A lover of God, a pillar of Orthodoxy, a true monk and a great friend

To write a few lines about someone, one must have a special motivation or simply an inclination to record certain events. For me it is a special motivation, based on a special friendship, to talk about a great friend, confessor and man, Archimandrite Gavriil Stoica of the Holy Monastery of Zamfira.

I cannot say that I have known Fr. Gavriil for a lifetime, only for a few years, but these years have been a lifetime for me. A trivial event brought us together. On his return from a trip, Father Gavriil lent a shirt to Father Archimandrite Nifon Stoica of the Ciolanu-Buzău Monastery. Knowing him well, he told me that he owed Father Gavriil a shirt. I promised to help him return the shirt. In the meantime, Father Nifon died and I was left with an unfulfilled promise. I got in touch with Father through someone and in this way we got to know each other and became very close.

It is difficult for me to talk about Father Gavriil in the past, and he did not like to be praised in any way. He was humble and did not accept such words. With great joy in his heart and in his words he spoke of God, he wanted to make Him known to all the faithful with whom he came in contact, to convince them of the real presence of God in our lives, in this sense you always found in him a spiritual word, and when he left you he gave you various books of edification and spiritual uplift which in time shaped you and helped to change your life. He had a great love and respect for Our Lady. He loved Her with all his heart. All the flowers she received at home she would call Mother Paraschiva to take them to the icon of Our Lady in the church. At the beginning of the year, late one evening, after he had come home from church, while he was saying his evening prayers, he felt very hot and dizzy, very ill, he could hardly sit up in bed, and for a few moments, he told me, he lost consciousness. In this state he had the strength to call out to Our Lady, who “gave him a cold in his body and brought me back to life”, he continued: “Once again Our Lady is helping me and has not abandoned me”. After this event I began to think with fear that something might happen to him when he was alone.

He was a great defender of Orthodoxy. Nobody can deny that. He loved the Orthodox faith with all his being, he defended it and fought for the preservation of the ancestral faith and the tradition of the Church and the Holy Fathers. In this regard, I recall the articles that appeared in the press in “The World of Faith”, as well as the interviews that he gave on the television channels Pax and TVR [1].

He loved and respected his spiritual father. He was in contact with Father Archimandrite Arsenie Papacioc before he went to prison. He was the abbot of the Cheia Monastery and from there he sent a message to Fr. Gavriil, who was in prison, that he would be waiting for him in Cheia after his release. This was in fact the wish of Father Gavriil, who had communicated it to Father Arseny through his brother, Father Justinian. This friendship lasted for more than thirty years. Even after their deaths, they wanted to be buried together in the cemetery of Zamfira, where they had prepared their graves in advance. After his ordination, Fr. Gavriil became Fr. Arsenie’s confessor, and until the moment he went to meet the Lord, in our spiritual conversations he would always remember his confessor: “Fr. Georgel, Fr. Arsenie says or does this”, he would reinforce what he told me and anchor me in the advice of his confessor.

The spiritual father of priests, monks and the faithful. It is no secret that he was a great confessor. Under his episcopate, many ministers of the holy altars were confessed, formed in the Orthodox spirit and put into practice in their parishes the fatherly and friendly advice and stories they received from their elder brother, who was their confessor. Any problem could be discussed, and he would talk about certain issues that troubled him, thus opening a door of mutual communication and a special closeness, soul to soul. Once a priest was surprised at his knowledge and involvement in current affairs (if he was a monk, he wouldn’t know about certain things). The answer was harsh. “I live in society among the faithful, I know their problems, I try to understand them and help them, and if I am a monk, I am for myself, and for you I am the Father”. To his spiritual sons, priests, he used to give small blessings, books of sermons (“RAYS OF LIGHT” by the great preacher Fr. Ștefan Slevoaca), an epitrahil or other books of spiritual and missionary edification.

He was a great lover of monastic life. He loved monastic life with all his being, he told me: “If I had to be born a thousand times, I would still become a monk…”. He suffered greatly when he heard of an incident that did not bring honour to the Church or to the monastery. He was not unmindful of this, and he took a stand by speaking out or writing down his personal opinion, based on the teaching of the Church, the Holy Fathers and the Holy Canons. He took special care of the monastery of Zamfira, its grounds and everything that belonged to it. He loved order, correctness, beauty and above all flowers. No one could fail to be impressed by the convent grounds, which were a perfect harmony of colours, made up entirely of flowers. The convent of the nuns was a permanent care and duty. He strove to serve them as well as possible, to guide them as well as possible on the path of salvation, to be for them, in a word, a true father. He had a great love and care for the Church and the saints.

He approached the Altar with great responsibility and fear. There he felt the real presence of God. He never wanted and never had a neglicent attitude. His ministry was full, as God wanted it. Two things were sacred, he told me, “The Holy Altar and my cell”, and he wanted to spend as much time as possible there. He wanted the end to catch him as close to the Holy Altar as possible, and that is what happened.

Personally, I found him to be a great spiritual father and a friend. A Serbian proverb says that the greatest sadness of a man is the death of a friend, and I really felt that now. The difference in age brought us closer and was not an obstacle to our friendship. In his big, caring heart, there was also my family. On the phone he would always ask about the youngest child of the house, whom he loved very much, as well as the “big one” and the priestess, whom he appreciated and cherished. In turn, he enjoyed the same love and respect, he was, in a word, part of our family.

These few lines do not cover a human life. I have not mentioned the administrative side, but in a word I can say that what you saw in his yard and garden you could not find in anyone else. The order and harmony between vegetables, flowers of all kinds and medicinal plants was “by the book”. You can only see this in the Abecedarians, thirty years ago, or in a real picture painted by a great painter.

He toiled with and without time in the Lord’s field. For many hours he poured out the Psalms, from evening until after midnight. He toiled and was tired. Now he rests, he waits to be remembered in prayers and acts of mercy done for the repose of his soul. Now She whom he loved all his life and in whom he had great hope, the Mother of God, will help him, will defend him as a true son before the Just Judge.

(Fr. Ikonom Stavrofor Marin Georgel, “A lover of God, a pillar of Orthodoxy, a true monk and a great friend” in Archimandrite Gavriil Stoica. A Missionary Monk, Lover of Virtues and Flowers, published by arh. Timotei Aioanei, Basilica Publishing House, Bucharest, 2009, pp. 133-138).

Visited 1 times, 1 visit(s) today