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”
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.
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