Eternity In The Moment. The Life And Wisdom Of Elder Arsenie Papacioc

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ETERNITY Mo m en t

Eternity TH E

in the moment







by Sorin Alpctri Translated from the Romanian by Hicromonk Ieremia (Berbec) and Simona Irime Edited by the St. Herman o f Alaska Brotherhood

ST . H E R M A N O F A L A S K A B R O T H E R H O O D 2.0 18

Copyright © 1018 by the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood P. O. Box 70 Platina, CA 96076 website: email: [email protected] First edition. Printed in the United States of America Originally published as Sorin Alpetri, Intre timp şi veşnicie: Viaţa Părintelui Arsenic Papacioc [Betsveen time and eternity: The Life of Father Arsenie Papacioc] (Bucharest: Accent Print Press, 2.015). Front cover: Archimandrite Arsenie Papacioc at Techirghiol Monas­ tery, photograph by Mircca Camburu, June 2.006. Back cover: Archimandrite Arsenie Papacioc at Techirghiol Monas­ tery. Publishers Cataloging-in-Publication Names: Alpetri, Sorin, author. | Ieremia (Hieromonk), translator. | Irinie, Si­ mona, translator. | St. Herman o f Alaska Brotherhood, editor, issuing body. Title: Eternity in the m om ent: the life and wisdom o f Elder Arsenic Papacioc / by Sorin Alpetri ; translated from the Romanian by Hicrm onk Ieremia and Simona Irim e; edited by the St. Herman o f Alaska Brotherhood. Description: First edition. | Platina, C A : St. Herman o f Alaska Brotherhood, 2018 . 1Originally published as: între timp şi veşnicie: viaţa Părintelui Arse­ nie Papacioc / Sorin Alpetri [Between time and eternity: the life o f Father Arsenic Papacioc] (Bucharest: Accent Print Press, 1015). | Includes biblio­ graphical references and index. Identifiers: ISB N : 978-1-887904-60-5 | L C C N : 2018955130 Subjects: L C S H : Papacioc, Arsenie, 19 14 -2 0 11. | Biserica Ortodoxă Română— Clergy— Biography. | Orthodox Eastern Church— Rom a­ nia— Clergy— Biography. | M onks— Romania— Biography. | Priests— Romania— Biography. | Political prisoners— Romania— Biography. | Communism— Romania. | Communism— Soviet Union. | Political per­ secution— Romania— H istory— 20th century. | Persecution— Rom ania— H istory— 20th century. | Romania— Politics and government. Classification: L C C : BX699.P37 A 4 6 2018 | D D C : 281.9092/498— dc23

CONTENTS Introduction


Map and Romanian Pronunciation Guide


E t e r n it y in t h e M o m e n t :

The Life and Wisdom o f Elder Arsenie Papacioc i. An Upright Man


I. From Mayor to Prisoner


3. Entering upon the Path


4. Exile


5. True Elders


6. A New Man


7. The Sound o f Falling Leaves 8. Dwelling in Unity

9. A Monk above A ll Else 10. Alive in Death ii. Release



17 1

II. Peace amidst Trials 13. Pursued





14. A Servant to All


15. Laboring in Twilight


Appendix 1: A Final Visit with Elder Cleopa


Appendix 2: Recollections o f Two Spiritual Sons Index




Fr. Arsénié in February 2005.

INTRODUCTIO N Be constantly vigilant, at every moment'. You can lose your salvation in a heartbeat, a mere second in which you're not watchful! The moment is very important, i f you know how to live it. Therefore, live the moment to rectify the past and to conquer the fu tu re! Don’t think about what w ill be. Leave the fu tu re to solve its own problem s! L ive this mo­ ment properly, and leave your life in God's hands! —Elder Arsenie 1958. It was the dead o f night when two sedans and three trucks pulled into a remote monastery in the Roma­ nian countryside. The Communist regime was enjoying abso­ lute power in a country beaten down by widespread physical and psychological torture. The government carried out noth­ ing in the light: all orders and plans were executed in a haze o f secrecy and lies. The events o f this night were no different. Eighty-nine officers emerged from the five vehicles and came to the gates o f the monastery. They were looking for one man: Fr. Arsenie (Papacioc). It was two in the morning, and Fr. Arsenie was just leaving church. Finding a small army waiting to escort him to interrogation and prison, he said with amusement, “ The mountain shook and out came a mouse.” The power o f Fr. A r­ senic’s uncompromising Christian witness was such that he in­ spired extraordinary fear in a government whose very rule was based on terror. Born on the eve o f the First World War, Archimandrite Arsenie Papacioc was a light for Romania and for the whole une




world, throughout the twentieth century, and even up until our own times, reposing on July 19, 2.011,1 at the age o f ninetyseven. As a young man he excelled as a scholar-athlete, and was dubbed “the Blond Panther” for his agility on the rugby field. He later trained as an artist, and eventually became a young mayor. His promising secular career was cut oft when he was arrested in 1938 and again in 1941. Prison became a spiritual academy for him, and after his release he dedicated his life to God as a monastic. For the next six decades he would labor as a monk— in prison and out o f prison, he remained dedicated to his calling. Every endeavor o f his life was characterized by an intensity o f purpose and unwavering confession o f the truth: a knowledge that within each moment we make our choice for eternity. And this principle was a theme he would return to again and again when speaking with his spiritual children: “ The objective is to be able to conquer eternity on a dai­ ly basis. This is the ideal. The idea o f becoming somebody in life— a professor, etc.— is a human goal, not the ultimate goal. The aim is to serve the highest possible Good. If you do not know how to serve God, Who is eternal, you’ll get stuck. You have to be attentive: ‘Wait a minute! Since this doesn’t pertain to Eternity, I won’t do it!’” The majority o f the biographical material presented in this Life o f Fr. Arsenie is taken from his personal recollections, as­ siduously recorded by his disciples. Having lived to the age o f ninety-seven, it was difficult for him to recall the precise dates o f certain events. Once, he was asked, “ Father, in what year did this happen?” He replied, “ I don’t remember! As Eminescu12 would say, ‘When you don’t know your life story by heart, let others take the trouble o f figuring it out!”’ 1 A il dates in this book are according to the Gregorian, or New, Calen­ dar. 2 M ihai Eminescu (1850-1889) was probably the most renowned and influential Romanian poet, novelist, and journalist o f the nineteenth century.



Some readers may wonder why the elder would recount some o f the exalted spiritual states he had experienced. In ac­ tuality, he rarely spoke o f his most intense spiritual struggles and experiences. These particular reminiscences were often told only once to help a person in the midst o f a crisis or tempta­ tion. The elder, who had sacrificed himself entirely for Christ, was in no way interested in promoting himself or attracting more disciples. In fact, he desired to preserve these spiritual treasures in his heart, so as to not lose the reward o f bearing his cross with dignity, honor, love o f enemies, and hope in God. Many o f these stories came to light only after his repose, when his confidants finally revealed the wealth he had shared with them. Fr. Arsenie spent the last decades o f his life in the relative tranquility o f Techirghiol Monastery on the coast o f the Black Sea, where he diligently labored as the spiritual father for the nuns and the multitude o f the faithful who flocked to his cell. He had a word o f exhortation for everyone— a talent he had possessed from his youth— which was made all the more pow­ erful by the fact that he had proved the reality o f his advice by his own life. The government no longer persecuted him, but he gave himself no rest, spending all o f his time serving in church or receiving visitors in his cell. All those who came to him for consolation in their struggles found a counselor who had known a depth o f suffering few will ever experience. With his experiential knowledge o f Jesus Christs presence in our suf­ fering, he was able to instill in his listeners an understanding o f the resurrection that comes through embracing the Cross. May the Life and words o f Fr. Arsenie be an encourage­ ment to press forward on the path o f salvation as we all bear the crosses given us. For Fr. Arsenie the cross and sufferings he bore were a great treasure that brought him to knowledge o f God. For every generation the paradox o f joyful suffering has been the most difficult o f Christ’s teachings to accept: “ Man



runs from suffering like a coward. We’re not telling you to look for it, but if it has found you, defeat it!” But the great and awesome path o f the Cross begins quite simply and practically, as Fr. Arsenie would say: “Have a smile hidden in your heart for everybody, literally for everybody, and this is already great progress— instead o f persisting in excessive contemplation. Wonderful things are conquered, not begged for, while keep­ ing peacefully, vigilantly, and joyfully on your simple path. If you bear Christ the Lord [in your heart] in such a manner, He will enkindle it.” Riassaphore-monk Adrian






Map o f Romania, showing locations central to Ft. Arsenie’s life.

R o m a n ia n P r o n u n c ia t io n G u id e

â and î à ?


Like the “i” in “sill.” Like the “u” in “run.” sh ts

Fr. Arsenic speaking with his spiritual children.


AN UPRIGHT MAN A r c h i m a n d r i t e A r s e n i e P a p a c i o c was born on the i l Feast o f the Dormition o f the Mother o f God, Au­ gust 15, 19 14 ,1 in the village o f Misleanu, Perieţi commune, Ialomiţa County, in southern Romania. Bom under the pro­ tection o f the Mother o f God, Fr. Arsenie had great reverence for her throughout his life, spending his last thirty years at a monastery dedicated to her Dormition. He was the seventh and youngest child o f Vasile and Stanca Papacioc, who gave him the name Anghel at baptism. Throughout his life, many people called him “an angel,” re­ ferring to the purity o f his life, which confirmed his name. The heavens seemed to comprehend the greatness o f the child being born, as a solar eclipse coincided with his birth— caus­ ing his father to exclaim, “ Ih e sun disappeared and my son appeared!” Vasile Papacioc was the descendent o f a wealthy family originally from Macedonia in northern Greece, o f Aromanian descent12 with the surname Albu. Fr. Arsenie’s great-grand­ father was a priest and was known as Popa cu cioc (bearded priest), which eventually became shortened to “ Papacioc.” His 1 Despite the fact that the civil registry records his birthdatc as August 13 ,19 14 , Fr. Arsenie knew from his mother and always asserted that his birth­ day was August 15. In those days births were not always registered accurately. 2 Tire Aromanians, or Mace do-Romanians, are from Latin enclaves in the Balkan Peninsula. In Romania they were often called Macedonians be­ cause many came to Romania from the region o f Macedonia.— E d .



grandfather, a shepherd, emigrated to Romania, bringing with him thousands o f sheep. Fr. Arsenie recalled asking a local farmer how many sheep his grandfather, Mircea, had possessed. In reply the farmer told him that he had once asked Mircea about combining their individual flocks into one large flock. “How many sheep do you have?” Mircea had asked the farmer. When the farmer had replied that he had seventy, Mircea said, “My [sheep] dogs alone number seventy!” There were two girls and four other boys in the family. The first child, a boy, died in infancy on the day his mother was giving birth to the second child. “Can you imagine my poor mother, giving birth while one child lay dead on the table!” Anghcl grew up as a country boy, living in communion with his family and nature. “ We were seven children, and we grew up mostly outside.” He believed that children received great benefit from spending their youth in an open environ­ ment, preferably in nature, where they could grow harmoni­ ously in body and spirit. His parents, Vasile and Stanca, possessed the fear o f God and kept the ancient traditions and customs. They worked hard in order to offer their children all they needed. “ Every year at Pascha our parents bought us new clothes and boots. Even though some things were passed down from the older children to the younger, no year passed by without us getting new clothes.” His father was the medical attendant— a posi­ tion which included the work o f the doctor, veterinarian, and dentist— for six villages, an important position at a time when doctors were rare in rural areas. W ith the earnings from his po­ sition, he generously contributed to the construction o f the vil­ lage church. His oldest daughter followed in his footsteps and studied medicine, but lung disease ended her life prematurely, at the age o f twenty-seven. Fr. Arsenie would say, “ I thank God for having Christian parents. What you receive from your fam­ ily remains with you for rhe rest o f your life.”



Vasile and Stanca Papacioc.

Anghcl’s mother, Stanca, was from the village o f Dragu$ in Fagara; County, Transylvania. She was Anghel’s first instruc­ tor in the life of a Christian. She raised him in the Christian virtues, explaining the world in terms ot spiritual meanings, as Fr. Arsenic· would recount: “ When I saw a sheep pawing the ground with its hoof before going to sleep, I asked my mother, ‘ Why is it pawing?’ And my mother said, 'It’s worshipping, my child!’ So why should I not worship as well?” He would go to the village church— not encouraged by anyone, but out of spiritual need. “ In my youth I was the only one in the village who went to church. No old women, no men, only me. Once some people in the village were talking about the priest, saying, ‘Only one person comes to church, and not even he stays to the end!’ I thought the service was over when the priest came out [from the Holy Altar] with the Holy Gifts, and so I went home. After hearing this, knowing that the speaker was refer­ ring to me, I never left church until after the priest left, just to be sure.” Young Anghel’s inclination for the spiritual life was


understood and respected by his friends. When they would set o ff in “procession” on the village streets, they would always choose Anghel to be “the priest.” His early experiences o f education molded his theories on Christian instruction. Later in life, during his discussions with teachers o f religion, Fr. Arsenie insisted that they not empha­ size historical facts in their classes, but rather convey to the children the idea o f a living and omnipotent God. As a young child Anghel was already making decisions with a developed Christian conscience. Fr. Arsenie recalled: “ I was five or six years old when a boy beat me. The children from neighboring villages had the bad habit o f starting fights when they would meet. The boy caught me at the edge o f the forest, and with a thorny locust branch he bloodied my legs— I was wearing shorts. Since my father had authority over six villages as the medical attendant, I said to myself, ‘I ’m not telling my papa, because he’ll beat him, and this is not pleasing to God. I would rather endure it.’ Imagine what I was able to contem­ plate at that age, when the desire for revenge is so strong! It was not the result o f education, which I only had the opportunity to complete in prisons and monasteries!” Already the greatest Christian virtue— love for one’s enemies—was working in him, something he would practice for the rest o f his life. While still quite young, Anghel’s life was endangered nu­ merous times. Later he understood that God had protected him in all those dangerous situations: “No movement, no event is an accident.... God guides us in an exceedingly mystical and secret manner on the right path. We have all been saved from many misfortunes because God didn’t permit affliction to come upon us. We had a cow named Joiana. She would not let anyone milk her, except my mother. Once she took me by the horns and caught my belt. Her horn could have punctured my belly, but my mother came quickly and saved me from her horns.”



Another time some horses almost trampled him. “From childhood I was an accomplished horseman. Once I was bring­ ing the horses to the pasture so they could trot around. I was riding one horse, with another one by my side. A neighbor saw me and said, Anghel, take my horses too!’ So I took them. Then I ran into another neighbor who asked me to take his horses also. Even though I knew how to control the horses, finding myself with so many, little as I was, I fainted out o f nervousness and fell oft my horse. The horses all passed over me, but didn’t trample me. Another time they went around me and did me no harm.” Some time later he was almost killed while threshing in the fields. Hie threshing machine had a chain that needed to be set at a precise length, but Anghel erroneously fixed it at a shorter distance. This caused the thresher to lift him up together with the chain. Tire machine was in motion and he was about to be crushed. He thought quickly, “I ’ll die if I hold on to the chain. I’d rather let go from up here.” He let go, fell, and injured him­ self, but his life was spared. Fr. Arsenie was gifted with a prodigious memory and could even remember events from the First World War, when he was only three or four: “Our father would dig trenches in the ground for the boys, and he would hide the girls in the straw barn. I would gaze up from the trenches and see the dust from an explosion, thinking about keeping it out o f my eyes.” He also recounted a curious habit from his early child­ hood: “ When I was little I always stuck my tongue out, even while asleep. I have a photograph together with my siblings, and my tongue is out.” This was an opportunity for his father to predict about the future preacher: “ Know that this one will be a great talker in life!” Anghel excelled in school. In the first grade he received a prize for his studies and was awarded a crown. At the cer­ emony he recited a poem taught him by his older sister:



Beautiful little flower, who has given you life and brilliant colors? The One Who has enlivened you, has enlivened me also, He is your Father and mine, and His name is God! In the fourth grade his class, together with their teacher, dug a well. Fr. Arsenic remembered, “He trusted us so much that we dug a well together. Can you imagine? We were ten years old.... And the entire neighborhood o f that village still drinks water from the well.” Around this time the first signs o f his artistic talent were displayed. “Once I drew on the door— our father did not allow us to write on the door— the heads o f a cat and o f a horse. My father didn’t reprimand me when he saw it; rather, he admired it. This is when I started to realize I had a gift for drawing.” His talent enabled him to go to Bucharest in 1917 and study sculpture at Polizu High School, an art and trade school. During this period he received extensive instruction in the theory o f art. Later, after graduating high school, he began to acquire skills in sculpture. In Bucharest he stayed in the dorm, like all the other stu­ dents from rural areas. Here he developed a deep friendship with one o f his classmates. One year at Pascha they were left with no food. “My mother didn’t know about it. If she had, she would have been very sad. I bought about two pounds of plums and we ate plums on Pascha.” They made an oath to be­ come monastics. “We were about thirteen or fourteen, and we thought about becoming monks. Can you imagine? We had not even seen a monastery, or a monk; we didn’t know what the monastic life was about, but you can already see in me the thought o f becoming a monk. Later on my friend got married at Râşnov. I always commemorate him.” Once a hypnotist came to the high school where he was



studying. “ We, the young people, were curious. And he called some o f us, including me, to the instructors desk (there was a large instructor’s desk in the drawing classroom). He was wav­ ing his hands, trying to mesmerize our souls. I was conscien­ tious— and so I went more as a joke, not wanting to stand out from the other students. There were teachers and hundreds, maybe a thousand, students. But he couldn’t hypnotize me at all. He chased me away: ‘Go away!’ I didn’t know why he couldn’t hypnotize me, but he was able to do it to the oth­ ers. Later on I realized that I had an inner presence, a presence given by God.... There are souls that do not give in to these demonic movements.”34 As he matured, the precision and depth o f his mind be­ gan to be revealed. Once, during a meeting o f the weekly jour­ nal Vraja (Charm)—where Anghel was a non-voting student member and his older brother was an editor— a dispute arose. Anghel’s brother stated, “Even if I take a drop from the sea, it is still something!” The others began to argue with him, saying that it was nothing. Eventually they turned to Anghel for his opinion, and he said: “An analysis o f the sea is performed on a drop taken from it. Therefore, the chemical content o f the sea’s water is known based on a single drop. Based on your theory, even if you take a whole wagon or an entire train it’s nothing! It’s not a question o f quantity, but that of taking or not!” Anghel was inspired by his brother to read all the books he could find in the “ Library for A ll” series, including renowned classics. He was particularly impressed by Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. Later on, when he was about twenty-eight, he read the Patericon'— which laid the foundation for his spiritual growth. 3 N e vorbeşte Părintele A rsénié [Father Arsénié talks to us], vol. 3 (Vânători: Mănăstirea Sihăstria, 10 0 4 ), p. 83. 4 The Patericon: the lives and sayings o f the Fathers o f the fourth- and fifth-century Egyptian desert.— E d .



His gift for writing enabled him to win a poetry contest at the journal. Until old age, he continued to nurture this gift, expressing spiritual realities and counsels in an original fash­ ion. His letters to his spiritual children eloquently prove his exquisite writing. He used his prodigious intellect to memorize the poems o f renowned poets, like Eminescu, George Co$buc, Ovidiu, and others, which he preserved to the end o f his life, quoting them when offering counsel to his spiritual children. He spent his vacations in his village, Misleanu, joining in the life o f the village. “I was shy in my youth, reserved in con­ versing with girls. I thought to myself, ‘How can I go speak to a girl?!’ The girls would pester me to go dancing,5 but I would generally sit with the elderly men and women, who would call me over to talk to them, saying, ‘Well, Anghel, how are things?’ My mother wasn’t pleased with this; she would’ve liked me to go and dance with the girls. She’d say, ‘Look, my Anghel is sitting with the old folk!’ But God was preserving me for monasticism.” Nonetheless, he had a special relationship with his moth­ er, remembering her with fondness and longing, “ We were also friends. She talked to me about everything. I had a good mother.” He showed great respect to everyone, inheriting his father’s custom o f greeting people before they would greet him. When he would see his godfather on the street, even if he were on the opposite side, he would run and kiss his hand. Even in his youth, Anghel already displayed the pastoral gift God had bestowed upon him. He recounted, “Every man is born in the world with a purpose; he is not born in vain. I had a different character than my siblings. Every evening I was in­ vited to a different house in the village. The people would say, ‘Anghel is coming to tell us about G o d!’... One day I would go

5 That is, to Romanian folk dancing, specifically, a round dance known as the hora.— T r a n s . zo


co one house, the next, to another. I had a schedule arranged a few days in advance.” These visits were not without danger: “In the winter, there were many wolves in the area surrounding our village. Our house had three exits and at each door we had a club co ward off wolves. Once, some boys were coming to take me to a house, to talk to them about God. I heard the dogs barking, and I went outside, thinking that the boys had arrived, but it wasn’t them: it was a wolf. Since I had not brought the club, I quickly grabbed an acacia branch with many limbs. When the w olf came at me, I thrust the branch in front o f it. The dogs came and bit the wolf, and it ran away.... I was able to stop it with the branch, but I could not have scopped it with the club, even if I had brought it. Only later did I realize how much God had helped me.” One winter evening one o f Anghcl’s younger brothers went to find a rabbit shot by a hunter. Since he was late, Anghel went to find him. The snow on the field was very thick and through the fog he saw wolves coming toward him. He stepped aside and waited, shivering. Due to the fog the wolves contin­ ued coward the spot where they had initially seen him, but they did not find him. Throughout his life, Fr. Arsenie cultivated, nurtured, and perfected love— love o f enemies. Fundata Lake was about half a mile from their family home. One summer vacation Anghel was walking with other village youth along the shore. A drunk­ en villager named Marinache approached them, wrongfully ac­ cusing them o f stealing one o f his sheeps bells. Although they denied it, he jumped on them to beat them. The young people ran away, splitting in two groups. Some went toward a nearby knoll, but Anghel ran toward the lake. When he got to the shore, he undressed, jumped into the water and began to swim. The villager did not swim after him, but followed him, run­ ning along the shore. Anghel traversed the lake, but when he



got to the other side, two men caught him and held him un­ til Marinache came and beat him with a stick. Upon returning home he told his family what had happened. His father and brothers were enraged and wanted to punish the villager. This could have been carried out quite easily, since his father was a well-respected man in the village, but, in the end, he was never punished, because Anghel forgave him. Later on, while serving in the army, Marinachc’s son was under Anghel’s supervision. Anghel constantly helped and protected him. “Now [in the year zooo], at the Liturgy I always remember Marinache first when I begin my commemorations o f those from my village.” At the end o f his academic breaks, Anghel would return to school in Bucharest. His father greatly desired his children to have an education, making great efforts to keep them in good schools in Bucharest. But one winter, while returning from work, he fell in the snow. No one was there to help him and he caught a terrible cold, and eventually contracted tuberculosis. He was taken for treatment to a rehabilitation center for pul­ monary diseases, but, despite all the medical help, he could not fight the illness and died at age fifty-six. After their fathers repose, the Papacioc children could not afford to continue their studies. Anghel finished high school and returned to the village. As Anghel matured spiritually and intellectually, he also saw the importance o f athletic training. Tire self-discipline and perseverance he acquired during these years were qualities that would aid him in his monasticism, imprisonment, and life in the wilderness. After high school he played for the Slobozia soccer team. Slobozia was the most prominent city in the re­ gion, and Anghel had to walk six and a half miles from Misleanu to get there. He had a natural talent for the game, and one o f his teammates would exclaim, “Every time Papacioc plays, we win the game.” He eventually gave up soccer to focus on rugby. “ I had very good footwork; they even wanted to take



me to Sweden.” He was a substitute for the Romanian rugby team in a game against France. But even during his adolescence, he did not separate his athletic life from his spiritual strivings: “ I played sports until I was twenty. At that time, I was the first in sprinting and second in jumping at the interscholastic competition, which took place in Bucharest. The fact that I was exercising, not just studying, was tremendously beneficial! During one rugby game, due to my momentum and speed, I couldn’t avoid running into a player, so I jumped over him. A f­ ter that, the newspapers called me the Blond Panther— due to my blond hair. One day during practice, I kicked the ball very hard and accidentally hit a girl—who should not have been on the field— in the head. I felt the need to go and apologize to her. I thought she was about fourteen or fifteen years old. “She said, ‘The Blond Panther!’ “I replied, ‘That’s not my name. My name is Anghel Papacioc!’ “She continued, ‘Does this [the fact that she was hit by the ball] mean that I’m now an athlete, too?’ “ I saw her naïveté and told her, ‘No, for the moment you are just a person who got hit. Go, young girl, and pray to the Mother o f G o d !’ I insisted that she pray to the Theotokos, as was my custom to do in the locker room. “I didn’t see her after that, until, seventy years later, she showed up at Techirghiol [Monastery] with two granddaugh­ ters holding her hands, and said, ‘Father, I ’m the girl you hit in the head with the ball! I prayed to the Mother o f God, as you advised me; she helped me and I ’ve succeeded in all things!’” One year his rugby team was playing in the championship. He had played in all the playoff games on the starting team, but at the time o f the final he was doing his military service. He asked for permission from the major to go and play the championship game, taking the train and joining his team on


the field. The game began. “I don’t know how I managed to make such a good catch, but then there was an opponent in front o f me. I jumped over him, and scored three points. There was a scuffle, but the result remained }-o and we won the cup.” A career in sports beckoned, but Anghel had other plans, and he never allowed himself to be overcome by the crowns o f victory. Despite his success, he sincerely reflected, “Anghel, you have to give it up!” (Later he would say, “I rejoice that I made this decision”) Divine providence and his own will— in a synergy he would later comprehend— guided him on another path in life. At the age o f nineteen, Anghel joined the Legion o f the Archangel Michael (the Legionnaires), a movement originally created to spiritually transform Romania through the Christian formation o f the youth. After the death o f the founder, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, in 1958, the movement became more po­ litical and eventually turned violent. Nevertheless, the early Legionnaire movement inculcated Christian virtues into many o f the young men who would later become new martyrs or righteous elders. The guiding princi­ ples o f the Legion during this time were o f a noble character: “Knowing and fulfilling the Gospel commandments, reading the Psalter, going to Church, Confession, Communion, fast­ ing, good manners, love o f neighbor, and almsgiving were man­ datory for all those who wanted to be called Legionnaires."6 Among the members, there were exceptional people o f noble aspiration who became models o f ethics, courage, and heroism for the young Anghel. Now a spiritual ideal took shape in his soul, an ideal he fol­ lowed all his life and expressed so beautifully later: “Our desire was that God grant us the blessing o f dying torn into pieces and tortured for the spark o f Truth that we knew abode in us, 6

M onk Filoteu Bălan, M ărturia unui cre/tin. Părintele M arcu de la

Sihăstria [The confession o f a Christian. Father Marcu o f Sihăstria] (Petru Vodă: Petru Vodă Monastery, 10 0 7 ), p. 10.



for Whose defense we would enter into a life-and-death battle with the ruling powers o f darkness. This was my motto!” He loved the Legionnaire spirit o f teamwork and sacrifice. “ Immediately after I joined the Legion I went to Bucharest to receive proper Legionnaire training.”" First he went to the Le­ gion’s headquarters, where he met Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, their leader. He considered him “a true hero, a remarkable personality who would win you over on the spot. When we finished talking, he told me, ‘Go and lay the foundation!’”8 Anghel began to “lay the foundation”—participating in the Legionnaire camps. “ The Legionnaire camps rebuilt church­ es, repaired schools, maintained cemeteries, built roads and bridges.”'’ Even though he was still young, Anghel knew that you could not succeed in life unless you were completely dedi­ cated. “ Life is not about talking, but about advancing. Do you want to achieve a goal? Get going! Don’t stand idle! We achieve our goal not by talking but by advancing.” 10 His goal was not a random one, but the Resurrection. As a Legionnaire, Anghel continued to maintain a balance in his life. “I was a Legionnaire and I do not regret it, but I did not allow the Legionnaire training to suppress Christian principles. That would have been a deadly error. Do you want to be a good Legionnaire? You have to be a good Christian soldier, like the warrior-martyrs o f old. It’s similar to the army. Arhiva Consiliului Naţional Pentru Studierea Arhivelor Securităţii [The Archives o f the National Council for Studying the Securitate Archives]

(a c n sa s ). Informam file 13 4 13 1, pp. 7-8 .

8 Hieromonlt Justin

and Monk Kirion, “C e atâta frică de moarte? De

câte ori n-am murit până acum?” [W hy fear death so much? H ow many times haven’t I died so far?] (interview with Father Arscnie Papacioc), A titu din i [Outlook], August 10 11, p. 16. 9 Francisco Veiga, Istoria G ărzii de F ier [The history o f the Iron Guard], (Bucharest: Humanitas Press, 1995), p. 1 10 . 10 Hicromonk Justin and M onk Kirion, “C e atâta frică de moarte?" p.




First you do your military service, following its rules. Upon your release you return to your birthplace.” 11 Unfortunately, the Legionnaire movement was later known for its crimes. Fa­ ther did not condone them. “Errors were also committed in the Legionnaire Movement, as murder was encouraged, but I don’t know what was behind these crimes, nor about the inner intrigues people talked about.” 112 In later years Fr. Arsenie would recount the importance o f the Legionnaire movement in his development. “The Legion helped me enormously; it was truly a severe and intimate struggle in order for us to give birth to a new man from within the already-existing one. It [this rebirth] was something necessary in my life. The principles o f Legionnairetraining were extraordinary. It was a system o f training that en­ gaged you. This brought me out o f a latent adolescent state, where I felt I wanted something but didn’t know what. This is when the Legion appeared, with its fervor, with its valor, under the protection o f the Archangel Michael. This aspect o f the movement won me over completely, since I had known the troparion13 o f the archangel from childhood. “I knew Codreanu, I had many discussions with him, and I held him in great esteem. We cannot consider the Legion apart from the will o f God; therefore, it was the will o f God, even though it sprang from certain secular, historical causes. “I was not in agreement with murders o f revenge.14 I had a brother, a Legionnaire, who was shot by police soldiers. When the Legionnaires rose to power, I could have avenged my brother’s death.” 15 11 Ibid., p. 16. 12 Ibid. 13 Troparion: a central hymn to God or to the saints or the angels.— E d . 14 That is, the violent acts o f the Legionnaires.— T r a n s . 15 M onk Moses, Sfântul închisorilor [The saint o f the prisons], (Sibiu: Editura Agnos, 10 0 9 ), pp. 4 5-46.



Nevertheless, he continued to live according to the Lord’s commandment, Love your enemies. “I could have simply killed him.... Instead I sent him this message: ‘ 1 am setting guards at your gate! By no means should anything happen to you!’... What power did I possess?... 1 pondered: if I take revenge on him, heaven will no longer be indebted to me, and neither will my brother.... And he [the killer] died, after many years, from remorse.... “If you don’t take revenge, God will remain indebted to you. All vengeance is His. Revenge does not solve your prob­ lem. On the contrary, if you take revenge you continue to be greatly in debt to God. Therefore, [if you don’t take revenge] God owes you. If we don’t do our duty o f fulfilling the com­ mandment to love— for we have to love even our enemies and evil-doers— the devil gains the advantage o f a very dangerous line o f attack: he fiercely accuses you without giving you a chance to explain: ‘You have given a man over to death!’ And you can’t tell [the devil] that you didn’t do it, because you can’t justify yourself to the devil, since he views things the way they are. Thus, you have to consider the commandment o f love in order to cut the devil off! “On the other hand, you’re allowed to defend yourself from evil-doers, for the Savior says, I f the goodman o f the bouse had known in what watch the th ief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up (Matt. 14:45). Clearly, you won’t just try to stop him if he attacks you; rather, you’ll fight him. Yes, you have to defend yourself. 'Thus, he could be injured. By all means, you’re al­ lowed to defend yourself!” Later, Anghel was sent to organize the Legionnaire move­ ment in Ialomiţa County. Due to his leadership skills he was made a Legionnaire instructor, a very prominent rank in the Legion, becoming the C h ief o f Legionnaire training in that county. During the elections in that county the military police


lined up in front o f the Legionnaires, trying to stop them from voting. Anghel was leading the Legionnaire group, and a mili­ tary policeman pricked him in the rib with a bayonet. Then, trembling with fear, the soldier dropped his rifle. Anghel took it and handed it back to him— reprimanding him: “ Your father is my father also, and your mother is my mother. Take your rifle!” The soldier had inflicted a serious wound near Anghel’s abdomen, which left a scar. At the age o f twenty-two Anghel was called to fulfill his military duties. His superiors commended him for his skill and earnestness, and he was promptly promoted— receiving impor­ tant missions, which he accomplished successfully. Later, he ap­ plied some o f the realities he encountered there to the spiritual life, being called the m ilitary monk. He would say, “God saves man through man. In order to be capable of saving someone, we have to put ourselves in order— becoming a foundation for the Savior in saving him. Man is saved through man. It is a type o f anchor.’ A mounted gun recoils when it’s fired, so it’s fixed on an anchor that keeps it in place. Man is a kind o f anchor, and God ‘fires the gun’ toward other people.” 1*’ Later on he be­ came such an anchor, after being conditioned through absolute obedience as a monk, endurance o f unjust sufferings, patience, solitude in the wilderness, and hidden prayer. God used him as a strong anchor, steadfast in the midst o f tempests, with his eyes constandy directed to the Lord—Whom he solely desired. In the midst o f his military service, Anghel’s commanding officer, a major, reposed. Anghel was appointed to his posi­ tion, even though he was a simple sergeant. His first report im­ pressed the general, who praised him in front o f all the officers. He asked him, “If you were a general, what would you teach the soldiers?” 16 Archimandrite Arsenie Papacioc, interview with Asociaţia Studenţilor Creştini Ortodocşi din România [The Association o f Orthodox Christian Students in Romania] (a sc o r ), 1994.


Anghel Papacioc while serving in the army.

“ I would teach them to die,” Anghel replied. “ If soldiers didn’t fear death, they wouldn’t be so cowardly. They would fight better and win.” The general continued, “Do you want to stay in the army?” “N o !” “ W hy?” “Because you aren’t free. I saw that even you have to stand at attention before another general.” During the reign o f King Carol II, Romania imported all its military supplies from the Czech Republic. To become in­ dependent from the Czechs, the king decided to establish a munitions factory in Romania, in the mountains near Braşov. Anghel was about to be employed in this undertaking. After completing his military service Anghel studied for



two years at the Faculty o f Chemistry in Bucharest, at the newly founded Department o f Pyrotechnics. When he com­ pleted his studies he moved to the factory in Braşov, where his brother, Radu, was the chief foreman. Anghel’s expertise and seriousness bore fruit here as well. He was able to halve the production time for mercury fulmi­ nate— the main substance used in manufacturing explosives. Consequendy, production increased dramatically, and he was rewarded: his salary increased from two thousand lei,17 in the beginning, to nine thousand lei, which was a considerableamount at the time. “ I lived well, I had money, I had a car”— a rarity in those days, as were his two drivers. One evening he was going to Poiana Braşov on a windy road. The headlights were illumining the fir trees on the sides o f the road. Sitting in the back seat, Anghel said to himself, “Anghel, if you don’t become a monk, you’ll gain all the riches o f this world in vain!”

17 The leu (plural lei) is the currency o f Romania. Two thousand lei in 1936 is equivalent to 35,000 U.S. dollars in aoi8, and nine thousand lei in 1936 is equivalent to 160,000 U.S. dollars in 10 18 .— E d .



FR OM M A Y O R TO P R I S O N E R 1938 the authorities brought fabricated charges against the Papacioc brothers. A false witness related that he had heard one o f the brothers (he did not specify which one) say that he had the opportunity to kill King Carol II dur­ N D ecem ber


ing one o f his visits to the munitions factory in Braşov, but that he had not done so because he had not received the order. While taking a walk in a nearby forest, the innocent brothers, Anghel and Radu, were surrounded and arrested. Frightened, Radu whispered, “ They’ll shoot us, they’ll shoot us!” Anghel courageously kept his calm, encouraging his older brother, say­ ing, “Let it snow, let it snow on the soul forever.” They were brought to the prison camp at Miercurea Ciuc. Eventually, the investigation revealed the innocence o f both brothers. They were released— but not at the same time (Radu was released first)— and the slanderer was condemned to a year imprisonment and given a thousand-lei fine and a five hundredlei charge in court fees.1 However, these investigations lasted two years; two years in which Anghel was unjustly detained in the prison camp. While suffering wrongfully at the hands o f his fellow-men and being tormented by the devil, the grace o f God visited and comforted him—purifying and deepening his prayer. “I would withdraw to the attic o f the building and immerse myself in prayer ... and the devil would torture me terribly. He would appear in front o f me and I would wrestle with him there many times. Yes, we 1

a c n s a s , Penal file 0 0 0 10 1, vol. 6, pp. 4s, 50,5 1,5 7 .



fought for hours,” he told one o f his fellow prisoners.2 He was only twenty-five at the time. This was just the beginning o f his intimate knowledge o f the Romanian correction system. He would undergo arrest over forty times throughout his life, being imprisoned for fourteen years in all. While most people recall their youth as a period o f joy and freedom, Fr. Arscnie would say, “I spent a big part o f my youth being arrested and in prison.” Many Legionnaires were incarcerated at Miercurea Ciuc. They would spend their free time making crosses, crucifixes, or icons, and also performing their daily prayer rule. Mircea Eliade,3 interred there at the same time, recalled: “ In the eve­ ning, the communal prayer would end with an impressive ‘God is with us’ sung by three hundred voices. On the top floor there was a room reserved for ‘unceasing prayer.’ A prisoner would pray (or read the Scriptures or the Psalter) for an hour each day, stopping only when his replacement would arrive. Many would request to be scheduled between three and five o’clock in the morning— the hardest time to stay awake.”4 By the time o f Anghel’s release, his brother, Radu, was al­ ready dead. On the night o f September 2.1, 1919, Radu was tak­ en to the Râşnoava Valley, where, together with nine other Le­ gionnaires, he was shot. To cover up the crime, the authorities stated that they were shot while trying to escape. They were buried in a common grave in the Râşnov cemetery. All o f them were intellectuals: two engineers, a doctor o f theology, three lawyers, a captain, a college graduate, and two clerks. Anghel 2 a c n sa s , Informant file 18500;, v o l . p . 158. 3 Mircea Eliade (19 07-19 8 6) was a Romanian historian o f religion, phi­ losopher, fiction writer, and professor at the University o f Chicago. In August 1938 he was interred in the camp at Miercurea Ciuc. He was released on N o ­ vember iz o f the same year, after being taken to a clinic the previous month because he was coughing up blood.— E d . 4 Fabian Seiche, M a rtiri f i m ărturisitori rom âni din secolul X X [Rom a­ nian martyrs and confessors in the twentieth century] (Făgăraş: Agaton Press,

1010), p. 39.



was grieved by the deaths o f his brother and all the other Le­ gionnaires. Later on he would recount to his co-sufferers at Aiud Prison how St. Nicholas, the protector o f the imprisoned, preserved him from death at Miercurea Ciuc. The following year a committee investigated the murders and found those responsible for the crime.5 Marshal Ion An­ tonescu6 gave the order to unearth the bodies o f the ten Le­ 5 ACNSAS, Penal file 400660, pp. 1 - 1 . Antoncscu (1881-1946) had been a prominent general and a minister in the Romanian government in the 1930s. In 1940 he forced King

6 Ion

Carol, whose regime had become synonymous with corruption, to abdicate. He became prime minister and conducător (leader) o f Romania from 1940 to 1944, forming a coalition government with the Legionnaires. The regime was known as the National Legionary State, but only lasted until January 1941, when Antonescu aligned himself with Hitler and purged the Legionnaires. He was given the title M areşal (Marshal), the highest rank in the Army o f Romania. Antonescu was later executed, in 1946, by the Com munist govern­ ment as a war criminal.— E d .



gionnaires and bury them in a Christian manner— including a coffin and a proper funeral service for each. On exhuming Radu’s body it was found that his head had been punctured. Anghel and his mother, Stanca, took part in the funeral, at which Antonescu was also present. He shook Anghel’s hand, saying, “We move forward with all o f you and with G o d !” Touched by the funeral service, his mother whispered, “What a beautiful funeral!" Those are the last words Fr. Arse­ nic remembered his mother saying. A tall, black wooden cross was erected on the grave, with an inscription on the base: “ In memory o f those killed for an ideal and for their love of their nation.” The history o f those years is full o f tragic events. The gov­ ernment o f King Carol II began to arrest the leaders and the ac­ tive members o f the Legionnaire movement and confine them in prison camps. They condemned Corneliu Codrcanu to ten years o f forced labor and then killed him, together with thir­ teen other Legionnaire prisoners, under the pretext that they were attempting to escape while being transferred to another prison. The murder o f Corneliu Codreanu was followed by the assassination o f the Prime Minister, Armand Calinescu, by a Legionnaire commando. The regime responded by executing without a trial 151 people, almost the entire Legionnaire lead­ ership. This bloody series o f events ended during the days be­ tween November z6 and 18, 1940, after the installation o f the new regime o f Ion Antonescu. At that time a rebellious group o f Legionnaires lawlessly killed seventy-two people— represen­ tatives o f the regime o f King Carol II. In the midst o f all this bloody uproar Anghel preserved his integrity. He detached himself from everything and remained anchored in eternity. After his release from the camp at Miercurea Ciuc on April 18, 1940, Anghel worked as secretary for a lawyer. Then, when the Legionnaires, in coalition with Antonescu, came to rule the country, he was elected mayor o f Zarnefti— an area that



incorporated the villages o f Tohanu Vechi, Tohanu Nou, Bran, and Poiana Mărului. It was now October. At the age o f twenty-six, he was the youngest mayor in R o­ mania, but key Legionaires supported him in his work. These friendships later became even stronger in Aiud Prison, where this group formed a center o f spiritual strength and resistance. As a young mayor, Anghel strove to uphold justice. Zărneşti had a large budget due to the forests in its administration. On one occasion, someone came to request approval to cut down all o f the pine trees from a parcel o f land. Anghel replied, “I ’m not signing anything until I see what this is about.” He went and saw that the lot was covered with beautiful, young pine trees, and did not allow them to be cleared. “ I did not consent; otherwise there would have been a huge loss from cutting them while still so young.” There were times when the people did not follow the requirements for cutting down trees, and the young mayor would have to confiscate all the wood and give it to the poor of Zărneşti. There was a custom in the area o f preserving cheese in pine bark. The excessive stripping o f the bark caused many pine trees to die. Mayor Papacioc ordered all such activity to cease; otherwise the office would give the offenders a hefty fine and confiscate all their cheese. After discovering that someone had disobeyed the directive, he called together all the counsel­ ors. They went to the offenders house and confiscated all the cheese— the whole basement was packed— and gave it to the poor. “But,” Fr. Arsenic would recall, “I didn’t fine him.” He would address the people every Sunday afternoon, en­ couraging them to be honorable in their dealings with others and giving them many profitable counsels. From the beginning, he told his counselors not to take any bribes. “ We had a big budget, so I gave them a good salary in order to keep them from accepting bribes.” Once he asked a man who came to him with a petition how much he had given the secretary for



helping him. The man answered, “One leu.” Mayor Papacioc sent the man back to the secretary to have his leu returned to him. Consequently, the secretary was upset because the mayor was making such a big deal over a leu. “It was only a leu, but it was perpetuating the sin.... I wanted to break their habit o f taking bribes,” Fr. Arsenie later recounted. While mayor, he rented a room from the towns pharma­ cist. The pharmacists wife—seeing a young, handsome, and well-mannered man— thought him to be worldly and tried to tempt him. Once she sent the servant to call him to her room, where she was waiting for him in bed. Perceiving her inten­ tions, he came no farther into the room than the doorway. Anghel ironically asked, “Ma’am, are you ill?!” and left immedi­ ately. The pharmacist was aware o f his wife’s character, and he greatly appreciated Anghel for his chastity and righteousness. Sixty years later Fr. Arsenie said, “ I have been commemorating him with zeal at every service for the last sixty years.” The so-called “Legionnaire rebellion” took place in Janu­ ary 1941. At Governor Marian Traian’s order, Mayor Papacioc went to Braşov with a group o f Legionnaires to support the Legionnaire administration o f that county, which was dealing with the political changes instituted by the new regime o f Ion Antonescu. Upon their arrival at Braşov, they were split up and sent to different institutions in the city to maintain order. A n­ ghel was assigned to patrol the area surrounding the governor’s office. In some areas o f the city there were confrontations be­ tween Antonescu’s men and the Legionnaires. On January 13 the new regime ordered the evacuation of all the buildings occupied by the Legionnaires, and mayor Pa­ pacioc and his men set o ff for Zărneşti. Neither he nor his men took part in the violent confrontations between the two sides. On the road the army stopped the trucks, and the Legion­ naires were arrested. Anghel was riding in a car behind them,



allowing him time to go to General Dragalina (the nephew o f the renowned general by the same name) and obtain from him a release authorization for his men. He took the released Legionnaires home to Zarne$ti and told them, “I brought you back safely; now you are free and healthy. From now on do whatever you want.” (“My men and I did not shoot a single bullet; we returned all the guns and ammunition intact. We re­ turned as many as we’d received,” Fr. Arsenie later recollected.)



“According to the archival documents, there were no gunshots, no soldier was disarmed, and Mayor Papacioc was not involved in any armed incidents at Braşov.”78 Although Anghel’s part in the rebellion consisted of keep­ ing the peace, the new authorities issued an arrest warrant in his name, accusing him o f “revolt.” He voluntarily presented him­ self to the authorities and, after the trial, he was condemned to six years o f correctional imprisonment. He was taken to the penitentiary in Braşov. While imprisoned, he labored and built a chapel, and also carved the Royal Doors for the altar. “A l­ though an inmate, I was running the prison there. How much people trusted me, and how they listened to me! Not just in administrative matters, but especially in spiritual and life issues. There was literally a pilgrimage to my door, and 1 almost didn’t find the time to listen to everyone and give them the appropri­ ate counsel. I was wondering then: what do those men find in me that they seek me ?”s Based on a law suspending the execution o f sentences for active-duty soldiers, he was released in August to go to the front. He presented himself to the Fortieth Infantry Battalion to join in the fighting. “The soldiers’ deployment center was at Feteşti. I was assigned to the Fortieth Battalion, having to go with it to Odessa. I set o ff and, before I arrived there, the bat­ talion had entered into battle, where they were annihilated. I was given another battalion, also in Odessa. I set o ff again, and by the time I got there the battalion had gone into battle and all o f them were killed. Then I returned to Feteşti, where the colonel in charge o f these troop postings said, ‘God is protect­ ing this man from death!’ And thus they let me return home.” 7 Adrian Nicolae Petcu, Părintele Arsenic Papacioc in docum entele Securităţii (1938-19S8), Caietele CNSAS [Father Arsenie Papacioc in the Secu­

ritate files (1938-1958),

C N SA S Notebooks], (Bucharest:

P- *538

a c n s a s , Informant file 185003, voi. 3, p. 49.

CNSAS Press, 1013),


Years later Fr. Arsenie would say, “I wanted to go to the mon­ astery, and that’s why God was protecting me.” On August 15, 1941, Anghel was allowed to return to Zârneçti. Upon arriving, he informed the authorities o f his return, and soon he heard a rumor that they were looking to incarcerate him. On September 2 he decided to go to his par­ ents’ home in Perieti. That evening two police soldiers came and informed him that his firearm license issued by the Le­ gionnaire administration was no longer valid; he had to sur­ render it together with his gun. Also, Anghel learned from his younger brother that they were following him, intending to kill him. On September 4, Anghel went to Brafov, stopping in Zàrnefti— where he turned in his firearm license and his gun, as he had been asked. Despite the fact that Anghel had precisely complied with the directives o f the new government, the authorities realized they had made a mistake. In their rush to send people to the front, they had released many Legionnaires who “did not meet all the criteria” o f the law, suspending their sentences. Now they were trying to find those who had survived and incarcer­ ate them again. Anghel was also on their list because “he was released in error”— as stated in a letter to the regiment.9 The regiment declared that “Sergeant Papacioc presented himself to the regiment, but his unit was not deployed and he was al­ lowed to return home.” 10 However, the mandate remained val­ id. Aware o f what was about to happen, he fled. “ Having poor health and not wanting to suffer again the prison regimen and to be the target o f persecution, I decided to hide in the moun­ tains and live as a recluse. I lived this life on Piatra Craiului Mountain.” 11 Divine providence continued to guide him every­ where, as he entrusted himself completely to God. 9 Ibid., vol. 5, p. 7. 10 Ibid., vol. s, p. 5. 11 a c n s a s , Informant file 134131, pp. 7-8.



