Interview with Fr. Arsenie Papacioc
There is a comment in the Scripture that says: ‘there is no greater sign of love than someone putting his life on line for his friend’s sake’.
– That’s right. Because we are not created only for ourselves. You must understand this passage from the Scripture by all means: we do not come into this world only for ourselves, but for the entire Creation! That’s why I keep telling you that we are responsible for everything there is in the whole of Creation. We are born into this world for our fellowman’s sake, too. The more you live this life for the other one – whether he is a beggar or a needy person, etc –, the better. Give him something. Ok, sometimes you may not have anything in your pocket for him, but at least, don’t ignore him. For it was God Who arranged it so that you saw him. That was done to help you save your own soul.
So, we save ourselves by saving others. “By saving others, save yourselves“, you know how that saying goes. And by doing that, we are like Christ – moreover, we are worth as much as Him, when he put our lives on line for the other one. What better thing can one do, if you think about it?
Because that is the “baptism of the blood” – the greatest type of baptism, the baptism of sacrifice.
So everybody should keep in mind that if they have seen someone, it is because the Lord wanted them to see them. And no matter how good or bad that person may be, you should know that you are accountable before God, because it is not by mere chance that you have seen that person. You have seen him because you are to help him in some way, to pray for him — or vice versa.
So do you want to live and help this whole world that they all complain about in historical moments such as this one? Then love everybody. Put some order into your own thoughts and say this: if X or Y were here before me, I would show some understanding for him.
Yes. We must travel through life with love. Why should love be absent? And even if you have given something to the needful feeling something that is less than love, it’s still something — and you will still be rewarded for it, because you have fed and helped that person. For example, Peter the tax-payer – he gave his bread away, but with some irritation in his heart – because all he did was to copy someone else’s gesture. And that bread saved him! And the poor have “speculated” that gesture – based on Peter’s deed, one can be saved, too, no matter how poor in his heart s/he really is… But we must add that one will not be saved unless s/he gives to the poor.
If one has been hesitant in life, about doing a good deed (you know how it is, you keep saying: “I will, I will do that” – and still not do it), then…
– But how can we repent for that kind of sin?
– [Say this:] “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, please have mercy upon me, the sinner”… I go to church, I work upon myself, I have money. I give some of it to the poor — even a coat, or a sweater or something. We keep worrying about ourselves: “Oh but what am I going to wear? Do I have enough clothes, enough shoes?” That is normal and you are not wrong to think about those things. But at least think about the other one, do something, give him something – a piece of cloth to fasten his shoes or something. Something. You know what I mean? Caring for our fellowman. That is the big minus these days and people who do these things are great in front of God. St. Filoftea didn’t do anything different – who was she, after all? Just a young girl who gave things to the poor. That’s it. Because charity is the whole Scripture in a nutshell. One of our writers said so, too (his name was Vlahuţă). (I mention him because I happen to have known his family, you know…)
So, there. But if someone (you might say) is sitting in front of our gate, in front of the unmerciful rich man’s gate… can you imagine the terrible state of that poor man! Dogs were licking his wounds, the rich man wouldn’t give him as little as a crumb of bread. What loss would that have caused to his wealth, if he had given him a bit of bread? But I want you to understand that the core of this parable is the insensitiveness to the other one’s suffering. Having at least some care for the other one.
I remember I was in Bucharest once and didn’t even have a few coins for a tramway ticket (by the way, I also caught horse-drawn tramways in my day, my dears! The last line was on Popa Tatu street*. :-)). And there was this poor man sitting on the sidewalk. I saw him from a distance, he was in a sad state, with no legs and all… and he had seen me, too. And he was getting ready to ask me for something (poor dear, he must have thought I would fill his bag, now!), but I didn’t have anything on me, not even for the tramway. And I was already thinking – what was I going to do, what would I say to the poor man? So when I got near I told him: “My dear one, I would give you my legs, but since that’s impossible, here’s just a warm handshake for you, because I don’t have anything else, not even money for my tram”. And he said: “Father, this is something that nobody else has given me until now!”
So you see? Give them attention, too; acknowledge their presence, too. Don’t ignore them/pass them by, thinking that you are something, because you have [things, health, etc.] Stop for a second and consider them, too. Of course you cannot do that for too long because we have our lives, we are always busy and must carry on with our own tasks but show some care for the other one. “God, please mercy me”…
If that other one is your mother, or your child, or your father, and you cannot help them, you CAN ask God to help them. This is a form of charity that is HIGHLY appreciated by God. Caring for the other one.
Now, this lack of caring is what characterizes everyone at this moment in history. And I must add that one notices a more vertical, a better attitude among the younger generation, not among the older ones. Some of them have conflicts with their parents – there are young ladies who come to confession and tell me, poor things: “Father, I don’t want them to see that I have come to faith and that I repent for my sins” – and poor things, what do they do? nothing more than do the sign of the cross, go to church… Repenting, “sacrificing” for Christ, just as St. Filofteia did. Her stepmother would beat her and persecute her in all ways, but she wouldn’t give up. She still gave to the poor.
In a monastery somewhere was this brother, George, who kept giving to the poor all the time – everything that happened to pass through his hands. He would go into the refectory, where the monks ate, and would take food and give it to the poor. And the monks told their Abbot about this. One day, the Abbot surprised this man just as he was collecting everything from the table and was about to give it to the poor. And the Abbot commented: “Yes, my brothers, you are right, but what can I do, if our brother here is a Saint?”
So the idea is… You give… but you may give for nothing. Don’t just stick to the rules (“Oh, my God, the rule says that I should give to the poor” etc…). Don’t waste your time too much thinking about these things. Just feed that hungry man – because you will have fed Christ. “It is ME that you have given to” – He says… such astounding words.
People tend to “select” too much when they do charity: “This one is a Gipsy, that one is I don’t know what else…”, etc. We are too picky. But if one of them is not “Gipsy”, at all, but Christ Himself… we’re in trouble! Whereas if you give to all of them: …you gave, you will receive back! Because you don’t have what you have – you have what you give. And more than that: you don’t give what you give, you give what you are. There.
*Street in Bucharest