Father Vasile Serghie, “a living embodiment of the Evangelical truths”

Between 1941-1944, Valeriu Gafencu, together with other great souls: dr. lawyer Trifan Traian, lawyer Marian Traian, Anghel Papacioc, the future Father Arsenie, priest Vasile Serghie, Șchiau Ion, Pascu Constantin, Mircea Nicolau and others, drew a line of Christian and Romanian behaviour for all political prisoners, which was valid not only for the period of the Antonescu dictatorship, but also for the entire life of the prisoners, as a model of attitude, regardless of the form of oppression and the emblem of domination, which consisted in The non-acceptance of any form of reconciliation and the submission and acceptance of all forms of suffering, as a consequence of the witness of divine truth in the personal and communal life of the nation.

This attitude has always tipped the scales of victory in our favour on the invisible plane, even when the visible enemy seemed to think himself victorious. But he did not know that through each one of those who accepted the supreme sacrifice, the nation climbed a new step of light in the Kingdom of God. […]

Father Vasile Serghie, a distinguished graduate of the Faculty of Theology in Cernăuți, was also a living exponent of the truths of Christian life. He had a rare sobriety in all his manifestations. For him, life was “Christic time”, not chance or a succession of events from which one does not know what to choose. Together with Anghel Papacioc, who had a rare zeal for the virtuous, pure and holy life and was a fervent promoter of the Isis prayer, they were a light and an exhortation to integrate ourselves into Christ as holy members. […]

When we were together with Father Serghie Vasile, under whose guidance we learnt the hesychast prayer, Valeriu radiated, at the level of sensory perceptions, an inner warmth of an intensity difficult to understand and express, the word remaining indebted to the act of understanding. There was a divine gift about him that placed him beyond my comprehension.

I was young, a novice in acts of consciously programmed spiritual effort, and often on the verge of madness. Father Vasile Serghie loved me very much and felt me as a barometer, he put me on the spiritual waterline and, with exceptional pedagogical tact, built a bridge between the two stages of spiritual life, mine and Valeriu’s, knowing how to lower the bar to the level of my possibilities of inner and outer life. […]

During the “transitional period” (1945-1947), when we were able to organise our own lives in prison, I spent several months in the same cell with Father Vasile Serghie and Anghel Papacioc.

The spiritual programme included prayer, study, meditation, exegetical conversations, and one day a week of complete silence, also for the purpose of a deep and mysterious encounter with God; a scrupulous analysis of all the moments and actions of life, which we then analysed in confession, deepening them and trying to find solutions for healing and correction or salvation, as the case may be. Father Vasile Serghie, who did not spare himself in any way, had a moment of great soul-searching after such a “scrutiny” of his life:

– Brothers, I am troubled when I think how I dared to be ordained a priest? Perhaps this is why God has brought me here, so that I may truly realise my unworthiness. What a mystery this is, what obligations weigh on the conscience of a priest and what responsibility he has before the world and before God! I tremble and do not believe that I will be able to carry out this mission when I realise that the state of the priesthood is beyond me! And rather than do it unworthily, I’d rather not do it at all!

I stood there in astonishment, my eyes downcast, stunned by the priest’s confession. Anghel Papacioc, approaching him with tears in her eyes, said:

– Oh, Father Vasile, now you are really a good priest! Now that you live with the awareness of your unworthiness! “For the power of God is made manifest in the powerless, and to the humble God gives His grace”. How good it would be, continued Anghel, if every priest lived with this awareness of his unworthiness. With how much care, with how much fear and trembling would he carry out his ministry as an apostle of Christ on earth!

They fell into each other’s arms and wept, tears of consolation and encouraging joy streaming down their cheeks.

We knelt in prayer. It is easier for a bridegroom to be saved when a priest trembles at the thought of his responsibility for this sacred service… Anghel Papacioc guessed what I was thinking:

– You see, Brother Virgil, that salvation is in God’s possibility not only for those who desire it, but also for those who set out to do good works. The first step in this work is precisely the awareness of one’s unworthiness. Then grace intervenes to make you worthy by giving you the strength to go forward to the place of your service. […]

In March (1948), when it began to warm up, we decided to go one by one to a cell to have a spiritual experience; to intensify the practice of the hesychast prayer and to have time to study as much patristic literature as possible. With the blessing of Fr. Serghie, each one organised his prayers, not forgetting the regular meetings.

Vasile Serghie’s sentence expired and he left at the end of April (1948). We were left without a teacher imbued with grace. The other Legionary priests, although models of Christian life, were committed to maintaining the spiritual life in a state of suffering and prayer. The world of the dungeon burned with the desire to go beyond mere knowledge, to strive to integrate into the Christian being of the new man, the Christian Legionary, with the conscience of a servant of Christ in the life of the nation.

(Virgil Maxim, Hymn to the Cross Carried. Abecedar duhovnicesc pentru un frate de cruce, 2nd edition, Antim Publishing House, Bucharest, 2002, pp. 180, 109, 181, 115-117).

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