not a body that is heavy, requiring food and drink, or other things… It will a body that will not suffer if it has done good, or it will otherwise be condemned to hell.

(to be continued)

Father George CALCIU and a Life Sacrificed for Christ

 

“The only chance of survival for Eastern Christianity

                                                                                        is that of a warfare through the Word.

       Our solution is of Calciu-Dumitreasa… “

N. Steinhardt 

  The future priest George Calciu-Dumitreasa was born in 1925 in Mahmudia, Tulcea, Romania, having been the eleventh child and the youngest of the faithfull parents Dumitru Calciu and Ileana Calciu (former Balan). In his memoirs (and especially in the book „The life of Father George Calciu – after his testimony and those who knew him”, edited by Diaconesti Monastery, Christiana Press, Bucharest, 2007), father George with his humorous style, noted that he learned more practical theology from his peasant mother than from all the treaties and theological schools he attended.

  The young George followed the gimnasium in his native village and, then as a high school student in Tulcea, he came in contact with the Legionary Movement and joined, like most young people of his generation, the Fellowships of the Cross (a youth organization of the „legion of the Archangel Michael” intended for high school and junior college students where political views were only secondary, its primary focus was for an education of its memmers in intellectual, national morals, Christian values and brotherhood).

  Eager to help the poor peasants among whom he grew up, the young George opts after the baccalaureate for the School of Medicine in Bucharest. When he was arrested in May 1948 he was a medical student in the second year.

  Like many young people of his time zealous in faith and with national pathos, members of the Brotherhood of the Cross or perhaps only supporters of the Legionnaire’ cause, the young student George experinced the hell of Piteşti prison. At Piteşti, between the years of 1949 and 1951, under the worst physical and psychological tortures, overcomed by weakness and confusion („they called me the fallen angel with blue eyes” father used to say), he is „recruited” for a short time in the team of the torturers led by the sinister „instructor” Eugen Ţurcanu. Ţurcanu, a diabolical character, was once part of the legionnaire movemet but then recruted by the communist party as a key collaborator in the “Piteşti’ experiment” and lastly eliminated with no scruples by the regime.

  However, the young student George Calciu will have a spectacular moral comeback refusing to take part in the Securitate [comunist’ secret service] wicked plan and overturning the trial intended for Ţurcanu and his colaborors; trial by which the comunists were not seeking justice but just to defend their party, through the old method of „finding the scapegoats”.

  The young George Calciu finds the courage to point at the real culprits at large: the Secret Service Department of the Communist party founded by Kremlin which planed this odious process of “re-education” by using Ţurcanu and others like him as instruments in trying to promote the falls idea that everything was done by the exiled Legionaries and not by the regime.

  With Piteşti, the redeeming odyssey of Paulinic dimentions of young George began, followed until 1963 by inprisomnent in Gherla, Jilava and Aiud and until 1964 by a house arrest in Bărăgan; a George no longer accepting any compromise and determined after his release to sacrifice the rest of his life for Christ and His Church. As I once commented: “This man’s life after the tragic experiment of Piteşti has become one of repentance, confession of faith and sacrifice. [...] Perhaps no one after experiencing Piteşti was able to reach such moral comeback, an unrefuted victory over the evil. Because there is the case: George Calciu, it can be said that the Piteşti experiment has failed. Piteşti has physically crushed people, but it could not ultimalety destroy the Man. The greatly tempted George Calciu was not only tring to save himself but he eventually saved the human dignity in the face of what phylosopher Mircea Eliade called the terror of history.” 

  Having being released in 1964, George finds the strength to rebuild his life and fulfill that exemplary promise; he marries Adriana Dumitreasa (herself with two brothers that had passed through the communist prisons) who gives birth to their only son, Andrew (currently an attorney in Washington DC and father of a son). He is “tolerated” by the Securitate to enrole in the college of Philology and then – with the support of the brave and skilful Patriarch Justinian – in the school of Theology. He teaches French literature for a short period of time, then he is ordained priest and named professor of the New Testament at the Theological Seminary in Bucharest.

   After the great earthquake from 1977 (prompted by the demolishion of Enei Church in Bucharest and the communists villain campaign directed by Ceausescu against the holy churches), Father George resumes his open battle with the communist regime and during the Great Lent of year 1978, he starts preaching in Radu Voda Church (then on its front steps when the church officials of the time had tried to stop him by locking the doors of the church) his famous homilies “Seven Words to the Youth,” – a series of sermons calling the youth and especially the future priests, to resistance in the name of Christ and harshly criticizing the atheistic materialism and the insanity of the Ceausescu’ regime.

  His sermons had a local and international resonance, especially through the radio station “The Free Europe” but also circulated in typewritten copies, “under hand”, marking destinyes and consciousness.

  After many threats, slanders and prosecution (everted also at his family and at his loyal students, so-called “calcişti”) with the intent to stop him, Father George is arrested again (on May 10, 1979), alleged with absurd charges and sentenced to 10 years of inprisonment (later changed to seven and one-half years) of which he executed five years. Father George was released on April 20, 1984 following the international pressures (from the West) directed at the communist regime of Romania.

  So Father George Calciu executed a total of 21 years of inprisonment under the communists: 16 years under Gheorghiu-Dej regime (from 1948 to 1964, including one year of house arrest) and 5 years under Ceauşescu regime (from 1979 to1984)!

  In 1985, he was practically forced to leave his country along with his family – once again greatly tested. After a brief stop in Western Europe, father moved to the United States – where he was granted “the honorary citizenship”, however with no pecuniary advantage. So practicly father had to start his life over again, working initially as a construction worker – although he’d already reached the age of 60 – to be able to survive and support his family.

  Thus, to the 21 years of inprisonment, 21 more years of exile were added.

