The Miracles of Elder Arsenie Boca

Born in the county of Hunedoara, Romania, Fr. Arsenie Boca (September 29, 1910 – 1989) was one of the most important Romanian monastic figures of the 20th century. Ordained as a celibate Dean by Metropolitan Nicolae Bălan in 1935, he spends three months at the Romanian Prodromu Skete in Mount Athos, and is then established at the Sâmbăta de Sus Monastery (Braşov county), and receives tonsure in 1940. In 1942, he is ordained a Priest. By 1940, he had already sparkled in Sâmbăta de Sus what one of his contemporaries would describe as: “That uplifting time when the whole of Transylvania would make its way on singing pilgrimages defying chest-deep snow, to Sâmbăta de Sus, built by Martyr Voivode Constantin Brâncoveanu.”


Besides his outstanding contribution to the translation of the Philokaly alongside another reputed theological figure, Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae, he will always be remembered for his activity as a Priest, which earned him the surname of the “guider of souls”. Persecuted by the communist regime but highly respected and loved by the faithful, he was buried at the Prislop Monastery, which is now one of the country’s most important pilgrimage places.

“Fr. Arsenie was a unique phenomenon in the history of Romanian monasticism; a figure of high monastic stature, of a kind that the Romanian Orthodox Church never had before him.” Fr. Dumitru STĂNILOAE

Encounter with Fr. Arsenie

[…] Times were rapidly succeeding one another and godless communism was thrusting its claws ever more deeply into the country’s body. By providing Christian help to the anti-communist fighters in the Făgăraş Mountains, Father Arsenie got into the Security’s “visual field” and was arrested in 1948, for the first time. Forcibly moved out from Sâmbăta to Prislop, he eventually became Abbot of the latter and after the monastic abode was changed into a nunnery, he stayed there as a Confessor Priest, until 1959, when the communists dismantled the monastic community. In between, he had been arrested once more and taken to the Canal*, where he had spent almost a year. Then followed his exile to Bucharest, where he was kept outside actual priestly activity, being retained only as a church painter, always under the dog’s eye of the atheistic regime. During the last part of his life he grew very attached to two places: Drăgănescu (where he painted the church for 15 years, starting from 1968 and left us a true “sermon in images”, even if perhaps artistically somewhat unusual by the traditional iconography canons) and Sinaia (where, in 1969, he had his cell and his painter workshop, where he would retire more often and where he reposed in the Lord in early 1989, aged 79).

“Once, I went to Drăgănescu to talk with the Father. Upon arriving at the church, I looked around but didn’t see any bearded man, dressed in monastic clothes, as I had imagined that Fr. Arsenie must look like. There was just a man in a white overall, wearing a cap on his head. When I saw I couldn’t find the Father, I decided to leave. At that point, I saw the man in the overall come up to me and ask:

- What are you looking for?

I turned to him and told him that I was looking for Arsenie, the painter.

- Why are you looking for Arsenie the painter? – he asked.

- I have some business with him, I replied.

The man said:

- Come closer. And he asked me again why I wanted to see Arsenie the painter and I told him again that I had a few things I wanted to talk to him about. Then I turned around to leave, when the man said in a kind voice:

- Come, man — let me tell you why you’re looking for Arsenie the painter. And he started telling me why I was looking for Fr. Arsenie. When I saw he was telling me my own thoughts and why I had come to see him, I realized that the man in the white overall couldn’t be anyone else but Fr. Arsenie Boca. I told him:

- It’s you. You are the painter AND Father Arsenie. And he asked me:

- What do you base your statement on, when you’re saying it’s me? and I replied:

- You’ve told me my own thoughts and the reason why I’ve come here, and there isn’t anyone else except Father Arsenie who could do that. And I added: Father, there isn’t anybody else like you in Romania.

He then said:

- You go, man — and caressed my face with his hands.”

Matei Biliboacă, Săvăstreni village   

 ______________________________________________

*The Danube-Black Sea Canal, one of Ceauşescu’s ambitions, where many “convicts” were sent and which was the end of many.

