The importance of protecting the environment, the harmful effects of pollution or the common responsibility of humanity to save the planet is the subject of concern for many people, these topics of great importance being debated in all the contemporary contexts: social, political, economic. For us Christians these themes are also important, not just as responsible citizens of the Earth, but above all from the perspective of the spiritual potential these concepts have. They are easy to understand and can be applied very well in spiritual life. Thus, going in the depth of things, we can speak of a true “ecology” of the soul, that is, all those spiritual actions of preserving or purifying the healthy climate created in us by the Spirit of God once received in the Church by Baptism when “we clothed in Christ “(cf. Galatians 3, 27).
By breathing the spiritually light air of the life of the Diaspora, we need – at least once a year – adults and children alike – to return to the origins to “saturate” the hearts of godliness, good-decency and faith we find in our native lands. This became for us, the Romanian Orthodox Diocese of Northern Europe, the long-awaited annual event of the camp of young families: a long-awaited occasion and a necessity.
This year, on July 22-26, 2019, we chose the Danube Delta not only for the rapture beauty of the landscapes but also for the extraordinary symbol that the majestic river – that flows from the Black Forest Mountains in Germany crossing ten countries and four European capitals – represents in the general theme of this year’s camp “Diseases of the Soul and Their Healing – Exercises of Spiritual Ecology”.
I think you will better understand the procedures, following the program of each day, which, beyond the pilgrimages, hiking, games or visiting relevant cultural objectives, also had a deeper background, intending to give participants some practical tools to facilitate their living of God in the concrete circumstances of life.
Following the call of St. Paul “Remember your rulers, who have spoken to you the word of God; “(Hebrews 13, 7), we began the camp with a pilgrimage at the tomb of Archimandrite Arsenie Papacioc where we prayed to the Savior for the courage of confession and patience in trials, asking the Mother of God, whom Father Arsenie had so much cherished, to intercede for us. We visited the city of Constanta, whose bimillennial history fascinated us and where the children had the opportunity to meet the lovely dolphins at the Natural Science Museum’s Village Complex. We ended the day at the Monastery “The Spring of Healing” – Crucea.
The next day we saw how important it is to bring together the fight of salvation. Paradigm was our hiking in the Măcinului Mountains, easy for some, ostentatious for others, but the small stops we made in the parishes in the area, welcomed by the hospitable priests together with their good believers who presented us more closely with the life of their community, were more than welcome. We all completed the trip all the way to the end – and this was the pedagogy of the day’s activities.
Together with His Grace Father Bishop Macarie, our hierarch, spent a whole day amid the meanders, nudges and waterfalls in the Danube Delta. If the Church is the ship of salvation, and the bishop, as a shepherd, leads it from the “swollen waters of this age” to the “shore of salvation”, this time Father Bishop had the opportunity to test the ship’s helm, setting smoothly the direction of the craft that bordered the quiet waters of the Danube, with the help of the children present in the command cabin, under the careful supervision of the captain. We then had dialogues on the deck, socialized, and the children were so absorbed in the biblical pedagogical games prepared by the organizers that, for the enjoyment of their parents, they had forgotten the smartphones and tablets screens. We now have the opportunity to meditate on the words of St. Apostle James (James 3: 4-5): “take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.” Father Bishop also shared with us some thoughts about the diseases of the spiritual heart: ignorance of God’s heart and forgetfulness, that is, lack of uninterrupted memory that “we live in Him, we move, and we are” (Acts 17:28). By the incessant mentioning of Great and Sweet Name of Jesus, added the hierarch, our soul will no longer fall into oblivion that causes spiritual death. I went to the guesthouse with the following thought: just as the Danube we have been navigating all day on transforms into the fertile and lively earth the places it irrigates, so the grace of God, if our heart is cleansed of passions, breaches our whole being, vivifying and giving full meaning to our existence. In the evening we all confessed and prayed together to and from the place of accommodation.
The climax of the camp was its the penultimate day, which we began with the holy Liturgy in the beautiful church dedicated to the Holy Trinity, a parish shepherd by the Father Archpriest Gabriel Ispas. All participants in the camp shared with the Holy Mysteries, listening to His Grace Macarie’s teaching word, about the hardening of the heart, the impossibility to feel God, and the ascetic works slowly moving the coarse layer of ignorance, oblivion and indifference that shines our communion with the Savior, and do not work the grace I have received in the moment of Baptism.
After the Divine Liturgy, we went on pilgrimage to the wand of Tulcea monasteries: Celic Dere, Cocos and Saon. At Celic Monastery, a monastery built by Transylvanian monks who arrived from Mount Athos in the 18th century, we worshiped the image of Jesus from the miracle-working icon given by a Russian soldier during the Russian-Turkish War of the beginning of the 19th century, an icon that cleans itself in a wonderful way.
The next stop was at the crypt and basilica in the village of Niculiţel, one of the oldest Christian monuments in this part of Europe, a building fostered towards the end of the fourth century. Wonderfully discovered in the 1970s, the crypt housed the martyrs’ bones, of which we know four of them by name: Zotic, Atal, Kamasie and Philip, names inscribed in the crumbly walls of the crypt, along with the inscription “Here and Beyond is the “blood of martyrs”.
A moment of great spiritual uplift was when, at the Cocos Monastery, beside the reliquary with their relics, we uttered the Akatist of the Martyrs of Niculiţel, asking for their intercession before the Heavenly Throne and the acquisition of the courage of confession in these times full of disorder.
The day ended with the pilgrimage to the Saon Monastery, where we were received by the hierarch of the diocese, His Grace Visarion of Tulcea, who spoke about the spiritual and cultural footprint of the land he is pastoring. The nuns offered us a rich dinner, overwhelming us with the hospitality and good will they showed us.
We then parted the next morning early in the morning, promising to keep as much as possible the memory of the beautiful moments spent together, and looking forward to the next edition of the camp.
Scripted by Archpriest Octavian Horatiu Muresan, Copenhagen, Denmark