December 7th marked the 30-year anniversary since Father Archimandrite Melchisedec became abbot of Putna Monastery. In other words, 30 years of leaving himself in God’s hand: “In our life, we have only one task: To surrender ourselves, to leave ourselves in God’s hand.”
Chroniclers familiar with dates and eras could point out many anniversaries in this year 2022, the 7530th year since the creation of the world. They could mention 655 years from the death of Bogdan I (1367), or 620 years from the translation of Saint John the New’s relics to Suceava (1402), or 565 years from the coronation of Stephen the Great (1457), or also 525 years from the Stephenian era the battle at Codrii Cosminului (1497), or any number of other events that have accumulated era after era.
Out of all these, we will dwell on today’s anniversary – December 7, 2022, the commemoration of St. Filofteia from Curtea de Argeș – when Putna Monastery celebrates 30 years from the installation as abbot of Father Archimandrite Melchisedec Velnic. We all celebrate, brotherhood and spiritual father alike, because these two cannot be separated: there is neither monastery without its abbot, nor abbot without his monastery.
For us who live in this monastery and have grown together with it, the changes seem natural, but for those who return after several years, everything seems to have changed.
Many projects were undertaken due to a need to repair and maintain older structures, other projects arose as the brotherhood grew and the number of pilgrims increased. Even other projects are the fulfillment of a dream, a desire of many generations of fathers from Putna, which we, the fathers of today, were called to make reality.
As a result, the entire precinct was renovated: cells and alleys, museum and trapeza. New buildings for monastic cells were constructed, as well as the Saint Nicholas and Visarion Puiu guest houses. And at the “Metropolitan Jacob of Putna” Cultural Center, we have workshops for iconography, tailoring, icon restoration, and embroidery, as well as a new library.
After 10 years of renovation, the monastery church was once again adorned with frescos. The efforts of the iconographers, the brothers Mihail and Gavriil Moroșan, as well as those of the entire brotherhood, were consecrated on August 15, 2010, by His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel.
The 12 Apostles Skete and the Salaș Skete were constructed in response to the love and dedication of several families of good Christians, but also due to a desire to have a peaceful and prayerful place for the more zealous fathers.
Given that every feast day of the monastery draws thousands of faithful, celebrations at Putna have become celebrations for all of Moldavia and for the entire Romanian people. The most significant were the celebrations for the canonization of the Holy Voivode Stephen the Great (1992), the 500-year anniversary from Saint Stephen’s repose (2004), the consecration of the frescos (2010), the canonization of Saint Jacob of Putna and of the Venerable Fathers Sila, Paisie, and Natan (2017), and the 150-year anniversary from the 1871 Great Putna Celebration (2021). All these celebrations show that Putna truly was and truly is an altar for the national consciousness.
The fathers say: by giving, you will receive. And truly, Father Abbot – with his prayers to the Mother of God and Saint Stephen, with his enlarged and welcoming heart, with his kindness and respect for all – managed to attract to the monastery not only the faithful who often attend the services, but also a large number of founders and benefactors, all of whom are included in the larger brotherhood of Putna. With their help, the monastery has been adorned with bells, vigil lamps, reliquaries, bejeweled crosses, holy vessels, holy gospel books, holy veils, and holy vestments.
But before all else, the monastery revolves around the monastic brotherhood. In 1992, there were around 30 inhabitants, and that number steadily grew such that, for many years, we have around 100 fathers and brothers. We came from all corners, but we became united in one brotherhood and we feel that we live in one large family because here we found a father, not only an abbot.
For many of us, he is our monastic sponsor. He tonsured many of us into monasticism. Most of us are his spiritual children. But for all of us, he suffered and continues to suffer birthpangs, as Saint Paul says, until Christ will take form in us (Galatians 4.19). Those of us who are older and closer to him know well all his worries, concern, cares, toil, joys, yet also sufferings due to the accomplishments or falls of his children.
There were not only sunny days. Putna, by virtue of its status, also partakes of cold, unfriendly days, and who suffers them first if not the foremost among us? Father Iachint, the former abbot, said at the installation on December 7, 1992, that the abbacy of Putna is not a normal one and thus requires a superhuman effort and sacrifice. Only God knows what was in Father Abbot’s soul in those difficult days, how many times he wished he could trade everything for a cell and Psalter. But whether through his saints or through gifted fathers, the Mother of God and Saint Stephen whispered mystically in his heart: “Our grace is sufficient for you.”
And he continued to bear his cross and, behold, 30 years have reached their fulfillment. Many and few, as the chronicler would say, but surely full of accomplishments!
We, the brotherhood of Putna, who were deemed worthy to have him as our abbot and father, ought to be continually thankful to God for this gift. And we ought to offer to our Father Abbot, instead of thanks and other well wishes, that polychronion which he always desired from us: to love God, to love the monastic life and to strive to fulfill our vows, to thirst after the church services and to meet each other as often as possible at the Holy Altar and before the Holy Chalice.
For we all know that the beauty of a monastery does not lie in walls and constructions, but in the virtues of its fathers. Amin.
Wishing you many years!
Protos. Pavel Niga, hegumen
Within the enlarged heart of Your Reverence, we too were called and received. You have enlarged your heart so much that the entire brotherhood has been enlarged. And today we can say, as we have put into practice, that Putna extends beyond the boundaries of this monastery.
We are rich not because we are many, but because we are one. 30 years ago, you entreated us to be tightly united as one body, to strengthen one another. If we see another falling, to raise him up.
Truly, we are one body, but this body was formed with much blood. Truly, Father, you have made it possible for Saint Paul’s words to be embodied here. You helped us to be grafted onto this body of Your Reverence. Grafting means to place a wound on a wound. The tree is scored and the branch is also scored. Wound upon wound. Yet it is not easy to be the stem. The branch is scored just once, but the tree is ever wounded. We entreat our good God that this wound may comfort you in the Heavenly Kingdom.
Protos. Hrisostom Ciuciu