The camp of young families is the culmination of the activities of the parochial catechetical circles and of the branches of the “St. Stephen the Great” Youth Center of the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Northern Europe. And this summer, with the participation of His Eminence Metropolitan Seraphim and His Grace Bishop Macarie, Romanian and Scandinavian believers spent together a week of prayer, pilgrimage, educational activities and recreational hikes.
Thus, the 2018 edition of the “Camp of Families in the Episcopal of Northern Europe” was held in the year of the Centenial in Suceava County, Gura-Humorului and in Spermezeu, Bistrita-Nasaud county, on July 23-29. The official opening of the camp took place in Gura Humorului on Monday, July 23, when the organizers addressed the welcome speech and presented the rich schedule of the coming days.
The first activity in the hiking category was to visit the salt mine in Cacica, located in an area with a rich tradition of extracting and exploiting salt since the time when this region was under the Habsburg Military Administration. Once they had the opportunity to learn how the salt from the numerous brine springs in the area was extracted by being boiled, the young people participated in an interactive workshop devoted to pottery craft and ceramics art in the second half of the day, in Marginea village, in Suceava count. Not only did they get acquainted with “The Black Pot Ceramics of Marginea” and listened pottery stories from the locals, who further carry on this tradition, which seems to have it’s source in the Geto-Dacian civilization, but they also tried to give the shape of the clay themselves.
After this fascinating experience, the group headed for the Bogdana Monastery in the town of Rădăuţi, founded by the 14th century by Bogdan I, the founder of the Moldavian feudal state. Before taking part at the evening service and end the first day of the camp, , the young visited the “Hierarch Leontie Childrens House”, a charitable institution in which (in the 11 family-type houses) live more than 120 orphan children orphans or with reduced material possibilities.
Despite the rainy weather, the day of the camp was dedicated to the visit of the old capital of Moldavia during the medieval period, the city of Suceava, where the participants were anxious to find out the history and its charm. The first stop was, of course, at Saint John the New Monastery in Suceava, church found in the UNESCO World Heritage List, in the group of painted churches in northern Moldavia and the current residence of the Archbishopric of Suceava and Rădăuţi. At the relics of Saint John, the merchant who gave his life for Christ, refusing apostasy, we prayed that this martyrdom will inspire and strengthen us, interceding before God for all the camp participants, all those who strive to offer a good Christian testimony, regardless of the countries in which they live. The visit to the city continued with a visit at the History Museum or the Museum of Bucovina , where undoubtedly the “Hall of the Royal Council” or “Hall of the Throne” is the most spectacular wing, accurately reconstructed with natural size mannequins, depicting the ethos of the life in Moldavia at that time , governed by the majestic figure of St. Stephen the Great. This day ended as well with silence and prayer at the Dragomirna Monastery.
Wednesday, July 25, began with a very unusual experience: traveling with the “mocănița” (steam train) on narrow-gauge railway between Moldovita and Argel, dating from the end of the 19th century. Initially used to transport wood from the forest to the sawmill, the train now has a strict tourist function, to the delight of those who choose to travel in it through the 10 kilometers of this very picturesque route. On our return to Moldovita, we prayed in the church of the monastery and we spent a short time at the Suceviţa Monastery. After lunch, the camp headed towards Putna Monastery, the one Mihai Eminescu called “the Jerusalem of the Romanian people”. Here we prayed at the tomb of the great ruler Saint Stephen the Great, called by the same national poet “the altar of national consciousness.” Passing on to the monastery’s museum and receiving praise from the monastic fathers, we continued the spiritual journey to the Monastery of Sihăstria Putnei and then to the Cave of St. Daniil the Hermit, located at a short distance from the above-mentioned Suceava monasteries. The evening ended with the prayer and the hymn “Gentle Light” that we have sung together.
On Thursday, July 26, the young families of the camp started the pilgrimage to the Bucovina wilderness or “the Romanian Athos”, as the Rarău Mountain is called . The monasteries of Pojorâta and Sihăstria Rarăului are oasis of spirituality and live authentic monastic tradition. The road to these monastic hearth is an event itself, the “Transraru” alpine road being considered one of the most spectacular in Romania. The words full of wisdom and courage of Father John Larion Neagoe, one of the confessors who went through the harsh school of suffering in the Communist prisons, rekindled our zeal and patriotism so that once we came back to the place of accommodation in Gura Humorului, around the campfire, we sang with great enthusiasm Christian and patriotic songs. Thus ended the fourth day.
