Pan-orthodox icon presentation to benefit the elderly of Romania
Simona Caia is a young theologian, who has graduated from University of Bucharest and has been taken graduated classes in Orthodox Theology at the Harvard Divinity School and at the Holy Cross Orthodox Theological Seminary. Since a few years ago she has developed a keen interest in the Romanian monasteries in Northern Moldova, which are unique in the Orthodox world by their exterior iconography.
During a visit in those parts of Romania she took the decision to use her theological skills to put together a slide presentation of these unique monasteries, in order to raise funds for their restoration.
However, after being in Bucharest and witnessing the inhuman conditions of many elderly people (whose monthly pensions do not cover even a fraction of the cost of their medicine, and who have to disconnect their heat over the winter because they cannot afford the heating bill), she decided there is something much more important to restore -- the human dignity of these people.
Simona's effort is pan-Orthodox. She has given presentations at Greek, Antiochian and Romanian churches, including the Holy Cross Theological Seminary. She has two aims. The first is to introduce to the Orthodox in North America the theological riches and profound spirituality that these monasteries have. This she offers as free gift to her fellow Christians. The second is make the North American Orthodox, who have been blessed by so many material riches, aware of the plea of their fellow Orthodox in other parts of the world. The funds she raises are used to help a number of the elderly in Romania.
We were blessed to have Simona among us in Southern California for three weeks. Because of her limited time here, she only gave four presentations in the area, at the St. Nicholas Antiochian Cathedral in Los Angeles, at the St. Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Irvine, at the St. Andrew Antiochian Orthodox Church in Riverside, and at the Lifegiving Spring Orthodox Bookstore in Glendale. The latter presentation was organized by the St. Sophia Greek Orthodox
Cathedral, and was well attended both by members of that church and members of the Holy Trinity Romanian Orthodox Church.
I was pleased to notice the amazing level of intercooperation between churches from different Orthodox jurisdictions in supporting Simona's ministry. Several churches where presentations could not be organized -- like St. Athanasius Orthodox Church in Santa Barbara or Holy Trinity -- contributed both financially and organizationally to this effort.
The presentations were quite lively (in Riverside for example almost 100 people participated). The participants asked questions ranging from "how did these exterior frescoes endure several hundred harsh Romanian winters without deteriorating", to "why are the Old Testament prophets in the frescoes converging towards Virgin Mary," or "why are the Turks in the last judgment scene depicted together with Moses."
As a Romanian participating to those presentations, I had a mixed feeling of pride and unworthiness. Pride that I come from a country where my ancestors have kept the Holy Orthodox Faith since the times of the Apostles, and during critical periods in history (like after the fall of Constantinople) have been the only staunch supporters of Orthodoxy anywhere. Unworthiness because I know that in my spiritual efforts I have yet to attain the faith of those people, who built
such amazing spiritual edifices, and who oftentimes shed their blood for Christ.
I would like to encourage all those who can support Simona's ministry to do so, by arranging visits and presentations with fellow Orthodox churches in their area, and by ordering some of the amazing postcards she has made of these monasteries. We at the Holy Trinity Church helped in coordinating her visit and presentations in the Los Angeles area, driving Simona to the presentations, and advertising her visit via the local Orthodox mailing lists. I can easily envision Romanian churches in other metropolitan areas using their relations with sister Orthodox churches to promote this ministry and organize presentations.
Let us not forget that as Romanian Orthodox we profit threefold from this ministry. First we help the elderly back home. Second, we share with our Orthodox brothers and sisters our glorious heritage, fulfilling Christ's command to let our light shine, and not hide it under a bushel. Third,this effort promotes inter-Orthodox brotherhood and unity at a local level, and by God's grace might be a small step towards the unity of the Orthodox in North America.
To contact Simona Caia, please email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Razvan Iosif Bena
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