  In America, Father George Calciu continued to endeavored, as much as the Lord strengthen him, to fight the good fight in the name of Christ and his nation. Besides his parish ministry (in Alexandria, VA), he advocated before many international fora in defending many oppressed Romanians; father had also met – among others – with presidents François Mitterrand, Ronald Reagan, as well as King Michael the Ist of Romania; he was a central presence at all important meetings of the diaspora; he published the book “Christ Is Calling You. A Course in Catacomb Pastorship” (St. Herman of Alaska Press, Platina, California, 1997) and much more…

  Starting with 1990 after the fall of Communism, father will return every autumn, to visit the home land he had loved and unwillingly abandoned, bringing the same message of unity and forgiveness. In a travel journal from 2003, he noted with tenderness and bitter introspection: “Every year, the spirit of love for my country and its people, its monasteries and their dwellers, for my dear friends and relatives, draws me back to the steps of my childhood and youth and to the joys and sufferings I’ve experinced there – the most precious treasure of those 6 decades of my living in Romania, until the time of my estrangment [exile] 18 years ago. It is like a endless abiss that split my life in two in 1985, deeper and wider than the inprisonment. Maybe because even in prison, my life was following its course on the country soil, and perhaps it is why I always live contemplating my next visit back, passing over an ocean of waters and memories… “

  On November 23, 2006, Father George would had turned 81 years. But he passed on November 21 (at 13.10, or 20.10 Romanian time) after 3 days of coma at the Fairfax Hospital, VA brought – at the request of his family – from the Central Military Hospital in Bucharest, where he had spent a prior month and was visited for the last time by many who loved him; by Patriarch Teoctist of Romania and by Metropolitan Bartolomeu Anania – his spiritual instructor who confessed and communed him for the last time.

  Departed in the Lord two days before turning 81 years, father was brought back to Romania on the Feast of the Apostole Andrew and laid in the Monastery Church of Radu Voda, where once father delivered the “Seven Words to the Youth.” The official ceremony [memorial service] took place on December 2, and was led by His Beatitude Patriarch Teoctist of Romania in the presence of his Eminence Archbishop Iosif Pop, Bishop Varsanufie Prahoveanul and Bishop Irenaeus Duvlea from America, representing his Eminence Archbishop Nathaniel of OCA. The Patriarch delivered a memorable speech evoking in addition to the theological and spiritual virtues of the newly reposed, father long struggle against the atheist and materialist regime of Romania as well as father “martyrdom in the communist prisons.”

  At noon we departed for Petru Voda, father burial place that he had chosen in his will. Thousands of faithful from all over the country and abroad, gatered at Petru-Voda Monastery for the memorial service led by Archimandrite Justin Pārvu (aboot of the monastery and a former political prisoner under communists) in the presence of 34 priests. Father George was layed to rest – and it’s now seven years! – at the foot of “Romania Holy Mountains”, in the heart of Petru Voda, having as “companions in suffering” Abbot Justin Pārvu and poet Radu Gyr. And with no doubt, powerfull is their threefold prayer before God for those who will receive according to their love.

(Răzvan CODRESCU, Christian Journalist)

Father George 7 years memorial service:

On the “rights” of the demoniacs

(by Father Constantine S).

Lets go back a couple thousand years ago, somewhere in the land of Gadhara, where our Saviour was greeted by two demoniacs, who lived in the graves (Matt. 8: 28-34) The two possessed men were acting so fiercely that nothing could keep them still, even the most powerful chains, and no one dared to pass by them because of fear. The demons were cast out by Christ Who allowed them to enter a herd of pigs, that once possessed by the unclean spirits run into the nearby sea shore, perishing. The consequence was that the inhabitants of those lands asked Jesus firmly to leave their land.

  Surely, a lot can be said on the inhabitants of Gadhara that asked Christ to leave their land for “the damage” He had caused to them. Placing it into the current context, we can also think how the people of that land, by their gesture, have fought for the “demoniacs rights”. If these two possessed men chose to serve the powers of darkness (as no one will get possessed unless he does the devil’ will), why not leave them as such and respect their choice? In other words, why they should be discriminated against just because they are different from other people? You can be a man living in the community, having a normal family, but you can also be demonized, living in isolation… So why should we bother these people? Especially when intervening in their healing, you risk to have a consistent loss. That’s how the inhabitants of Gadara were probably thinking, concerned not to disturb the community of demoniacs, quite large in those days.

  The Gergesens of our days however, have progressed as they work preventively. They no longer wait for God’s intervention so they may ask Him to leave their lives, but watch for Christ not be present at all in society, so that He may not heal anyone from certain passions. And for this, they need laws to restrict the access of God in schools and public places, leaving (at least for now) the chance that He may be present in private places.

 The contemporary Gergesens, fearing discrimination damages, rush to offer to all the “sexually diverse” [possessed] the “right” to live forever in their tombs of loneliness, in suffering and un-fulfillment as a man and woman in the family. Under the pretext of respecting “human rights”, it is hidden in fact the inability of contemporary man to truly love. We don’t love others when we leave then in a state of been continuously traumatized, we do not help by “respecting their right” to suffer alone or even as a gay couple with pretends to be “married”. We love man when we intervene to free him from the pain that makes him to wrongly choose. A wrong choice to his initial longing for God and paradise, that is impossible to be voided by laws and directives.

We have become accustomed to evil

(by Fr. George Calciu)

Today we’ve got used to all evil. So much we’ve became accustomed to this state that no one is disturbed by a new heresy that arises. We’re no longer troubled by homosexuality, or by a “Da Vinci Code”. We are accustomed to evil. It is the darkest side of us all. We are accustomed to evil in such a way that we no longer notice it. This is our moral state in today’ world. Every heresy that occurs primarily earns its presence in the city, by the dirty laws of society and all modern societies have such laws. They’re all in the service of the Antichrist to destroy all morals, to isolate the person, to create division, to make him a slave, a mare cog of the Government’s agenda. No matter whether you live in the “greatest” democracy!  All these have made us to slowly get used to evil. Today no one cries out on what happens near us, or when Jesus is mocked, or that our faith is been transformed into a game. Christians are considered retarded because they believe in Jesus Christ. We are been told that there is no other faith but only what is palpable: and “the right” to enjoy life, without restraint!

The Hand of God

My beloved, you ought to never despair, because in the worst circumstances of your life, the Lord will stretch out His hand to deliver you. I could speak to you of hundreds of instances in my life when everything seemed lost on the horizon, when I saw no hope for me, yet at that very moment God opened a door…. Countless times in my life, especially when I was imprisoned [in the gulag-tr. note], God delivered me form sin and from this world.

I remember when I was appointed professor at the theological seminary. It was during the summer time and in the fall, the Patriarch Justinian came to me at the seminary and said:

“Prepare yourself for the priesthood!”