The main writings that have been left from Father Arsenie (and which for a long time circulated “under the table”, in typed copies and sometimes without his signature) were published after 1990: from Cărarea Împărăţiei (“The Path to the Kingdom”) to the recent volume titled Părintele Arsenie Boca – mare îndrumător de suflete din secolul XX. O sinteză a gândirii Părintelui Arsenie în 800 de capete(“Father Arsenie, Great Guider of Souls of the 20th Century. A Summary of Father Arsenie’s Thinking, in 800 Points”), compiled by Ioan Gânscă, supported by Father Archimandrite Teofil Părăian […].


“We Should Tell the Truth, Come What May”

Words and Examples for One’s Spiritual Awakening

-        Do you remember any particular advice that Fr. Arsenie Boca would give to people?

-        Father Arsenie could see that people loved him and he was afraid they might fall into idolatry. He used to tell everyone: “You all come here for useful advice and then expect me to save you, but I cannot do that. I can only wake you up from the sins you have been living in. Because this life is short and the other one is eternal and I wouldn’t want to see you cry on the Judgement Day”.

Amintiri despre Arsenie Boca_mica

This is why Father Arsenie wouldn’t let people kiss his hand. And yet, he would allow some to do that.

Once, I asked him why he would let some of the people who would come to see him, kiss his hand.

He told me: “These ones see me for their last time.”

They were from among those who opposed communism and who died afterwards up in the mountains or in prisons.

-         Did you ever see Fr. Arsenie get agry?

-         No. He had the serenity of a great prayer. But when something would upset him, he would only frown a little – but his face would never turn angry. And if you were guilty, he would look at you and you’d feel that you couldn’t hide anything from him.

-         Was it sheer authority, or was it love, too?

-         As I said before, if you knew Fr. Arsenie, you would feel his love. He was like those peasants who kiss their children only when they’re asleep. When you’d do something wrong, he wouldn’t raise his voice, but he would just look at you in a certain way. Just as when you deserved to be praised — he wouldn’t make a big case about how well you had done, he’d only look at you and youknew that you deserved to be praised.

-         Did you ever see him cry?

-         Yes. He would cry when he was praying. Once, I caught him in his cell with tears running down his face. Then I also saw him tearful at the altar, during the Liturgy. He would cry for people’s sins. He was suffering for the fact that people wouldn’t do the right things and thus turn away from God’s Face.

-         Father Arsenie is considered to be a Saint, especially by the people of Transylvania. Why is there such a cult for Father Arsenie, in Transylvania?

-         Because of his good deeds. He was exactly according to the word of God. He took people out of darkness. He taught them how to live according to God’s teachings. The people felt his love for them. Because he was good seed; and that seed, which Fr. Arsenie sowed has been bearing fruit to this day.

-         How would he speak: directly or through examples? 

-         Most often, Fr. Arsenie would speak about sins openly, he would speak about them in public, but the issues of a more personal nature, he would talk about them through examples. He used to tell the sins of some directly, so that the others could hear and learn. After the Liturgy, many people would gather in the monastery yard and Fr. Arsenie would walk through and stop and exchange a few words with each of them.

- Once, a woman told him: “Father, things aren’t going well for me at all”. And he said:

 “I know, but you know why, too; remember the ones you have killed.” – The woman had had several abortions.

Another time, a young man and a girl came to him and asked him to give them his blessing, so that they could marry each other; Fr. Arsenie told them not to, because they were brother and sister and that they would go through much suffering if they did that sin. They didn’t believe him and they got married, had three children and one of them was deaf and dumb and two were possessed.

-         You were confessed by His Holiness. How was he as a confessor Priest, was he tough, or was he lenient?

-         He was very patient. He wouldn’t confess anyone and wouldn’t give penance. Because he knew that you can do your penance in a formal way while your mind would continue to live in sin. Whereas if he didn’t give you penance, but you’d be truly sorry for your sins, you’d have more zeal for prayer and would refrain from sinning, better.

-         Were there also people who would doubt Father Arsenie?

