Thursday, September 14, 2023

Moldova Pilgrimage, Part 4

The Elder Cleopa

Click here for Part 1.

Click here for Part 2.

Click here for Part 3.

On Tuesday, we went to the Sihăstria Secului Monastery, where the Elder Cleopa was a monk and later the abbot. 

I believe that it was on the way to this monastery that we passed a Soviet cemetery on the side of the road. At the center of this plot, there was a sizable stone marker with the hammer and sickle. I would imagine that these soldiers must have been killed in a battle in that area. But it was hard to imagine a war going on in this area now. I was also surprised that the cemetery seemed to be well maintained, and not vandalized, which I thought was impressive, given that Romania fought on the other side of that war. I can't find the source of the quote, but I believe it is a true saying: "Who but a coward makes war on a soldier after he is dead."

The Sihăstria monastery is the only one that we went to that had a sign that said not to take photos, and so we didn't. But I found this video on YouTube which gives you a good view of this beautiful monastery:

We made a point of going to this monastery first, because Elena knew that Fr. David Companik has a special veneration for Elder Cleopa, and so she hoped to find something there that she could give him as a gift. I figured that there were probably icons of him, without a halo (since he has not been formally glorified yet), and as a matter of fact they had them on sale in the monastery bookstore. We venerated Elder Cleopa's grave, and spent a good bit of time looking around the monastery, and then we went to the nearby Secu Monastery.

The above video gives a good overview of the monastery, although it was taken during the winter, and we were there in August. It is a beautiful monastery, but relatively small compared to the others in the area. I believe we had plans to see other monasteries that day, but I think my wife was feeling under the weather, and so we decided to go back to the hotel and take it easy for the rest of the day.

On Wednesday, we decided to first go to the Neamț Citadel, which overlooks the city of Târgu Neamț from Pleșu Hill.

It was a lot cooler there for mid-August than it would have been back home, but since we had to walk up the hill to get to the Citadel, we decided it would be best to do that before things warmed up. 

A short clip taken outside the Citadel. You can briefly see Elena. The music was not added to the video.

As I was walking across the bridge that leads into the Citadel, there were people coming out, and as Elena told me later, there was a boy who saw me and said "Wow, Mom! Look -- a priest!" But as I got closer he said, "Wait... is he a real priest? He has no belly, Mom!" When my wife heard the story, she immediately reminded me that this is why she makes me eat healthy food.

Matushka Patricia and me on our way out of the Citadel.

There was a guide in the Citadel who spoke English very well, and he told us that St. Stephen the Great had changed the direction of the entrance to the Citadel, so that you could only reach the entrance by going on the bridge which circled around, and prevented taking a battering ram, and getting any speed to break down the gate. This Citadel was never taken by force, but when the Turks conquered the area, they forced the Romanians to blow up the Citadel. What you see today is not the full Citadel that once was, but what could be reconstructed out of the lower levels.

After lunch, we went to the nearby Neamț Monastery, which is where St. Paisius Velichkovsky ended his days. For many years, St. Paisius was mentioned in the list of saints when the prayers of the Litia were done in ROCOR. His name was later removed, as other have been added, but his name stood out because we usually do not mention the surnames of saints in our prayers, and his name was a name that a non-Russian has a bit of trouble getting used to saying. Prior to this trip, I only knew that he had been on Mt. Athos, and had played an important role in the revival of Russian monasticism. I had no idea of the Romanian connection with St. Paisius, but it went back to the early days of his monastic life. The Prophet Elias Skete on Mt. Athos, where he was the Abbot, had both a Slavonic and Romanian choir, which alternated during the services. After leaving Mt. Athos, St. Paisius came to this area, and eventually to this monastery. And I suspect that it is largely due to him that there is such an impressive collection of monasteries in a relatively small area. He not only published the Philokalia in Slavonic, but he also had it published in Romanian.

The Main Church of the Monastery.

The walls inside the main Church of the monastery. Blacked with centuries of incense, and with some damage from having been burned on more than one occasion over its long history. This monastery is yet another monastery built by St. Stephen the Great.

The monastery courtyard.

A miraculous Icon of the Mother of God.

The relics of St. Paisius Velichkovsky

An Icon of St. Paisius at the Monastery, in which he is referred to as "St. Paisius of Neamț."

You can listen to a sermon I preached on the Sunday of All Saints of Russia, which focused on St. Paisius, and highlighted this Romanian connection: St. Paisius Velichkovsky

While in the main church, I struck up a conversation with a monk who spoke English very well, and who asked me where I was from. I told him, and introduced him to my wife. He asked where she was from, and I told him that she was from China. He then said "O, you searched very far for wife!" And I told him, that actually I met her in my high school gym class in Houston.

Nearby there is a seminary, and the seminary was a very new and beautiful Church, with vibrant icons inside and out.

There was one icon in the Church that I wasn't expecting to see:

I noticed in other Romanian Churches that there were often portraits of the founders of a Church on the back western wall. In one older church, there was a portrait of a King of Romania that I believe was actually a Roman Catholic. So this portrait of Patriarch Bartholomew is there, next to a similar portrait of the Patriarch of Romania who consecrated this Church together some years back.

To be continued...