Posted by: lostperception | 10/28/2010

On Theology – Elder Paisios

“Just as a beautiful statue cannot talk, manufactured words are unable to speak to the soul of a man, except if the listeners are very worldly, and pleased simply by charming conversation”.

Theology is the word of God, which is apprehended by pure, humble and spiritually regenerated souls, and not the beautiful words of the mind, which are crafted with literary art and expressed by the legal or worldly spirit.

Theology that is taught like a science usually examines things historically and, consequently, things are understood externally. Since patristic ascesis and inner experience are absent, this kind of theology is full of uncertainty and questions. For, with the mind one cannot grasp the Divine Energies if he does not first practice ascesis and live the Divine Energies, that the Grace of God might be energized within him.

Whoever thinks that he can come to know the mysteries of God through external scientific theory, resembles the fool who wants to see Paradise with a telescope.

Those who struggle patristically become empirical theologians through the visitation of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. All those who have an external education, in addition to the internal enlightenment of the soul, may describe the divine mysteries and interpret them correctly, as did many Holy Fathers.

If, however, one does not become spiritually related to the Holy Fathers and wants to take up translating or writing, he will wrong both the Holy Fathers and himself, as well as the people, with his spiritual cloudiness.

Neither is it right for someone to theologize using someone else’s theology, because he will resemble an impotent man who adopts others’ children, presents them as his own and pretends to be the father of a large family. The Holy Fathers took the divine word or personal experiences from their hearts; they were the result of spiritual battles against evil and the fire of temptations, which they confessed humbly or, out of love, wrote down in order to help us. They never kept this love for them selves, acknowledging, likewise, that humility and all the divine gifts are of God.

When purity comes to man and simplicity with its fervent faith and devotion arrives as well, then the Holy Trinity takes up His abode within us. With this divine enlightenment one easily finds the keys to divine meanings, so as to interpret the Spirit of God in a very simple and natural way, without causing an intellectual headache.

Depending on the purity or guile that one possesses, analogous interpretations are made, and one is benefited or harmed accordingly. Oftentimes, one may cause harm due to his inexperience, even if acting with good intentions.

If we could go out of our self (the love for our self), we would also escape from the gravity of the earth and see everything in reality, with a divine eye, clearly and profoundly. That is why it is necessary for one to leave the world for the desert, struggle with humility, repentance and prayer, be deserted by his passions, remove his spiritual “rusts” and turn into a good conductor in order to receive the Divine Grace and become a true theologian.

If we don’t remove the rust from our spiritual cables, we will constantly be short circuited, full of worldly theories, doubts and questions. Then we cease theologize, being found in a condition of worldliness, but will speak historically, or examine things legally and mathematically.

Passage taken from “Epistles”

Father Arsenie Boca: on the Paths of a Saint

At Prislop Monastery in Romania, upon a burial there exists a cross made out of flowers that will never wilt. The man buried within represents a miracle, of which the world was truly unworthy; father Arsenie Boca, one of the great illuminaries of Orthodoxy, was indeed considered a saint by all the fortunate souls who have met him in their lifetime. Strong, unshaken in faith, he transversed the red desserts of atheism and the terrors of the communist prisons without diverging from the righteous path which he followed accompanied by many Christians. Adorned by the people for his sermons and his miracles, feared by the authorities of the times due to his great influence, father Arsenie died as a martyr; yet the trail of gold which he has left radiates today intensely.

Father Arsenie Boca saw the light of day in on September 29, 1910 in Vata de Sus (Romania), the only child of a family that was well off. He finishes highschool at Brad, where he is distinguished by his profound thinking and intuition. Afterward he enters the Theological seminary in Sibiu and finishes in Ceranauti; because he has great artistic talent he is sent to Bucharest for a degree in fine arts.

One of his paintings During this time he also took courses in biology and medicine. When he finishes three years here he is sent by metropolitan Balan to Mount Athos to a Romanian skete (a very small monastery having a few monks).
His short stay here becomes the occasion for a few exceptional spiritual experiences. Here he would fast for periods of up to forty days, as he would later recall to a few Christians (note: in his case fasting probably meant eating nothing at all or only a bit of bread and drinking a bit of water). Here he would also experience Divine visions and consolations.
Many people would come from afar, even on foot, to meet father Arsenie Boca. He would then take those who desired Holy Communion to a spring up on the mountain. There he would keep them for 7 days and nights and they were to eat only bread and honey. During this time they would pray together and listen to sermons. Whoever ate something else, meats… had to leave the place. In the morning father Arsenie would come into the cells where the Christians slept together like brothers and he would choose a few of them; the ones he thought were ready to go to confession, who would afterward receive the Eucharist.
During the war many people came to father Arsenie , but especially young men who had to leave for the front. To some he would say: “your soul walks along a different path, go after it”. He felt that their souls were not in the Church; for them the pilgrimage was a formality. To others he would say, “yes, come”. He would take them into the Church and hold a liturgy. To some he would give the Holy Cross to kiss, to others he would not. Some he would anoint with mirth, others he would not. Once someone asked him; “father, why do you give the Holy Cross only to some and not to others?”. He responded: “my child, those to whom I give the cross to kiss will not return home. You will return and we will meet again”. And those he said indeed would return.

