On Romanian Unity
“Do not be afraid; only believe.”
by Tom Rosco
We read many instances in the Gospels when Jesus healed people. You may be familiar with some of these: the woman who touched the hem of His robe, the ten lepers, the blind man at Jericho, the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda, and the two blind men at Capernaum to name a few. In each of these events, Jesus made it clear that those who were healed were healed because of their faith in Him. We know that we, too, must believe in the power of God for our salvation, but we also learn from the Gospels that we are called to help each other in this effort.
There are several moving examples in which people were healed by Jesus because of someone else’s faith. When He healed the paralytic who was lowered by his friends through the roof of a crowded house (Mt.9:1-8; Mk.2:1-12; Lk.5:17-26), the Gospels say Jesus “saw their faith,” referring to the man’s friends. In response to the Gentile woman who pleaded with Him to heal her daughter, He said “...great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire” (Mt.15:28), and with that her daughter was healed. And when the centurion asked Him to just “say the word” to heal his dying servant (Mt.8:5-13; Lk.7:1-10), Jesus remarked “I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” -- and this “great faith” was found in a person moved by love and compassion for another.
This is what it means to be the Church, the Body of Christ. True, we must focus on our personal spiritual development and relationship with God, but it is just as important that we support one another through prayer, charity, understanding, and most of all love. We can best express this love by having not just faith for our own sake, but also having faith for the sake of others: Love your neighbor as yourself (Rom.13:9). In fact, Jesus did not just recognize this kind of faith in people, but, more importantly, He commanded it when He said to Jairus and his wife “Do not be afraid; only believe” (Mk.5:36) when they were told that their daughter had died. It was their faith that caused Jesus to raise the girl from her bed. Do we have this kind of faith?
Today, we Romanian Orthodox Christians in North America are being challenged to again have faith for one another. Many years ago, over 50 years, our Church family here in North America was divided as a result of the actions of the communist government in Romania. This traumatic break was not an easy one, but it was necessary for the times and circumstances that our ancestors found themselves in. Those who held our Episcopate together endured a lot -- insults, lawsuits and even physical harm -- but they did what was right and for the good of the Church. Through God’s Grace, and the sacrifice of many martyrs, we eventually witnessed the fall of communism and freedom of the Church in Romania and elsewhere in Europe some 20 years ago. Since that time, our Episcopate has worked together with the Romanian Archdiocese (those who wished to remain under the Church of Romania after the break) to restore relations and try to heal the wounds of the past. And now, after 18 years of dialogue and prayer, we have been presented with a possible means to finally end this division and reunite our family.
As you can read in the Proposal to Establish a Romanian Orthodox Metropolitanate of North America, the proposal to unite all the Romanian Orthodox churches in North America into one jurisdiction, this is not “a step backward.” It is not “selling out.” And it is not anyone’s “quest for domination” as some have erroneously editorialized. On the contrary, it is uniting our family as a first step in hopes that eventually all Orthodox Christians in North America will realize a greater unity. In correcting a situation caused by tragic events of the past, we can be a model for others looking toward the future. It is recognizing the historical reality that Godless communism no longer controls the free Church of Romania, our Mother Church who deserves our love and respect and who loves and respects us. And it is an act of humility (without which we cannot truly have faith) on the part of everyone involved so “that they may be one” (Jn.17:11) as Jesus prayed. -- “Do not be afraid; only believe.”
While most people are thankful for such a reunion, seeing “how good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!” (Ps.133:1), there are some who still find it difficult to accept such a move after all that our Church leaders suffered as a result of the communist influence. Evil deeds were a reality in those days, and just as it is difficult for a victim to feel safe and secure in their home at night after being robbed, so too are some people affected by the events of the past. We must continue to love and pray for people who are victims of these feelings. However, we are the Church and we cannot live in fear any longer. -- “Do not be afraid; only believe.”
Over the years, I have had conversations with many family and friends who lived through much of the history we read about. One person in particular, a priest, comes to mind. In the 1950’s, he arrived at a parish where the people were fighting over to which Romanian jurisdiction they should belong. Police were often called to restore peace at the church. This priest was threatened with physical harm many times and faced the occasional small mob of angry men (who usually had been drinking) who had come to beat him up if he didn’t “turn to their side” and join the diocese loyal to the Church of Romania, and thus the communist influences there. He eventually brought the parish out of the turmoil and into a new time of growth and progress. Until his death, he would often talk about the difficulties he endured, but over time he had forgiven those who wronged him and was encouraged by the changes that he saw had taken place in Romania since 1989. Whenever asked in recent years about his opinion on the reunion of the Romanian Churches in North America, he would simply respond, “It’s time.” And so, in those two words, he summed up his faith in God and for others. -- “Do not be afraid; only believe.”
As young Orthodox Christians, I would say that most of us probably have not had our faith tested to such an extreme, but our faith is challenged every day. We need each other. We need to have faith for others and others to have faith for us. Let’s do what we can to love one another as the family that we are – members of all Romanian Orthodox communities in North America – and God will bless us with His good works.
I would just close with the words of Archbishop Valerian (Trifa), who led our Episcopate through the most difficult times of communist persecution. He himself was a true confessor of the Orthodox Faith through his ordeals, I believe because of convictions such as this one, as he once wrote decades ago in an article:
“...it is not Orthodoxy which is to be blamed for the fact that some sing to the communist tune in the name of Orthodoxy. It is history’s tragic fate that has split the world in two, once more putting Christ’s Church and entire nations under the political yoke of a Godless empire. But, just as Orthodoxy will not be extinguished in spite of all that, we are sure that it will not be compromised through acts of man. It is not man who is the leader of Orthodoxy, it is the Father in heaven, who can never be compromised.”
(Editor's note: The following first appeared on the AROY website on September 23, 2009 and was taken from AROY News.)