August 7, 2013

Elder Selafiil of the Monastery of Noul Neamt (+ 2005)

Below is a short excerpt from the newly translated and published book on the life and teachings of the beloved Romanian Elder, Father Selafiil, which can be purchased through Amazon at this link: Father Selafiil of the Monastery of Noul Neamt - Love That Never Fails: Discussions and Testimonies.

This book is a rare record of discussions on various topical spiritual issues held with the elder shortly before his death. Father Selafiil hid from the world in his lifetime, but he was extraordinarily gifted by God.

Everyone who knew Father Selafiil has their own story to tell about him, because, just as God in His goodness reveals Himself to each person according to their power of understanding, so too Father Selafiil, being a man of God, would reveal himself to each according to their needs and power of understanding. One thing remained the same for everybody – the love with which Father Selafiil loved everyone, was a love which made everyone feel that the starets was their own.

On the other hand, Father Selafiil was never fond of grand words about the spiritual life and the obedience with which some spiritual fathers adorn themselves; rather, he always encouraged a natural relationship, built on humility and his customary love.

He always emphasized forgiveness as a way of imitating the Lord:

"Any time you exalt yourself above your neighbour, it isn’t good. If God taught us at the point of death to forgive, why do we want it otherwise?"

His close disciple, Savatie Bastovoi, said:

"That Father Selafiil was perfected could be seen from his whole behaviour. Anyone can control themselves in the presence of guests, but to be undisturbed all the time you need the grace of God. It also fell to me to read the Hours to the elder, together with his helper (because the elder was blind). For three months, we were in the elder’s cell from morning when he woke up until evening when he went to bed. In all these days whether he was afflicted with insomnia or whether he was suffering because of his terrible pains we never heard him say, ‘Leave me alone’ or ‘ I don’t have time’ or ‘Go away.’ He never once displayed the slightest impatience or discontent, not even in looks or his gestures. So much so that I never felt offended or ignored or that I was being put off, even though I never behaved in the right way. In Father Selafiil one saw the love with which Christ loves the world; time and time again I was disobedient or I was obdurate, but the elder never once said, ‘Well, if you didn’t listen to me’ or ‘I told you so.’ Every time he received me with the same love as before, as though my mistake passed him by. From this I can say that I’ve never seen another man like Father Selafiil."

Father Selafiil (1908-2005) entered the monastery while still an adolescent, and he lived there until 1945, when the soviet-backed regime in Moldova imprisoned him and sent him to a Gulag in the Soviet Union, for 5 years. After that he went to Suruceni Monastery till 1959 and then to Noul Neamt Monastry till 1961. In 1961 the communist regime closed down all the monasteries in Moldova. Father Selafiil had to return to his village where he was a priest. The monasteries reopened in 1990, and Father Selafiil (who became blind during the eighties) returned once more to the Monastery of Noul Neamt in 1997, where he remained until his death in 2005.