Journey through lent: day 0

Forgiveness Sunday. I went to church this morning, and I had to leave before Matins ended. I started to throw up. It smelt like cheese. Today is the last day of cheese and, to exhibit my wisdom, I overindulged yesterday with this friend of mine, cheese, which I always enjoy transforming into my own body.

I came home and I crushed. A bit disappointed, since I really wanted to go to all Liturgies just before Lent. But I guess learning how to fail is part of it.

When I woke up, I remembered it was the last day of cheese. So, regardless of how I felt in the morning, I ate a final piece of cheese. Then it dawned on me (maybe that’s how you say “am constientizat” in English!) that I had to ask forgiveness from a friend of mine. I have not seen her in 20 years, but we had a discussion on Facebook, and I felt I harmed her. It was the occasion for a being-together with a friend.

Forgiveness vespers. Peace settles in.

“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

“But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

“Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.”

The lenten prayer of St. Ephraim.

“When we sin, we sin against God and the entire creation,” father says. People line up and ask forgiveness from one another. Young, old, men, women, priest, laity. And you see a child, a few years old, and ask forgiveness from him. “The baird, the baird!” Am I not Mitya Karamazov?

“Forgive me, a sinner!’

“God forgives and I forgive.”

And so it begins.

Joyful thought about death

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I have a joyful thought about death lately. I am old, with a long white beard, and I stand next to my grandparents, my parents (both of them old), my wife (never old), and my brothers (old). Some of us have already passed away, others have not, but in this thought we are all together, somehow knowing that we are at the limit of our lives. And we laugh. Not a hysterical laughter. A joyful one, just like the one when Frodo wakes up in the Return of the King. We see each other and laugh. And we see my son and all other young people who are not with us, but somehow still with us, potentially with us, on the path toward being with us, and we laugh. I don’t even know whether we are dead or alive. But still we are with them, and I just know we laugh. No faults, no merits, no sorrows. We laugh.

And I think of God, Abraham, and Isaac having a good laughter together.

This thought always gives me a powerful joy, and the spectrum of death disappears; or death has already passed.

 

The Lark in a Soviet Camp in Siberia

I was listening to George Enescu’s Ciocarlia (The Lark: do listen to it here), and this reminded me of a story from Do Not Avenge Us, the book that contains the testimonies of six people who were deported to Siberia immediately after WWII. The story was written by Ion Moraru, and you may find other fragments from his life on this blog. When this story took place, Moraru had already been in the camp for four years. One day, he meets his former math teacher.

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After I left Spask, the final camp where they took me was Aktas. The winds of change were already blowing, and we were beginning to hope. We heard of the first revisited files and the first prisoners liberated before the term.

I had not written any request to have my file reexamined, but I was called one day to the camp office, where I was told officially that the Supreme Court of the USSR reviewed the file of the members of the organization “The Sword of Justice” and decided to maintain the sentence for the accused Lungu, Bobeică, Ţurcanu, and Moraru, but it annulled the 10 year term of exile to the far north.

I had done four years of punishment, so I had six more. I was thinking of the scene with the crippled people coming from the quarry and the tragedy in the “house of wisdom.” What if I end up like them? And if not, will my poor grandparents still live long enough to see me again, to wait for me? What about mom, with her crushed spirit? Despair began to take a hold of me, and I thought more and more often about breaking out of prison.

Around that time, the administration of the camp had softened the work regime. They knew that the terms were being diminished, and they tried to give us reasons to remain there after liberation because they needed a workforce. The KVC was more active than ever. The prisoners were allowed to organize a theater and even a true orchestra.

This is how I met again, to my great joy, my former math teacher from Târnova, Mr. Belinski. He played the violin. When I saw him, I thought that it was him, but it seemed just like in a dream. I went on the stage, I approached him, and then I asked him:

“You are a professor of mathematics; how did you get here?”

When he heard me speaking Romanian, he lost it and could barely ask me who I was.

“I am one of your students from Târnova. Do you remember the feast of St. Basil, on that alley with chestnuts at the mansion?”

Then he ran up to me, embraced me, and started to cry. Then he turned toward the public, holding the violin with one hand and the bow with the other, and said:

“If there is even only one Romanian in the audience, the concert will be Romanian!”

He turned toward the orchestra, touched the strings of the violin, and magic sounds began pouring on that stage. When he played the Ciocârlia (the Lark), we were all mesmerized. We followed his bow as it traveled across the strings, how he brought up the lark in the heights of heaven, and how he brought it down like all the others birds in the meadow accompanying it. Lord, such beauty!

The audience remained speechless, and Boris, a Tatar friend, the painter of the camp, asked me if my violinist is from earth. Then I remembered the words Pimen had told me a long time ago, on the shore of the brook in Slănina: “The culture of the nation must be wore in the world as clothing for a feast.”

After less than two weeks, professor Belinski was sent away to a new “stage,” in an unknown place, and we no longer heard of him.

 

Mercy and justice; discernment and judgment

Since today is Judgment Sunday, I thought I would repost this.

Immigrant on Earth




The most rational temptation that I know of is that of justice. I can always say that there is a reason for why I feel betrayed, misunderstood, used, or merely frustrated. Most likely, if I were to describe such stories, people would agree with me and would acknowledge that I deserve some kind of retribution for what I may have experienced. 
 
If people leave me, we would all agree that they must do something before I would be held responsible for any action toward them. They must first return, show a change of heart, ask for forgiveness, and only then I may decide whether or not I want to accept them. Before that, however, it is just to not care about the state of their souls, to not pay attention to their needs. They have left me, so they are responsible for the situation created.
 
In such moments…

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