The Simple Road to Heaven
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No, I must still be dreaming. But, never being one to turn down a cup of coffee I agreed with a nod. After the first few sips I realised everything had happened. The day had begun like any other Monday: But it would turn out to be one where fate would guide me, and God would literally tell me where to go. In preparation for my next project I decided to get out of town for a couple of days. This was my time. I was off to Sinaia to take up the offer of a monk I had first met two years earlier.
He invited me to stay at their monastery whenever I had the chance. Arriving right on schedule at 2 in the afternoon, I entered the church and spoke with Abbot Melkesedek. I told him my situation and asked if I may stay a few days there. Still under construction, Monastery Cota , on the road from Sinaia to Targoviste, is nestled perfectly in the mountains; it would surely provide a great place to relax.
The road to heaven | PEMPTOUSIA
However, the guest quarters were not heated yet. Still a work in progress. But, being sympathetic and wanting to help, Father M offered to take me to another monastery; one where I find peace, quiet, and a fellow American to talk to. Nothing is trouble for those living in a monastery. Romanian hospitality combined with monastic vows to help and serve? They could teach a course at Cornell! Driving north, he made arrangements on his mobile for our accommodation. He was far removed from the stereotype of a monk: But where we were heading was anything but close.
I realised that as we approached Sibiu, which was two hours west of Brasov and about five years west of Bucharest. Guilt continued to mount as we drove to the small town of Sebes and turned left. We were heading directly up into the Fagaras Mountains and yet there was no road to get there. Winter, night, snow, and what could hardly be considered a road lay ahead as we made the final leg of our trip.
The marker on the side of the road indicated that there were 35 kilometres to Oasa Monastery, our destination. If you have lived in Romania for a while you know that distance has absolutely nothing to do with time. In fact, not much has to do with time, but I digress. So these 35 kilometres would take you about 30 minutes on a decent Romanian road, about 20 minutes in Western Europe, and the way I used to drive about So, you can imagine how bad this road had to be when I tell you it took over two hours.
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I always knew the road to heaven was a difficult one, but this was just ridiculous. This uphill path was for the truly determined.
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The feeling of guilt grew with each bump and pothole. This monk was not interested in money.
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I tried to make a donation, but he insistently refused saying it was not him I owed. Needless to say even after we reached the peak, I had a lot more climbing to do. After nine hours on the road and up the mountain path we finally reached Oasa at Just enough time for Father M to eat something before midnight — one of many traditions of monastic life that I would soon learn about. A ciorba and cup of tea later I went to bed hardly believing the day I had just had. You can call it fate, or destiny or just coincidence but never have I been given such a clear sign.
It was pretty easy to understand how the next morning would have one questioning the events of the prior day. Born Catholic in New Orleans with the name of Steven, this year-old former accountant gave up the world for monastic life eight years ago. Wisps of steam rose from his cup mystically dancing past his beard and glasses as he told me his story.
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Really quite a story; his conversion, his vow to be a monk, his travels to Mount Athos in Greece, and being told by different abbots and monks that Oasa, Romania was the place for him. More than four years ago he arrived in Romania, and has been down the mountain nine times since.
A singer, teacher and mentor to some of the younger monks, Father Sava was my guide this week as well. We laughed at shared experiences of white water rafting in North Carolina. Discussing secret dreams of where we each want to end up, we listened. And contemplating religion and spirituality we agreed to disagree. Being Orthodox, however, Father Sava did not share my respect for other religions, and followed The Way — any other path was the wrong path.
One must understand and respect that when one gives up their life for God, they are pretty much set in their ways. We maintained our civility and continued to have further and deeper discussions. It was Socrates who said that the best method of learning was a teacher and single student perched on a log questioning and answering. The snow-covered paths with overhanging pines were our classroom, an amazing setting to learn as we walked around the grounds. The ritual of a young man seeking advice from an elder.
In addition to our talks, Father Sava showed me how to heat my wood burning soba , and told me the schedule for church service. His research has included the beliefs of children through the very elderly and believers and non-believers. Support our self-published authors and buy directly from FriesenPress. Toggle navigation Search Cart.
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