Father Ioan Guțu was one of the most important Romanian praying Fathers who lived on Mount Athos. Born in 1906, in the Bessarabian* region of Soroca and reposed in the Lord on December 5, 1996, in his cell at the Holy Mountain, Fr. Ioan Guțu lived and died in complete humility.
Fr. Ioan Guțu left us a few words that can be looked upon as his true spiritual ”will”, according to which he himself worked his good deeds: “Let us love all good works equally; however, we should start with the fear of God and finish with our love for Him, which is the wreath of all good works. Prayer should lead the way in all our good works. More prayer, more humility, more love for God – will easily lead us to the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us pray for one another and hope that God will not leave us. That said, we need to be aware that we cannot acquire salvation without temptations, patience, and contrition.”
St. Ignatius the Theophorus (“the God Bearer”) is celebrated on December 20. He is believed to have been the infant that Christ took in His arms and given as an example of humility to His Apostles (Matthew 18, 2:4). The name “God Bearer” comes from his testimony in one of his epistles, where he says that he “bears Christ in his heart”. Tradition says that Ignatius was Bishop of Antioch, the third in succession to the bishop’s see, the first one having been the Holy Apostle Peter, and the second one, Evodius, according to testimonies by Eusebius, Origen, and Jerome.
Because he did not want to renounce his faith in Christ, he was thrown into the arena and was torn to death by lions, around 110, during Trajan’s reign (98-117). Parts of his relics are found in the Bishopric in Galati, at the Darvari Skete in Bucharest, and at Tismana Monastery (all in Romania).
Unfortunately, what everyone retains today is solely the pig slaughtering. I don’t know what the origin of that custom is. Some researchers say that this ritual of pig stabbing wasn’t done for the purpose of feeding one’s family, since it reminded of the sacrifices to the gods, who would be “born” and would “die” again during the periods of renewal of the calendar. Which is why on Ignatius’ day, each member of the family would be marked with a cross out of the pig’s blood and it was said that it was good to see blood on that day… Continue reading →
Theology, such as it was understood and lived by the Spiritual Fathers, is not a system of religious knowledge, a collection of theoretical teachings or rational knowledge about God, but a direct experience and actual living of God’s work in one’s heart and life in the world. It is not a discourse-based science, a discussion about God, but a conversation WITH Him, which is done through prayer and in a state of complete cleanliness and abyss of humility. The God of the hermits is more living and real, and His presence is more intensely lived by them than those who speculate about God.
The question of God’s existence and work is not a speculative one, but one based on living, ascesis, and love. The measure of our partaking in the Lord is proportionate with our efforts to clean our passions off more and more and work upon our virtues ever more completely. And a person’s union with God is done in a state of ceaseless prayer and “supra-mindfulness”, in the midst of light and love. Which is why theology does not imply intelligence, but wisdom; neither does it imply a surplus of rationality, but a surplus of prayer.
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. Continue reading →
What I mean by that is that type of suffocating love, where one “takes possession” of one’s fellowman, and which starts to “model” everyone else according to oneself. I think that we have all done such things: for instance, parents who love their children to the point where children, when they grow up, they don’t know how to escape from their parents’ tyranny – which isn’t true tyranny, but which can be perceived as such in the other one’s heart. Therefore, one first misunderstanding, one first “hazard” of love is that of us acting like people who actually know what real love is about and who therefore think they can – or even must – impose it to others.
Love – says Apostle Paul – bears all things, believes all things, forgives all things. Loves does not get puffed up, seeks not her own, does not vaunt itself; love never fails. So in order for us not to get lost in our own deformed understanding of love, the Apostle lists the signs of true love: that is, to be near the other one as if you were not. Love does not seek her own. Every time we love, we restrain the other one’s space.
That kind of love never bears fruit. But humility has always convinced one. It has even convinced tyrants, many times.
(A fragment from a lecture by Hieromonk Savatie Baştovoi – “On the Hazards of Love”. Arad, Romania, Dec. 13, 2007)
A brother went to Abba Pimen once and told him:
– Abba, I have many thoughts and put myself in peril because of them.
The elder took him outside and told him:
– Stretch out your arm and keep the wind away.
The brother said:
– I cannot do that.
The elder told him:
– If you cannot do that, neither will you be able to stop thoughts from coming into your mind. But standing strong before them is another thing.