You are here presented with the testimony of the man to whom the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church offered the position of the Metropolitan [t.n. metropolitan is a bishop, usually located in a major city] of Oltenia. He was devoted to his spiritual vocation, which resulted in him reaching a high position in the church hierarchy and performing important functions, while serving in a large church in the city of Cluj-Napoca.
All that changed in an instant. This change was the result of a careful studying of the Bible, and the realization that the way he followed up until that point was not the one he was supposed to follow.
The following is the testimony of priest Ioan Nechita:
”Even as a small child I wanted to know God and surrender myself to God’s service. Thus, after elementary school, I enrolled at the theological seminary in Cluj-Napoca, which I attended for five years. After that, I attended the Faculty of Theology in Sibiu for four years. At my request, I was ordained as a celibate priest in the service of the Vadul Feleakul Archdiocese in Cluj, at the church no. 1 in Cluj-Napoca. For ten years and seven months I worked as a secretary in the administration of the Archdiocese, and then another two years as an administrative advisor. After twelve years and seven months from the start of my service, then current Archbishop, T. H., visited me once:
“Father, I come with a proposition, and please do not refuse me. I’m referring to the church no. 2 of Cluj-Napoca. We have a problem in this church. There are a huge number of believers, some 4,700 souls, and only two priests. I decided to look to your Excellency, and send you a priest to the Church no. 2”
I accepted the proposal of my archbishop. Immediately after the appointment, I entered the real, liturgical service. To clarify: some administrators and teachers in educational institutions and theological high schools don’t have parishes, but rather deal with administrative work only. Such was my service for the first twelve years. Now, after that period, I went right to priesthood.
Let me go back in time a little bit. When I was appointed Secretary of the Archdiocese of Cluj, several days later came, along with the Secretary of Religious Affairs, two very clean-cut young men. They were presented as our associates, staff of the Ministry of the Interior in charge of relations with religious communities. They asked me politely if I was doing OK in Cluj, whether I have administrative or financial issues and if anyone was against me. The counselors and all the employees of the archdiocese probably wondered how a young man, aged 24, straight out of college, was appointed secretary of the Archdiocese. They felt that my appointment could not have come about by a simple choice. According to them, I was either appointed by the state authorities, or I was a bishop’s favorite. None of this was true, but these two young men visited me often. After their seventh visit, they proposed that I should start cooperating with the Ministry of Interior.
During this collaboration, from 1972 to 1985, I got acquainted with all the police records of the arrested believers and gospel preachers, since I had access to the Ministry of the Interior as you have access to your kitchen! Just imagine how it was, when the Archbishop of Timişoara, later, had to admit, in front of the entire Timişoara, that he cooperated with the Special police, alongside with all the employees of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church!
I’ve cooperated with the Ministry of the Interior from 1972 to 1985, after which I asked to be released from this collaboration. Priest Elias Cleopas, who was my spiritual councilor, helped me with this. I begged him to rid me of it. I’ve come to the point where I was afraid that I would not be able to keep it all a secret. I knew a lot about many things, including the [Romanian Eastern Orthodox] Church’s cooperation with the Special police.
The police told me that if I promised not to give out any secrets in the next fifty years, I’ll be free to stop cooperating with them.
During those years, if we consider the issue of the Protestant-evangelical churches from today’s perspective, there was a strong opposition to their work, and I was acting so zealously against them, I personally asked the Minister of Internal Affairs to intervene.
Here’s what it looked like once:
“Mr. Minister, please, let’s find a solution for the neo-Protestants, the Baptists, the Adventists, and all the other sects. I want to eliminate them, to wipe them off the face of earth, especially in the municipality of Cluj-Napoca. They are weeds that came from across the ocean, especially after World War I. Every day we see how these neo-Protestants multiply. We need to find a solution to destroy them in every way.”
The answer of the Minister of Internal Affairs answered:
“Father, we cannot do anything against them, except to only scare them with a fine or with a few days in jail …such is the law … the Constitution protects them … the law is on their side! Moreover, those overseas [t.n. the USA] press us and ask: where is the freedom of religion?”