One day he encountered a hermit on the mountain. “ That day I remained to pray with him amid the rocks, where I made a thorough confession o f my state to him. When I asked to stay with him, desiring to live a spiritual life, he consented for us to remain together. He told me about the strength with which we must arm ourselves in order to endure living such a life, recounting to me the life o f St. Mary of Egypt, who stayed in the desert without any help for forty-seven years. A great battle to renounce everything earthly was taking place inside me.... The first night I slept sheltered by a rock on Piatra Crai­ ului. The next day we made a shelter for our belongings, where we would later cook. I should mention that the hermit wasn’t eating meat. We stayed in that area for two months, I think.... Due to a whole series o f spiritual reasons we had to move, de­ parting for the Făgăraş Mountains, where we couldn’t stay be­ cause o f the cold weather. We had to find a sheltered place, down in the valley. Life in the mountains was very difficult and almost unbearable for me, as 1 was weak.” 12 This was, by C o d ’s providence, a foretaste o f the “most-sweet wilderness,” with its fruitful deprivations and sufferings, to which he would flee in the coming years. Occasionally Anghel would come down from the moun­ tains to get groceries in Braşov. Once, in February 1941, he met a Legionnaire who suggested that he flee to Germany.13 Many Legionnaires were able to escape the government’s surveillance in this manner. Anghel went to Timişoara, preparing to cross the border 12 Andrei Tudor, Mariana and Iuliana Conovici, Am înţeles rostul m eu ... Părintele A rsenic Papacioc in dosarele securităţii [I understood my purpose ... Father Arsenie Papacioc in the Securitate files], (Bucharest: Humanitas Press, 10 14 ), p. 75. 13 Archimandrite Arsenie Papacioc, Scrisori către f ii i m ei duhovniceşti [Letters to my spiritual children] (Constanţa: Dervent Monastery, 10 0 0 ), p. 1 4 1.



with Yugoslavia. Here he lived at the home of a former Legion­ naire, a professor in the city. During this time he drew a sketch o f the Holy Apostle Paul with a sword in his hand, the Gospel in his bosom, and his finger pointing toward heaven. Offering an explanation for the sketch, he wrote on the bottom o f the page, Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth (Col. ;:i) . At this time he read the Patericon for the first time. He would later draw wisdom from this book at Aiud, strengthening and encouraging his co-sufferers with examples from the Desert Fathers. His attempt to cross the border was unsuccessful, but he knew it was God’s will. It was now July 1941. “I wanted to flee to Germany. I was able to send many there, but when it was



my turn the lieutenant with whom I had made arrangements had an inspection. A colonel, his superior, came and he had no choice— he had to turn me in. It was God’s will! They wanted to kill me, but I said I needed surgery on my appendix. My ap­ pendicitis wasn’t acute; I had some pains, but it didn’t require surgery. I told them this to escape death. They took me to the hospital, and a renowned surgeon did the operation. He had the following method: after the surgery all the patients had to walk to their rooms, and mine was upstairs.” After he recovered, he was taken to trial at Braşov. He was found guilty o f attempting to cross the border illegally, and sen­ tenced to six years o f imprisonment, at the age o f twenty-eight. He was taken, together with other prisoners, to the forced labor camp at Vaslui. To prevent them from escaping, their feet were chained. “Our chains were riveted instead o f locked. When it was my turn to be chained, the person was unable to complete the task. First he couldn’t set the rivet, then a link broke o ff the chain, and on the third attempt the handle of the hammer broke. When the man saw this, he said, grieving, that he was not going to continue trying to chain me. I begged him to put them on; otherwise we would both be killed. As long as I was praying silently he was unable to chain me but, seeing his distress, I stopped praying and he was able to secure it. “ They took us by train from Braşov to Vaslui for forced labor. When we arrived at the station, some o f us went looking for water. I wandered o ff from the others. In the meantime, a truck came and loaded the prisoners, taking them to the other side o f the city, where the labor camp was. I found myself alone at the train station with my feet chained. I was terribly fright­ ened that I would be accused o f deserting. I had never been afraid o f freedom as much as at that moment. I hastily exited the station and walked right down the middle o f the street that crossed the city. I wanted everyone to see me, carrying my chains as visibly as possible, so I wouldn’t be discovered hiding



among the people and accused o f attempting to escape. The people were astonished and crossed themselves, but I went on my way. Since that episode, I remember Vaslui as the longest city in the country, with a single, endless street, at the end o f which I arrived after a forced, continuous march. When the prisoners saw me, they leaped with joy that they had gotten me back. They bore me on their arms, while the blacksmith cut the rivets o f my chains, so I could go to work!” He was then sent to Aiud Prison— “the dreadful prison” that would open its starving mouth to devour thousands o f young men, including Anghel, whose only fault was their vi­ sion and a great love for their nation. Here the prisoners split themselves into three groups. “ The first group included those who sought a political solution by any means, striving to know everything that was happening in the country. The second group, smaller, were the indifferent, those willing to compromise so that they could get out o f pris­ on. The third and smallest group was that of the ‘mystics,’ those who accepted being in that place, understanding that they were there for their sins and for the sins o f the nation they loved and that they had the duty to repent, pray, and live the Gospel com­ mandments as much as they could. Valeriu Gafencu,1·* Anghel Papacioc, Marin Naidim,14 15 Priest Vasile Serghie from Barlad (their spiritual father), Virgil Maxim,16 Constantin Dumitrescu 14 Valeriu Gafencu ( 19 11- 19 5 1) was arrested in 1941. During his incar­ ceration he was known as the “ Saint of the Prisons.” He sacrificed his own life by giving his fellow prisoner Pastor Richard Wurmbrand his streptomycin to treat his tuberculosis. He reposed in Targu Ocna Prison. See his Life in The O rthodox Word, nos. 1 1 4 - 1 1 5 ( 10 0 1) , pp. 109-55.— E d . 15 Marin Naidim ( 19 11-19 9 9 ) spent twenty years in prison. He was fa­ mous for the peace and tranquility he maintained in prison.— E d . 16 Virgil Maxim (19 15 -19 9 7) was arrested at the age o f nineteen in 19 4 1 for membership in the Brotherhood o f the Cross (the Legionnaire youth or­ ganization). He served twenty-two years in prison, where he was regarded as a saint by the other prisoners. Fr. Arsenie confirms this: “ Maxim had a perfect



(the future Fr. Marcu o f Sihăstria),17 and others were part of this group.” 18 They “gave an example o f Christian conduct to all the political prisoners, a model useful not only during the dictatorial regime o f Antonescu but throughout their lives.” 19 Anghel was very active, drawing up a map tor the “mystics” intuitive understanding o f the state o f things. In fact many did, but he pre­ sented it in detail, in all o f its meaning. A very competent individual once said about him that he was the only one o f us who was capable enough to be the spiritual patriarch o f the country. I, who have known him since childhood, agree.” Virgil M axims memoir, Imn pentru crucea purtata [Hymn for the cross that was borne], is one o f the most valuable sources o f information about this period in the Romanian prisons.— E d . Fr. M arcu Costică Dumitrescu (19 10-19 9 9 ) was a confessor who spent many years in prison. He was a monk at Cernica, Slatina, and finally Sihăstria M onastery.— E d . 18 B ă l a n , M ărturia unui creştin, p. 38. 19 Virgil M axim , Im n Pentru Crucea Purtată [Hymn for the cross that was borne] (Bucharest: Antim Press, 10 0 2), p. 180.



activity. Together with Traian Trifan and Marian Traian, he in­ sisted that they shift their focus to “the vertical line, toward spiritual perfection in opposition to the horizontal one repre­ sented by political activity.”20 He considered that the Legion­ naire Movement should no longer eclipse Christian teaching.21 He would argue, saying, “Oftentimes the political realm re­ quires an intervention to which the Church’s authority and the virtuous person cannot subscribe.”2223This, indeed, is the view o f the Orthodox Church. He saw, however, that collaboration could be possible between the Church, through her spiritually enriched people, and the proper political groups led by faithful Christians. This new course, as outlined by the “mystics,”25 had ample opponents. But it was these opponents, with their “encourage­ ment of [political] activity, who were leading the Legionnaires to suffering and annihilation. No one troubled or touched those who were with me, because we were actually always pre­ occupied with spiritual matters, and this was o f no interest to the prisons administration.”24 Anghel and his associates were accomplishing something “more profitable, yet without great risks.”25 It was a very subtle strategy with great effect. Soon the Communist regime would be established in Romania, sweep­ ing away all other political parties, movements, and activities. The only possibility to affect change in such a society would be for each individual to pay heed to his own spiritual state. The life o f Anghel and his companions was centered on a c n s a s , Informant file 185003, vol. 3, p. 174. 21 Hierom onk Justin and M onk Kirion, “ C e atâta fricà de moartc?,” p.

20 l6 .

a c n sa s , Informant file 185003, vol. 3, p. 51. 23 The Securitate considered Anghel to be this groups religious theoreti­


cian. See acnsas , Informant file 185003, vol. 1, p. 407.


a c n s a s , Informant file 1S5003, vol. 3, p. 50.

25 Ibid., p. 51.



prayer. They would pray, keep all-night vigils, and have a pro­ gram o f study, meditation, and exegesis. But more importantly, they would pray for their persecutors, saying this prayer: “ Lord, Jesus Christ, Thou Who didst suffer for all mankind and dost forgive the sins o f all those who repent, do not allow any o f those who hate and persecute us to suffer any wrong on behalf o f us at Thy Judgment. But guide their souls to the knowledge o f the Truth and give them true repentance, that Thy Most Holy Name may be glorified through them also. And vouch­ safe us to confess Thee, the true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to the glory o f Thy Name and the salvation o f our souls. Amen!”26 Their group o f “mystics” was a true monastic community, and the young Anghcl was a light among them— as they them­ selves would affirm: “Anghel was a man o f exceptional zeal in acquiring the stages o f a virtuous, pure, and holy life, and a fervent reviver o f hesychastic prayer.”27 His prayer was a deep inner prayer. “When Anghel Papacioc prayed, he did not hear or see anything around him. He was completely absorbed in prayer. He was a monk in laymans garb.”211 This third imprisonment truly became a spiritual academy for Anghel: “No other means o f preparation could offer such possibilities for growing in one’s faith, for spiritual deepening, for a living relationship with God as were offered by the trib­ ulations o f imprisonment. I bless that period o f time. I spent years in the wilderness without encountering the possibility o f deepening my thoughts about eternity, about the divine na­ ture; this possibility was accorded me by way o f the torturous boredom [of life in prison]. Suffering also united us. Those o f us who succeeded in knowing each other on the cross, so to speak, remained united. 26 Ibid., p. 91. 27 Ibid., p. no. 28 Ibid., p. 107.



“ The image I have o f my imprisonment is very much bound up with that o f the little group, in which I felt great well-being. There was a great camaraderie among us. Everyone was prepared for death.... Was one really better than the other? What matters is the way in which each one accepted suffering. I would like to canonize all o f them, because thev were sincere and didn’t hesitate to sacrifice themselves. All o f them sacri­ ficed. They all died, one by one. With a joy that is difficult to explain, I commemorate them all at the Proskomedia29 as spiri­ tual fighters.”50 Throughout his imprisonment Anghcl willingly bore his cross, suffering together with his spiritual brothers, supporting and being supported, counseling and being counseled. “ I great­ ly benefited from sufferings— this is the Cross—but you have to carry it with God’s help because you cannot do anything on your own.” He knew that his suffering, as that of those with him, would be a sacrifice to God for the redemption of the entire nation. In the spring of 1943 a severe regimen was introduced into the prison. The prisoners were given lower quality food and placed in solitary confinement, in cells with blacked-out win­ dows, under rigorous supervision. They would be taken out for fresh air separately and isolated in “disciplining” rooms or in Zarea,29 31 where all those who would not collaborate with the 30 prison’s administration were sent. The administration tried to “reform” them— to break them morally and make them aban­ don their battle for the preservation of their exalted ideals, for which they were now suffering. At Zarea “you were obliged 29 Proskom edia: prayers and preparation o f the Lamb (the bread for the Eucharist) taken from the prosphoron (a round, leavened loaf with a seal on it) before the Divine Liturgy.— E d . 30 M onk Moses, Sfân tu l închisorilor, p. 46. 31 Z area (“cage" in Hungarian) was a “prison inside the prison" at the Aiud penitentiary. The Gherla prison also had its own “ Zarea.”— E d .



co stand or to sit on the edge o f your bed from five o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night, even if you were ill. Any medical assistance was prohibited. The soup was strained through a sieve. Not even a bean, a grain, or a piece o f potato was allowed. The window was blacked-out. There was even a ration on firewood: three wood shavings. In the winter the liq­ uid in the latrine had a layer o f ice on top.”32 Anghel spent time at Zarca on numerous occasions, remaining steadfast, although the conditions affected his health, causing him digestive ail­ ments that he suffered for decades. After August 13,19 4 4 , when Russian troops entered Roma­ nia, the prison went through a period o f chaos and uncertain­ ty. The inmates were moved to a prison in Alba Iulia for two months and then brought back to Aiud. Now the prison had a new, more lenient administration o f “transition.” The prisoners had certain rights, like choosing their cellmates according to their own preference, reading Holy Scripture, confessing once a week, doing interior and exterior maintenance jobs, garden­ ing, etc. The imprisoned priests were allowed to serve and be spiritual fathers. There was even a chapel in the prison, where services were held. Fr. Arsenie recounted: “ In prison we had services on feast days, and I heard my mother being commemo­ rated with the departed, when I believed she was alive. Every­ one noticed this. Then I received a postcard with the follow­ ing message: ‘Be strong, mother reposed.’ Then I began to pray for her. I don’t know how much my spiritual heritage helped me— but suffering helped me the most. I noticed that my suf­ fering was also helping my family members, according to G od’s wisdom.” During this time the people in the villages neighboring the prison were unable to harvest their crops since the men were at 32

loan Ianolidc, huoarcerea la H ristos— document pentru 0 hone noud

[Return to Christ— document for a new world] (Bucharest: Christiana Press,

1006), p. 47.



the front. They asked the prison’s administration for help. The administration sent ordinary prisoners to help out, but many o f them escaped because o f insufficient surveillance. The peo­ ple in the village were desperate. Then the administration sent the skilled and healthy political prisoners to work in the fields, knowing they were honest. Being weak and afflicted, Anghel had to stay in prison, where his younger cellmate and disciple, Virgil Maxim, would give him food from the crops. Virgil re­ corded events from this period: “ I was in the same cell with Anghel Papacioc, now Archi­ mandrite Arsenie from Techirghiol. Since he needed constant care, I remained to look after him. I would boil him one or two potatoes from our stock every day, as he could not eat more. We spent our time praying and having spiritual conver­ sations.... His constitution, as that o f other Legionnaires, was physically marked by deprivations and sufferings, but his soul became more illumined. I learned from him not only how to truly pray, but especially how to penetrate into the depths o f my soul with the sword o f the Word o f Divine Truth (cf. Heb. 4:12.) and repent.... We had many theological books that were our nourishment and guidance on our path.... “ When Anghel Papacioc was praying— forgive me for dis­ closing this— he did not hear or see anything around him. Fr. Vasile Serghie had the same ability. They were completely ab­ sorbed in prayer. During the ‘transition’ period (1945-1947), in which we were allowed to organize our own life in prison, I stayed in the same cell with Fr. Vasile Serghie and Anghel Papacioc for a few months. Their spiritual rule also includ­ ed— besides prayer, study, meditation, exegesis, etc.— a day o f complete silence every week, with the goal o f attaining a mysti­ cal depth, an encounter with God, and a scrupulous analysis o f every moment and deed o f one’s life. This was followed by confession, in which we further analyzed them [every moment and deed] and, diving deeper, we tried to find cures and ways



Virgil Maxim at the time o f his arrest.

o f correcting ourselves or o f concord, based on each case. After one such profound self-examination and reflection, Fr. Vasile Serghie, who was not lenient with himself in any way, had a moment o f great inner trembling: “ ‘Brethren, I ’m troubled thinking about how I dared to become a priest. Maybe God has brought me here to help me truly become aware o f my unworthiness. What a mystery this is, and what obligations weigh on the conscience o f such a ser­ vant, and what a responsibility he has before the people and God! I tremble and I don’t think I’ll be able to fulfill this mis­ sion anymore, being aware that the priesthood is beyond my abilities! And, rather than do it unworthily, it would be better not to do it anymore!’ “I sat there in astonishment, looking down, amazed by Father’s confession. Anghel Papacioc, drawing near him with his eyes full o f tears, said, ‘Oh, Fr. Vasile, you’re truly a good priest, now that you live with the awareness o f your unworthi­ ness! For the power o f God is revealed in weakness and God



gives grace to the humble’ (cf. Prov. 3:54: II Cor. 12:9; James 4:6). ‘“ What a blessing it would be,’ Anghel continued, ‘i f ev­ ery priest lived with this awareness. With how much attention, fear, and trembling would he fulfill his service as an apostle o f Christ on earth!’ “ Falling into each other’s arms, they cried— tears o f conso­ lation and encouraging joy uniting on their cheeks. I knelt in prayer. I was thinking that if a priest is trembling at the thought o f his responsibility for this sacred office, then it’s easier for a layman to be saved than for a priest. “Anghel Papacioc was reading my thoughts: ‘You see, Br. Virgil, salvation is from God. It’s made possible by God, not for one who merely desires to be saved, but for one who begins to do good deeds. The first step o f this work is precisely the awareness o f one’s unworthiness. Then grace comes to make you worthy, giving you the strength to move forward in your place o f duty.’ Anghel Papacioc was, even at that time, like a hidden monk and priest! “ During that period o f time our movement inside the pris­ on was unrestricted. We could go from one floor to another, from one cell to another, going in and out o f the cellblock or the section without being questioned as to where we were going or who had given us permission. Galea was the only guard for our cellblock, and there was one guard for each sec­ tion. In the guardroom at the gate there was only one guard. Galea slept in the prison for a week at a time, dozing o ff day and night, because there was no one to take his place. We had only one obligation— to be in our cells in the evening, at clos­ ing. In order to accomplish a rule o f study, meditation, and prayer, we had fashioned interior bolts. W hen you found a door locked, you knew that a vigil lamp o f the heart was burn­ ing for Christ there. You would return on the day and at the hour indicated on the door. A Macedonian, Ciolacu, called



in their dialect Ciolacului (he was later one o f the leaders o f the [anti-Communist] resistance movement in the Babadag Woods),33 was the head o f the crop-harvesting team. To main­ tain order in the morning, the teams were called downstairs by Galea, and went to the field one after the other. Ciolacu had an enamel pot that he would take to the field so that the fruit he would bring back for the sick (especially grapes) would not get crushed in a bag— or he would leave it for those who re­ mained in the prison to boil potatoes, beans, or m ăm ăligă-34 One evening he brought us some grapes and autumn peaches, and we asked him to leave us the pot overnight so we could boil some potatoes for Anghcl. We were not able to get up on time in the morning because the ‘midnight’ prayers and discussions lasted past midnight. The five-o’clock bell caught us in morning prayers, at the Six Psalms o f Matins. When the guard unlocked the doors, I remembered the pot. Ciolacu’s team would be called and he wouldn’t have the pot handy. 1 wanted to get up, but I remained on my knees, thinking that by the time the guard called Ciolacu we would have finished the prayer. With his eyes closed, Anghel was softly reciting the second-to-the-last psalm. “ ‘Ciolacu’s team must come down to work!’ Galea shouted. “ We heard hasty steps in front o f the cell and knocks on the door, then Galea’s voice calling Ciolacu’s team. The other team members’ quick steps echoed in the hallway. Someone pushed the door slightly, but it didn’t open. “ ‘Ciolacu must come and take command o f his team,’ Galea’s hoarse voice was heard. I wanted to rise. Tire interior bolt, made out o f a wooden spoon, gave way, and Ciolacu ap­ peared in the door, with his face a bit red. Seeing us at prayer, 33 The Babadag Woods are in the Babadag Mountains, in Dobtogea, a region in the southeast o f Romania.— E d . 34 M ăm ăligă: Romanian polenta, used as a bread substitute, especially by the poor.— E d .


and respecting Anghel Papacioc, he knelt next to me, pro­ nouncing the psalm Anghel was reciting. I felt how he was burning with anguish for the prayer to end, ashamed o f the agitation he provoked. Anghel was just finishing with “Amen,” when Galea shouted with an imperative voice: ‘“ Ciolacu must come down to his team!!!’ “Ciolacu grabbed the pot, put it in the bag and, as if saved from the hand o f a foe, left with lightning speed, repeating, Am en! Amen!’ Anghel rose a bit puzzled. Seeing me moving my lips, trying to restrain the uncontrollable impulse to smile, he said, ‘Did something happen? It seems I heard a noise!’ ‘“ We forgot to bring the pot back to Ciolacu and he came to take it. Finding us at prayer, he knelt, and left only when you finished.’ “ ‘Oh my! Let’s repent for our negligence and for troubling his soul.’ “ We recited Psalm 50 and made fifty prostrations for our­ selves and for him.”35 Anghel’s discernment, watchfulness, and desire to help and raise those in need from the depths o f anxiety is also seen in an­ other account o f Virgil Maxim. On every level o f the prison there was a regular prisoner serving the meals for the political prisoners. Anghel and his cellmates noticed the sadness o f a newly assigned server on their level and his habit o f serving food with certain liturgical movements. In their desire to help him, Anghel and Vir­ gil decided to invite him to their cell. At first he was reserved, but then he came. Anghel said, “ Forgive us for inviting you here, but your countenance reveals that your place is not among the ordi­ nary prisoners. We don’t want to restore any painful memories to your soul. There are priests among us, to whom you could confess if you find it necessary.” The man replied, with tears streaming down his cheeks, “Oh, brothers, I am a priest also. A hieromonk. 35 Maxim, hnn pentru cruceapurtata, pp. 10 7 -8 ,115 - 16 .



God brought me here for my sins.” Seeinglittle crosses at the head o f the bed, he sighed, “I do not know you, but I trust that if the Cross o f Christ the Lord is your weapon in suffering and you have seen the turmoil o f my soul, I must be standing before some God-fearing men. Hear my confession, for I have not said this to anyone until now.” Virgil Maxim later related, “Dumbfounded, we awaited with fear the confession o f a hieromonk to take place before us, unworthy laymen.”36 “He recounted to them how during Lent he was sent to buy fruit and vegetables from the city nearest to the monastery. He purchased produce from the display, and some was brought to him from storage, already packed in sacks. After everything was weighed, he paid and left. When he arrived at the monastery and opened the sacks he found seeds, peels, and rotten potatoes with only a layer o f good fruit on top. The abbot sent him back and told him to say to the merchant that he might have made a mis­ take and to ask him to give him good merchandise. Even though he was angry for having made a fool out o f himself, the hicromonk went and told the merchant what the abbot advised him. To his utter surprise, the merchant denied everything and accused him o f lying. Being angry and not thinking right, the hieromonk slapped him. The merchant fell and hit his head against a piece of metal in the doorway. He died on the spot. All the people pres­ ent set upon him, tore his cassock, and took him to the police station, beating him on the way. He was quickly put on trial and sentenced to forced labor for life. “The hieromonk continued: ‘Now I am serving my sen­ tence, as is fitting. I should have endured the loss and the injus­ tice, the mocking and the fraud, rather than get angry. Breth­ ren, how many people in this world die from a slap on the face ? But God showed me that I should not raise my hand against the one who did me injustice.’ We listened to his confession 36 Maxim, Im n pentru crucea purtată, p. I2.L.



and reproof with tears in our eyes. Anghel said, ‘Father, you have a prayer rule. How are you able to do it in the unfavor­ able environment in which you live?’ The hieromonk replied, ‘This is my tragedy: during the day I cannot do much. Only at night, when everyone is asleep, I get up, make prostrations and weep for my sin.’ Anghel told him, 'Father, if you trust us, we beg you to come to our cell during the day and do your rule. We will join you in prayer.’”37 For the following three weeks the three o f them prayed to­ gether. One day the hieromonk did not show up for prayer. In the evening he came joyfully to give them the good news: he was about to be released based on an amnesty for those whose crimes were unintentional. God had seen his true repentance. The hieromonk blessed his two benefactors, embraced them, and left. Anghel next lived in the same cell as Traian Trifan— a friend o f his in the world— now his co-sufferer. H alf o f a cen­ tury later, Fr. Arsenic would recount: “I thank God with all my heart for getting to know this hero, wise in all things, who desired to remain unknown and who humbly meditated on all the years God suffers us without giving us over to death or to the demons to lead us astray.... In a moment o f great closeness I told him with discretion and fear: I want to go to the mon­ astery! With a fiery gaze he looked me straight in the eye and wept. It was like a blessing from this great man.”38 During this more relaxed period o f detention the prisoners were allowed to work in the prison workshops. Anghel chose to devote his time to woodcarving. He was assigned to carve a portrait frame, which was declared the most beautiful work in the entire art museum o f the prison— a collection that had numerous extraordinary pieces made by prisoners. He also worked with a team carving a two-foot-tall shrine representing 37 Ibid., pp. 111-13. 38 Seiche, M a rtin , p. 481.



Model o f the Curtea de Argeş Church, built by inmates at Aiud, in 194s.

the monastery church at Curtea de Argeş. One o f the inmates obtained permission from the prison board to organize a work­ shop for toys and one for willow basketwork. The shrine was built under the cover o f these activities. Some o f the inmates did the carpentry work, while Anghel and his three helpers carved the exterior. The shrine was made piece by piece. During the



Vigil lamp and support carved by Fr. Arsenic in Aiud and preserved in his cell at Techirghiol Monastery.

construction, many prisoners learned woodcarving from Anghel, making walnut vigil lamps with bone ornaments. It was at this time that he carved the vigil lamp he would keep in his cell at Techirghiol Monastery many years later. In the succeed­ ing years he was able to continue this kind o f work, carving the Roval Doors for the chapel in Braşov, the entrance doors for a bank in Turda, and after his release, the Royal Doors for the Cozia Monastery church and other churches in Bucharest. When the famous Romanian sculptor Ion Jalea (1887-1983) saw a photograph o f the shrine built in Aiud, he exclaimed, “If Anghel had not been imprisoned, he would have surpassed us all!”



E N T E R I N G UPON T H E PATH S e p t e m b e r 8, 1946, upon the completion o f his sen­ tence, Anghel returned to his parental home at Misleanu, where his brother Ion was living, after his mother’s repose. He was now preparing for another freedom: liberation from the cares o f this world—to attain the pinnacle o f Scripture: “Dost thou desire to be perfect? Deny thyself, take up thy cross, and follow Me” (cf. Matt. 19:2.1; Mark 8:54, 1 0 :1 1) ! loan Ianolide, who knew Anghel while at Aiud Prison, wrote a description o f him from this period o f his life: “ Short, lean, agile, and lively; a man who never compromised.... Monasticism was his calling. Virginal in soul and body, upright in character. Unending energy and an immense capacity for love. A warrior and a man o f sacrifice. A missionary conscience and talent. He converted people before and after taking monastic vows. He struggled to confirm in people a true Christian con­ science, and he achieved it. He is a light o f Christ.” 1 The desire to dedicate his life to God and enter the monas­ tic life had formed in Anghel’s mind quite early, as seen from his vow to become a monk when he was only thirteen. Upon completing his time in the camp at Miercurea Ciuc, his desire for monasticism grew stronger, even though he was very suc­ cessful in the world: he had a good salary, his own car, and he had even become a mayor. As he used to say, “ You have to go to the monastery as a victor, not as one defeated.” The time n

1 Ianolide, Intoarcerea la Hristos, p. 318.



spent at Aiud Prison reconfirmed and reinforced the decision that had always shone from the depths o f his being. It was o f his time in Aiud that he would later declare, “As a layman I ex­ perienced the most merciless renunciation o f life, with spiritual exercises that illumined my inner life, to the point o f the last renunciation, offering to the Lord— out o f a great need— all the feelings of my heart.”2 Now, after his second incarceration, it was time. At the age of thirty-three, the age o f a perfect man (Eph. 4:1}), he resolved to leave the world, pick up his cross, and follow Christ. Here Fr. Arsenie recalls those first steps on the path he would tread for the next sixtv-four years: “ I went to the monastery out o f foolishness-for-Christ. I became a monk out o f great zeal, because you cannot succeed if you don’t possess foolishness-for-Christ. Here you strip your­ self [of the old man] so you can find yourself [the new man] in the angelic order.”3 “ When I decided to go to the monastery, about fifty years ago, many people wanted to stop me. Even an important of­ ficial— the Secretary o f Religions at the time— told me that all kinds o f falls and defilements happen there [in monaster­ ies]. But I answered him that I was going to the monastery for Christ, and that I was not interested in what was going on there, but in Christs teaching: H e that loveth fa th er or mother more than M e is not worthy o f M e : an d h e that loveth son or d aughter more than M e is not worthy of M e. A nd he that taketh not his cross, an d followeth after M e, is not worthy o f M e (Matt. 10:37-58). “ I met them decades later. And they asked me, ‘What did you see there?’

2 Pctcu, Părintele Arsenie Papacioc in documentele Securităţii, p. 256. 3 Fr. Arsenie Papacioc, “ Părintele Marcu— un om de jertfa" [Father M ăr­ cii— a man o f sacrifice], Scara, no. 7, 2001, pp. 136-37.



“ ‘I found what you told me, but I didn’t believe I would find saints as well! I also found saints!...’” His mother, Stanca, knew o f his intention before her re­ pose. “I had a very good mother, but she did not agree with me when she heard I wanted to go to the monastery. The poor woman, she didn’t know! I greatly rejoice I became a monk. I didn’t err, even though I saddened my mother. I told her: ‘Mother, everyone should come here!’”4 Stanca thought— just as Anthuza, the mother o f St. John Chrysostom, had once thought— that she would be widowed a second time by losing Anghel. Now his mother had gone ahead into the other world, but other obstacles arose. “I had a difficult family situation when I was about to go to the monastery. Two o f my brothers had died; their children were little, each with their own needs. I was the only close rela­ tive, and I felt responsible for their upbringing and education. But I desired to go to the monastery, to become a monk. I thought: Even in fifteen years they’ll still be little, but many things can happen in fifteen years. And I didn’t give in!” Anghel’s relatives from the village were also opposed to his decision. One o f his aunts said to him, “ What is that— a mon­ astery?! You were a Legionnaire!” Anghel replied, “And what if I were a Legionnaire? I liked them because they were pious people...” Later on he would say, “I was a Legionnaire, but now I’m a monk above everything.”5 Here is how he explained this to a colleague: “We, who have gone through such great trials [the sufferings during his time as a Legionnaire] should not stop here; we need to move forward, to reach the peak from which we can gaze much further, at the other world, where sac­ rifice means living in the spirit o f God. Here you find a new

4 Fr. Arsenic Papacioc, “ D e ce n-ai iubit?” [W hy didn’t you love?], A titudini, no. to, March, гою , p. 30.


a c n s a s , Informant file 185003, vol. 3, pp. 14 8 -7 3.



shore o f tranquility and peace: the wounds are miraculously healed, and the rewards are inscrutably eternal.” The emotional moment o f saying farewell to his village and family finally arrived. “ When I went to the monastery I didn’t go through the village, because people knew me. I passed through the outskirts, as we lived at the entrance o f the village. My younger nephew was with my relatives. When I looked back I saw all o f them crying, rubbing their eyes, and the young one was crying too. This was a great sacrifice— if you were to marry on the other side o f the world they wouldn’t cry after you so much. And I saw in this a total separation from my family.” From Misleanu he went to Bucharest, where his brother Ion was hospitalized, suffering from tuberculosis. “I went to look for a priest to confess him. I knew the importance o f Confession: I had read the Patericon— I had held it in my possession for about six years. I don’t know how I got to



Antim Monastery [in Bucharest]. I hadn’t seen monks or nuns until then. There I saw a priest. I approached him and talked to him about my hospitalized brother and about my desire to become a monk. The priest diligently took note o f my brother’s name, the hospital, and the room number and went to see him— confessing and communing him. My broth­ er had written his sins in a list o f four pages and had a thor­ ough Confession. Later on I found out that this priest was the great professor Fr. Benedict (Ghiuş).6 Since then I have had great reverence for him, commemorating him my en­ tire life. I went again to visit my brother in the hospital, and upon my departure I looked back and said to myself: I don’t think I’ll see him alive again. And that’s how it happened: he died shortly thereafter. It was right then that I went to the monastery to become a monk.” On January 13, 1947, Anghel set o ff toward “heaven.” “I went to the patriarchate to venerate the relics o f St. Demetrios [Basarabov]. These were the first relics I had venerated, and I was very moved.... I had such an inner trembling that when I left the church and saw the clear sky I could have leapt into it; I had that foolishness-for-Christ. And I did not err! “There was a religious bookstore near the patriarchate, and someone had asked me to give a book to the seller. They knew each other, but I didn’t know the seller. There were two women in front o f the store. I gave the book to the seller, then turned to go. I didn’t get more than thirty or forty yards away 6 Hieromonk Benedict (Ghiuş) (19 0 4 -19 9 0 ) was tonsured into monasticism in 1934 at Neamţ Monastery. He served as a professor at Bălţi Seminary and later as a priesdy celebrant at the patriarchal cathedral. In the 1950s he took part in the Burning Bush movement at Antim Monastery— a gathering o f spiritual fathers and intellectuals focused on the revival o f the hesychast tra­ dition. This led to his arrest in 1958, and his sufferings at the Jilava, Aiud, and Ostrov prisons. H e was released in the general amnesty o f 1964 and retired in silence to Cernica Monastery. Numerous individuals witnessed the Uncreated Light o f C hrist shining from his frail body.— E d .



Iconographie portrait o f Fr. Benedict Ghiu;.

when one o f the women came after me, “Sir, the seller is call­ ing you!” I returned to him and he gave me a book saying, “ Keep your promise!” This is all he told me. Can you imagine? I didn’t know him, he didn’t know me, and he didn’t know my thoughts, my hidden vows. This was yet another sign that I had to move forward.” As Anghel was walking down the street, a photo got stuck to his shoe. He picked it up and saw a photo o f the Shroud o f Turin. He considered this another encouragement on the path he was taking. He kept this photo his entire life in the Book o f N eed s7 he always carried with him. He also crossed paths with his army captain, who had since 7

Book o f Needs: a liturgical book, containing various services that a

priest may be called upon to perform.— E d .


become a major. He was delighted to have run into Anghel and said enthusiastically, “I’ll be promoted; stay in the army and I ’ll give you a good position—I need people like you.” Anghel stopped him, “Say no more. I’m now going to become a m onk!” The major respected his decision and they parted. Thus Anghel set o ff on his new path, a path filled with trials and temptations. “My novitiate was very harsh. I intended to go to Frasinei Monastery, which had a metochions in Râmnicu Vâlcea, where I would meet the abbot o f the monastery. I had never seen a monastery in my life, but I had heard o f Frasinei. “God was not absent [in those moments o f my life], but I had to be inspired in order to be aware o f His presence. I was on the train, in a fourth-class car, in which they also transport­ ed animals. There, a youth group was singing religious songs. I was really happy, and I said to myself; ‘Behold, the angels, how they’re singing to me!’ There, on the train, I met a peddler who knew all the monasteries. He— a stranger—was a guardian an­ gel for me. He accompanied me to the metochion o f Frasinei Monastery. Elder Simeon, the abbot o f Frasinei Monastery, told me: ‘I’m not going to accept you. Brother. I see that you’re a little better educated, and I can’t have you tending oxen. And then what would the brethren say? “ You’re keeping this one in the office, while you’re putting us to hard work!”’ The abbot was wrong in his evaluation, but I could not prove my foolishness-for-Christ. At that time, to enter a monastery, after having succeeded in the world, and to be taken as a servant, as a slave, would mean that you had reached a level o f great devotion, o f foolishness— knowing how to exist without the ‘ego’ in your­ self. Otherwise you could not survive. “ From that metochion I went to Cozia Monastery.8 9 It was 8

M etochion: a dependency o f a monastery, usually located in a city.—

E d. 5 C ozia Monastery was founded in about 1388 by K ingM ircca the Elder

(1355-1418), one o f the greatest kings in Romanian history.— E d .



Painting o f Cozia Monastery.

winter, and they had Vespers in the refectory. I went first into the church to venerate the icons, intending to go to the icon of the Savior, but I stopped in front o f the icon o f the Mother o f God and said, ‘The Mother o f God will direct me to the Savior also!’ They asked me to read the kathismu10 at Vespers, and I began reading. Meanwhile, a certain father, Ghervasie, called to me: ‘Listen, Br. Anghel! Where did you learn to read?’ — as he wasn’t able to read. T was born like this, Father. I don’t know when I learned.’” Anghel was greatly impressed with Fr. Ghervasie’s simplic­ ity and viewed him as a model monk. Many years later, Fr. Arsenie would use him as an example o f one who truly lived his faith, not one who simply theorized: “Long after, I spoke with a gentleman who wanted to es­ tablish some monasteries according to his taste, not accord­ ing to the Orthodox Tradition—which very few understand. I 10 Katbism a (pi. kathism ata): one o f the twenty sections into which the Psalter is divided for use in Church services.— E d .

65 A


related to him my encounter with Fr. Ghervasie: ‘Sir, look who kept the monastic spirit: an illiterate man, who truly lived the Faith in his heart, and all o f monasticism lived through him !’ I still commemorate Ghervasie as a great example given to me, as o f a great scholar. My interest lies in attaining a permanent relationship with God. “After I entered monasticism I felt very small and insignifi­ cant, but I was strongly encouraged by the magnitude o f the mystery o f this commitment. I felt the immense value o f the fire o f being reborn as a humble new being, an experience that cannot be known in the world, because there [in the world] the golden cross o f denying ones own will does not exist. Here [in monasticism] man’s many weaknesses are unveiled. Thus, you feel the need to humble yourself—the most important ingredi­ ent in the formation o f the spiritual personhood o f the new man, the monk— and by the grace o f God the mind is sharp­ ened, the heart is humbled, and you don’t know how you came to possess knowledge that was hidden from you until now. Here you come to know that the humble man never sees himself as humble; that everyone has his own measure o f humility, which is an extraordinary weapon against evil spirits; and that this is the result o f the gifts gladly bestowed by the Divine Master’s hand. “One endlessly discovers possibilities for a chaste life, for a way o f being spiritually aware, and for experience. As Blessed Augustine says: ‘God wants to bestow upon you more gifts than you ask for!’ This leads you to great hope, as Solomon says: ‘H e who puts his trust in the Lord will not be put to shame’ (cf. Prov. 19:2.5). But I ’m most thankful for G o d ’s boundless goodness, for He has given us the Mother o f G od as an intercessor, the immaculate defender o f sinners. To change our lives, we only need a strong will and great trust in the mercy o f the Mother o f God and in her almighty help. At the monastery my soul was set on fire with joy, as I commended



myself in prayers to the Mother o f God, the bountiful defense o f us who are weak. “ There, at the monastery, I learned more than anything to forgive, to pray to God day and night, and to love people with no partiality. “ They made me sacristan from my first days there. There was a perpetual vigil lamp dedicated to the Mother o f God. At the time there was a great shortage o f oil. I would always pray that the vigil lamp wouldn’t go out. In the morning. I ’d open the door o f the church, wanting to see if it was still lit ... and when I ’d see that it was, I ’d crawl on my knees all the way from the entryway to the vigil lamp, out o f joy that it hadn’t died out.... They weren’t giving me oil but the vigil lamp was burn­ ing day and night.... It was the work o f the Mother o f God.” All his life he was zealous in keeping the vigil lamp lit in the church or in his cell. Just as the vigil lamp was burning in his cell, so was his heart burning with the love o f Christ. “One night they made us carry sacks, and the next day they gave me a ryassa. We had a hierarchical service and I was the sacristan. But the robe was too long and I kept on tripping on it during the service. While I was carrying the candlestick, a small rug got caught on a nail in the sole o f my shoe and I be­ gan to drag it after me. I was shaking my leg, but the rug was not coming off. I said to myself: They’ll shoot me! The bishop was there, and it was the first time I had seen a hierarch vested, and I was afraid.” Once he went with a monk to venerate the relics o f St. Pachomius, a hermit who had lived in the area. On the way they passed by Stani§oara Monastery. One o f the monks, Agathangelos, whom Br. Anghel had never seen before, called to him saying, “Br. Anghel, I know you’re going to St. Pachomius. Stop by to see me on your way back, for I have something to tell you.” After he venerated the relics, Br. Anghel visited Stanifoara Monastery. Monk Agathangelos told him, “ They’ll



want to make you a priest; you should obey them and accept the priesthood. I was disobedient when they wanted to ordain me a priest, and I ran away with one o f the brothers. We pre­ pared our flight, took food and clothing, and one evening we ran away. The night caught us in the forest and we slept there. That night I had a dream that seemed like a vision. I saw a big dark man; it was the enemy, who asked me, ‘Where arc you go­ ing, Agathangelos? Know that I will arrive at your destination before you.’ Then I was overcome with fear and I returned to the monastery.” Fr. Arsenie continued his reflection on becoming a monk: “You come to the monastery with great yearning, as they say— a foolishness-for-Christ, to crucify yourself for Him, to suffer insults, blows, and persecution, to defeat the great ene­ my, the ego; and you sincerely guard yourself and strive toward the hopeful sea o f salvation—true humility. Thus you will ex­ perience true freedom, a desire to truly love everyone. In other words, you yearn to receive humiliation. His crown o f thorns, the nails, the spear, and death for Him.... It’s a longing for the Cross, and the Cross means to bear what you don’t like—with joy, not forced— a yearning to crucify yourself for Christ, med­ itating on Him being struck in the face and covered in blood. How would you have felt if you had seen those scenes? Would you have been indifferent? Would you have done something for the Crucified One to ease His sufferings ? Behold, now you can.... In this way [monasticism] you’ll ease vour terrible pas­ sions, and someday and somewhere you’ll be a little savior. It scares you when you hear that it’s a life-and-death struggle. You don’t consider the fact that you’re actually living very well— you have meals on time, you sleep at a certain time— but you came to the monastery to live more spiritually than bodily, and it seems to me that we somehow live more bodily than spiritu­ ally, based on our likings. Everything is about doing what you don’t like, for as much as you deny yourself in every way, God



approaches you in the same measure. Let no one be deceived that it’s possible in any other way. “So, the first enemy on the path o f your spiritual progress is you— renounce your own self! You renounced the world, you joined the monastery. But renounce yourself, Brother, give up your pride and your pretensions. The goal o f coming to a monastery is not to establish a simple or false administrative link between my superior and me. This would serve no spiri­ tual purpose; it would have a bunch o f material goals, and it would not shape me or anyone, in the sense o f uplifting us bv the grace o f God. “ In coming to a monastery we’re humbling ourselves for our relatives as well. Reflect on this matter when you have the chance to humble yourself: that you’re also humbling yourself for each of your relatives. “As far as the relations between the brethren go, there is a psychological desire in some people not to let the other grow— they want the other person to remain at their own level. They find excuses for themselves in the others transgressions. They accept each other’s defects and become friends— a terrible mis­ take. You have your own individuality; why do you keep com­ pany with someone who provides you with reasons to justify yourself? Proceed based on the grace you have. If you can, give him something to help him improve.... Anyhow, if you can’t, be at peace, for there is hope.” Once, when he was asked in an interview, “ Why did you become a monk?” he gave a surprising reply: “So that I could wrestle with God and defeat H im !” Years later he would elaborate on his answer, “ This state­ ment is extremely bold.... The Old Testament speaks about Ja ­ cob, who wrestled with God and vanquished Him (cf. Gen. 31: 24-30 ). What does it mean? “ Man is created in the image and likeness o f God. Man is the only link between the Creator and creation. He was



entrusted with the great responsibility o f being accountable for the destiny o f creation. “ When I stated that I am wrestling with God, I did not use a figure o f speech.... Those o f us who came to the monastery have fulfilled the words o f Holy Scripture. St. Basil the Great says: ‘What is the pinnacle o f Holy Scripture, so I can reach it?’ And it’s mentioned by the Savior when He tells the rich young man: ‘Dost thou will to be perfect? Leave everything and come and follow M e!’ (cf. Matt. 19:11). “You’ve left everything, you’ve renounced the world, but now you have to deny yourself also! In the world, a man asserts his will in order to solve the problems that arise.... In the mon­ astery, we have to deny our free will, so Whom are we fight­ ing? We’re wrestling with the Creator o f free will! It’s easy in theory, but in practice?... “I ’ve attempted this and seen that everything said about man is possible, that he can become like God by grace. I find myself a weak man, but I ’m on the path.... “To deny your own will means to abandon your worldly personality and to find yourself in that which is angelic— this is why we’re called the angelic order. “My advice to my many spiritual children who come al­ most daily to tell me they want to enter a monastery is this: You’re not going to the monastery to find a monastery, but to make one! Through your obedience, through your perseverance in denying your own will, through your manner o f knowing how to behave, you’re creating a monastery.... “The effort to keep your chastity and poverty is not that great, even though it’s not easy, because this is not about your own renunciation, it’s about the demonic attacks— that effort comes through the attacks o f demons, who are zealous and very ‘fervent’— a multitude o f demons trying to put you in a position to break the monastic vows. “Self-denial marks the pinnacle o f Holy Scripture, which


says: ‘Do you want to be perfect?’ (cf. Matt. 19 :11). Perfection is granted precisely by this self-denial, which is an exceptional thing.”



E X IL E C o m m u n i s t r e g i m e was now coming into power in Romania, and since Anghel’s release from prison the Securitate1 had kept him under surveillance. The young Br. Anghel had to report to the police every trip he was intend­ ing to make. Furthermore, they would check up on him at Cozia almost every month to see if he had engaged in any p o ­ litical activities. The results o f these examinations were always negative. Br. Anghel and his abbot, Ghermano, were appointed to teach at the school attached to Turnu Monastery. “At Turnu Monastery I was appointed to be a teacher. And I announced the topic for the whole year to the students: Jesus Christ. A t the end o f the first term, the Communists from Râmnicu Vâl­ cea came to change my topic. I was not to teach Christ, but a r l u s ,12 that is, the devil. And I said, ‘What? It’s not possible! All my life I ’ve fought against the devil, and now I have to col­ laborate with him?’ I didn’t accept it. N o way. I resigned. My abbot, Ghermano, was also a teacher, but for other classes. And he agreed to collaborate with the Communists. I was a disci­ plined boy; when I tell you about ‘my abbot,’ I speak o f a great



1 Securitate: the Romanian internal secret service under the Com m u­ nists.— E d .

2 A R L U S : Asociaţia Română pentru Strângerea Legăturilor cu Uniunea Sovietică (The Association o f Romanian-Soviet Collaboration). This was an “educational” system during that period, which was meant to spread Soviet propaganda among Romanians, behind the facade o f cultural exchange.— E d .




man, for he was my abbot. But I was faithful regarding my pur­ pose in entering the monastery.·1 “I resigned from the school. They didn’t accept my resig­ nation. I gave my second resignation. They didn’t accept that, either. I gave my third resignation, not caring if they would ac­ cept it or not, and I didn’t go again. No way. The abbot sim­ ply tortured me. He moved me from my cell, which I shared with the brethren, to a place under [King] Mircea’s veranda, at Cozia Monastery, where the stone walls were moldy from the wash o f the Olt River. “I was happy, please believe me. But I was also determined: ‘If he throws me out, I ’ll go to another monastery, but I ’m not leaving o f my own will!’” The brethren were puzzled by the abbot’s behavior toward Br. Anghel, and asked him why he was treating him in such a manner. Anghel had come to the monastery already formed; he was a good brother. Many times the fathers from Cozia, and even abbots from the surrounding monasteries, would come to ask his advice— “Br. Anghel, how do you see this matter?” — and he would counsel them. Then, to get rid o f him, the abbot sent him to Comanca, to keep an eye on a big estate. “There was a 750-acre estate owned by six monasteries, C o ­ zia among them, and it was a mile away from Caracal, in the commune o f Comanca. “Every month they sent a brother from the monastery to keep an eye on the property, along with brothers sent by the other monasteries.4 Finally, to get rid o f me, the abbot, who in the beginning had called me an angel, sent me there— as now I was a devil— and I went with great delight. Anyway, some things happened to me there! If I had not had such events in

1 T h a t is, h e e n te re d

th e m o n a ste ry d e te rm in e d to liv e a life fu lly d e d i­

c a te d to C h r is t .— T r a n s .


T h e o t h e r m o n a ste rie s w e re s e n d in g th e le ast a m o n g th e b re t h re n , o f

w h o m t h e y d id n o t h a v e g re a t n e e d .— T r a n s .



my life ... things o f such beauty ... but with suffering! Nothing can be accomplished without sacrifice! “What did I do? I went to Caracal, about a mile away, and bought a goat which had just given birth to a baby goat— a kid. As I was walking with the goat on a leash, people sitting at their gates started asking me to give them the kid. I said to my­ self: ‘What am I going to do with this kid?’ I sold it. And after I sold it, they took the kid into a big courtyard to slaughter it. The goat was crying on one side, the kid was squealing as they were slaying it, and I was in the middle. It broke my heart, and I left, but the goat didn’t want to move, because its kid was left behind. And so, what occurred to me? I took the kid’s skin and gave it to my traveling companion, to walk ahead o f us with it, and the goat followed also.... “My goat became so tame that she could no longer be without me. I used to carry water from a well beyond the estate, and she would follow me like a little child. And she wouldn’t allow anyone but me to milk her. She damaged many things: I had to run after her; she caused all sorts o f trouble; she spied on me.... I had a small fir tree there, and, because it was green, she was tempted to break it. And where do you think she would climb? She’d climb onto a bridge where there was a big warehouse. Carts loaded with provi­ sions would arrive there, and the sacks were placed on the bridge, and then deposited into the warehouse. There on the bridge, I saw that she wasn’t able to defend herself. [When I finally caught her] I didn’t hit her because she didn’t have anywhere to go.... And after that, every time I chased her, she ran to that bridge, because she knew that there I wouldn’t beat her up. Ah, animals! “ But let me tell you about an incident that was so great that it broke my heart! 1 entered that big warehouse to pray. The goat was outside, crying for me to bring her in also. I couldn’t do that, because there was grain on the floor, and I ’d



have to keep an eye on her. Nevertheless, I brought her in, taking her by one horn and by the car, and I pulled her next to me, so that she would sit still.... I made her kneel on her front knees, to immobilize her. And I did my prayers. When I went the next day, she came and knelt on her own, as on the previous day. Do you see what great joy Abbot Ghcrmano gave me? I greatly benefited from that goat!” Here, at Comanca, he also had a chicken. One day the chicken went missing, and Br. Anghel decided to pray to St. Menas,5 “St. Menas, give me my chicken!” He ended up finding it. He later related, “Since then I have had a great reverence for St. Menas.” “Usually the brethren would stay at Comanca for a month. The abbot forgot me there.” Br. Anghel was left there for six­ teen months. “Sixteen months later the cloth coat I was wearing was torn in tatters, and I didn’t have another garment... I was persecut­ ed, but I was happy; I was patient and I didn’t want to leave the monastery. I said to myself; If he [the abbot] kicks me out, I’m leaving, but if not, I’m not. I even told the abbot: If you give me a blessing, I ’ll go; if not, I’m staying no matter what!” During this period Fr. Gherasim (Iscu) ( t i 9 s 0 · the abbot o f Tismana Monastery, met Br. Anghel, to whom the fathers and the abbots o f the surrounding monasteries were coming for counsel on different matters. Impressed with the spiritual stature o f the young novice, he said to the abbot at Cozia, “How can you keep such a man here?!” He wanted to take Br. Anghel from Comanca and bring him to Tismana, but Br. A n­ ghel told him that he could not go anywhere without his ab­ bot’s blessing. When Fr. Arsenie was around eighty years old, he said, “ If I have a source o f joy at my age, after decades o f life in the 5 Great M artyr Menas (commemorated Nov. n ) is often invoked for help in the finding o f lost items.— E d .



