Blessed Memory of Elder Cleopa of Sihastria Monastery

Fr. Cleopa has found his place in history as the most representative elder and spiritual father of contemporary Romanian Orthodox spirituality. The last twenty years of his life the Elder spent in increased and concentrated prayer: fourteen to fifteen hours a day. He had mystical moments when he did not want to speak to anyone, not even his cell attendant. From four until eight the Elder prayed his morning rule; afterward he confessed monks and lay people until about four in the afternoon, when he began his evening prayer rule, consisting of the canon of repentance, canons to the Theotokos, the Supplicatory Canon, Small Compline and other services.

Fr. Cleopa remembering his nostalgic beginnings: “In the years that I was shepherd of the skete’s sheep together with my brothers, I had great spiritual joy. The sheepfold, the sheep – I live in quiet and solitude on the mountain, in the midst of nature; it was my monastic and theological school”. In the last months of his life the Elder could be heard saying often: “Now I am going to my brothers!” and “Leave me to depart to my brothers!” and “I am going to Christ! Pray for me, the sinner.”

On the eve of the Elder’s departure for the next life he began to read his morning rule, when his disciple said to him: “Geronda, its evening now. These prayers should be read tomorrow morning.” The Elder answered him saying, “I am reading them now because tomorrow morning I am going to my brothers.” On the morning of December 2nd, 1998, at about 2:20 a.m. Elder Cleopa departed for eternity

  

The Four Laws by which Christ will Judge the World

By Elder Cleopa of Sihastria

I have said a few words about death. I will now say something about conscience. Whoever will guard his/her conscience clean, will undoubtedly be prepared and happy when death comes. One’s conscience is the just judge that God has placed within us.

One’s conscience cannot ever be a mere reflection of matter. It is God’s voice in man and it always reprimands him when he goes astray: “Man, why did you do this or that?”

This law of one’s nature is also common among the Chinese, among Christians, or among the Buddhists, Brahmans, and Mohammedans. It is the first law that God placed in man’s soul ever since He created him, based on which the world guided itself until the written Law. An non-believing lawyer asked me once:

–         Father, I just cannot come to terms with the idea of the Last Judgement!

–         Oh, why can’t you, brother? How come?

–         Father, how is Christ going to judge me if I were Chinese or other nationality and therefore I have never heard of Christ in my life? They have not heard about Christ out there. Does that mean that God punishes unjustly? He is just. How will He judge and punish me, if I haven’t even heard of Christ’s Gospel?

–         Hang on a minute! You, Sir, know how to shuffle those papers around, to write minutes or whatever it is that you’re doing in your job. You don’t know the Scripture, though. You are a rationalist, you split the hair in forty and waste yourself completely by following your own mind.

There are four laws based on which God will judge the whole earth. Not one, but four. And nobody can escape God’s terrible justice, whether they are Chinese, Brahman, Buddhist, Christian, Mohammedan, or Jewish, because God is just, as the Apostle says: God is just and all humans are liars. [*to find exact quote]

Precisely because He is just, God has established these laws, so that He will judge everyone justly. You hear? Four laws.

The first law is the law of nature or the law of one’s conscience. It was by that law that God rebuked Cain when he killed his brother Abel. Because listen to what the Scripture says: that he was so much tormented by remorse that he fell into despair and cried: “My iniquity is greater than that I may deserve pardon.

He fell into despair for having killed his brother Abel, the shepherd; as God had received Abel’s sacrifice and Cain had taken envy on him and as soon as Abel went out into the field, he killed him.

The law of the conscience was telling him: “What have you one? You have killed your brother!”

And he hears God:

–         Cain, where is your brother?

But instead of telling him “God, I have done wrong”, he answered:

–         I don’t know, am I my brother’s keeper?

And God told him:

–         Your brother’s blood calls to Me from the ground. Because you have done this, I shall punish you by all punishments and whoever will kill you, will be punished seventy times seven…

And Cain lived for over 1000 years, as Kedrin’s Chronograph reads – and nobody would kill him, because they were afraid of the punishment that God had placed on him.