Since the state did not find a way to stop their activities, they addressed me, as a representative of the Church: “You do something. Do it with your own resources – the ones available to you. Eliminate them, and we will, as a state, protect you.”
I constantly warned our church members, our parishioners: “Do not, by any chance, have any relations or make friends with the newfaithers – cultists [t.n. “newfaithers” is a pejorative term commonly used to denote those who converted to one of the non-traditional faiths across Eastern Europe]! When you come to confession, as is prescribed four times a year, and I find out that someone has just said hello, or responded to a greeting of a cultist, or shook hands with him, for the next five years I will not let you confess, I will not marry you, I will not let you take communion, I will not do your burial, or hold you a memorial service. In other words – you will be buried like a dog!” My warnings against those of different beliefs have gone so far that I promised sure forgiveness of sins to every parishioner who would inflict harm or even kill a cultist. I am a priest, and I had the right to forgive the sins in God’s name to those who performed any acts that would help preserve the true faith and to protect the Church.
Often, my parishioners came to me and said, “Father, some newfaithers moved into my apartment building. They rang the doorbell, and when I opened gave me a Bible!”
“Thrown it into the fire, immediately!” – I answered.
“All right, Father, here I have brought the Bible, please, throw it out yourself!”
“I’m not going to throw it away!” – I replied, surprised, and a bit scared, because I did have some respect for that book.
“Well, then I won’t either” – the parishioner would say – “I’ll leave it here with you at the parish office.”
When Nicolae Ceaușescu became President of Romania, the Department of Religious Affairs had, at the request of the Patriarchate of the Romanian Orthodox Church, required more copies of the Bible to be printed, in order to cover the needs of the Patriarchate, the dioceses, and the metropolitan areas. A large number of Bibles came out, but it was not sufficient. We asked the church members to each get one, so we can figure out how many are still necessary, so we can print more.
In those days, parishioners came to me and asked for spiritual help:
“Father, we bought Bibles!” – They said.
“Congratulations!” – I would answer.
“Please, give us some recommendations; give us guidance, where to begin to read it and how to read it?”
However, our attitude, the attitude of the clergy and Church hierarchy, was and always has been the following: “Believers should be kept as far away from the Bible as possible”. The recommendation was: “Do not even attempt to read the Scriptures, because you will get spiritually lost and go astray!”
A much better thinking and a more illuminated understanding than the Church’s on this matter, was that of our well-known historian and scholar Nicolae Iorga, who said: “The secret of human existence is not only in living, but in the knowledge of why we live. Of all the books in the world, the Bible is the only one that provides answers to all the questions; they just need to be sought honestly.”
To seek and find what? The Truth, of course!
One day, when the Bible printed by the Romanian Orthodox Church came to our parish library – and they looked flawless – I accidentally opened the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 22 verse 29. I have read that the Lord Jesus said:
“You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God…”
These words made me feel as if I was electrocuted!
“Do not even attempt to read the Scriptures, or you will go astray” – spoke us, priests!
“You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God…” said the Lord Jesus!
Furthermore, in the Gospel of John 5:39, I found that the Lord Jesus said:
“You search the Scriptures…and it is they that bear witness about me.”
Also, in the Gospel of John 8:32:
“…and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
In Acts 17:11 Luke the Evangelist said:
“Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.”
My spiritual advisor, father Cleopa, just like others in spiritual service- professors and lecturers- used to speedily go over the theological disciplines necessary to be studied. They did not meditate on them, or have given them the needed attention. In theological high schools and seminaries the emphasis has always been on the Holy tradition; that is, the liturgy, the church fathers and history, the moral teachings of Christianity.
I started leafing through the Bible with great interest, and getting into it more deeply and reading it in order, starting with the Gospel of Matthew. I realized that my (priestly) position and service, and everything I have ever done – is questionable. Until then, I believed that I served God, the society and the people. Serving the people was serving God, I believed.