Tismana Monastery.

monastery, it is that I never took a step without a blessing; I went wherever I was sent.”6 That year the Communist regime wanted to take posses­ sion not only o f the large estate at Comanca, but also o f the rich wheat harvest. The local mayor decided to carry out this scheme earlier than scheduled. When the wheat was already loaded in freight cars, Br. Anghel went to the City Hall and protested against this unjust act, telling the mayor, “Tonight they’ll remove you from office, and you’ll come to ask my forgiveness!” And that is how it happened. That evening the Communists removed him from office because he had not fol­ lowed their plan. The next day the mayor came to Br. Ang­ hel and asked him, “Sir, who are you?!” He replied, “I ’m just what you see, but I’m telling you that you should not take the

6 Archimandrite Teofil Paraian, A m in tiri despre duhovnicii pe care i-am cunoscut [Remembering the spiritual fathers I knew] (Ciuj-Napoca: Teognost Press, 10 0 3), p. 87. 77


monasteries’ wheat because that’s their sustenance!” The wheat was not taken, although it had already been loaded in freight cars. Years later Fr. Arsenie related, “Obviously, when I saw what was going on, I went with my goat and fell on my knees, praying.” When Abbot Ghermano came to Comanca, the abbots from the other monasteries told him how Br. Anghel had saved the monasteries’ wheat, saying, “Look, Anghel did this!” The abbot approached Br. Anghel and told him that, as a reward, “ I give you a blessing to leave. But where will you go?” “I replied, ‘You’re no longer my abbot, so I ’m not telling you!’ I knew God’s great providence was guiding me, and so I struggled to humble myself.... It was my first bold action, but he had caused me much grief.” When Br. Anghel was about to depart, the abbot told him, “ What can I do, Br. Anghel? I am a man with many fears.” Anghel replied, “ Father, fear is a deadly sin. We compromise, but only up to the truth, even if we have to pay with our life.” Years later, Abbot Ghermano visited Hicromonk Arsenie at Cheia Monastery. Fr. Arsenie received him with much good will. The abbot asked him, “Father, are you upset with me?” “No, I ’m not upset with you,” responded Fr. Arsenie. Then the abbot asked forgiveness and left. Two months later he died on the streets o f Braşov. On August 18, 1948, Br. Anghel moved from Cozia to Tismana Monastery. “Fr. Gherasim (Iscu), the abbot o f Tismana Monastery, took me from there. He was arrested later on, and when he died in prison, he said, ‘Behold, I see Light! I see only white! Only white!’ And thus he died.... “I stayed one night at Tismana, and then he sent me to Cioclovina, a skete two and a half miles away, in the moun­ tains. There were many wolves and bears. They had twenty bee­ hives there, and I was guarding them from the bears. At night I would take a tin pan and beat it, and the bears would run



away.... I wouldn’t give in. I made a small garden there, above which was a small creek: drip, drip, drip. My predecessor had placed a small barrel there, and the water would accumulate during the day. In the evening I would pull the plug and water the garden, and all the water would be used. I had a vegetable garden and nineteen grapevines....” Here he lived for five months, keeping vigil every night beginning at midnight. “I resolved to keep vigil at midnight. Once I delayed in beginning the vigil, and I heard the bells chiming. There was no one to ring them, for I was alone there. I went to see who it was; the ropes were moving, but no one was there. I went into the church, fell on the ground, and prayed, thinking it was my guardian angel awakening me at the time o f prayer, although never in my life was I a lazy man. “I almost died there, but I was saved by the wolves.... They [the authorities] would’ve arrested and killed me! The Securi­ tate sent someone there one night. I was in the church and I saw some lights reflecting o ff the walls.... What could this be? I didn’t know. Can you imagine?... Someone was coming with a lantern, chased by the wolves, sent to take me to the monastery [Tismana]. I told him, ‘Don’t go back!’ And those who were waiting for us would have thought: if he doesn’t return, then the wolves ate him; but if he comes, he comes. I begged him not to return. He said, ‘It’s not possible!’ He departed again, with his lantern, and the wolves appeared in front o f him. And again I saw lights on the walls. I said to myself, ‘The wolves chased him back.’ O f course he came back, saying, ‘I ’m not leaving again!’ Thus I escaped arrest.” Br. Anghel was ready to be tonsured a monk. The deputy abbot o f Tismana petitioned the diocese, thus recommending him to the Archbishop o f Craiova: “Anghel Papacioc is an ex­ ceptional member [of the monastery] and truly ready to take on this sacred vow to God. We inform Your Eminence that the



above-mentioned is thirty-four years o f age, a graduate o f the School o f Fine Arts with a degree in art education, and a good carver. And most importantly, regarding his spiritual makeup: one can see in his character something mystical, and he is dedicated to God with his whole being. He is quite proficient on the kliros [choir stand] and wholly resolute in keeping the hours o f prayer exactly.”7 The abbots plan to tonsure Br. Anghcl did not come to fruition. “ The exarch o f the monasteries from the Archdiocese o f Craiova came on inspection. ‘Well, well! Look who lives in this mountain wilderness!’ And I received an order from Met­ ropolitan Firmilian to be the spiritual father o f the seminary. “I didn’t think anyone could remove me from there.... But before daybreak, the Securitate came to the Metropolitan and told him, ‘This one must disappear from here immediately!’ “And the Metropolitan called me and said, ‘Br. Anghel, you can’t stay any longer. I’m sorry!’ “I replied, ‘I’m leaving! If it’s not possible for me to stay, I’m leaving!’”

7 Petcu, Părintele Arsenic Papacioc in docum entele Securităţii, p. 157-



TR U E ELDERS went from Craiova to Bucharest, where he met Fr. Gherontie (Bălan), whom he knew from Cozia Monastery. At his recommendation, Br. Anghel moved to Sihăstria Monastery in January o f 1949. A few years earlier, in 1945, Fr. Cleopa (Ilie)1 had been appointed abbot o f the monastery. A great renewal o f monasticism took place there, eventually spreading to many monasteries in the vicinity. Desir­ ing to unite himself and his monks to his first spiritual father, Abbot Cleopa arranged for Elder Paisius (Olaru)2 to come to Sihăstria. The spiritual bonds Anghel formed with these legendary figures o f Romanian monasticism would remain throughout his life. “ 1 gained much fruit from Fr. Cleopa, right from the be­ ginning, seeing him serve the Divine Liturgy wearing opinci3— I, who desired a solitary life, away from modernity.” “ I always appreciated Fr. Paisius (Olaru) as well. He was very wise; he was a great elder. I say ‘great’ because he had


RO TH ER A n g h e l

1 Elder Cleopa (Ilie) (19 11-19 9 8 ) was chosen unexpectedly to be locum tenens o f Sihăstria at the age o f twenty-nine. He was an instructor o f the Jesus Prayer and considered by many to be the spiritual father o f all Romania. See Archimandrite Ioanichie Bălan, Shepherd o f Souls (Platina, Calif.: St. Herman o f Alaska Brotherhood, 10 0 0 ).— E d . 2 Elder Paisius (Olaru) (189 7-19 9 0). See Archimandrite Ioanichie Bălan, A L ittle C om er o f Paradise (Platina, Calif.: St. Herman o f Alaska Brotherhood, 10 16 ).— E d . 3 O pin ci: traditional peasant footwear no longer worn in most parts o f the country.— E d .



Left to right: Elders Paisius (Olaru) and Clcopa (Hie) in 1970.

great discernment. When he heard a Confession, he did not rush to impose a penance. He had a balanced pastoral manner. He did not hasten to defer to the local practice, which was very harsh in giving penances. He would weigh the penance based on the person, his repentance, the depth o f his heart. Confession is not about applying the canons as they are: they have their flexibility. Even St. Basil the Great, in canon sev­ enty-four, gives the spiritual father this freedom to personally weigh the penance that should be given to those who con­ fess. He was not interested in the Confession itself, nor in the penance itself, but in the salvation o f a human being. For St. John Chrysostom says: ‘D o you want to give him years [of penitence]? N o! Heal his wound!’ This is the goal, to help him be saved, because Christ did not come to annihilate hu­ man nature, but to transfigure it. The purpose [o f a penance]



isn’t to torture someone for the sake o f salvation, but [for the penitent] to acquire a state o f the constant presence [o f God], in a quest for God with the heart.... “ Therefore, Fr. Paisius was characterized by his great dis­ cernment, and more so by his love for his spiritual children, with whom he identified himself. “ I remember when I went o ff (shortly after settling down at Sihăstria) into the so-called wilderness.·* It was a very hard winter, and I was a novice at the monastery, enrolled in the brotherhood o f Sihăstria. Anyway, we [Br. Anghel and Fr. Cleopa] departed from the other brothers in a very secret man­ ner. There was so much snow; it had snowed for thirteen days and nights straight. And, at our departure, Fr. Paisius gave me eighteen cubes o f sugar. “Years later, I wrote to Fr. Cleopa about those eighteen pieces o f sugar. And ever since, 1 have continued to ponder this issue. Why did he give me sugar, when Fr. Cleopa had given me a shepherds knapsack with rusks as my only food? Surely, 1 thought, it was to sweeten me in this bitterness o f solitude, o f the wilderness— especially because it was a very challenging time as well: there was so much snow. And I told Fr. Cleopa [when I wrote him], and I continue to say: to this day I haven’t finished those sugar cubes!4 5 “ When I went to Sihăstria to visit him [Fr. Paisius], short­ ly before his death, he was in bed. It was announced that I was coming and that 1 wanted to pay him a visit. He was ly­ ing in bed, and I knelt so that we could be on the same level. 4 This was his first time in the wilderness (i.e., far o ff in the mountains), being sent by the great elders o f Sihăstria, who had seen his spiritual depth, but, more importantly, wanted to protect him from the authorities, who were following him .— T r a n s . 5 W hen asked by one o f his spiritual children, “ H ow is it that you never finished them? D o you still have some?” Fr. Arsenie smiled and said that their spiritual flavor and sweetness never ended.— T r a n s .



Sihăstria Monastery in 1008.

Nothing was said then, not even ‘Bless,’ but he said to me, '1 have sinned; I ’m a thief; I’m a fornicator; I ’m proud!’6 Sud­ denly he began to name many sins, and I, assisting in this con­ fession, said in turn, ‘I also committed the same sins, I did this; I did that as well...!’ This was our last encounter. I remember Fr. Paisius with great pleasure. He was not just a simple father; he was also a great believer and ascetic, my dear ones. Let us take care to commemorate him.” When Br. Anghel returned from the wilderness, he took up a place o f authority in the monastery. His unsullied life, his experience in the army and as a mayor, and the spiritual life he had cultivated in prison combined to make him a natural leader in the spiritual life. His great love for the brothers o f Sihăstria shines through in his recollections o f his time there: “At Sihăstria, I protected one o f the fathers— his name was Mina— a hermit and a great ascetic. I defended him in church: 6 O ut o f his great humility, Fr. Paisius was naming sins that had been a temptation in thought.—T r a n s .



some youths were pulling his kamilavka, 7 distracting him from prayer, and he kept turning around and looking. After seeing me defend him, he specially remembered me. On other occa­ sions, I escorted Fr. Mina by his arm when we went on various processions with holy water [during the Great Blessing o f the Waters or at Theophany] or artos* [at Pascha] across the fields. I took him by the arm, for he was elderly. My name was then Br. Anghel.... “Many years later, I went there [to Sihăstria] after I was tonsured and ordained a priest. I ran into this Fr. Mina in the woods or thereabouts, while I was walking with Fr. Cleopa. When I saw him I said, ‘Bless, Father! Are you still commemo­ rating me, Father?’ ‘“ Yes, dear, yes. Look, look!’ And he showed me a paper, torn and worn out from so many commemorations, pointing out where ‘Brother Anghel’ was written. “ I said, ‘Father, now my name is Arsenie.’ “And he repeated, ‘Arsenie, Arsenie, Arsenie!’ He was memorizing it, so he could remember me. “But before this, Fr. Cleopa told him, ‘Remember me, Fr. M ina!’ “And although he [Fr. Cleopa] was his abbot, Fr. Mina asked him, ‘W hat’s your name?’ He did not even know the name o f his abbot! At the same time— it was amazing— he remembered me because I had come to his rescue, but he didn’t know the name o f his abbot. Still, he was a man o f great asceticism. “ Well, this was an encouraging experience for me, and I understood how beautiful it is, what an example for us to fol­ low, in keeping our promise— if we pledge to pray for some­ one, we have to do so consistently. This was, at least for me, a meaningful example. ' K am ilavka: a monastic hat. 8 A rtos: a bread blessed at the end o f the Paschal service and carried in processions throughout Bright W eek.— E d .



“It was my turn for kitchen duties, and I asked the breth­ ren if they liked my food, and they replied, ‘We don’t like it, Br. Anghel, but we love you, our brother!’ “ [After a while] Fr. Cleopa did not allow me to be called ‘Brother’ Anghel. I would take his place when the abbot would take the sheep up to the mountain, and I would re­ main as abbot, teaching the people. The people were troubled, ‘How is this? He’s only a novice?’ And they would call me ‘Fr. Anghel.’” Even before Anghel was a priest and a spiritual father, his word was “a mighty word” that could turn the hearts o f the people to repentance, to living the commandments o f the Lord. One time an old man who was struggling with smoking came to see Fr. Cleopa. The elder told him, “Stop smoking, old man! There are heavy penances for this sin.” But the old man did not listen to him. He went to see Br. Anghel also, who said, “Christ is asking you to stop smoking, old man!” The old man replied, “Christ is really asking me?” “Yes!” And right then the old man took all the packs of cigarettes he had on him, threw them out, and never smoked again. Although Br. Anghel was just a novice, he had a great influence on the sincere and dedicated souls that sought his guidance. “One time two young men came to me at Sihăstria, and I told them about the importance o f monasticism. Later I became the spiritual father at the Neamţ Monastic Semi­ nary, the only seminary in the country at that time.9 Since the Communists wanted to eliminate “the factory o f priests," as they called it, I would formally place the young men in monasteries [but not actually tonsure them], and then I would send them to seminary. (At that time only monks were 9 A ll the others had been closed by the Communists.— E d .



Archimandrite Iachint (Unciuleac) o f Puma.

allowed to become priests.) Once a young man came to apply to the seminary and I told him about the stipulation. He ac­ cepted and we went together to Sihăstria. On the way we saw wolves attacking the sheep and the shepherds fighting with them.... I looked at him and asked him, ‘Listen, why are you just using the monastery as a springboard? Would you like to become a monk?’ He agreed. He told me, ‘Father, are you Br. Anghel by any chance?’ He recognized me; he was one o f the young men to whom I had spoken about monasticism when I was a novice at Sihăstria. Afterwards he was sent to Putna Monastery, and later on he became abbot. He reposed recent­ ly [in June 1998], while confessing the abbot [his successor]; he died in his chair.” W hile recounting this story, Fr. Arsenie took a photo and showed it to those present. It was a photo



o f Archimandrite Iachint (Unciuleac)10 o f Puma Monastery. Impressed, Fr. Arsenie exclaimed, “Behold, what a life!” According to Elder Cleopa: “Ever since he was a novice, he has preached. He was named Br. Anghel. When we received him here, I had him as a disciple at the monastery. And I had a chair, an armchair on which I would sleep at night as a young priest, to be more watchful. “Once he asked me, ‘Would you allow me to sit on that chair, when you’re not at home?’ “I told him, ‘Sit!’ And after that, he would lecture them from that chair, and he would preach beautifully, teaching them.... He has a great love for teaching people. And he has a saying, I think he repeats it even to this day: ‘Brethren, don’t play games with your salvation!’ Thus he tells them: ‘Don’t play games—you are your salvation!’” 111

111 Archimandrite Iachint (Unciuleac) (19 14 -19 9 8 ) was, as described by Fr. Ioanichie (Bălan) in one o f his books, “the most revered spiritual father and abbot o f our beloved Bucovina.”— E d . 11 Archimandrite Ioanichie Bălan, ed., N e vorbeşte Părintele Cleopa [El­ der Cleopa talks to us], znd ed., vol. 10 (Roman: Diocese o f Roman Press, io o i) ,p . 148.



A N EW MAN though still a brother o f Sihăstria, was assigned to help at the Bible Institute,1 working as a sculp­ tor and graphic designer. While fulfilling this task, he stayed at Antim Monastery, serving there as sacristan in the afternoon. “ The patriarch was away,” Fr. Arsenie recalled. “So they called him, saying, ‘Should we tonsure Br. Anghel?’ “‘Tonsure him immediately!’ “And I said, ‘As part o f Sihăstria Monastery, not o f Antim Monastery!’ “ Fr. Sofian [Boghiu]12 read the prayers at the tonsure ser­ vice, and Fr. Benedict [Ghiuş] tonsured me, and my sponsor, Fr. Petroniu [Tănase]3—whom I didn’t choose myself—cast lots for the name Arsenie. N 1 949 B r . A n g h e l ,



The Orthodox Bible and Missionary Institute (Institutul Biblic şi de

Misiune Ortodoxă), with its headquarters at the H oly Synod o f the Romanian Orthodox Church and at Antim Monastery in Bucharest, publishes and dis­ tributes the H oly Scripture, religious service books, magazines, and papers on theology and literature. It also produces and distributes icons and sacred and religious objects for ecclesiastical and religious use.— T r a n s . 2 Archimandrite Sofian (Boghiu) ( 1 9 11 - 10 0 1 ) , Elder o f Antim M on­ astery. Fr. Sofian was a renowned iconographer and spiritual father. H e was arrested in 1958 for taking part in the Burning Bush prayer meetings centered at Antim Monastery. After his release in 1964, he returned to Antim , where he spent the rest o f his life as one o f the most sought-out spiritual fathers in Romania.— E d . 3 Archimandrite Petroniu (Tănase) ( 19 14 - 10 11) moved to M ount Athos in 1978. In 1985 he became abbot o f Prodtomou Skete and was instru­ mental in its restoration.— E d .



“I carved some crosses— I had done some carving in the past—because I was thinking, ‘Should another [person] make my tonsure cross?’ And then I made a monastic cross identical to mine for Fr. Petroniu.4 “Being in church, wearing my mantle, I went to the kliros to check when St. Arsenius is celebrated, and I found him on May 8, together with St. John the Evangelist. And the day on which I was tonsured was September 26—also St. Joh n the Evangelist! “ The newly tonsured Fr. Arsenic said to himself, “The Apostle o f love is following me around!” He found this blessed “coincidence” to be highly significant in his new life. “I was ordained as a deacon at Calamfideşti, near Rădăuţi, and as a priest at a convent near Botoşani, at Gafton (because there was a hierarchical service). I received the ordination to 4 Fr. Petroniu wore this cross for the rest o f his life.



the priesthood on September z6, 1950, exactly one year after I was tonsured a monk, on the commemoration o f St. John the Evangelist, the Apostle o f love. This fact inspired me greatly, and I did not consider it insignificant for this great—priestly and monastic— responsibility. “One o f my siblings— my brother— after I was tonsured and he had seen the service, came to my cell and asked me, ‘Father, am I still allowed to talk to your Reverence?’ “He was younger than I, and he wasn’t educated, but he was a zealous Christian boy. And I told him, ‘You’re allowed, but you should be aware that I ’m not quite allowed!’ “At Antim there was a lot o f discussion about the Jesus Prayer. We had a Sbom ik,s brought by a Russian hieromonk, Ivan (Kulygin). We used to call him loan 'the Stranger.’ We were greatly influenced by him, as he was a great zealot. There was a father, George (Roşea), a great zealot as well, who, when he saw the monastic cross I had carved, said that he would give me a Sbom ik if I would make him a cross. But I told him, ‘I’m not accepting any Sbom ik; I’m not making any cross, because I don’t agree with what’s being discussed here. Too much talking about the prayer o f the heart. Say it (utter it in secret) and keep silent! This is everything. W hy do you have to wait for instruc­ tions? Have you not felt, even by now, that you’re a man o f Christ?’ “Then a young man came to me, knocked at the door o f my cell, and said humbly, T kiss your hand, Father! I would like you to give me the Sbom ik’. (Then only two or three cop­ ies o f the book existed in all o f Bucharest. Now it’s published, but then it could not be found.) “And I told him, ‘Yes, I’ll give it to you with pleasure!’5


The Sbom ik here refers ro an anthology o f Orthodox writings on

prayer compiled by A bbot Chariton o f Valaam Monastery in Russia. It was subsequently published in English under the title 'Ihe A rt o f Prayer.— E d .



And I took a prayer rope and gave it to him. I told him, ‘Here you go: Shut up and say it [the prayer]: this is the Sbom ik1.’ “I was not ignoring the Sbom ik, but I was very zealous about saying the prayer, living it at all costs. This was my point o f view: A deep silence means a deep prayer! ‘Keep silent and say it!’ You won’t be saved by the fact that you have been in a spiritual environment, simply satisfying your reason with ex­ traordinary, unheard-of examples and quotations. You won’t be saved! This is one o f the big mistakes made by people who are sincerely pondering this question. They abandon, to a certain extent, [the real goal], and they do not aim by every means for the highest goal— conquering eternity every day, every mo­ ment if possible! They’re satisfied with very small accomplish­ ments, which are not actually achievements. If you’re not the master o f yourself, you don’t possess within yourself a shield [from attacks]. For you to resist, you must bv all means be truly humble. Only then are you able [to resist]— no matter how the devils strike and work on your weaknesses. You can’t achieve perfection immediately, but you should alwavs be in a position that enables you to fight against the passions. “Now I should tell you that all those people, who were holy— Fr. Benedict (Ghiu$), Fr. Sofian, Fr. Petroniu, Fr. Agaton (Sandu Tudor)6—were men from whom you could ben­ efit merely by seeing their movements, even if you were not expecting an answer. They were not satisfied with what they were saying: they wanted to encompass in a word all that ex­ ists, everything that could be said. I f you were receptive to the spiritual knowledge o f the one present, it meant that God had 6

Later Hieroschemamonk Daniil. Before becoming a monk, he bad

been a naval officer, a poet, a high school teacher, and the founder o f two magazines. After joining Antim Monastery, he was the initiator and driving force o f the Burning Bush movement. In 1958 Fr. Daniil was arrested for his activities and died in 1961, after spending a month in solitary confinement at A iud.— E d .



Fr. Sofian (Boghiu) o f Antim Monastery.

expectations from you, that you already had a great responsi­ bility. My point o f view, which I expressed at Antim, was not to theorize about the prayer, but to live it. And I continued with this approach. Even today I tell this to myself and oth­ ers.” After Fr. Arsenie was ordained to the priesthood, he was appointed to be the spiritual father o f the Neamt Monastic



Seminary." In relating his encounter with the future Archiman­ drite Iachint (Unciulcac), mentioned above, Fr. Arsenie alluded to the method he used to enroll students in the seminary. “ I would place the boys who wanted to become priests in mon­ asteries, to spend one day there, and then I would take them from the monastery into the seminary. ‘Sir [speaking to the of­ ficials], he’s a monk!’ But he was not a monk. I had an agree­ ment with the monasteries, with Sihăstria, for we were nearby. And in this way the seminary was populated. We also had uni­ versity professors teaching there.8 Classes would start at eight o’clock in the morning.... “I was occupied more with Liturgies, even though I was assigned as a professor o f the History o f Monasticism and o f Monastic Life. I was teaching the students how to do the Proskomedia, since they were future priests. I was showing them with a potato how to prepare the Proskomedia: ‘Here is how it’s cut; here is what’s being said!’ I had thirty-five deacons as students.... “One day I served with a deacon older than the others. I was telling the students [from in front o f the Royal Doors] about the Holy Mysteries, which can also appear as Flesh or as a little Child. For thus the Service Book instructs us: ‘If there appears, after the consecration o f the bread and wine, a miracle, namely the form o f bread as Flesh or as a little Child, and the wine as Blood, and if this vision will not change (that is, if they would not revert to bread or wine) and thus they will remain unchanged, the priest should by no means com­ mune, because these are not the Body and Blood o f Christ, but a miracle from God, revealed only for unbelief or for other reasons. And the priest should take anotherprosphoron (if the ' In 1953, it would be closed.— E d . Some o f those who participated at the spiritual gatherings at Antim


M onastery— Fr. Petroniu, Fr. Sofian, Fr. Benedict, and Andrei Scrima— were also teaching at the seminary.



appearance o f only the bread has changed) and, as shown above, do and say the Proskomedia on the prosphoron and take out the H oly Lamb; and he should set aside the One miraculously changed, guarding It with reverence, and he should start from the prayer: With these blessed powers we also ..., and he should do all things according to the order o f service. And the second time he should not say anything above the Chalice. If the wine in the Chalice has also changed into Blood, he should pour It into another worthy cup, or into another clean vessel, pouring wine again and saying over it the prayers o f Proskomedia, and thus, in order, consecrate them also, following the typikon,‘>and at the time o f Communion to commune after the custom, and complete the service.’ 9 10 “ What was the deacon, with whom I was serving, think­ ing? For he was consuming the Holy Gifts at that moment.... ‘Hmm..., it’s not quite as Fr. Arsenie says!’ And his mouth filled with Blood, and with Flesh instead o f bread, and he fell to the floor and the Chalice fell onto the Table o f Oblation.... I was a meter and a half from the deacon’s door, for the cha­ pel was small. I turned around and reprimanded him, and they reverted to bread and wine.... He had doubted; he was not liv­ ing through faith. Then why are you preparing yourselffor the priesthood? “Thus it has been revealed, throughout the history o f the Church, to emperors and to a whole series o f unbelievers, how the Savior took the priest’s place ... how God did not cease be­ ing merciful with unbelievers, for only to them was it revealed, to satisfy them! The Liturgy is not to be disputed; there is nothing symbolic; everything is true. What? Are you playing games with these things!? God forbid!” The Securitate took notice o f Father’s presence here and,

9 Typikon: the rule o f church services. 10L itu rghier [The Liturgikon] (Bucharest: The Biblical and Missionary Institute o f the Romanian Orthodox Church Press, 10 0 0 ), p. 465.



through informers they had planted, found out that “he is a very spiritual man, doing his duty as spiritual father precise­ ly according to the rules o f the school, to books, and to the canons o f the Holy Fathers.” 11 He was under surveillance for a few months, and arrested in December 1951. “ They forced me to leave the office I had at the seminary,” Father related. After being released he did not return to the seminary, but went to Slatina Monastery.1

1 Pcrcu, P ărintele A rsenic Papacioc in docum entele Securităţii, p. 160.



T H E S O U N D OF F A L L IN G L E A V E S 1952. F r . A r s e n i e returned to Elder Cleopa, who was now living at Slatina Monastery. Fr. Cleopa, along with thirty monks front Sihăstria, had been sent by Patriarch Justin­ ian1 to renew this monastery farther north in Bucovina. Fr. Arsenie s stay at the monastery was short-lived: the Securi­ tate was threatening both him and Elder Cleopa— accusing them o f religious propaganda— and so they decided to retreat into the Neamţ Mountains, not far from the monastery. They would re­ main there for two years, living more independently from each other this time, engaged in the struggles o f the wilderness. “I kept pondering why great saints like St. Basil the Great and others, who had tremendous opportunities, desired to live in the wilderness. The wilderness is something unique; it is an­ other world. In the wilderness it’s just you and God. There you have to become friends with the forest. Life in the wilderness is such that an outsider can’t understand what happens there; it’s a presence2 and the entire creation is contained in the heart and in the action o f the recluse. I also knew fear in those years, but God helped me remain vigilant. “ The temptations were great; I was in a constant state o f N


1 Patriarch Justinian (19 01—1977) served as head o f the Romanian O r­ thodox Church from 1948 to 1977. He was instrumental in the survival o f the Romanian Church during those times o f brutal atheist persecution, especially the two decades after the Second World War.— E d . - That is, an awareness o f the presence o f God, founded on a constant preservation o f love and prayer.— T r a n s .



Si.uin.i Monastery.

watchfulness. I had placed icons in all the pine trees surround­ ing my hut.... You can never drop your guard, even in the slightest.... “The wilderness is difficult. You have to be watchful, for the devil doesn’t relent, even for a moment. I prayed to the Mother o f God in every difficulty, and, as a weak one, I would say, ‘Lord, I ’m not a hermit; I’m here by accident. Don’t aban­ don me!’ I didn’t give up. The Mother o f God helped me. I continued as a hermit. “Fr. Cleopa intended that we remain in the wilderness for good.... I was feeling the call [to return], and I contended that you can better fulfill the Scripture in the monastery, by seeing if you can keep the commandment o f love. Life in the wilder­ ness is highly laudable; we have to understand that the prayers o f a hermit benefit the world enormously. There is no authentic life in the wilderness i f you don't have the whole world, as it is, in your heart! I was not at the level o f a hermit.... You have to go into the wilderness as a hero, after you’ve overcome the world.



I greatly benefited from reading the Egyptian Patericon, where humility prevails. “In the midst o f a throng o f temptations, I was able to read something applicable from the Holy Fathers: Temptations leave the impression that you don’t have the strength to resist them, but it’s not true. Don’t make the mistake o f underestimating your powers. Christ would be greatly grieved that we were bap­ tized in His name (that is, in the name o f the Holy Trinity) but don’t trust His word: Be o f good cheer; I have overcome the world (John 16:33). Clearly, He said this with great authority, so that we would follow Him and overcome the world. The big mistake is to say, ‘I’m not the one [able to follow H im ]!’ I received the answer I needed at that moment in my reading, and I cried aloud, ‘Great are the Holy Fathers!’ They interpret­ ed and explained ... for they were helped by God’s grace. So, the first mistake is to consider yourself weaker than the one to whom Christ said: ‘Have courage to overcome the world!’ Certainly, it’s the world within us! “On another occasion I was trying to act with humility, thinking, ‘I ’m nothing,’ before God. Anyway, I forced myself, and I was delivered from temptation.... I shouted: Great is a humble man before God! This greatly encouraged me, and I no­ ticed that the grace o f God helped me, since I couldn’t measure how much humility I had. I couldn’t see myself except as one less humble than all the people in this world. “ I saw how the devil stirs things up, how insistently he fights to place images before you.... And a great temptation befell me, a temptation I could in no way accept. The devil wouldn’t give up, but neither would I, not at all! Very tor­ menting! You can’t understand what the torments o f the wil­ derness are! I said like a child, ‘I f I pray to St. George, who knows where St. George might be? Others are also praying to him !’ And so I said, ‘I should pray to my guardian angel; he has been with me since baptism!’ And I immediately started to



pray: ‘Holy guardian angel...!’ Please believe me! He immedi­ ately freed me from all temptation, so clearly and so complete­ ly! The guardian angel! And since then I have great reverence for my guardian angel. “If you err, grace leaves you, and God allows these tempta­ tions to make you wise, to humble you. I didn’t receive a re­ ward for cutting o ff my own will, but the devil was making me sufficiently wise. Do you think it’s just a small drop o f wisdom? This is knowledge that benefits you your entire life, and you re­ alize that you have to be in constant control [to win the battle with the devil]. “The withdrawal into the wilderness was not a calculated or planned withdrawal.... Nevertheless, I didn’t survive merely on a certain longing for the wilderness. On the contrary, there were enormous obstacles for me. There, the battle is exclusively against the devil. The problems concerning food are insignifi­ cant.... This was the issue: keeping the devil at a distance. He causes you suffering i f he gets hold o f you in some way. You can’t resist him unless an authentic humility rules over you, a true humility. Never see yourself as humble. Humility is the art o f staying in your place. “I can boldly say, not that I lived in the wilderness, but sim­ ply that I suffered the harshness o f winter— which was dread­ ful.3 You would not see people, you were in the woods— but this does not represent the wilderness. The wilderness, without a doubt, signifies a state beyond human nature, beyond exalted human reasoning, because the spiritual life is not a calculated life, but a life lived without words. “Certainly, if I had known what [spiritual] level I had 3

According to one o f Fr. Arsenic’s spiritual sons, he did not consider

him self worthy to be considered a hermit. This was said out o f humility, o f course, but there was also some truth to this. He had another calling: to be a confessor in the prisons and a spiritual father. On the other hand, Fr. Cleopa had this calling to be a hermit and attained to that stature.— E d .



attained, I would no longer have belonged in the wilderness! Only the desire to be as close as possible to God kept me there; but you have to fight very earnestly for this. “ I would sleep on a board, in my hut.4 I had the habit o f jumping up immediately after I awoke, without hesitating (there’s an inclination to say, ‘I’ll lie here a little longer!’). I wanted to be the master o f myself, to overcome the state o f hesitation. One morning I remained [lying down] a bit lon­ ger. The devil pulled me down and hit me on the head with my vest! O f course, I arose quickly: I had to defend myself. Then I said to myself, ‘I’m not a hermit, I’m here by accident.’ (In the wilderness the devil leads you to perdition if you’re not humble.) And thus I was delivered [from temptation]. Then I shouted, ‘Great is the power o f humility!’ “ W hy did it happen like this? For I had many temptations. The devil would shout at me from outside, he would throw snowballs at the walls o f my hut. Many times I thought that somebody had come, but there was no one, and then many times I wouldn’t answer these provocations. Still, he would tempt me from afar and more often through thoughts, but this is another matter. “ He dared [to beat me] because he had a claim on me: I did not get up quicklv! As a human being, I fell asleep for a few seconds.... ‘Devil, if this is your gain and your goal, then you have given me courage through what you did to me. I have gained by the loss, for I saw your demonic powers and schemes.’ I must say that this is a very oppressive conversation. You don’t really desire to converse with him— for he desires it. One should not converse with the devil. You have to ignore him. If you speak to him, you acknowledge him. Satan is not a power, but merely one who is tolerated by God. The power is 4

This is a hermit’s hur, dug into the ground, three feet high (at most),

five feet wide, and six feet long. It is covered with branches, leaves, and soil.— Ed.

io i


with us, for we are baptized, we have a guardian angel, we pray to God. D o you want to banish Satan?... Talk to Christ, pray to the Theotokos! Without a doubt, in the wilderness and in the realm o f discernment— a more spiritually advanced life— any kind o f mistake is terrible. The smallest evil is not a little thing in life. Make sure the devil does not have a hold on you through anything. Our Lord Jesus, our Savior, wants us whole; only Satan desires us through deceit, by grasping even a single tip o f our finger, for he, the cunning one, knows that in this way he can master our entire being. “Someone knocked at Jesus’ door, and Jesus asked, ‘ W ho’s there?’ “‘It’s me, Your great ascetic!’ “ ‘You’re not ready; I ’m not opening the door for you!’ “The ascetic was worried: ‘I wonder why?’ And he went again to the door and knocked. “ ‘Who’s there?’ asked the Lord. “ ‘It is You!’ “ ‘I f you are Me, enter!’—That is to say, God gathers with those who arc gods by grace. “So, it is not permitted to knock at Christ’s door with stains, since any little sin is not small! But we shouldn’t con­ strue this to mean that our struggle is to become perfect only in not committing sins! This is a little brash, and it is not the way o f humility. You have to believe that the grace o f God is helping you and that if you’re something, it’s only by G od’s grace. This is how I understood the words o f St. Silouan, ut­ tered to him by the Savior: 'Keep thy m ind in hell, and despair not!"* Our deeds can’t save us; therefore, we have a need tor a continuous and authentic humility; not a rational humility, but a true humility.” 5

Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), Saint Silouan the Atbonite,

trans. by Rosemary Edmonds (Essex: Patriarchal and Stavropegic Monastery o f St. John the Baptist, 1991), p. 4 1 .



While living in the wilderness, Fr. Arsenic strove to observe the traditions o f the Church. Thus, on days when fish was al­ lowed, he would take a fish bone he had preserved and boil it in a can, drinking the water. In doing this, he could say he had something with fish. Then he would dry the bone and keep it for next time. But after so much use, the bone no longer pos­ sessed even the smallest flavor o f fish—yet he was keeping the rule. He had learned from his mother the saying, “At least a fish bone should get in your mouth on fish days.” “ In the wilderness I saw how little a man needed to live. A shepherds knapsack filled with rusks was my only source o f food. I’d eat a bit o f a rusk and it sustained me for the whole day. On rare occasions I’d find mushrooms that grew on trees. We called them ‘trout’— they were like bananas, very tasty. Once I found some mushrooms and I dried them by the stove. I had improvised a stove, stacking up some stones and placing an iron plate on top. I kept those mushrooms for the winter. But after eating them, 1 felt ill. Occasionally I found a dried crab, and that was a treat. In the summer I drank water from the spring. (These huts were built near springs o f water.) In the winter I melted snow and drank the water.” One time Fr. Arsenic went looking for mushrooms. As he was returning, he wandered into a thicket, unable to see two feet in front o f him, and got lost. He began to pray fervently to the Mother o f God and all o f a sudden the cloudy sky became clear. He saw and recognized a mountain in the distance, en­ abling him to reorient himself. Exiting the thicket, he realized that if he had advanced another fifty feet he would have fallen o ff a cliff, but the Mother o f God had protected him. On numerous occasions he was saved from the wild beasts, which “come not to bite you, but to devour you... Nonethe­ less, the greatest danger in the wilderness was not the beasts, but the devil.” Having been saved from countless dangers since childhood caused him to later say, “ I’m ninety-six and



I ’ve examined my past the best I could, and I was amazed, humbled ... seeing God’s presence. I ’ve seen G od’s work in ev­ erything: my encounters with wolves, with bears, my fourteen years spent in prison, the years in the wilderness. I would often look attentively at a bug— small as the tip o f a needle— and say, ‘Look, God knows it. And there are millions and trillions like it.’” On occasion he would go to Coroi’s Ravine, taking ref­ uge in the cave o f St. Theodora o f Sihla6 during times o f heavy snowfalls. Later he recounted, “It’s a great thing to see places where people have struggled. I stayed for some time in the cave o f St. Theodora. I would climb on a rock (now there are steps) where there was a cave with water, and the water would never stop dripping, although it had no collecting pool, and I would also drink from the place where the saint used to drink.... “I had read somewhere that a deer can’t give birth it she hears a leaf falling— the noise bothers her. I didn’t quite un­ derstand this saying then. When I ended up in the wilderness, I could hear a leaf falling on other dried leaves, and I would tremble. Only then did I understand this saying. You know, I don’t hear very well; some members o f my family even had hearing problems.” That trembling at the fall o f a leaf was not due to sensory perception, which would have been very diffi­ cult even for a person with perfect hearing, and more so for Fr. Arsenie. It was by virtue o f spiritual purification, o f extraordi­ nary discernment, and o f constant watchfulness. “I was afraid to tell people that I had been in the wilder­ ness.7 You have to know the voice o f the forest, a silent voice 6 St. Theodora labored there in the beginning o f the seventeenth centu­ ry. A t the end o f her life, two monks from Sihăstria discovered the saint, after following the birds that brought her bread from the refectory. They found her enveloped in Uncreated Light. Her relics were in the cave for many years, and many who came on pilgrimage received healing and consolation.— E d . 7 O ut o f humility he did not want to compare him self to a hermit.— E d .

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that you can know only if you have a great spiritual depth. As a man you must acquire the identity of the forest ... otherwise you cannot survive. “ When you go off and become a hermit in the forest to live a life pleasing to God, the forest is no longer a mere land­ scape o f beautiful, old trees. In that moment the forest has to receive you; you have to unite with it.... The thick trees have to cover you, to protect you. There are rimes when you encounter bears in the forest and you have to hide behind a large tree. You have to do this immediately and in perfect silence, other­ wise the beast will tear you apart.” Once a Russian hermit visited Fr. Arsenie at Techirghiol Monastery, seeking a profitable word. Fr. Arsenie wanted to test him and so he asked him, “Tell me, what is the voice o f the



forest?” The hermit trembled. He understood what Fr. Arscnie was asking him. Fr. Arsenie would meet with Elder Cleopa from time to time. They would confess each other and commune every two to three weeks, as they had the Holy Mysteries with them. Once a month, a good Christian from the neighboring vil­ lage would bring them some food. Although there were many wolves in the area, the man did not fear going into the deep forest— trusting the prayers o f the two hidden hermits. Fr. Arsenie would recount his life to Elder Cleopa, with its temptations and sufferings. “In our wandering through the mountains I would tell Fr. Cleopa about my sufferings [impris­ onments] and about the death o f my brother [Radu]. He wept with me.” Elder Cleopa told him, “Br. Anghel, I have learned from your life as much as from the Patericon. God is great and He will help us continue our journey to the end.” While struggling together in the wilderness, Fr. Cleopa and Fr. Arsenie had a unity o f soul that did not prevent them from disagreeing with each other: “I was with Fr. Cleopa in the Ncamt Mountains.... A dis­ cussion heated up between us regarding the way one should struggle [for salvation]. And I told him, ‘Father, you had two brothers, the monk Gherasim, who was ascetic, and Br. Vasile, who was watchful.’ “Monk Gherasim used to beat himself with a rope, seventy to eighty strokes at a time, and sleep in a coffin lined with oat straw and a cross at his head. He would carry soil in a wheel­ barrow, in order to subdue the horse (that is, the body). Br. Vasile, on the other hand, had his obedience to tend the sheep, and he had great reverence for the Mother o f God. He always sighed: ‘The Queen ... the Queen ... the Queen....’ “And Br. Vasile was asked, ‘Do you want to go into the wil­ derness?’ ‘With great pleasure, but allow me to take along a barrel o f cheese, too!’



“And the devils came and beat Br. Vasile in the courtyard o f Sihăstria Monastery in the middle o f the day. There were cries heard; the monks gathered with the abbot, Ioanichie (M o­ roi)— who was a great zealot. Br. Vasile, who had been caught by surprise, cried out to the Mother o f God; ‘The Queen ... the Queen....’ She actually came to his aid at that moment, to protect the one who was asking her for help. “Abbot Ioanichie asked him, ‘What did the Queen tell you?’ “ ‘She told me to calm down, for she will come in three days to take me!’ “ The devils ceased beating him and on the third day he re­ posed. “And 1 asked Fr. Cleopa, ‘Which one was more pleasing to God? Monk Gherasim, the ascetic, or Br. Vasile, who was watchful ?” “And Fr. Cleopa answered, ‘Br. Vasile, for Fr. Paisius [Olaru] says so, also!’ “ Well, Fr. Cleopa was very complex in his own way; he was not merely ascetic. He later started telling me about watchful­ ness, which astounded me. However, we’re talking here about the system, the principle toward which you incline— for not by speaking but bv advancing do we reach [the goal]. Many monks struggle, imitating Fr. Cleopa, and afterwards they think like this: ‘Lord, I made a thousand prostrations; give me something, too!’ “ The ‘pedal’ o f struggling should not be pushed too much, but rather the focus [of the struggle is what is important]. Time is not the deciding factor, but rather the quality o f liv­ ing in a continuous spiritual disposition, not giving occasion to dark grieving, in a sincere and heartfelt repentance that will indeed bring a man true humility. This humility is exceedingly acceptable [to God], necessary for forgiveness, and beneficial for new aspirations and revelations beyond human reason. The

10 7


love o f God enriches the humble man more than someone who is rigid in sorrow and harsh struggles. The Lord Christ gives Himself more readily to a wounded, yet repentant and humble, heart than to a heart that has fasted and prayed, but which, o f course, is asking for its rights. St. Basil the Great says, ‘Neither the widow nor the virgin have any other rank in heaven than the one dictated by humility.’ “Let me tell you something else: What’s the meaning o f obe­ dience? When two o f you are traveling, one should always obey the other! A terrible rain caught us in a forest o f small trees. Fr. Cleopa on one side and I on the other were looking for the thick­ est bush to take shelter under. Fr. Cleopa was insisting, from un­ der the branches, that I come to him; we were about fifty yards apart. I was thinking that my bush was better. But I said to myself: ‘I should obey!’ I ran there and [almost immediately] lightning struck right around the place that I had considered a better shel­ ter from the rain. I was in awe: See what obedience does for you! God inspired him to insist that I come to him, on the grounds that he had found a better place. But the grace o f God was actu­ ally at work to save me from being struck. “We both had the intention to find rain shelter under a huge oak tree, but lightning also struck that oak tree before we could get there. Then we both saw that we were protected by God, and we basically stood in the rain, consenting to let G od’s will be done. Thus, accepting this bath that came from above, with all our love we embraced each other and believed that God was visibly protecting and helping us, but that this was impossible without sacrifice. “ Without a doubt, the cenobitic life must be seen as the most complete form o f monasticism. It enables you to succeed in truly cutting o ff your own will, and, in being transformed in this way, you realize how much you have commended yourself to God’s will. Commend yourself completely unto H im — you do so when you’ve cut o ff your own will.

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“Nevertheless, the wilderness remains an extremely impor­ tant way o f life, because o f the power that the hermits prayer exerts on the world. However, heaven is not just for hermits— they’re an exception. “It has been observed in novices, or even in nuns, that as soon as they join a monastery, they develop a longing for the wilderness.... They think that some angels o f light will be wait­ ing for them in the wilderness. There are some o f those— but they’re demons. The demons cut to pieces those naughty ones who long for the wilderness. Anyway, much could be said about the desert, and I even compare it with prison. Prison has another ‘professor,’ another focus: the cunning o f the people before which you must resist...” Toward the end o f their self-exile in the wilderness, Frs. Arsenie and Cleopa lived outside in the forest near Slatina Mon­ astery. Tliis fulfilled the desire o f the fathers o f the monastery to have the opportunity to see the desert dwellers. “At night Fr. Cleopa slept under a fir tree— I under another one, two yards away. In the morning a snake came from under my place of rest (as I was sleeping on some roots). Not very long after that, lightning shattered the fir tree under which I had slept (split­ ting it in half). I had a premonition that they [the authorities] would arrest me. And they really did! “W hile I was living in the wilderness, the Communists ma­ ligned the Church, saying that all the monastics in the wilder­ ness were there to shelter and help the opponents o f the regime. Then the patriarch called all o f us to return to the monaster­ ies. Fr. Cleopa and I obeyed him and returned to Slatina M on­ astery. Upon our return, I saw a monk and was amazed, for I hadn’t seen any people in a long time, and 1 said to myself, ‘H ow easy it is to live in the world!”’

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D W E L L I N G IN U N I T Y u n e OF 1954, after two years in the desert, Frs. Arsenie and Cleopa returned to Bucharest at the request o f Patri­ arch Justinian, who welcomed them at the patriarchate. Fr. Arsenie greatly respected the patriarch, considering him “very brave.” Fie spoke very highly o f him to other prisoners at Aiud, defending him before those who accused him o f being a man o f the regime. Fr. Arsenie understood his cautious and intelligent approach in dealing with the Communist regime: a very beneficial approach for the Church during those times o f persecution. He would say, “ The war is a game o f intelligence, but it is still a war.” From Bucharest the patriarch sent them on a mission to mon­ asteries around the city to revive the spiritual life o f these commu­ nities. Thus they went to the monasteries o f Ţigăneşti, Pasărea, Căldăruşani, Suzana, Zamfira, and Cheia. At Pasărea Monastery Elder Cleopa would usually confess the older nuns, and Fr. Arse­ nie the younger ones. From this period, Elder Cleopa recalled: “As we were serving Holy Unction at Pasărea Monastery, all o f a sudden two first sergeants with machine guns came into the church: “ ‘In the name o f the law, you are under arrest. Follow us!’ “Therefore I said to Arsenie: ‘So, Arsenie, from the wil­ derness to the patriarchate, and from the patriarchate we’re going to prison!’ But Arsenie, who had spent years in prison, said, ‘Hush, Brother, we were sent here by the patriarch o f the Church. They can shoot me now!’”





Brothers oi SLitiru Monastery (and a laywoman) in 1957. Igumcn Arsenic is third from right.

When the nuns o f Pasărea Monastery heard o f the arrest, they rushed to the poliee station; there were over a hundred of them. Some had left so hastily that they were still carrying their tailoring tools. They began to make a terrible noise. The militia officers released the fathers, fearing the nuns and knowing they had no grounds for arresting them. Elder Cleopa continues: “They gave us our identity cards back, and when we returned to the monastery some of the nuns were singing, others were crying. They said, 'Let’s hide them [the fathers], so they won’t be taken tonight!’ I was more fool­ ish, for I hadn’t been imprisoned, but poor Arsenie had gone through a lot. He said: ‘No, Brothers, were official delegates. God, W ho has protected us during the day, will guard us also through the night. We’re staying here. As God wishes!’— For we had our documents with us!” The nuns o f Pasărea and Ţigăneşti Monasteries rejoiced in the spiritual guidance they had received from the two great spiritual fathers. An elderly nun from Ţigăneşti Monastery



presented Fr. Arsenie with a miracle-working icon o f the M oth­ er o f God, saying, “You are a man chosen by God ... and I am entrusting you with this icon to preserve it from the wrath o f these times.” Many o f his spiritual daughters from these monas­ teries kept in touch with him, seeking his counsel at the mon­ asteries where God’s providence would take him. The two fathers disliked being confined to the patriarchate. In addition, Fr. Arsenie did not like the idea o f going from one monastery to the other to offer spiritual guidance to monas­ tics— thus impinging on the monastics’ relationship with their spiritual father. He proposed to the patriarch that he give them a monastery that would keep its doors open to all who desired to come and ask for profitable counsel. Thus Slatina Monastery was chosen, where Elder Cleopa was appointed abbot, and Fr. Arsenie, igumen.1 Years later, reminiscing about their time spent together, Fr. Cleopa would say to Fr. Arsenie, “ With great humility and love I remember the moments we spent together, when you were o f great help and consolation in my pains and trials. At the same time I con­ sidered you to be an angel o f God by my side. You were a G od ­ fearing man, with great love and courage o f soul in all sorrows, and you encouraged and comforted me.”12 A multitude o f zealous monks, about n o , gathered around them. Consequently, the monastery began to be known as a “spiritual academy.” Many o f the monks formed here were sent to neighboring monasteries, contributing to their spiritual re­ vival. Many played an important role in the life o f the Church in the years to come. Seeing the monastery’s spiritual progress under the guid­ ance o f these great spiritual fathers, the local metropolitan 1 In Romanian monasteries the igumen is second in command to the abbot. In monasteries with sketes, each o f the sketes will have its own igumen who reports to the abbot o f the entire monastery.— E d . 2 Bălan, N e vorbeşte Părintele Cleopa, p. 143.



assigned to their care five monasteries in that region: Sihăstria, Sihla, Raşca, Rarău, and Cămârzani. Known as the Brother­ hood o f St. Theodore the Studite, it had its center at Slatina Monastery. This new form o f monasticism in Moldavia— six monasteries united by a spiritual center— brought about a much desired spiritual renewal in the region. The brotherhood followed the rule o f St. Theodore the Stu­ dite, observing some o f the oldest monastic practices. Like sol­ diers always ready for battle, some o f the brethren, including Fr. Arsenie, would sleep wearing a cassock (specifically made for sleeping) and their belt. The brotherhood shared everything in the monastery, including their clothing. Every cell had everything necessary for a monk; hence, if he had to move into a different cell he would only have to take along his monastic ryassa. Every­ thing was simple, but orderly, so the monks would not be encum­ bered with material cares. Neither the abbot nor the brethren ever locked their cells, not even at night or while traveling.3 “ We had there at Slatina (where I held the position o f igumen) such harmony and love; there were about n o monks. It was not simply a monastery, it was a spiritual academy: Fr. Cleopa as abbot, Fr. Emilian (Olaru), a great spiritual fa­ ther, Fr. Ghcrontie (Bălan), Fr. Petroniu (Tănase), Fr. Paisius (Olaru).... N ot people with academic titles— these are not the people o f G od; only the ones who truly live their faith remain the people o f God, the people who sincerely and humbly re­ flect on the subject o f salvation. The Church doesn’t embrace studying as much as it does experience, which reflects the fact that we do not desire an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly one. O nly the one who humbles himself enters there: it doesn’t matter if he’s a cowboy or an emperor. Only one who strives toward true humility enters there.


See Antonie Plămădeală, Tradiţie şi libertate in spiritualitatea ortodoxă

[Tradition and freedom in Orthodox spirituality) (Bucharest: Axios Press,

>9 9 5 ). P-i88.