I did not have enough theological training at the time, as I completed only the college training, not yet the Seminary, so I had some knowledge but I wasn’t too confident! When I reflected on how Saint John Chrysostom fled when he was to be ordained a priest, and on St. Gregory [the Theologian], who also wrote of his experience, I too feared! If these saints fled from the priesthood as been a great responsibility, who was I not too? Then the patriarch came to me the second time that fall and said:

“Thursday you’ll be made deacon!”

As that following Thursday was dedicated to the seminary; and I was troubled again, especially when he added:

 “And on Sunday, you’ll be ordained priest.”

 And it was so. I tried to pray…. but he said: “You’re ready.”

And I was ordained a priest.

Many [terrible] things have happened in life, which can trouble many people. But God freed me from all as if my guardian angel would have pulled me by the neck and deliver me from everything; from great spiritual temptations while imprisoned, threats, etc. They all passed over me like a cloud, which God drove away. And even though I was in prison with no hope to be freed, God delivered me from this also.

When I go to visit my village and meet with my fellow primary-school mates, there are only two or three left [alive], and they have not lived the gulag experience, and from my fellow high school colleagues, there are only ten left.

All these things that God works with us, we ought to see. We must see the hand of the Lord over us in all circumstances. Let’s not be carried away by temptations that we’re strong, or wealthy, or smart, or that we can accomplish much…

My brother, let’s not give into any temptation, but we ought to always say: “God willing it will do this and that” … And it [His] will be done. Do not imagine that chance, luck or fate governs your life, as our life is in the hands of God. Let us remember what our Savior said:

“Not even one hair from your head will perish without My knowledge.”

(Excerpt from: Father George Calciu’ Living Words: “To serve Christ means suffering”, translations by EC).

Father George Calciu – On the parable of the talents

Fr. Calciu

“He gave to every man according to his strength”, says the Gospel.

To some, He gave five talents. I assume this is the sum of qualities that God granted to some of us according to our human strengths.

He gave to some two talents, and to others He gave one talent. So everyone received something. There’s not one man in this world, who has not received something from God. No matter how much we like to complain or think that we have no grace or gift from God, yet we were granted something. And a talent doesn’t mean only one gift, for a talent was a coin of great value. Certainly, some have received a little more, and others less. But everyone has received enough for himself.

What does mean to multiply the talents?

In this parable we are told, “to invest them as to acquire interest”. This means to use your gifts for the purposes that God had entrusted you. Every one of us live in a society, is part of a community or a church. All of us strive to do something for the church, for the community and for our fellow man. How we labor with the gifts that God has entrusted us, can gain us double.

Yet, there are some who say: “God gave me a gift, what am I to do with it? I’ll keep it and return it to Him at the last judgment, for what belongs to Him is His. “

These are the people who live in neutrality. In our Christian understanding, the evil in itself did not exist, only the good. When the good is absent, evil is born taking the place of good. So no one can say: “I do not care whether I do good as long as I do not harm anyone. I do not care for my neighbor’ warfare for I do not ask him for help.”

To not do good means to partake of evil, for where goodness is missing, evil takes the lead.

If you do not care that your neighbor is ill, you’re doing the will of Satan. When you do not care that your neighbor lives in poverty and perhaps a little help from you can get him out of his misery, you have committed evil. In the battle between good and evil, salvation or perdition, there is no neutral zone, for we’re all created by God and He is asking us to be His laborers.

Christianity is the religion of active works. Jesus Christ was active. He came into the world wanting to save us all. He did everything that was need: He cared for the spirit but also for the flesh. He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, raised the dead, raised from the bed of suffering the sinner and the paralyzed. He conversed with the sinful women and with the publican. He called all to salvation. This means there is not one man in this world whom He gave no talent or who is not called to salvation. If one will not be saved, is because he did not want to be saved.

Everyone is called to serve the church, to serve God. Each one of you received one talent and God is asking you to use it. Multiply it by good deeds for your spiritual growth and for your salvation. Win the love of Him Who came into the world and was crucified for us.

So I ask all of you to contribute to the work of the Church by your good deeds, by your words and by your prayers. Preach the word of God outside the Church, oppose the sects that seek to dismantle the true Church of Christ, have love for one other, and live in unity.

Lets put off the quarrels! Lets put off the hatred! Lets renounce criticism!

Each one of us can be honored but also can be subject to condemnation. Lets seek neither praise nor criticism, but (seek) to serve Christ in a complete unity, as St. Paul says, “The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. The Head of the Church is Christ and we are its members. If one member suffers, the entire body will suffer. If one member rejoices, the whole Church will rejoice”.

This is your talent. These are the five talents we received from our Saviour and we need to multiply them. The Church belongs to you all, it is not solely the priest’ work, and I ask you to sacrifice for the Church, to bear fruit, to use the talent that God has giving you that the church may grow and become to the world that Holy Church where God dwells, and where all can be saved. Amen!

St John Chrysostom: A Homily for the New Year (On the Kalends of January)

[Translated by Seumas Macdonald], an excerpt…

[…]  The whole year will be fortunate for you, not if you are drunk on the new-moon [New Year’ Day], but if both on the new-moon [January 1st], and each day, you do those things approved by God. For days come wicked and good, not from their own nature; for a day differs nothing from another day, but from our zeal and sluggishness. If you perform righteousness, then the day becomes good to you; if you perform sin, then it will be evil and full of retribution. If you contemplate these things, and are so disposed, you will consider the whole year favorable, performing prayers and charity every day; but if you are careless of virtue for yourself, and you entrust the contentment of your soul to beginnings of months and numbers of days, you will be desolate of everything good unto yourself. […]

  Strong drink does not produce delight, but spiritual prayer; not wine, but a learned word. Wine effects a storm, but the Word [of God] effects calm; the former transports in an uproar, the latter expels disturbance; the former darkens the understanding, the latter lightens the darkened; the former imports despondencies that are non-existent, the latter drives away those there were [1]. For nothing is so accustomed to produce contentment and delight, as the teachings of [our] philosophy [wisdom]: [which is] to despise present affairs, to yearn for the things to come, to consider nothing of human affairs to be secure, and if you behold some rich man not to be bitten with envy, and if you fall into poverty not to be downcast by that poverty. Thus you are always able to celebrate festivals.

