Soon after the walls came down in Europe there began convoys of aid to many former Eastern Bloc countries. At St Stephen's House in Oxford we wondered what we might contribute; and decided that since education was our goal, we ought to give opportunites to come to study with us. Many people chipped in, and we had a succession of visitors. Perhaps the most memorable was Nicolai Moȿ
oiu. He came from Braȿ
ov, in Romania, where his father was a parish priest. His wife was an oncologist, and Nicolai was destined for the priesthood. After a year in Oxford, during which time his wife also was able to go to the John Radcliffe hospital and see something of cancer treatment in Britain, they returned home. A few months later I was invited along with one of our students to Romania to witness Nicolai's Ordination.
It took place in a remote village in the foothills of the mountains of Transylvania. We set off soon after 7am in the dark. Snow became deeper as the cars climbed to Poiana Mereu. We passed many on foot making their way towards the church. This was not simply an Ordination; it was also the Consecration of a newly built church, and alongside Nicolai was another man who had been made Deacon with him a week earlier They were now both to be ordained Priests. The Church was to become not just a parish church, but also the church of a restored Monastic Community.
|Welcoming the Bishop - his Deacon at his side. Nicolai the tall figure on the left, the young p-p in pink on the Bishop's left|
A little after 9am the Bishop came, to be greeted with bread and salt a Crucifix and the Gospels, while the snow fell round us. The Deacons took him into the church. Stay close to me
the bishop told me; not easy in such a throng, but there behind the Ikonostasis he was duly Vested for the Liturgy by the Deacons. We circled the outside of the Church and the Bishop signed it on all sides with a brush loaded with oil on a long pole. When it came to preparing the altar, this was no prissy western performnce. The mensa was thoroughly scrubbed by assistant priests with their sleeves rolled up using water from plastic bowls. The oiling was no mere dribble but a thorough basting. When the whole Liturgy seemed to be drawing to a conclusion around 1pm the Bishop decided this was the opportunity to tell people their duties; which he did for another forty minutes.
Then he was taken to rest for a while, until late in the afternoon we all met in the Village Hall for a feast. This was in pre-Advent, so fish was the main part of the meal. On the table were bottles of Whisky, containers of very good local wine, and teapots of what looked like very weak tea. It is water
, said the Bishop to me: Water indeed! Firewater, rather - Tzvika, the local plum brandy.
|Nicolai, me and the Bishop as the Feast began|
I was reminded if all this by a couple of photos (above) which I came across in preparing to move house: and in view of recent correspondence elsewhere about Consecration Rites thought it might be interesting. The three most imortant things I learned from Romanian Orthodoxy? That the liturgy was put into the vernacular in 1662 and no one seems to hanker after Slavonic; that it is perfectly normal for priests to be married: and that Deacons are far more important for the functioning of the Liturgy than are priests.