Saturday, June 30, 2012

Holy Hierarch Ghelasie of Râmeţ (or Râmeţi)

Saint Ghelasie of Râmeţi lived in the 14th century as a hermit monk on the valley of Râmeţi river in the Apuseni (Western) Mountains, in Transylvania and later he became the abbot of the monastery of Râmeţi, which exists until today in Alba county. All about his life it was preserved in the tradition of the place, for many centuries.
There is known that he was the spiritual father of the hermits living in the mountains near Râmeţi, but also for the villagers in the region. He had a special gift in exorcising the possessed.
Saint Ghelasie had twelve disciples together with he was praying, fasting and celebrating the Holy Sacraments. He did not eat but Saturdays and Sundays. In the other days he was living only by consuming the Holy Eucharist. That it may be a sign of the daily celebrating of the Holy Liturgy, and that means that at this time there was an intense spiritual life in the region. 
The Old Church and the New Church of the monastery.
From a story happened at Fântâna Vlădichii (=the Fountain of the bishop) near Hopagi village, located a few miles from the today monastery, there is known that one summer, when the monks went to mow the hay, some of then began to grumble, because they had water. Abbot Ghelasie prayed to God and, making the sign of the Cross for three times with his stick he used to carry, he struck on the ground, and the water came to the surface. The water spring exists in this place until today, and its name is a sign that Ghelasie was not a simple abbot, but a bishop.
His death happened in a special way. Going one day from Hopagi towards the monastery, he died riding on a donkey, who took him home. Today the museum of the monastery keeps a stone which is said to have remained imprinted on it the donkey’s hoof. Before that, this stone was located in front of the old church of the monastery. Also the tradition recorded that, in the moment of his death, the bells of seven churches nearby began to beat suddenly. He was buried near the church wall, but the precise location has been forgotten, being found only in the twentieth century, as it follows.

The veneration of St. Ghelasie
For many centuries there was known nothing about Saint Ghelasie, except what has been transmitted by tradition, among the ascetics in the region. His relics were discovered by chance for the first time in 1925. After a heavy rain, the monks have seen a human skull that has surrounded the old church for three times and who stopped near the altar. Together with this were brought to the surface other two skulls, and all three were taken by the priest of the monastery and buried in the right side of the old church, without knowing who they were. According to testimonies of some monks, each year during the winter the snow it was melting over the place in which the heads were buried.
In 1937 or 1938, after some digging done in order to restore the old church of the monastery, the waters of another stronger rain have brought the skull back to the surface, without anyone knowing whose it was. But then something miraculous had happened. An epileptic woman, named Mary, from Negreşti Oaş (about 300 km north of Râmeţi) came in this time and told to the monks that she had a dream, in which a dove sent her to that monastery, until then completely unknown to her, and commanded her to touch the skull found, which is of Saint Ghelasie, and so she will be cured. After celebrating the Sacrament of the Holy Unction (in the Orthodox Church this sacrament is celebrated for the sick and not for the dying. Please translate this comment only if you think it’s necessary!!!), she touched the relics of Ghelasie and she was healed. Then the monks took the skull and put into a wooden shrine, kept until today in the monastery’s chapel.
During the last half of the century there were reported other miracles about the relics of Saint Ghelasie.
The Relics of Saint Ghelasie
Later in 1978 there was discovered an inscription on the old church wall, which separates the nave from the nave: „Here I have written myself, the most sinner servant of God Mihul, painter from the Crişul Alb (White Criş, a river situated somewhere in the western side of the monastery) during Archbishop Ghelasie, in the year 6885 (1377), July 2, in the days of king Ludovic” (=I The Great, ruler of Hungary between 1342-1382). This inscription is the first mention of an Orthodox bishop in Transylvania and this completes and states the information about Saint Ghelasie, until then believed to be a monk and only suggested that being a bishop because of the name of the Fountain at Fântâna Vlădichii. This situation is not unusual, because the religious organization of the Orthodox Romanians in Transylvania was not very clear until the 15th century. At that time the bishops, respectively the metropolitans didn’t have their own headquarters, but they lived in one or another monastery in Transylvania and moved elsewhere when needed.

All these information, together with the many miracles happened at his shrine in Râmeţi, led the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church to the decision from 20 June 1992, when it was proclaimed the official canonization of St. Ghelasie. His solemn canonization happened at Râmeţi on June 29, 1992, and his memory is held every year on June 30.

Hymn (Troparion) of St. Ghelasie:

O, you God-bearer, our Father Ghelasie, counselor of the monks, of the priests and of the faithful, the glory of the ascetics and the praise of bishops, the strength of the trouble and wonder maker, You shown your holiness through your struggles, and now you rejoice together with the angels in heaven. Together with them, pray the merciful God to grant us peace and great mercy!

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