-         Yes, there were. There are always people like that. Once, a peasant swore at some people who were going to Fr. Arsenie - and the moment he did that, his mouth got wry in a funny way and stayed like that. He was no longer able to open it - not even for as much as a glass of water. The people took him to the monastery and when the Father approached the cart in which this unfortunate fellow was, he asked him: “Hey, man, what has that guy, Arsenie, done to you? Come on, open your mouth and tell me!” And the man was instantly able to open his mouth and speak, then he fell to his knees and started crying and saying how sorry he was for the things he had said.

A Miracle of Fr. Arsenie, After His Death 

-         How long did you stay around Father Arsenie?

-         Not too much; for about a year, because he was arrested, afterwards. Later on, we were arrested, too – myself and five other monks, because we didn’t want to leave the monastery and hence were considered “mystical agitators”.

-         Do you know how Fr. Arsenie was arrested?

-         One day, five men from the Security came, together with an attorney. But Fr. Arsenie had known beforehand that they would come to pick him up, because that was his gift. And when they arrived, he met them with the words: ”You guys, I know why you’ve come, but why don’t you go back home, because if the people see that you’re taking me away, they’ll chase you off with stones. I’ll come to you myself, tomorrow morning.”

The guys didn’t say anything, they just left with their heads down.

-         Were they afraid of him?

-         Maybe not. But they were afraid of the people possibly rioting, because it was early in the period of terror; the worse hadn’t started yet, it was around ’48, when they weren’t sure how the people would react and there were already rumors about the partisans in the mountains. Fr. Arsenie knew about the partisans, as he would help them and receive them for confession. Maybe the Security guys were afraid of the partisans, too.

-         Did you see Fr. Arsenie again later on?

-         Yes, all the time, until the end. After he got out of prison, Fr. Arsenie was taken under Patriarch Justinian’s protection… He was painting the Maicilor Skete (*in Bucharest) and that’s where I saw him again for the first time after he came out of prison. And once, when I was talking to him, he told me, all of a sudden: “You go home, in Făgăraş, and start badmouthing me, [you hear?] – and if you don’t badmouth me, don’t come back here to see me, any more!” I asked him what I should say.

And he said: “That’s ok, you’ll think of something.” (What he meant was that we all knew how to badmouth, if we wanted to.) I didn’t say anything, but I didn’t do what he had asked me to.

-         And what did he say later on, when you saw him again?

-         He was painting – and as I opened the door, he told me: “I told you not to come back to me any more if you didn’t badmouth me.” I replied: “Well, if I had badmouthed you, Father, you wouldn’t have seen me any more.” ”Why?” “Because they would have broken my head.” He laughed.

 -         What was the reason for this test?

 -         I think there were two reasons: first, to find out how the people felt about him, whether they’d stand up for him if they heard someone say anything bad about him… And then, to see if I had kept my sound judgement after having come out of prison.

-         Have you ever experienced any miracle that was related to the Father’s spiritual power?

-         Several, but I can’t talk about them, because people wouldn’t understand. He told me once:

“You [all] come to me, I give you advice, but you also expect miracles. But let me tell you this: I will help you more after I have gone to the Lord, than I do now.” And he was right. I have always felt his help after he passed away. And I lived a miracle, three years ago. I went to the Commemoration that they hold for Fr. Arsenie every year at the Prislop Monastery. I had not been there before so I had set my mind on going there and serving the Liturgy before I [get too old and] die. It was very beautiful.

At about 4 in the afternoon, I left to go back to Bucharest, with somebody who had a car. It was only the driver and myself. But throughout our way back, we felt like there was someone else with us in the car, in the backseat. And I can honestly state that the car didn’t touch the ground until we arrived here in Bărcăneşti. (*village outside Bucharest)

-         What do you mean?

-         It was like floating… We got back in three hours, although when we had left to get there, we had driven for eight hours. On our way back, we came across stops, accidents, but we didn’t stop, we drove through all of them as if we were going through the air. I was looking at the driver and was wondering, why does he cross on the red light, is he asleep? He didn’t say anything; neither did I. It was like we were both afraid to speak. When we got closer to the Monastery here in Bărcăneşti, we could hear how the car was [finally] running on the ground.

