These pipes were stopped up at one end and had a wooden plug in the other. The pipe had a small hole in which we could put the flame of the cap lamps. Explosions were powerful and added to the sound produced by the bells and the xylophone improvised from drills. Shortly before midnight there was silence, as in a tomb. All cap lamps were switched off. There was complete darkness. Father Antal, an ex-assistant bishop to the patriarch, lit his cap lamp and his voice could be heard: 'Come and take light.' Then prisoners one by one went to take light from the priest. Then the priest addressed us three times with the Christian greeting: 'Christ is Risen!' We all responded: 'He is Risen indeed!' Then after the Gospel reading we all sang: 'Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death . . .'

The drill bits sounded like an organ and one of us improvised a veritable oratorio on them. The warders went and reported the situation to the administration. The Commandant, Colonel Szabo, was furious. His first step was to lock up all the priests, who had celebrated the Easter Eucharist underground. But when the other prisoners had to begin work they went on strike in solidarity with the priests. Not long after this the forced labour colony at Baia Sprie was closed down.13

There were more Christian martyrs in the twentieth century than at any other time. Under communism the martyrs demonstrated the power of faith to resist atheist ideology and indoctrination. Of the new Russian martyrs, only those of the Stalinist period (not those of later periods) have been canonised by the Moscow patriarchate. In post-communist Romania no martyrs of the communist period have been acknowledged: crimes against humanity perpetrated by the communist state have still to be officially acknowledged. Such facts are symptomatic of the problems facing the churches in the aftermath of communism.14

Political subservience and resistance: spirituality preserved

Conventionally, the keynote of Orthodox life in the second half of the twentieth century has often seemed to be its subservience to political authority. This is a

13 A. Ciolte and V Achim (eds.), TriunghiulMorfii, Baia Sprie 1950-1954 (Baia Mare: Gutinul, 2000). I acknowledge Father Nicolae Grebenea's permission to use my English translation from an unpublished interview about his imprisonment at Baia Sprie, 1 September 2000, Piatra Neamt, Romania.

14 Alexandra Popescu, 'Mission as martyrdom in post-marxist societies', in Together in mission: Orthodox churches consult with the Church Mission Society (Moscow: CMS, 2001), 32-3. I am indebted to James Ramsay formerly Anglican Chaplain in Bucharest, for making available to me his unpublished 'Reflections on religion and spiritual life in modern Romania'.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment