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Watch a special video in which Father Pimen gives his testimony regarding Saints Cleopa and Paisie with a view to their canonization. The Metropolitanate of Moldavia and Bucovina asked the father to speak about them, as one who lived many years at Sihăstria Monastery, where the saints were, and as one who knew Saint Cleopa very well. The father narrates miracles, evidence of charisms and extraordinary events with the saints.
This request of the Metropolitanate honors us and we obey in Christ – even if we are unworthy of this honor.
May the saints help us!
Behold my dears ones, we are seeing each other again, with a recording that is somehow between the other recordings.
You know that I have been continuing with my coming to Athos, my time at St. Paul’s, my time at St. Artemius’… Now, this recording – I’m going to ask Father Theologos – to put between the other recordings. This is a more special recording, let’s say, I was actually asked from within the Metropolis in Iași, if I can also film something about Father Cleopa and Father Paisie Olaru from Sihăstria Monastery, because you know that is where I lived at the beginning. It is the monastery of my soul, that is, I can say that’s where I lived the first steps on this spiritual path, of monasticism and so on; I became a monk at Sihăstria Monastery… Because soon Father Paisie Olaru and Father Cleopa Ilie from Sihăstria Monastery will be canonized, I’m going to say a few things about them, meaning, what I remember from the time I stayed at Sihăstria Monastery.
I’m not going to use testimonies, what I’ve heard or so on, I am just going to myself try to remember a few things about the fathers, our dear fathers.
What can I say?
At Sihăstria Monastery I can say that I would go as a child, I don’t remember the first time I went, but I know that one summer I stayed for about two weeks, something like that I think, together with a cousin of mine, in the 8th grade, somewhere around the age of 14 and we also helped with the hay.
I know that I would go with the fathers, at that time the fathers that would take care of that as far as I remember, were father Nectarie, who is there now, the years have passed a little, he is a little older than he was at that time. And there was another, Father Antonie, who recently went to the Lord somewhere around Dorna. So they were somehow at the beginning then too, I don’t know if they had even been made monks. They were in that period of the eighties and they were dealing with the hay and these types of things, and we also went there and helped. I know they asked me to see if I could make haystacks and they liked it very much and they allowed me to only make haystacks because they would say that they turned out like an egg.
Well, I had learned how do it since from a young age I worked at everything in the countryside. And so for the length of time I was there during that time, always, every night, I went to Father Cleopa. Somehow, this is what we knew, that in the evening Father Cleopa would speak. As people would gather there, Father Cleopa would descend and speak to us two, three, four hours until 11pm. At that time he had more strength and sometimes would speak until 11-12 at night with the people, until late at night and when he saw that some were tired, would doze off, he had a habit of raising his voice suddenly, and saying:
“Hey! Hear what Saint John of the Ladder says!” And he would start like this suddenly and all would be startled, sleep would flee and everyone would smile, and he would also smile a little under his mustache and continue. I mean, he was giving an impulse, for everyone to recover. Also, Father Cleopa would tell of a lot of wonderful things.
That’s what I remember, that time helped me a lot. I stayed there, I would go during the summer, whenever I could, from my place there were around, I don’t remember well, 70km, I would ride a bike, 70km to get there and 70km coming back, something like that. And so, when going there, I never missed the opportunity, whenever I went to Sihăstria, apart from services, and afterwards I had a spiritual father there, I went every evening to Father Cleopa. It was a consolation for us. Somehow he spoke at the level of each one of us.
That is, he had read a lot, knew a lot, but he spoke according to the people. So many parables, so many stories…
I know that, many times, as I kept going there, there was an old bearded man, Măndiță, he always came, he was present, and then I would hear him:
“Father Cleopa, tell us again the one about how the devil deceives people!” And the Elder began, “Well, well, well, what a great theologian you are!” he said to Măndiţă. “Let me tell you!” And, even though he repeated it to so many people, the Elder never got bored. He never said, “I said it to you yesterday” or so on… No… He would always said it fondly, he would try to go down to our level, to be of benefit to us. Yes…
In fact, in Father Cleopa’s books, I am not going into this… I’ve heard about it so many times from him, about how the devil deceives people, by postponing and postponing, “Not today, do it tomorrow, do it the day after tomorrow,” about that encounter between all the devils, when each said how he deceives people… So you can find all these in Father Cleopa’s books, as I don’t want to go on for too long.
