Interview with our Father in Christ Ciprian, published by “The Orthodox Family Magazine”, no. 53 (June 2013).
“Christ is in our Midst!”
Father, many people know that the first Romanian Monastery in the Benelux area (where several Romanian sisters have lived for more than a year now) has been founded through the sacrifice and the spiritual and material support of many God-loving people from around the world, but especially from a group of Christians that have gathered around you in a true community. Isn’t it a bit strange for such a lively parish to function around a “monastery church”? How did this start?
This is a longer story, and, up to a point, a personal one. From my perspective, it started a long time ago. Ever since I can remember, I was given a gift: the conscience of the fact that invisible ties connect me with all people. I felt that something beyond appearances, relationships and words links me to them. Having lived my childhood in the countryside has probably played an important role in this regard, since the ties that link people there are stronger, more profound. Furthermore, I had a passion for chess and I loved the motto of the International Chess Federation, “gens una sumus” (”We are one people”). In the same spirit, years afterwards, I had found joy in John Donne’s words, who was quoted by Hemmingway in the title of his book, “For Whom the Bell Tolls?”, as saying the same thing: “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee”.
However, I was feeling all of this on a superficial level, since at that time I was not a believer, and I could not imagine that living with “strangers” as with your own family could be ever achieved.
When God brought me in the Church, I started to read the New Testament and the writings of the Church Fathers in a different light. Among the many things that filled me with joy as I was reading them, I found the idea I mentioned before. This idea “floats” throughout the New Testament, but is very clearly expressed in our Saviour’s prayer from the Gospel of Saint John, “that all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I in You; that they also may be one in Us.” (John 17:21), or in the Acts of the Apostles: “the heart and soul of those who believed were one” (Acts, 4:32). And I said to myself: the Church is the place where I can fulfill my longing for many to live together as one single family, as one single man!
I then started to search for how to live this. However, at the beginning, I do not know why, God kept away from me the places where Christians were striving to live this way. Although I visited many churches and monasteries throughout the country, I could not find, almost anywhere, not only such a state of being as I was looking for, but not even the effort of conveying or seeking one. And I did not mean that as a normality of church life, but as an ideal, at the very least. Maybe I was not looking in the right place, although I was travelling thousands of kilometers searching for that way of community living or feeling. Everywhere I went, I heard sermons and teachings about how to go to Church, how to fast, how to do good deeds, how to pray, etc; in other words, only personal, or individual, undertakings, of Christian life. I was full of sorrow and disappointment, and I felt that we were missing what was essential. What a difference in the spiritual state of the Christian community described in the Acts of the Apostles and of those I was visiting. I recall that at some point, I even confessed my sadness to my spiritual father at the time. We were in a “serious monastery”, with good, ascetic rules and I felt that not even there could I find such a state, nor even a search for it among the brothers. My spiritual father’s answer to my inquiry was mind-blowing to me, something like, “don’t you have anything else to do?