From the moment I began to study the Bible with interest, I read from the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. I started with the genealogy of Christ, through the account of his birth; until, in the third chapter, I came to His baptism. At that moment, I recalled the 28th chapter of the same Gospel, which recounts the events following the resurrection of the Jesus, our Savior, that is, his meeting with the disciples in Galilee. He greeted them with the words:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
I realized that the Gospel of Matthew describes the act by which the Lord Jesus Christ began his public ministry – and that act was His baptism. He reinforced the importance of baptism by his own example. Christ’s religious opponents: the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Herodians, the Essenes and the priests, had the biggest impact on the Jewish people. When they were asked: “The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” – They inwardly knew that he was sent by God.
The first church, since its inception, since the Holy Spirit descended, practiced only adult baptisms. People who underwent a preparation first were baptized. This was practiced even at the time of John Chrysostom, the bishop of Constantinople, and it was called the catechetical liturgy. So, adults were baptized until 411, when the Synod of Chalcedon, at the request of Constantinople, changed that practice of baptism, and the Church began to baptize infants, 6 weeks old.
According to the practice of the Eastern Orthodox and the Catholic churches, a new child is brought into the church, accompanied by the godfather. Upon entering the church, in the narthex (the church has three parts: the narthex, the nave and the altar), the priest meets the infant, who is accompanied by the godfather, and speaks the following formula:
– Do you denounce the devil and all his works?
– I do!
– Have you renounced Satan?
– I have renounced Satan.
– Do you believe in Christ?
– I believe!
– Do you worship him?
– I worship.
– Deliver the Confession!
However, more than 90% of the godparents gave me the following answer:
– Father, I do not even know the Lord’s Prayer, let alone the Confession, which has 12 articles, and is very difficult to remember!
– Are you at all aware of the importance of this act, that you are the witnesses, and should pledge on behalf of the newborn?
– I do not know, Father. I just want to make him a true Christian – an Eastern Orthodox!
– And are you a true Christian? – I asked further.
– I do not know! I do not know! – Came the answer.
The way these infants were – unable to think, no strength, and no possession of logical reasoning, such were their godparents – in the same state of ignorance. Unfortunately, I noticed this situation in everyone, from childhood through adolescence to adulthood. In the municipality of Cluj, as in any other place, the baptized children would become men and women in the true sense of the word – in appearance, speech and behavior. I watched them with so much pain and I wondered: Did I dress them in the garments of Christ? I realized that these garments, which I believed that I gave them, and by that introduced them as disciples into Christ’s church, were taken off as soon as they get out of the door of the church. Basically right away; all of these same kids that were six weeks of age!
In the Gospel of Mark 16:16 Christ the Lord spoke very clear words, which need no interpretation:
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”
I wondered: What is baptism? I also gave the answer: Baptism is a public testimony, an act of obedience, our promise to follow Christ. For how long? My whole life!
And not just an act of obedience – it is identification with Christ!
To my disappointment, I soon realized that the baptisms that I did were invalid. By then, I had performed thousands of baptisms, and then realized that infant baptism is not based on the teachings of the Scriptures…
Since I explained to you the way I came to the knowledge of the fact that the Eastern Orthodox practice of baptism is not based in the Bible, I will tell you something about the liturgy:
I have often seen people in the parish office burdened with many worries and problems. Their faces testified to a great deal of pain and disappointments in life.
I would ask: “What happened?”
And they would say:
“Father, such and such, very dear to us, ended his earthly life!”
I tried to bring them a little hope, a little light, to warm up their tormented and cold spirits:
– “We didn’t come to this world at the same time, so we don’t leave at the same time. Sooner or later, we all go, when it’s our turn.”
Their response would be:
– “Father, it is a tragedy has got us very worried. He’s gone. We know that we all go, but the pain that bothers us is this: he died without confession, without communion and without a candle. Will he have a share in the light of the resurrection of Christ?”