  For the Christian ought to hold feasts not for months, nor new moons, nor Lord’s days, but continually through life to conduct a feast befitting him. What is the feast that befits him? Let us listen to Paul speaking, “Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not in the old leaven, nor by leaven of evil and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” [1 Corinthians 5,8].

  If then you have a clean conscience, you hold a feast continually, nourished with good hopes, and reveling in the delight of the good things to come; then just as if you conducted yourself lacking boldness, and you were liable from many sins, and if there be ten thousand feasts and holy-days, you would be in no better state than those grieving. For what is the benefit to me of bright days, if my soul is darkened in its conscience? If then one wishes to gain some benefit from the new moon, do this. When you see the year ending, thank the Lord, because he had led you into this cycle of years. Stab the heart [‘prick the heart’] reckon up the time of your life, say to oneself: “The days run and pass by, the years fill-up, we have progressed much of the way; What good is there for us to do? Will we not depart from here, empty and deserted of all righteousness, the judgment at the doors, the rest of life leads us to our old age.”

  These things, [from the new moon], contemplate on New Year’s Day, these from the circuit of the years, recollect. Let us reckon the future day, no longer something spoken to us that, which was said to the Jews by the prophet, “Their days slipped away in vanity, and their years with haste” [Psalm 77:33 LXX]. This is the feast which I mentioned, the continual one, and the one not delayed by the passage of years, not limited by days, both the rich and the poor will be able to celebrate in the same manner: For here there is no want of wealth, nor provision, but only of virtue. Do you not have wealth? But you have the fear of God, a treasure more fruitful than all wealth, not consumed, not changed, not spent-up. Look to heaven, and to the heaven of heavens, the earth, the sea, the air, the kinds of the animals, the manifold plants, the whole nature of human-beings; consider the angels, archangels, the powers above; recall that these are all creations of your Master. It is thus not poverty to be the slave of the providential Master, if you have him as your propitious Lord. The observation of days is not of Christian philosophy [teaching, wisdom, see notes], but of Hellenic error.

  Into the city above you are enrolled [i.e. as a citizen] into the polity [2] there you are reckoned, you will mingle with the angels; where light does not give way to darkness, nor day fulfilled to night, but is always day, always light. To these therefore let us look continually. “For seek”, he says, “the things above, where Christ is seated at God’s right hand.” [Col 3:1] You have nothing in common with the earth, where the courses of the sun are, and circuits, and days; but if you live rightly, the night will be day for you; just as then for those living in licentiousness and drunkenness and intemperance, their day is turned into the darkness of night, not with the sun’s extinction, but the darkening of their mind by inebriation.

Russians celebrate the New Year on Red Square in Moscow, with the Kremlin in the background, right, and St. Basil's cathedral in background left, Russia, Sunday, Jan. 1, 2012. Tens of thousands of peo

  To be passionately excited towards these days, and to receive greater pleasure in them, and to kindle lights in the forum, and to weave wreaths, is of childish folly. But you have been freed from this weakness, and come into adulthood, and been enrolled in the polity of the heavens. Do not therefore kindle sensate fire in the forum, but kindle spiritual light in your mind. “For let”, he said, “your light shine before men, so they may see your good works, and they will glorify our Father in the heavens.” [Mt 5:16; Chrysostom has ‘our Father’ for ‘your Father’].

 This light brings you much recompense. Do not crown the door of the house, but display such a way of life so that you will receive the crown of righteousness on your head from the hand of Christ. Let nothing be done rashly, nor simply; thus Paul enjoins that all things be done for the glory of God. “For whether you eat,” he said, “or drink, or do whatever, do all for the glory of God” [1 Cor. 10:31. This verse provides the theme for the rest of the sermon].

  And what is it, he says, to eat and drink for God’s glory? Call the poor man, make Christ a participant of the table, and you eat and drink for God’s glory. But not this alone does he enjoin us to do for God’s glory, but all the rest as well, as to go into the forum, and to remain at home; let these both be done for God’s sake [δι τν Θεν and so throughout]. And how are these both to be done for God’s sake? Whenever you come into church, whenever you partake of prayer, whenever of spiritual teaching, the advance has occurred for God’s glory. Again, it is to remain at home for God’s sake. And how is this? [i.e. How will one glorify God in this action of staying at home?]

  Whenever you hear disturbances, disorderly and diabolical processions, the forum filled with wicked and undisciplined men, remain at home, free from this disorder, and you remain for God’s glory. Just as spending time at home and going-out is able to be done for God’s sake, thus also of praise and censure. And what is it to praise something for God’s glory, he says, and to accuse? You sit frequently in workplaces, you see evil and wicked men passing by, raising the eyebrows [a sign of haughtiness and importance], puffed up, trailing many parasites and flatterers, wearing expensive clothes, surrounded with some mystique, seizing all things, avaricious. If you hear someone saying, “Is he not enviable, is he not blessed?” Rebuke [the word], accuse it, [have] silence, pity, and weep; this is what it means to censure for God’s sake.

  Censure is teaching of philosophy to those meeting together and is so strong of virtue [3], so as to no longer long [more literally, ‘gape’.] for the things of everyday life. Say to the one saying these things: “Why is this man blessed? Because he has a marvelous horse and a golden bridle, and possesses many servants, and wears bright clothing, and bursts [4] each day in drunkenness and luxury?” But for this reason he would be wretched and cursed, and worthy of a thousand tears. I see then that you are able to praise nothing of him, but all things external to him, the horse, the bridle, the clothing, of which nothing is his. What then, tell me, is more pitiable than this, when his horse, and the horse’s bridle, and the beauty of his clothes, and the bodily vigor of his servants are marveled, but he passes by upraised? Who then could be poorer than this man, having nothing good of his own, nor anything that he is able to carry away from here, but is adorned entirely by external things? For adornment and riches are properly our own, not servants and clothing and horses, but virtue of soul, and wealth of good deeds, and confidence towards God.