A lot of people were benefitted, he would always come, there wasn’t one evening when it wouldn’t be full of people in front of the house waiting for him to speak. Think about how many tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people passed by there and listened to him, and each one benefitted from there. That is, how many people he turned towards God. He strengthened them, encouraged them, especially during the communist regime when that fear was there… And that does not mean that he was not, as they say, persecuted in one form or another, even in his old age, he had written some books, and he was saying, “Well, they burned them all!” as he had given them to Father Varsanufie to keep them hidden and the Securitate came, sought them, found them, took them and burned them. Written by him…
Meaning, there were pretty hard times, so to speak, when you’re working hard, maybe for years to write a book and then they take it from you. At that time, they couldn’t print, there were manuscripts… they would take it and put it on fire. And Father Cleopa told us many such stories, more on the sidelines, when there were less of us sometimes, like how they took him once and brought him to Fălticeni. There was a police station there, which underneath had a little concrete prison so to speak, and they locked him up in a room, put him on a bed of concrete tied up, with the whole ceiling full of those powerful light bulbs like there used to be before of 300 (W), the most powerful ones, all lit up. And, of course, someone found out – a woman actually- who had a high position even though she was not Orthodox, she had piety towards Father Cleopa. Father Cleopa even said that the woman was Jewish.
When she heard that they had imprisoned Father Cleopa there, she went there quickly and intervened and took him out.
And then, as the father said: “Well, I also asked someone why they did this…” They said, “Father, if they left you to lie for 24 hours on your back on concrete and all these light bulbs above you,” he said, “It would destroy your mind. That was the goal, so you wouldn’t remember anything anymore, so you’d lose your memory.” Yes, and God did not let it happen, He arranged so that he would be taken out of there. And so, he also went through some of these things… This is what he told us, what he went through. Yes…Father Cleopa…
I know that once… I went there many times… I don’t remember all that well, but in life all his teachings helped me a lot… Once we went there, my brother and I, with a male cousin and a female cousin. I don’t know, there were about four, five of us, and he looked at us like this, we were kids and he said, “You – monastery, you – monastery!” To each of us, he repeated the same thing one by one, “You – monastery.” Well, we smiled, but none of us were really thinking about the monastery, we were children… But later, when the time came for us to go to the monastery, we left exactly in the order in which he said to us “You – monastery,” just like how he started telling us one by one, each one of us left in the order he had listed, when the time came for each of us. So the Elder had his gifts from God, meaning he saw more than we can, as they say. God worked through him… Yes… Father Cleopa…
Afterwards, I know that when I came to Sihăstria, of course, I would often go to him. I came to the Monastery there, I became a monk there, it was winter time, while we were still at the monastic school, we, who were there, would go there, during the winter when there was not so much work, we would spend a few hours at the monastic school. And I know when Father Cleopa came there was no need for others to come, when we had lessons with him, because he would start and talk to us for hours, and then somehow about three hours would pass as he spoke. If we had to do three hours of monastic school, Father Ioanichie Bălan or someone else were no longer needed, when we had Father Cleopa, he would talk to us for three hours continuously, meaning that he always found things to say that would benefit us.
I know that sometimes I was helping the steward on the hills of Sihăstria, with the brothers, at the hay and so on, and sometimes we would meet him when he was coming down from the apiary, we would gather around him… and we said, “Father, tell us more” and we would sit nicely on the grass and the Elder would tell different things from his experience.
And I also remember what Father Iulian would tell us, the confessor here from the Skete of Prodromos who’s been my spiritual father for 28 years old here. And he said, when he went to the monastery when he arrived at Sihăstria, Father Cleopa was the abbot, a younger abbot at the time, so this was long ago, after the Second World War, I no longer remember what year, and he, together with another man from his village, from Botoșani, the two walked for whole days until they arrived at Sihăstria and they got to Father Cleopa. [Father Iulian said,] “Father Cleopa said, ‘Well, well, well,’ when he found out that I was also from Botoșani, where he was from…
He said, ‘Two left in the morning, two were brought back by the Mother of God.'” Just that morning, two brothers from Sihăstria had gone to the army, and he said, “Look how the Mother of God appointed and brought two others in their place,” so that the brotherhood would not decrease.