– “Of course” – I assured them. I continued: “The more candles are lit, the more light you’ll bring to his soul. Then, prepare 6 kg [13.5 lbs.] of paraffin free wax, and make a candle as tall as the deceased was, and on the night before Easter, when I say out loud: “Come and take light!” light a candle with the flame of my candle. This will ignite the light of his soul!”
Following the advice I gave, I recalled the words of the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded by the Apostle and Evangelist John:
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
When someone would die, when during the first three days all the canonic formalities required for the case of death have been fulfilled (the time of departure, the rite of burial), usually, family members would come to me, and would ask for a word that would give them comfort:
– “Father, he lived a life contrary to the canons [t.n. church laws], as an unbeliever. He liked drinking, women, theft, he was in jail… Will such person have a share in God’s kingdom? This interests us very much.” – they would ask with sadness in their eyes.
– “Of course” – I would reply. “Through the prayers that I read on the day of the funeral he is being vouchsafed for the kingdom of God. In one of the prayers it reads: God of the spirits and of all flesh, who trampled death, destroyed the Devil and granted life to your world …”
Until this place, the text is in line with the Bible. God has destroyed death, and has given, and wants to give life to this world. But at that point, the text of the prayer changes, and the text that follows is inconsistent with the biblical teaching:
“Your servant, who is gone from us, fell under his own sin, or the sin of his parents, or has, for a different reason, received a “binding by sin” by some priest, I now release him from the sin, physical and spiritual in this age and in the age come, and position him in the green place, the place of rest, where there is no pain, torture, sadness or moaning, but only life everlasting …”
That life is endless – that’s true. During the Easter holidays, the priest greets his parishioners, from the Resurrection Eve to Thomas’s week:
– “Christ is risen!”
They would answer:
– “Indeed He is risen!”
– Priest: “Dear believers, do you have the confidence that you have a share in the light of the resurrection of Christ?’”
– Parishioners: ”We do not know, Father! God knows!”
– “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
– “Father, does it make sense to know? Since you came to Cluj (and many others before you, servants of the altar), we constantly hear that no matter what kind of life we lead, regardless of the prayers, or our life with God, whether one is a sinner or not, you jostle us all into Abraham’s bosom!”
– ? ! ? (I was astounded)
– “And when parishioners come and ask you: Father, are we going to have a share in God’s kingdom? You answer: Sure, if you do more memorial services/commemorations, as a commemoration of the dead places them in a better position.”
– ? ! ? (I watched with surprise)
– “So what’s the best position, Father? To the left or the right side of Abraham? Before or after, or somewhere in the middle, what is the most appropriate and the best place?”
– “Well, it depends on you, and the number of memorial services which will be done as commemorations to the deceased!” – I replied, trying snap out of the surprise.
The complaint from the parishioners was a very good one.
I retreated into the parish library and opened the Scriptures. I found a passage in the book of Ezekiel, which said, “The soul that sins shall die: the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father nor the father bear the iniquity of the son.” (Ezekiel 18:4, 17-18).
Also, I remembered the words of the Apostle Paul, who wrote in the book of Romans: “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). Suddenly, I got the answer! As soon as I asked the question, the answer came. Therefore, the father is not responsible for the son’s iniquity or the son for his father’s iniquity.
That shook me, and I wondered: Who even gave me the authority to forgive sins of people (living and dead) when the Bible says:
“Remember these things, O Jacob,
and Israel…I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:21-22)
“…that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 16:63)
“And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Revelation 14:13).
These texts have touched me strongly, and I finally realized that I was standing in a completely unbiblical spiritual position. In the moment, I even wanted to tear the pages out of the Bible, because they were against everything I have ever believed and have been teaching! Until that moment, I believed that I have gotten, through the ordination by the Bishop, the authority from the Holy Spirit to forgive and release from sins!