And the driver said: “Our car is running on the ground.” I asked him: “My good man, what did you feel?”

He said: “I felt like there’s been someone in the backseat; that’s all. I wasn’t the one driving all the way up here; all I know is that the car went by itself”. At that point I heard a voice in the back: “That’s as far as I will accompany you.” When I turned around to see who had been talking, there was nobody.

 -         Have you told this to anyone else?

 -         No, because today’s people don’t believe any more.

 -         What is the most valuable teaching that you are left with from Father Arsenie?

 -         We should be prepared for the moment of our death by the way in which we lead our lives here, so that we can give a good answer at the Last Judgement. And through the courage of our confession, we should tell the truth, come what may. I have listened to him, which is why I was put in prison.

-         Were you ready to die?

-         Yes. I am now, too.


Again, About Judging

By Fr. Arsenie Boca


There is this vicious circle in which the souls of many get tangled: the circle of confusion. For some “reasons”, these persons do not want to listen to the Priests of the Church. Hence, by not listening to the Orthodox teachings and their advice on how to lead a life in God, they damage their mind with their own thoughts. This causes them to get deeper and deeper into a sinful life, as a result of their disobedience. Hence, man’s mind grows darker before the Truth and takes his errancy for the right thing.

Some do wake up and realise that they have lived in error. The enemy – to whom they have listened by deception - does not want to lose his grasp on them and starts presenting them people’s faults and shortcomings, as well as those of the legal servants of the Church, whilst obscuring their gifts and grace. And this is how he leads them on, to build their own “faith”, which ignores the mystery of repentance - exclusively and validly administered by priests and bishops, regardless of their human shortcomings. 




The Mystery of Matrimony

By Fr. Arsenie Boca

“Jesus renders the bodily union of man and wife holy,

raising marriage to the height of great Mistery

– in Christ and in the Church.”

Fr. Arsenie Boca

 One Body

For as long as all the leaders of this world are not redundant, we shall render the money printed with their names; for as long as all people are not like angels, our nations need to multiply.

The family and the government – lowly institutions when we think about the happiness that exists in heaven – are necessary during our earthly awaiting of Heaven. However, for as long as these institutions are necessary, they will have to avoid being too unclean and rickety, as much as possible.

Whoever is in a leading position (the government) should feel the responsibility just as much as the one who serves; and the union between man and woman (the family) should be eternal and non-deceitful.

Turnu_fereastra_micşorată

Jesus Christ sees marriage above all (spiritually speaking) as the union of two bodies. Here, He strengthens the word of the Old Testament: “[...] and the two shall become one flesh.” The bride and the groom shall be one body, impossible to separate. The man shall have no other woman; the woman shall have no other man, until death does them part. Man’s union with woman, when it is not the release of a vagrant luxury/pleasure or of furtive prostitution, when it is the meeting and the “offering” of two healthy virginities, when preceded by unforced choice, by pure/good passion, by an agreement that is known and consecrated by the world, acquires an almost mystical character, which no one can remove. The choice is without change, the pure passion is consecrated, the agreement is eternal. In the two bodies that embrace each other in their longing are two souls that find one another in love. The two bodies become one body, the two souls become one soul.

The two mix their blood; but from this union, a new being is born, who is made from their life: the visible embodiment of their mergence. Love makes them similar to God: makers of the ever new and miraculous creation.

But this bodily and ritualistic vanity, which is the most perfect among all the other imperfect humanly organizations - the Christian matrimony – must not be ever disturbed or interrupted. Adultery deteriorates it; divorce puts and end to it. Adultery is the shrewd betrayal of unity; divorce is its definitive denial. Adultery is a secret divorce, based on lying and betrayal; divorce – followed by a new marriage – is legalized adultery.

Jesus always condemns – solemnly and clearly – adultery and divorce. His whole being would rebel against terrible acts, against unfaithfulness and betrayal. The day will come, He prophesies, speaking about life in heavens, when men and women will no longer marry each other (Luke 20, 34-36); however, marriage should at least be aware of all the virtues that are allowed during one’s earthly life.

