The Saint of the Prisons

by Monk Moise

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D.

This book written by Father Moise, focuses primarily on the martyrdom of Vakeriu Gafencu. Yet its value goes beyond his personality and it is if utmost importance for understanding martyrdom in Christ during communist persecution as well as for comprehending the prototype of the Christian confessor nowadays, when we are living the end of history,

Contemporary saints were people like us, to whom God offered extraordinary experiences, thus revealing their human essence. On the Judgment Day, they will be there to judge us because they lived in a similar historical context as the one we find ourselves in today. Their life was a continuous burning torch and the “light shined in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not” (John1:5) Martyrs are the light, and they call us to wake up from the numbness that is our separation from God and from the things that are enslaving us.

The example of Valeriu’s life, together with others from his generation who took up their cross and followed Christ, ignoring all the risks associated with such a choice, is living proof that serves as a wake-up call for us. They are an example to follow; in order to help and encourage us to refuse the offer of this faithless world, searching and constantly fighting for inner change towards Christ. Otherwise, all outer manifestations (such as formal membership in the Orthodox Church, gathering of information at an intellectual level about the spiritual life, the embellishment of houses with icons, attending holy ceremonies in idiorhythmic parishes, fleeing to the mountains as a way to “fight against the system”, etc.) will prove sooner or later, worthless.

As Christians, we cannot live outside history, nor can we be isolated from the world and from contemporary life. Christianity currently plays a highly important role for humanity: “nowadays two Christian processes are needed: re-Christianizing the Christians and Christianizing the nonbelievers.”

Many things can be written about these two processes of Christianization. But this goes beyond the aim of this book. What is symptomatic is that a large majority of today’s Christians lost the ‘salt” of their faith (Matthew 5:13) they are highly ‘contaminated’ by formalism, and their confession of faith made to nonbelievers has no influence or even worse: “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.” (Romans 2:24)

“The presence of Christians throughout the world must always be an answer, an example of the kind of attitude to be followed by those outside the Church in the face of all the problems and confusions that humanity confronts. The life of a Christian must be a light for everyone; it must be the meaning of life for those whose life seems to be meaningless. The life of a Christian must be a light for everyone; it must be the meaning of life for those whose life seems to be meaningless. The life of a Christian must be an ideal for those outside the church, the confession that Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Christian must ‘function” according to a different logic and according to different laws, the laws of the Holy Bible.”

One very important lesson that can be learned from Valeriu Gafencu and his brothers is that, nowadays our mission as Christians who form the Church can be fulfilled through asceticism and through his own life, and then, eventually through words. This is a book that contains information that supports through all sorts of insights and inspiration for our spiritual life. It is filled with resources that help us to pray.

On page 228 Valeriu comments about mysticism. He says: “First, we have to acknowledge the bad faith of those who have succeeded, here and in other places, in discrediting the idea of mysticism. Mysticism will remain the center of the Christian rebirth that is to come, for it is the means by which a Christian enters into communion with Christ through a gradual spiritual communion with Chris through a process of purification and perfection. Its starting point is when a man turns within himself in order to seek Christ and to attain to union with God through love. The inner experience transforms nature, fills the mind with knowledge, strengths the will, purifies the heart, and makes man a bearer of Christ. In contrast to morality which enforces the strictness of commandments, mysticism is a living, intimate act of life in the Holy Spirit. Being an “art” it presupposes a guide a counselor.

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