by Serafim Jens Christian Larsen
My Chrismation took place just before the beginning of the summer holidays and I was planning for another trip to Romania, with the wish to stay at a Monastery for a longer duration of time. I talked to a member of the Perish, who knew about a father in Bucharest, a very good friend of his, whom he would ask if he could help to arrange for a stay. I also got a letter from my father in the perish, which in English and French confirmed my Orthodoxy in case I would need it to be able to receive the Holy Communion.
Before leaving I felt a little insecure, going to another place, not knowing anybody, but it was the same feeling I had experienced in the last two years before leaving, so actually I could look upon this as something good was about to happen. I arrived in Bucharest on a Saturday afternoon and stayed overnight before I was meeting a sister who would take me to the Sunday Liturgy to the father who had offered his help. The Liturgy was going to be celebrated at a Military Hospital in the middle of Bucharest. It happened that we arrived early before the Liturgy started. The father told me that I was late on time, but he assured me that by our prayers to God we would receive the help and find the solution that we needed. It was the first time, I had experienced such a steadfast belief in God. After the homily, he told the perish about my wish to stay at a monastery, and we started praying.
The time passed and I was told that a stay could be arranged at a Monastery in Moldavia. However it was my feeling that this would not be the right choice, I tried to communicate to him about Valachia and the city of Arges, because these were words that came repeating itself in my mind before taking off to Bucharest. Quite soon after a solution appeared, two younger couples were planning a trip to a small village near Arges. They knew a Hieromonk and two younger monks living together in a Skete, and they offered me to take me up there by car. Overnight we stayed in a small hut in the village, where the Skete was situated on a top of the hill.
Before climbing the hill in the morning, I began to feel nervousness and almost regretting that I had taken my decision so far, however it soon passed, and having climbed the hill we entered the Skete and went to the church, where two monks were sitting reading from the Psalms by King David. I had fortune, because one of the two monks was able to communicate very well in English, in the meantime we spend some hours speaking together waiting for the Father Igumen to show up. My impression when I first saw him, was his human dignity respect, and he seemed to have a love towards the people in general.
It made me feel like I was a at home. He told that I could stay at the Monastery as I wished under the condition that I followed some few basic rules ; one of which was to participate during the morning and evening prayers in the Church. Also he offered me to stay the guest house, so that I had a place for my privacy. A few days passed, I was attending the Church services, communicating with the fathers , telling about my country at home and they were telling me about Romania, we were sharing lunch and dinner together and little by little getting to know each other better.
One afternoon I began to tell, about my inner motives for choosing to spend my time at a monastery in Rumania, I told them also about the words I had received ”Valachia” and ”Arges” leading me to their Skete, in such a way that the Hieromonk began to listen. I felt a great need to be able to open my heart to somebody I knew would listen and would be able to understand. The father hereafter received my complete confession, it lasted for several hours, I felt comfort and he assured me, there was absolutely nothing for me to worry about
”God loves you very much”
he said, it was a kind of comfort and understanding I had been searching after in in a long time. It was like being treated by a doctor for the soul. Connected to my confession the father he also asked me questions about my Christening at home, how did it pass? I was not able to explain to him in detail but he asked he if I had been baptised, to which I could say no, so by our mutual explanations, he realized that I had been receiving the Holy Anointment.
A few more days passed, until one evening I was told by the monk that the Father had decided he was going to baptise me as an Orthodox Christian on the first coming Sunday. Even I did not fully understand what this actually would meant, I trusted completely that it would be for my own good, I felt safe in their hands. On the Friday we went together the three of us, to one of the neighboring towns, to buy a large basin for the purpose of the baptism. The fathers showed such a dedication and love towards all the things connected hereto that I could not otherwise but feel that I was in the best hands! However the very night before the baptism, on the Saturday evening, thoughts started to occur in my mind:
You don’t need this baptism ,you know already very well how you to cure your own life, it is really no big deal , you might as well leave tomorrow and just go to enjoy the remaining days of your holiday.