Father Cleopa… there are a lot of things.. that’s what I remember now… But another thing that a father who also stayed here in Athos for many years told me, he was crying while telling me his experience with Father Cleopa.
A father who is a good father, priest, confessor, he stayed for awhile in Athos, he is in Romania now. And he would tell me, in his youth when he was a student, he started doing yoga as it was in vogue so to speak, after the Revolution, with all these oriental influences so he got into yoga, in all these sorts of mad things, to the maximum, as they say, so he was no longer interested in anything, he left school, his mother was crying running to all the spiritual fathers, to father Ioanichie Bălan.
“Father, what do I do?”…”Patience, my dear, patience.” She was crying so much, you know how they say, that her eyebrows and eyelashes were falling out from so many tears.
That’s what he told me, he said, “Well, I’ve ruined my mother from the many tears she shed for me, as nothing interested me anymore, just yoga and yoga, those types of meetings and so on… He came to consider himself above others, that he reached a certain height; he was a kind of guru for others. Well, and I won’t go into this stuff in detail. After years of this, his mother struggled with him, “Come to Sihăstria and to Father Cleopa just once”… When he heard, he looked at it this way: “Ah, Father Cleopa, yes. He is a great guru, I will go to him for an exchange of experience, I’ll come.” Somehow he was going to Father Cleopa for a sort of exchange of experience, because he heard about Father Cleopa that he works miracles, and thought, “Well, I am strong, I’ll show him, I’ll go there.”
And he came to Father Cleopa with his mother. And he told me, saying, “The moment I got in front of Father Cleopa suddenly…” He was there full of pride, he told me, “Suddenly I felt a power that slammed me to the ground, I fell on my knees in front of him and suddenly all my strength disappeared. I fell on my knees in front of him and Father Cleopa put his hands on my head.” He said he put his hands on his head and he felt something like a dark power coming out of him. And he began to cry, he got up, I don’t remember what Father Cleopa told him, he got up, his mother took him by the hand as he was crying continuously and when he left, he felt that everything was becoming brighter, something dark was coming out of him and the sun was coming out.
He said, “For years I felt as if I had never seen the sun, it was so dark in this demonic state and in those moments I suddenly felt that it was serene, that it was beautiful,” and he said, “Repentance came over my soul.” While still departing from Father Cleopa, he was crying louder and louder. And then his mother took him to Father Ioanichie Bălan, he confessed to Father Ioanichie Bălan, and when he came out, Father Ioanichie Bălan told his mother, “You can be at peace, from now on your torment has ended.” She took him by the hand and left.
And he cried, this father told me, he cried continuously. He went home. He said, when he got home he saw grass, he went home, and he kept crying. At one point he looked out on the window, there was snow there, and then some more time passed – he was all tears, he saw nothing – and then he looked at some point out the window and again he saw grass. So it was autumn when this happened, he went home, he cried all winter, then it was spring, he kept crying, meaning, he was no longer interested in anything. And of course, after that, he continued his university, graduated with very good grades, and eventually went to the monastery. That is, do you see how God worked through Father Cleopa by his grace, through his hands? He just put his hands on his head and all the spirits ran away, yes…
And then, the story of how, afterwards, this father went to the monastery, he wanted to go to the monastery, but his mother was like, “How could he go to the monastery?” And once, he said, “Mom, make me a bread ring and give me a couple of candles to bring to the monastery, because I’m going there.” He used to go to a nearby monastery. She says, “Alright, go.” And he went to the monastery, took to the bread and candles to the Abbot… “Father, take me in as I came for good!” The father took him in. And now his mother saw that a day, two days, three days, a week passed by and the boy wasn’t coming home, she went, quickly, to the monastery… “My boy…” He didn’t even want to get out of the cell, because he was very zealous. And the abbot came out, saying, “Well, he decided to stay here altogether.” And so the father remained at the monastery. He gave himself to Christ altogether.
Even if, before, his life was what it was like. So you saw how God worked through the hands of Father Cleopa. Bringing him back, freeing him from all that demonic madness, as they say, through all these practices, and to follow God’s path. So his mother’s tears helped a lot and the grace that Father Cleopa received, only by putting his hands on him, he freed him from all this madness. Yes.
