Saint Arsenie Boca of Prislop (of Romania)
Reposed in the Lord in 28 November 1989
“All the diamonds of the world are trash compared to one moment in God’s light!”
One miracle which everyone can see is that the flowers over his grave never die or wither, neither in the hot summer or the frigid winter.
Fr. Arsenie Boca was born on 29th of September 1910, in the village of Vatza de Sus in the Western Carpathians. Zian spends his childhood among flowers and woods. On the hilltop, even the presence of other children was a rare thing. Maybe this is why Fr. Arsenie enjoyed silence that much.
In the fall of 1936, Zian Boca is ordained celibate deacon In March 1939, Metropolitan Nicolae Balan sends Deacon Zian Boca to the Holy Mount Athos. Years after, Father Arsenie says: “When I kissed the hand of St John the Baptist, I understood my destiny.” The story goes that at the Holy Mountain, Zian Boca prayed heartily to the Mother of God, with persistance and tears, to bring to his path a spiritual father who would initiate him in the mysteries of the Holy Spirit.
He returns home on June 8th 1939. Metropolitan Nicolae Balan desiring a monastic revival sends the young Zian Boca to the Sambata de Sus Monastery, founded by Constantin Brancoveanu, which was recently rebuilt. In the Friday of the Life-Giving-Spring, after the Holy Pascha of 1940, during a soul moving service, the Deacon Zian Boca is tonsured into monahism under the name of Arsenie.
he was ordained priest. It was war, we were confronted by many problems, especially material needs, and when we got to Sambata Monastery it was such a sould relief! When we saw Fr. Arsenie surrounded by people like a shephard in the midst of his flock, truly it made such a good impression on me, that I kept that good impression for the rest of my life.
He was dressed in that white cassock with a nice, broad belt, with his hair cut but not bound in a tail with an extraordinary posture and a gaze that went right through you. It made you feel he descended from the world of the Saints, from the world of those who worship God incessantly. His sight attracted you and gained over you. He had a very lively gaze. You could not hide from it. And what he was telling you was like a Gospel.
His love for beauty and harmony transformed the monastery into a piece of Heaven.
The thousands of lay people who want to know a powerful prophet by word and by deed, are joined by political and cultural figures of our nation. King Michael and Princess Ileana, the sister of King Carol II also visit Brancoveanu Monastery. Impressed by the personality of Father Arsenie, Princess Ileana invites him at the Bran Castle where the Father preaches on religious themes and interprets parts of the scriptures. Departing Romania, Princess Ileana leaves Fr. Arsenie a letter of gratitude confessing that he was a beacon in her life.
A lover of solitude, Fr. Arsenie starts digging a cell in the rock, up in the mountains at 1700m, on Sambata Valley.
This brings him into the attention of Military Police which starts monitoring and reporting on him, under the suspicion that he hides iron-guardists, hostile to the political regime of Antonescu. For the same unfounded suspicion he is also accused by the new communist regime, and will be under surveillance for the rest of his life.
Openly confessing Christ in those times is a risk that Father Arsenie assumes. Without explicitly naming the communists, he speaks openly against those without God, and this fact upsets the authorities.
On November 25th 1948 he arrives to Prislop Monastery of the land of Hatzeg. Father Arsenie remains there as spiritual father. Again, numerous people come looking for him and the political police [Securitate] is back on alert. On January 16th, 1951 at 5AM a group of ten agents of Securitate break into the monastery and arrest Father Arsenie.
A reserve officer told :
There was there in a cell a priest who told people what happened at their homes. In a week or two they received a letter confirming what the priest said. one day two went to the prison’s commander and reported:
“Sir! In one of the cells we have a priest who sees through the walls of the prison!”
An old Christian man recounted with deep emotion how Fr. Arsenie was once praying in the cell where he was arrested, and the guard could see through the window how he was wrapped in fire during the prayer and raised from the ground like St. Mary of Egypt as she was seen by Abba Zosimas, or how Abba Arseny of Pateric was seen by his disciple while praying in his cell from the desert of Egypt.
Being released from the cellars of Securitate after other six months of detention, Fr. Arsenie returns to Prislop, from where he is eventually expelled under the pressure of authorities.
In May 1959, by a decision of the Episcopate of Arad, Fr. Arsenie is defrocked, and is forbidden to wear monastic clothes and to service in the altar as a priest.
The greatest preacher of Transylvania is thus silenced, Prislop Monastery is closed and the nuns are thrown back into the world.
From Prislop, Fr. Arsenie returns to Bucharest where he comes under even stricter observation as it results from the 1200+ pages of his surveillance file.
This happening, this unusual circumstance of August 1968. Father Savian goes to the church to invite him for dinner, and he finds him in the altar, to the right of the Holy Table, on his knees, praying, and on the floor there is a pool of tears. And he asks him with spiritual daring: “What are you doing, Father?” The Father answers:”Our country is facing a crucial and very difficult moment for its destiny and we have to pray for it and for the good of its people.” I believe that for his prayers as well, God saved us from a tragedy
In 1976 Prislop Monastery reopens under the abess Apolinaria. In the summertime, Fr. Arsenie spends a few weeks in reclusion at Bucura Lake of Retezat Mountains, He is nostalgic for the summers of his childhood spent on the hills of Bujoara, feels well in the midst of nature, and longs for being a hermit. People say that he speaks with the bears and the wolves who listen to him, with the deers and the birds.
On November 28th 1989 at Sinaia, the earthly being of Fr.Arsenie departs from this world. One month later the communist order collapses in a bloodshed and after a brief trial the Ceausescu couple is executed at Targoviste.
As Fr. Arsenie prophetised, his grave became a place for pilgrimage. Each year, on the day of his death, at the end of November when the weather warms up miraculously, unending rows of flower bearing pilgrims come to Prislop to share their troubles and find solace, to repent for their sins and straighten their path.
People do not believe that Fr. Arsenie ever died. He is there with them, among them. They feel his presence as a breeze. They ask the questions in their mind and there they find the answers. They touch his cross and start crying out of the blue, flooded by that happiness and inner peace that only Fr. Arsenie could intercede for them.
He is a saint in the hearts of the thousands of people who love and follow him, and whom he blesses with his larger-than-world love.
A disciple calmly walking across the stormy seas, an unmoving pillar against the troubled waves, a man among people, providing guidance and strength with otherworldly serenity, unflinching in the belief that God alone is ruler of our world. An unequaled personality, a magnet for thousands of people in all walks of life, and also a target for suspicion for the authorities of his day, who failed to understand the source of his exceptional power to gather people around him.”
As one person interviewed in this documentary says: “Fr. Arsenie made Christ transparent to us.” He still does. His presence in the midst of us after his passing is a reminder of the proximity of Heaven. This film is an opportunity to (re)discover it for ourselves.