“You are acquainted with cataphatic and apophatic theolo­ gy.·' The cataphatic aspect is rational— embraced by the West. The Church is seen by them as a highly geometrical garden, in which you tire when walking through it. Orthodox apophatism is like a forest: nothing is symmetrically aligned, every­ thing refreshes you, and you are present with yourself. Walking in a straight line, you can’t achieve this [spiritual awareness]. And this is why we must remain Orthodox, and accept that a humble heart knows God! “In a village near Slatina Monastery there lived a man, Alexander, who had seven children. No one would give him work; nowhere was work to be found. So I told him to come and work at the monastery. In the evening he would leave, re­ turning home to his children with his bag full. I would give him a lot to take home. “Every time I would give him something, he would say, ‘Fa­ ther, may God help you, wherever you turn your face!’ “I didn’t pay any attention to what he was saying; 1 was pleased to give. And behold, later they imprisoned me. It was a dreadful prison! I was blindfolded and eventually bound in chains. And there, in a cell, I started thinking about where east was in this cell. I didn’t know which way to turn, to bow down, to pray.... But, all o f a sudden, Alexander’s words came to my mind: ‘May God help you, anywhere you turn your face!’ And I burst into tears. So ... look what Alexander was prophesying for me at Slatina Monastery.” During the time Fr. Arsenie was at Slatina, a misunder­ standing with Fr. Cleopa, who was the abbot, arose due to the interference o f a local authority, who wanted to change the 4 Cataphatic (positive) theology is the expressing o f G od or the Divine through positive concepts and terminology, such as “G od is love." Apophatic (negative) theology, in contrast, is the setting aside o f all that can be thought and spoken, in order to draw near to God, W ho is wholly beyond thought and speech.— E d .


rule o f the monastery in an attempt to laicize the monasteries. The bishop agreed with this plan, and Elder Cleopa, who had great respect for his superiors, did not contradict the bishop. Fr. Arsenie, on the other hand, did not concur. The exarch even told the bishop: “ We could get the abbot to agree with us, but we will not get beyond Fr. Arsenie.” As they were in the altar one day, Elder Cleopa, Fr. Arsenie, Fr. Emilian, and Fr. Paisius (Olaru) began discussing this matter. Fr. Arsenie re­ lated: “It was a dispute between spiritual fathers.’ I said, ‘Fr. Cleopa, why did you support this?’ “ Fr. Emilian intervened, ‘Love is longsuffering, is merciful, is not provoked ...!’ (cf. I Cor. 15:4-5). “ I said, ‘This is so, but love rejoices only in the truth’ (cf. I Cor. 13:6)! [At this point in the conversation, Fr. Cleopa had asked forgiveness o f Fr. Arsenie.) O f course I forgive you, Fa­ ther! It is not a matter o f forgiveness, but a matter o f truth.’ Those who were present there were astonished [by my re­ ply]....” Elder Cleopa and Fr. Arsenie decided to go together to work out the problem with the bishop. The bishop held fast to his position. Fr. Arsenie told him, “Your Grace, you will see the truth at the hour o f death.” And the bishop reposed short­ ly thereafter. The astonished fathers o f Slatina told Fr. Arsenie, “H ow you spoke to him, Father!”5 In addition to the obedience o f igumen, Fr. Arsenie was also one o f the spiritual fathers o f Slatina Monastery, confess­ ing half o f the brotherhood, along with his closest lay spiritual children. He strove to guide all o f them on the path o f salva­ tion, gently and wisely. One o f his spiritual children, the cobbler o f the monastery, had the habit o f using the leftover pieces o f leather in the shop to bind the books in his cell. He became so attached to his project that he would save money to buy leather for the books. 5 Literally: “ W hat a mouth you had, Father!”— T

ran s.


Fr. Arsenie saw his “zeal” in this task, which was not bringing him any spiritual fruit, and wanted to cure him o f it. Without telling him, Fr. Arsenie took three o f his bound volumes from his cell. The cobbler became sorrowful, thinking the books had been stolen. He went to see Fr. Arsenie and told him about his sorrow. Fr. Arsenie told him: “And why didn’t you rejoice that they were taken? The one who took them is the one speaking to you. Look, you come and ask me for the book you need, you read it, and then you bring it back."6 This is how he would teach the monks detachment from material things, for greater spiritual growth. Many young men came to Slatina Monastery seeking a nobler way o f life. After being tried in all the obediences during their novitiate, they would then be given the oppor­ tunity to use their talents. Constantin Dumitrescu, the future Fr. Marcu o f Sihăstria, was one o f them. He came to Slatina from Cernica Monastery, looking for Fr. Arsenie, who had been his spiritual father at Aiud Prison. As one biographer explains: “On entering the monastic life, Constantin realized that he could not survive its spiritual trials and battles with­ out an experienced spiritual father, tried in the struggles o f doing good works. And to whom should he have gone if not to the one who became a master o f unceasing prayer and o f keeping watch over the mind, who constantly strove to do good?”7 Fr. Marcus hope was realized as Fr. Arsenie helped him in the spiritual struggle. Here is how he recounted Fr. Arsenie’s prayerful assistance: “During Holy Week I was with Fr. Iustinian (Stoica).... And because we didn’t eat anything, but still had to work, I had terrible ulcer spasms. W hile suffer­ ing the most acute pains, God allowed Fr. Arsenie to tell me only this: ‘Endure a little longer! Endure a little longer!’ I am 6 Interview with Hierodeacon Iustinian (Stoica), Trinitas T V , Septem­ ber 4, i o n . 7 Bălan, M ărturia un ui creştin, p. 51.



sure he was asking the Mother o f God to strengthen me. That evening I ate, and the pain gradually went away. And then I experienced indescribable spiritual joys and peace.”8 The vigils at the monastery were very tiring, continuing past midnight. Those who had obediences requiring physical effort would greatly struggle to stay awake. Such was the case with Br. Vasile, who tended the horses. Once, exhausted by his daily labors, he fell asleep during Matins next to Fr. Arsenic, who would sit behind the hierarchical throne, so he “could be better hidden.” The nearby monks would come and wake Br. Vasile, chastising him for snoring right next to the igumen. But exhausted as he was, he would fall asleep again. Br. Vasile only awoke during the singing o f the hymn, “To Thee the Champion Leader,” which concluded the service. He began to sing with the brethren, and Fr. Arsenie said, “Look, Br. Vasile earned ‘To Thee the Champion Leader!’ ”9 One o f the deacons o f the monastery, who later became a hierarch, would not participate in the vigils. When Fr. Arsenie asked him why he was not joining them for the service, he re­ plied that he would rather sleep in his cell, in his bed, than in church. Fr. Arsenie told him, “It’s better to sleep in church!” He used the example o f Br. Vasile, who would come to services willingly, in spite o f his physical exhaustion, and greatly benefit from his labor for God. A novice, Br. Ion (now Hierodeacon Iustinian [Stoica]), also had the obedience o f tending the horses. In Confession, he would lament his inability to do his prayer rule due to his fa­ tigue. Fr. Arsenie told him, “Br. Ion, when you lead the horses and they drag you, lift your eyes up toward heaven and send a

8 Bălan, M ărturia unui creştin, pp. 50-51. 9 That is, through his labors during the day and in trying to remain awake, but also through the mercy o f the M other o f G od, he received the crown for the entire vigil.— T r a n s .




Hierodcacon Iustinian (Stoica) with Fr. Arsenic at Tcchirghiol Monastery in June 2008.

deep sigh to God— for Him this sigh is more than all the can­ ons you want to do, but cannot.” 10 This was always Fr. Arsenie’s approach to prayer: “ Person­ ally, I ’m not for fixed prayer rules." Though they do have their particular benefit, especially for self-discipline, man shouldn’t be inflexible, but he should be precise in terms of the method he uses to grow spiritually. We don’t need a fixed prayer rule immediately. We need our heart to be continually present;12 this permanent state o f love, o f a relationship with G od — this is the essence o f prayer. Because deep silence also means deep prayer. And deep prayer means deep silence.... I’m more interested in unceasing spiritual trembling. Therefore ... every 10 Interview with Hierodcacon Iustinian (Stoica) on Trinitas T V , Sep­ tember 4, i o n . 11 That is, a rule that includes a set number o f prayers, bows, and prostra­ tions.— E d . 12 This term is used quite often by Fr. Arsenic, referring to a state of a continuous awareness o f G od ’s presence, and to watchfulness.— T



ran s.


moment is a taste o f eternity and every sigh can be a prayer. You don’t just sigh like this: ‘Humph!’ Your sigh to God should spring toward Him from the depth o f your heart. Thus He re­ veals Him self to us, for He does not reveal Himself to a clever mind ... but only to the one pure in heart, to the one whose heart turns toward Him unceasingly.” 13 Fr. Arsenie did not abolish the typikon or the external ex­ pressions o f faith; he simply felt that a precondition for any ascetic labor was for the heart to be immediately and continu­ ally present in the activity. Later, while at Cernica Monastery, he would secretly show his knees—worn out by countless pros­ trations— to another father. He also wrote in a letter to a nun that a multitude o f prayers or prostrations is not the most im­ portant thing, “even though these will also be written down somewhere,” but, rather, man’s permanent state o f awareness o f being in G od’s presence. His teachings were full o f examples inspired from his personal life, from his observations o f all creation, perceived through spiritual eyes. He turned many events that might seem ordinary into parables, pointing to truths o f eternal value. For example, once, while he was visiting some relatives, he wit­ nessed the first steps o f his eight-month-old niece. He used this incident to describe the unsteady, yet certain, steps o f ev­ ery Christian on the path to repentance. He would compare a mother’s excited, attentive, and joyous gaze with God’s care for everyone who follows Him. Sometimes he would be asked about the source o f his deep knowledge, since he had not gone to university or completed an advanced course in the subjects for which he possessed great knowledge. His finest school was God’s creation, in all its facets, which he would see as being “very good,” as the eyes o f his soul 13 -sa-ne-rugam -ne-



were pure and able to perceive living secrets and mysteries. His wisdom was not simply gained in the library, but more through suffering and struggle. And so, he chose to transmit his spiritual knowledge through action and examples from the natural world. The following account reflects his experiential approach. There was an archeological site close to the monastery, where a human skeleton had been unearthed in an excavation. Fr. Arsenie asked the archeologists to leave it uncovered, using it as an opportunity to tell people about the vanity o f earthly life and about the importance o f acquiring eternal life. “Death is a reality. I repeat, death does not come for a cup o f coffee with you; it comes to take you,” he would later say. “ Then that man will see that the counsels o f the Holy Fathers on remembrance o f death are not simple words.... When death approaches, you become the greatest theologian. Then you realize you’ve lost an entire life, becoming conscious that the time God gives us to live is His greatest gift to us. This is the greatest gift. At death you enter the unknown, not for a thousand years, but for eter­ nity! Then you become aware and your whole being trembles.” 14 Later, he sketched a skull, symbolizing death. He would copy it and give it to his spiritual children, saying; “D o you want to see what death looks like? Behold, here it is!” He would write a few words on the bottom o f the sketch for those interested, such as: “Death, death, only through you can we be­ come the sons o f the Resurrection,” or, “Behold ... we can only meditate on death. Blessed are those who fight for Christian love— the only freedom.” He would go to Iaşi on October 14 for the feast day o f St. Paraskeva, whom he greatly revered, spending the days o f the celebration at the head o f her relics and anointing the many faithful who came to venerate her. Once a desperate woman came, holding her dead child in her arms. The child must 14


Sketch o f a skull by Fr. Arsenie. He would distribute photocopies o f this drawing to his spiritual children with notes, such as the one writ­ ten above: “Behold ... we can only meditate on death. Blessed are those who die fighting for Christian love— the only freedom.”


have just reposed, and the woman, in her desperation, thought about St. Paraskeva. Fr. Arsenie took the child in his arms and blessed him over the holy relics. Immediately, the child began to move his hands and feet. This was a joyful moment, but he also experienced times o f sorrow, which remained painful memories for him as spiri­ tual father. “In Confession I had two grave cases. A man did not want to confess a very serious sin. He would not confess it even after much insistence, and obviously, I could not give him absolution. He died a few days later without confessing his sin. God brought him in time to receive forgiveness, as He brings all o f us, and he could have been saved through a word. This frightened and enlightened many people, especially those who knew o f the sin, those who had committed it together with him. “Another terrifying case was that o f an ill man who was at the monastery for Holy Unction for three days. His wife had told us about some grievous sins he had committed, and we begged him for three days to have Confession with whomever he wanted— for there were many priests among us— all the while kindly showing him that the good God forgives all sins through Confession. But in no way did he wish to confess. When we were serving Holy Unction on the night o f the third day, all o f a sudden he began to cry out that some dreadful creatures were coming to get him. He could see them and all his sins with the eyes o f his soul, and, terrified beyond tell­ ing, he asked to confess quickly. Now he became wise! All the people in the room departed swiftly, and he, in piercing wails, was only able to say: T did it ... I did it,’ and he died in my arms. I gave him absolution out o f a feeling o f responsibility and mercy, at least for his last wish, but he was dead. That story was recounted in the entire region for many years after.” 15 15 N c vorbeşte Părintele Arsenie, vol. 1, pp. 79 -80.



The spiritual life at Slatina Monastery was flourishing, and this greatly troubled the Communist administration. The Securitate pressured the monastery council to limit the number o f pilgrims coming to the monastery, especially the youth— most o f them intellectuals— attracted by the authentic life there and desiring to join the monastery. The Communists’ fear was al­ ways the same: those who entered monasteries did so in order to ally themselves against the regime. They were bothered by the fact that the monasteries were, by nature, spaces with their own rule, with restrictions on the outside world’s access to the monks. At Slatina no one was allowed to enter the building housing the monks’ cells. Thus, in order to collect relevant in­ formation, the agents sent by the Sccuritate had to have strong connections with the monastics there. Periodically, Fr. Arsenie would travel to Bucharest and stay at Antim Monastery. Once the monks told him about a learned monk, Marcu, whom the abbot wanted to ordain to the holy priesthood but who was unable to confess certain thoughts. Fr. Arsenic asked him if he could stay in his cell during that visit, as its seclusion would enable him to pray in silence. The monk received him joyfully; it was a privilege any monk would have loved. As they were talking in the cell, Fr. Arsenie said, “Broth­ er, despite all my time in the wilderness and the prisons, I’m still fighting with thoughts. How are you doing?” Plucking up courage, M onk Marcu replied, “Me coo, Father,” and he began to confess the thoughts impeding his ordination to the priest­ hood. Thus, skillfully, Fr. Arsenie acquired him for the great work he was called to do. During these trips to Bucharest, Fr. Arsenie participated, together with Elder Cleopa, at some spiritual gatherings in the homes o f Alexandru Mironescu16 and Constantin Joja, mem­ bers o f the Burning Bush movement. Their presence at these 16 Alexandru Mironescu (19 0 }—1973) was a Romanian writer, philoso­ pher, chemist, and university lecturer.— E d .



Alexandru Mironescu and Fr. Daniil (Tudor) at Rarău Hermitage.

meetings was irregular and not necessarily planned. For exam­ ple, they went to the home o f Constantin Joja for professional advice on a renovation project at the monastery. Nevertheless, under the pretext o f Fr. Arsenie’s presence at these gatherings, the Securitate did not lose the opportunity to harass him for his Legionnaire past, eventually arresting him on June 14, 1958, at Slatina Monastery.



A M O N K A B O V E A L L E LSE his arrest, Fr. Arsenie chose to serve ev­ ery day, something he would not usually do as igumen. The other priests o f the monastery would normally rotate serv­ ing in church on a weekly basis. The night o f his arrest, June 14, 1958, was rainy and cold. The fathers were in church, and Matins was nearing completion. At the end o f the service the sacristan opened the big door o f the church, and suddenly the beams o f flashlights pierced the darkness o f the church, blind­ ing the eyes o f the monks. “Anghel Papacioc, where is he?” Fr. Arsenie replied, “ I ’m here, sir!” “ They arrested me at Slatina Monastery at two o’clock in the morning, when I was coming out o f church— I was ac­ tually serving. A t two o’clock in the morning: three trucks, eighty-nine officers, and two small cars.” They surrounded Fr. Arsenie and all the brethren, taking each one to his cell. The officers began the search, which lasted until 10 a.m., confiscat­ ing a few sacks o f notebooks they considered to be important documents. A n armed officer followed him even to the bath­ room. June 14 was the only day in the history o f the monas­ tery when the Divine Liturgy was not served, as the Securitate agents had locked the church, taking the keys. The next morning Fr. Arsenie told them, ‘“ The mountain quaked, and out came a mouse!’ 1 Why all the theatrics?! If you had called me on the telephone, I would have come on my own.” The officers probably realized the ridiculous scene they


h e w eek befo re

1“ Parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus,” from Horace's Ars Poetica. 125


Fr. Arsenic at the time o f his arrest and imprisonment in 1958.

had caused. “Father was not a political leader, or an agent o f some foreign secret service or special forces; he was unarmed and not even a violent man. On the contrary, he had always been a model o f spiritual balance and a preacher o f the ulti­ mate struggle o f Christian sacrifice. Father was simply a good Christian, a good monk, ready at all times to give his life for Christ and the well-being o f his nation.”2 While taking the arrested monks to the truck, the officers began to mock Fr. Arsenie when they saw the entire brother­ hood and the visiting pilgrims kissing his hand. “ Don't worry, you’ll also kiss my hand!” he told them. “Obviously, I was en­ dangering myself, but they had to keep me in one piece. I ’ve always remembered this.”3 Fr. Petroniu (Tănase), his monastic sponsor, who knew Fr. Arsenie very well and understood the 2 Diaconcsti Monastery Sisterhood, “ Mărturii ale informatorilor Securităţii, în majoritatea lor trecuţi prin reeducare” [Confessions o f Secu­ ritate Informants— most o f them underwent reeducation], Fam ilia ortodoxă [Orthodox family], no. 8 (31), August 2011, pp. 12 -13. 3 After the Revolution in 1989, many ex-Communists and Securitate of­ ficers repented o f their deeds and kissed his hand.— E d .



virtue o f his self-sacrifice, said, “If he survives this trial, he’ll do great works in the Church.” Ft. Arsenie discreetly turned around, and blessed them all without being noticed. W ith a heavy heart he was leaving his spiritual children and the broth­ erhood he had gathered, along with the other great fathers. It had taken the senior fathers years o f self-sacrifice to spiritually form the brotherhood. Not long after these events, the Commu­ nists dispersed the brotherhood—I w ill smite the shepherd, and the sheep o f the flock shall be scattered abroad (Matt. 16 :31)— en­ forcing the dreadful Decree 410.45 The arrested monks were taken blindfolded to Suceava. Br. Constantin (the future Fr. Marcu Dumitrescu) was also among them. At first, they accused Fr. Arsenie o f collaborat­ ing with the mountain partisans, but were unable to find any proof, just as they would find no evidence o f propaganda in his notebooks, which only had religious notes. “They were accus­ ing me o f writing many things.... Since they had my books and my notebooks, I said, ‘Sir, listen to me: I don’t admit to any­ thing that you accuse me o f (because I could sense what this was about) if my signature is not there [on the statement]— for you could very well accuse me by inserting a whole series o f your own words in my letters, in order to condemn me. I don’t acknowledge anything that doesn’t have my signature.’ I started signing what was mine: notes, books, and notebooks, so they wouldn’t stick something alien in there. It seemed to me they were honest. They were very convinced that I had spread pro­ paganda. N ot in the least, Fathers!4 1 used to be a Legionnaire, but [now], Fathers, I ’m a monk, above any kind o f measure, above anything. A n d we have no ideal other than that God grant 4 Decree 410, issued by the Communist government in November 1959, established that monks had to be at least fifty-five years old and nuns at least fifty. Because o f this, about five thousand monastics were removed from their monasteries, and about ninety monasteries were closed.— E d . 5 H e was speaking to a group o f monks when relating these events.— E d .


Iconographie por­ trait o f Fr. Marcu Dumitrcscu.

us the jo y o f dying torn into pieces and tortured fo r the spark o f Truth we know abides in us, fo r the defense o f which we w ill en­ ter into a life-and-death battle with the dom inating powers o f darkness. This is my motto! Anyway, they blindfolded me and put me in a room with walls about fifteen feet high— ‘so big’ that you could barely move. There was also a chair which was actually more in the way ... I was only wearing my ryassa, and I slept on the cement floor, as I couldn’t sleep on the chair. Dur­ ing the night I heard a soft knock on the wall. W ho do you think it was? It was Fr. Marcu, who had also been arrested.... When I heard him— ! He was in a three-foot by three-foot cell like me. Fathers, you can’t imagine, psychologically speaking, what it means, in the midst o f suffering, to see someone who


is one o f your own. Well, I greatly rejoiced hearing Fr. Marcu next door.” The following day they took them blindfolded to Bucha­ rest, where the interrogation began at Uranus Prison. Fr. Arsenie never related all the details regarding this interrogation, but Fr. Marcu summarized the experience: “It was pure death. It was unbearable. Only part o f what we endured has been re­ corded, as it was impossible to document everything we went through, for different reasons.”6 The interrogation was not an interview with simple ques­ tions and answers— something we would be tempted to be­ lieve, seeing the interrogation reports that have been preserved. In reality, the interrogation consisted o f savage beatings, terri­ ble tortures that would make you confess everything, even “the paps you have sucked,” as the torturers would say. And many gave in, but not Fr. Arsenic, nor Fr. Marcu, nor the others who put their trust in God, Who can do all things, thus also, Who can sustain those who truly love Him. Fr. Arsenie would re­ count, “ It was harder for me, as I was more renowned and they wanted to make me denounce others, too, so they could be tried and imprisoned also. But I did not do such things— God forbid!” His torturers would have rejoiced to see him cry or say anything, but he never uttered a word. “They would lead me by pulling my beard, but I was joyful. They would take us to be seen by the ordinary prisoners, as we were political prisoners.” This was done in order to complete their suffering, for, in the words o f Fr. Arsenie, “Suffering is not complete if it is not accompanied by humiliation.” “Just as it would also happen to me later in prison, they 6

One reason was their humility, as they desired to offer this sacrifice to

Christ entirely, and receive front H im their reward in due time. This might be the reason for Fr. Arsenic’s decision to never share the sufferings endured in prison in their entirety. H is saying, “ H ow terrible was the interrogation!" con­ cealed those sufferings, unfathomable for those who did not face them.— E d .


cook us [for interrogation], wearing glasses with metal lenses. There was glass covering the metal plates to simulate regular glasses, but the one wearing them couldn’t sec anything, and he would be escorted arm-in-arm by the guard. Once it hap­ pened that 1 got a pair o f glasses missing the metal lens for the right eye. Initially, I was very scared, thinking about the conse­ quences o f such a defect, but I didn’t say a thing and walked as though I couldn’t see, with my head slightly bent down. About ten steps in front o f me, they were taking another prisoner to the same kind o f interrogation. When I saw the other one, I re­ joiced that I was not alone, and was greatly encouraged, as if I had seen a human being for the first time in my life. I rejoiced as though I had seen an angel. “Then I remembered a story about St. Macarius the Great: The skull o f a pagan priest told him that the greatest torment in hell is the inability o f anyone to sec the face o f anyone else; they only see the backs o f others— that is to say, loneliness in the midst o f company. However, the skull added, ‘ When you pray for us, we’re able to see the faces o f others for a time.’ Imagine! I'Ve have the Proskomedial... You pray /or a ll your kin, fo r a ll the city, fo r a ll the people on the earth. “Fr. Marcu and I first became acquainted in battle.7 We be­ came friends because we were, with great joy, part of a sacrifice, an offering, a battle that demanded our blood at all costs. He was about two or three years older than I was, but age no lon­ ger matters in battle— deeds, heroism, mind-set: these are what matter. “He was extremely patient in sufferings. He was called ‘the fakir,’ a name given to him during the reign o f Carol II by the Secret Service o f that time, because he endured suffering with incredible patience, without cries; he would remain silent if they pulled out his fingernails. We constantly encouraged each 7

Fr. Arsenic is referring to the years when the Legionnaires were perse­

cuted by K ing Carol II ’s regime, which lasted from 19 3 0 to 19 4 0 .— T


ran s.


other but only met very rarely in prison, because we were iso­ lated. I was at Zarca as was he, so we could communicate a little through the walls, using Morse code. I had the greatest admiration for Fr. Marcu as a man o f sacrifice.... He would in­ disputably sacrifice himself for the great ideals o f man, o f our nation. Although Fr. Marcu had been arrested for his Legion­ naire past, I was convicted for being a member o f the Burning Bush movement.” The interrogation was supposed to last sixty days, but when they saw that they could not extract anything from Fr. Arsenie, they prolonged it for another thirty days. Ninety days o f indescribable tortures. First, a captain, who dreadfully beat him, interrogated him. “ He would hit me on the face, and I would try to avoid the blow to keep him from damaging my ear drum.” “On another occasion, a miserable captain happened to be my investigator. 1 had known him before I had gone to the monastery, and he revealed his identity to me without real­ izing it.” Fr. Arsenie had met him seventeen years earlier at a cabin on Mount Piatra Craiului, where the future captain had gone to spend his vacation with his wife and only daughter. The family became very fond o f him, loving his personality. He shared with them his desire to become a monk, yet they were unable to comprehend it. “Before 1 went to the monastery, he would stop me and say: ‘ You— going to the monastery!? Find some other business; you’re an angel anyway!’ “Now, at the investigation, he said among other things: ‘You were like an angel!’— and that was enough for me to rec­ ognize him. Nevertheless, I kept silent, for he would have killed me if he had realized he had been recognized. It wouldn’t have been difficult for him to accomplish this, as people were dying there like mice. “He cut my beard o ff during the investigation. “I said, ‘You’ll answer to God for this, too!’


“And he cold me something that greatly profited me, ‘Enough. Monasticism doesn’t rest in the beard!’ “ ‘That wasn’t you speaking— the Holy Spirit just spoke through you!’ “They were people who had sold themselves, people in the service o f evil. They had a wage; they were masters. He slapped me then, he hit me. But I thank God; all these sufferings had their purpose. Nothing helped me in life more than suffering. The highest level o f theology belongs solely to suffering. I am certain the angels are envious o f us because they do not have this suffering beyond one’s nature. “You felt pain as you looked at your treacherous fellow men, seeing that they had no fear o f God. And I was mind­ ful o f their perdition, since I was no longer thinking about my own life. You couldn’t believe you were still alive, because of how they started to hit, beat, and accuse you. And then you would accept death by any means; you no longer suffered due to the chains.... You were grieved by the fact that it was your neighbors who were doing these things. I, who in a way had experienced the battle with the devil, said, 'These are w ore dan ­ gerous, fo r they don't fe a r G o d ... the devil h as fe a r o j God!' And I had to endure the fact that my enemies were my fellow men. If you’re a man o f God, He’s aware o f everything, and the more you commend yourself to His will, the more He protects you. However, even more importantly, you must love God and your neighbor without fail. And you can’t say that your neighbor is your enemy. These spiritual concepts would flash through my heart and mind like lightning. Without a doubt, these were things that kept you present at every moment. “However, all this is impossible without sacrifice; it’s not possible without a cross. This happened to me, this I recom­ mend, and I long to live this way at all costs. lh e cross m eans to bear what you don't like! The big mistake o f people in the world is that they don’t accept suffering and don’t understand chat it’s


the only action, the only concern, the only living experience that’s in opposition to everything that’s evil, that delivers them from being under the reign o f the devil. He who runs away from persecution runs away from God, says St. Theodore the Studite. The Church needs persecutions, because they awaken you, they keep you present, and it’s a battle. “ You couldn’t reach concord with the persecutors— you just had to confront them. The confrontation was such: ‘I’m not allied with you in your attempt to make a rag and a demon out o f me!’ “ The interrogation was the most dreadful period. They would beat you to make you confess what they wanted you to say. ‘I ’m not saying it, sir, I ’m not saying it! Cut my head off, but I won’t say it! I’m not guilty o f this matter, I don’t know about so-and-so: 1 don’t know about such-and-such!’ O f course, I did defend certain things.” Another member o f the Burning Bush remembered, “If you maintained your position, the interrogation’s tone would switch in a second from an amiable, friendly, benevolent one— being told, ‘Be a smart boy, man! Wouldn’t it be a shame not to confess and escape easily? Why are you being stubborn? Don’t you want to escape?’— to cursing, threats, and beatings, which could take the most brutal forms.”8 Fr. Arsenic continued: “And finally they found me guilty o f my Legionnaire past and o f participating in the ‘Burning Bush’ at Antim Monastery, where meetings with people o f exalted spiri­ tual life took place on Saturday nights. They [the Securitate] con­ sidered that we were spreading propaganda there and organizing ourselves against them. But we were having spiritual gatherings.” The fact that they found him guilty did not mean that the interrogations ceased. On the contrary, the interrogations 8 Carmen Ciornea, C hipul 'R ugului A prins' dăltuit in m em oria vie a uce­ nicilor [The image o f the “ Burning Bush” engraved in the vivid memory o f the disciples], voi. i (Iaşi: Vasiliana ’98 Press, 10 14 ), p. 95.



continued in the same rhythm, lasting for three, six, even seven hours at a time. After spending so much time with Fr. Arsenic, the captain, although on the opposite side, began to appreciate the el­ der’s wisdom. He may have been moved by Fr. Arsenie’s ability to dodge the captains traps designed to make him betray others. At the end, he commanded Fr. Arsenie, “Tell me a profitable w ord!” Fr. Arsenie related: “Knowing that he had a faithful wife and a daughter, I starting speaking: ‘In one family the husband was unbelieving, but the wife was faithful. Their daughter got sick. At that time the daughter asked her father: “In which faith shall I die, in yours or in my mothers?” The father an­ swered her: “Repose in your mother’s faith, for mine doesn’t give you anything!”’ I was referring to him when I spoke, as he greatly cared for his daughter: she was the apple o f his eye. When I met them she was little (about ten); now she was older or might have been gone.” The captain left after hearing the parable and never returned to interrogate Fr. Arsenie. A lieu­ tenant took his place. Thus, by divine providence, Fr. Arsenie escaped the torture o f this cruel man. Until the completion o f the investigation and the declara­ tion o f his sentence, Fr. Arsenie was transferred to Jilava Prison, which was a place o f transition. “Very early in the morning, I believe before 3 a.m., we were transferred to Jilava in a van.... Our hair was cut, we put on inmate uniforms— some worn-out, dirty clothing, probably recovered from those dead or released— and each one of us was thrown into a separate cell. Jilava remains a dreadful prison. The old under­ ground fort was sinister, frightful, and hard to forget. Crowded, ten-foot-high metal bunk beds, nonexistent medical assistance... the food was very poor and there was a dreadful famine.”9 The trial o f those associated with the Burning Bush took place on October 2,9. This group included Hieroschemamonk Daniil 9 Ibid., p p . 9 9 ,1 0 1 .



Fr. Dumitru Staniloae.

(Sandu Tudor), Fr. Benedict (Ghiu$), Fr. Adrian (Fageteanu), Fr. Roman (Braga),101 Fr. Sofian (Boghiu), the iconographer Fe­ lix Dubneac, Prof. Alexandru Mironescu and his son, Serban, doctors Vasile Voiculcscu11 and Gheorghe Dabija, Fr. Dumitru Staniloae,12 and the students Vasai Gheorghe, Nicolae Radulescu, 10 Archimandrite Roman (Braga) ( 19 11- 10 15 ) was imprisoned twice, for a total o f ten years. Later he was a missionary in Brazil, and in 19 7 1 he settled in the United States. There he served in a number o f parishes and mon­ asteries, and spent the last three decades o f his life in Monastery o f the Dormition o f the M other o f God, Rives Junction, Michigan.— E d . 11 Vasile Voiculescu (1884-1963) was a prominent Romanian poet, short-story writer, playwright, and physician.— E d . 12 Fr. Dum itru Staniloae (1903-1993) was the greatest Romanian theo­ logian o f the twentieth century. Among his many works was a translation o f the P hilokalia into Romanian in twelve volumes with an accompanying com­ mentary that clarified many obscure passages. He was also a confessor o f the Faith, w ho was imprisoned from 1958 to 1963.— E d .


Emanoil Mihailescu, and Dan Pistol. The court appointed the lawyers for the trial. The hearings were a mockery o f justice: some o f the lawyers forgot their function and from defenders became prosecutors o f their own clients. Those lawyers who actually de­ sired to defend their clients could not develop a case because they were only allowed to meet with them for a few minutes. Thus, the accused requested to submit some evidence that would have proved their innocence, but it was rejected as “inconclusive and irrelevant.” “The trial lasted two days and was closed-door,” 13 re­ lated one o f the members of the group. Fr. Arsenie recalled, “ They judged us at night, with no defense.” Consequently, on November 8 Fr. Arsenie was sentenced for participating at the meetings o f the Burning Bush move­ ment; for having religious conversations at Slatina Monastery with some o f the youth accused in the case, counselling them to live a religious life; for listening to imperialist radio stations (Radio Free Europe, Voice o f America); for hostile comments against the Communist regime; and for his Legionnaire back­ ground. The judge drew an erroneous conclusion: Fr. Arsenie “ became a monk in order to continue his Legionnaire activity.” This statement had no foundation. Fr. Arsenie had strongly as­ serted, even during the investigation, that from the moment he joined the monastery he was simply a monk. “I am a monk above all else.” He was condemned to twenty years o f forced labor for the crime o f agitation against the social order and twenty years o f imprisonment for the crime o f intense activity against the laboring class, and also for “revolutionary activity.” “They condemned me to forty years, so they could be sure I would lie there in prison forever.... Forty years ... it was fun­ ny, but it was taxing.” After his sentence was pronounced, Fr. Arsenie was taken back to Jilava Prison, where he was to enter the prison system. 13 Ciom ea, C hipu l “R ugu lui A prins^p. 98.



The captain, who was responsible for taking his civilian cloth­ ing and shaving Fr. Arsenie, asked him, “ What did you do to get such a sentence?” “ I didn’t do anything,” Fr. Arsenie replied. “If you hadn’t done anything they would have given you ten to fifteen years, but not forty!” Here is the essence o f Communist justice: ten to fifteen years, for nothing. Now his journey to the dreadful prison o f Aiud began for the second time.


A L I V E IN D E A T H URING MY FIRST months in prison,” Fr. Arsenic related,


“I was very sorrowful at leaving behind a world that might have needed me. Later, I turned my attention to inside the prison, and I saw that there were a great many people with the same needs there, with the same life as those outside. God confirmed this truth through the mouth o f a ‘devil.’ During an investigation there, at Aiud, the Securitate agent questioning me left me with another officer not involved in the matter o f the interrogation— a captain most likely from the administration. He asked me what my occupation on the outside had been. I told him that I was a monk. ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘you left a mon­ astery and came to another monastery.’ Whether he was joking or not, I don’t know, but I found in these words the simple and short conclusion I had come to after such a long time. D o you see how the will and the word o f the Lord could be revealed through anyone, even through a son o f the evil one?” The prison was indeed a monastery for Fr. Arsenie. Here he served, confessed, prayed, and cared for his spiritual children from whom he was separated by solid walls, encouraging and strengthening them in the arduous battle o f preserving their souls undefiled, sending them blessings and continually com­ memorating them in his prayers. Upon his arrival at Aiud, the prison was going through a series o f changes designed to set in motion an operation to morally “kill” the political prisoners— “the most tenacious enemies o f Communism.” Known as “Aiud reeducation,” the



operation had one essential objective: the renunciation o f God, carried out in such a manner that if the prisoners were released, they would no longer be a danger to the Communists. The first change was the installation o f a new chief o f the prison, a Securitate colonel named Gheorghe Crăciun— a con­ vinced atheist who became the perfect tool in the implementa­ tion o f this diabolic plan. The reeducation system was intended to be an extensive operation that would destroy the dignity o f as many people as possible. Consequently, the intricate prepa­ rations lasted for four years, with no prisoner knowing what was being planned for them. In his discussions with other pris­ oners Fr. Arsenie would say, “the harsh measures o f late prove that the war is imminent, thus the hour o f release from prison is drawing near.” He was right; the release would come, but first came the war— a terrible one. Colonel Crăciun instituted a very austere regime. The prisoners were under intense surveillance, being monitored through peepholes every ten minutes and cruelly punished for the smallest misbehavior. “ The prisoner was not allowed to do anything from the time he woke at 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. when the lights were out. He would not be allowed to lay in bed, to talk (except to whisper), to approach the window, to recount anything, to do any kind o f labor, manual or intellectual, which would have made time go by more easily. The ‘bandit’ had to painfully experience the passing o f time.” 1 In addition to facing outside surveillance, they had to en­ dure informers inside their cells— special agents very hard to identify— who would lure the prisoners into revealing their thoughts and feelings so that they could report these con­ versations, often times distorting them through their biased perspective. There were other kinds o f informers— prisoners who sided with the enemy, playing the game o f the prison’s 1

Demostene Andronescu, Reeducarea de la A iu d [Reeducation at Aiud]

(Bucharest: Editura Christiana), 2.009, P· 45 -



Contemporary photograph ot Aiud Prison.

administration. Fr. Arsenic would recount years later: “ They sought to place agents who worked on us by means of different methods. It was a big battle— a life-and-death one. You had to accept death in order to survive the attacks designed to morally degrade you.... You had to be prepared for death. The authori­ ties would even place specially trained agents in your cell. They would insert them as prisoners, but they were actually paid, be­ cause many prisoners gave in and these were the most danger­ ous agents.” From the outset Fr. Arsenie, who was classified as a danger­ ous prisoner, “resided” at Zarca, one o f the three sections o f the prison. He would later relate: “Aiud had another section called Zarca. It was no joke; it was a regime o f extermination. They would bring in agents to observe our feelings. It was an admin­ istration o f death. The thing they insisted on, with cruelty, was starvation. I f they opened your cell to take you out, you didn’t know whether you would return.... They would take us outside



for ten minutes every three months. But we couldn’t bear it, because the air was very brisk outside, and we were shaking wrecks.” The regime at Zarca was unbearable for many; their hearts would literally stop. A prisoner who spent time in Zarca re­ lated: “ For seventeen out o f the twenty-four hours we were not allowed to touch the walls, to lean against the door jamb, to sit on the edge o f the latrine—which had no lid and smelled terribly, being unwashed— or even to lay on the cement. We received a meal every three days, consisting o f nine ounces o f bread and a lukewarm broth, sometimes even cold, o f unrec­ ognizable ingredients. In the isolation cell, a bed with a ply­ wood board would be dropped from the wall from io p.m. to 5 a.m., and a scrap o f a blanket with holes would be thrown at us, which had to suffice as mattress and cover.”2 The goal o f removing the “most troublesome elements” was to slowly liquidate them through isolation, starvation, cold, lack o f medical assistance, etc. Consequently, there was no in­ criminating evidence against the administration o f the prison for these crimes. Fr. Arsenie was able to resist at Zarca. “I had a strong heart, I was healthy. I had been in prison and lived in the wilderness, but I had a good heart and I survived.” The guards were merciless. Fr. Arsenie later related:“Life in prison is very difficult. You must have faith and know that God is with you and know what you are suffering for. The en­ emy fears our God, W ho is his God also; but the prison guards were not afraid o f anything: they had no God.” Kindheartedness was a rarity among the guards, but not completely unknown. “ When they arrested me they took my garments, and my cross and schema from my neck. Their loops 2

M ihai Demetriade, Descompimere fi reabilitare. Elem ente cadru p riv-

in dactivitatca G ru pidu i O perativ A iu d, Caictelc C N SA S [Decomposition and rehabilitation: The background o f Aiud operative group’s activity, C N S A S Notebooks], no. i (4), (Bucharest: C N S A S Press, 2.0:0) p. 16 4 .


got entangled and they became twisted together. A ll the pris­ oners’ belongings would normally be thrown out. But when the guard took my cross and schema, he carefully put them to the side, without being noticed.” Once Fr. Arsenie was in his cell and, being very thirsty, he begged for a cup o f water, but the guard completely ignored him. When the shift changed, a female guard brought him a cup o f water with great secrecy and caution. For the rest o f his life, he commemorated her for this act o f kindness. “They were afraid to show any kindness toward us because if they were caught being kind to the prisoners they would have been killed or incarcerated with us. One o f the guards, Biro, was very mean. He didn’t know much. One day he had nothing better to do and told me, ‘They’ll make you patriarch!’ ‘“Aren’t you wondering what I’m going to do with all of you if they make me patriarch?’ I replied." Tlie slightest misbehavior was punished with solitary con­ finement for three, five, seven, even eleven days. The isolation cell, also called “the refrigerator” or “the black cell,” was one of Colonel Craciun’s ideas. He had set up an entire section with these cells, which were very tall and completely empty (except for a small toilet with no lid). These refrigerator-cells were made entirely o f cement and had a window very close to the ceiling, which always remained open. The dreadful draft com­ bined with the constant cold could easily be fatal, as the pris­ oner only wore the standard inmate uniform. The detainee received food— a cup o f mush— once every three days, at times only once in five days. Sentences to soli­ tary confinement were given mostly during the winter, when it was unbearable to be in those cells. Even the guards bringing the prisoners would be horrified by the darkness and freezing cold there, saying, “It’s like hell in here! Indeed, here it’s like hell.” They would be astonished that those people could live there. “ Combining the cold with starvation and exhaustion (as



you had to constantly move so you would not freeze to death), the torturers would procure exceptional’ results. After a few sessions o f such ‘therapy,’ even the most determined ‘ bandits’ were trained or disciplined.... In such conditions you had to re­ sist the temptation to lie down and fall asleep in order not to freeze.”3 Lying on the floor was certain death. Another method o f torture was starvation. “At Aiud they would administer a regime o f extermination through starva­ tion; it was easier to hide it. They would give us some broth— we didn’t even know what it was made from. Once I happened to see some bean skins in it and I said, ‘This was a bean!’ But the fact that we would get this broth at set hours, every day, every year, helped us survive. This is what I noticed. We sur­ vived through God’s help. How much suffering helps us! We were cured o f ulcers and other illnesses with that fasting in prison. Doctors recommend fasting for healing: it is a proven fact.” The hunger the prisoners experienced was inconceivable. They were all skeletons. The guards would sneer at them, “Hey, you’re not people—you’re shadows!” Years later, while at Cheia Monastery, Fr. Arsenic would recount: “My dear, only God kept me alive. I went through difficult moments, great misery and starvation. I would be so hungry that while awake I would often dream o f mountains o f bread.” Although Fr. Arsenie would be starving he never hesitated sharing his rations with his co-sufferers in isolation. Due to lack o f nutrition many lost their teeth, their memo­ ry, their senses, and their overall health. “Many things in prison left an impression on me, but there were two things that espe­ cially affected me. There was a man who pulled his teeth out with his hand because he was lacking calcium. And the other: A poor cellmate, who had forgotten his wife’s name. ‘What could her name be?’ I was looking at him and was deeply 3 Paraian, A m in tiri despre duhovnicii, p. 46.



moved, and tears came to my eyes. The prisoners would pull their teeth out and throw them on the floor, because they were lacking calcium. We were skeletons. “I thank God I had good teeth ... and I had a good memo­ ry. In prison I had to be constantly watchful, as I would confess others in the cell. When I went to prison I had perfect vision, but when I came out I had [myopia]— three diopters on both eyes. There, the only way to gauge your eyesight was to look at your hands. I’d look at my hands and I couldn’t see them very well— I thought I had something in my eyes. I didn’t get arthri­ tis; I was constantly praying, ‘Hands, feet, don’t get arthritis!’ “There was one prisoner who could not have a bowel move­ ment; his large intestine’s muscles had atrophied— very pain­ ful. When they took us outside for our monthly ten minute allotment, this sick man approached the barbed wire fence and began to climb it. Although all the prisoners and the guards on ground level shouted to the guard [in the tower] who was keeping watch on the courtyard o f the prison not to shoot, he shot the poor man on the spot. And they decorated the one who shot him. Who decorated him? Crăciun, who was the chief.” The prisoners who had helplessly witnessed the cruel scene began to shout and make accusations; the whole prison was in such an uproar that they were barely calmed down. “They could have killed us all,” Fr. Arsenie later recalled. The prisoners became united in order to protect themselves against the harsh measures o f the prison administration. The in­ mates would spy on the guards from within the cell, just as the guards would watch them from outside. While a prisoner kept watch, the others would rest, talk, teach each other, communi­ cate with other cells through Morse code, and pray. The priests, like Fr. Arsenie, would even serve Divine Liturgy in those con­ ditions. Behold, the Communist effort to annihilate religious life— through the imprisonment o f the clergy and the closing o f monasteries— did not bear fruit; the prisons were transformed



into true monasteries and the inmates who had not been espe­ cially religious came to live as monastics and ascetics. Fr. Arsenie said to one o f his cellmates, “ We have to put our hope in God and dedicate our lives to Christ. Here we must battle and affirm our position and mind-set because one cannot know how God establishes the path to turn everything into good in the end. You’ve seen how the Church in our coun­ try has prospered and achieved great things during the Com ­ munist regime— things that not only didn’t occur during the so-called times o f freedom, but also were impossible to attain. Misfortune had to come for order and discipline to be brought about in the Church and for the careless people o f yesterday to rise today in like-mindedness and a desire for the spiritual life, at a new level o f experience. It’s true, atheists have appeared outside [the prison] and they have some support, but their stri­ dent emergence has only strengthened others. Consequently the Church has gained the victory through them. And don’t believe that these atheists arc as they seem— for most o f them it is just a mask. I had many occasions to see this. Members of the Communist Party and even Securitate agents would quite often come secretly to the monastery so I could confess them, marry them, baptize their children. And I can say that many times I observed my interrogators let slip a comment or reveal an opinion which convinced me they were not at all atheists— something they clearly exposed on many occasions. “ The situation outside is not as difficult as the majority o f the prisoners seem to think. It is much better than it has been until now. This is the truth, although it seems strange. Therefore, tomorrow— and it’s true that this tomorrow may be later for us— it’ll be no surprise when these nightmares vanish. Until then, however, we have to do what we can: I mean we must strengthen the spiritual relationships o f those who suffer and protect them from the fury o f the enemy.” This is how he would encourage those who suffered with him: through hope and optimism.



Greatly desiring to serve Divine Liturgy, one day, while on a walk in the courtyard o f the prison, Fr. Arsenic picked up a nail, a stone and two small wooden sticks. He used the nail as a lance, the stone as a Diskos,·1 and with the sticks he made a Cross. With these he served Divine Liturgy daily. A Securitate document includes the following testimony o f a cellmate: “ He swiftly overcame all the obstacles he faced, and he improvised simply and practically all the necessary utensils he was missing. A string served as his e p itra c h e lio n without which one could not celebrate the divine services.4 567He would very piously hang the makeshift epitrachelion around his neck in the morning, after blessing it first, and at the end o f the service he would wrap it around the button o f his coat. The stove was used as the Holy Table, and the H oly Cross was made out o f two small wooden sticks, kept separately in his coat’s back pocket in order not to raise any suspicion. He care­ fully arranged them on the stove before beginning the morn­ ing service, setting in front o f them a thicker piece of wood to prevent them being seen through the peephole. The Holy Diskos was a piece o f wood," which he very carefully carried in the back pocket o f his pants. The water jug was used as

4 Diskos: normally, a metal plate with a stemmed base, on which is placed the Lamb as well as other particles taken from the prosphoron during the Proskomcdia.— E d . 5Epitmchelion: a liturgical stole that hangs around the neck o f the priest and is required to be worn for all priestly duties.— E d . 6 Fr. Arsenie had read in a book written by an authority on Church sub­ jects that the epitrachelion can be replaced with a piece o f long material o r a long string. He used this string as an epitrachelion, hiding it in the seam o fh is coat and taking it out o f prison upon his release. W hen he was hosted at the patriarchate, he gave it to one o f the nuns and asked her to burn it, but when she heard what it was used for, she exclaimed, “ Oh, Father, how could I burn it?!" and she piously preserved it.— E d .

7 This is what the cellmate recalled. Other sources mention Fr. Arsenie using a stone as a diskos. Perhaps he used both in prison.— T r a n s .



a Chalice, in which he placed water instead o f wine and the bread he kept from his morning ration, cutting only the top part as the Holy Lamb with a specific ritual. The only thing he was missing was the holy antimension,8 which he could not improvise because it requires a martyr’s relic. In the beginning he possessed a small piece o f the relics of St. Mercurius, but he very sorrowfully lost it during a search at Jilava Prison. The Liturgy ended by seven o'clock, when the activities began. At the time o f Communion, everyone in the room proceeded in line to receive a small piece o f bread and a sip o f water. Father would acknowledge the missing elements of the service: ‘I do the service as it is done in a church and if the good God sees our struggle and wills it, this bread and water are indeed His Body and Blood.’ As the Liturgy is celebrated on a daily basis, now everyone in turn donates a piece from his bread ration for Holy Communion the next day.”910 Fr. Arsenic later recounted: “Every day I would repeat the steps o f the Divine Liturgy. I had a small jug with water and three hundred grams o f barley bread. I considered the jug to be a Chalice and would follow all the steps o f the Divine Liturgy. Afterwards, I would distribute that bread to the prisoners and would tell them: T can’t say it’s Holy Communion, since there are many elements missing, but I can tell you that it’s more than antidvron.'1" “ Many prisoners asked me to confess them, because they didn’t know if they would live until the next day. They would communicate these matters through Morse code, and I’d re­ spond: ‘Tomorrow morning vou should stand in your cell in a

8Antimension: a cloth representing the Saviors shroud in which His Body was lain. This cloth contains a piece ot a martyr’s relics and upon this the Divine Liturgy is celebrated.— E d .


a c n s a s . Informant File 185005, pp. 185-95.

10Antidoron·. the portion o f holy bread not used as the Lamb. This bread is distributed at the end o f the Holy Liturgy to all o f the faithful.— E d .



certain place and remember your sins!’ And after I finished the so-called Liturgy, I would grant absolution to all o f them, but with one condition: to confess again if they met a priest [face to face]. If they died, the absolution I gave them would remain valid, and this happened quite often.” In addition to confessing and communing, especially those in his cell, he would also teach them prayers and Psalms and all that was needful for the salvation o f one’s soul. All these activities did not go unnoticed. He was continually sent to soli­ tary confinement. In the first two years he was sentenced to i j i days in isolation. After another period in solitary confinement he was taken to Zarca. A cellmate recounted: “He was blowing in his hands and walking in the cell, trying to warm up. 'Brother, look how man can end his days. It’s no joke with these people; they have no mercy or understanding— stony souls. God put us through a difficult trial, blessed be His Name. Behold, Brother, we have to be always prepared and pure in heart to receive the Divine Sacrifice the Lord hands us. A Holy Father said, “ Be always prepared, for you never know the end o f your days!”’ And his Reverence continued with an energy driven by the cold, which was quite bitter in the cell: ‘After they put me in that isolation cell, I blessed it. Then I fell on my knees and prayed, and all the time I recited Psalms and I prayed for all o f you, thinking a lot about you, Brother, as I know you are weak and ill.’” The “ brother” who recounted this was in fact Fr. Arsenie’s betrayer. He confirmed that he was ill and at the end o f his rope, expe­ riencing a spiritual downfall. “Father embraced me and girded me with all sorts o f counsels on salvation: ‘Brother, do not lose your hope in G od; it’s a deadly sin. Wake up at the twelfth hour and put your trust in the One on High, meditate and tremble at what awaits you in the next life if you don’t try to be saved here, for know that the torments o f hell are incompa­ rable to the tortures we endure today; it is much more dreadful



there.... Tomorrow we will all go to the Judgment Seat, and there: woe unto the one who arrives unprepared. During the days in which we lived in isolation, you saw how easily the moment o f death can come. You became discouraged and you lost your hope in the aid o f God, but, my Brother, this is fool­ ishness. Now, especially, you have to entrust yourself to His might with all your soul. You say that you feel guilty, but who is sinless in this world? And do you actually believe that there is no chance for repentance? Don’t you remember that there is a Holy Mystery [Confession] which can save us even at the last moment?!’ ” Then Fr. Arsenie confessed him. How much self-denial and self-sacrifice he possessed, even helping others (who had also betrayed him) despite his physical exhaustion! It seems that he was the weakest o f all in his cell, as his cellmates would ask the regular prisoners (who were allowed to receive food parcels from friends or relatives) to increase his bread ra­ tion so he could gain some strength. Another cellmate, Marcel Petrişor,11 recounted how Fr. Ar­ senie strengthened fellow cross-bearers: “He would not give us concrete advice, to do this or that, but he would show us through his example. If someone was taken to solitary confine­ ment, he would generously offer him bread from his ration. He would break off a piece from his portion— not ostenta­ tiously, ‘See what I do for you?’— no, it was a natural gesture.... He greatly loved people. He was a man possessed o f an over­ whelming ability to love and understand. Otherwise he could not have resisted.” 112

11 Marcel Petrişor (19 30 - ) is a teacher and writer, known for his mem­ oirs o f life in the Com munist prisons o f Romania.— E d . 12 “ Părintele Arsenie Mărturisitorul un mare dar de la Dumnezeu pen­ tru neamul nostru— mărturii ale celor care l-au iubit şi l-au însoţit pe ultimul drum" [Father Arsenie the Confessor, a great gift from G od for our nation— testimonies o f those who loved him and accompanied him on the last jour­ ney], Fam ilia ortodoxă, no. 8 (31), August io n , p. 55.