What else can I tell you about Father Cleopa, who had a holy life… There were lots of miracles. I kept hearing from people that he helped them in one way or another while he was alive. And after that, after his departure from this life. So he helped many a lot; going to his grave, many take soil from there, they pray and he helps them. So, Father Cleopa was a fighter, we can say. A fighter like few are, meaning that, during the communist period, he permanently encouraged and strengthened people. I benefitted from his help a lot, at all times, as a child. It was a joy to go to him.
About Father Paisie, what can I tell you about Father Paisie… I always find myself somewhat ashamed to say, that I have not met him personally. Why? Maybe I met him when I was a child and I don’t remember. Then, I didn’t make much difference, there were so many old fathers there, I didn’t know. But I know that around that time, while I stayed for 2 years at Sihla, in ’88-’89, before I went to the army, I stayed for two years at Sihla then, and went down weekly and confessed at Sihăstria and I took the prosphora and the wine for the service and what was needed there… And often, Father Gherasim, who took care of Father Paisie, was there also, and mother Maria, an older nun who also helped.
And mother Maria often said to me, ”Come, brother Peter”, that’s how she called me, she said, “Come to Father Paisie a little, to get a blessing, to talk to him a little.” And so, I kept finding reasons, until it was time for me to go into the army, and I couldn’t see Father Paisie anymore. And at that time, Father Paisie went to the Lord, while I was away in the army and in this way I don’t remember to have seen him. But after I came to Athos, about 15 years ago, I know that someone, an acquaintance, was very sick, and I prayed to the Mother of God, “Mother of God, as you know, help this person!”
And one night, I saw Father Paisie, there was a beautiful house in a garden, with green grass, beautiful, the Elder was there with an epitrachelion around his neck and a cross in his hand. I went to him, I got his blessing and I said, “Father, this person is very sick.” And he says – he was saddened somehow – “I know, as he called me too.” And after that, the Elder entered that little house, and I suddenly saw a sea, up to my feet, and I wanted to ask him, “Father, what’s going on with this sea?” but he had entered the house, and then I heard a voice, “This is the sea of life, we all go through it!” And the next day, I even talked to that person on the phone and he said, “Father, I mention Father Paisie every day, I ask for his help.”
And then I understood why Father Paisie said that “He called me too.” And the next day or the third day that person received Communion, and after that he recovered, although the doctors didn’t really give him a chance, as his temperature was above 40 degrees, and that’s how it had been for about a month. He recovered and soon left the hospital. So, with the help of the Mother of God and, of course, of Father Paisie Olaru.
What can I say, they were great fathers, both Father Paisie and Father Cleopa. There was always a love between them, a spiritual bond, they confessed to each other and I know that when, after the revolution, some bishops came to Father Cleopa and immediately wanted to make him Patriarch, Father Cleopa did not want to, but he said, “I’m going to ask Father Paisie.”
And when he went to Father Paisie, Father Paisie said to him, “If you go, you will be Cleopa, if you do not go, you will be Abba Cleopa!” That is, it gave him the understanding that he would have a lot of worries there, he would no longer be like an Abba, praying quietly, in the wilderness. And, this way, Father understood and said to them, “There is no way that I am going! Because Father Paisie did not give us his blessing.”
Yes. So, whoever goes to Sihăstria, must go to the cemetery, to the fathers of Sihăstria, Father Paisie Olaru and Father Cleopa and all the other fathers, because there were many at Sihăstria who had holy lives.
May the venerable fathers help us, as you know, there was also the prayer of venerable Father Paisie Olaru, who said to everyone, “God bless your little house, your little table, your family…” And he had another saying, he said, “May the Mother of God find you at least a little corner in heaven, at least behind the door, where the broom is kept,” something like this, “a place there, it doesn’t matter which, as long as it’s in heaven.” And Father Cleopa often said, when the people were gathered there, he said, “Just as I see you here, may I see you all like this in heaven!” And his well-known phrase, he always ended with “May Heaven eat you up!” Meaning, may Heaven take us all, swallow us up, keep us there, to not go to hell!
Yes, may the venerable fathers help us, may they intercede for us to the Mother of God, and, together, before the Good God, to have mercy on us, help and save us! God help us!
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