July 15, 2015

The Wondrous Manner in Which the Monastery of Sihastria Accepted the New Calendar

The history of the Monastery of Sihastria after 1909 is closely tied with Chancellor Ioanichie Moroi (1859-1944), who revived the Monastery for the fourth time from the ashes. He was succeeded in 1944 by the greatest elder of 20th century Romania, Elder Cleopas Ilie, who made the Monastery of Sihastria one of the greatest spiritual centers of modern Romania.

One of the biggest tests the chancellor Ioanichie Moroi had to face in Sihastria, had to do with the change of the calendar in October 1924. Barely three years as abbot, he didn't want to change the calendar and follow the new one. He was afraid he would make a big mistake. To this affect, numerous monks and spiritual fathers advised him not to change the calendar.

One day he was called to the Monastery of Neamt, where Metropolitan Nicodemus Munteanu, abbot of the Lavra, said to him:

"Father Ioanichie, why do you not show obedience? You have been presented with the decision of the Holy Synod. Either you will accept the calendar or I will depose you and the hermitage will be dissolved. Choose one of the two."

"Your Eminence, I respect the command of obedience, but I'm afraid to change the calendar. I can't do something like this unless I receive assurance from above. Give me a blessing to fast first for forty days."

"Forty days is a lot. Fast as much as you can. After this fast however you will certainly tell me your decision."

The abbot returned to Sihastria saddened.

"Fathers, we are finished. Either we change the calendar or our hermitage is dissolved. Know that on Monday I will begin a forty day fast. You also do the same. Pray with all your might in your cells that God may teach us what to do. No one is allowed to enter my cell. Whoever enters will have an unforgiveable penance."

A week passed, then another, but the abbot was not showing signs of life, and the entire brotherhood was worried. They wanted to enter his cell, but they feared the restriction of the abbot. When 21 days passed the hierodeacon Glykerius, a subordinate of the abbot, said to the brothers:

"Our father is in great danger. We cannot let him die. If you want to remain obedient, fine. I, however, will enter. Bless me that I may break down the door!"

The others said nothing, except this:

"We do not want to disobey the rule given by the abbot."

Then the hierodeacon knocked on the window and door.

"Bless, holy abbot!"

Not a single answer.

Then he broke down the first door.

"Bless me, fathers, that I may break down the second door."

They remained silent out of fear.

"It is better for me to die with a curse, rather than let the abbot die," said the hierodeacon Glykerius. Making the sign of the cross, he said: "Lord, help me!"

And then the second door was destroyed. All the fathers entered the cell. The abbot was fallen down with his face up and his hands to his sides. His eyes were half closed. The Psalter was next to him and the oil lamp had gone out.

"Bless, holy abbot!" they all said.

But they noticed no reaction in his face. Then the mood of the fathers altered and they began to weep.

"Woe to us! The holy abbot has died!"

"No, he is not dead. His eyes are open. It's as if he is monitoring us with his eyes, but he cannot speak. He is completely weakened. I can even feel his pulse."

They quickly brought the Holy Gifts.

Then the hiermonk Pambo communed him and gave him warm water to drink. Afterwards they fed him a bit, first with crumbs, and two days later the good spiritual shepherd was able to stand on his feet. He still could not speak however unless he whispered.

After yet another week, the Elder went to the common dining room. Everyone waited for him to say something, some advice, some sign that had to do with the calendar change. After many begged him, he said:

"I thank God that I passed this trial. The effort was great, the temptations were many, but the Lord did not overlook His servant. Until the tenth day I was able to stand upright and to kneel and read the Psalter continuously. Then I gradually began to weaken, my vision blurred, I fell down and I could not get up until you came. But with my mind I was able to pray night and day and I asked for the mercy of God.

Meanwhile I suffered many things from the demons. They came on me with great fury: they beat me, threatened me, frightened me, and hit me with something like flaming rods. At one point four demons pounced on me who were dressed in long black garments with a red fez on their head and sharp swords in their hands.

'Let us cut the old man to pieces, because he wants to become a saint,' they said to each other.

After hitting me hard in the ribs and chest with the swords, they approached my ears and cried out creepily:

'Who told you today it is possible to become a saint?'

'Who told you that it is not possible?' I replied to them.

They came a second time in greater numbers. They were dressed alike and the rods were aflame. Again they hit me hard, and I thought I was going to die. They then cried out with a wild voice above me:

'You fasted for nothing. Now you will die by our hands.'

'I hope in the mercy of God, and I will not fall into your hands,' I replied.

A few days passed, I don't know how many, and I sat and prayed noetically, when suddenly I saw the roof of my cell leave its place and clearly saw the sky and stars shining.

'What is this?' I asked myself.

Then I saw a ray of light come down from the sky towards above me. On this ray I saw three hierarchs, dressed in brilliant and colorful vestments. In the middle it seemed as if it was the former Bishop Theodosius of Roman, who was my spiritual father. I felt great joy in my soul and didn't know what to believe. But I prayed with tears to our Lord Jesus Christ and the All Holy Virgin to rescue me from the traps of the enemy. These three hierarchs, who perhaps were Saint John Chrysostom, Basil the Great and Saint Gregory the Theologian, stopped above me, about ten steps away. Then the one in the middle with a thin voice like the sound of a trumpet said to me:

'Ioanichie, why do you doubt and not want to do obedience? Don't you know that disobedience is a great sin? Or have you not read in Holy Scripture that obedience is greater than sacrifice? Be obedient, therefore, to what those above you say, for you will not give an account for the change of the calendar.'

After these words, the three hierarchs placed their hands on my chest crosswise, and all of them blessed me at the same time. Then they began to ascend to the sky on the same ray of light they left behind, until I could see nothing. I then suddenly saw the roof of my cell, the icons and the oil lamp."

Since that time the brotherhood of Sihastria accepted the new calendar without any objection. Then many of the faithful and the monastics of that area, having heard of this event, abandoned the old calendar and accepted the new one, since Ioanichie was their spiritual father.

Source: From the book Ieroschimonahul Ioanichie Moroi-Egumenul Sihastriei. Translation from the Greek by John Sanidopoulos.