With a warm heart he would find solutions in the most difficult situations—when those he strove to love would do ev­ erything in their power not to be loved. “ I was in prison and 1 had a terrible fellow prisoner. You could never make him hap­ py. And I said in my heart, ‘Well, this one also has a mother who loves him. We don’t love him, but how nice it is that he also has someone who loves him !’” And with this thought he was able to refrain from judging this difficult prisoner. A t one point he was in the same cell with two men, one who was his long-time friend and another who used to be a mayor— but a harsh man, both as a mayor and a husband. Now, in prison, the ex-mayor was sincerely repenting for all his evil deeds. One day, to ascertain their discernment, Fr. Arsenie asked his two cellmates: “ If you knew that in fifty years, on such-and-such a date you would die, what would you do, starting today?” The ex-mayor, who was now repenting, said, “I would remain on my knees until then.” The other one said,


“ There is still time until then.” Fr. Arsenie, later, reflected on this answer: “As if this time was at his disposal, and God was obliged to give it to him.” Fr. Arsenie was trying to show them that the time was there and then, and that their imprisonment was not useless; it was their opportunity given by God to ex­ amine their past and correct it through living the present mo­ ment. “ You rectify the past and acquire the future by living the present well,” as he would often say. Many years later, Fr. Arsenie related to his disciples how he survived in prison: “Many have asked me if some miracle hap­ pened. First o f all, a miracle is not the work o f man; its a di­ vine act to encourage you, to save you. But I answer, ‘Miracles did take place!’ ‘“ What miracles?’ the curious ones ask. “ ‘Tlie fact that no miracles occurred!’ “ However, to be starved and beaten for years and to live up to these days13— isn’t that a miracle?!... God protected me in prison, where there was a regime o f extermination and you could die at any moment. God protected me in the wilder­ ness, where a bear would pass three feet away from me, and it wouldn’t see me, hiding behind a pine tree. And other wonder­ ful things happened, but we cannot talk about them because then we lose their sweetness. God gives you these moments so that you can defend the truth more zealously or so as to deliver you from a terrible passion.... “ That I had indications ... that the human being is divine and complex— this is something else. I had reached the point where I could see how the soul leaves the body. I was curious, as a man, wondering when my soul would exit from my body, aware, o f course, that it would be at the last moment. You felt it as a force, as a power.... “The secret was this: the unceasing awareness o f God’s

*3 Fr. A r s e n ie

w a s n in e ty -th re e y e a rs o ld in 1 0 0 7 , w h e n h e r e c o u n te d

th ese e v e n ts .— T r a n s .


presence, knowing what you’re suffering for. This is like a tangi­ ble explanation, like a dialogue with ones own self, so to speak. But you can’t rationalize this: we were living in God, we were in heaven. We couldn’t pretend there. In the midst o f fire you can’t say ‘more this way or that way’— it’s fire. You burn on all sides without being consumed; or you’re consumed bit by bit. “But what was perceived? Something very difficult to com­ prehend and convey: One felt there was a very hidden grace, soft­ ening the enemy’s sword, which compelled me to say, ‘God shapes the moments o f history!' This was a sign that the world might not understand. You were discovering both beauty and God in man; you were discovering these things— a sense o f great subtlety that exists in man when he’s present [i.e., aware]. If you’re not in this state o f continuous awareness o f God’s presence, you collapse, you’re sold [to the devil]; but these people should not be rejected if they repent.14 However, [sometimes] the ones who failed and sold themselves fell for good and were lost. Then I could not trust them if I would see them, knowing the way they had acted. One [a fallen inmate who sold himself], who I knew was an agent, even came to my door at Techirghiol, to investigate me and report to his superior: ‘This is the one [who is against the Comm unists]!15 I was not concerned; I would not have kissed him, for he would not have agreed to it.16 “So, through this inner attitude, in an honest and continu­ ous relationship with God, you become aware of the grace that keeps you present in this martyrdom. The saints were tortured; their heads were cut off... How many o f us would not have wished to die? A ceaseless, systematic martyrdom meant to 14 There were prisoners who could not endure the torture and agreed to become spies among the inmates— E d . 15 The Securitatc continued to monitor people who were released from prison, crying to find ways to rcarrest them.— E d . 16 There is a Romanian custom to give a kiss to your guest, when he ar­ rives ( i f you are on good terms).— T r a n s .


destroy you is very hard to endure, to undertake. Thus, I tell you: you can resist only due to Gods extremely hidden, yet very real, presence within you. Otherwise it’s not possible, fo r without M e ye can do nothing (John 15:5)! We thought we were on a great Christian mission, like during apostolic times or, later, like the era before the Holy Emperor Constantine, when there were ten million martyrs.” In addition to sending Fr. Arsenie to countless detentions in solitary confinement, the prison administration began to keep a record o f surveillance on him in April of i960. This practice continued in all the places he would later live. The motives for this sprang from the Securitatc’s obsessive fear, since they inter­ preted his every action according to their own measure. Thus, his care for his spiritual children—trying to find out news about them, to encourage and strengthen them in suffering— was for the Securitate an attempt to give directions to these “hostile elements.” His attempt to catechize them and acquaint them with the beauties o f the Orthodox Faith was for the Se­ curitate “an activity o f indoctrination and fanaticism.” Their aim was to use this record to unveil “the criminal and hostile activities” o f “ Prisoner Papacioc.” Despite their ill intentions, they were only able to reveal unknown aspects o f his extraor­ dinary life in prison: his steadfastness, courage, perseverance, discernment, and continuous sacrifice, a record which other­ wise would have been lost. Colonel Crăciun, the chief o f the prison, once characterized Fr. Arsenie as follows: “ In prison he maintained a constant hostile attitude, trying and sometimes managing to influence them [his fellow prisoners] to believe in the divine power.... He is predisposed to continue this hostile activity o f religious propaganda even in freedom.” Yet, through their meticulous attempts to denigrate him, they only paint­ ed the finishing strokes on a portrait o f a hero o f Christ. Fr. Arsenie would comment to those in his cell on the Securitate agents’ constant fear: “ Look at their dreadful surveillance and



how they bristle at every innocent act we do. They fear even their own shadow. As it says in the Patericon, ‘The unbeliever runs without being chased by anyone.’” Once, he was taken out o f his cell blindfolded. Unable to see where he was walking, he slammed his foot into a step, and his big toenail pierced his flesh. It was very painful, but worse than that, it became infected. The prisoners at Zarca re­ ceived no medical assistance, so Fr. Arsenic had to take care o f it himself. While on a walk in the courtyard he found a small rusty piece o f sheet metal. He struggled to use it like a pair o f tweezers, enduring pain known only to him, until he plucked out the nail that had pierced his toe. But the problem was not completely resolved, because the toe would often get infected. The nail that grew in its place was thicker and always sensitive when trimmed. He would say, “How much mileage have these feet gotten!” “I f you fell sick, they would take you and inflict harsher measures upon you— they would keep you isolated, so you couldn’t contact anyone, and you would die. In 1961 I had surgery to remove some hemorrhoids. It was extremely painful because the area is full o f nerves, and I had the surgery with no anesthesia. After the surgery, which took place at 11 a.m., they were supposed to give me a pain-relief shot, but they only gave it to me at one in the morning.” When he was brought back to his cell and he complained about the terrible pain, one o f his cellmates reprimanded him, “Father, how come even you are complaining?” Fr. Arsenie later related, “Never in my life did I experience worse pain than after this surgery. It hurt constant­ ly for seventy days. Once the guards came and my cellmates showed them the surgical area, where the intestine dangled. In such circumstances the guards would rejoice that you were suf­ fering. They would take you and put you alone in a cell, to care for you, supposedly, but their actual goal was to kill you faster there without being seen.”



At some point the inmates were awaiting the arrival o f a new prisoner in their cell. Fr. Arsenie was discussing this pros­ pect with a cellmate, “Does anyone know what these brothers [the Securitate agents] want to do with us?” His indignant cellmate told him, “Father, you’re saying brothers? More like devils!” “You’re making a mistake! They are made in the same im­ age as we are, and they are still our brothers in the Lord,” 17 Fr. Arsenie replied. The “ brothers” were those who tortured them, took them to Zarea and put them in refrigerator-cells, left them to die o f starvation, cruelly humiliated them, cursed them in the most foul ways, “forgot” about them in sickness, and subjected them to all the horrors a perverse human mind could devise. And this was not for a minute or a week or even a month, but for entire years, one after the other. Love, love o f one’s enemies, was a virtue that Fr. Arsenic had nurtured since early child­ hood, but now it was revealed in all its splendor and glory. The greatest o f these is love, the Holy Apostle Paul said (I Cor. 13:13). And years later Fr. Arsenie would encourage his listeners: “ Let us greatly love, and let us love gracefully. Let us love the wound and the one who caused it.” He had become a man experienced in living the pinnacle o f Scripture. “Accept any blow as spiritual people do. Good people help you greatly toward salvation, but the evil-doers, even more. Suffer them without causing them trouble. All the ages have been filled with enemies, but the en­ emies o f this age have filled the heavens with saints.” As one who had attained love o f enemies, he would help those who were struggling to do so. One o f Fr. Arsenie’s spiri­ tual children, who had also been imprisoned and had suffered the tortures o f reeducation, later confessed to him that he was unable to forget the countenances o f those who had tortured 17

Marcel Petrişor, Cum plite încercări, D oam ne! [Dreadful trials, O

Lord!] (Bucharest: Christiana Press, 10 11), p. 516.



him in prison— thus, he was unable to forgive them. When he asked what he could do, Fr. Arsenie replied, “ It’s simple: the enemy you cannot forgive is like a wild beast that you’re car­ rying on your back. The condemned one is not he— the ene­ my—but you, becoming the slave o f your personal resentments. The cure takes just a nanosecond: shake the wild beast o ff your back, and you’ll immediately feel light and free.” 18 In prison, “an hour would pass quickly, a day even more quickly, and a year more quickly, because I was waiting to be released,” Fr. Arsenie later recounted. In the midst o f all this suffering he preserved his pristine hope, seeing God’s will in all things. “God shapes the moments o f history,” he would say, to the astonishment o f his cellmates, who, although they were persevering in this battle, did not have his serenity. Toward the end o f 1961, after three years in prison, Fr. A r­ senie had developed a regular routine in the cell, modified with small cautious changes so as not to provoke those who were constantly watching and waiting for the slightest opportunity to put him back in solitary confinement in order to eliminate him. God protected him and he did not endanger himself. He never treated the guards with disrespect or contempt, although he defended himself when it was proper. Nevertheless, he never exposed himself needlessly or provoked them in a direct con­ frontation. The war was a game o f intelligence, and Fr. Arsenie treated it accordingly. A report made to the Securitate by one o f Fr. Arsenie’s cellmates (his most eager informer) witnesses to Fr. Arsenie’s great faith: “ Fr. Arsenie seems the same as I knew him last year, with small changes in his daily routine and more prudent in dealing with the administration. Time and the events he has gone through have made him ‘wiser,’ as he often likes to say. H is strong faith in G od has kept his spirits up and enabled 18 Archbishop Bartolomeu Anania, Cartea deschisă a îm părăţiei [The open book o f the Kingdom] (Bucharest: ib m b o r Press, 1005), pp. 15 0 -5 1.


him to hope for a release in the near future— preparing for it unceasingly. Moreover, he rejoices in the ‘goodness’ o f the people around him, who pay heed to his words full o f wis­ dom— being nurtured in ‘the Spirit o f the Lord.’ In the morn­ ing, as in times past, he serves Matins [actually, the Divine Liturgy] in front o f the stove, facing the door, kneeling for a short while only when the ‘Holy Spirit’ is invoked to descend and fill him with grace. He refrains from using the jug o f wa­ ter and the ‘small piece’ o f bread, the Body and Blood o f the Lord, and a pcicc o f yarn he used to place around his neck as an epitrachelion. And he makes the sign o f the Cross more in his mind than with his hand, watching very carefully so as not to be seen through the peephole. He makes me and Uta humbly sit on the bed and tacitly participate at the service— as i f nothing had ever happened. On the other side, Br. Dumitru is slightly moving his lips while gazing with the corner of his eye at Father, piously bowing down every time he brings his hand to his forehead. Then he looks at me to see if I’m doing the same. After he has his bread and coffee, somewhat tired after the service, Father naps for a half an hour, and then he zealously begins to preach, showing the significance o f the liturgical day (if he still remembers the commemorations o f the day) or recounting a lesson from the Patericon, the Philokalia, the Pedalion (The Book o f Canons), etc. This lasts until lunch. The prison schedule and the mandatory routine in the cell disturb [the flow o f spiritual endeavor]. As he would say, ‘time goes by quickly and the labor in preparing for salvation is never enough.’ There is a discussion in the evening that draws to a close about an hour before the lights are out. During that hour all o f them are silent and contemplative, concluding the day with praises to the Lord and set prayers. The next day everything is repeated.” Fr. Arsenie would explain to his cellmate the benefits o f be­ ing diligent and watchful: “My Brother, God gave me wisdom



in my imprisonment and taught me to guard myself. There arc many who lost their souls and sold themselves to the devil— I mean, the administration. I lament for these poor men, for they don’t understand what they do. Can you imagine what it means to lose your eternal place? Only the Blessed Theodora returned to life after God took her soul and confessed to men how frightful and unfortunate arc the souls o f sinners at the tollhouses.19 Throngs o f demonic hosts come there and try them in all sorts o f ways. If someone stabbed you in the eye with a needle or examined your organs with a knife, it would be nothing compared to the torments there.... Alas, alas, what will happen there! You should know this!” Yet, there were not just informers but also faithful people among Fr. Arsenie’s co-sufferers, people who saw in him a true spiritual guide. They did not miss the opportunity, given by God, to spiritually benefit from his grace-filled presence. One o f his cellmates said to another, “Brother, pay attention to Fr. Arsenie; seek to benefit as much as you can from him, tor you have much to learn. Zealously ask him everything, because it he sees you persevering, he rejoices and guides you. I confess to you that I pray daily for his health and weep in my prayers, glo­ rifying God for having mercy on me and bringing him into my life. In meeting him, my life has changed and been filled with light. Even before [I came here], I had spiritual preparation and experience. I had embarked on this [spiritual] path from when I was outside prison. But the path was narrow, and lately I had withdrawn, living a life barren o f contemplation and prayer. Fr. Arsenic has shown me the purpose o f life; it is not an accident that he is with us. God so willed it. I realized this as soon as I met him. I was waiting for him, and not for a year or two, but for twenty. You could not find such a spiritual father outside prison. Maybe one on Mount Athos, but he is unique in our 19

Blessed Theodora’s description o f the tollhouses is contained within

the Life o f St. Basil the Younger (commemorated March 1 6 ).— E d .

1 58


country. He is a saint!”20 Another co-sufferer later confessed: “ This one [Fr. Arsenie] has faith comparable in strength only to that o f the early Christian martyrs. He is able to endure the harshest tortures for the Faith, without complaining or com­ promising.” During this time the preparatory plans for reeducation were completed. Colonel Crăciun rearranged the prisoners in cells, not randomly, but in a well-devised manner. Thus, a pris­ oner who had gone through the horrors o f Piteşti prison21 was placed in every cell, with the aim that these men would be the first to accept reeducation and then influence the others. At the end ot 1961 and the beginning o f 1961, the reedu­ cation process began. The Securitate agents desired that bv the end o f the reeducation the prisoners would renounce ev­ erything sacred in their lives, and most o f all would renounce God. The chapel was converted into a club room hosting the reeducation. The prisoners were invited to read, play chess, and have discussions at the club. The cell doors would be open, and they would be tree to gather at the club. The temptation was great because the majority were intellectuals, some avid read­ ers who had not seen a book in years. Some went, at first out o f curiosity, but then never returned to their cells. They be­ came “reeducators.” However, most ot them refused Colonel Crăciun’s traps and did not go to the club. “No sign at the club ... o f Aurel State, Abbot Papacioc, Prince Ghyka....”22 Numer­ ous documents include statements o f Securitate agents declar­ ing that Fr. Arsenie “refused to participate in the cultural-edu­ cational activity [reeducation].” In these kinds o f documents, many o f which are in­ cluded in the files o f a c n s a s (The Archives o f the National Council for Studying the Securitate Archives), Fr. Arsenie’s 20

a c n s a s . Informant file 185005, vol. 3, pp. 10 4 -16 .

21 The prison where the reeducation experiments began in 1949.— E d . 22 Petrişor, Cum plite încercări, p. 518.



torturers— those who had beaten him, spit on him, humiliated him, “created conditions” for him to die in terrible sufferings, instituting an entire realm o f terror and fear—powerlessly rec­ ognized that Fr. Arsenie did not take part in the reeducation. Specifically, he witnessed Christ by his own life, he defended the Orthodox Faith with every drop o f blood that dripped from the wounds they had inflicted on him, and he did not betray his friends and co-sufferers, in spite o f the pressures he had to face. These documents, signed by his torturers, prove once again his position as a Christian confessor. Some prisoners rejoiced in their freedom to leave their cells and meet people they knew or had only heard of. Thus, one o f the prisoners, Voinea, went to visit those in the cell where Fr. Arsenie, Aurcl State, Prince Alexandru Ghyka, and Marcel Petrijor lived, or rather, survived. Marcel Petrijor recounted the story: “For him (Voinea), Abbot Papacioc was the greatest enigma. He had heard some who knew him talk about him, but he could not remember anyone mentioning any remarkable fact— only that he was a man who was never upset by anything inflicted upon him. He did not care about the prison, starva­ tion, cold, darkness, thirst, beatings, or anything that might have been done to destroy him. Moreover, he would cake ev­ erything— as Voinea heard—with a smile on his lips, no one and nothing ever being able to snatch him from abiding with­ in. This is how he welcomed him [Voinea] when he knocked on the door: with an angelic face beneath a stately brow and eyes that seemed to stream tears o f joy.”23 Since the “recalcitrant ones” from Zarca would not come willingly to the club, they were brought by force to listen to the declarations o f those who were now following the path o f Communist materialism. They had to watch movies on the 23 Ibid., p. 539.



achievements o f the Communist Party, but instead they would turn their backs to the screen and talk among themselves, Fr. Arscnie was placed in isolation for three days for not paying attention and conversing with other prisoners during one o f these movies. One day an inspection team from the Ministry o f Internal Affairs came to check the status of the reeducation program at Aiud. Not satisfied with what they found at the club, they proceeded to inspect the cells. Arriving in front o f Fr. Arsenie’s cell, they hesitated to enter, especially because Colonel Crăciun had warned them that completely uncompromising prisoners abode there. They eventually entered. “Prince Ghyka was stand­ ing, as usual, upright like a statue. State was walking around on his crutches, avoiding bothering the prince. But Nae Cojocaru (a prisoner who had previously been built into a wall, while alive, in prison)2'1 would not even get out o f bed unless you rolled him onto his side. Abbot Papacioc, with his peaceful smile, had withdrawn into a corner, with his head bent a little, as though wanting to see the thoughts o f the devil by glancing at them from under his eyebrows.”2*25 The other prisoners be­ gan to argue with the inspectors, getting them terribly angry; only Prince Ghyka and Fr. Arsenic kept silent. The prince later 2i* In April o f I9S7, a group o f prisoners at the Zarca at Aiud Prison was transferred to the Zarca at Gherla after a protest culminating in a hunger strike. One o f them was the renowned military officer Nae Cojocaru, also a Legionnaire, who had gone through numerous harrowing experiences during World War II, in prison camps and prisons, even in the far North, beyond the Arctic Circle. A t the order o f Goiciu, the prison commander at Gherla, he was “ built into the wall alive” in a small cell, a sepulcher 10 feet long and 4.5 feet wide, with a wooden shutter, freshly built in between two old walls o f a prison corridor. Here he would receive a meal daily, at lunch. Nine months later, on April 1,1958, a prison officer broke one ot the new walls o f the sepulcher, and Nae Cojocaru was released from this dreadftil condemnation to death and brought back to A iud.— T r a n s . 25 Petrijor, Cum plite incercari, p. 545.



justified his contempt for these “subhumans,” as he called those who had come for the inspection, but Fr. Arsenic kept silent out o f discernment; he was engaged in a hidden battle. As he would say later on, “ 1 want the enemy to hit me where I want, not where he wants.” Drastic measures were implemented after this inspection. They were sent to different cells. Some were taken to reeducation, but the recalcitrant ones were isolated at Zarca under a dreadful regime and little food. Those who accepted the reeducation and frequented the club were moved into big, clean rooms, with sheets on their beds and nutritious food. The reeducation continued at Aiud. As one who did not adhere to it, Fr. Arsenic was called one day to Colonel Craciun’s office. In these situations, the one taken out from his cell would usually not return alive. Fr. Arsenic recalled the en­ counter himself: “ ‘Tell me about the existence o f G o d!’ said the colonel. “ ‘You, at your age, are asking me an elementary-school question? I ’ve taught children, and they would ask me the same thing. The fact that you and I are now talking is an argu­ ment proving that God exists. Our existence, our breath, our intelligence, our reason prove it. The eyes with which we see, the heart that keeps us alive and loves— are they human gifts or are they from God? These prove God’s existence. The mere fact that we [the prisoners] suffer and live is proof.’ “Seeing himself defeated, he asked, ‘What is your last word?’ “ ‘I ’m ready to die for what I ’m telling you! I ’m ready to die for Christ!’ (I was thinking to myself: I ’m going to die anyway, so at least I should die for Christ.) “ ‘Take him away! Enough!’ (From this point on they sought to kill me, but not in an overt manner; they would of­ ten put me in the refrigerator.)” More people began, with reluctance, to attend the club; at the same time the population placed in solitary confinement increased. “Craciun had ordered the guards, especially those at


Zarca and Cellular [another section in the prison], to report the prisoners’ slightest misbehavior: the longest incarceration was given for falling asleep on the edge o f the bed during the seventeen hours o f vigil, for tapping on the wall (Morse code), and for any rebuff directed toward the guards.”26 Such reports were concocted about Fr. Arsenic, who was put in solitary con­ finement for not buttoning his shirt (three days o f isolation), being found “lying with a leg in bed” (ten days), “sleeping in a sitting position on the edge o f the bed” (ten days), and “spread­ ing religious propaganda” (ten days). “ They tried very hard to annihilate me. They would put me in the refrigerator, where they’d keep me for a few days. Extraordinary things happened to me there. There was such suffering and pain that you didn’t even think you would get out alive.” Fr. Arsenic would confess that he had experienced the most exalted spiritual moments in prison, not in the wil­ derness. “Can you imagine what experiences Christ had on the Cross, when He was suffering for the whole world?” In the fall o f 1963 and during the following winter, the treatment applied to the “recalcitrant ones” at Zarca intensified, becoming even more brutal. The food got worse every day, and prisoners were constantly being sent to solitary confinement. On November 11, a guard reported Fr. Arsenie for “spreading religious propaganda in his cell. The inmate was talking loudly in his cell and could be perfectly heard even in the hall and in the neighboring cells.” Consequently, he ordered him to be sent to solitary confinement for ten days with a “severe regime,” beginning on Christmas Eve, December 14 , 1963. Fr. Arsenie was to be sent to the “refrigerator” cell, a sentence he had already received numerous times. Later in life he recount­ ed the terrors o f that punishment: “They had a torture technique, a diabolic method— they would put you in a refrigerator. You 26 Ibid., p. 548.



would be dead in three days. It was extremely difficult for me to endure that unbelievable cold. If there were another person, it would be better, because you would cling to each other and get warmer. I’m certain the angels in heaven were jealous o f us, since they don’t have this suffering, which is beyond our [human] na­ ture. The refrigerator was a frigid cell, cement all around, over sixteen feet high. You weren’t allowed to lie down on the floor; you could only sit on the latrine barrel from ten at night to five in the morning. Other than that, we had to move around. We didn’t even have enough strength to breathe, and we forced ourselves to blow into our hands to warm up. When you would breathe it felt like your soul was coming out o f your body. They kept me there for three days, and I didn’t die. They kept me there for five days, and I didn’t die! The last time I was sentenced to the refrigerator it was for seven days, but they kept me there for only five days, because many had died. We were constantly monitored through peepholes, many times per minute, so they could take us out in case we died. “It was still ‘you’ from a conceptual point o f view. Only ‘you’ were fully aware o f why you were there. Your enemies didn’t mat­ ter anymore. The Truth ‘you’ were serving mattered.27 Well, I tell yo u ... this joy— the Joy o f the Cross— cannot be expressed ratio­ nally. It was very hard. However, you were in direct contact with an Eternity that was represented by Jesus Christ.” On Christmas Eve, 1963, there was a terrible freeze outside, and the isolation rooms at Aiud were packed. The cell was com­ pletely dark. It was winter, and frost covered the ground, but they had nothing heavier than shirts on. After spending three days in that Tartarus, Fr. Arsenie was extremely weak. The door opened and another prisoner was shoved in; Marin Naidim, his long time co-sufferer. After tortures, starvation, and beatings,

27 Fr. Arsenie is stating that only by being united to Christ was he able to survive his imprisonment. At the same time, his identity was never lost in this union.— T r a n s . 164


Marin stood up for a while in that cell and then, totally ex­ hausted and overwhelmed with pain, he decided to lie on the ground to rest. This would have been certain death. Fr. Arsenie, however, was prompt: “Don’t lie down,” he whispered, “ I tried earlier. And as I was falling asleep, I awoke being pulled by my legs by an angel: 'Get up, Arsenic, i f you don’t want to d ie! This is not the place to sleep! Your time hasn’t come y et!’’’ In the middle o f the night, while the prisoners in isolation were struggling to stay alive, the wife o f Colonel Crăciun was having a nightmare— like the wife o f Pilate o f old— in their apartment next door, beyond the wall o f the prison. Fright­ ened, she jumped out o f bed and told her husband, “‘Go and do something about those under your supervision, for I don’t know if they or I are going to treeze to death.’ Halfway asleep, Crăciun first woke himself fully and walked toward the prison sections. Not really knowing how, he ended up in the isola­ tion section, in the hallway with the ten punishment cells [the refrigerators]. In the first cell opened by the guard he found two young men, with only their shirts on, every limb shaking because o f the cold.”2*1 Those two were Fr. Arsenie and Marin Naidim. Colonel Crăciun then “ordered all the isolation cells to be opened, sending us to our cells, saying, ‘You were lucky my wife had a nightmare and woke up asking me to come and take you out o f here, so I wouldn’t have you on my conscience. And well, who can withstand the complaining o f a woman?!’”29 Even Crăciun could not refuse his wife’s request. Behold, this was the will o f G od: Fr. Arsenie would not die there, nor the others who were struggling with him. After this wondrous release from the refrigerator, “they took me into a cell. Emerging from the refrigerator was like heaven for us. In the cell I found a piece o f moldy green mămăligă. I didn’t even care it was like that; I ate it immediately. Nothing 28 Petrişor, Cum plite încercări, p. 519. 29 Andronescu, Reeducarea, p. 40.


Marin Naidim when he was first arrested in his youth.

happened to me; my body had been cleansed through that last­ ing. Obviously, I also had the aid o f God. It was Christmas and I said, ‘Look at the cozonacw I ’ve received!’” After Fr. Arsenie’s repose in the Lord, a nun (one of his spiritual daughters) gave a written testimony o f a marvelous event from his imprisonment. This was something he had re­ lated to her when she was struggling against temptations at the beginnings o f her monastic life. “Seeing me sorrowful, he once shared with me his experience, saying with a very serious expression: ‘You don’t have great trials, such as not knowing what will happen to you in the next moment, not having the certainty that you’ll live until tomorrow. You don’t realize how much God loves us in the midst o f suffering. He is by our side in tribulations. He endures our burden with us, for not even a hair o f our head moves without God’s consent.’ Seeing I was30 30

Romanian sweet bread, traditionally baked for Pascha and Christ­

mas.— E d .



still puzzled, and also because o f my weakness, he revealed to me what had happened to him years earlier in prison at Aiud: ‘“ I was in prison. You cannot imagine what that means: cold, striped uniform, no personal belongings, a small, measured piece o f bread as sustenance. Those in the cell would take turns pick­ ing up the crumbs that might fall on the ground, thinking that these might fill us up. We looked more like shadows than men. Moreover, we were interrogated, threatened, and condemned co a regime o f extermination. I was also placed in Zarea, in the refrig­ erator. In that agony I would walk, pray, but I could feel how I was getting cold ... how my soul was leaving my body and ascending. In my prayer to God I would shout within me, “ Lord, I’m here and I ’m dying for Thee; remember me, O Lord!” and all o f a sud­ den Christ the Savior appeared next to me, in divine light and warmth. He was by my side, suffering with me—wearing a striped uniform and suffering, my suffering. Then I understood that time is not measured by God as it is by men, tor everything seemed to last only a moment.... And without me realizing it, time passed, the door o f the cell opened, and the guards came to take out my frozen body, but they didn’t find it so, tor it had been warmed by grace, by the grace o f God.’ “ Father had asked me not to share these events with any­ one during his lifetime. Years have passed, and I have never been capable o f talking to anyone about this. I knew that I could not speak in Father’s presence, because he did not want these things to be known, generally avoiding queries about his visions in prison or in the wilderness. And how much he had to say! But he would refrain from speaking about them out o f humility, fleeing human praise.”31 31

Nun Magdalena Ştefan, “ Rugăciunile şi prezenţa Părintelui mă ajutau

să mă ridic” [Fathers prayers and presence would help me arise], in Iulian Dumitraşcu, Părintele Arsenic Papacioc, i f 14 -2 0 14 . 0sută de a n i de la naştere [Father Arsenie Papacioc, 19 14 - 10 14 : A hundred years from his birth] (Bu­ charest: Basilica, 10 14 ), p. 89.


Out o f humility, Fr. Arsenie would never recount these vi­ sions, although in his discussions he would allude to them, as he did in an interview: “If you were going to question some­ one who had seriously prayed (in prison, in the wilderness, in the cell, on the street, or even at the office), he would guard himself from saying that he had seen such and such a thing [a vision]— although these things do occur. If you only knew how far beyond yourself that vision is: being encompassed by a joy and hope beyond our understanding. [After such a vision] the first thought is to keep silent and not talk, for questions on these matters are idle curiosity and not helpful at all. Everyone should know that the Savior brought to the world the knowl­ edge that salvation comes through suffering. Suffering is ex­ tremely necessary; it has to be endured as long as God wills it, because He knows our suffering. It is very difficult to say what the rewards are, what unseen forces help. That is, they exist for sure.... Who has suffered and hasn’t had extraordinary mo­ ments o f revelation and things even greater?’”32 The strength bestowed on believers from Above is in accordance with their suffering and to the measure they accept that suffering. The prison administration used diverse measures to make the unyielding prisoners conform. Along the hallways they placed speakers that broadcast the capitulation o f a former con­ fessor for all the prisoners to hear. At mealtime the prisoners once found a large, sizzling steak on their tin plate instead o f the usual plain broth. Although, after so many years o f dread­ ful starvation, all o f them were living skeletons, many— includ­ ing Fr. Arsenie—would not touch it. Nor would they go to the club, as they were advised to do after receiving the steak. Every possible method o f breaking the strength o f character o f these men or defaming them in some way was attempted, but they 32 Fr. Arsenie Papacioc, “Sfaturi duhovniceşti” [Spiritual counsels], part i, video interview with Sorin Dumitrcscu, recorded on July 14 ,19 9 3 , posted on June 15 ,10 15 , /watch?v=37lm_Fv64W k.



never attained their goal. “You knew that this suffering was for the Great Truth, because they were trying to disfigure your thoughts and your soul with their various methods. You paid with your life for this, for defeating them, for not consenting, for being a great hero, saying, ‘I will not accept this thing, sir!’" The repeated attempts to crush the resistance o f the prison­ ers in Zarca culminated with a meeting in March 1964. All the prisoners in Zarca, except those bedridden, were taken by force to the club, which was now held in a big hall that could con­ tain everyone who had not yet completed their reeducation. “ They would take us out o f our cells for conferences.’ Once, some o f our corrupted people began speaking as part o f the reeducation. It was a big hall, and I stood up in the middle o f it and told them: ‘What are you saying? What do you know about the Middle Ages? The Middle Ages were theocentric— they put God first in their lives.’ I declared, 'Because o f some miserable popes, you’re denouncing the Church o f Christ and the Christian virtues!’ They could have killed me for such bold­ ness. All o f them looked astonished, not knowing who dared to speak up at such a gathering. Protesting meant death on the spot. I don’t know how I got lost in the crowd, for they did nothing to me. It was the will o f G od!” Upon exiting the hall, he encountered Fr. Marcu and encouraged him, saying, “ Take care o f yourself; don’t give up!” He directed him to be prudent and not fast too much, eating whatever he could find in order to resist physically. “Another time, in an immense hall ... we were in a mixed group [reeducated prisoners with those who had not been bro­ ken], and a certain reeducated man started talking, attacking the holy emperor Constantine the Great. And from among all the people, a little one stood up (I was that one): ‘What are you talking about? The holy emperor Constantine the Great elevated the Cross— In hoc signo vinces (Under this sign you shall conquer).’ And their entire plan was shattered. Certainly


they’ll kill me now [I thought]. And this is the miracle: they didn’t kill me. People don’t realize that this is a miracle; they say it’s a fluke that they forgot about me! As far as I ’m con­ cerned, they were constantly pursuing me to kill me.” “It was clear that God was truly protecting us, although we were always on our enemies’ blacklist. We couldn’t give up; we weren’t playing games with our lives. At Aiud, the issue was no longer the Legionnaire movement. They wanted to completely annihilate our faith in Christ. This was their goal, more im­ portant than the other one [the abolition o f the Legionnaire Movement]. After the March “conference,” the pressure from the ad­ ministration decreased. Those at Zarea were taken to regular sections and began to receive supplementary food from sur­ pluses at meals, so that upon their release no one would see the conditions they had lived in. They were “extraordinarily skinny. Some were so grace-filled that they seemed actual shadows.” '3 Those who had stained their conscience in reeducation clubs were among the first to be released. Colonel Crăciun was throwing a last piece o f bait for those left, so that, in their eagerness and longing for their release, some might lose their human dignity. His hope was in vain. The former residents o f Zarea maintained their patience. At the end o f July, Colonel Crăciun himself read them the decree o f amnesty. Every prisoner had to reclaim his belongings from the pris­ on warehouse and wait for his ride to the train station. “ Physi­ cally I was healthy, but I was extremely weak.” At the infirmary he received some injections to strengthen him, because, other­ wise, he would not have been able to stand on his feet. “ When they returned my coat to me, I didn’t recognize it: it was wrin­ kled, and so many years had passed since my arrest.” It was August i, the Feast o f the Procession o f the Holy 3 33 Andronescu, Reeducarea, p. 119.


Cross. Those who had worthily carried their heavy cross were now exiting the gate o f the prison. Among the victors was Fr. Arsenie. “ W ith a ceaseless smile on his lips, with his face il­ lumined and untroubled by what had come upon him, he was going toward the gate, accompanied only by Someone unseen, W h o had never taken His [protecting] hand from him.... One o f the guards who knew him said to another, ‘Holiness goes out the gate!’”34

34 Pccrifor, Cum plite incercari, p. 587. 171


RELEASE E c a m e o u t o f prison,” wrote Fr. Arsenie, “with no W beards, with no flesh on our bodies, no teeth, with our eyes hidden in their sockets, but still radiant. We came out not looking like priests.” It was 1964 when Fr. Arsenie was finally freed from his long years o f confinement. His first stop was the Suceava Monastery, where some o f his spiritual daughters re­ sided. The nuns were horrified by his appearance: he was mere skin and bones. They fed him, cared for him, and put him back on his feet. After gaining some strength, he set o ff for Bucharest. “ I was traveling by train and, after so many years in prison, I saw women wearing short skirts. In my compartment there were two teachers wearing shore skirts; one sat right across from me. When they saw I was a monk they boldly asked my opinion on short skirts. I replied, T m a monk and I ’ve never seen a wom­ an’s legs above the knees until now, but I never would have thought they were so ugly!’” After his comment, they tried to stretch their skirts down, although they were too short to cover any more o f their legs. In Bucharest Fr. Arsenie received medical treatment at Colţea Hospital. He lived for a while in Bucharest, at the house o f the famous architect Mihai Urzică, the author o f a very valuable book, M iracles an d False M iracles. While there, he went to the patriarchate, seeking a blessing to enter a mon­ astery where he could continue his monastic life, but because he was part o f the Diocese o f Moldavia, he was sent to Iaşi.



“I went to get a blessing from the Metropolitan o f M ol­ davia to join a monastery. He refused. He told me that there was a newly issued decree expeling the monks from the mon­ asteries, and therefore he could not receive me. He told me, ‘G o home, to your mother!’ How could I go home?! I was a monk, a priest; I had to go to a monastery.” And so Fr. Arsenie returned to Bucharest. W hile still in Moldavia, Elder Cleopa, who was hiding in the mountains, sent him a message saying he wanted to see him. He had heard Fr. Arsenie had been released, but, like the Aposde Thomas, he said, Except I shall see ... I w ill not believe (John 10 :15). Fr· Arsenie related: “I went with two fathers— two hieromonks— to the place where he was living in the for­ est, and we arrived only with difficulty. I was very weak. I had stomach problems. We found him. We embraced each other wholeheartedly and we had a glass o f wine. He told me that I’d get well, relating to me— from his abundant knowledge—St. John Chrysostom’s words from his commentary on St. Paul’s Episde to Timothy on the significance o f a glass o f wine (cf. I Tim . 5:15). And this is how we got him [Elder Cleopa] out o f the wilderness and brought him to the monastery.” Returning to Bucharest, Fr. Arsenie petitioned for a place in a monastery in the vicinity. While waiting for a decision, he lived at the patriarchate and then at his younger brother’s home in Bucharest. He would attend the divine services at Antim Monastery and at the patriarchate, where he would meet with Frs. Benedict (Ghiu$) and Ghenadie (Ghenoiu). Very slowly he began to regain his monastic appearance, once again wearing monastic garments and growing his beard back. Notwithstanding his opportunity to emigrate on differ­ ent occasions, he refused to leave his country, which was in great need o f priests. Even traveling outside the country was not something he was interested in, although he did make pil­ grimages to the H oly Land and Mount Athos. Later in life, he



stated, “ I did not care for traveling to foreign countries. Some are attracted by exotic places, but the essential thing is to have peace, tranquility in your soul. What can be more beautiful than the vision o f the heavens ?” The Securitate was completely opposed to his assignment to Cernica Monastery, afraid o f keeping Fr. Arsenie near Bu­ charest, where many o f his prison comrades were living. Thus, Patriarch Justinian had to relinquish his desire to have him there and devised a new plan. “Patriarch Justinian told me that in Transylvania there were parishes still vacant from the time o f World War I, and he sent me there. Tcofil, the Metropolitan o f Transylvania, received me very kindly and assigned me as par­ ish priest in the village o f Filea de Jos, [in Cluj county,] and a year later he also assigned me to the other village, Filea de Sus. The Metropolitan knew me, and he appreciated me even when I was at Slatina Monastery. I was still young at the time; I was only about fifty.” Fr. Arsenie was assigned to Filea in April o f 1965, the day before Pascha, having to fly to Cluj and then drive for six hours on a muddy road less then ten miles long. Hearing that he flew to get there, the villagers thought he was a spy. They were skep­ tical at first, but eventually they all came to love him. The en­ tire village came to see him. They would say, “A new father has come!” He overheard someone in the church saying, “ What small hands he has!” “I said to myself: I ’ll catch you with this small hand!” And that is what happened. “ It was the work o f God.” In one o f his letters addressed to his spiritual children, Fr. Arsenie described his situation at that time: “I was given permission by the Department o f Religions to be the parish priest in a commune, in the diocese o f Cluj. There was a lot o f talk about me. The patriarch wished to keep me in Bucharest, or nearby, at some monastery, but that was impos­ sible. It was easier to assign me to a parish. So, desiring with all my heart to remain a monk and to serve, I have accepted


Fr. Arsenie in 1965, one year after his release from Aiud.


this situation. Now I have my own altar and I serve the Divine Liturgy, and I care for a thousand souls. “I have my peace and joy. I pray, I teach the village the way to salvation, and I serve. Now I can have time to cultivate the virtue o f love and my relations with my spiritual children. I commemorate you with much love, contentment, and freedom at the Proskomedia. “Here, I ’ve started with the fundamentals in teaching the people. They’ve begun to love me, and I, to know them. I ar­ rived here on the night o f Pascha. My first greeting was: Christ is Risen! From then until now I have been busy with arranging the house where I live. I’ve assumed complete responsibility for the parish and its administration. “It’s pretty cold here. It has rained almost every day. The area is quite beautiful. The village is surrounded by hills, and the Apuseni Mountains can be seen six to ten miles away, with the peaks, and even the plateau, full o f snow. When it rains, the alleys are full o f mud. And I ’m feeling great!” Fr. Arsenie remembered: “The villagers were very poor. On the first Pascha we received five lei [at the collection], and on the second, three lei.” Fr. Arsenie purchased vestments, two chalice sets, and a vigil lamp. He crafted a set o f cardboard marriage crowns. Later, he was able to obtain a set of metal crowns, but at weddings the villagers kept asking for the older ones, saying they were more beautiful. From his spiritual chil­ dren throughout the country, he received icons with which he beautifully adorned the church. The following year, under Fr. Arsenie’s supervision, the church was restored and reconsecrated and the rectory remod­ eled. He gathered the villagers near the church, teaching them and answering all their questions. He focused on Confession and the Divine Liturgy, and he encouraged the abandonment o f long-standing non-Orthodox customs. “ It was a village with many Catholics, but I did not utter a single word against



Catholicism; I simply maintained my Orthodox mode o f life. W hen I left there were no Catholics in the village: everyone was Orthodox. I was very involved with the youth. They would be gone to school during the week, but I would speak with them when they returned on weekends. Even now [in 2.000], I receive letters from there....” Many o f the youth and the faith­ ful o f Filea continued to seek his spiritual guidance at the monasteries where he later lived. Some o f Fr. Arsenie’s spiritual children from Slatina, Sihăstria, and Bucharest sought his support and guidance dur­ ing his time at Filea. Among them there were monks and nuns who had been removed from monasteries due to Decree 410. He would encourage them to keep their monastic vows, cleans­ ing them through Confession and counseling them in letters. A t the end o f the persecution, they returned to the monasteries. There was another category o f people who followed him “religiously” at Filea, namely, the Securitate agents. He had es­ caped the closed prison and had now entered the open prison o f agents and informers, who would track his every deed, move, visit, correspondence, and word. Fr. Arsenie continued to bear a heavy cross. Quoting Victor Hugo, he would say, “I escaped punishment, but I didn’t escape condemnation.” The unceas­ ing surveillance and harassment would continue for twenty-five years— a weighty cross he would bear, always hoping in God and trusting in His divine will. The Securitate was interested in Fr. Arsenie’s every deed, word, and thought. Gathering “evidence” to malign him, they twisted it with their corrupt minds. All the while they ignored the truth: that he was a man o f God. At times, forced by the re­ ality o f their findings, they would recognize his spiritual depth, as seen in the comments o f a lieutenant colonel who reviewed the reports: “Being a priest well acquainted with the traditional subjects o f Christian theology, taking very seriously all the pos­ itive aspects o f Christian ethics, and especially understanding



The church o f Pilea de Jos.

the rules (canons) an Orthodox Christian should follow in life. Arsenic Papacioc is appreciated by many o f the believers in our country. He is considered a good spiritual father and guide in issues o f Christian ethics.... Regarding spiritual matters, Arsenie Papacioc is a renowned priest and can be considered, with no exaggeration, a ‘model priest.’ In his devotion to the Church and to the priesthood, he performs the daily tasks required o f a diligent priest (tiring services, Confession, religious support for the faithful who come to the monastery, etc.).” 1 Despite such positive remarks, the “almighty” Securitate was engaging in an unequal battle with the humble hieromonk Arsenie, using every tool at their disposal: expert methods, gov­ ernment funding, a multitude o f informers and officers, power, and a malicious reputation. Fr. Arsenie fought only with the 1

a c n sa s Informant

file 185003, vol. 1, pp. 4 1-4 }.



weapons given to him by Christ: discernment, humility, prayer, long-suffering in the midst o f troubles, laboring in good deeds, almsgiving, and above all love— love for his neighbor. Because the Securitate was following him, the village au­ thorities would harass him. An administrator refused to give him a straw mattress to sleep on, saying that a priest can sleep on the floor. Fr. Arsenic was renowned for the sermons he gave at funer­ als. Once, there were two other priests at a funeral. Each had fifteen minutes for a sermon. The first priest spoke in a scholas­ tic manner. Fr. Arsenic took a different approach. He said, “A young man built a spacious and beautiful house. Someone told him, 'You’ve made a big mistake. You built a door.’ ‘“ W hy is that a mistake?’ asked the young man. ‘“ Because through this door they’ll take you out when you die.’ ” The villagers appreciated the parable so much that a widow said, “ Father, come preach at my funeral also!” Fr. Arsenie recalled: “They would tell me, ‘Do a funeral with twelve Gospel readings for us!’2 It was convenient for me because 1 would scop in front o f City Hall and choose the proper Gospel reading; it was like propaganda for me, as I would give a sermon at each Gospel reading.” At times, the villagers would steal from each other, and Fr. Arsenie pondered on how he could break them o f this bad habit. When one o f them came to Confession, Fr. Arsenie did not give him absolution. He instructed the man to go and re­ turn what he had stolen (some kind o f livestock), but the man told him he did not have the animal any more; he had sold it. The man complained to Fr. Arsenie o f having no money to buy back the animal, and Fr. Arsenie offered to loan him the neces­ sary amount. Now it was the question o f returning the animal. 2 In certain areas o f Romania there is a custom in which twelve Gospel readings are done during the procession to the cemetery.— E d .



Photograph o f Fr. Arsenic from the 1960s.

Tie man was ashamed; his deed would have been revealed. . r. Arsenie asked him how he had stolen the animal. “ Well, I broke the fence,” said the man. “ You should do the same now. Break the fence, put the animal back, and then cover the hole so it can’t escape, and that’s it!” The man did accordingly. Others, counseled by Fr. Arsenic, followed suit, in order to re­ ceive absolution and Holy Communion. Seeing their missing animals reappear in their courtyards, the villagers began to say, “Father performs miracles.” Fr. Arsenie cold them, “Brothers, it is not I who performs miracles; it is God. Did you pray? Were you sorry for the loss o f the animal?” “Yes.” “ Well, you see, God brought it back to you!” Others, whose animals were stolen, would come to him



and say, “Father, pray for me too: six o f my sheep were stolen!” (“And I would start to investigate, to see who had stolen the six sheep, to return them”) He would participate at all the clergy meetings in his dis­ trict, Turda, and he once gave a very edifying homily on the Christian woman. The priests loved it and thanked him. They were all married, except him. (“And I was only a child then. H ow old was I? No more than fifty”) The value o f womankind was a recurring theme in Fr Arsenies teachings: “ The woman has to live in harmony with her husband. They have to work together for the supreme goal: sal­ vation. The woman is the heart o f the family, as the man is the head o f the family. If there’s no heart, the head is empty. The two o f them should have a relationship o f total self-sacrifice, not a conventional one. The woman can give birth to Christ in her husband’s heart.” And elsewhere he said: “The woman shouldn’t be seen as a slave. Although we say in the prayers o f the Mystery o f Mar­ riage that the woman has to submit to her husband, he has to be careful because he is told in the same prayer that he has to love her. If he doesn’t ‘love’ her, the wife will not obey him. If the man does not heed this word, he is responsible for the woman’s obstinacy. Thus, he has to love her by all means.” Due to Fr. Arscnie’s great success as a pastor and preacher, the bishop named him the best priest in the diocese. (“I don’t know i f I was the best, but I know I was not the worst”) The priest assigned to Filea after Fr. Arsenie’s departure once asked him, “ Father, what did you do to the people at Filea? Because they talk only about you. W hat’s your secret?” “ W hat secret, Father? There’s no secret,” replied Fr. Arsenie. The villagers o f Filea had great appreciation for their shepherd, but the Lord was calling him to fulfill another task, that o f ab­ bot and spiritual father o f the Cheia Monastery.