It was now Sunday, and the weather was bright with sunshine, a whole community was gathered and I was feeling a bit intimidated by this whole situation, as the only foreigner among local Romanians with the attention from this entire community. The preparation prayers for the baptism took on, in English I was also asked to read aloud from the prayers, everything had been prepared and organized in detail by the fathers.
The time had come to enter the water basin and to be put three times under the water. After the first time I did not notice any difference, but during the second time within an instant of time everything changed. While under the water, an Icon of Jesus Christ appeared for my inner eyes like a reflection in the water, and when standing upraised again my feeling in body and soul was that of being the son of a King, a feeling of the Christ resurrected. I felt new life, vital, confident and powerful and cleansed like a baby in contrast to all the weakness I had been feeling some few moments before. Within these seconds of time I also experienced how Jesus Christ manifested himself as the ruler of the entire universe, showing me his power not of this world but from beyond of this world. Many of the participants who had been watching this change, afterwards came came to me with their congratulations, taking photos and just sharing the joy that had embraced the whole community.
After the baptism I stayed another couple of days with the fathers, receiving instructions on how to get accustomed to live my new life as an orthodox christian, I received literature in English for my home studies, CD´s with liturgies to listen to and beside they showed their love by helping to organize the remaining days of my holiday.
When I came home, I was meeting a brother from the perish, a foreigner with whom I had a good connection, when he first saw me he said to me;
” you really look nice rested and peaceful” .
We decided to go together to the perish for the Saturdays vespers later in the afternoon, where I also told about my experience to my God father from the Anointing, how I had perceived the change and miracle after my baptism and I how felt the difference compared to the Holy Anointing. Even though he seemed curious, he advised me to tell it to our father and and also he let me know that could bring me into troubles. I gave him my entire explanation when he finally asked me whether I had been re-baptised, confirming to him, he then got furious and told me because of this for the time, he could no longer allow me to enter his Church to receive the Holy Communion.
Some days later I received an email from him, explaining in details, the reason for his decision to dismiss me from his Perish. He stated that by my decision I had ignored and dumped the three Holy acts by his reception: the Holy confession, the Holy Anointing and the Holy Communion. He explained further that it was important that I understood the implication of my act, and that a great part of it was to be blamed the Priest in Romania who had committed a serious sin, ignoring the Holy Mysteries by a lawfully ordained Orthodox Priest.
Therefore he had decided to put my case in front of the dean and the archbishop of our diocese for their further evaluation. Some months later the Fathers wrote me an email that they had been asked by their bishop in Arges to give him their explanation for the decision to rebaptise me, and they asked me to make a short explanation of how I had felt the change before and after the baptism? It was serious because they had demanded him removed in his ministry.
My Church life after the dismissal meant I now had to seek for a new perish, my decision was clear, although I could understand that my father in the Chrismation could have had feelings of injured pride, not being part of the decision to re baptise me , I knew with my self that my Father of the baptism with his decision, had been acting by the will of God, nothing else could not explain the miracle I had encountered . I had tried to communicate it to him, but it did not seem to interest him, he mostly seemed interested in following the Church rules as he understood and how he had been taught, my personal experience he did not listen to, therefore I saw no meaning in trying to stay at his at his perish, even I it was a sad outcome. My church life since then has been with the Russian Church belonging to Moscow as well as the Russian Church Outside of Russia.
Looking for a new perish I soon discovered that next to my door a Russian Monastery where a small community were organizing Liturgies. And by the time I also got in contact with a parish celebrating Liturgies in my native language. So I am having two communities which I belong to, although in a spiritual sense I feel connected mostly to the parish to where I am living. Here is the Father with whom I share most of my confessions, he knows me very well, and from the beginning I could see how serious he took everything connected to his ministry, although the language barrier means that I also miss some teachings that I wished I had been able to understand.
Participating with the Russians has also brought me abroad to visit Russia, on summer travels, and I have been twice visiting and stayed for several days at the Monastery of Valaam as a pilgrim. Some unforgettable experiences both in terms of the natural settings, the peace I encountered there as well the gains receiving spiritually, by attending these services from early on in the mornings. Also it has brought me to some understanding of the Russian people and its culture, a nation where it seems like the tradition of the orthodox faith and the sharing of love is key to a understand the soul of the Russian nation.