About Love

Excerpt from an interview with Hieromonk Savatie Baştovoi

I would also like to ask you, whilst remaining in the area of our discussion so far: what were those existential experiences that made you become a monk?

– Usually, people who have gone through atheism expect or think that one must have had some sentimental breakdown prior to going into monasticism as well as before any common conversion to Christianity. The reality is different. Usually, one assumes that he or she has had some disappointments [in love]. I have recently received a letter from a friend of mine, a poet who lives in Iaşi and with whom I used to go to the same literary club, who wrote to me: “You know, I, too, read the Holy Fathers, I like their writings; I go to church. I have also thought many times about taking the step you have – but you see, I still believe in love”. And I could not help smiling there, because… I believe in love, too; don’t I? And I believe even in the love between a man and a woman. But I have come to understand that the difference between the love poems I used to write – albeit very sincerely – and true love is like the difference between the dead Lazarus and the resurrected Lazarus.
Usually, people ask me: “What made you become a monk? Because I see you are so and so… etc?” So then I ask them, too: “What made you not become a monk/nun?”

– Is it difficult to be a monk?

– What is difficult is the encounter with yourself. What is difficult is to part with people and absolutely everything else. What is difficult is to die a slow death and allow yourself to be buried all your life by the people you loved. I am a sentimental person; one can see that in my poems. I am a person in love. Yet when I was left all alone with my sins, in a cell lit only by candlelight and where it smells an unusual amount of incense – then THAT was difficult. Try to figure this: my loneliness was so ironic. Do you know what ironic loneliness is like? It’s when loneliness, like a naughty classmate, makes a fool of you. I was living all by myself in the seminary building – I wasn’t living in the brethren’s quarters yet – and below my cell was a room with a piano. Every night around midnight, a seminarian would come in and play The Moon Sonata. You know I went to the music and art high-school in Iaşi. Well, I had learnt to play this sonata from a girl, for whom I had written all my poems. So there’s one existential experience, if you wish. So at that point I would just lie down on the floor and would cry as I had never cried before, until I would fall asleep with exhaustion. This is how I also gave up poetry.

Maybe some postmodernist poet would like to make this into a poem, but I don’t know how to do this any more; I don’t have enough talent left for that. All my poetry today could be summarized in one verse: “I have known feelings which one cannot describe in poems.”

What is difficult in all this is the thought. I have even written a series of short rhyming texts, called “The Thought”:… “The thought that lies heavily on the palm of your soul and weighs as much as mercury”. The moment when one comes face to face with the thought is very difficult, and then God puts things in order – that is, God’s mercy and love will step in; you come to feel them personally and that is what gives you impetus.

When, in pains like “the labors of the one who gives birth”, as David says [in his psalms], you end up by being reborn from your own grave and when out of the death’s “hump” that held you encapsulated you emerge outward, much to your own wonderment, and when the worm of “the former man” spreads its wings out into his spiritual birth – then none of these things for which people commit suicide touches you any more.  

 (“Ortodoxia pentru postmodernişti“/”Orthodoxy for Postmodernists”)

6 thoughts on “About Love

  1. Maximus says:

    Great blog! I love the Romanian church and the holy elders of Romania. Thanks for your labors.

  2. a wonderful and thoughtful read for anyone who has ever loved………

  3. Prasad Mathew says:

    Where is Hieromonk Savatie Baştovoi nowa days? No news about him or writings from him for some time now in the internet? Is it that I am missing out, not knowing his latest web address/site? Could you enlighten me?

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