18 1


PEACE AM IDST TRIALS 1967, Patriarch Justinian finally succeeded in naming Fr. Arsenie abbot o f Cheia Monastery, a position he held for a period o f six years. This obedience is mentioned in Fr. Arsenies correspondence: “I ’ve moved on to Cheia. If somehow it happens that I leave here for somewhere else, against my will, I ’ll write you; but it doesn’t seem so, and I don’t desire it, either. I say this, since I don’t know the Lord’s will!” At the time o f his arrival, Cheia Monastery had a large guesthouse for priests. In addition to priests spending their vacations there, the monastery also hosted lay people drawn by the low rates. “It was a prestigious monastery, with a guest­ house. We collected money, and we had to deduct the expenses [from the revenue].” The guesthouse affected the monastery’s spiritual life. There was more emphasis on the administration o f the guesthouse than on the divine services, the rule o f prayer, and Confession. Fr. Arsenie arrived to correct these shortcomings, yet the previ­ ous abbot and the nun managing the guesthouse did not look upon his efforts with favorable eyes. They were collaborators with the Securitate, instigating many anonymous slanderous complaints against Fr. Arsenie. In a letter to some o f his spiritual children, Fr. Arsenie ex­ pressed his insight concerning the purpose o f these trials, as he had experienced others much more difficult in prison. He told them, “I ’m sustained by the hope that this work will not be in N JU L Y



Cheia Monastery.

vain... This great God shows us greater love when He tries us with more challenging lessons.... This is where peace, the great peace o f Christian heroism, is found.” Close to the monastery there was a youth camp that would schedule visits to the monastery. Father never lost the opportu­ nity to give the young people soul-profiting words in addition to the icons and small crosses that they received as blessings. His seeds bore fruit; many o f the youth became his spiritual children. In the midst o f trials Fr. Arsenie also had the comfort of a close friend, a young monk he had admired at Slatina Mon­ astery: Gavriil (Stoica). This monk later became his spiritual child. When Fr. Arsenie was released from Aiud, Fr. Gavriil was imprisoned for two years for distributing religious books. Upon his arrival at Cheia, Fr. Arsenie sent him [at that time a hierodeacon] a message, telling him he was waiting for him to serve as a deacon there. Thus he had the consolation o f a close, sincere, and devout disciple. “We were always o f one heart,” Fr. Arsenie would say. Later, when Fr. Gavriil became a priest, Fr. Arsenie would go to him for Confession, each being the oth­ er’s spiritual father. This father, the renowned Archimandrite



Gavriil (Stoica) o f Zamfira Monastery, fell asleep in the Lord in zoo8, three years before Fr. Arsenie. A t Cheia, Fr. Arsenie would tell the brethren: “ If you felt the claws o f the devil on your back, you wouldn’t put o ff re­ pentance!” Spiritual children from throughout the country would seek him for counsel and Confession here— people who had met him once and could never forget him. He was very de­ voted to serving in the altar, where, during the Proskomedia, he would “encounter,” on the commemoration lists, everyone who had been associated with Cheia, the living and the de­ parted, pilgrims and founders. On one commemoration list he had found the name o f a great prince o f Moldavia, Stephen the Great [who was later canonized]. “ When I saw that Stephen was there, on my page, I realized how great the priesthood was. I said, ‘Now 1 have you on the tip o f my lance!’ but I was ner­ vous... Being together with everybody, living and departed... Proskomedia is the greatest thing.” Conscious o f the gift o f the priesthood, he said, “ I, Arsenie the sinner, an unknown monk, get to commemorate Stephen the Great. The eternal, blessed life o f the blameless prince o f Moldavia may depend on my commemorations. As little and wretched as I am, God has bestowed upon me His gift: He annointed me as a priest o f the living and the dead!” At Cheia, where the founders of the monastery were descen­ dants o f St. Stephen the Great, Fr. Arsenie strove to hold firmly the sword o f word and deed. Many feared to openly confess their Faith in that period o f Communist persecution. One day, while he was visiting some acquaintances, together with the previous abbot and another father, the twelve-year-old granddaughter o f the host asked them about the meaning o f the words “spiritual father,” which she had heard in their conversation. Fr. Arsenie told her: “A spiritual father is the priest to whom you confess your sins: that you did not obey your parents, your teachers, etc. You



should know this and not believe everything said in books nowa­ days.” The girl’s grandparents were shocked on hearing this, but he said to them, “I only fear Christ!” Afraid, the two fathers who had come with him got up and left. Only Fr. Arsenie remained seated, continuing his confession o f Faith. Fr. Arsenie was like a mirror revealing everyone as he tru­ ly was, and this bothered those who saw their image in that mirror. They were disturbed by the fact that his beard was too long; that he entered the church at 7 a.m. and came out at 8:30 p.m.; that there were always faithful at his door seeking his counsel; that he spent a lot o f time writing to his spiritual children, molding them with his living words; that he was in­ volved with the youth, encouraging them to live in chastity; that he was good to those who betrayed him, commemorating them and their families, always counseling them in all things; that he endured offenses and slanders; that “he was concerned only with the salvation o f the soul” and “sought by every means to draw as many people to the Church as possible” (as the in­ formers would note); that he was engrossed in the organiza­ tion o f the monastic life in the monastery. In conclusion: his mindfulness o f his priestly mission would disquiet them. He was charged with all these “offenses,” yet, as he would confess in a letter to a co-sufferer, “I have plenty o f trials, but I have much peace in my depths.” As we have seen, the Securitate did not like the elders spiritual life. Therefore, the agents decided to isolate and com­ promise him in front o f the faithful and the monastics. They proceeded deviously. Some agents tried to become close to Fr. Arsenie’s acquaintances in order to get close to him. The next step was to have these agents seem to agree with everything he said, to support him in certain activities, and to praise him in front o f everyone. When they would become close to him they would start slandering him. The calumniation o f friends would be more powerful than that o f enemies.


Fr. Arsenic during the 1960s.

They were not able to fulfill their plan, as Fr. Arsenie was very attentive. He discovered some informants who asked him “some useless, yet suspect, questions.” Others could not get close to him because he was “very prudent and did not seek to befriend everyone, only those tested by him.” And another category was unable to catch him in his words. He mainly took



part in religious discussions, and if anyone tried to change the topic to something else, he would delicately withdraw from that conversation. The Securitate attacked on multiple fronts. Agents would intercept all his correspondence— reading and interpreting it. Yet they found no trace o f conspiracies or intrigues in his let­ ters, only his encouragement, his warm heart imparted to his spiritual children— those who were walking on the paths o f the Lord— and above all his state o f “constant joy," even though he felt and knew that he was confined by the officers’ scrutiny. Could these officers, avid readers o f his letters, have found a drop o f Fr. Arsenie’s joy? Who knows? But it is certain that their zeal in transcribing and filing these letters enabled the preservation o f precious testimonies about his life. Delays in receiving the correspondence, errors in it, and undelivered mail made the senders and the receivers o f the mail think something was going on. Knowing that the Securitate was following him, Fr. Arsenie became more cautious, sending the letters through his spiritual children. Thus the Securitate was no longer able to intercept any o f his letters, although his correspondence was increasing. An informant noted that Father was “preoccupied solely with spiritual matters, although not estranged from political events and news.” 1 All the evidence procured by the Securitate only proved he was a zealous monk with no political activity. Nonetheless, upon his eventual transfer to another monastery his surveillance file would end up at a new Securitate office, and they would try again to incriminate him. All to no avail. Fr. Arsenie’s gentleness drew many people to him, just like his impressive beard, which was now “pointy and long like that o f St. Onuphrius.”2 “ I would feel something about the beard,” Fr. Arsenie would confess, “But I could not express it. And I 1

a c n s a s , Informant file

18500;, vol. 1, pp. 371-73.

2 Plămădeală, Tradiţie şi libertate , p. 167.


Cheia Monastery.

read in Clement o f Alexandria that the beard presents a “vener­ able wisdom, conciliating confidence.” ' After one o f his visits to Cheia Monastery, Mihai Radulcscu, a professor and writer who had gone through the Communist prisons and became Fr. Arsenie’s spiritual child, recorded a de­ scription o f Fr. Arsenic: “I was a student when I lived in the village of Cheia dur­ ing one o f my summer vacations. On the first day, 1 ran to the local monastery to meet the brethren. The abbot, Fr. Arsenie, appeared to me as an extraordinary figure. His spirit was peer­ less, set on fire by a rare love for his neighbor. He was not very tall in stature, with a slender and small frame. The skin that covered his flesh was more transparent than tracing paper. His nails, equally transparent, and so thin, covered the tips o f his fingers just enough to change the red o f his blood into a rose 5 Clement o f Alexandria, The Instructor, 5.4, in A . Roberts a n d j. D on ­ aldson, eds., Ante-Niccne Fathers, vol. 1 (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, >994 ), p- 2.76.



hue. His bright, luminous, or sparkling eyes— according to the feeling they conveyed— allowed one to pursue his inner depth, which was untouchable, inexpressible in words, and sweetened by the honey o f abundant grace. Sometimes his inner depth was throbbing in the heights, at other times it was floating; yet it was never drowned on the shore where we, the others, are stumbling. “His face, shoulders, chest, even his belly under the heavy belt— with Alpha and Omega engraved on its metal buckle— were cloaked by a beard hesitating between white, black, and gray. The beard seemed to be in dialogue with the surround­ ing nature, while Fr. Arsenie was engaged in the Prayer o f the Heart and conversing with the person in front o f him.... “As for venerable Fr. Arsenie’s gift o f preaching, o f warming one’s soul, o f giving his subtle, yet vigorous energy to the one with whom he was speaking— these God-given powers distin­ guished him above all those who love the Holy Virgin, making her ardent servant an incomparable and unprecedented man of our times. He was imbued with divine love, full o f compassion, forgiveness, and understanding. “ Like any recluse who has reached a certain spiritual state, the abbot knew how to hide his gifts. He refined his spiritual experiences down to their essences, fashioning them into sym­ bols understandable to all and pleasing to all ears.” Yet not all the ears at Cheia Monastery were open to per­ ceive these symbols— not out o f weakness, but out o f unwill­ ingness. In referring to the events o f this period, Fr. Arsenie would later write to a monk at Cheia: “All the temptations o f the enemy have benefited me and driven me toward an under­ standing o f the difficult sayings o f Holy Scripture. ‘Love those who wrong you and pray for their deliverance from their evil’ (cf. Matt. 5:44). Certainly they will comprehend this one day.... We always have trials, but the good God invariably sets on our path people who seek our spiritual friendship also, and who



could benefit us simply by their sincerity. I, Father, always had the most sincere intention there, and I did not lose my temper in the midst o f arrows pointing at me. I understood my duties in my role, and I especially benefited from your Reverences— who perceived every hideous gesture and deed committed by others. I cannot forget you, beloved Father, and I will eagerly commemorate you throughout my life.” Here he continued to strive to do God’s will, as expressed in a little story he would love to recount at every good oppor­ tunity: “Alexander the Great once asked a wise man, ‘How can man become like God?’ ‘If he does what God does,’ replied the wise man. ‘And what is God doing?’ ‘He loves His enemies.’” In describing Fr. Arsenie’s spiritual life at Cheia, Mihai Radulescu quoted the elder’s own words: “ ‘Quite often I would serve [in the church]. When I was well into the Divine Liturgy, the blind beggar—who was out­ side, guarding the stony threshold o f the church— would enter, standing rigid and upright at the door. When I would come out through the Royal Doors, he would look with his blind eyes into mine. Each one o f us was on guard at a gate— myself at that o f heaven, him at that o f the world. Often I told myself that he saw through me into the bosom o f Abraham.’ “Fr. Arsenie was a pillar o f the Most High, unwilling to bend and be defeated. He stood fast even when he was thrown into the damp confinement o f prisons. Like an oak tree that turns to stone when kept in water, after every imprisonment he came forth facing the waves o f life with greater and greater strength. “Once, recounting to me about the Burning Bush, and about the exalted conversations held by the members o f that group, he told me that the danger o f all-dominating atheism had placed them in a dilemma: How should the monasteries act in those foul times? Were they obliged to open wide their gates to the people, so that they could come at any time to



quench their thirst with the right teaching, or on the contrary: should the monks and nuns withdraw behind secure gates, studded and locked seven times seven, seeking their individual and communal salvation? After long and ardent debates held in spiritual earnestness, they reached the conclusion that opening the monasteries to the world was the Christian way. And they lived accordingly, with an abundance o f brotherly love.”4

4 M ihai Rădulescu, R ugul A prins: D uhovnicii O rtodoxiei sub lespezi in tem niţele comuniste [The Burning Bush: Orthodox spiritual fathers buried un­ der slabs in Com munist prisons] (Bucharest: Ramida Press, 1993).


PU R SU ED D e c e m b e r 19 71, Fr. Arsenie was transferred to Caldaru§ani Monastery, having the obedience o f treasurer and ca­ shier. Here the vigilance o f the Securitate reached its peak. In order to constantly monitor him, they installed hidden micro­ phones in his cell, a method they would also use later, at Cernica Monastery. Yet all their efforts were in vain, for Fr. Arsenie was here for only nine months, and nothing unusual was found in the recordings. He was monitored wherever he went, with a detailed record o f the time, place, and people he met. If pos­ sible, a transcript o f his conversations would be kept. Although he had already reached a respectable age, Fr. Arsenic was still very agile, and his pursuers had a hard time keeping up with him. They would note in their reports, “ He walks very fast, or even runs, a very curious thing, taking into consideration his age.” (He was over fifty.) Consequently, the agents named him “the Brave”— correctly identifying the one who battled against them. All the reports o f the Securitate informers, who attempted to obtain incriminating evidence against Fr. Arsenie, revealed even more clearly his unique personality. The Securitate agents would recognize “the veil o f holiness” surrounding him, but this would annoy them; they would laugh at him, they would mock him. They would tirelessly create different strategies to squash him. Yet he was a “peaceful and quiet man;” 1 he had no



1 ACNSAS, Informant file 185003, vol. 1, p. 81.



The church oi the Caldaru;ani Monastery.

political interest, officially or secretly. “ I was a monk before all else," he would say. And he was a dedicated one, striving with great care and effort to multiply his treasure— his increasing number o f spiritual children— sustaining them in prayer, com­ memorating them at services, confessing and counseling them in person or by mail. When his critics saw the piles o f letters in his cell, they could not imagine that these were spiritual cor­ respondences— each reply a labor o f sacrifice and love. He wrote in a letter: “I am engrossed in so many things. Being ‘hard-pressed’ has its beneficial side, and, after all, I en­ dure and carry on with everything as I am able— governed by a longing for a salvific life.... I mostly ponder on willingly becoming nothing for the world and on always increasing my peace. I ’m not saying I should isolate myself from the world; I actually desire to give a good ounce o f myself to more and



more people, to earnestly belong to the Lord Christ for the sake o f the poor world, which has given me the opportunity to admire it so many times, although it doesn’t understand me.”2 In his inner depths he peacefully accepted the experience at Caldaru;ani, full o f temptations, knowing it was another exam on the path o f life. As he wrote in a letter he sent from there: “I didn’t care much for the ‘gray’ here either, but know that I am preoccupied by something else wherever I may be. And you’ll see how one day I ’m going to thank the Good God for my passing through this place, too. Every place poses a subtle and delicate question, and I want to rejoice in the future for my answer today.”5 In September 1971 he had to leave Caldarujani, again be­ cause o f the Securitate. Now he was assigned to the Dintr-un Lemn Monastery. He received this new assignment not as a punishment, but as a gift from God, as he wrote in a letter sent from here: “ We have to accept the struggle o f the circum­ stances we are placed in, because 1 am amazed at how G od’s Providence guides us. I cannot stop believing and saying that it seems as though the Mother o f God took me by the hand and brought me here, and I feel so close to her, to her Holy Won­ derworking Icon from here, at Dintr-un Lemn.” 1 Fr. Arsenie came to the Dintr-un Lemn Monastery labor­ ing as a spiritual father and priest, a labor that encompassed his deepest desires to serve mankind, relieving people from the burden o f sin through Confession and commemoration at the Holy Altar. He wrote in a letter: “ I love the church here, that is, the joy o f the Holy Altar, a joy filled with fragrance for all those who seek the God o f love and the Mother o f God.” This was his purpose, and he found his fulfillment in it. His 2 Archimandrite Arsenie Papacioc, Epistole [Epistles] (Suceava: Accent Print Press, 1015), pp. 1 3 - 1 4 .

2 Ibid., p 11. 4 Ibid., p. 1 1 .

19 4


spiritual children could not be separated from him, from his support, and they sought him even here. There was no journey too long to make if it led to him. He helped them as always, writing to them, encouraging them, and assuring them o f all his efforts in preserving them solely for God. After his experience at Cheia Monastery, where he realized that Securitate agents were following him, Fr. Arsenic became more circumspect in his relations with those in and outside the monastery. His daily labor was to serve in the church and pray in his cell. Knowing that agents were shadowing him, in his desire to guard others against their probing, he isolated himself willingly. He did not engage in any conversations except those related to his work in the monastery. He would not even go shopping at the village store, aware that anywhere there could be someone with evil intentions interested in ensnaring him. His suspicions were, indeed, well founded. Here the Securitate was more active than ever. Father’s “mysticism”— as they called his profound Chris­ tian experience— troubled the Securitate agents, as this was a sensitive matter for the agency. Officially, there was freedom o f worship in Romania. Tinere was a law regulating the activity o f different religions and affirming the unrestricted nature o f religious expression. But in fact the Communist Party had an atheistic doctrine; moreover, God had to be annihilated, up­ rooted, from the hearts and minds o f those who would make reference to Him. However, this annihilation o f Christ from the souls o f those who zealously served Him had to be accom­ plished secretly, behind the facade o f other ideals. Thus, from the vast pool o f information gathered in Fr. Arsenie’s file, the Securitate strove to extract something griev­ ous, something significant and unpleasant; however, in spite o f all their efforts they had nothing. In these circumstances they sought to fabricate a story to soil his reputation. What re­ mained unachievable through torture in prison was now being



The wooden church o f the Dintr-un Lemn Monastery.

attempted through all kinds o f schemes to implicate him in collaborating with the Securitate—plots that never bore fruit.5 Next, the Securitate accused him o f immoral relations, as he had many spiritual daughters who sought his guidance. Since such accusations had no basis in reality, they even tried to entrap him, sending special agents to the monastery to seek his counsel. Reports from the Securitate files even mention this: “It is unlikely that he [Fr. Arsenie] would engage in such an affair.”6 “Female informers were placed [at the monastery] ... but he did not engage in any affairs.”7 H ie lieutenant in charge o f this case admitted that Fr. Arsenie “is a blameless man re­ garding his morals.”8 A ll their machinations remained fruitless. 5 ACNSAS, Informant file 185005, vol. 1, pp. 1 1 7 - 1 0 . 6 Ibid., vol. 1, p. h i . 7 Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 56-58. 8 Ibid., vol. i , pp. 9 - 1 1 .

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Here, just as at Cheia Monastery, the Securitate agents tried to discredit Fr. Arsenie in front o f the ecclesiastical authorities, sending anonymous letters accusing him o f various offenses. Although these letters caused him problems, in the end he was exonerated because it was easy to see the discrepancy between the accusations brought by the malefactors and his way o f life. In the midst o f these events Fr. Arsenie carried this cross, fully aware o f all the secret dealings. He intuitively knew that he was being followed, despite the measures taken by the Secu­ ritate agents to keep their operation clandestine. He began to recognize the patterns used by the agents. Thus, he would warn those he spoke with: “ The Securitate is following our every step, and every one of us has an overseer. Therefore, we have to be careful what we discuss and with whom we speak." He knew the Securitate was reading his correspondence, which induced him to stop sending his letters by mail. Instead, he asked his acquaintances to deliver them to their destinations. The Securitate had every power o f this world at their com­ mand, but Fr. Arsenic, contending from a Christian position, received G od’s aid in battle. As he would later confess in a let­ ter: “ I would have fainted if I had allowed myself to rely only on my human faculties during that time.” This help from Above changed the balance o f power. The Securitate also noticed this: the agents would often complain about their lack o f “informers who could be a match for his talent and preparation.” Although divine providence overshadowed him, he contin­ ued to battle with prudence, with discernment. Here, at Dintrun Lemn Monastery, he was more reclusive. This challenged the agents even more, as they tried to catch him in his words. He carefully watched his every word and step. Vigilance, that extraordinary awareness he had practiced in the wilderness, be­ came very useful in these moments, since he did not know if the one he was sincerely talking to was not, in fact, an inform­ er. During the time following his release from prison, many o f



those to whom he had opened his soul betrayed him to the Securitate. Through his reserved manner and his voluntary, but also involuntary, isolation he protected himself as well as those potential traitors from falling into sin. He protected their souls more than they themselves did. He spent a lot o f time in his cell, writing to his spiritual children, drawing, and carving— isolating himself was the only way to avoid being drawn into the snares o f the Securitate. He would do his duty o f serving, which often exhausted him physically, regardless o f all his sufferings and o f all the unceas­ ing plots against him. In an unpublished letter from this pe­ riod he wrote: “I am absolutely slain by tiredness, nearly all day and night. Holy Week was especially beyond my strength. The Good God’s grace helped me. You should have seen me going through villages, to women who just gave birth, to sick people, to the dying, to cemeteries!... I am joyful and I feel great do­ ing everything, always reflecting on the Last Judgment, longing wholeheartedly to be with the Mother o f God. This tiredness and the tears o f many—who believed I was the one to wipe them away—brought me great consolation. Many people suf­ fer greatly and desire peace beside the Lord Christ. Spiritually, I feel very well. I spend most o f my days seeing myself at the Judgment, in the great World beyond this one, and sensing the benefit I receive from the acts o f my brethren and fellow men against me. I want to benefit from everything, and this is possible only if I remain on the cross, with love, if I remain on the cross, meditating on the Day o f Judgment. I want to be obedient and patient right up to the grave, convinced that the grave will have a more understanding voice. Please believe me— I have spent so much time shepherding souls and I have gone through such sufferings that I can only reflect, when I have time, on heaven and its dwellings.” “I am much at peace regarding my life,” he said in another unpublished letter, “ but very tense regarding the situation here.

19 8


So, in light o f the situation here, I have to maintain my joy and courage.... So, Arsenie, the Cross...! Because this is the only way you’ll make sense o f pain and fear in the world.” He was convinced that everything he was suffering now was a certain investment in eternity. “You gain much for to­ morrow by being spiritually down-to-earth today! Don’t ex­ pect to have wings and fly, but get your feet pulled out o f the muck, being mindful o f eternal joy, and thus you will develop healthy wings that will keep you soaring aloft. Let us be truly faithful and understand the importance and beauty o f difficult days, and how precious today’s offenses and spitting will be one day! At least now I choose the best method: to keep silent and endure: I meditate seriously and conscientiously on the day o f my life’s judgment." He had placed above the door o f his cell at Dintr-un Lemn Monastery a sketch o f a skull, which helped him to keep a con­ stant remembrance o f death.9 He would spend long periods of time in his cell due to his liver ailments, unable to procure the necessary medication. His suffering was the fruit o f the prison regimen— something he had to endure for the rest o f his life. Some of the nuns respected Fr. Arscnie’s seclusion, under­ standing his deep spiritual life, but others did not. The Securitate became aware o f this tension and asked for his transfer. “The patriarch protected me as much as he could. He would say, ‘This father defended me in prison, while others were slan­ dering me, and I should transfer him?’ But he had no choice: you could not reason with the Communists. He did all that he could.” Thus, the authorities asked Fr. Arsenie to leave the monastery on October 9, 1974. “In 1974 the Communists cast me out o f the Dintr-un Lemn Monastery and the patriarch brought me to Cernica Monastery, where I stayed for some time [a year and a half,] 9 See p. 111 above.— E d .

19 9


until a new assignment was finalized.” Here he served and be­ gan to receive his spiritual children, lay people, and monastics, coming from all the places where he had served, and seeking his prayers and counsel. Many sought his guidance. This was not pleasing to the Securitate, which continued to monitor his every movement. They even paid him a visit in his cell, tell­ ing him authoritatively that they wished he would disappear. Fr. Arsenie defended himself, but obviously, the situation was quite challenging. In a conversation with another father at the monastery, he said, “Did you know that in important circles they are talking about the need to annihilate Arsenie Papacioc?” His renown greatly troubled the authorities. At that time Fr. Arsenie wrote in a letter: “ I ’m not free o f worries, but I’m feeling well. I’m at Cernica. All love me.... We have many services. There are twelve priests who serve; some­ times there is a hierarchical service. I struggle, have managed to regain my spiritual calm, and have set out toward my salvation and the salvation of those who, with respect, ask me to help them soothe their pains.” Fathers Gavriil (Stoica), Petroniu (Tanase), Benedict (Ghiuf), and other o f his close friends would visit and talk with him. He also became friends with other fathers from Cer­ nica Monastery. Fr. Arsenie would say about one of his new friends, Fr. Ilie (Cioruta),10 a zealous hieromonk, “ If I regret leaving Cernica Monastery, it is because I was separated from him.” Fr. Ilie declared that “everything he [Fr. Arsenie] asks from God, he receives.” He added, “ I don’t know if there are monks at Cernica Monastery whose combined prayer would be as [powerful as] the prayer o f Fr. Arsenie.” The following is the testimony o f a man who underwent an 10 Hierom onk Ilie (Cioruta) (19 09 -19 9 7) spent fifty years as a married parish priest before being tonsured at Cernica Monastery in 1974. He was known as a great ascetic and spiritual father. He constantly exhorted the faith­ ful to almsgiving.— Ed.



extraordinary transformation at Cernica through the powerful prayer o f the elder. The poet and architect Daniel Turcea was an erudite young man whose thirst for knowledge had unfortunately led him to study and practice pagan religions. In the midst o f this spiri­ tual crisis he discovered, by God’s Providence, the Church o f St. Eleftherios in Bucharest. The only thing he desired now was to find a spiritual father who could understand and help him. One o f his classmates in college, who knew Fr. Arsenie, recom­ mended him as the best guide for the young man. He told him, “Father is unique: he has great love for his spiritual children; he is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, being extremely spiritu­ ally gifted, wise, and possessing a wonderful soul; and he has



undergone difficult years o f political imprisonment.” He con­ vinced him that only this father could give him the true answers he was seeking.11 One morning the young man resolved to go to Cernica. He determined that unless he received answers to all his doubts and questions he would not be convinced that Orthodoxy was the right path. After he attended the Divine Liturgy and prayed at the relics o f St. Calinic, the young man entered Father’s cell. This is how he recounted the great meeting to his sister: “ When I opened the door I was struck by the intense light springing from Fr. Arsenie’s eyes. I thought he wasn’t real! Kindness and goodness incarnate! As I was determined to find [the truth], I gained courage. Regardless o f what I asked, he would answer promptly, anticipating questions and terms I wasn’t even think­ ing about. No question o f mine troubled him. I don’t believe there is another man so erudite! After he demolished, brick by brick, the entire edifice o f my knowledge’s vainglory and o f my mind’s pride—which were about to get me completely lost— he confessed me. I believe he was praying for me; I was recalling my childhood sins. Not knowing how to confess, but encour­ aged by Father, I said all I had done.” 112 After eight hours spent in the Divine Mystery, Father gave Daniel absolution and took upon himself the penance he would have given him. He took a series o f canon books from his library “and began to write on paper how much is given for each sin. There were about three hundred fifty years [of pen­ ances].” He told him, “Beloved, look what God has forgiven you. Br. Daniel, know that if a priest saves a thousand people and loses one soul, he goes to hell with it hung on his neck. If 11 Daniel-Ilie Turcea, U rm ein veşnicie [Traces into eternity] (Iaşi: DoxoIogia Press, îo t j) , pp. 87-88. 12 Iulian Dumitraşcu, Părintele A rsenie Papacioc. 19 14 -2 0 14 . O sută cie a n i de la naştere [Father Arsenie Papacioc. 1 9 14 - 10 14 . A hundred years from birth] (Bucharest: Basilica Press, 10 14 ), p. 151.



you have mercy on my old age ... I beg you to no longer com­ mit the grave sins you’ve committed, if you don’t want both o f us to lose our souls.” 13 Fathers heartfelt counsel became deeply rooted in the young mans heart. His life changed completely from the mo­ ment o f Confession. He had joined the multitude o f lives that Fr. Arsenie had deeply touched. This encounter was and would be an eternal seal for the poet’s soul. Two years later he be­ gan his studies at the theological faculty, but later he was diag­ nosed with leukemia. On his bed o f suffering, he was a fervent preacher o f the Faith and he wrote religious poetry.1,1 By em­ bracing suffering, he converted a Lutheran girl who was suffer­ ing from the same illness and was on the brink o f committing suicide. Despite their terrible sufferings, they traveled from Bu­ charest to Techirghiol for her Baptism, performed by Fr. Ar­ senie. Shortly after her reception into the Orthodox Church, both o f them entered into eternity. When remembering these events, Father would say that Daniel Turcea’s Confession was the most difficult in his life. In recounting the atmosphere o f the Confession to the poet’s sister, Fr. Arsenie said: “ When Br. Daniel entered, with his eyes so bright and the sincere desire to find the truth, I liked him on the spot and I told myself: ‘Now I want to see what you can do, Arsenie! This boy is genuinely questioning—what are you going to do? He wants to know; don’t lose him! If you con­ vince him, you’ve won him!’ I said: ‘Lord, You have said, Take y e no thou ght how or w hat thin g y e sh a ll answ er, or w hat y e sh a ll sa y : fo r th e H oly Spirit sh a ll teach you in th e sam e hou r w hat y e ou gh t to say (Luke i i : i i - i z ).’ Therefore, I crossed myself and I answered him. Great is the power o f the Holy Cross. He inun­ dated me with questions, with complicated and difficult terms; 13 Turcea, Urme in veşnicie, p. 153. 14 D uring the Communist regime, when it was forbidden to possess or publish his work, these poems were hidden for a year in Fr. Arsenic’s cell.

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you had co be informed to be able to understand them, but my answers were fitting. I had confessed all kinds o f scholars in prison, but Br. Daniel’s Confession was the most difficult in my life. When he began to confess I tried to stop him from weeping, so I could understand what he was saying because he was sobbing, but by the good God’s mercy I understood him perfectly. I haven’t seen a happier man than when I gave him absolution!” 15 Fr. Arsenie then told Daniel’s sister that his re­ turn was also due to their mother’s prayers. “They appreciated me there, at Cernica,” Fr. Arsenie later related. “Some even called me ‘the savior o f Cernica.’ They wanted to make me abbot, but I could not have been the ab­ bot with all the Communist agents constantly following me, recording even the time I went to sleep and arose. The abbot o f Cernica, to get rid o f me [due to the pressures o f the Securitate], nominated me for the Techirghiol Monastery [in the Dobrogea region, on the coast o f the Black Sea], but later on he regretted making this suggestion.... Many were sorrowful upon my departure, but we [monks] are like soldiers.” Upon Fr. Arsenie’s departure from Cernica, Fr. Benedict (Ghiuf) said, “Are you removing this one too, he who’s the most blameless o f all?!”

15 Turcea, Urme in veşnicie, p. 155.

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A S E R V A N T TO A L L N T H E W ORLDLY order o f things, after the age o f sixty or


seventy, there is a period o f decline in a man’s earthly jour­ ney. Everything that needs to be said has been said; everything that needs to be added has already been added. But things are completely different in the spiritual hierarchy. The lives o f great people are crowned only toward the end, as the Apostle says: R em em ber them w hich have th e rule over you ... w hose fa ith fo l­ low, considerin g th e en d o f th eir conversation (Heb. 1 5:7). And so Fr. Arsenie also crowned his life with the works o f his old age. Everything he had accumulated throughout his life, all his spiritual growth (constant, as has been noticed) bore much fruit at Techirghiol. All the things that had happened by the Providence o f God were now finding their meaning, merging together as springs forming a mighty river from which many would quench their thirst for the water o f life.1 Fr. Arsenie’s appointment to Techirghiol Monastery was not easily accomplished. Initially, some advisors to the patri­ arch were afraid to nominate him, thinking that he was a priest who gave all kinds o f harsh penances, as they knew that he had lived in the wilderness and gone through prisons. But this was not Fr. Arsenie. Another impediment was his history as a po­ litical prisoner, being considered an enemy o f the nation. In ad­ dition, a directive had been issued not to receive him into any 1

The icon o f the Savior meeting the Samaritan woman, painted by Fr.

Sofian (Boghiu), on the north exterior wall o f Fr. Arsenic’s cell, is o f great significance here. See the illustration on the next page.— E d .

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Icon o f Christ and the Samaritan Woman, painted by hr. Sofian (Boghiu) on the exterior wall o f hr. Arsenics cell.

monastery. “I wasn’t thinking about being received as a priest, but just as a simple monk. At that time the priest at Techirghiol Monastery had reposed, and they were looking lor another one. Techirghiol was considered a ‘foreign land.” Ihere were many candidates, including myself. The abbess at Techirghiol had known me in the 1950s, when she was studying theology in Bucharest and 1 was her spiritual father. She preferred me, knowing I was more tavorablv disposed toward monasticism. “The Sccuritate officer who had to approve my appoint­ ment hated me because he knew that I had been in prison and that 1 opposed the Communists. He did not want to sign the decree. Then I went to his office and told him, ‘Please do not reject me! I know you’ve heard a lot about me, but it is not true.’ And knowing he was from Transylvania, I said, ‘Do you 2

The city o f Tcrchirghiol is a tourist destination on the Black Sea, fa­

mous for its curative waters and mud baths. The climate and geography are quite different from the rest o f Romania.— E d .

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know how much I suffer because my mother was from Transyl­ vania?!’ Then the officer reached for the phone, called Techirghiol Monastery, and told them that I would be assigned there. It was the will o f God in everything. “ When I received my assignment, the Communists re­ quired that I not add anything to the services. That was fine with me, because I wouldn’t have changed anything, anyway.... “ There were some advisors from the patriarchate charged with my move when I came to Tcchirghiol. They didn’t believe that I would manage to survive there, by the seaside, with this massive influx o f people— tourists and foreigners.... One o f the advisors was a gifted artist and insisted on painting my por­ trait. I finally allowed him. He made me stand motionless for a week, to capture me well, but when I saw the result, I didn’t think it looked much like me. Then I showed them my draw­ ings o f St. Paul and others. The one who painted my portrait was deeply moved. Then they began to change their opinion about me. You see, it was the work of God for me to be here, at Techirghiol.” At Techirghiol Monastery his beard was over twenty-five inches long. When he would bless an icon, he would dry the drops o f holy water on it with his beard, saying, “ I should use the beard for something.” The children would be the most im­ pressed by his beard. “ When the little children see my beard they want to pull it, but their mothers don’t allow them. I feel bad that they don’t let them, because I enjoy it.” Someone once said that even his manner o f walking in­ spired people more than thousands o f sermons. He also had a very unique way o f censing at services. He would swing the censer swiftly, and the effect o f his movements would leave a profound impression on the people. But most characteristic o f him were his eyes, which revealed his inner depth, embracing every person that encountered him. Those windows o f the soul enabled you to see that there was

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Hr. Arsenic with spiritual children at Tcchirghiol in 1976.

“somebody” inside. Those who gazed into his piercing blue eyes were presented with an exam very difficult to pass. His eyes would search all your depths, “scanning” you, as expressed by those who went through this test. When he was ninety-five, a clerk who knew Fr. Arsenie from Zarnejti came to visit him at Techirghiol. She was impressed to find the bright gaze and piercing eyes she had seen seventy years earlier. Upon his de­ parture into eternity, Fr. Arsenie took his gentle eyes with him, but, with that vivid gaze, he continues to watch the hearts o f those who come to him, not just at his grave, but in prayer, wherever they might be. During his first year at Techirghiol, Fr. Arsenie was able to enjoy the tranquility that he had long desired. Soon, however, the clergy guesthouse was enlarged, and in addition to those



staying there, a multitude o f faithful began to seek the coun­ sel o f the new father at Techirghiol—who patiently listened to everyone’s problems, wisely counseling and lifting everyone’s burdens. Thus, people from that region (Dobrogea), and then from other places, began to make their way to Techirghiol. From now on his great ascetic effort would be to guide souls— the “art o f arts and science o f sciences,” as the Holy Fa­ thers call it— which he would continue to do with much toil until his repose. He served alone, and he confessed the people, talked to them, and communed them. During the fasts, when there would be big crowds o f people at his door, he would have a little free time at lunch, resting with his boots on in order not to waste any time if someone knocked at his door. Or, as he once said, “ I fasten fewer buttons so that I only have to loosen a smaller number. I ’m pretty busy, and I don’t have a moment o f respite." Whenever he had a chance he would answer a let­ ter from the stack on his desk. “I probably receive thirty letters a day, and even now I haven’t read all o f them. But to answer them ... When? And how? Here and there, and ... in between them [his visitors],” he wrote in a letter o f January 1988.3 “I am feeling well, and my soul is ready for the fast that has begun and for the throng o f people that will come. Regarding my health, I ’d hazard to say that I’m not sure if I’ve ever been completely free from pain.”'1 His tiredness, his ailments (he was sensitive to the cold and would get respiratory illnesses often associated with head colds) were secondary for him, as he had to accomplish his mission— and not just in any way, but with generosity. “ I always labor, but joyfully, and I ’m reinvigorated with a little cold water on my face.... It’s a simple and, if need­ ed, obvious solution.”5 H e would endure and bear all these struggles to the end. “I 3 Archimandrite Arsenic Papacioc, Epistole, p. 44 . 4 Ibid., p. 31. 5 Ibid., p. 31.



Fr. Arsenic at Techirghiol in the 1980s.

always endure, because 1 have a commandment and a blessing from the heart: to bring joy and peace to souls and to loose sins; thus, I won’t be exempt from the Cross.”6 All the labors in God’s house bring great spiritual gain, tor the laborer is worthy o f his reward (i Tim . 5:18). In a letter sent during Great Lent he assured a spiritual daughter o f “the maj­ esty and grace o f these glorious days, which benefit and till all o f us with joy so many times. I don’t want to tell you about fasting, but about a multitude o f mighty prayers and services, conducted with a pious and great voice: ‘O Lord and Master o f my life ...,’7 the Great Canon o f St Andrew o f Crete, the Pas­ sion Gospels, etc.... There is no question that the services bring much grace and there are so many deep— and yet unspoken— meanings. You feel as though you are floating above the malice and pettiness that lurk around you [as the Securitate continued 6 Ibid., p. 37. 7 The opening line o f the Prayer o f St. Ephraim the Syrian, said every weekday service o f Great Lent.— E d .



to follow him]. It’s not a small thing to remain a man o f love, a man o f God, and to lay down to sleep at peace with ‘O Lord and Master o f my life ...’ [on your lips]. The most challenging thing is to remain motionless [hearing Confessions] for hours on end, for entire days, and to listen and understand the pains o f people, and to absolve them with my little heart and my small hand, to free them all, by God’s mercy. And always with boldness toward the Mother o f God.”8 In addition to the multitude o f people he received for counsel, Fr. Arsenic also cared for the spiritual formation o f the skete’s sisterhood. In a letter he said, “I am feeling well here. I talk to the nuns for hours every day, especially in the church and at meals, when most o f us are present.”9 Fr. Arsenic labored at his post until the end o f his life. As a spiritual father and guide to people walking the path of sal­ vation, he had to journey on the “path” with every spiritual child— to “ bring him from the state o f slavery to the freedom o f the children o f God” (cf. Rom. 8:2.1). And because he was never pleased with half-measures, he refused to relax now, de­ spite his exhaustion from following this course. “Now it’s not like my youth, when I had to fight; now the great battle is to endure.” He once told a nun: “We are here on the first line of defense; there are some in the second or the third line, but we are on the front line. If God sent us here to Techirghiol, He did it with a purpose: thus we have to endure.” In 1987, in a letter to the fathers o f Sihăstria Monastery, he wrote: “ I have entered my eleventh year here. Waves, waves o f faithful come to Techirghiol. I am obliged to receive them, to understand them, and to give all o f them something, so that they might leave full o f hope.” His physical condition helped him in his labor. Throughout his entire life he was active and agile, mostly due to the sports 8 Archimandrite Arsenie Papacioc, Epistole, pp. 4 1 - 4 3 . 9 Archimandrite Arsenie Papacioc, Scrisori', p. 61.



he had played in his youth. Although he was now over sixty, he had not lost his vivacity, maintaining it through the exceptional watchfulness o f his mind. His inner life, in constant movement and labor, engaged his body in his spiritual work. He would bound up multiple steps at a time while going to church for ser­ vices. Later on, when he could not do this any more, he would say, “Yes, the fact that I played sports helped me a lot. D o you remember how I used to spring up these steps?” (Even his fol­ lowers, the Securitate agents, would be amazed at his energy, struggling to shadow him on the streets o f Bucharest.) Until the end o f his life, Fr. Arsenie washed his face and body with cold water every morning to rouse his senses. He would wash his hair two or three times a year. Although he rarely washed his hair, there was never a speck o f dirt left in the water, and his pillowcase was always clean. Fr. Arsenie had great reverence for the priesthood. He had the well-known habit o f kissing in turn the hand o f each priest he would encounter, regardless o f their age. “ We have to show the proper respect for the priest. There are young priests whose hand I kiss with all my love. They are ill at ease, but I ’ve told them so many times that I don’t kiss their hand, but the hand o f the priest in them.” He would say that the grace o f the priesthood is the same, regardless o f the priest; this grace sanctifies and forgives sins, the only difference among priests being their experience and zeal. (“I cannot do anything more than you can,” he would say to the priests.) The priests coming to seek his counsel would be reminded o f their great mission and responsibility. He would encour­ age them, saying; “God has created two extraordinary things, which cannot be made more perfect than He has made them. He has created a great, grace-filled woman, who gave birth to God, and He has created the priesthood, which brings God down from heaven and gives birth to Him on the Holy Table.” Fr. Arsenie would serve with great earnestness and



self-sacrifice. A young priest, newly graduated from the theo­ logical university, told Fr. Arsenic at the end o f two weeks o f liturgical practice with him: “Father, with fear o f God I con­ fess to you: I have not learned in all the years at the university as much as I have learned from your Reverence in these two weeks.” Fr. Arsenie explained to the young priest the signifi­ cance o f every gesture, o f every liturgical movement, as he had learned them and then lived them at every service. He was con­ vinced that “if a priest served the Divine Liturgy as he should, that is, with fervor, he would gain a priestly freedom and ac­ quire many souls for Christ.” He would unveil the mysteries o f the Orthodox Faith to the lay people who desired to under­ stand the richness and beauty o f Orthodoxy. When he was still a young spiritual father, the future met­ ropolitan Bartolomeu (Anania)10 once asked Fr. Arsenie to give him a spiritual word. Fr. Arsenie told him: “ There is only one person in Confession, the one who is confessing. The spiri­ tual father is just an anonymous mediator.” (“He liked what I said,” Fr. Arsenic would recount.) He would also impart to his spiritual children the importance o f Confession, a mystery o f exceeding benefit: “ Through Confession you escape the fire o f Gehenna and you move toward a place in eternity. What a great thing God has given us, to forgive each other the things that could earn us hell. Hell is the great sorrow o f God.” The ability to be saved is here, in Confession, whatever you might have done, because “any misfortune is meaningless, and noth­ ing is lost, as long as faith stands on its feet, the head is raised again, and the soul does not give up.” Fr. Arsenie was able to penetrate the secret places o f the soul, to search with exceptional delicacy every wrinkle where a sin might have hidden. With great patience he would lift the penitent from the depths o f despair, not allowing him to 10

Metropolitan o f C luj, Alba, Crişana, and Maramureş. He reposed on

January 3 1, i o n .— E d .



depart until he was anchored in hope and in his responsibility to attain salvation. Fr. Arsenic’s warm words, counsels and gentle chastisements were healing salves for wounded souls, which would then de­ part with joy and hope o f salvation. And so, waves o f pilgrims would visit him from dawn until late at night. Being asked how he could manage such a torrent o f people, Fr. Arsenie said: “You are saved through people if you are present [in a state o f watchfulness], if you are master, if you know how to guide them. People are everywhere; there’s nothing we can do. I ’m not afraid o f people; it’s just that they tire me. They tire me physically, so that at night I fall like a rock, and this happens every night. This is life! We cannot explain how we are able to carry on; we cannot explain the source o f our knowledge,


how much strength we have, what our limits are. The truth is that we have to be honest and humble.... God comes to your aid if you are honest and love the people. I don’t philosophize. Philosophizing is a big mistake, because only a contrite heart knows God.” Throughout his time in Techirghiol, Fr. Arscnie served in the wooden church, dedicated to the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, with the exception o f a short period o f time (1995-1997), when due to the restoration o f the frescoes in the church he served in a temporary chapel in one o f the monastery build­ ings. There was a special bond between Fr. Arsenie and the wooden church. The church, originally from Mureş county in Transylvania, was moved by King Carol II to Sinaia, and then brought to Techirghiol by Patriarch Justinian, in an attempt to preserve this valuable work o f art from the Communists. “I prefer this little church, which completed me; I was presiding in it and it presided over me.” This relationship was beautifully expressed by another father: “Father and the little church are the image and likeness o f Orthodoxy: modest in appearance, but their hearts are as wide as heaven.” It would be cold in the little church in the winter and extremely hot in the summer, especially in the altar area. Dur­ ing the summer Fr. Arsenie would sweat terribly, so that by the end o f the service he would be soaked. But he never com­ plained, enduring stoically. Upon arriving at his cell, he would have to change all his clothing. Once he was so drenched in sweat that the nun helping him suggested he should change his ryassa also. He had recently received a new ryassa, made out o f a fine and soft material, and he should have worn it instead o f the wet one, but he refused. Because it was special, he would not wear it, even now in time o f need. H e changed his inner clothing, but kept his wet ryassa. Later on his beauti­ ful ryassa got stolen, and he rejoiced that he was freed from it. The priests who served in the little church during the summer


marveled at how Fr. Arsenie endured serving many years in such heat. The words o f the Psalmist, The zeal o f thine house hath eaten me up (Ps. 69:9), were especially descriptive o f Fr. Arsenie. Dur­ ing Great Lent he would enter the church at 4:50 a.m., so he could finish Proskomedia with the commemoration o f a multi­ tude o f lists o f names by 8 a.m. He greatly loved the Proskome­ dia, considering it “the greatest thing in heaven and on earth.” He would be very exacting in commemorating the lists, knowing that this was the place and time when much could be attained with a simple act, and he would not hesitate to do it. At the me­ morial services held on Saturdays, he would exit the church only around noon, after he had finished reading the last commemo­ ration list. He said, “The living have many opportunities— they can offer a commemoration list, they can go to the priests— but the departed do not have these opportunities, and everything is left to the zeal o f the priest.” Once a faithful woman brought him additional commemoration lists from her acquaintances. One o f them was from a poor older woman, who gave a small donation. She showed it to Fr. Arsenie and he told her, “ I will commemorate this one first because this is the widows mite (cf. Mark 11 :4 1 - 4 4 , Luke 1 1 : 1 - 4 ) ” He would also commemorate all those who had helped him during the course o f his long life. This was the way he chose to “keep in touch” with all the fathers he had met and labored alongside. He placed meeting in prayer above a physi­ cal encounter, since time for traveling and reunions was impos­ sible: he was engaged in a continuous battle to gain souls. A ll this spiritual effort was not bereft o f pains and sorrows. Due to the tortures suffered in prison, Fr. Arsenie had problems with his hearing. At Techirghiol, they became more acute, and he had to undergo surgery on his right ear. Eventually he was forced to wear hearing aids. He suffered much because o f this condi­ tion, as listening was at the heart o f his ministry. Nevertheless, he

1 16


endured this also, being faithful to the words o f the Savior: M y strength is made perfect in weakness (II Cor. 11:9). The harsh conditions o f prison had also aggravated his di­ gestive problems. Slowly, through the care o f the nuns, these problems diminished, but they never disappeared. One year he had to be hospitalized due to such ailments. A visitor to the hospital recounted: “He was lying in bed, with bruises from the IV; he was very weak and pale, and I was trying to en­ courage him. But the opposite happened: after my conversa­ tion with Father, I left joyful and happy, but he continued to remain in bed, still sick.” Fr. Arscnie did not forget about his duty as spiritual doctor and guide even while in the hospital. Around 1986, Fr. Arsenie badly injured his left hand. While attempting to cork a bottle, he struck the uncooperative cork with his hand, causing the neck o f the bottle to break, and a shard o f glass penetrated his palm. The wound bled terribly and required surgery. As a result o f the accident, a nerve was dam­ aged, causing a loss o f mobility in his left hand’s forefinger and middle finger. The effects o f this accident affected his serving; he no longer had the same dexterity in that hand. However, this did not separate him from “his altar,” as he loved to call it. For too many years while in prison, he had been deprived o f serving in the altar, and now that he was free, nothing could stop him from showing his complete devotion and dedication to the service he had been called by God to do. The Romanian Revolution occurred in December o f 1989. Fr. Arsenie was greatly impressed by the sacrifice o f the youth who took to the streets, with chests bared, passing on to the Romanian people the fruits o f their redemptive battle. This moment was also the end result o f his sacrifice and the sacri­ fice o f that segment o f his generation who fought intensely in chains and prisons for the same desire: the country’s freedom from the Communist yoke, which had attacked the nations faith and being.



In a “ Word on the Revolution” he said: “ This grace-filled revolution was not created only to conquer a powerful philoso­ phy, but to bring all the people to their senses, for a country does not exist for a philosophy, but the philosophy for the country. I called it a grace-filled revolution because the good God had endured for too long the paganism that previously existed, and He filled the hearts o f the marvelous young people with power and strength. They fought with no weapons, with no scythe, hoe, or ax, but with their open breasts, so that the faith in God resting in their hearts could be seen. Therefore, God gave this victory and bestowed it upon their pure hearts.” Fr. Arsenie knew that “the victor is not the one who strikes, but the one who endures.” The December 1989 Revolution put an end to the great persecution inflicted by the Securitate on him. After decades o f harassment, pressure, defamation, and both crude and subtle disrespect, he was now, with the aid o f G od’s mercy, the victor. He had proven himself to be a prudent, discerning, and watch­ ful man, who understood the Securitate’s mode o f operation and was able to defeat them at their own game.11 His entire battle had been simply to convince the Securitate agents o f the truth: that he was a true monk, priest, and spiritual father. The result o f the constant surveillance, from his first arrest in 193S to the Revolution in 1989, was an impressive compendium on Fr. Arsenie, comprising “eight files in fifteen volumes, adding up to over 3,500 pages.” 12 In 1990, at the age o f seventy-six, Fr. Arsenie traveled out­ side Romania— not to see exotic places, but to visit two small heavens on earth: the Holy Land and Mount Athos. While vis­ iting a monastery on Mount Athos, one o f the monks was be­ wildered by the fact that Fr. Arsenie was the spiritual father o f a convent and asked him, “Father, do you also confess women?!” 11

a c n s a s , Informant file 185003, vol. 1, pp. 186-87.

12 Petcu, Părintele Arsenie Papticioc in docum entele Securităţii, p. 149.


Hr. Arsenic (center) on Mount Athos.

“ When I heard him, I didn’t ignore him. [I said to him,] ‘Don’t be upset, but let me ask you: did “woman” suddenly ap­ pear in the woods, in a tree?... Do vou know what womankind is, if you speak in such a manner? Allow me to ask you: Who created woman? You can only tell me the truth: God. But why and how?’ (And 1 began to explain to him the significance o f womankind.) ‘See where your sin lies: you abstain from women, but you gossip about them. What do you know about womankind, you who venerate the Mother of'God, the Protec­ tress o f the Holy Mountain, who is also a woman?...’ I didn’t keep silent; I didn’t give in. What do you think happened, to my utter joy? W ho do you think was on the boat leaving the Holy Mountain upon my departure? This father with whom I had this conversation. He was being sent on obedience to France, to a convent, and he was asking me about confessing nuns. And I encouraged him.” On one o f his journeys between monasteries on the Holy Mountain, a man with some donkeys approached Fr. Arsenie’s party from behind and gave the elder a note which said, “ Fr. Arsenie from Romania: Get on this donkey and come to me.”