  Again, you see another man, a pauper, rejected, despised and passing his life in poverty and virtue, considered unhappy by his companions: commend this man, and the praise of this man as he passes by is exhortation and counsel of a useful and good way of life [politeia]. If they say, “He is wretched and miserable,” say that this one is the most blessed of all, having God as his friend, passing life in virtue, possessing a wealth never failing, having a pure conscience. For what harm is there to him from the lack of possessions, when he is going to inherit heaven and the good things in heaven? And if you yourself philosophize in this manner, and instruct others, you will receive a great reward from both censure and from praises, doing both for God’s glory. And that I do not allure you vainly saying these things, but that a certain great recompense exists with the God of all things for those whose intellect is thus disposed, and that the thing has been considered a certain virtue, [that is] the resolving to do such things, hear what the prophet says concerning those so living, and how he places things in an order of perfections, the despising of those doing wickedness, and the glorifying of those fearing God.

  For after recounting the other virtue of the one who will be honored by God, also he says, of what sort one must be to dwell in the holy tabernacle, that is blameless, and performing righteousness, and wicked-less, and this he adds: For saying, “Who did not deceive with his tongue, and did no harm to his neighbor” [Ps 15:3 (Ps 14:3 LXX)] he adds, “The one doing evil is set at naught before him, but those fearing the Lord he glorifies” [Ps 15:4 (Ps 14:4 LXX)] showing that this is one of those perfections, that is to despise the wicked, and to praise and bless the good. And again elsewhere this same thing he makes plain, saying, “Your friends were exceedingly honorable to me, God, their beginnings [poss. authorities] became very strong.”[5] Whom God praises, do not censure: he praises the one living in righteousness, even if he be poor; whom God turns away, do not praise: he turns away the one living in wickedness, even if he be surrounded by much wealth. But if you praise, and if you censure, do both as God wishes. For there is even accusing unto the glory of God. How? Frequently we are vexed with our servants. How then is there accusing for God’s sake? If you see someone drunk, or stealing, whether servant, or friend, or some other of those related to you, whether running into the theatre, or having no concern for their soul, or swearing [i.e. swearing oaths], or perjuring [i.e. to swear falsely] or lying: be angry [6], punish, turn them back, correct; and you did all these things for God’s sake. And if you see someone sinning against you, and omitting something of their service toward you, pardon them, and you are forgiven for God’s sake. But now many do the opposite, both to their friends, and to their servants. For when they sin against them, they become bitter and unforgiving judges; but when they insult God, and ruin their own souls, they produce no rationale. Again, is it necessary to make friends? Make them, for God’s sake. Is it necessary to make enemies? Make them, for God’s sake. And by what means does one make friends and enemies for God’s sake? If we do not attract those friends, whence money is taken, whence sharing of a table, whence obtaining of human patronage, but pursue and make those friends, those able always to order our soul, counsel necessities, rebuke sinners, expose trespassers, restore those fallen, and aiding by counsel and prayers to lead to God. Again, it is permitted to make enemies for God’s sake. If you see someone undisciplined, abominable, full of wickedness, replete with unclean teachings, tripping you up and harming you, stand apart and turn away, just as also Christ commanded, saying, “If your right eye trips you up, pluck it out and cast it from you” [Mt 5:29] commanding those friends, those being desirable in the rank of eyes [7], and necessary in the things of everyday life, to cut off, and to cast out, if they harm you with regard to the salvation of the soul. If you share in their meetings, and you prolong your speech, do even this for God’s sake, and if you keep silent, keep silent for God’s sake.

  And what is it to participate in the meeting for God’s sake? If you are seated with someone, converse nothing concerning daily affairs, nor of simple things even vainly and nothing of those related to you, but concerning our philosophy, concerning Hell, concerning the Kingdom of the Heavens, but not superfluities and unprofitable things, such as, “Who entered authority? [8] Who lost power? For what reason was so-and-so injured [possibly with a technical or financial sense: fined, punished]? Whence did so-and-so profit and become better off? What did so-and-so dying leave behind to such-and-such? How did so-and-so miss out, expecting to be listed among the foremost of the heirs?” And many other such things. Let us not then discuss such things, nor bear others discussing [them]; but let us consider what-doing or what-saying is to please God. Again, it is to keep silent for God’s sake, being maltreated, abused, suffering a thousand evils, if you bear them nobly, and emit no blasphemous word against the one doing these things to you. Not to praise and to censure alone, nor to remain indoors and to go out, not to utter and to keep silent, but also to weep and mourn, and to enjoy and delight is to God’s glory.

  For when you see either a brother sinning, or yourself falling into a transgression, [if] then you groan and mourn [these two verbs continue the protasis of the conditional], then you gain from the grief a salvation without regret, just as Paul says, “For grief according to God produces a salvation without regret” [2 Cor. 7:10]. If you see another person being highly esteemed, then do not disparage him, but as for one’s own goods give thanks to God, to the one making your brother illustrious, and you receive a great reward from this joy.

  What then, tell me, is more pitiable than the envious, when it is permitted both to rejoice and to profit through joy, and they prefer rather to grieve upon the advantages of others, and with the grief to yet also attract a punishment from God, an unendurable retribution. And what need is there to speak of praise, and of blame, and of pain, and of joy, when indeed even from the least of these things and from the meanest [‘mean’ in the sense of cheap, frugal, vulgar] events the greatest things are to be profited, if we do them for God’s sake?

[…]

  “Whether you eat, whether you drink, whether you do some other thing, do all for the glory of God” [1 Cor. 10:31]. If we pray, if we fast, if we accuse, if we pardon, if we praise, if we censure, if we enter, if we exit, if we sell, if we buy, if we are silent, if we converse, if we do any thing else whatsoever, let us do all for the glory of God, and if something be not for the glory of God, neither let it be done, nor be spoken by us; but in place of a great staff, in place of arms and safeguard, in place of unspeakable treasures, wherever we might be, let us carry around this word with us, having inscribed it upon our understanding, so that doing and speaking and trafficking all things for the glory of God, we shall obtain the glory that is from him both in this world and after  the journey here [i.e. after this life]. “For those that glorified me”, he says, “I will glorify” [1 Sam 2:30; (1 Reg. 2.30 LXX)]. Not therefore with words, but also through deeds let us glorify him continually with Christ our God, because all glory befits him, honor and worship, now and always unto the ages of ages. Amen.

For the entire sermon see Source. 

