Simplicity and Modesty

Photo: George Pâslaru

I don’t know how to start, but perhaps it would be good to start with the miracle that happened when we went to light a candle at Putna, where His Eminence Victorin sleeps his eternal sleep next to the great Holy Voivode Stephen the Great, standing guard at the northern borders of the country and at the spiritual borders of the Romanians.

It was a summer day in August. We left Rădăuți but we were to return there later that day since we were going to be the godparents at the religious ceremony of our good friends. We had come from Canada, and they from Italy. It was a Sunday. The road from Putna to Rădăuți was jammed with cars blocked in traffic, and we were worried thinking we would not be able to make back in time. But we continued on our way with the confidence that His Eminence Victorin would not leave us and that he would help us to return safely. We arrived at the Holy Monastery, we prayed at his tomb, and thanked him for helping us to reach his resting place. Then we returned to Rădăuți on an open road, free and clear of traffic, on time for the wedding.

I perceived His Eminence Victorin as a very delicate and very, very, very modest man. Small in stature but great in counsel. Every encounter with him was special. When visiting our cathedral, he often entered without being greeted with the songs and honors enjoyed by the high hierarchy of the Orthodox Church. He would be the last one to come in, carrying his black briefcase, raising his robes to climb the stairs, opening the door and giving way to the parishioners to enter before him. If a child happened to be around, he would stop immediately and search through his pockets full of candy, especially prepared for children. That is how I met him. I once sang on the kliros when he celebrated the Holy Liturgy and he hurried to pay me at the end. That surprised me because I did not expect payment and even more so from a bishop. I was deeply impressed by his insistence that I receive it, and because I saw it as such a blessing from his hand, I could not refuse. In that small parish another special father with a golden heart and blue, infinitely beautiful, eyes; with an extraordinary gentleness on his face; with white hair and beard like those of saints, had recently served. It was Fr Vasile Vasilache, who began his service of Orthodoxy after having gone through the diabolical treatments of communist prisons.

It grieved my soul to witness events unjustifiably directed against His Eminence Victorin toward the end of his life and ministry, when at one of the Episcopal Congresses some priests distressed him terribly. I believe that God allowed that trial to increase the endless number of sufferings and hardships experienced throughout his life to make his crown even greater. At that shameful congress, some priests asked him to abdicate, motivating his advanced age. If they wished for change and novelty, His Eminence’s service, efforts, and sacrifices would not have been an impediment. He was not seeking praise and honor but defended his position as a bishop, claiming that never in the history of Orthodoxy had a bishop retired, being left to die on his throne. I felt great pain in his voice, but once again he proved his uprightness in defending the Orthodox tradition and not his personal situation.

I personally met the Alexe family, who were close with His Eminence and served Orthodoxy and the Romanian nation together with him for many years. They were Mr George Alexe, Doctor of Theology, a man of ineffable modesty, and his wife, Mrs. Ruxandra Alexe, a graduate of Belle Arte. I learned from Mrs. Ruxandra (Didi) Alexe that His Eminence never allowed anyone to wash his clothes. I learned from Mr Alexe that His Eminence preferred to take his meals in his room because he did not sit at the table but set his plate on a chair and ate on his knees, in constant prayer. He fasted and prayed a lot. He went unnoticed and truly lived according to the monastic values ​​of chastity, poverty, and constant prayer. Impressive was the way he traveled to all the parishes throughout the vast and wide North American continent by bus, sleeping in bus station, often being bullied, mugged, and beaten. He had no personal car and no monks to serve him. Mr Alexe gave testimony of all these things. He lived and served as a deeply spiritual man, and I always thought he was a saint.

As was his life, so was his departure. He was found on the hospital floor, disconnected from the machines that supported his life. The wires were pulled, and it was as if he had suffered injuries to his body, according to Mr Alexe’s painful testimony. Very few people attended his vigil, but permanently at his side was a Christian woman, who had many children and who was very, very faithful. He lived in simplicity and modesty, he served in simplicity and modesty with great, very great sacrifices, and with the same simplicity and modesty he went to the Lord, from where he prays for us, for our souls.

May God rest him with the saints and may his memory be eternal from generation to generation!

Daniela Anghel, Windsor