What is a saint? A saint is a man of this world, like any one of us, who transforms his soul and his body into a ladder by which God can descend to us, to grant us his forgiveness and to help us. One needs to have extraordinary purity in order to be transformed like this. The miracles performed by saints are very important, but the most important for us is the example they set by their lives. The lives of the saints are indeed true miracles from the beginning until the end.
A French author, who wrote very beautiful words about Romania, was left with only one question regarding its people: ‘Why do Romanians go all the way to the Cathedral of the Patriarchy only to kiss a monkey’s hand, wrapped in laces’. That monkey’s hand – is my answer – was the hand of Saint Demetrius and it has prevented me, a Romanian, from doing what the French did at Saint-Denis, where, during the French revolution, seized by the fury of an ideology, they unearthed all their kings and scattered their bones. This act would be simply unimaginable in the Romanian context.
The question we are facing at the moment is: are we able to recognize our saints while they are still with us? (…) Saints are not only ladders for God’s descent towards mankind, they also carry God within themselves. This is the kind of dignity you will find within the communist prisons. We live in a time when we are walking over the bodies of our saints, we are walking over holy relics. We need to recognize this through their canonization. In a country with many saints there are many ladders on which God can descend to offer His help, but we are covering up the relics and the memory of these martyrs out of cowardice, fear and opportunism.
Did you know this story about Saint Demetrius of Basarab, whom we are commemorating today? One day, when he was leading his sheep to pasture, he trod by accident on a wild birds nest and so, without meaning to, killed the little chicks. An accident – it could have happened to any one of us in this life. So this shepherd, heart-broken by the crime he has committed, he resolves to a gesture which might strike you as incredibly infantile. He bares his foot, the one which has unwillingly stepped on the nest, and he leaves it bare for three years. He punishes it for what it has done – leaves it to step on nettles and thorns, to face the cold and the winter. He punishes this limb of his, in repentance for its unthoughtful act. This certainly seems childish, but I will ask you: ‘You, my friend, with your unthoughtful soul, after you have trodden on the soul of another, have you ever repented?’ They are now treading on the relics of martyrs. Think only of those who initiated the communist regime, today they are not repentant, not even remorseful, they live among us, some are still our leaders. Nobody has the courage to follow the gesture of a simple shepherd…
What you have here in your monastery’s shrine, are holy relics from Aiud. This is the responsibility of the one who has recognized a saint. A saint will recognize another saint, a child with a pure heart will also recognize him. I do not know how many churches and monasteries have such relics and the courage to display them for worship… It is very hard… it is as if seven hundred years must pass until their recognition and canonization. Just imagine a prison cell.
Imagine a young man, 25 or 30 years old… facing the invisible evil. This young man’s body, though battered and tortured, has defeated the devil. The devil was invisibly there. It was not only that one man, that one officer, beating him, scourging him and torturing him – it was the ideology, the spirit of those times. And he, a saint, the embodiment of an angel, has defeated the bodiless one – Satan himself. And these bodies which have been returned to the earth are the relics of the saints from Aiud, from Pitesti, from Gherla, from Sighet, and from every other place from which this nation has brought out her saints. Which body today will stand unshaken in front of the devil? The devil of our days, regarding globalization, is another idol. This is why I have considered of great importance the gesture of recognizing a saint. The contemporary saints, which are today with us – we have saints disguised in pensioners, who have been through the communist prisons with martyr’s bodies – nobody recognizes them. Let us come out of the sin of ignorance and let us see our saints.
I remember in 1993 there was an interview with Tudor Greceanu, our great air pilot, one of our heroes, and he was not living in a villa or in a large house, but in modesty, not to say poverty, in a one-room apartment. He was invalid – when he was caught by the communists after trying to escape from prison, they kept his legs in cold water for three days. This resulted in an infection and one of his legs and had to be cut off. And he was standing there for the interview, looking ill and serene and dignified, and his pyjamas were gathered with a hair pin over his missing leg.
A martyr has very limited means – while the rulers are strong -, and yet he rejoices in his sufferings. He is not overly attached to this life, he knows there is also the life to come. And this is the attitude which was seen in the anti-communist resistance – in the mountains, in churches, within the larger society and especially within the prison walls. The communist prisons have produced a large number of saints which we should now duly acknowledge. By acknowledging them, we shall be strengthened by them in return. Tudor Greceanu is a saint, Valeriu Gafencu is a saint, Radu Gyr is a saint, and the list is enormous, there are women of this nation which are saints, which helped to keep the faith alive.
I will tell you this: in ten years these saints will be acknowledged by the Church, but until then I bow my head to the saint who brought these holy relics here, because while he was able to see the saints of this country, others only saw their rulers, many of whom are residues of the communist past. While he knelt in front of Jesus Christ, like our kings of old did, others only knelt in front of temporary authorities. So I will end today by calling to you: let us venerate our saints!
Traducere de Carmen Istrate – din volumul Din temniţe spre Sinaxare
Sursa: Danion Vasile