Notes:

Philosophy, both here and throughout Chrysostom, refers to Christianity as both a distinct set of beliefs, and a set of practices or way of life. It highlights the rivalry between the Christian philosophy, and the philosophical schools of the Hellenism.

[1] i.e. the former brings new dependencies that previously were not there, but the latter drives away those that were present beforehand.

[2] politeia, like philosophy, is a key concept-work for Chrysostom. It refers variously to the body of Christians both on earth and in heaven, their way of life as citizens, and their ordered existence in the church. It is also a rival politeia to that of Plato’s Republic and the like.

[3] This first half of the sentence is as confusing in the Greek as in the English.

[4] Migne’s Latin has solvitur which we might render ‘dissolves’, thus picking up the idea of moral dissolution in a wanton life. The Greek διαῤῥήγνυται is difficult to construe.

[5] Ps 138:17 LXX. Ps 139:17 MT differs radically from this reading.

[6] ἀγᾰνακτέω, the same verb used for ‘vexed’ above.

[7] Chrysostom’s meaning seems to be ‘those friends whom we hold as dear as our own eyes’, which Migne’s Latin also implies.

[8] N elected officials would enter office on the Kalends, which presumably explains the kind of political conversation Chrysostom has in view.

Father George Calciu – On New Year’ Eve Celebration

  This end of the year – the New Year’ Eve that the world celebrates – not been established or sanctified by the church, cannot be considered sacred, but only a human invention. Do we (Christians) have to celebrate it? Are we to attend the fireworks, the songs and all sorts of scandals, parties? … No.
We praise our Lord in the church. For it is in the church we’re awaiting “the end”. If God would have ordained the end of times tonight, He wouldn’t made His Son’ Nativity at Christmas!
What is the relation between a sacred event and the first of January? Absolutely no connection. And why some say that the end (of the world) is when the world decides – as a new millennium begins – and not when Christ will come? Or at least at the Annunciation!
All these are for the devil’ deceit. The overcrowding of people, the delirium seizing all, the craziness, the fireworks, the drinks, the champagne flowing … I was watching last night what happened in Paris. Someone said that in Rome, where the congregation of the Pope gathered (and I could not understand why he gave blessing to the world and the city on January 1st 2000 when there is no sacred event to celebrate)… we do not know how many millions of bottles of champagne flowed…. And someone else wound announce: more champagne in Paris! Then, more beer in Germany! So, this is the measure of “sanctity” for the New Year!  [...]

To read the entire sermon see Here.

A wish for the New Year: towards eternity…

(Fragment of a Homily delivered by Metropolitan Augustine of Florina in the Church of St. Panteleimon, Florida, 31.12.1974, during the New Year’ Eve services)

ανω σχ. π. Α

 […] Towards the eternity we step, my brothers. And now, another year had passed. We welcome a new year. What will it bring us? We do not know.

  As for us been dull, we do not know if we will live tomorrow. Unceasingly one has to wait his departure, especially us elders, reaching the sunset of life. But also the young. We do not know “What the present moment will offer “.  And I wonder next year, in a day like this, how many of us will still be here living? And what events await our people in the New Year? What will it happen in the Balkans, the Mediterranean and the world? … Are you imagining dreams and envision an endless life? But eternity is approaching my dear; the biggest moment is waiting to rise.

  What should I wish you, my dear? Wealth, glory, honors, delights, pleasures? … How meaningless is everything. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1, 2). Only one thing remains: your belief in Christ. There is no other name that can give us joy and hope during this coming year, Whom us children praise and exalt into the ages of ages. Amen!

(This is part of a retreat given by Fr. George Calciu in Romania

- November 2006 – few weeks before departing in the Lord).

May his memory be eternal!

 I would like to speak to you few words on pious prayer.

 I do not like definitions because prayer is undoubtedly a work of God that returns to God. The spirit of prayer is a gift that the Holy Spirit places in each of us, according to our more or less intense labor, while eliminating the barrier raised between God and us.

  In our attempt to pray, there is always a communion of divine will with the human will.  And know that without perseverance and piety, there is no prayer.

  I am not a pietistic, but I’d like to say that without the will of God, we wouldn’t be able to pray even the “Our Father”. This is because when we start praying, thousands of demons assail us.

  When I was a child, my mother would take me to church. We were eleven children in our family, and when she took us to church, we wound complain that our feet hurt from standing and that we wanted to go outside.

  And my mom would say: “As kids you do not understand, but know that the pain of your feet is your prayer before God.”

  She would also tell us this story: “In a village there was a bar where people and especially men will go out to drink (because at that time women will not go to bars, but now they do…). There, people would get dank, swear and fight, but in the entire place there was only one demon and perhaps the weakest that slept on the countertop because he had no work to do. In that same village, there was also the house of a widow who had seven children, and they all prayed at night. And her house was surrounded by a legion of demons… laboring hard”

  Then know my brethren that our churches and surrounded by legions of demons, striving hard to surrender us. For where the demon ought to accomplish its evil work! at the disco bar or at the beach? It has no work to do there. Of course that the evil spirits are also present in those places, but without much labor.

  But in the church, where the true faith is preached and we strive to practice true prayer, so the demons surround us from all sides striking where we’re most vulnerable.

  They temp you with doubt that your prayer is in vain, that you have something better to do, or perhaps with thoughts that God will not hear your prayer. But if you persist, this state of doubtfulness will vanish.

  When they first arrest me and I entered the Gulag, my faith was weak.

  When I started the school of Medicine, I knew some things about prayer and coming to Bucharest, I witnessed the beginning of a movement called the “Burning Bush”, a group of faithful dedicated to prayer that was initiated by Sandu Tudor [the future hieromonk Daniel from Rarau Monastery who later died as a martyr in communist gulag of Ayud - Ed], Father D. Stăniloae, Fr. B. Ghiuş, Father Babus, [Alexander "Codin"] Mironescu and other laymen and clergy engaged in the practice of prayer and catechesis, speaking on the great perils (elders) of the desert, and I was surprised of the deep treasures that prayer hides within and how much we can possibly grow that our prayer may become genuine.

  All these men I’m referring to – were extraordinary figures of our Church that with time have passed in the Lord, but they left behind a shinning mark and many of us today follow in the spirit that these fathers have instructed us then.

