In this video, Metropolitan Andrei of Cluj (Romania) tells us a story inspired from the life of a Romanian village in the 19th century. This is an inspiring story with a great message for all of us, where we can see how our Lord Jesus Christ appeared in the hut of a poor villager during the Holy Week. The story was written by Alexandru Lascarov-Moldoveanu, a Romanian writer of the 20th century.
Video source: Radio Renasterea
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Cluj, Romania, Sunday evening, April 17, 2022
The news spread in the village as the shadow of the clouds moves through the valleys.
A certain villager, named Tumeleaca, came to see the priest [of the village] and told him that he noticed a great light in the hut of Isaiah the poor. And a vision was revealed in this light, it was a presence, like the image of the Savior. “Dear Father,” said Tumeleaca, “I saw it with my eyes. What could this be? It’s a great sign for our village, now when we are approaching Pascha.” The Father fell silent suddenly, put his hand over his forehead and then said simply: “Let us pray to God, Tumeleaca.”
Isaiah the poor was the poorest of the villagers. He had long hair and often read from the Book of Hours. He had a small hut at the edge of the village and in it were: an empty wooden chest, a chair without a foot and a cold fireplace. He never harmed anyone. And he didn’t keep much shadow in the way of other people. He was living alone with his poverty and with God in his soul. Some people used to give him something, but most of them didn’t care much. Like people… concerned only with their own needs and strangers to others. Isaiah the poor didn’t think bad about others and he only condemned himself saying: “Lord, forget about your sinner servant, Isaiah the poor, forget about him in Your goodness and punish him because it’s right, according to his evil and sinful deeds.”
He would then took a polished stick and start walking slowly, slowly, to the nearby hermitage, where he would receive a little alms and a kind word. Then he would return to his hut. And so alone, only with God above him, started to read slowly and stutteringly from the Book of Hours [Horologion] that he received from brother Nicodemus from the skete.
And now, Easter was approaching. The sky had cleared after the long rains. The roads had dried up in the warmth of the sun. And the lands were expanding towards the edge of the earth. The children were bustling in the streets. And the villagers were cleaning their backyards, Easter was coming.
An old woman came to the hut of Isaiah the poor to ask him about a need of her soul, because she heard that he had a lot of wisdom in his head. Isaiah was sitting on the empty wooden chest, looking at the ground. It’s true that at that time he was thinking at the Savior who said that “if you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me” [Matthew 25:40].
When the old woman’s eyes saw Isaiah, she suddenly stopped, she put her hand to her mouth, as if in awe, she turned yellow and her legs melted under her. Isaiah told her: “What is it, Mrs. Catinca?” The woman stared wide-eyed, fell to her knees, and fell silent. That’s all she could whisper, “Lord,” and then she couldn’t say anything. She clasped her hands together in prayer and bowed humbly in the clay of the hut. Isaiah the poor couldn’t understand what was happening with Catinca, the old woman… he leaned over her and gently put his hand on her shoulder. The woman winced, groaning again, “Forgive me, O Lord.” It was Wednesday in Holy Week.
When she returned to the village, Catinca told her neighbor, Dinu: “Oh, oh… what I was given to see today in Isaiah’s hut…” The man said in astonishment: “what did you see, Catinca?” “Eh… I though I would die and never encounter such a great blessing”. And the old woman, Catinca, started to speak: “I had arrived at his hut and entered inside. What did I see? Who do you think was sitting on the wooden chest of the poor man? It was our Lord Jesus Christ Himself! In flesh and bones, as you see Him in the icon to the right of the altar. He was sitting and looking at the ground. When He looked at me, I got lost. I fell to my knees and froze. He said two or three words to me, but I didn’t hear anything. I also lost my hearing. He looked at me with great sweetness. So bright was the light around Him that I lost my sight. Dinu listened at her and wondered. The old woman did not seem to be lying, and her words were full of truth and reverence.
Then, on Thursday, the news spread throughout the village. When two people would meet each other, they would say: “Our Lord Jesus Christ appeared in the hut of Isaiah the poor.” Some believed, others blasphemed: that Isaiah the poor is a magician and brings trouble to the village. And a harsher one said that it would not be bad to go at once and set fire to the hut and to drive Isaiah out of the village. To which the farmer Tumeleaca answers: “What do you have with Isaiah? He does not hurt anyone and does not ask anyone to help him, he’s a holy man and he covers the village against the wrath of the Lord. In all fairness, He should punish us a lot according to our deeds. Another man in the crowd said peacefully: that’s right, that’s right.
And in the Great Thursday, Tumeleaca went to his hut as well. He noticed the light playing in shining waters and out of it came a vision that resembled our Savior. Then he went to the priest to tell him what he had seen. Everyone in the village knew that the savior had appeared in the hut of Isaiah the poor. The holy day of Good Friday arrived. The one in which the Savior, like us and for our salvation, descends into the land of death. Towards midnight, from the crowd gathered at the church, a small group of villagers agreed without saying any words to go to the hut of Isaiah the poor to see the miracle. The night was clear and gentle. The stars blinked quietly in the sky as if they were praying too, watching the One who descended in the grave for three days. The people walked in silence to the edge of the village. They also had a holy fear in their souls: “what would they do when they would see the miracle?”. After the last house, his hut sat quietly in the dark of night. A gentle light was blinking on its small window. Now it looked like it was there, then it looked like it was fading out. They approached quietly, walking on tiptoes, enveloped in silence. One of them, looking there, pulled himself slightly to the sides, whispering in horror, “Oh Lord.” Another one looked there, then others had the same reaction: “Oh Lord,” and they all fell silent, looking at each other at night, without seeing each other. What did they see? In his simple hut, Isaiah was lying on the empty wooden chest having a wax candle at his head. But he wasn’t Isaiah the poor, no, he was the Savior Himself resembling the One people had seen painted on the Epitaph in the church. The One for which the people hold a vigil earlier in the evening. In His palms and feet dried with bitter suffering, as well as in His rib, the marks of blood had become like roses. And His face trembling with pain was surrounded by a white light, steady and clear.
People pulled away to the sides and bowed. Tumeleaca prayed in the night: “O Lord, our God, do not leave us!” Then they went in the village to the priest and told him what they had seen with their own eyes. And the Father told them: “Don’t be frightened and don’t get worried. For in the Holy Book it is said that our Savior dwells in the poor. Look, in the place where the Last Judgment is mentioned, we find that our Savior likes to be like the poor, like those who are sad, hungry or forgotten by all. Now He went down to Isaiah’s hut to remind us that out of our love we must share with the poor. That we have to dress them, feed them, never leave them. Tumeleaca, a man of faith, added: “True Father! For we have forgotten the holy things. And we only “help” Androne the bar owner. God is good, He reminds us. The next day the villagers found Isaiah the poor dead in his hut. And if one looked closely, his dry face resembled that of the Savior as seen sewn with gold thread on the old Epitaph of the church. With great honor the villagers buried him on Easter day leading him reverently to the cemetery. Tumeleaca said: “Blessed is the poor Isaiah, for he has died like that.” Another villager, with a deep thought, said: “It’s a big sign for our village!” Then Tumeleaca added: “Let’s just take it seriously!”
This is how Lascarov Moldovanu [Romanian writer] imagined the departure from this life of a poor and needy Christian, but with a great faith.
It’s good to meditate this week on how we, as sinners, could get a little closer to Him and become more like the Savior.
May you have a quiet, blessed week, full of peace and prayer!