What were Cain’s seven punishments for having killed his brother Abel? First, it was despair, then trembling, then crying – as he would cry and moan on earth –, then fear – as he would run from one place to another for fear that God would see him –; then the curse upon the land so that it would not give him its fruit, and all the other things, as it is written in the Holy Scripture, in Genesis, Chapter 4.

When he does wrong, any man on earth will be rebuked by his own conscience, which will tell him: “Why have you done wrong?” That is the first law that God gave to man – which is also called the law of one’s conscience or the law of one’s nature.

The second law which stands forever before us, as St. Gregory of Nyssa shows, and which resounds forever like a trumpet from the height of the sky and shows us God, is the law of the creation. Who made the sky, the earth, and everything else? The moon, the grass, the flowers, the fish, the seas, the rivers, the stones, the trees, the mountains, all the creatures on earth, in the water, and in the air. Who made them, brothers? Who made the clock of the universe that works with such amazing precision, that no one can imitate it? None other than our Good Lord! The centre of guidance for this world is its Creator – God, Who has put order in everything that exists.

The creation law is what prophet David refers to: Heavens tell of God’s glory and the making of His hand is heralded by the sky. How? By their spherical arrangement and by the immense distance among them; by the interstellar space, which takes billions of light-years to cross, by the movement of the celestial bodies, of the solar system, and of the planets, with such measure and precision that it boggles the minds of the greatest astronomers in the world.

What did Isaac Newton say – the great English astronomer, who for thirty years had been an atheist and when he discovered the “law of universal attraction” and saw that each planet will attract a smaller one and will not let it get away, or break or move irregularly in the celestial space. He put all his equipment on the table and exclaimed: Great are Thou, oh God, and wondrous are Thy things and no word is enough to praise Thy wonders!

See? While having found science outside faith, he came to the fear of God by discovering the wonders of the cosmos. What did Kepler, Isaac Newton and all the other ones, which I don’t have time to mention here, said when they converted, upon seeing God’s creation as not something that exists by itself, but that has a centre of guidance and a precision that amazes all minds?

Not one in a billion was uncovered from nature’s secrets. As God’s wisdom does not have any boundaries, neither will it have one onto the ages of ages, since limitless is the Creator’s wisdom, indeed.

So the second law that stands before us all is the Law of Creations or of creation. So that by the natural and spiritual contemplation, we can climb from the reasons of things, to their Creator. If you see a ship, you think that there must be a craftsman who made it; if you see a good coat on a man, you must know that the tailor was good, too. If you see a palace or a building with beautiful architecture, you should know that there was a smart architect behind it. If you see a good clock, it was undoubtedly made by a good clock-maker.

So all of this shows us that there is a Maker and if that is the case, then we should “fear” and obey Him, so that He does not punish us according to His justice.

The third law is the written law, which was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, that is, the ten commandments and the whole of the Old Testament, based on which the chosen people, that is, the Jews, will be judged. The fourth and most important law is the Law of the Gift, the Law of Perfection, the Law of Jesus Christ’s love, that is, the Holy Scripture. It is according to this divine law that all Christians who have been christened in the name of the Holy Trinity, will be judged.

The first one was the law of nature, which remains as a general rule for all peoples, until the end of the world. The second law is the law of creation, which is similar to the first one. All the nations of the world will be judged according to the first two laws, except for Christians and Jews. The Jews will be judged according to the written Law – that is, by the Old Testament. And we, the Christians, will be judged according to the Law of the Gift and the Gospel, since our law is more accomplished than all the other laws. And if we infringe it, we carry much sin and our punishment will be heavier than theirs, who have not known the Gospel.

So it is such a “lawyer” that God has established for us. Let us not fool ourselves, brothers, into thinking that God does not know what everyone does. You will not even hope to say that you have no sin because you did not know or because you were a Chinese, a Turk, or an atheist.

Even if you were downright pagan, you still had a conscience and based on it God will judge you. You have seen His Creation. Haven’t you ever asked yourself Who made the sky, the sun, the earth and everything else, so that you think of God and fear Him, who made it all? Amen.