  In their presence I’ve learned greatly, and with time I strived to deepen my prayer life, until 1948 when I was arrested and sent to the gulag where I really felt the work of prayer.

  I shared the prison cell with various politicians, bishops, priests and monks, then I understood that prayer is a battle, a great effort.

  From the moment you sit or kneel down to pray, many demons attack you, even at your first words of prayer; the evil one fills your mind with many worldly thoughts, all sorts of unimportant things. Even the curiosity to know the time will occupy in your mind. Or the interest to know whether is sunshine or cloudy outside. All these thoughts may seem innocent, but they vanish the voice of prayer from our hearts.

  Elder Porphyrios says that these thoughts that assault our mind while we’re praying are like airplanes. You hear them from afar like a soft noise without much disturbance, then they grow stronger and when they fly above your head they overwhelm you with their noise, but then they’ll passed away.

  But if you get into conversation with such thoughts – says father Porphyrios – they’ll make your heart an airport.

  I was asked by many faithful how to fight the human thoughts that come to mind while praying. First, don’t pay attention to them. Let them pass by.  Second, call for the help of the Lord and of your guardian angel. And thirdly do not open your heart to the conversation with evil thoughts. Because the demon is stronger than us.

  Then we ought to pray with piety and humility. Whilereading the prayers of confession and Holy Communion written by Saint John Chrysostom, St. Simeon the New Theologian and other great saints of our Church that we seek as models for our lives, we see how these fathers confess the temptations that themselves had encountered, the evil thoughts, the malice… explanations given to help us with our prayer.

  Here is what St. Symeon Metaphrastes said, quote:

“What evil have I not committed? What sinful things have I not done? What form of wickedness have I not imagined in my soul? You know that I have gone beyond the bounds of depravity in my deeds. I have been proud, arrogant, contemptuous, blasphemous, gossiped, laughed uncontrollably. I have been drunk, gluttonous, malicious, envious, and greedy, judged others, conceded, sought praise, and been unjust, covetous, and consumed with shameful thoughts”…

  This is how Saint Metaphrastes was praying!

  When I read these prayers before confession and Holy Communion, I reflect on how much I have sinned in my whole life. If these saints were tempted, then how much more am I being (tempted)? If these saints were speaking of committing vain talk, drunkenness, gluttony, envy and love of wealth, then how much darker my thoughts ought to be?

  But St. Simeon the New Theologian will then continue: “Lord, You know my many errors, You know my sores and You behold my wounds; but You also know my faith, You behold my will and You hear my sighs. Nothing is hidden from You oh Lord, my God, my creator and deliverer, not a teardrop nor even part of a drop”…

  And this is a great consolation for us. Because God does not take into account only my prayer, but also my labor.

  Satan is outraged seeing someone praying. This explains why we are so attacked when we pray. There is an army of demons that try to inflict us with many despicable thoughts. They may not seem of a great harm, but are enough to interfere and separate us from God: worldly thoughts, memories that alter your peace, all sorts of unimportant things that imprisoned our minds.

  When you have prepared your heart and have emptied your mind of all daily cares – which however you cannot vanish completely – be watchful to see which side the demon will strike. At that moment, the angel of prayer that watches over you will help you “from the right” but the demon will strike “from the left”. The demon will try to distract you from prayer so you may lose the connection with God but the angel of prayer will place in your heart undisturbed thoughts and will aid your mind – its rational part, so you may oppose all evil influences and make a pure prayer.

  Father Roman Braga would says that when you sit down to pray, you ought to empty your mind of all images and during prayer to reflect not, so God may place in your emptied mind His Holy Spirit, filling you with His presence.

 I must confess that I had tried to follow this instruction – to empty my mind of all images, of anything that connects me to this material world, but I didn’t always succeed. There are moments when I can…. There are times when I raise myself above these images, but these moments don’t last very long because of my weakness.

  So I believe that been made of flesh and spirit, having a material body and an earthy mind, we need practice. We need to connect the rational or the imaginative part of our being with what we can see, for instances an icon. The icon especially, is the first step to help to lift up our spirit. It is good if you have an icon in front of you, to gaze your attention on it. To make from its sacred image – the saint represented on it, the link between you and God.

  Then can you can reflect on the saint’ holy life, the wonders he has done, the help he offered you in various circumstances, and feel his presence from the icon or his relics, in your soul. In this way you have come to the second stage.

  The third stage is when these worldly images no longer work in your mind and everything comes from God, Who fills the empty space in your soul with His divine presence.

 If you pray out loud, and many times we pray this was because we can focus more, do not let yourself carried out by the resonance of words, or by the beautiful phrases, as some prayers are indeed very beautiful. Do not be tempted by the “aesthetic”.

  I remember when I first read the acathyst prayer of the Burning Bush [composed by Daniel Sandu Tudor: Acathyst Hymn to the Mother of God, the Burning Bush - Ed], I did not comprehend very much. It sounded so beautiful, so theological that I was left only with a pleasant idea. However, this was also good, because through its mystical beauty God worked within us.

  Typically when we pray without words, only with our minds, there is a gap between the mind and the words. The doctors would say that when we recite something in the mind – for example the prayer Our Father – we do it in one breath, but the epiglottis – the phonetic organ, works more slowly.

  So, there is a gap between my thought and the prayer itself.

  Therefore, if you pray in your mind and utter incomplete words, it is good to work a resonance between the word and the thought. Otherwise the image becomes double, once through the thought and then through epiglottis by its small movement that creates inertia. Thus you are been left behind and lose the connection between your thought and the words of prayer.

  If your mental concentration leaves you during prayer taking you in vain, strive to return to prayer. Try to strengthen your attention and the angel of prayer would not only guide you in knowing that you last your attentiveness but he will also instruct you when you lost it.

  But if this interruption becomes rather a habit while praying, then the angel will no longer instruct you.

  Then repeatedly you’ll be losing and gaining… and you’ll advance very little.

  Thus, if you hold your attentiveness watching over your thoughts, your mind and your heart, then the angel will remind you where you lost the sweetness of prayer.

  These are small exercises to (help you) reconnect your thoughts to prayer. For instance, when you bend down your knees, your whole being is engaged in prayer. The simple union of your palms will engage you back into prayer. The sign of the Cross or other pious acts will help you bring back the payer. Thus, through small and unspectacular gestures, we can attract the angel of the Lord to help us bring back the prayer so we can go forward.

