- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006

This is an excerpt from one of the late Rev. Gheorghe Calciu’s famous sermons about his many years in the prisons of Romania’s Communist regime.

I was a prisoner of the communist regime in Romania, persecuted and watched together with my family by agents of the secret police, though I did nothing other than preach Jesus Christ in the church where I served.

When Daniel the prophet was cast into the den of lions, God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they did not hurt him because he was found blameless before them (Daniel 6:22). But God did not shut the mouths of His denouncers. When I was cast into the lions’ den — the communist prisons — God did not shut the mouths of the lions nor the mouths of my denouncers, but He took me out of there and preserved me.

The administration of Aiud prison tried to kill me by hunger, by cold and by terror. Their course of extermination started on July 20, 1980. For 10 days, I was isolated in a windowless cell without air, with a jacket and a pair of pants both torn to pieces, without buttons, without a belt, and with food only once every three days. In the evening, a wooden board was lowered from the wall, and I was allowed to rest for six hours. The remaining 18 hours, I had to spend on the concrete floor of the cell. After 10 days, they put me back in my regular cell for two days, then isolated me again for another 10 days. This game of death lasted more than 100 days.

The guard assigned to me was the party secretary of the prison. Poisoned by communist indoctrination, he insulted me with such dirty and humiliating words that I preferred to be beaten rather than listen to his insults.

On one of the days without food, I couldn’t serve the Divine Liturgy because I had no bread. I asked the Lord to help me forget my sadness … nevertheless, a thought came to me: to ask the guard for some bread.

The evil guard was on duty, and I knew that my request would make him angry. He would insult me, and he would ruin the peace I had in my soul for that holy day. But the thought persisted and grew so strong that I knocked on the iron door of the cell. A few minutes later the door was violently opened and I asked him for a piece of bread, no more than an ounce.

His mouth dropped open in amazement. He left slamming the door as violently as he had opened it. I regretted my impulse.

Twenty minutes later, the door of my cell opened halfway, and quietly, the guard gave me the ration for a whole day: four ounces of bread. This was the most profound and most sublime Holy Sacrament I have ever experienced. The service was two hours long and the guard did not disturb or insult me as at other times; the entire duration of the isolation section was peaceful.

Later, after I had finished the Liturgy and the fragrance of the prayer was still in my cell, the door opened quietly and the guard whispered: “Father, don’t tell anyone I gave you bread, or you’ll ruin me.”

“How could I tell this to anybody, Mr. First Sergeant? You acted as an angel of God because the bread you gave me became the Body of Christ. In so doing you served by my side, and your deed is now recorded in eternity.”

After that, he never insulted me, and during his eight hours of duty, I had the most peaceful time of isolation.

I have related the suffering and the divine consolation to make you understand that God secretly balances our lives. If we have God, we shall never collapse from the pain of this world. During our most atrocious suffering, we suddenly discover oases of light and sacred joy.

‘Grandfatherly’ pastor defended religion, rights

On Christmas Day, The Washington Times pulpit honors a revered local pastor who died Nov. 21.

The Rev. Gheorghe Calciu, 80, was well-known in his native Romania for his opposition to his country’s post-World War II communist government. He served 22 years in prison for his defense of religious freedom and human rights. He emigrated to the United States in 1985. In 1989, he began work as a pastor at the Romanian Church of the Holy Cross in Alexandria, a congregation of about 200 people meeting on Leesburg Pike. At least 500 people packed the church and overflowed outdoors for his Nov. 25 funeral.

“He was a grandfatherly-like man who could be very spiritual and very moving,” said parish council president Victor Velculescu. “It was a very dramatic loss, and we all feel it.”

The congregation has since hired the Romanian-born Rev. Claudiu Lutai as its interim pastor. Sunday services, which are in Romanian and English, last for three hours. Congregants, as is typical in Orthodox churches, stand for much of the service, surrounded by icons and hand-painted murals on the walls.

The church is planning to move to three acres it has purchased on River Road in Potomac once it raises the $3.5 million necessary to build a new church. Members hope to start construction in 2008.

Julia Duin

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