Jesus, Who always goes from the visible things to the invisible things, doesn’t call adulterous only the person who steals his brother’s wife, but also the person who looks at her with lustful eyes (Matthew 5, 27-28), while she may walk past. An adulterous man isn’t only the one who meets with someone else’s woman in secret, but also the one who, after having chased away his own wife, marries another one. There seems to be only one situation in which divorce is admitted: the adulterous woman’s husband; however, the abandoned wife’s guilt would by no means justify the betrayed husband’s crime of marrying another.

Before such an absolute and reckless Law, even the Apostles get up on their feet (Matthew 19:10). Since things must be that way, why would man ever get married? Still, He answers them: “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it!” (Matthew 19, 12:12).

Marriage is a favor done to human nature and to life propagation. Not everyone is able to keep themselves pure, virgin, and single, “but only those to whom it has been given.” (Matthew 19, 11). Perfect celibacy is a gift, a reward of the soul’s victory over one’s body.

Anyone who wishes to dedicate all the love s/he is capable of to great deeds shall have to “condemn” himself/herself to remaining chaste. The man who must carry out a heavy mission, which will require all of his days, up until his last one, cannot link himself to a woman.

Marriage requires you to leave your being into the will of another; the Savior will give all souls the union of two souls; but this would prove insufficient, as it would make it difficult – even impossible – to unite all souls with all the other souls. Responsibilities that follow the choosing of a woman, child-bearing, and settling one’s own small living space amidst the greater one – are so heavy, that they would raise daily obstacles to his other duties, that are extremely demanding.

The man who wishes to lead and change others cannot make a lifetime commitment to a single being. He would have to be unfaithful either to his wife or to his calling. He loves the endless world of his brothers and sisters too much to love only one of his sisters. A hero is always alone. His loneliness is punishment and greatness. He will deprive himself of the joys of domestic life while the love he has within him will multiply, to be shared with all people, in a sacrificial sublimation, which exceeds all earthly ecstasies. The man without a woman is lonely, but free; his soul, unconquered by worldly thoughts, may rise more highly. He does not bear children of flesh and bones, but helps the children of his soul [his spiritual children] to be reborn into a new life.

Yet not everyone is able to put up with abstinence. “The one who can accept this, should accept it!”  The Kingdom of Heaven requires people who will dedicate all their souls; the bodily dedication, even when limited by a rightful marriage, will soften up the vigor of the person who is called upon to look into spiritual matters.

Those who will rise on the great Day of victory will no longer face temptations in the Kingdom of Heaven. Man’s union with woman, even when consecrated through the eternal bond of matrimony, will be removed. Its great goal is bearing new people; but at that point, death will be defeated and there will no longer be a need for the eternal renewal of nations. “The sons of this age marry and [its daughters] are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that Age and to the Resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, for they cannot die any more, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the Resurrection.” (Luke 20:34-36).

By acquiring eternal life and angelic nature – the two promises and creeds of Christ – what seemed to be possible to stand becomes unthinkable; what seemed clean becomes lowly; and what seemed holy, becomes unworthy. In that supreme world, all the tribulations that humanity is required to go through will have already been negotiated.

To the sinful beastly male, his transitory union with a stolen woman is enough;a man will rise to the marriage level, to his sole union with his sole woman; whereas the saint will rise to a much higher level, reaching chastity of his own will. Yet more, the archangel-like man in heavens, who has been turned into a spirit full of love, will have defeated even the memory of his body; his love, in a world where there are no more poor, ill, suffering people and enemies, will have changed into a contemplation which is above the earthly realm.

The cycle of births will have ended. The fourth Kingdom will have been established once and for all. The citizens of that Kingdom will be eternally the same, throughout the ages. Woman will no longer bear forth in pain. The strain of the exile will have been over; the snake will have been defeated. The Father will kiss his lost child again; Heaven will be found a second time, never to be lost again.  Source: VALAHIA



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