Fr. Arsenie was not known by anyone on the Holy Mountain, nor did he know anyone except the fathers o f Prodromou Skete. Upon his return home he recounted this event. Amazed, some­ one asked him why he did not go to see the monk who had summoned him. It was obvious this was a holy man, as he knew his name and his location on the Holy Mountain. “I didn’t go,” said Fr. Arsenie. “If I ’d gone, I ’d have stayed there for good.” If he had followed this mysterious summons, it would have been with his whole heart, experiencing with his entire being the special grace o f the Holy Mountain. An unusual battle took place in his heart in those days (as he confessed in a postcard sent from the Holy Mountain to the Techirghiol Monastery). His obedience, his mission, his fidelity to those entrusted by God to his care again surpassed his longing for silence on the Holy Mountain. He once again cut o ff his will; he was free but fully aware that he was a soldier o f Christ. After some years at Techirghiol, a certain individual began causing Fr. Arsenie all kinds o f troubles, for the devil never sleeps in places where war is declared against him. Later on Fr. Arsenie commented: “These things happened so that I could be further humbled. There are people to humble me here, too. But I pretend not to see, so that the battle won’t cease: so that I won’t be taken down from the Cross. We will conquer only through the Cross.” He strove to go through these temptations without losing his peace. “Obviously, we don’t give in, we don’t remain stationary in life, we have to fulfill our duty— everyone in the place where he is—we, the priests, through commemo­ rations. Someone has said, A nation is preserved through its spiritual fathers.’” Fr. Arsenie’s mission soared above the machinations o f the evil one. He was certain that “an institution, just like a nation, exists through those who strive toward the heights, who remain on the Cross without giving up!” He considered these tempta­ tions catalysts for humility: “We, the people, live only by virtue



o f humility. Humility is the only way. Both we and the angels need its power.” Humility, tru e humility, as Fr. Arsenie would call it, was the source o f all the gifts God had bestowed upon him, gifts so essential for a spiritual father. From his humility sprang his love o f neighbor, patience, meekness and, especially, discernment— the one virtue that surpasses all the others (as St. Anthony the Great says). This is the great gift Fr. Arsenie had received after much prayer, asceticism, and suffering, but above all through the mercy o f God. Discernment helped Fr. Arsenie in accom­ plishing his extraordinary mission at Techirghiol. Guiding people and sensibly counseling them was precisely the praxis o f this special gift. Having himself such a balanced approach to life, he urged the people to live their lives accordingly, to remain on the “royal path,” to guard themselves from extremes, for “the extremes are o f the devil,” as he would say. Once he related, “I ’m refreshed when I read from the Psalter.” Asked by a spiritual daughter which was his favorite psalm, he recited Psalm 130: O Lord, my h eart is not exalted, nor a re m ine eyes becom e lofiy. N or have I w alked in things too g rea t or too m arvelous fo r me. I f I were not hum ble-m inded but ex a lted my soul, a s one weanedfi'om h is m other, so w ouldst Thou requ ite m y so u l... Yet, the prayer Fr. Arsenie would say unceasingly was the Jesus Prayer: Lord, Jesu s C hrist, Son o f God, have m ercy on me, a sinner. God had given him the gift o f the prayer o f the heart. Regardless o f his task— confessing or talking to people—his heart continued to say the prayer. His prayer wouldn’t stop even while he was asleep, I sleep, but my h eart keeps vigil (Song o f Songs 5:1). When someone asked him how often the prayer should be said, he replied, “Say it once and never stop.” His ceaseless prayer, however, was a scrupulously kept secret: he never said a word about this work o f his. W hen he would counsel others concerning this prayer, he would humble himself,

2 .11


placing himself among beginners, saying, “For you and me, at our young [spiritual] age, the important thing is to say it.” Yet, those near him— even for a short while— sensed his unceasing prayer. Once, one o f his spiritual daughters was quietly awaiting with Fr. Arsenie the arrival o f a nun for Confession. At a cer­ tain point the woman broke the silence, asking him something, but he didn’t reply— as if he hadn’t heard her. Later the woman asked him something else, but again she received no answer. After the nun came and had Confession, the woman went into his cell to say good-bye to him. Then she told him o f her beilderment at not receiving an answer to the questions she had nsed to him while waiting. Father told her, “ Well, if you asked e at an improper m oment...” The woman had nothing to say reply, understanding that he was engrossed in deep prayer iat made him unaware o f what was going on around him. A nun (who would help him in the altar) confessed that iring commemorations at Proskomedia or during the Divine turgy he would be so immersed in prayer at times that she auld not dare to make the slightest movement— in order not disturb the profound experience she was witnessing. Father’s reflections on the great work of the prayer o f the .„.art have been preserved. They are inspired by the Holy Fa­ thers, other theologians and, o f course, his personal experience. “It is not enough for you to have the prayer: we have to become prayer, prayer incarnate. Every deed, gesture, or smile is a hymn o f praise, o f sacrifice— a prayer.... We need, most im­ portantly, people who experience the prayer, not people who say prayers— more or less frequently. And who can really claim that he or she is truly ‘advanced?’ We are all beginners in spiri­ tual matters. “The heart is not just emotions and feelings, but the whole o f the human person. The heart is the first organ o f our identity. The heart is our hidden being, our deepest inner person,’ and more truly, that which cannot be attained except by sacrifice and



death. It is the center, not just o f our conscience but also o f our consciousness, not just o f the soul but also o f the body, not just o f the understandable but also o f the incomprehensible; more succinctly, it is the absolute center. Understood like this, the heart is much more than a material organ in the body. The physical heart is an outer symbol o f the boundless spiritual potential o f the human being, created in the image o f God and called to attain His likeness. To complete the inner descent and attain true prayer means to enter this absolute center. “ We are called to descend, not from the mind, but with the mind. The goal is not the ‘prayer o f the heart,’ but the ‘prayer o f the mind in the heart,’ as the different forms o f understand­ ing, including the reason, are gifts from God, and they have to be used in His service, not rejected. “ This union’ o f the mind with the heart means the restora­ tion o f our fallen and fragmented being, the restoration o f our original righteousness. The prayer in the heart is a return to Paradise, a deposit for and an anticipation o f the age to come, which in this age is never fully attained. “ The Jesus Prayer helps us see Christ in every man and ev­ eryone in Christ, it makes each one a man tor the others.’ The path o f the Name is open, generous— not limited by rigid and immutable rules. The prayer is work; to pray means to be at the highest level o f engagement, and our breath becomes one with the Divine Breath, Which sustains the universe.” In April o f 1996 Fr. Teofil (Paraian)13 o f Brancoveanu 13

Archimandrite Teofil (Paraian) (19 19 -10 0 9 ) was the spiritual father

o f the Brancoveanu Monastery and one o f the great elders o f twentieth-cen­ tury Romania. Blind from childhood, he graduated from the Theological In­ stitute in Sibiu. W hile in high school he met Fr. Arscnie (Boca), from whom he became acquainted with the Jesus Prayer. He was tonsured a monk only a few months after he joined the monastery at Sambata de Sus, on April 1,1953, where he remained until his death. Over thirty-five volumes o f his sermons, dialogues, teachings, and memoirs have been published.— E d .


Monastery visited Fr. Arsenie at Techirghiol. They talked at length about prayer, Confession, Holy Communion, and salvation. Regarding Confession, Fr. Arsenie emphasized a more lenient penance, following the counsel o f St. John Chrysostom, “Do you want to give him years o f penitence?! Heal his wound!” He desired to make the penitent aware o f his sin and thus o f repentance. He said: “ In life there are accidents, and here is where the spiritual father, penitence, a whole series o f things come into place— this is how I receive and counsel them. I want them to be encouraged by all means, whatever grievous sins they might have committed.... The Savior was not crucified just for a certain category o f sins, but for all that is sin on earth. You just have to rise... My approach is to be morelenient, but to attack the sin in every possible way and to bring the penitent to the position o f opposing it as well. If he opposes it, he will proceed on the right path; the mercy o f God can assist him on the path and then I come with absolution. This work is a very delicate matter.” A portion o f their dialogue on the certainty ol salvation is presented below: Fr. Teofil: Do you have the certainty that you will eternally be in a good place [i.e., heaven]? Fr. A rsen ie: I can’t say something like that, most venerable Father! Please believe me when I say: “ I ’m the only one who won’t be saved!” Fr. Teofil: Do you believe this? Fr. A rsen ie: Yes, but I have great hope! Fr. Teofil: I f you have great hope, why do you speak in this manner? Fr. A rsen ie: The mind in hell and the hope in G o d !14 Without the grace o f God, our deeds don’t save us in any way. 14 Com pare the words spoken by our Savior to St. Silouan the Athonite: “Keep thy mind in hell and despair n ot!”— T r a n s .



Fr. Teofil·. Right, but it’s impossible for God not to want to save us! Fr. Arsenic·. Yes, but I can’t impose conditions on Him! Fr. Teofil·. Well, without imposing conditions ... God being Love ... Fr. Arsenic·. Most venerable Father, in all honesty before a father confessor,15 I say, “ I’ll be saved because I have suffered ... Fr. Teofil· I honestly tell you that I have the certainty I ’ll go to the good, but not because o f my deeds! Fr. Arsenic: I only hope! Fr. Teofil: Well, I trust that if I hope ... Fr. Arsenie: This isn’t an Orthodox position! Fr. Teofil: Maybe I’m not Orthodox? Fr. Arsenic: The truth is we are on no account saved only by our deeds, without God’s mercy! Fr. Teofil: Do you know what I’ll tell God when I stand before Him: “ Lord Jesus Christ, Son o f God, have mercy on me, a sinner!” I won’t say anything else! Fr. Arsenic: I ’ve made a [burial] cross at Zamfira Monas­ tery for myself, and I wrote on it: 'Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, forgive m e!’ Fr. Teofil: After living my whole life with God, I can’t imag­ ine that He would ever tell me, “ I do not want you!’” F r Arsenic: He loves us so much, and this gives me hope! F r Teofil: Father, if we count on God’s mercy, we have no reason to hesitate! Fr. Arsenic: I don’t want us to count only on God’s mercy without taking into consideration our life and deeds. The pro­ cess o f salvation implies not just His mercy, but our deeds also. If only He could find us on the path. My struggle is to be on this path. We ought to be honest in our struggle! Fr. Teofil: I don’t worry because I trust in God’s goodness ! Fr. Arsenic: I do worry, but I also hope! 15

Fr. Arsenie was unaware that his words were being tape-recorded at

the time.— E d .


et er ni ty in t h e m o m en t

Fr. Teofil: What you’re saying is extraordinary, tor God is our Father! Fr. Arsenic: Yes, but I can’t say I have the certainty o f salva­ tion! Fr. Teofil: But why can’t you say this? F r Arsenic: If God allows me, I will say this on my death­ bed: “Lord, I thank Thee for the blessing to die a monk!" I continue to have the thought that my deeds are leading me to hell. If God wants to save me, He can do it! But I can’t know for sure that He forgives me. Fr. Teofil: But I ’m certain He forgives us. Fr. Arsenic: I do have hope in God! He even told St. Silouan: “Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not!” The world doesn’t know yet how much God loves us, how “passionately in love” He is with us!

Z l6


Fr. Teofil·. See how beautifully you speak!? Fr. Arsenic: But I can’t say I’m certain. Only Catholics say they have the assurance o f salvation. Our deeds don’t save us without God’s grace, and grace only comes if there is true hu­ mility. Can I say that I ’m humble?!? The same year, Fr. Arsenie visited Sihăstria Monastery for the first time in many years at the request o f his spiritual son, Monk Marcu (Dumitrescu), for Confession. There he had a long-await­ ed reunion with his co-struggler in the wilderness, Elder Cleopa.16 He spoke at length to the fathers there, who greatly benefited, be­ ing encouraged by his optimism. “ Don’t give up!” he told them. “N o matter how little you are, no matter how tired, you mustn’t give up. For, I repeat, no misfortune means anything. Nothing is lost as long as faith is established, the soul doesn’t surrender, and you raise your head again! God forbid that you be sad! Don’t be afraid! It’s true, one’s thought should be in hell and in hell only.17 But hope should be with God without ceasing, thinking that He greatly loves us. Fathers, God is more intimate with us than we are! When you think about this, you fill yourself with hope. But our deeds, no matter how amazingly good, can’t save us. They can’t erase anything. And, no doubt, we’re sinners, but with hope. Hope— this is it.” Fr. Ioanichie (Bălan)18—who knew Fr. Arsenie from Slatina Monastery— told him: “I rejoice that you’re the same as when I knew you in your youth, around 1951, when I used to see you. You have remained the same: optimistic, free o f doubt, and full o f joy. You imparted this to me also, as we, the Moldavians, are more sensitive. When I was in the army, I ’d lament to your 16 See Appendix One for the complete transcript o f Fr. Arsenie’s conver­ sation with Elder Cleopa.— E d . 17 Again a reference to the words said to St. Silouan o f M t. Athos.— E d . 18 Archimandrite Ioanichie (Bălan) (19 3 0 -10 0 7 ) almost single-handed­ ly preserved much o f the information we have about the saints and righteous ones o f twentieth-century Romania through his interviews with them.— E d .



Left to right: Fr. Ioanichie (Bilan), Fr. Cleopa, and Fr. Arsenic, at Sihăstria in 1996. This would be the final meeting of F.lders Cleopa and Arsenic.

Reverence and you’d always tell me, ‘Don’t be sad. Hr. loan! Do this or do that....’ Throughout your life, you’ve been fearless, possessing great courage in Christ.” The fathers at Sihăstria even invited him to come and live there. When Fr. Arsenie objected, “ But, Brother, what am I go­ ing to do with my cell [at Techirghiol]?” the abbot o f Sihăstria firmly told him, “ Father, we’ll take you and your cell, too!” In reply Fr. Arsenie said: “Sihăstria is truly my monastery o f obedience. I dream o f it day and night, but I have to say that this is not due to my memories, but because o f the conditions provided here for a peaceful life. Nevertheless, it would be a terrible mistake to leave the battlefield [that is, the place where God assigned him, Techirghiol], deserting, and therefore being banished, so to speak. In the midst of people you have to be in a state o f awareness, like in the wilderness!” He lived such a life at Techirghiol: always in the midst o f a multitude o f people, engaged in helping them, and, beyond this tumult, constantly



abiding in the peace o f his heart. His responsibility in shep­ herding the throng o f people who sought his guidance was o f greater importance than a possible flight to Sihăstria, in spite o f his advanced age and its accompanying sufferings. A ll kinds o f people sought him, both people who under­ stood him and those who did not, those who received his counsels and those who only used him. He would give a word supported by much prayer, but if his listener would not receive it, there was nothing more he could do. Here everyone’s free­ dom o f choice came into play. Oftentimes a persons course o f life would depend on that choice. Obedience out o f love is the prerequisite o f a relationship between a spiritual father and a spiritual child. Fr. Arsenie had the gift o f giving a word— a mighty word, acquired through “asceticism and prayer, vigilance o f the mind and heart, and above all through humility and modesty. The great spiritual fathers have always been known in Orthodoxy for their ‘gift o f discernment.’ This was always the sign through which they were recognized: by the way they gave answers to the problems posed to them. An answer springing from the gift o f discern­ ment is always the right one, the one that solves the problem, the one that is not a word but medicine, a balm that heals, transforms, changes— and thus brings the person to full com­ mitment as never before. The gift o f discernment is always joined to the gift o f prophecy.” 19 This instruction reveals its power when the one asking for it listens carefully and tries to put it into practice. Father became involved only where he saw an opening from the one asking for a word: “ Many people come to me and ask me what to do in the future, how to solve their problems, how to behave. I am very reserved in such mat­ ters, and I don’t say much. If I see the slightest impediment in that particular matter I say nothing, I keep silent.” 19 Plămădeală, Tradiţie fi libertate, ţ ţ . i i o - n .



On the other hand, there were people who trusted Fr. Arsenie wholeheartedly and received his word as from God. He eagerly received such visitors and immersed himself in their problems, and often labored for them to the point o f exhaus­ tion. He would say: “I ’m bogged down: people come from everywhere, everyone with his problems, and you have to im­ merse yourself in everyone’s problems, in intimate difficulties. Because I don’t battle on a single front, but on so many battle­ fields, I fight with the sorrows o f so many people." He would practically carry on his back those who listened to his counsels and trusted in his aid. On one occasion, many o f his spiritual children rushed to help him walk on the path from church to his cell. Seeing this, he said, “They think they’re carrying me, but they don’t realize that I ’m the one carrying them.” This spiritual endeavor weighed heavily on the elder, but Fr. Arscnie had the capacity to bear it. He had attained to the mea­ sure o f Gospel love for others, the ability to appropriate their sufferings as his own, to encompass “the souls o f his spiritual children in his soul, their lives in his life.”20 However, this is possible only if there is reciprocity in this relationship, only if the spiritual child contributes his prayer, if he labors together with his spiritual father. Fr. Arsenie would often say, “I ean do nothing, regardless o f how much I pray, if you don’t pray, too.” There were many young people who would come to Fr. A r­ senie for Confession, especially after the Revolution o f Decem­ ber 1989. Father was happy to see the rise o f a new generation, growing before his eyes. Once, following a young person out o f his cell after hearing his Confession, he told someone, “I don’t have time to rejoice, to discover the spiritual beauty o f the youth.” Fr. Arsenie had a special care for his spiritual children. It was the genuine care o f a father. 20

I. Hausherr, Paternitatea fi îndrum area duhovnicească in R ăsăritu l

creştin (Spiritual fatherhood and guidance in the Christian east) (Sibiu: Deisis Press, 1999), p. 14.


Fr. Arsenics cell at Techirghiol.

Once, a woman approached him after Vespers to tell him her sorrow. He was tired and the woman did not really know what she wanted. Later he said, “ They [people] exhaust you: first with their insistence, then there is the vagueness o f the idea they want to convey to you, and there is also a blind faith in them that overcomes you, and then you try to manage. Spir­ itual fatherhood is trying!” It was also difficult because Fr. Arsenie was already advanced in years, facing physical limitations and human needs. People hardly comprehended this. In the summer o f 1997 a young girl, only three or four years old, was brought to visit the monastery. One morning she went down into the courtyard o f the monastery and, arriving in front o f Fr. Arsenie’s cell, she let go o f her grandmother’s hand, saying, “ I’m going to kiss Father’s hand!” She entered his cell under the longing eyes o f the people anxiously waiting to go in. As usual, Fr. Arsenie was having breakfast at the end o f the morning service, before hearing Confessions, when the


little girl visited him. The girl came out after kissing his hand, and the people asked her curiously what Father was doing. She replied simply, “Father is eating!" Fr. Arsenie enjoyed hearing about this: “She gave them the appropriate answer. People for­ get that we’re human, too.” Once, a group o f architecture students visited him. The ac­ companying professor asked him to give the students a word. He told them, “Build from top to bottom!” This saying caused ■' great stir among them. A professor at that school used it as :pigraph to one o f her books. Another time, a village priest who would occasionally fess to Father came to his cell. For a long time this priest been troubled by an uncertainty regarding his personal o f prayer. It was an important issue, but also delicate. Confession began. However, the priest hesitated to ask ut his uncertainty due to an unjustified sense o f embarment. The end o f the Confession was drawing near, and Arsenie said the prayer o f absolution. He accompanied priest to the door, as was his custom. There, before the o f the faithful waiting to see Fr. Arsenie, he kissed the priests hand. He would do this to any priest who came to see him, regardless o f how much the visiting priest opposed it.... This time, however, he firmly held the hand o f our priest, who lifted up his questioning eyes to gaze upon Fr. Arscnie’s countenance. With a bright smile Fr. Arsenie softly told him, “And regarding that matter, you should do thus ...” H e pro­ ceeded to set out the details o f the matter that had not been discussed, and then offered a solution. The penitent eagerly took in his words. Then, receiving a blessing, he proceeded toward the gate o f the monastery, so joyful and relieved that he barely touched the ground. Only after he arrived on the road did he come to the realization that during Confession he had knowingly avoided the subject and told Fr. Arsenie nothing about the issue. Overwhelmed, he rushed toward a

Fr. Arsenic serving in the Sts. Peter and Paul Church, in the mid-1990s.


place where he could hide his tears from the curious eyes o f the passers-by.21 Fr. Arsenie often gave his visitors one o f his drawings, which were like his business cards or like bait, catching people who truly sought something better, something more beautiful. Once he received a copy o f a painting o f the Savior with His disciples Luke and Cleopa on the way to Emmaus. He loved this paint­ ing, and would say, “Personally, I have great reverence for this event.” He admired the painter’s inspiration to portray stately oaks lining the road to Emmaus in order to increase the mystery o f the moment, even though the Holy Land lacks such trees. He copied this painting, and gave it to his visitors with much love, together with his enthusiastic explanation o f the work. Fr. Arsenie greatly treasured spiritual peace and always guided people toward it. He would say: “ I love to preserve my spiritual peace. Waves from the world desire to trouble it, to ruin it, but I fight mightily to keep my balance.” Or he would advise his spiritual children thus: “ The world within you is what matters. God is so far away, and yet there is nothing clos­ er to man than God. Man can be a king or a beggar. A holy man is God’s gift to the whole creation.” Spiritual peace is the state o f the man mindful o f the fact that “God knows him. You have to live the moment; if you live the moment you gain eternity. Although you are weak, nevertheless, continue on the path. There are also stones and potholes [on the way], but you continue on the path.” Because he would deny himself, putting the needs o f his neighbor first, God would always give him strength— which amazed many people. They would ask him, “ Father, how do you survive ?” “I can feel my old age, I don’t have the same live­ liness,” he would say. “ There is a rational explanation [for my 21

Priest Rarcş Bardu, “Testimonies,” O chii p rin care vedeam cerul: in

memoria pă rin telu i A rsenic Papacioc [The eyes through which I saw heaven: In memory o f Father Arsenie Papacioc] (Bacău: C orgal Press, 1015), pp. 75-76.



endurance], but there is also the gift from Above. Not that I have special gifts— then again, maybe I do. W ho doesn’t have them?... I lived in spiritual and bodily purity. I ate a little so I could survive. I was in prison, I suffered much, but now I have delights, yet I pay for them. Look, I’m assailed by everyone from the smallest to the greatest [he was about to confess the president o f the country]. I’m assailed, but I delight in every­ thing I do. I see everything as an ascetic effort for God. Look, I wrote this upon my arising this morning: ‘What can you desire more than for God to abide in you?!’ Truly, what more can you desire?” The measure to which God makes His abode in you is in direct correlation with your sacrifice, and Fr. Arsenie knew it. “ I don’t have any time to be with myself. But why am I complaining? I’m doing this for my salvation.” During this period Fr. Ioanichie (Balan) visited him for a second interview, published in his book Spiritual Talks. He wrote about the elder’s life at this time: “ It is difficult to have a long conversation with the tireless spiritual father ... Arsenie Papacioc. He serves daily in the church, he regularly confesses the nuns at the skete, there are spiritual children from near and far who come for a profitable word, faithful with all kinds o f problems, poor people who wait for alms, and people who de­ sire to sec him only for a few moments. The door o f his cell and o f his heart are open day in and day out. All want to see him, to ask him for a word o f salvation, a prayer for health, advice, a travel blessing.”22

22 Archimandritc Ioanichie Bălan, Convorbiri duhovniceşti [Spriritual talks], voi. i (Diocese o f Roman and Huşi Press, 1990), p. 609.



L A B O R I N G IN T W I L I G H T ATH ER A r s e n i e did not regard old age as a burden, even


when he was over eighty years old. He would often say, “ I like old age. And I don’t worry. I’ve fought so much for this old age: should I be sorrowful now?!” Oftentimes his extraordinary labors would affect his health. In loo o, on the Sunday o f Orthodoxy, he did not feel well after the service. “Fatigue, many services, and there is my age, too. But other than that I have no reason to complain, because, look, I have to answer every question [that my visitors ask], and I will be judged at the Judgment for these answers. And behold, they’ve come to invite me to Galaţi.1 I told them: ‘My longest journey is to the gate, and I don’t even do that.’ It snows, it rains; I don’t know. Yesterday, when a nun told me that it was snowing, I went to pull the curtain o f the window and look. I ’m so busy that I don’t even pull open the curtain so I won’t waste any time in pulling it back. I ’m a simple man. I’m just not going to consider myself the hub o f the universe. Truly, I’m honest. I ’m honest with myself, I’m honest when I meditate upon my salvation, and I have an inner life now as well, sin­ cerely reflecting on my soul.” When asked if he was tired, Fr. Arsenie answered, “I ’m al­ ways tired, but I wash my face with cold water and I ’m fine. Nevertheless, I have a hidden joy that cannot be understood rationally.” On another occasion he said: “I ’m well, but I ’m 1

One o f the major cities in the Dobrogca region, 136 miles from the

Techirghiol Monastery.— E d .


exhausted. However, this does not invalidate my well-being. I ’m enlisted, like a soldier. This means cutting o ff one’s will.” A t night he would not rest well due to his health problems and his constant care for his spiritual children. He would do everything with love; thus, God sustained him in his great endeavor. In a letter o f reply to one o f his spiritual daughters, who had apologized for trying Father’s pa­ tience with her problems, he wrote, “Don’t worry about my patience, for it is not all alone: it’s accompanied by love, the blessed love, that forgives all things, understands all things, be­ lieves all things (cf. i Cor. 13:7). Such is the battle. It requires sacrifice, constantly offered anew, and it greatly cherishes the heart soaring aloft.”2 His self-sacrifice bore fruit. “Sacrifice— this is the essence o f Christianity. You give up a pleasure, you offer up a sorrow, a desire, so that there can be peace. In order to burn, the candle offers the wick and the wax, and the vigil lamp offers oil. That’s why candles are lit in church, to remind us o f sacrifice. One cannot live without sacrifice; you have to give up something in order to benefit from a situation. Peace is fourfold greater than justice. If you make peace, you gain four; if you make justice, you gain only one.” This path o f sacrifice, although steep, is the easiest—even if the mind contradicts it. Christianity is a land o f paradoxes. “The way going uphill is easier than the one leading downhill,” Fr. Arsenie said. “Because one o f man’s greatest mistakes is that he runs away from the Cross, he flees suffering. The Savior says, ‘Take up your Cross and follow M e!’ (cf. Matt. 16 :14 ); He does not say, ‘Take up the walking stick!’” Fr. Arsen ie’s self-sacrifice profited all those who came to him, causing them to undergo a change, smaller or greater, de­ pending on the inclination o f their heart. Every meeting with 2 Archimandrite Arsenic Papacioc, Epistolc, p. 14.



Fr. Arsenie was an event. Those entering his cell overwhelmed with cares would leave possessing wings. Many who visited him revealed that they never perceived the passing o f time in Fr. Arscnie’s grace-filled presence, as though it no longer existed, so engrossed were they in this great encounter. As a spiritual father, Fr. Arsenie would be lenient but also firm, depending on the situation, according to the words o f the Apostle: Reprove, rebuke, exhort (II Tim . 4 :1). “ I keep calm, even though at times I raise the tone o f my voice. But this de­ pends on the person, how self-willed he or she is.” Fr. Arsenie was meek by nature, and every chastisement was nothing but an assertion o f the grievousness o f the sin for the one chastised. Love was Fr. Arsenie’s measure, and with love he would raise from the depths o f the abyss the one fallen therein. Here, in Confession, one could see his great gift o f comforting, support­ ing and sustaining, encouraging, teaching, consoling, forgiving seventy times seven (Matt. 18:21). Forgiveness, however, would be conditioned by the repentance of the one confessing. One day, in 2000, Fr. Arsenie said: “ In fifty years o f the priesthood it has never occurred that I did not give absolution [at the end o f Confession]. But now a woman came to me for Confession and I could not give her absolution because I saw that she had no desire to renounce that sin.” He was grieved because he could not give her absolution, but he could not overlook her lack o f repentance. When he desired to counsel his spiritual children or to bring their errors to their attention, out o f the goodness o f his heart he would tell them a parable, a story about someone else. “Yes,” he would say, “a girl”— or “a boy,” or “a woman”— “came to see me,” as it were the case. If you paid attention, you under­ stood that the one he was talking about was actually you, and “that persons” situation was in fact yours, delicately described by Fr. Arsenie in order for you to mend your ways. “I wasn’t hard to please in my lifetime,” he would say. One



Fr. Arsenic’s cell at Techirghiol, preserved alter his repose.

o f his acquaintances who occasionally cooked for him remem­ bered: “ Father ate whatever you gave him; he sat wherever you placed him. If you didn’t give him anything to eat all day, he wouldn’t get something to eat on his own.” He advised everyone not to eat to satiety but rather to feel they could still eat more when they left the table. At every meal he would stop upon reaching this limit, and return the plate with food on it. Fr. Arsenie would take a few retreats during the year, after major feast days. This would be his quiet time, but he would use this freedom to help others. Having more peace, he would pray more for his spiritual children. He would say, “I had time to pray; I prayed for everybody.” He would also have a chance to read more during these times. Once he said: “ I read a lot. I read the life o f St. Basil the Great, and I was very impressed. What courage, what battles he had to fight in preserving O r­ thodoxy, and how little people nowadays know about him !” He loved nature, especially the mountains. During his

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mountain expeditions, his soul would greatly resonate at seeing God’s creation. Contemplating it, he meditated on the great truths, often paradoxes, o f the Faith. He would be fascinated by the display o f a snowfall, sharing this joy with a spiritual daugh­ ter in a letter: “It’s been snowing here for the past twenty-four hours. It is a great delight and beauty. My soul is so joyful and awed! I couldn’t wait to share with you this scene— silent, yet full o f movement, with these white tiny snowflakes racing each other and mingling so harmoniously, so quickly, so densely, and soothingly.... You rush at them and they swarm around you 1 you don’t feel them, but in a moment you become as white 1 smooth and seamless vestment. They are victors without an 'ersary. They constantly descend without a break; everything vhite, white, and everything is covered by about two and a f feet. It’s so beautiful, and I didn’t doubt that they’d come. :y came for me. I didn’t call them [the snowflakes]; thus the 'ard [of seeing them] is even greater.”3 Upon his return from his travels, he would bring sweets for nuns, as a loving father. He would tell them, “Come, have le chocolate!” And the nuns would fill his cell, full o f joy at ng him again. During his absence from the monastery the nuns would say, “It’s desolate without Father!” And this long­ ing was reciprocal. He would say upon his return, “ I missed you with a ‘child’s longing,’ for a child has no patience. An old man doesn’t rush to return, but a child is impatient.” Fr. Arsenie was very generous, in things seen and in those unseen. Always calling attention to the virtue o f almsgiving, he would be the first in striving to practice it, because “almsgiv­ ing is one o f the great preparations for eternity; giving some­ thing from yourself. Behold, the whole o f Scripture is mercy! The H oly Gospel reading on the Sunday o f the Last Judgment speaks only about mercy: ‘W hy didn’t you clothe Me? W hy 3 Archimandrite Arsenie Papacioc, Epistole, p. 19.


didn’t you give Me to drink? Why didn’t you visit Me?...’ That is, ‘W hy didn’t you have mercy, why didn’t you give alms?’ (cf. Matt. 15:31-46). They say that mercy rose against justice, and mercy triumphed.” “ You don’t own what you possess, but you have what you give. And you don’t give from what you have, but you give o f yourself,” he would often say. “The poor are biblical figures; they will never disappear from the face o f the earth. God al­ lows poverty so that the rich can be saved through almsgiving. The riches that one uses to give alms are not sinful. When you want to give alms you have to go and seek the recipients. They come to me lamenting, ‘Father, give to me, for I don’t have ...’ and I say, ‘Well, I know this one [wondering if he can trust him]...’ But then I ponder, ‘What am I going to do if he’s tell­ ing the truth?!’ And so 1 agree and give to them. I’ve always given to them. “God performs many miracles, but you’ll never see the miracle o f God being a liar. If God said that He would give a hundredfold in return to those who give alms, it’s true. And if this doesn’t happen, it means that the one who gave wasn’t honest; either he didn’t give wholeheartedly or he gave with a hidden agenda.” Fr. Arsenie helped many people in need. The young people who could not afford to study found support in Fr. Arsenie and became dedicated in their profession. In their secular ca­ reers, they brought to society the spiritual fragrance obtained from being close to Fr. Arsenie. He would financially assist all the needy, irrespective o f their social level. He would first seek them in prayer, and having found them he would help them. Once he helped a hierarch who was in dire financial straits. The hierarch recounted: “I had told Fr. Arsenie, among other things, that our monastery had taken a big loan from the bank, but we couldn’t pay it and were at risk o f losing the monastery. The borrowed money had been used to build the monastery. I



Fr. Arsenie speaking with spiritual children.

stayed for a few days in the courtyard o f the monastery, wan­ dering its pathways, immersed in my thoughts, when, one day I saw Father coming toward me with a bag full o f money in his hand, saying: "This is my funeral money. I ’m sure the people will come to my bier, and I won’t remain without burial. Build

2 .4 2


the monastery with this money, and the monastery will never have difficulties.’ This is one o f the multitudes o f times Fr. Arsenie gave, and gave o f himself, for he gave o f who he was, not just o f what he had. Fr. Arsenie liked to say, “ It is not our daily bread that is important, but the bread o f our neighbor— this is what we have to attend to.” It was Pentecost in 1998. A child urgently needed a surgery. His mother could not afford it and asked Fr. Arsenics help. A t the end o f the service Fr. Arsenie told the people: “ He is our child, everybody’s child. Make haste so we can save a child! Mothers, let us save a child!" Later on he recounted, “On no other occasion, when I called upon people’s generosity, did we collect as much as we did then, because we had recourse to the soul o f a mother.” Fr. Arsenie had a great love for his nation, but he also saw that all peoples were connected through Christ. In Septem­ ber 1998 an American nun visited Techirghiol, where she was warmly welcomed by the elder, who gave her a word on Chris­ tian unity: “ For the living Christian world, there is no space. There is no difference between America and Romania, between Techir­ ghiol and ... Everyone is in one place joined in the same heart­ beat. This separation that we live in is a great danger for every individual in the sense that we are deviating from the responsi­ bility we have to reach eternity. Everyone is always together in the same place— everyone. We aren’t created only for ourselves. We are created for the whole creation. Man, who is a small world, a microcosm in which the macrocosm is reflected, is the embodiment o f the whole creation in his seen and unseen be­ ing. If the little finger is hurt, the whole organism suffers. And so, that’s how all o f us should be— if one person is in pain, we all suffer. That’s why it has been well said that we should weep for the tragedy o f mankind as for our own sins. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if I ’m in America or somewhere else. W hat



matters is that we’re all present. And the present is repairing the past and conquering the future. We’re concerned with liv­ ing as we should in the present and leaving the future to solve its own problems. It is important that we be whole now, that is, that we be very careful about how we use time, especially this very day, every moment. I’ve said it before: any second can be “a time” and every sigh can be a prayer.... From a spiritual point o f view, this is the most healthy and efficient advice: to live in the constant presence o f God as much as you can. That is why a moment can become a prayer. Even more than the prayer o f the typikon with an empty heart. “That is why I say: if we live—which is a great gift from God—we aren’t living for the sake of developing our human or philosophical knowledge. Philosophy is only created con­ cepts. It doesn’t answer the big questions. The great philoso­ pher Kant says, ‘There are two big things filling my heart with admiration: the starry sky above and the moral law inside me.’ That is what Kant says. But we, monks especially, can grasp the stars with our hands: not simply discussing their extraordinarymovement and their balance and harmony, but actually touch­ ing them. We are seizing them. That is who we are. Always in the creation o f God. “The greatest error is for one to isolate oneself. It is only by living properly, by loving madly— absolute total love— that sometime, somewhere we can truly be saviors. “Therefore, if this is the situation, then every deed we per­ form must be framed with sacrifice. The salvation o f every one o f us is on the Cross. The Cross is the most praised object o f the world, so by no means should we run away from something like this [i.e., sacrifice]. We should prepare ourselves to accept it and to be thankful that God gave us power to bear the Cross.... “Sacrifice is the supreme act o f every one o f us! G od cre­ ated us not only for ourselves, but for others. This means that He created us and we are all restored at Christ’s coming,

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through His sacrifice. This made us one with Him. From the moment He gave us the power to become gods by grace, we arc one with Christ. Christ is by His nature God, and we are gods by grace. You see that the possibility was given for us to ascend to God as humans. And when we get there, we are as big as God. But when we can’t do this, though we want it, and G od comes to us, He is as small as we arc. G od makes H im self humble for us. He who lived in the heaven above the heavens (in the glory o f glories) has the pleasure o f living in our hearts.... “G o with God. This you don’t say to everyone: Go as gods wherever you go!” The year 1999 began for Fr. Arsenie with a series o f respira­ tory infections (bronchitis), which would continue to trouble him, especially in the winter. He coughed a lot, which would exhaust him physically. He was able to keep the illness in check with medical treatment, but the multitude o f people assailing him was unmanageable. If people could not come in person, they would call, asking him to solve their troubles. Then there would be television crews coming with all their gear to film him. This would exhaust him, but he would not refuse them. Oftentimes the respiratory infections would recur, being followed by medical treatments combined with doctors’ in­ structions not to serve in church tor certain periods o f time— orders he had to obev. Returning to the Holy Altar and to hearing Confessions after a period o f suffering, he would say, “I have risen from the dead!” He would return to fasting, starting again his journey o f salvation: his personal salvation and that o f those under his spiritual guidance. When a faithful man called him asking if he could come for Confession, Fr. Arsenie told him, “Come, I’ll be here till my dying day.” One day, in Confession, a spiritual son felt compassion on him and said, “Father, this cough doesn’t give you a break.” Fr. Arsenie replied: “Brother, you know that St. Paul had an illness

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and kept on praying for healing, and he didn’t receive healing. God told him that He would not heal him because M y strength is made perfect in weakness (II Cor. 11:9). And this applies to all mankind.” During these periods o f illness, he had to travel to Bucha­ rest on different occasions for tests and treatments. One winter, he had to go to Bucharest, but the police had closed the road from Constanta to Bucharest due to a heavy snowfall. The day before the trip the driver went to see him and explained to him the situation, asking him what they should do. Fr. Arsenie be­ lieved they had to go, as they could not postpone it. He asked the driver, “Aren’t you afraid?” The driver replied, “ No, Father, I’m not afraid if I’m traveling with you!” And they decided to leave the next day. The following day the weather was clear. There were no other cars on the road to Bucharest. The road was indeed covered in snow. There were roadblocks at different points, near bigger cities. At each o f these, the driver would stop, get out o f the car, move them to the side, and continue on. They arrived safely in Bucharest and dealt with the urgent problem. On July 30 o f the same year (1999), Fr. Arsenie was given the distinction o f honorary citizen o f the city o f Techirghiol. He worthily received this honor, as he had already sanctified through his deeds the “place” entrusted by God to his watch. And the place, Techirghiol, was renowned by now, not so much for the physical healing (the clinics around the lake with heal­ ing properties were well known), but especially for the spiri­ tual healing in the spiritual “clinic” o f Fr. Arsenie. Although a good number o f its citizens were Muslim Turks and Tatars, they were not timid in coming to his cell when life’s difficulties would come upon them. They knew that there they would find a profound word, a word o f comfort. Fr. Arsenie would receive, counsel and commemorate them at Akathists. Some o f them embraced the Orthodox Faith and were baptized. Later, those

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who received his help came to his grave, thanking him and wit­ nessing to the benefactions bestowed upon them. From the time o f his arrival at Techirghiol, the monastery hosted annual courses on the subject o f religious tours. Monas­ tics, hierarchs, professors, theologians, and scholars cook part in these conferences. Once he participated in the opening cer­ emony, which presented talks on diverse matters regarding the ecclesiastical arts. At the end Fr. Arsenie told them: “I ’ve noted that you discussed iconography, architecture, proportionality.... But why don’t you talk about the spirit o f the monk who has to be present in all these things?” And then he began to speak to them about the remembrance o f death, about salvation. After dinner, the monks present for the courses would gather in front o f Fr. Arsenic’s cell, and he would come out and talk to them until midnight. All o f them desired answers and encouragement regarding the great path to salvation. Com­ pletely engaged in their spiritual formation, Fr. Arsenie would forget himself, and when a nun would finally escort him to his cell he could barely walk because o f his swollen legs. The joy radiating from his face was his satisfaction that he had placed a rock at the foundation o f these souls. Fr. Arsenie recalled a conversation from one o f these con­ ferences: “Someone asked me, ‘Father, now there are two or three great spiritual fathers in our country, but what are we go­ ing to do when you’re no longer among us ?’ He was placing me at the top. “I replied, ‘Why do you put my death first? Aren’t you a spiritual father? Why do you place me at the top?’ “He said to me, ‘Father, this world is getting worse and worse.’ “And I told him, ‘Don’t think about the world; focus on becoming perfect. If you want to focus on the world, you must first strive to become perfect in order to solve the problems o f the world.” At a similar discussion he said, “You have to



be aware o f the fact that the tribulations o f the world are also caused by you. Your sins negatively affect the whole o f human­ ity.” Fr. Arsenie did not agree with excessive theorizing about the Faith, about the teaching on salvation. He always took the most practical approach available for the faithful. “ Theoretical knowledge is gained everywhere, but no progress is attained. The Orthodox Church does not push harder on the pedal o f theoretical knowledge, but rather on the pedal o f ‘experi­ ence.’ One can see that through experience you gain abundant knowledge, and you don’t know its source. Theologians come to be refreshed by the fervent ones, who are simple accord­ ing to the judgment o f men; they don’t have much theoreti­ cal knowledge, but are continuously in the presence of God. If the branch [of the Vine] asks for abundant life, it will be be­ stowed upon it abundantly. For the Savior says, / am the Way, the Truth and the L ife (John 14:6). If there is no way, there is no ascent; if there is no truth, there is no knowledge; if there is no life, there is no living.” He never turned away the numerous pilgrims coming by buses from different parts o f the country to receive his blessing. He talked to them about the remembrance o f death, about love o f neighbor, and about slander— a sin so common and so easily committed, leading to the torment o f many souls in hell, as Fr. Arsenie would say. In teaching people, he emphasized another provision for living an authentic Christian life; love o f enemies. He consid­ ered that people theorized about this virtue more than they put it into practice. As one who had practiced love o f enemies and tasted the spiritual joy and freedom it brings even from childhood, he would tirelessly urge the attainment o f it. “ Love o f enemies is a commandment, not a suggestion. Strive to truly love your enemies, regardless o f the state you find yourself in. If you’re unable to love them from the beginning, at least try not


to hate them. God rejoices. God will help you if you always persist as a beginner in this virtue. And if death comes, it finds you fighting to love your enemies, and God does the rest. The important thing is for you to be on the path." In October o f zooo, Fr. Arsenie had an accident, falling on some steps and breaking six teeth. “All o f a sudden I felt my mouth filling up with my teeth,” he would later recount. The doctor treating him was exhausted after spending six to eight hours on the first day, extracting the nerves, while the elder pa­ tiently tolerated the pain without saying a word. Upon finish­ ing her work, the doctor said, “ I’ve never seen a man endure so much pain.” Such work would be done usually during the span o f a few days, even weeks. Afterwards, Fr. Arsenie admit­ ted that he had suffered terribly during the procedure. And be­ cause it was through suffering that he had received the great revelations o f his life, he then said, “On this occasion I got to know myself better." During his last years at Techirghiol he began to suffer from disorders o f the prostate. In December o f the year 1000 he ex­ perienced his second prostate blockage in a decade. One night he felt very poorly and was taken to the hospital, where he un­ derwent surgery, enduring this suffering, together with che in­ herent humiliations o f the procedure, tor “suffering is not com­ plete if it is not accompanied by humiliation,” as he would say. Although he had stated that after this surgery he would have a lighter schedule, this did not happen. He would serve in the morning and then hear Confessions until the afternoon, thus having no time to rest. At night he would sleep until about i a.m., only dozing off a little before daybreak. Nonethe­ less, in the morning he would be joyful, saying: “Seeing I was awake, I told myself I should endure and not get annoyed.” He would not spare himself at all, even now at the venerable age o f eighty-seven. Fr. Arsenie’s heart burned with love for God’s creation. As

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he lovingly cared for the people, he did not ignore the animals either. He had studied them from childhood, learning from their behavior, and now he would be attentive to them when­ ever an opportunity arose. However, he did everything with discernment, as their master; he disagreed with some peoples extremism—who went from being the masters o f animals (in­ vested by God) to becoming their slaves. When he first arrived at Techirghiol he sometimes went for a walk on the pathway in front o f the monastery. A blind dog began to accompany him on his stroll. Once, a mastiff attacked Fr. Arsenie, but the blind dog placed itself between the mastiff and Fr. Arsenie, protecting him from its fury. Fr. Arsenie was very touched by the dog’s act, its courage and loyalty, despite its physical handicap. “I don’t think I ’ve missed asking anyone in Confession if he or she had tortured or killed animals,” he would recount. “Once it was raining and a cat with four kittens came by my cell. Having no place for shelter, the cat went by the well next to the cell and stood there mewing in the rain. During the night I pondered, ‘How is it that 1 ask everyone in Confession if they have tortured animals, and I ’m going to leave the cat in the rain?!’ And I went through the dark and the rain and I found the cat, but only three kittens; the fourth one was miss­ ing. Can you imagine?... The next day I found myself with the cat at the altar: it had come to thank me.” Another time he was walking on the beach by the sea and found an ailing seagull. “I touched it, but what could I have done? I was leaving ...” he said, lamenting his inability to help it. This was his heart, always burning with love and compassion for the whole creation. He would delight in seeing baby animals and birds. Occa­ sionally, one o f the nuns would bring him a chick or a kitten, and he would rejoice like a child. In the fall he would always bless the flocks o f birds ready

Archimandrite Arsénié Papacioc.


for their long and difficult migration. In April o f Z 0 1 4 , almost three years after Fr. Arsenies repose, a group o f his spiritual children had come from afar to visit his grave. Hearing birds clattering their bills, they lifted up their gaze and saw a flock o f storks flying in circles above his grave, probably just returning home. After a few circles in the air, they landed and stood in a V shape and then flew off, continuing their journey. In the summer o f zooz, Fr. Arsenies health declined again. He was hospitalized with water in his lungs, heart fibrillation, and all their side effects. He said to one o f his spiritual chil­ dren, “I’m here because o f my sins.” But his disciple replied, “Well, Father, for our sins.” “Yes, Brother, I don’t contradict you,” he acknowledged. He was released three weeks later, but he had lost over twenty-five pounds. He would not allow him­ self to break the fast when he was ill, despite the insistence o f the nuns that he eat something more substantial to gain some strength. During his recovery he did not serve or hear Confes­ sions; he only read commemoration lists in his cell and prayed for those gathered at his door. He greatly missed serving, but he knew he needed to recover before he could return to the church. His health issues were quite severe, as he admitted on his release from the hospital; “I thought I would die, and I didn’t feel I was ready for it— not that I hadn’t kept the command­ ments, but because o f the gifts God has given me. It’s about those talents that God generously bestows. But I ’m active too; I don’t give up.” During Father’s recovery, a priest came to the monastery to do daily services. In the fall, when the priest was absent for a time, Father served— barely taking note o f his instructions to serve only on Wednesdays and Fridays. He paid even for this effort, as dizziness bothered him for some time. During the Nativity Fast he was invited, together with other Orthodox and heterodox monks, abbots, and bishops, to

Z 5Z


the presidential palace in Bucharest. The president desired to award them accordingly for their spiritual and cultural efforts. A t the grandiose ceremony Fr. Arsenie received a medal and a certificate for his “tremendous contribution in preserving and nurturing the spiritual values o f the Romanian people.” When asked what he was reflecting on in those moments, he said, “ I was praying that all those present would free themselves from the desire o f praise, o f glory.” At the banquet following the ceremony, Fr. Arsenie sat across from a Roman Catholic bishop who talked uninterrupt­ edly. At one point the bishop addressed Fr. Arsenie, “But aren’t you going to say anything?” Fr. Arsenie replied, “A word passes with the wind, but silence speaks immensely.” Measured speech is a distinctive characteristic o f a spiritual father. A similar incident occurred when he participated at a gathering o f all the spiritual fathers and abbots from the Me­ tropolis o f Muntenia and Dobrogea, at Radu Vodă Monastery in Bucharest. At the meal following the discussions someone said with astonishment, “ Father, you said nothing at the meet­ ing!” “ I ’m amazed you haven’t heard a thing,” he replied, “for I ’ve been talking the whole time, even loudly.” (Fr. Arsenie had been praying unceasingly.) Then, at the request o f the bishops and the abbots, he spoke on the topic o f monastic struggles, bringing benefit and joy to all those present. At the beginning o f 1003, Fr. Arsenie was feeling well. Ev­ ery time he would go into the courtyard o f the monastery he would fill the pockets o f his ryassa with sweets, because the children receiving treatment at the nearby clinic would come to get his blessing. He would personally give each o f them some sweets. Little children amazed him with their purity and inno­ cence. Once he was talking with a young mother while playing with her two-year-old daughter. He explained to the mother, “ You see, I live in this world o f beauty and feel the need [to



encounter a soul filled with beauty— like that o f a child].” A n­ other time he was playing with a baby and said, “You’ve de­ feated me! I fight with the whole world, 1 fight with demons, but you [the children] have defeated me.” During Great Lent o f 1003, he was invited to lecture at a conference in Constanţa. Hie day before the event he was pensive, reflecting on how this conference would turn out. He said: “All kinds o f people will come, some out o f curiosity, having nothing to do with religion. The important thing is to create the proper atmosphere there. It’s one thing to speak to some theologians on a particular issue and another to address so many people. But I leave myself to the mercy o f G od — may­ be He’ll give me the grace to do it.” Three thousand people were present at the conference. Fr. Arsenie was able to engage the audience, speaking for hours, while the people drank in his words. The lecture hall was over­ flowing with people, while more watched him speak on large video screens placed in the hallways. In concluding his lecture, he said: “The Truth, Who is Christ, is the Touchstone; every­ thing revolves around this Truth. All kinds o f philosophies, trends, and ideas have appeared trying to combat this Truth, but they do not bring anything new except a new vocabulary, new words. Nonetheless, they clarify nothing, because the Truth o f Christ is absolute and they do nothing else but attack this Truth.” In the spring o f the following year, 10 0 4 , he became ill again, spending Pascha in the hospital. While confined there, he said: “Since August 1964, when the Communists released me from prison, I ’ve always celebrated Holy Pascha at the monastery. Now I ’m in the hospital. But I won’t murmur if this is the will o f God.” During his stay in the hospital there was a drought in the region, and a procession with the relics o f St. Gregory o f Decapolis— brought from the Bistriţa Monastery— was organized



to beseech God for rain. The relics were also brought to the hospital. That morning he refused to eat— something he need­ ed to do before taking his medication. “How is it possible? The saint is coming to visit me and I’m going to eat?!” And he did not eat. It was April 19. Four days later, on the Feast o f St. George, Fr. Arsenie was released from the hospital. Two weeks later he had to have more tests, followed by a month o f treatment in a pulmonic physiology clinic. Fifty-sev­ en years had passed since he had left for the monastery, leav­ ing his ill brother in the same hospital and reflecting, “I don’t think I ’ll sec him alive again.” And thus it had happened. Now, on his way to Bucharest, he was thinking, “W ill I look back and say the same thing also?!” Nonetheless, he was opti­ mistic: “I continue to believe this saying: God always follows us; nothing happens without a specific reason.” God rewarded his faithfulness. He spent the Feast o f the Ascension o f our Lord in the clinic, and was then sent back to the monastery. After his release another patient was brought and placed in his bed. To the doctors’ astonishment the new patient was healed very quickly. After two months away from the monastery, Fr. Arsenie was looking forward to his return, but the doctor told him, “ Father, you will not make it if you go and receive even two people daily!” He needed time to recover. He had lost almost thirty pounds during this period. “I don’t regret it, for I’ve al­ ways been thin, but the doctors told me that it was no joke,” he said after his release. On his return to Techirghiol on July 11, he resumed his usual schedule, as though nothing happened. People flocked to him, and he could not refuse them. He both served in the church and received people for Confession. In October Fr. Arsenie decided to make a trip. “I ’d like to go to Bistriţa to thank St. Gregory. Can you believe it? Not just thanking a [mere] man, but giving thanks to a saint!” He



went and venerated the saints relics, giving thanks for the aid received while hospitalized. During this difficult journey he got sick and was hospitalized in critical condition at Râmnicu Vâl­ cea. For the first three days the doctors were very concerned. Then he began to improve slowly, and a few days later he was released from the hospital, fully recovered. He would say, “God has always helped me.” The Nativity Fast began after his return home, and his schedule o f Confessions was very full. His legs would swell due to the fatigue. Although his heart was not functioning nor­ mally (due to his age) and any extra effort or even a cold could bring about his hospitalization, he did not worry about any o f these things. The nuns would fret, “ Father, don’t exhaust your­ self so much! You’re ninety years old: you can’t work like you’re thirty.” And he would reply, “I can’t live without the spiritual joy this work brings me.” Fr. Arsenic would impart to those who sought his coun­ sel his conviction that all things are done according to G od ’s will— a balm for very deep wounds. A pious doctor who founded a hospice for cancer patients o f various ages in Bu­ charest came to Fr. Arsenie with the difficult question he often had to face from suffering families, “ Why is this happening to such young ones [who die from cancer]?” Fr. Arsenie replied, “Tell them that God takes people at the moment when they have the greatest chance o f salvation.” The answer edified the doctor and must have brought peace and confidence to those deeply affected by the unseasonable loss o f their beloved ones. During this time there was a major campaign against bird flu in Romania. Doctors would constantly wear surgical masks to protect themselves against it. Some people would even wear them on the street. A doctor advised Fr. Arsenie to wear one also, being vulnerable because o f the great number o f people coming to see him. “Doctor, how am I going to wear a mask when I always tell the people to take their mask o ff [that is,


to be honest] ?” And he did not wear one. Father’s encourage­ ment, “ Take off the mask!” was a call to sincerity, to know­ ing your own self. He had this gift o f perceiving the “mask” on peoples faces, a sensitivity he had acquired through a remark­ able spiritual life. In early 1006, Fr. Arsenie began to experience weakness in his legs. The tests revealed the cause: a herniated disc needing surgery. He was now ninety-two. Although anesthesia was a great concern for the doctors, everything went well. “ I wasn’t afraid I wouldn’t survive the anesthesia. [Throughout my life] I ’ve been a good boy, I wasn’t self-indulgent, I didn’t smoke. I didn’t get married, and I knew I had a virginal body.” The surgery was a success. Prayer and his faith kept him alive— not just at that mo­ ment, but also during his decades o f imprisonment, when he learned that death is a reality we cannot escape, for “life is a continuous death.” It is just a matter o f our approach to it, for we must “know how to die and to arise every day.” After his surgery, he could no longer serve in church, and he lost his former balance when walking. It was time to say farewell to his beloved altar. One day during Great Lent he went to church to show the substitute serving priest the order o f the Liturgy of the Pre-Sanctified Gifts. One o f the nuns in church questioned him, “Do you miss the Holy Altar, Father?” “ Don’t provoke me!” he replied. This was for him too mystical to become a subject of discussion. During the months following the surgery Fr. Arsenie felt relatively well, having pain in his right leg—which improved through physical therapy and walks in the courtyard o f the monastery. In a phone conversation, his spiritual son (who was also his spiritual father), Fr. Gavriil o f Zamfira Monastery, asked him about his well-being. Fr. Arsenie replied, “Look, I ’m ready to go through the tollhouses, but there’s a leg here stop­ ping me.”