…It is said that many people sought father Arsenie Boca because he genuinely cared about the spiritual side of a human being. He greatly desired that people return to God and live a life devoted to Christ. From even before the war he was a suspect for the communist (atheistic) regime since many people appealed to him for guidance. The security were suspicious that he organized a movement, a conspiracy.

During the restrictive times of communism (Christianity became illegal) father Arsenie continued his mission of a spiritual father. At this time miracles were necessary to escape the authoritarian communist persecutions which ferociously hit against anything that did not fit the narrow communist ideology; and father Arsenie was a man through which the Holy Spirit did many miracles and that is why he was greatly sought. After 89 in front of Sambata de Sus monastery a cross was placed with all those who have fought in the anticommunist resistance in Fagaras. The first on the cross if father Arsenie Boca, even though he never inclined anyone to take up arms and fight, nor did he ever touch a weapon. However, he breathed courage and faith to those who did choose to fight. It is said that many people were helped through his prayers when they were persecuted by the security.

Water out of Stone

Father Arsenie had a cell in the mountains, above Sambata monastery where he retreated for fasting and prayer in solitude. It is said that the space and path towards the cell were sanctified and father Arsenie would not speak of them, and would only ever take a few people whom he considered pure in heart..Up at the cell there was no water, only small springs formed during spring out of the snow. One time those who were climbing with father Arsenie said to him: “father, we are really thirsty, and we have finished the water that we have brought with us”. Father Arsenie looked thoughtfully at them, then he took a small stick from the ground and started praying. Afterward he asked them with compassion: Do you wish to drink water?”. “Yes we wish!”. He then hit a stone and water started to drip; and even today water drops out of that rock; not a lot, but permanently water drops.

St. Arsenie’s Cell

In 1948 Prislop monastery re-enters into the possession of the Christian Orthodox Church. Father Arsenie is sent to Prislop monastery and in a short time he brings life to the monastery. Even today, after so many years we can see the way the flowers were arranged by Arsenie Boca, or how each stone was placed with care in the place he saw fit……(rest of paragraph is a description of the monastery:

In a short time people here also hear about the grace of father Arsenie Boca and they flock to him in great numbers to be consoled and spiritually healed. Father Arsenie had time for everyone and he never shunned anyone away. The starets eldress of the monastery tells us: “He would descend to everyone’s level and speak to them in a language they personally understood. On one hand he captivated and enticed you, and on the other hand he chastised your conscience. He showed and described to you your own spiritual state; explained to you where you stood, who you were, and who you could be. He knew you so well”.

He is captured by the security from Prislop in 1958 and forced to hard labor in Dobrogea where he would spend the rest of two years.

The Saint in Shackles:

Even though he was put in jail and to the canal, father Arsenie Boca was never condemned, simply because the security could never find in him any fault. Judging by the accusations we are lead to wonder whether father Arsenie did not merely accept his sentence so he may be able to console and help the souls of those in prison. One of those closer to father Arsenie Boca tells us:

“In Dobrogea, at the Canal, where father Arsenie was sent the second time, it was very difficult. They had a norm to shovel, the workers were enfeebled since they were given extremely little to eat, so they had no power. Father Arsenie would say, “my good children, we’ll make it” and it is unknown how they did it for they finished their norm and they survived. At night father Arsenie disappeared, nobody knew how. The guards started speaking among themselves: “there is one who disappears at night!” One time when the father returned to his cell he told one of the guardians, “do not be afraid, no one will harm you”. Today it was like this, the next day like that, eventually the guardian told the rest of the guards: “either I’m going crazy or I’m having visions, there is a man here who disappears”. One night the guards went to see him, since he used to do his Holy Liturgy by himself at night. They saw him outside the jail, moving his lips, praying. They wanted to stop him but they did not dare. The large jail cell door with heavy locks would open in front of him without anyone touching them, both at night when he left and in the morning when he returned. During this time father Arsenie also created sketches of his plans for building the altar at the Prislop monastery. …

(Translation to be continued)

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