  There are people who try to replace all prayers with the prayer of the heart (the Jesus prayer). I think this practice is for those advanced.

  Once I went to Essex – England where they practiced the Jesus prayer in the church taking turns and they often replaced the service of Vespers with this prayer. There was a group of monastics, monks and nuns, and each one would say the Jesus prayer a hundred times… It seems like a record/book keeping offered to God, by counting exactly how many times you would say the prayer.

  My brethren, I’d like to say this: all prayers should start with the beginning prayers, the troparies: Heavenly King … Holy God…, the prayer to the Most Holy Trinity… Our Father…, the Creed, Psalm 50, then the prayers to the Most Holy Theotokos.

  These are the basic prayers. Without them one cannot really get to the essence even thou you may seem advanced; as we’re not at the level of the fathers of the Holy Mountain.

  You must prepare your heart before getting to more advanced prayer. You begin with the first prayer dedicated to the Holy Spirit, then to the Holy Trinity, then the third to God the Father – and so on. They all have a purpose. Often I would ask my younger seminarians, to whom is “the Heavenly King prayer” addressed? And they did not know. They would pray without knowing…

  For it is better to start with the introductory prayers then to advance. Even if you say only these basic prayers ten times, a hundred times, over and over, with time the prayer works in our heart to restore it and to advance it to deeper prayer.

  Then you can utter another prayers and the Jesus prayer (the prayer of the heart).

  For I believe that the prayer of the heart, said especially at night, is a gift of the Holy Spirit that works in our hearts, and we ought to practice it with deep piety/humility.

  Before I been sent to prison for the second time, I was received to the priesthood and serve from 1972 until 1978.

  In 1978 I was removed/band from teaching at the Seminary and from serving the Church, so I was given into the hands of the communist regime (“the Securitate”), with no ecclesiastical protection.

  I no longer had a parish or a sit to teach, no one offered me protection, no bishop would take responsibility for me and I felt lost.

  I was arrested again and sent to prison.

  During my time at the seminary, many days I would pray with my students.

  We met in the evening, read from the Bible and said some prayers. If God would inspire one of us with a new word of explaining the biblical text we read, he will speak it out, otherwise we would depart home reflecting on how we ought to approach it next time.  And I thought I truly knew prayer…

  But when they took me to the gulag, I realized that I knew not how to pray.

  For I lived in a permanent fear being always distracted. When I wanted to pray, the guards troubled me or even beat me so I may cease praying and I could not go beyond this inner battle I was fighting… I was not able to concentrate to make a genuine prayer. I could not pray: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner”. I could not even say this much…

  There was a war with myself…

  Then I remembered what St. Maximus the Confessor said about prayer and indeed, slowly I started to connect to prayer… the deeper prayer; I was striving to empty my mind of all evil, of all that was negative within me and the evil that surrounded me, so I advanced to a point where an abyss was laying before me… a frighten abyss… and I did not know what would follow.

 To throw myself into the abyss as Satan tempted Jesus that God will send His angels to save Him? I was frightened so I pulled back.

  But it happened that God sent the angel who saved me, and the stone did not hurt my foot… 

 

(Transcribed and translated by EC. Please do not copy without permission).   

 

The interview and sermon were given by Fr. George Calciu in Romania (2005), 1 year before passing in the Lord.

 

 

Please also see the recent state of unrest unfolding in Greece in regards to the new “Citizen Card”, commented by Fr. Peter Heers on Ancient Faith Radio.

“The Citizen’s Card” and Orthodox Opposition in Greece: Part I

“The Citizen’s Card” and Orthodox Opposition in Greece: Part II

 

 

 

Fragments from a Sermon delivered by Fr. George Calciu on January 1st 2000!

 

  This end of the year – the New Year’ Eve that the world celebrates – not been established or sanctified by the church, cannot be considered sacred, but only a human invention. Do we (Christians) have to celebrate it? Are we to attend the fireworks, the songs and all sorts of scandals, parties? … No.
We praise our Lord in the church. For it is in the church we’re awaiting “the end”. If God would have ordained the end of times tonight, He wouldn’t made His Son’ Nativity at Christmas!
What is the relation between a sacred event and the first of January? Absolutely no connection. And why some say that the end (of the world) is when the world decides – as a new millennium begins – and not when Christ will come? Or at least at the Annunciation!
All these are for the devil’ deceit. The overcrowding of people, the delirium seizing all, the craziness, the fireworks, the drinks, the champagne flowing … I was watching last night what happened in Paris. Someone said that in Rome, where the congregation of the Pope gathered (and I could not understand why he gave blessing to the world and the city on January 1st 2000 when there is no sacred event to celebrate)… we do not know how many millions of bottles of champagne flowed…. And someone else wound announce: more champagne in Paris! Then, more beer in Germany! So, this is the measure of “sanctity” for the New Year!

    In general, the beginning of the mundane New Year is something diabolical. It was established by the servants of Satan, to tempt us from the Christian path and the truth of the faith. And our Lord revealed the lies of all. God uncovered the sham of those that wanted to murder a mass crowd of people – I’m referring to the Muslim attacks. God proved the delusion of those who would say Jesus will come tonight so we have to commit murder, suicide, to increase the world’ suffering so God will have “pity on us” and come to end it!
So for the sake of Satan, they proved the deceit. For their inspiration came not from God but from the evil one.

  The truth was (here), in the church. Last night we observed Vespers and prayed to the Lord, today we celebrated Divine Liturgy. All those who choose otherwise are far from the Christian truth.

  There are people who bare the name of St. Basil the Great and they knew that today is his feast but did not come. We’ve prayed for them, that God will turn their path away from drunkenness and parties and towards Christ, so they may come and celebrate their name in the church. We prayed for those present and those absent for good reasons.

  My beloved, I’d like you to know that the life of the church was so striked by worldly prejudices and satanic influences, so as the saints have profesized, there will come a time when churches will be everywhere you look, when the name of Christ will be on everyone’s lips, some churches will even be full, but the true faith and sanctity will be lacking. It will be a false, a deception of Satan. And we live those times [...]

(Translation by EC)

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