However, after reading the Bible, I came to the conclusion that the forgiveness of sins is not attained by the parishioners confessing their sins to me, and me saying: “I forgive you and release you from all your sins.” I realized that many of the details concerning the liturgy have no foundation in Scripture. Same is the case with many other parts of the beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Take as an example the particularities of the cult of the saints and the cult of icons. These beliefs are in stark contrast with the teachings of Scripture, even though I had previously practiced them with all sincerity and faithfulness, and with full confidence that these are divine truths. I’ve fostered the belief that the saints are our prayer agents and mediators, those who represent us before God as attorneys. But then, when I opened the Bible in Acts 4:12, I read the words of the Apostle Peter, who before the priests and rabbis of the time stated: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (except the name of Jesus Christ).” Also, the words of the Apostle Paul’s in 1 Timothy 2:5 are even clearer: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” Based on these texts, I concluded that the remission of sins achieved on Calvary paid the price of sin by the Lord Jesus Christ being crucified. I realized also that the existence of the special hierarchy, that is, the clergy, is unbiblical. When the Lord Jesus Christ cried out on the cross, “It is finished,” the evangelist Matthew writes: “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51). In the book of Hebrews, chapters 7, 8 and 9, the writer tells us very clearly that the priestly service became unnecessary. Today we have a High Priest who is Jesus Christ. Until his age, there has always been one earthly high priest who annually entered the Holy of Holies with the sacrificial blood, which he offered for his sins and for the entire nation. But after the resurrection of Christ, we have such a high priest, who gave himself as a sacrifice without blemish, once and for all, who is seated at the right hand of God the Father and intercedes for believers on earth. The work of the many high priests of the Old Testament period was pointing to that which came later through the Lord Jesus Christ and his sacrifice.
When I realized all this, I began to omit a part of the patristics [t.n. the study of Church Fathers], and to challenge the divine inspiration of some of the Holy tradition and the Church laws. I sought to bring God’s word closer to my parishioners. I wanted to rid them of the more frivolous traditions, and direct them toward Christ.
Of course, shortly thereafter, complaints by my fellow priests started coming in. They said: father Ioan Nechita began to preach in the style of the evangelical, sectarian churches…
These accusations also came to the Archbishop in charge. He summoned me and asked:
– “Father, what do you preach there?”
– “What else could I be preaching, except what’s by the canonical order!” – I replied.
– “Do you deviate from the dogma and the Holy tradition?”
– “No, absolutely not” – I assured him.
This situation lasted for about two years, after which he summoned me again and demanded:
– “Father, your sermons will be sent to me first, and only after I look at them, you will be able to present them to the people!”
The result of this request of the Archbishop’s was that I was preaching one thing to the people, and sent him different sermons for censorship. I knew that if I told him the truth, he would send me to the ecclesiastical court. According to canon law, if someone starts preaching different religious teachings than the ones provided by, and regulated by the Holy tradition, he was declared a heretic, because he committed apostasy and had led to a schism within the Church. This sin is considered to be the sin against the Holy Spirit, and for it there is no forgiveness, neither now, nor in the age to come!
Besides that, I’ve asked myself questions and gave myself answers: besides declaring me a heretic, they’ll kick me out of the ministry, I’ll lose my home, my income… What am I supposed to do?
Two years passed by. After that, the Archbishop had me urgently summoned. Until then, I was always invited to sit next to him, but this time he said: “Sit over there!” – Pointing to a chair across the room. Then he addressed me:
– “Father, your record/file has become thicker than the Bible. I’m thinking about how to protect you, given your age, the contribution you made to the altar of our Church, the Church of our forefathers. I do not want to send you to the ecclesiastical court. I decided to send you to a monastery for two years, to repent a little! You brought in a schism, a heresy, and you caused me big problems. You have seriously violated the canons of the holy fathers. So, I decided to send you to a monastery for two years to repent. Some repentance wouldn’t hurt you!”
– “Your Eminence, you are too generous. Thank you very much! But you know what the problem is: I do not want only to repent for two years; I want to repent my entire life!” – I replied.