Friday began with the egg painting studio, in which the little ones especially, but also their parents, became experts in this spiritual craftsmanship representative of the Bucovina area, having the opportunity to slowly discover their mysterious technique in the first part of the day. After a pilgrimage to Voroneţ (the place of worship surnamed the “Sistine chapel of Romanian Orthodoxy” due to exterior frescoes so well known all over the world) and Gura Humorului Monastery, at Vespers Day we gathered in the Cathedral “The Assumption of the Virgin and the Romanian Saints” in Gura Humorului to meet in prayer with His Eminance Serafim Joanta, the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan of Germany, Central and Northern Europe, and PS Macarie Drăgoi, the Romanian Orthodox Bishop of Northern Europe, who served with the blessing of High Eminence Pimen, the Archbishop of Suceava and Rădăuţi, along with the Fr. Mircea Nuţu and a large number of priests and deacons from our Diocese and the surrounding area. In the spiritual dialogue that followed the Vespers service, Metropolitan Seraphim of the IPS spoke about the importance of prayer, coming with examples from Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers, and about the role of the Church in people’s lives. “The Church is the one who, here on earth, helps us towards salvation, that is, to deliver us from evil and sin. We can not save our souls in eternity if we do not keep in touch with the Church. The Church is the mystery of communion and the salvation of men. It was founded by Christ to continue His work of salvation 2000 years ago. We are members of the body of the Church. By gathering prayer and sharing with the Holy Mysteries, we are increasingly living in solidarity and communion. In the world, both hierarchs and priests seek to give the best testimony of Christ’s love for us. People do not approach Church servants unless they see in them the living icon of Christ the Savior. We all have to be one with Christ. The whole mystery of our lives is reduced to love,” concluded the hierarch. A few minutes before midnight we all went out into the square in front of the cathedral to witness the longest full moon eclipse of our century.
On Saturday morning, July 28, His Eminence Serafim and His Grace Macarie were greeted in front of the cathedral in Gura Humorului by the holy servants and by the faithful dressed in national costumes. The two hierarchs then celebrated the Divine Liturgy, in the presence of the Romanian families present in the camp of Gura Humorului and the parishioners of the Gura Humorului cathedral. PS Macarie then addressed a word especially to young men in which he urged them to keep the right faith and to model Christ the Savior: “Youth is a great gift, a great responsibility and a great trial, but also a great exam. It is a time when you have many exams and the most important exams are those of life. You, young people, are the most hunted of all! Consumerism, the attractions of new technologies, gender or anti-family ideologies are all about the intent of your captivity. Your youth is the “commodity” most desired by the rulers of this world! You need to be aware of this. Your mind, your heart and your body are coveted by the unscrupulous who want to colonize them, parasite them with their corrupt ideologies, their poisoned gifts, their virtual or real “drugs”. There are many kinds of “drugs” through which the youthful zeal is slashed. One of them is digital technology. Beloved young people, do not let your phones and your tablets make you hunchbacked! Lift up your eyes from the screen! Look carefully around the faces of those around you, look up to the sky. Feed your noble and high aspirations of the soul, not the inferior and abject ones! Do not allow yourselves to become dirty of this culture of despair, the sensuality that flows now all over, seeking to leave no place or soul untouched … Remember the times we live, cultivate your discernment, love each other in Christ, love your homeland, love our heroes, love your forefathers from whom you have received an inheritance, love your parents, love your neighbor who is in need! Be like those young people to whom the Saint John, the Apostle of Love, addresses these words: I have written unto you the young, for you are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and overcometh the wicked … (1 John 2:14)” His Grace Macarie pointed out. On Saturday, after the Parastasus’ service for those who slept, all the participants in the camp then participated in a fraternal agape in the social house of the parish.
Towards the evening we headed to Spermezeu, Bistrita-Nasaud County, the village of His Grace Macarie, to enjoy together the climax of the camp, namely the patron saint of the parish church and the feast of the village sons. On Sunday morning, July 29, 2018, we worshiped the icon of The Mother of God Breastfeeding and participated in the procession and Divine Liturgy under the guidance of the two hierarchs His Eminence Serafim and His Grace Macarie, surrounded by a number of priests and deacons, with the participation of several thousand pilgrims, many of them dressed in the traditional costumes. The Christian agape was a genuine liturgy after liturgy, where villagers and pilgrims sang ecclesiastical and patriotic songs.
Priest Andrei-Ovidiu Sofa
Priest Octavian-Horatiu Muresan