During 1950s to 1953 I was a spiritual father at Neamt Seminary, the only monastic seminary in the country. I had 35 deacon students under me. One day I served the Divine Liturgy with a deacon, the oldest among them.
Just as I was preaching to them – by rule we had to say a 10 minutes sermon, to talk about the Holy Sacraments, which can appear in the form of bread or in the form of flesh or as a babe – the deacon was consuming the Holy Mysteries and thought to himself: “Is it really just as the father says?” and suddenly his mouth was filled with blood and flesh instead of bread and wine. He dropped the chalice over the proscomidiar and felt to the ground. I thought that he was ill. I was standing half a meter away from the altar’s door. He doubted! You see my dear, he wasn’t living in faith! “Can it even be as the father says…?!” So then, why are you preparing yourself for the priesthood?
This had happened twice in my life. Once at Sihastria and now at Neamt. My dear, know that God created two most wondrous things! He created a distinguished woman who gave birth to Christ, and He created the priesthood, which brings God from heaven to be born on the Holy Table!
Do you realize what the priesthood is! Make no distinction between one priest or another. Any confessor is able to forgive sins. Is not his worthiness that absolve you, but the grace of God in him. God gave this gift to the priest to absolve us from sins, from our awful and great falls and to unbound us forever.
Do you realize what possibilities to be saved does man have! Regardless of sins, a confessor should know and be happy when heavy sins are been told to him, because he saving a man from deep waters. He no longer scolds him of why he is wet. But rejoices that he drew him out of the water.
(From “The words of Elder Arsenie (Papacioc), 2nd edition by Sihastria Monastery Press”, translated form the Romanian)
More about Anghel Papacioc – the Archimandrite Arsenie
Anghel Papacioc, Macedonian in origin, had chosen since his youth, the path of serving God and his nation. For this “guilt” he will be imprisoned under three regimes – Carol the II, Antonescu’s and the communist regimes. Thus, in 1938 he is taken for few months in the concentration camp at Miercurea Ciuc. in 1941 he was arrested again and imprisoned at Aiud, and released in 1946. After been freed from the prison, he entered the monastic life, having as his godfather of monasticism, Father Petroniu Tanase (later the Abbot of Prodromu skit in Mount Athos). Then, Father Arsenie becomes a skilled spiritual confessor at Slatina Monastery, where he struggled together with Elder Cleopas and other blessed elders. From Slatina Monastery, he was arrested again in 1958 and sent to Aiud, receiving a sentence of 40 years (!). He is freed again, following the general amnesty decree from 1964. Since then, he served God incessantly before His Holy altars, praying for the world in the Monastery of Techirghiol. Elder Arsenie was a father full of joy and inner light, a chosen vessel of the Holy Spirit.
I’m ready to die!
During the re-education process at Aiud, I was called one day into the colonel’ office. I was “well known” in the prison since I was a priest, and a monk. As I was walking in my pinstripe prison uniform, humbled so to speak, or at least humble in form, the Colonel asked me to explain to him if God exists.
I said, “Yes, sir, He does! our existence, our breath, our intelligence and reason, prove it … They are made by a big Master. They are not the result of chaos. Or who else could had made them!?”… And I went on with my explanation: “There are so many signs, Christ was incarnate and He was risen. Why don’t you believe?” …
It was a great deal of me daring to ask him this question. But I had to defend the Truth!
He said: “The war that burst in Russia in the name of the Cross, convinced me that there is no God.”
I replied: “What erupted in the name of the Cross, sir ?! That madman Hitler who wanted to conquer Russia believing that the Russians will give in?! How about before this war, why didn’t you believe?”.
Then he asked me: “What is your last argument?”
I said: “I am ready to die, for Him, sir! When he saw that he wasn’t prevailing over me, he started yelling, “Take him away from here!”
(from an Interview with Elder Arsenie Papacioc)
More from the words of Elder Arsenie
“An institution, as well as a nation, lives by those who gush forth, who carry the cross without failure. A great love for God requires a constant sacrifice. This world is not fallen, we are the guilty as we do not know how to love, we do not know to cherish it! What have we done for this world, if we’re speaking in terms of salvation? What have we done for this world in order to change it?!
This is what it will be required of us!”
“He, who flees from persecution, flees from God!…”