– “Now you’ve fallen into a trap. You’re a heretic! Tell me, what is your profession of faith?” – Asked the archbishop.
– “Your question makes no sense! After 35 years of service, you ask me what I believe? My faith is that, which was once for all delivered to the saints!” (Jude 3).
– “There, that is the second trap that you fell in! You are a sectarian in all respects! You will hand over the headship of the church temple in the next three days, with the entire inventory, and then you are immediately to leave to the monastery!”
– “I’m not going to sign this decision, and I won’t fulfill it!” – I replied.
– “Right now you fell into another sin: disobedience – which was the sin of Adam!”
(Explanation: The candidates for priesthood, before their ordination, must declare: “In everything I will submit to my bishop, and I will be unconditionally obedient to death!” Under this rule, you should listen to people and not God, even though Acts 4:19 and Acts 5:29 says, “We must obey God rather than men”).
– “Will you obey me?” – Asked the archbishop.
– “No! I decide to be obedient to God!” – I replied.
– “From this moment on I hand you over the devil”, he said. “All the curses written in the Bible should fall on you, and when you die, a special punishment reserved for the damned awaits you – your body will not be subject to decay, but will remain incorruptible.”
– “Your Eminence, as far as cursing – remember what Moses says in his books: Cursed is the one who curses another. As for the decay, I will tell you this: You know that everything in nature is subject to change, decay and rot. If my body remains incorruptible after death a few years after an earthquake occurs, and it breaks my grave and my body surfaces – when they find it, they will conclude that I was in my lifetime, and had remained after death, a saint of God! As a result, I will be among the canonized saints, and I’ll become revered as St. Paraskevi, St. Demetrius and St. Nicholas. They will carry my relics from one parish and diocese to another, so that they would bring blessings – stop droughts and bring rains and abundant fruit crops.”
– “Get out, you handed over to the devil.” – replied the Archbishop visibly shaken by my answer.
– “And just so you know: for what you’ve done, you will not get forgiveness. From now you will be a nobody.”
Two years after this event, I heard news about a young priest from the diocese of Caransebeş, Kristian Florea, that deeply touched me. The information about him fascinated me, so I tried to find him. After much effort in this direction, I finally met him. I could hardly wait to ask him:
– “Now when you look back at what you have left, the position of a priest, the honor and reputation that you had – do you regret losing all that?”
– “Absolutely not!” – Was his reply.
Then I said: “Brother Kristi, I, like the prophet Elijah, believed myself to be the only Eastern Orthodox priest in the world who had found himself in this situation. But I was wrong in the same way Elijah was – there were still 7,000 people just like him, and so I found out about you. When I heard that there was another priest who believed as I did, I looked for him – and here, I finally found you.”
– “I never have any regrets at all!” – Repeated the former Priest Florea. “I adore the same God in spirit and in truth, the same Jesus who paid the price of sin on the cross of Calvary.”
– “I want to stay with you and serve in the spiritual field!” – I told my younger colleague.
From that moment, I stayed at the Baptist church named Euphrates in the city of Lugoj.
On August 7th, 2007, I went to the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, because I was summoned to give an official explanation of what happened to me.
My former parishioners from Cluj marked me as the one who went crazy! “The Bible has made him completely insane.” – They said.
My testimony left a big impression on the members of the Holy Synod. Bishop Theophan, who was Metropolitan of Oltenia, with whom I used to be very close, and who had helped me spiritually and financially, said: “Father, what I heard was simply amazing! I’m soon going to Iasi. Our suggestion is to appoint you as one of the bishops. We want you to become the new Metropolitan of Oltenia. You will have an army of priests who will be your subordinates, cars, and also headship over 129 monasteries. You will be in charge of large farms, forests, flocks of sheep, cattle, a large number of trade workshops. And you’ll have a good salary. I’m warning you, this is your only chance! If you miss out on it, your name will go down in the history of our people, the history of Oltenia metropolitanship, and of our entire Holy Church.
