Daily Meditations

The Sixth Tuesday of Great Lent: God Is Always with You, Part 1

Published by Pemptousia Partnership, June 16, 2015

Ms. Jessica Precop traveled to the Dormition of the Mother of God Monastery in Rives Junction, Michigan to interview Father Roman Braga, who grew up and served in Romania under a communist regime. We are very thankful to Ms. Precop, Father Roman, and the Sisterhood at the Monastery for making this interview possible. The interview was commissioned for the OCA Wonder blog, on which it originally appeared.

Father, to start with, what can you tell us about the monastic way of life? 

This is a good question. First, however, you have to understand the Romanian cultural environment when I was young – in the 1920’s -1950’s. The Romanian people, I think, were always inclined toward the monastic way of life, because being monastic and leading a monastic type life does not mean only to go and live in a monastery. When Jesus was preaching the gospel: “…if you love your mother and father more than Me you are not worthy of Me…” or when Jesus said “…if you don’t take your cross and follow Me you are not worthy of Me…,” Jesus was not speaking to monks; monks did not exist at that time. Jesus was speaking to people, single people, married people, everybody. So in a way, regarding the virtues, there is no difference between monks and lay people. The monastic virtues are for everyone. I will give you an example: those who want to dedicate their lives to Jesus, to the Church and who want to save their souls through the monastic way of life, become at times at odds with the parents’ wishes who may want their children to lead a secular life. But remember, God comes first in our life, then come the parents and the family.

First we must listen to God because He is the father of all of us. So there is a monastic element in that. Abstinence, for example, is not just for monks. In general, married people need to exercise more abstinence than single people. Lay people as well need to exercise more abstinence than monastics. Abstinence means to abstain from food, from alcohol, from many other things. Or, in our culture here in America, we abstain from certain things only when we are forced into it by medical conditions. But God wants us to abstain from certain things so that we are not dominated by material things; to be free of material things. The material things are temporary; we cannot take them with us. As persons we have to grow. We cease to be a person when we are dominated by material things. Sex, drugs, alcohol, smoking, over-eating, and many other things like that make you a slave; you are no longer a free person. Well, God wants us to be free because He made us free and this is our likeness with God: “Let us make men according to our own image.”

So the virtues are the same for married people as they are for monastics; The only difference is that the monastics go to a monastery, living in communities because they want to dedicate their lives to God without the social obligations. Monastics do not marry, instead they take a vow of virginity and of poverty. Why?  Because they do not want to depend on possessions. Monks do not own land, do not own anything, other than their personal belongings. In the monasteries, the monks wear a habit- a special uniform if you wish – because they are considered the army of the Church, the soldiers of the Church. The Church depends on them.

As we speak, there is a session of the OCA Holy Synod at our monastery today. The Holy Synod of a Church is made up of bishops. The Church needs bishops. The bishops cannot be married, and they should be from among the monks. If the leaders of the Church come and tell you: “we need you for a bishop,” you cannot say no because you have to be obedient to the Church. Along with the vow of chastity and poverty the monk takes the also the vow of obedience. Or if the Church needs to send you somewhere to start a church you have to go. You don’t have possessions, a house to worry about: “oh I have a house, what to do with my house?” You have just a suitcase and you put in the necessary things and immediately you go. So obedience is another vow that the monks take.

As I said before, monks wear a habit. They wear long clothes and robes. This is outer monk, the monk that everybody sees. This “outer monk” so to speak is not for everyone. The inner monk is for everybody, in other words, the virtues of, abstinence, sacrifice, those are the same for the professed monk as well as for the lay person. So those monastic virtues; to deny yourself to take your cross, to abstain, these are for everybody. The virtues are the same and we go to the same place, married people and monks. And marriage is not an easy task. One needs much asceticism in marriage. You have three, four, five children, sometime you do not even eat, just let them eat, as you sacrifice yourself for them and others. So this is the difference between monks and lay people.

Romania has about 500 monasteries. There were always many monks and nuns in Romania. They are not cloistered; they go shopping, they go to the market. Romania is a small country, the size of the state of Ohio, and monks and nuns are influenced by the culture of the country. Even now the monasteries of Romania are full of nuns and monks. So it depends on the culture in which you live and the way you understand the gospel.

Can you tell us what led you to the monastic life?

I didn’t go to the monastery when I was young. I was in prison twice and after my first imprisonment I became a monk because I got more mature while in prison. When you experience suffering then you start meditating. I was a teacher. I was teaching in a high school in Bucharest. I was mature enough to understand life and to ask myself: “why am I not married at 30? and should I marry or not?” So the imprisonment gave me time to meditate and think: “What is better for me, should I marry and have a family or should I choose the monastic life?” And I decided that monastic life is for me to follow.

As a young boy I lived in a monastery, at the Seminary of Cernica in Bucharest and I loved monastic life, so for me monasticism was a natural way of life.

~Orthodox Christian Network (OCN), https://myocn.net/god-is-always-with-you/.


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