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Tremaine Combs Book Review on Fr.

George Calciu: Interviews, Homilies, and Talks What would you do if you were in a Communist Romanian prison and everyone, from the leader of the Regime to the prison staff were trying to strip you of your Christian faith? Would you give in or would you hold on, fighting for every strand of faith? God forbid that anyone that I know would have to go through such a struggle of life and soul. One could just imagine the pain of physical separation that comes with prison life. The harshness of the conditions and the isolation from any loving human interaction would be enough for most people to go insane and lose touch with reality and faith. But then to add to this the fact that you are in prison for the sole reason of stripping you of your faith, the situation takes on another dimension entirely. Since faith is often the intangible strength that holds many together, to rob one of their faith in such a harsh, cruel and isolated environment, would be the ultimate act of inhumane treatment and murder. But unfortunately this is what many people in Romania during the time of Communist rule, went through. While many did not make it through such harsh conditions, there were those who in spite of all the things thrown at them, held onto their faith and their humanity because of it. The book, Father George Calciu: Interviews, Homilies, and Talks is one such example. This book is about Fr. George Calciu a priest of the Romanian Orthodox Church, who suffered persecution at the hands of the government in the dark days of the Communist Regime. This book shows that Communism was in fact hostile to religious expression. It shows that Communism (the harbinger of militant secularism) can only coexist with faith if faith is pushed to the brink of extinction. But this book and the life of Fr. George also proves that faith is hard to destroy in those who know its power and value. Fr. Georges life shows that, despite all of its mechanisms and oppression, Communism was unable to make the lands that it ruled God-less. Fr. Calcius story expresses that when one has true faith, one can withstand the assaults of anything that seeks to rob oneself of that faith. But not only does true faith allow one to stand, but it also allows one to forgive and rebuild once the attack is over. In reading Fr. Calcius life, talks, interviews and sermons, one can see that in spite of the pain and situations that he encountered, true faith in the power of the Lord Jesus and the spiritual life of the Orthodox Church gave him the power and ability to forgive those who tormented and persecuted him with a love and grace that can only come from the Risen Lord. His ability to forgive and learn lessons in the midst of the demonic activity of the Romanian Communist regime, allows him to be a beacon of light Combs 1

and wisdom for those of us who are experiencing the beginnings of the onslaught of militant secularism in the United States. Militant Secularism is in so many ways like communism in that it pushes the prerogatives of the state in all matters relating to not just civic life but also the personal lives of people. Militant secularism sees all religions as the flotsam and jetsam of evolution that must be discarded if humanity is to advance to its next stages. But like communism, militant secularism has the inherent weakness in that it only sees human history and culture and even faith from an intellectual point of view. But faith must be seen from the eyes of the heart. It is not an intellectual pursuit or exercise, instead it is born and developed in hearts that understand that there is a reality that lies beyond what we can think about an conceptualize and not bound by human limitations. This is the realm of true faith, of Orthodoxy of being able to see and hear beyond intellectual conceptualization and so draw strength from a source of power that is as soft as water, yet as hard as steel. It is this ability to see the world through the eyes of the heart that is grounded in the truth that reality lays beyond what we can see, hear, touch, or even conceptualize that Fr. Calciu can teach us, because his life reflects its power. As an African American Christian, I cannot relate personally to the circumstances and issues that affected Fr. Calcius life. No one has tried to systematically strip me of my faith. No one has systematically tried to rob me of my family structure and identity. No one has locked me in prison and engaged in mental and physical torture all in an effort to make me malleable to the whims of the state. I have not experienced this, but culturally I can sympathize with the power of faith to produce endurance. Yes as African Americans, we experienced slavery, segregation, and now disproportionate prison terms, but all of this took place under a Capitalist regime that saw enslaved Africans as capital for the production of goods, services, and ultimately wealth for those who owned Black labor. Hence the situations thought they may have been similar in their practice of subjection, oppression and stripping of humanity and personhood, they are dissimilar in that it seems that Communism saw this stripping as being not good for the building of personal wealth but for the survival of the state. This is a much more dangerous concept because it puts the survival of the state in how well the state can take away the God given personhood and faith of a human being. So it would seem that while Capitalism makes people nothing more than the capital to be used to produce wealth for someone else, communism seeks to make people nothing but perpetual wards of the leviathan of the State in the attempt to make the Government supreme in all areas of life i.e., the State becomes God. Both of them are cruel but the level of cruelty that Fr. Calciu experienced is not just criminal but demonic in its origin.


In his interview with Nun Nina, Fr. George expressed the effects of the various forms of torture and mistreatment he experienced upon his very soul. He talked about the feelings of abandonment by God and the pain of the State trying to systematically strip him of faith. He talked about feeling abandoned by God and the pain of feeling that he has betrayed God as well. He spoke of the terror of reeducation where the authorities sought to make good Christians into good communists. He reflected upon the brainwashing, food depravation, the mistreatment of the guards to break their resolve and the mistreatment of fellow prisoners to break their solidarity with one another. But in spite of these and more tortures, Fr. Calciu maintained his resolve and hope that God would not abandon him and that God would preserve him through all things. Fr. Calcius story exudes the truth that true faith is always stronger than any political or cultural system or the militant secularization of a former Christian society. But in the end we must ask, what does this teach us? In my view, this story teaches us that those who have faith must keep it at all costs and that in order to keep it we must struggle. However, we can only struggle when the strength we need to do so is rooted in Gods love and revelation in the Lord Jesus. So if you want an exciting and exhilarating story of dashing hagiography, this is not the book for you. Yet, if you want a story that will tug at your heart as you read about the quite miracle of persevering faith, then by all means read the life of Fr. George Calciu.