This proposal looked very tempting. I thought it would be very good to preach the gospel as the Metropolitan of Oltenia. To live in abundance and to preach the gospel. What a concept! However, I knew that the official Church would not tolerate my preaching is based solely on the Bible. My appointment for the Metropolitan would imply renunciation of the belief that the Bible is the only authority that we should be relying on. Right at the moment when I intended to “negotiate” with God regarding my appointment to the position of an Eastern Orthodox Metropolitan, I felt in my spirit as if I got electrocuted! I remembered the verse from the book of Joshua, “…choose this day whom you will serve… as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15).
Then, I remembered the cry of Ruth addressing her mother-in-law Naomi, who was trying to go back to Moab, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (Ruth 1:16).
After I heard the proposal of the Holy Synod, I returned to Banat. In the following three months, my problems were piling up – just as the Archbishop of Cluj predicted. My involvement has attracted the attention of the police, the judiciary, the municipal authorities … Everyone who knew me said: “You’re crazy! The position of the Metropolitan of Oltenia is offered to you, and you sleep on a park bench at the station! Worse yet, these newfaithers of yours, do not pay any attention to you or care for you.” It was the truth. At that time, the Evangelical believers kept their distance, probably not having complete confidence in me – due to my past. And so, God has led me through a spiritual workshop for three months. I lived as a homeless person.
The local government bodies have had a desire to help me, but they also had their conditions. First they told me, “We’ll give you an apartment. A roof over your head. Also, we will provide you with financial assistance. You’ll be able to eat at the soup kitchen, but you have to sign a declaration renouncing your beliefs!” Another proposal was more problematic: “The Prosecutor will make a report that you are mentally and irreversibly ill, and we’ll put in a word that you be placed at the sanatorium for the mentally ill in Stei, in Bihor. From there, you will never be able to get out! You have until tomorrow morning to give us your answer!”
Of course, it is understood that I did not accept any of their proposals!
In 2007, on August the 14th, that same day that the entire municipality of Iași was on its feet, because of the St. Paraskevi holiday (over a million pilgrims came to touch her relics and say prayers in the presence of the local government officials and the media), I have, before the Church and seven pastors, confirmed, through the water baptism, my faith in Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord. When I emerged from the water of baptism for the first time I heard a song, so special, “I come into your house!” Today I am in the house of God! – I rejoiced.
Since that day, my ”file” and ”record” were handed over to the highest of all the archbishops! The one who is not even elected by the Assembly of the Synod! The one who is not subject to presidential decrees, or is elected by the church/political power. He not only was the chosen one of God, but is the Son of God who has the authority. He was told, “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.” The Archbishop who has my “record” and whom I now serve, in whom I have complete confidence that he will reward me I due time, is called the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His authority does not end at one or two parishes. His power is not limited, but covers the whole country and the whole universe.
When I now look back, the only regret I have is that I haven’t preached the gospel to my parishioners while I was in the priestly service. Unfortunately, however, I did not even know or believe in him. I left behind 4,700 souls, most of which are still not enlightened by the light of the gospel. I’m now saved, and I know that God will, in His goodness and mercy, forgive me that I was, at that time, a blind leader of the blind!
I now live in joy and fulfillment! I have complete happiness. As the psalmist David said: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (Psalm 23:4).
I can now declare and sing along with David:
“Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good!” (Psalm 34:8).
Regardless of my current living situation, regardless of what will happen to me in the future, I do not want to go back. I’ll stay here where God has called me and appointed me, regardless of what may be awaiting me. I know and I am convinced that I was called to Calvary, to the cross of Christ. I accepted Golgotha, I gave up the red carpet, I gave up the shiny and pompous garments, and all the other honors that I would have enjoyed as a Metropolitan, and chose the Calvary – the way also walked by my Savior Jesus. I’ll stay by my Lord Jesus Christ to the end of my life.
I used to warn people by telling them: “No way should you to read the Bible, because you will spiritually go astray!” And now, I say to them with a loud voice:
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1: 8)