The BackShop Journal

A Web Magazine of Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality

Monk Hilarion and Theotokos

On the eve of the Dormition of the Most Holy Mother of God, we retell the story of three miracles that happened to a Romanian monk in a Carpathian Mountains monastery.

Romania has been long known for the monasteries cut in the rocks of Buzau caves, great ascetics and piousness of its inhabitants. One of the most admirable places in the country is Mount Ceahlau, known as the Romanian Mount Athos.

For the past four centuries, monks have been leading spiritual struggles there, in hermitage cells as well as in populous sketes.

In the foothills of Carpathian Mountains covered in forests, there is a monastery called Sihastria. It is surrounded by captivating green hills, beautiful flower gardens and an artificial lake full of fish.

The name of the monastery completely corresponds to its essence. The word "Sihastria" originates from the Greek "esychia," which means "stillness, silence". This monastery of truly indescribable beauty has been a sanctuary for those seeking spiritual rest for more than a century.

Its history begins in the 17th century. At first hesychasts lived in this place, and in 1655, a monastery was founded.

There was a monk in this brotherhood called Hilarion Ionica (1854-1934), in the world named Ioan, from the village Racova Bacau. Before the arrival to the monastery, he was a simple carpenter, and he constructed boats on the river Bistrita. An amazing event happened to him there, which predermined his monastic path.

It was a winter night. Ioan finished his daily work on the wharf, and he set out on his way back home. Walking through the forest, he suddenly heard heart-rending howls. It was the wolves. They attacked him, and he fought them for two hours. His strength was exhausted. Ioan realised  he won't defeat the wolves, and he decided to resort to the intercession of the Holy Mother of God, toward which he felt particular reverence since his childhood. He dropped to his knees and cried out:

"The Most Holy Theotokos, if you give me life, I will leave everything and become a monk!"

At the same moment, voices were heard and a ringing sounded. It was a sleigh approaching swiftly. The frightened wolves fled, and he, rescued, returned home.
Some time had passed, and Ioan left the world, settling in the monastery "Sihastria".

A year later, another event occurred to him in the monastery. The young novice was overcome by despondency, and he began to think about moving to another monastery.
One night, battled by despair, which was difficult to resist, Ioan left the cell and headed for a prayer in the temple. At one point, Ioan looked up and saw a women clad in monastic vestment coming out from the icon of the Mother of God. It was Theotokos herself! The Blessed Virgin came up to him and asked:

"Why are you crying, my brother John?" What are you confused about?"

"Well, I'm tired of living here, and I want to leave this monastery."

"Why are you disappointed in my house?" Calm down. Whatever you do, do it with love, and you will never be dejected.

Then the Virgin entered the icon again and disappeared. The temptation immediately went away. Since then, John was an example of humility and love for other monks, and he was soon tonsured with the name of Hilarion.

Twenty years passed when the monk was visited by a third temptation. Once, in the spring of 1933, the monk, adorned with gray hair, went into the forest for firewood. Working with an axe, the ascetic cut his leg badly. The wound was serious, and soon the inflammation turned into gangrene. Father Hilarion again resorted to the Most Holy Theotokos:

"Lady Theotokos, have mercy on me, do not leave!" He prayed with tears.

At night, languishing with pain, the ascetic saw a Nun walk into the cell. Her face looked like the face of a doctor Hilarion knew.

"Why are you crying?" She asked.

"Madam doctor, I've hurt my leg, and it hurts very much." I know I will die, and I am crying because I haven't had time to repent .

Then the Nun examined the sick leg and, touching it with her hand, She said:

"Father Hilarion, do not cry anymore! Your leg is healed. You will live one more year and then you will rest forever."

The nun was gone, and the old man fell asleep. In the morning he woke up perfectly healthy! Then he realised it was the Mother of God herself! Without restraining joy, the humble monk immediately rushed to the church and told all the monks about the miracle. And in exactly a year he gave his soul into the arms of the Blessed Virgin.

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