In May o f 1008 the Belt o f the Mother o f God was brought from Greece to Romania for veneration. Having great rever­ ence for the Mother o f God all his life, Fr. Arsenie went to Constanţa to venerate it. Born on the Feast o f her Dormition, he lived his life under her guidance, praying to her from his youth and encouraging others to dare to ask for her mercy. He would say: “ The Mother o f God is grieved by all those who ask nothing o f her. She is openhearted toward those who, out o f carelessness or ingratitude, rarely run to her. But how much more generous will she be toward those who unceasingly beg for her aid? These are not only beloved o f her, but are even served by her.” By God’s providence he was able to serve the last thirtyfive years o f his life at Techirghiol, a monastery dedicated to


the Mother o f God. He always honored her with reverence and understood, with great humility, her maternal love for all mankind. “ I believe that the Mother o f God is more at home among the sorrowful, the weak, and all manner o f the perse­ cuted, than in the company o f angels. The Mother o f God is continuously sacrificing herself, constantly suffering, and I be­ lieve she even engages in defending the ailing who call on her for help before the divine throne. She loves beyond imagina­ tion and without discrimination even the wicked and the care­ less.” Fr. Arsenic told those present at the veneration o f her Belt, “My beloved, the Mother o f God is so perfect that we can only say to her, ‘Forgive us, for we are unable to understand thee, but we love thee!’ If I desired to live longer, at this old age— I ’ll be a hundred in six years— I would want to live only to love the Mother o f God.” During that summer Fr. Arsenic would go on walks on the pathway behind the monastery every day. In the course o f these walks, he decided he wanted to be buried between the spring and the monastery’s fence near the road (his wish was fulfilled after his repose). He would show those he encountered along the way the place where he desired to be after the great passing. “ Look, there,” he would say. Previously, he had chosen a different burial place, at Zam­ fira Monastery, where Fr. Gavriil was serving. There were two plots prepared for Frs. Arsenie and Gavriil next to each other in the monastery’s cemetery, with two identical white marble crosses. On Fr. Arsenie’s cross was inscribed, “Jesus, Jesus, Je ­ sus, forgive me!” and Fr. Gavriil’s read, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!” Since Fr. Arsenie could not be separated from Techirghiol even after his death, they took a blessing from each other to relocate their burial sites, Fr. Arsenie having his resting place at Techirghiol. On August 15, 1008, Fr. Gavriil fell asleep in the Lord unexpectedly. On receiving the sorrowful news in his cell, Fr.



Arsenie asked to go outside for a while, “to comfort myself.” The news o f his friends departure troubled him, as Fr. Gavriil had possessed a sincere, obedient, and understanding heart— he was someone he could always rely on. Later he said, “I greatly regretted losing him, but I want to have a positive attitude re­ garding God’s decision to do this. Personally I ’m quite at peace because if the good God desires, he will wait for me.” Although Fr. Arsenie was nearly ninety-seven years old, he continued to be extremely vigilant and to sincerely meditate on his salvation—living a life o f careful scrutiny o f the past and ap­ preciation o f the present, thus caring for the future. He would reflect on the tollhouses, from which not even great saints like St. Mark o f Athens,·* who lived on Mount Tarmaqa (or Thra­ ce), were exempt; he was delayed at the tollhouses lor about an hour. Fr. Arsenie saw that this impediment of an extraordinarysaint was due to the sins o f omission, “meaning the good you could have done and did not do.” He would also contemplate these sins, now that he was awaiting the final examination o f his life, for which he had prepared tirelessly. He said, “ I often ponder, ‘How should I live so that I may also escape these toll­ houses?!’” In February o f 2.011 Fr. Arsenie suffered a urinary obstruc­ tion and was hospitalized in Constanţa. He was greatly weak­ ened by the loss o f a large quantity o f blood, barely able to speak. Gradually his situation improved with the help o f the doctors and, obviously, by the will o f God. He recovered com­ pletely and everything seemed fine. But Fr. Arsenie knew his end was drawing near. He told one o f his spiritual children, “That’s it, it’s finished. My life is drawing to an end.” He re­ turned to the monastery after three weeks in the hospital. However, only a few weeks later he began to lose blood again, and he was hospitalized. In May he returned to Techirghiol, 4 t ca. 400, commemorated April 5.— E d .


where he remained bedridden. Only he knew the intensity o f his suffering. During Great Lent he had confessed his spiritual children, and he was able to spend Pascha at the monastery. During the following two months, his last ones, he became weaker and weaker, hardly talking. He would say with diffi­ culty, “ You understand, I would like to say so much, but I can­ not.” Despite his condition, he received people for Confession until his last day. With the little strength he had, he would say the prayer o f absolution in a slow whisper, barely able to pronounce the words. Sometimes the nuns would bring him outside to sit on a little stool by the door, and he would bless the people. A few days before Fr. Arsenie’s falling asleep in the Lord, one o f the nuns had to leave the monastery for a short period. She went to get his blessing and he asked her, “ But when are you returning?” Then the nun understood that his days were ending, and she asked him, “But when does your Reverence say that I should return?” “ Return on Monday!” (July 18, 2.011). She came back on Monday afternoon and went to see him. It was the eve o f his departure to the Lord. From his bed Fr. Arsenie motioned her to move to his side and told her, “Make room for the young man to pass.” The nun turned to see if someone was behind her, but she saw no one. The next day, Tuesday, July 19,2.011, was the eve o f the Feast o f the Prophet Elijah the Tishbite. The day began as usual, like all others. Fr. Arsenie’s last moments were in keeping with his entire life, discrete and humble. He awoke, had breakfast, and then began to feel ill. Seeing that he was not well and that his breathing had become strained, the nuns called for an ambu­ lance, but there was no need. The time had come: the sacrifice was now complete, and the candle had burned to its end. He had offered everything up; his last drop o f blood, his last bit o f strength. Only now had “his time come.” He might have said in his depths, as he had often exclaimed as his desire, “Lord,



The funeral procession o f Fr. Arsenic.

I’m happy I ’m dying a monk!” He gave up his spirit swiftly, in a breath, at n a.m., at the age o f ninety-seven. It was the will o f God for him to repose in his cell, on his bed. The fathers at the monastery were able to prepare him ac­ cording to the monastic rule. The ruling bishop, His Eminence Archbishop Teodosie, came and carried out the customary prayers. The news o f his departure spread rapidly, bringing sadness to those receiving it, but also a deep hope that there would be a fervent intercessor for them before the throne o f God, as he had promised: “If God will be my Helper, I will keep watch over your hearts from the Highest, too.” As someone said dur­ ing those days: “I weep, but my heart is rejoicing. We’ve lost a spiritual father, but we’ve gained an intercessor in heaven.” Although the Holy Synod o f the Romanian Orthodox Church was in session in Bucharest on Thursday, July 11, io n , the day o f Fr. Arsenie’s funeral, four hierarchs— his spiritual children— together with numerous members o f the clergy,



Fr. A r s e n ic in r e p o s t .

were present. Over ten thousand people came to pay their last respects to the one who had shepherded them with such love and care along the path to salvation. While still among the liv­ ing, the elder had once seen himself in a vision, being lowered into the grave. Commenting on this, he said, “How good it is to have done something well [in your life, by God’s grace], to have sacrificed yourself.” This multitude o f people, those pres­ ent and those who for a worthy cause were present only with their heart at his funeral, were his confession and his witness. The rain, at times quite heavy, stopped toward the end o f the service, and the sun appeared when his body was taken in procession to the cemetery. It seemed that heaven had opened its gates to receive Fathers soul. This day summed up his entire earthly journey, full o f trials, but with a bright end— the re­ ward received from Christ.

Fr. Arsenic s grave at Techirghiol. Inscribed in Romanian are the words: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, forgive me.”


Fr. Arsenie often liked to repeat this story, a dialogue with a leaf. This conversation is a fitting epitaph for the elder, es­ pecially if we bear in mind that the Savior— the Rose— stood next to him in prison: “A leaf is asked, ‘Are you a rose?’ “‘No, not at all. I’m a leaf!’ “‘No, you’re a rose!’ “‘No, I’m not!’ “‘Yes, you are: you smell like a rose!’ “‘No, I ’m a leaf but I once lay beside a rose.’

Elder Cleopa (Hie).




N 1996 F r . A r s e n i e visited Sihăstria Monastery and talked with the monks, answering their questions. Here is part o f his conversation with Elder Cleopa, after he had spoken with the monks for a few hours. Fr. Cleopa: Fr. Arsenie, my dear, my greatest joy is that I see you here! The mercy o f God adorned you with patience, with the grace o f the priesthood, and with this lovely beard! Behold, the Lord preserved you until now! You’re eighty-two or eightythree years old! O Lord, you’ve given me such a great joy! I’ve heard you’re exceedingly busy! Fr. Arsenie: Yes, Father! But I said, “ Without a doubt, I’m going to Sihăstria!” Back at my monastery, I have this stressful, rather difficult problem: there’s no one to take my place! I ap­ pealed to the patriarchate and they sent a young hieromonk. H e’s staying there until I return. Fr. Cleopa: Stay longer, dear, stay longer! Now, that we’ve met, by the mercy o f God, let me tell you about myself. I ’m sick and old, with five surgeries.... Very soon I ’ll go to my brothers. W hat does Psalm 89 say? The days o f our years, in th eir span they b e threescore yea rs a n d ten. A n d i f we be in strength, m ayhap fourscore years; an d w hat is m ore than these is toil a n d travail. For m ildness has come upon us, a n d we sh a ll be chasten ed (10 - 11). It’s as if in a dream that I hear you speak, my dear! The mercy o f the Most H oly Trinity brought you here! I wanted us to see each other once more in this life!


You never know! Oh my! H ow many things God made us go through! Ft: Arsenie: It’s very good that each o f us prays for the other!... Let us bring forth sacrifice so that we may be in the Kingdom o f God! For we’ve desired this greatly in the depths o f our hearts! But who can say he deserves it? That is why we have to pray, Fr. Cleopa! Ft: Cleopa: Lord! Theotokos! How did You bring him here? I greatly desired to see him once more, poor man! For I knew that he’s honest and possesses the fear o f G od! He helped me when I was bitter and depressed! Poor man, he went through a lot! Monks, interrupting: Come back to us, Fr. Arsenie, at least now in old age. F r Arsenie: I desire to come more than your Reverences desire it! I’ve felt the spirit o f God in this monastery. I was with Fr. Cleopa in the woods, and once he said with insistence that if he died—he thought about it honestly— I should bring him to Sihăstria. I told him, “You should bind my legs and throw me away!” God didn’t want us to die! It’s said that the history o f a nation is written on walls. At Sihăstria it's written on the trees! Fr. Cleopa: The mercy o f God has preserved us until now. I ’m eighty-five and he’s eighty-three. F r Arsenie: I’ve been in Techirghiol for twenty-one years now. Many people come and I ’m alone. Can you imagine: the whole o f Dobrogea seeks us. I confess people continually. It’s my most tiring obedience! But I comfort myself with the thought that God wanted it like this, and I shouldn’t have cause for sadness. God forbid! Don’t be sad! We must be in a state o f continuous cheerfulness that holds us upright, and keeps us in motion. God doesn’t have anyone else in the world to ask for support but us! Don’t give up! No matter how little you are, no matter



Elders Clcop.i and Arsenic during their last meeting.

how tired, vou mustn’t give up. For, I repeat, no misfortune means anything. Nothing is lost as long as faith is established, the soul doesn’t surrender, and you raise your head again! God forbid that you be sad! Don’t be afraid! It’s true, one’s thought should be in hell and in hell only.1 But hope should be with God without ceasing, thinking that He greatly loves us. Fa­ thers, God is more intimate with us than we are! When you think about this, you fill yourself with hope. But, our deeds, no matter how amazingly good, can’t save us. They can’t erase any­ thing. And, no doubt, we’re sinners, but with hope. Hope— this is it! Monasticism is a great thing, Fathers. Many things have been said about monasticism, subdc things, but no one has exhausted it. All its beauty lies in denying one’s own will. De­ nying one’s will is a continuous struggle, with G od’s help. We must prevail, for He created us with free will. And when you

1“ Keep thy mind in hell and despair not.” — St. Silouan the Athonite.


think: what arc the efforts that we make for such a great hon­ or? Eat when you’re hungry, drink when you’re thirsty, but remain here [in the monastery]. St. Arsenius the Great said that! So, Fathers, let us greatly rejoice that we’re monks! Allow me to say this— I greatly desire that at the end o f my life I ’ll be able to say, “I die happy because I ’m a monk!” And I was very much tempted, Fathers: prisons, wilderness, abbacy, all sorts o f things, even now as a father confessor. A girl about twenty-five or thirty years old— I think she was a teacher— once asked me, when I was on the stairs of my house in the monastery, “ Father, what’s the first requirement to become a monk?” I quickly replied, “To be crazy!” She under­ stood! We go to the monastery out o f the necessity of our soul. Then you start fighting with yourself, Brother. And you should not give up by any means! You should not look for salvation per se! You have to look for yourselves! Search for yourselves more! As a method, always record your steps: “ What am I do­ ing? Where am I going? Who am I?” Because one o f the great­ est tactics o f the devil is to get you out o f the monastery. I ’m also very convinced that when you’re going to the monastery, he will engage the whole world in order to turn you around— the whole earthly world! We’re Christ’s brides! Whom should a groom love more than his bride? Moreoever, haven’t you noticed that Christ first called His apostles servants, and then He called them “ My brothers!” We are where we’re supposed to be. The position o f monks is great on this earth! Fr. Cleopa: Let’s see each other in heaven, dear! Fr. Arsenic: I pray that you remember and understand me. Fathers, I close up fewer buttons so that I have less to unbut­ ton. That’s how little time I have! Fr. Cleopa: So many people turn to him!

17 0


Fr. Arsenic: Fathers, let’s bow down our faces to the ground and thank the Lord that He gave us this strength to be monks. Preserve complete unity. Respect each other from the highest to the lowest, and from the lowest to the highest. No one is insignificant. Each one o f us is Christ’s friend. We’re not slaves. Besides, many times the freedom o f a slave can be greater than that o f a king. Please believe me when I say that there’s great need for fa­ ther confessors in the monasteries. When you think that there are many monasteries without a father confessor ... Fr. Cleopa: He’s alone, dear him! It’s the mercy o f the Most Holy Trinity that I see you, dear! Look how white his beard has turned— it used to be red! Fr. Arsenic: Fathers, 1 eat when I’m hungry, I don’t quite sleep because I don’t have time—but I would if I did— and I’m cheerful in my heart. These are my secrets. I love the mon­ astery! I thank God with all my heart that He gave me the thought o f going to the monasterv decades ago! No one taught me, but nevertheless, I went. Fr. Cleopa: A miracle from the Lord, dear! F r Arsenic: Ibis is the greatest miracle that God does for man: to give him the grace o f going to a monastery! It’s greater than resurrecting the dead, than healing the sick, because it places you on the highest level o f the Holy Scripture. “Do you want to be perfect? Sell everything, take up your cross, and follow M e!” (cf. Matt. 19:11). Fathers, the cross means to bear what you don’t like! This is the cross! Fr. Cleopa: That’s right, my dear! It’s like a dream seeing you show up here! May the Most Holy Trinity and the Moth­ er o f God grant that we meet each other in the other life, my dear! Don’t forget me in your prayers! The Savior says in the Gospel, “ Watch and pray, for you do not know the day or the hour ...” (cf. Matt. 15:13). But what can you expect at this age? Fr. Arsenic·. Well, Father ...


Fr. Cleopa: And if you hear that I’ve died, come to absolve [my sins] at my grave! Fr. Arsenic: I wish that God would help me to do that. But who knows what will happen to me! And who will depart first? We don’t know. Many times the younger ones do.



R E C O L L E C T IO N S OF T W O S P IR IT U A L SO NS Hieromonk llart on (D an), Holy Cross M onastery to understand that there are things you can ac­ quire only from a living person, a person who really lives with the Good God. You can receive the word o f the Living God only from the people who live it. You cannot take it from a letter, from a book. O f course it would be great to be able to do that. Obviously, text in a book is helpful, it is a foundation, but I believe that this is what happens, at least for me. Today I would not be where I am, if I had not met Fr. Arsenie. Nevertheless, at the time I met him I was already close to the Church. (Paradoxically, although I was born in Constanta, I did not meet Fr. Arsenie until I was thirty-four years old.) God ar­ ranged for a certain change at a particular point in my life, right after the Revolution.1 I was a clerk working for the Romanian government at the time. While working in Bucharest I lived with my brother-in-law, who was a student at the Business Academy and also at the Theological Faculty. Discussing the spiritual mat­ ters with which I was becoming familiar, he counseled me to go for Confession. I didn’t really know what this was. I didn’t have the courage to go for Confession. And so I was encouraged to go to Fr. Sofian (Boghiu) from Antim Monastery.



1 The Revolution ofDeccm ber 1989, which marked the end o f forty-two years o f Com munist rule in Romania.— E d .


One afternoon I went to Fr. Sofian. There were a lot o f people waiting to see him when I got there. I waited patiently in line for a while. But after some time impatience and a mul­ titude o f headaches and stomach pains engulfed me. Finally I got to Fr. Sofian: an exceptional spiritual father o f whom I have a very pleasant memory, who greatly benefitted my soul. When later on I told him that I wanted to return home he said: go to Fr. Arsenie. And behold, I went to Bucharest with one goal and I returned with a different one. This is how God arranged things for me. I had to get to Bucharest to learn about Fr. A r­ senie. I had not heard o f him in Constanta. And I went to Fr. Arsenie. It was during Great Lent in 1991. And there was an endless line o f people waiting at Fathers cell, and again I stayed there for a while. I realized I had no chance to enter in. I left, I gave up, and I returned a few days later. And Father received me. I have said this before: the moment I entered his cell he adopted me; I became his spiritual son, and I have remained one up to this moment. For this reason I feel privileged. But do you see the paradox? Many o f you who knew and were close to Fr. Arsenie felt that he was yours, as I feel he is mine. Father loved you unconditionally, as God loves, with an absolute love for everyone who came to see him. It was an overwhelming love ... which you carried in your soul— it pen­ etrated easily and you constantly carried it there. You felt the need to return permanently in order for this love to inundate you, to encompass you, and for you to feel you could fly. This is how Fr. Arsenie was. A t some point I decided to radically change my way o f life and to enter a monastery (my life had entered another phase). I confessed this thought to him; he greatly rejoiced. Maybe he was waiting for it, maybe he knew— I don’t know— and he en­ couraged me, he embraced me. And he kept on waiting for me to take the step. And I kept delaying it. Because that’s how it is



(as Fr. Arsenie would say): when you want to go to the mon­ astery the enemy does everything he can to stop you, and after you go he does everything he can to get you out. This applied to me as well. The enemy was doing everything he could to stop me. I was pretty determined, but not determined enough. A year had passed: I was still trying to divest myself o f worldly things, and I wasn’t successful. And at some point Fr. Arsenie told me, “Br. Ionel [Fr. Ilarion’s name prior to monasticism], there is no more time.” He was talking about the value o f time. And this word had no answer—what could one have said? Fr. Arsenie said: “There is no more time. There is no more time; that means it’s over!” “And what should I do?” “ Well, take your bag and go!” And this is what I did: I took my bag and left. I went to see Fr. Arsenie one more time before leaving. I told him I was going. He took me by the shoulders, embraced me, and said, “Humility, Br. Ionel, humility!” This was like a testament for my life in the monastery, for my entire life. I took this word, and I have been trying to keep it— although I confess I don’t always do as I desire. But it was pretty powerful. It penetrated quite deeply into my conscience and into my heart, so that I would never be able to forget it. Thus was Fr. Arsenie. In our frequent discussions I would suggest to him, “Father, maybe you should say something, be more firm, express your­ self somehow!” And he would say, “ Who am I? A poor little priest!" Thus was Fr. Arsenie: he was a giant, but he would say, “ W ho am I? A poor little priest!” He, who followed the coun­ sel o f the Savior, “Take heed, I have overcome the world” (cf. John 16:33). And he did attain it: he overcame the world, fol­ lowing the words o f the Savior. You well know what he went through— terrible trials— and how he stood fast against every trial and provocation. Thus was Fr. Arsenie: a humble and cou­ rageous man, a true man— as I wish to be and as I desire many



to be, because we have a tremendous need o f such men. This country needs such men. I believe Fr. Arsenie is a living example, because he is alive there, in heaven, and he is alive in our hearts. This must be a daily encouragement for us: at every moment we should be mindful o f his counsels. I at least realize that Fr. Arsenie’s teaching usually influences all my thoughts, everything I pon­ der on, and everything I do. It is impossible to forget any o f his words— extraordinary and astute in their simplicity. Their pro­ found simplicity was akin to Fr. Arsenie’s extraordinary ability to get to the essence o f things. And when he gave you an an­ swer, you would be left speechless. You would understand that here was the answer: there was no reply; there was nothing else possible. I thank the Good God for this gift. Sorin Alpctri M y f i r s t t h o u g h t is one o f thanksgiving and profound gratitude to God, Who arranged for us to be among those privileged to have met Father on the path o f life— some soon­ er, others later. Nevertheless, the deciding factor was not the amount o f time spent with Father, but the disposition o f the heart. It seems that the true history o f each one o f us began then, at the blessed moment in which we completely entrusted ourselves to him. In addition to the measure that each entrusted himself to Fr. Arsenie, there were also the open fatherly arms of the God-pleaser. His love, his openness towards everyone, would draw you to him. He would make you feel special, regardless o f your circumstances or your story—whether they were serene or murky. He would give everyone a sense o f personal worth. You always felt that Father appreciated you in a special way, that all his thoughts and all his labor were enveloping you. It is wonderful that he dedicated himself with the greatest sincerity


to thousands and thousands o f people who, in turn, asked his guidance with the same sincerity. Fathers letters abundantly prove this. From your first meeting, he would accurately diagnose you. W ith honesty, you could acknowledge it. And there was always a way out o f all difficulties, as he himself would assure you— but only with patience, with sacrifice, and especially with his immeasurable support, that is, his prayer, which had great boldness in the highest. He said nothing by chance or without a particular purpose. Every word you received from him, which oftentimes would seem incomprehensible to you, had an intrinsic value, a deep meaning. You just had to preserve and analyze it thoroughly in order to understand: “ Why did Father tell me this?” Un­ derstanding its meaning was already the first step towards heal­ ing. You didn’t necessarily have to be in Confession to receive a word. Father wouldn’t miss an opportunity at any moment, in any circumstance. He was tireless in counselling. You would often realize you were receiving the same advice reiterated, and this would as­ tonish you, until you understood that you hadn’t put the ad­ vice into practice at all, and that’s why he would give it to you again and again, until you brought it to fruition. He would support you in every trouble or sorrow— dis­ cerning the instructive clement in every tribulation. His objec­ tive was to keep you on the path, “although there are potholes and rocks on the way,” so you could carry your cross, “small as it is, but it’s yours.” He would reassure you that “there is no way without it,” and since you have to carry it, at least do it without murmuring, and it will be easier. Every one o f his counsels was supported by his personal example. He had already applied every piece o f his own ad­ vice. H e would carry his cross without complaint. W hen suf­ fering, he would say, “ If God so wills.” He would endure pains



without murmuring, and for his humility, God would always aid him. There were many times when he was hospitalized in critical condition, when he had already reached the great age o f eighty. Nonetheless, after everything he had endured, he would still recover more quickly than other, younger patients. As a spiritual father, Fr. Arsenie would create suitable con­ ditions for you to confess everything. He greatly appreciated those who “confessed thoroughly.” Nothing he heard in Con­ fession would scandalize him; rather he would lower himself to your level in all things, profoundly understanding them without minimizing them. He would assure you in all things, promising that you would be fervently commemorated, but he would warn you that he could not help you without your ef­ fort, without your little prayer. He would in no way impede your freedom; he would not force anything on you. He would say, “If you want my opinion ...” If you had even the slightest opposition to his guidance, he would immediately feel it. He would not continue his coun­ sel if you didn’t accept it freely, with all your heart. He would humble himself greatly on such occasions. He had a deep understanding of things, situations, and people. He would weigh everything, to the smallest detail. “Not everything is in all the things surrounding you,” he often said. He would try to heal us o f idealizing things that were not as they seemed— to make us see situations realistically, under­ stand our own abilities, and act accordingly. As the Holy Apostle Paul said, F or though y e have ten thou­ sa n d instructors in Christ, y e t have y e not many fa th er s (I Cor. 4:15). Arsenie, our spiritual father, was one o f these tew true fathers who lay their lives down for their spiritual children.


IN D E X Page numbers fo r illustrations are in boldface italics.

Agathangclos, monk o f Stănişoara.

67 Aiud Prison, 4 3 - 5 7 ,13 8 - 7 1,14 0 isolation cells at, 142 reeducation system at, 139 ,159 -71

1 11 ,1 1 9 - 3 0 ,2 3 2 - 3 3 ,1 5 0 entry into monasticism of, 6 2 -6 6 eyes of, 10 7 -8 funeral of, 262-63,26 2

Zarea section of, 4 7 - 4 8 ,14 0 - 4 1 A lba Iulia, 48

generosity of, 14 0 -4 3 grave of, 26s guardian angel of, 79,165

Alexander the Great, 190

health problems of, 116 -17 , 2.36,

almsgiving, 14 ,17 9 , 2oon, 14 0 - 4 1 Alpetri, Sorin, 17 6 -7 8

1 4 5 - 4 6 ,2 4 9 , 252,254-57. 16 0 61,278 imprisonment at Aiud of, 43-57,

A nthony the Great, St., 121 A ntim Monastery, 123,173


Antoncscu, Ion, 33-36, 44 apophatic theology, 114 Apuseni Mountains, 176

Confession o f prisoners during,

Arscnie (Boca), Fr., 21311

14 6 - 47.157 in isolation cell during, 148-49,

147 Divine Liturgy served during,

Arsenic (Papacioc), Archimandrite animals loved by, 7 5 -7 6 ,14 9 -5 0 appearance o f Christ to, 166-67 arrests of, 31-33, 4 2 ,12 5 -3 4 artistic talent of, 18, 4 /, 55-57, 36* 10 7 asceticism of, 209, 245, 249 athletic ability of, 1 1 - 1 5 ,1 9 1 . 2 .1 1 —

11 beard of, 187-89, 207,267 cell of, 2 0 6 ,2 3 1,2 3 9

163-68 release from, 17 0 -7 4 interrogation and torture of, 12 7 3 4 ,13 8 - 4 4 . 154-55 as a Legionnaire, 1 4 -3 7 as mayor, 3 5 - 37.37 in old age, 136 -6 5 life in Antim Monastery of, 89-93 as spiritual father and pastor, 115 11,

14 8 -4 9 ,

158-59, 176 -8 1,

childhood of, 1 3 - 1 1

1 0 2 - 4 , 209. 211, 2 13-15 , 1 1 4 ,

discernment of, 53-54, 10 1, 104,

2 29 -34 , 2 3 7 - 3 8 ,15 0 ,17 4 -7 8


IND EX Arsenie (Papacioc), Archimandrite


ence, 64, 83, 9 7 ,118 - 19 ,15 1—52., 1 1 8 ,1 4 4 ,1 4 8

life in Căldăruşani Monastery of, 19 1-9 4

on the Church, 1 13 - 1 4 ,1 4 3 on Confession, 8 1-8 3, 2.13, 1 1 4 ,

life in Cheia Monastery of, 18 1-9 1

138 on the Cross, 68, 131, 164, 198—

life in Comanca of, 74 -78 life in Cozia Monastery of, 64-77, life in Dintr-un Lemn Monastery of, 19 4 -10 0 life in Filea of, 174-8 1 life in Neamţ Monastic Seminary

9 9 ,1 1 0 ,1 10 ,13 7 , 2 4 4 -4 5 . 277 on death, 1 10 ,17 9 ,1 5 7 ,1 6 0 - 6 1 on ecclesiastical arts, 14 7 on G od s love, 10 8 ,16 6 ,117 on G od s Providence, 156, 194,

255 on grace, 10 1,10 8 ,1 4 5 on hell, 130, 148, 113, 1 1 4 , 1 1 6 -

of, 8 6-8 7,9 3-9 6 life in Sihăstria Monastery of, S i -

17 ,14 8 ,16 9

89 life in Slatina Monastery of, 1 1 1 - 1 6 life in Techirghiol Monastery of, 10 5 -6 1 life in the wilderness of, 83-84, 97-10 9 love for people by, 14 9 -5 0 ,18 8 ,115 , 130,137.2.53-54 love o f nature by, 139 military service of, 18 -3 0 , 29, 38-

on humility, 50 -51, 66, 68-69, 9 9 ,1 0 0 ,1 0 1 ,1 0 7 - 8 ,1 1 0 - 1 1 ,1 1 7 on imprisonment as a spiritual academy, 4 6 -4 7 ,13 8 ,15 1 on love for enemies, 1 1 - 1 1 , 17, 4 6 ,15 5 -5 6 ,18 9 ,14 8 on monasticism, 6 6 -7 0 , 1 4 4 , 16 9 - 7 1, 275 on obedience, 1 0 8 - 9 ,1 1 9 - 3 0 on persecution ot the Church,


miracles in the life of, 79, 95, 103, 10 8 ,111,15 1,16 5 - 6 7 ,17 0 photographs of, a, 6, /2, ///, 126, 17S, 18 6 ,2 0 8 ,2 jo , 2 19 , 228, 233, 2 4 2 ,2 / /, 263,269 prayer of, 46, 4 9 -5 0 ,5 2 .-5 3 ,10 0 preaching of, 1 0 - 1 1 , 86-88, 179, 189,2.47,153.2.54 repose of, 1 6 1 - 6 1 surveillance of, 15 3 -5 4 .18 5 -8 7 ,19 1,

195-99 teachings o f

no, 14 5 -4 6 on prayer, 118 -19 , n o - 1 1 , 1 1 1 on repentencc, 119 ,18 4 on resisting the devil, 1 0 0 - 1 0 1 on revenge, 1 6 ,1 6 - 1 7 on sacrifice, 47, 60, 75, 108, 131, 1 1 1 - 1 3 , 237-38, 14 4 - 4 5 . 263, 16 8 -6 9 on salvation, 1 1 4 - 1 7 on self-denial, 71 on spiritual progress,

6 9 -7 1,

1 0 6 - 7 ,1 4 7

on almsgiving, 1 4 0 - 4 1 on asceticism, 10 6 - 8 ,119 ,13 5 on the awareness o f G o d s pres­


on suffering, 47, 13 1-3 3 , 152-53, 168, 198-99, 110 , 14 9 , 156, 277-78

IN D E X on temptations, 99-100,194 , 1 1 0 on the H oly Gifts, 94-95 on the Jesus Prayer, 91-91, 111,

113 on the M other o f G od, 66 - 68,

trial o f members of, 134-35 Câldâru$ani Monastery, 191-94, ip j Calinic, Sr„ 101 Carol II, King o f Rom ania, 19, 31, 33 n, 3 4 . 13°. i >5 cataphatie theology, 114 Cernica Monastery, 174,199-104 Cheia Monastery, 181-91, ig j, iSS children, 161,107,153

194,111,158-59 on theoretical knowledge, 91-91, 1 44 ,14 8,1 54 on the priesthood, 50,111-13 on the Proskomedia, 130, 184, 116-17 on travelling, 173 on visions, 168 on watchfulness, 98, 104, 106-7, 118-19,157,114,134 on women, 181,119 tonsure of, 89-91 Arsenius the Great, St., 90 atheists, atheism, 139,145,190,195

Cojocaru, Nae, i6r Comanca, 74-78

Augustine o f Hippo, Blessed, 66

Communion, Holy, 14, 47n, 94-95,

Baptism, 13, 99,10311 Bartolomeu (Anania), Metropolitan, 113 Basil the Great, St., 81, 97 beauty, 151,130,153-54 Benedict (Ghiuş), Hieromonk, 61, 63, Sp, 13$, 173,100,104 Bistriţa Monastery, 154-55 Braşov, 36-39

Confession, Holy Mystery of, 176-

Christian education, 16 Cleopa (Ilie), Archimandrite, 81-83,

S2, 85-86, 88, 97-98, 106-9, 110-15, 173, 117, 22S, 167-71, 269 Cluj, 174 Codreanu, Corneliu Zelea, 14-16


Brotherhood o f St. Theodore the Studite, 113 Bucharest, 18, 11-13, 15· 5°· 5®· 4 °· 4 4 , 48,57, 61,81, 89,91,95, no. 113, 113, 119, 139, 141, 155—56. 167, 171-74, 191, 101-3, i° 6 . i n , 146,153,155-56,161,173-

79, 181-84, 194. 103-4. m . 113-14, 111, 114, 117, 130-31, 138, 145. 1 4 9 - 5 0 . 151. i 55- 5<>· 161,173-74.177-78 conscience, 16,50,58,170,113,175 Constantine, Holy Emperor, 169 Cozia Monastery, 64-77, i f . 73 Crâciun, Colonel Gheorghe, 139, 141, 153- 5 4 . 159 . 161-63. 165— 66,170 Cross o f Christ, 9 -1 0 ,4 8 ,5 4,6 8,1 46 , 157,164,199,103,110 Elevation of, 110 Procession of, 170-71 Dabija, Gheorge, 135


Burning Bush movement, 6in, 9m , 113,131,133.190-91

18 1

Daniil (Tudor) Hieroschemamonk, 9 1 . '3 4


death, 19, 47, 68, 115, 121, 119, I j 1 j 14 0 ,14 3 ,14 9 ,16 5 ,16 9 ,113 , i 57 remembrance of, 1 10 ,19 9 ,14 7 - 4 8 Demetrios (Basarabov), St., 6 i demons, 5 5 ,7 0 ,10 9 ,15 8 ,15 4 despair, 1 0 1 , 1 1 3 , 1 1 6 Dintr-un Lemn Monastery, 194-99, 19 6 Dubncac, Felix, 135 Eliade, Mircca, 3 1 , 31η Emilian (Olaru), Fr., 113 Făgăraş Mountains, 40 faith, 4 6 ,9 5 ,113,119 ,14 1,15 6 ,15 9 ,17 0 , 1 13 ,1 18 ,1 1 7 ,1 5 7 ,1 6 9 fear, 19 ,5 1,5 4 -5 5 ,6 8 ,7 8 ,9 7 .113 ,15 3 5 4 ,16 0 ,18 4 ,19 9 ,118 o f God, 1 4 ,1 3 1 ,1 4 1,18 5 ,1 13 ,1 6 8 Filea, 174-8 1 church o f Filea de Jos, 17 8 Firmilian, Metropolitan o f Craiova, 80

Ghyka, Prince Alexandru, 1 6 0 - 6 1 grace, 31,51, 66, 6 9 -7 0 , 9 9 -10 0 ,10 2 , 108, 151, 157, 167, 170, 189, 198, 1 1 0 , 1 1 1 , 1 1 8 , 1 2 0 , 2 14 , 217, 238,

2-45. 154 . 2 6 3.16 7 .2 7 1 Gregory o f Decapolis, St., 254-5S heaven, 27, 108-9 , “ 3. ‘ 52. 164. <74 . 190,198, 2 1 1 , 1 1 4 , 245, 2 6 1-6 3, 17 0 ,17 6 hell, 1 3 0 ,1 4 2 ,1 4 8 - 4 9 , 1 0 2 , 1 1 3 , 1 2 4 , 1 16 - 1 7 ,2 4 8 ,1 6 9 Holy Land, the, 218 humility, 6 6 ,6 8 ,9 9 - 10 2 ,10 7 - 8 ,112 13, 119 η , 167-68 , 179, n o - 1 1 ,

227, 219, 259. 275. 278 Iachint (Unciulcac), Archimandrite, 87 lanolidc, loan, 58 laşi, 172-73 Ilarion (Dan), Hicromonk, 273-76 llie (Cioruţă), Hieromonk, 1 0 0 ,2 0 1

forgiveness, 10 7 ,115 ,111,18 9 ,13 8

illness (sickness), 143, 155, 203, 109,

Frăsinei Monastery, 64

24 5-4 6 Ioanichie (Bălan), Archimandrite,

Gafencu, Valeriu, 43,4 4 Galaţi, 136

2 1 7 - 1 8 ,1 3 5 Iustinian (Stoica),

Gavriil (Stoica), Archimandrite, 183—


116 -18 ,1 1 8

84, 200, 257, ay i, 15 9 -6 0 Ghenoiu, Ghenadie, 173

Jacob, Patriarch, 69

Gheorghe, Văsâi, 135

Jalea, Ion, 57 Jesus Christ, Lord, God, and Savior,

Gherasim (llie), M onk, 10 6 -7 Gherasim (Iscu), A bbot o f Tismana Monastery, 7 6 ,7 8 Ghermano, A bbot o f Cozia Monas­ tery, 7 2 -8 0 Gherontie (Bălan), Fr., 8 1,113 Ghervasie, Fr„ o f C ozia Monastery, 65-66

51, 58-59, 67, 7 1, 74η, 86-87, 91, 9 9 -10 0 , 102, io8, 145, 153, 160, 164, 179, 181, 185, 194-9S. 198, 113, 2 10 , 228, 24 3-4 5, 263, 2 7 0 -7 1 appearance to Fr. Arsenie of, 167 crucifixion of, 6 8 ,116 ,16 3


169, 227

Cross of, see Cross o f Christ

Mark o f Athens, St., 260

faith in, 170, see also faith icon of, 206 knowledge of, 9

marriage, 181 Maxim, Virgil, 4 3 - 4 4 , 4 9 - 5 4 ,/ 0 Miercurea C iuc, 3 1- 3 4 , 58

prayer to, 46, 259, see also prayer sacrifice for, 9, 68, i29n

Mihăilcscu, Emanoil, 136

Second Com ing of, 244 as the Truth, 254

Mina, monk o f Sihăstria, 8 4-8 5 Mircea the Elder, K ing, 64n

union with, i64n

Mironescu, Alexandru, 12 3 ,1 2 4 ,13 5

Jesus Prayer, 91-92., 221, 223, 223m 225 Jilava Prison, 134 ,136 John Chrysostom, St., 82-83, 173, 224

Misleanu, 13, 20,22,58 , 61 Moldavia, 17 2-7 3 monasticism, 20, 58, 66, 81, 86-87,

94,108,113,132, 206, 269 Morse code, 131,144,147,163 Mother o f God, Most Holy, 23, 67,

John the Evangelist, St., 90-9 1 Joja, Constantin, 123 judging, 150 Justinian, Patriarch o f Romania, 97, n o, 174,19 9, 215

107,189,194,198, in , 219, 25859, 268,271 Mount Athos, 218-20,219 Muslims, 246-47 Naidim, Marin, 4 3 ,16 4 ,16 6

Kant, Immanuel, 24 4 -4 5

Neamţ Monastic Seminary, 86-87,


Legion o f the Archangel Michael (the Legionnaires), 24 -28, 45 life in Cernica Monastery, 19 9 -204

Neamţ Mountains, 97

love, 58, 68, 83-84, 86, 9 8 ,112 -13 ,115 . 118, 120, 14 9 -50, 162, 176, 181, 189, 191, 193, 198, 201, 211, 215,

obedience, 28, 70,108, 220,228 Orthodox Bible and Missionary In­ stitute, the, 89

225-27, 229-30, 237-38, 244, Paisius (Olaru), Elder, 81-8 4 , Papacioc, Ion (brother o f Fr. Arse-

250, 263, 2 7 0 -7 1, 274, 276 for Christ, 59, 67,108

nie), 58, 6 1-6 2 ,6 1

for enemies, 16, 21, 27,155,190 for God, 129,132 o f country, 34, 43, 243 o f neighbors, 24, 67, 132, 179, 188, 221, 248-49

Papacioc, Mircea (grandfather), 14 Papacioc, Radu (brother), 30-32,55, 106 Papacioc, Stanca (mother), 13-15, /5,

Macarius the Great, St., 130 Marcu (Dumitrcscu), Monk o f Sihastria, 4 4 , 116, 127-31, 12 8 ,

48 Papacioc, Vasile (father), 13-14 ,7 5 ,16 Paraskcva, St., 120,122 Pasărea Monastery, n o - 11



passions, 6 8 ,9 1,15 1

174, 17 7 -7 9 . 181. 185-87, 1 9 1 1 0 0 ,1 0 6 - 7 , i n . 118 files on Fr. Arsenic of, 118

Patericon, 154 Paul, Holy Apostle, 4 1 ,17 3 penance, 8 1,8 6 , 2.01, 1 0 5 ,1 1 4 Petrişor, Marcel, 14 9 ,7 5 0 ,16 0 -6 1

self-will, 138

Petroniu (Tănase), Archimandrite, 89-90, 90, 9 1, 94m 113, i t 6, 10 0

Serghic, Fr. Vasilc, 43, 4 9 -5 1 Sihăstria Monastery, 81-89, S4, 117 , 167 silence, 4 9 ,9 1 ,1 0 5 ,1 1 8 ,1 1 3 ,1 1 0 ,1 5 3

Piatra Craiului Mountain, 3 9 -4 0 ,131

Silouan the Athonite, St., 10 1, i i 4 n ,

Pistol, Dan, 136 Piteşti prison, 159

Simeon, Abbot o f Frăsinei, 64

i 69n

prayer, 2 .8 ,31-31,4 6 ,4 9 ,5 1-5 3,5 5 ,6 7 , 79 -8 0 , 85, 91, 95, 98, 106, 109, 116 -19 , 148, 157-58. 167, 179, 1 8 1 - 8 1,18 9 ,1 9 3 ,10 0 - 1 0 1,10 4 , 108, 1 1 0 ,1 1 6 , 1 1 1 - 1 4 , 2 19 -30 , 13 1,13 5 ,14 1,14 4 ,15 7 ,16 1- 6 1, 1 7 1,17 7 , see also Jesus Prayer o f the heart, 9 1 ,1 1 1 - 1 3

sin, 43, 4 6 ,5 4 , 6 1, 84, 1 0 1 , 1 1 1 , 148, 184, 194, 1 0 1 - 3 , n o , 1 1 1 - 1 3 , 119 , 1 1 4 , 138, 14 3 . 14 8 , 15 1, 1 6 0 ,1 7 1 Slatina Monastery, p i, 1 0 9 ,1 1 1 - 1 4 brothers of, h i Sofian (Boghiu), Archimandrite, 89,

9 i , p j , i 35. i 73-74 icon by, 94n, I05n, 10 6

pride, 6 9 ,10 1 priesthood, 50-51, 6 8 ,9 0 -9 1, 9 5,113, 1 7 8 ,18 4 ,1 1 1- 1 3

Stâniloac, Fr. Dumitru, 135,13 5 Stănişoara Monastery, 67

Prodromou Skete, 89n, 1 1 0 purity, 135 ,15 3

State, Aurel, 16 0 -6 1 Stephen the Great,



Prince, 184 Rădulescu, Nicolac, 135 repentance, 46, 55, 81, 86, 107, 119, 1 4 9 ,1 8 4 ,11 4 ,1 3 8 Roman (Braga), Archimandrite, 135

Suceava, 117 Suceava Monastery, 17 1 suffering, 18, 31, 40, 45-49, 54, 60, 68, 75, 100, 106, 110 , 1 18 - 3 1 ,

Romanian Revolution, 1 17 - 18

141, 143, 154-56, 163-69 , 19 8 99, 10 3, i l l , 1 19 - 3 0 , 137, 145,

salvation, 7 ,5 1,6 8 ,8 1-8 3 ,8 8 ,10 6 ,113 ,

1 4 9 , 159. 1 6 1 , 177-78

115, 148, 155, 157, 168, 176, 181, 185, 191, 10 0 , 111, 1 14 , 1 1 4 - 1 7 , 1 3 5 ,1 4 4 - 4 5 ,1 4 7 - 4 8 ,1 5 6 ,1 6 0 , 16 3 ,17 0

Techirghiol Monastery, 10 5 -6 3 ,16 8 Church o f Sts. Peter and Paul at, 2 14 , 1 1 5 - 1 6 ,2 33 nuns of, i n , 1 17 ,1 5 1 ,1 5 6 - 5 7 ,1 6 1

Sbom ik (Abbot Chariton o f Valaam Monastery), 9 1 - 9 1

love for Fr. Arsenie of, 14 0

Securitate, 7 1, 7 9 -8 0 , 95, 9 7 ,113 - 15 ,

temptations, 9, 64, 84n, 97, 9 9 -10 1,

138, 145, 15 1- 5 4 . 156-57. 159.


1 0 6 ,14 3 ,15 9 ,16 6 ,18 9 ,19 4 ,110


Teofil, Metropolitan o f Transylvania,

>74 Teofil (Părăian), Archimandrite, 2 2 3 -17 ,2 2 6 Theodora, Blessed, 158

tollhouses, 158, i58n, 157· 1(>o Trifan, Traian, 4s, 55 Turcea, Daniel, 1 0 1 - 4 Turnu Monastery, 7 1 - 7 3

Theodora o f Sihla, St., 104 cave of, 10 $ Theodore the Studitc, St., 133

Uncreated Light, 6in , i04 n

rule of, 113 Thomas, Holy Apostle, 173


thoughts, 10 1,113 ,13 9 ,16 1,16 9 ,17 6 Ţigăneşti Monastery, i n —12 Tismana Monastery, 77 ,7 8

Urzică, Mihai, 172 (Ilie),


10 6 -7 Voiculescu, Vasile, 135 Zărneşti, 34-36


No matter bow little you are, no matter boiu tired, yon mustn’t give up. For, I repeat, no misfortune means any­ thing. Nothing is lost as long as faith is established, the soul doesn’t surrender, and you raise your head again!”


—Elder Arsenic

1l d

e r

A r s e n ie o f R o m a n ia

/ (19 14 -z o n ) was a witness o f

the eternal truth of Christ, given by God to contemporary man. A man of deep prayer, he also possessed experiential knowledge of the ways of the world. Before going to the monastery, he had been a gifted athlete, a talented sculptor, a soldier, a mayor, and a prisoner of the Romanian Communist regime. Prison became a spiritual academy for him, and after his release he dedicated his life to God as a monastic. For the next six decades he would labor as a monk—in prison and out of prison. He became abeloved spiritual father, counselingthe nuns ofthe Techirghiol Monastery and the multitude of faithful who flocked to his monastic cell. Drawing on his knowledge of the spiritual life and the workings of the world, he was able to guide people to a life in Christ, marked by activity, not philosophizing and speculation. Every endeavor of his life was characterized by an intensity of pur­ pose and an uncompromising confession of the truth: a knowledge that within each moment we make our choice for eternity. During his long years in prison, he had profound experiences of grace, which helped himrealize the power of sufferingand sacrifice for Christ. As he himself said, “We must sacrifice not what we have, but what we are.” This comprehensive biography, compiled from the elders own words, the recollections o f his spiritual children, and the 3,500 pages o f files kept by the Romanian secret police, includes many o f Fr. Arsenie’s counsels and spiritual maxims. ST . H E R M A N O F A L A S K A B R O T H E R H O O D

$ 17 U .S .



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