Words on Prayer from the Elder Cleopa of Romania

This short interview on prayer is perhaps the last film of the Elder Cleopa of Romania, one of the greatest spiritual figures of 20th century Orthodoxy. Many times in his life the authorities sought to arrest him and he would flee to the wilderness. His words are filled with reference to the Scriptures and bear the weight of an authentic life.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.


13 responses to “Words on Prayer from the Elder Cleopa of Romania”

  1. artisticmisfit Avatar

    Thank you for this. I started praying 10 years ago this summer, and he mentioned after 10 years of praying out loud, then our mind needs to begin to understand. If someone had told me that that 10 years ago, I would have balked. Now it is very encouraging and good to hear, the Orthodox prayer life is a hard, challenging and rewarding one. . Also, he mentioned the three hours of prayer each in the morning and the evening. This is not hard to accomplish if we wear our wrist prayer rope every day, we can pray for everyone we come in contact with, whether face to face, through correspondence, telephone conversation, or even online. He sure doesn’t like videocameras!

  2. Fatherstephen Avatar

    From the Desert Fathers: Prayer is struggle to a man’s dying breath. I am deeply impressed with how “down to earth” the Elder seems. His favorite greeting for all whom he saw was: “May paradise consume you!”

  3. artisticmisfit Avatar

    Wow. Well I learned about him from The Orthodox Word… I knew people at the time who were making pilgrimages to Romania. It is interesting you should post this today. I finally got back to my daily reading of Metropolitan Anthony Bloom, from his modern spirituality series, it is a daily reader. Also, I am reading Father Arseny in ernest. It was given to me two years ago by another priest and I finally dug into it. He actually was arrested and sent to prison camp.

  4. fatherstephen Avatar

    Another contemporary of the Elder Cleopa was Fr. George Calciu, who reposed over a year ago. I would add to his number Fr. Roman Braga who was imprisoned along with Fr. George.

    A very moving piece on the experience of Fr. George, a modern-day confessor of the faith, can be found here.

  5. artisticmisfit Avatar

    I know Mother Nina, who was Fr. George’s translator. In fact, she was one of the first monastics I met at Saint Paisius Monastery and she gave me The Spiritual Life by St. Theophan. Saint Herman of Alaska Brotherhood gave me Christ is Calling you by Fr. George Calciu. I still maintain a relationship with Mother Nina to this day. Thank you for reminding me of both my friend, and of Fr. George. It looks like we are still discussing the depression issue on this blog. Perhaps we could address it even more directly? I am feeling a bit frustrated with the difference of opinion here. Also, I am wondering how you came across De-conversion? Forgive me, but that seems like a dangerous blog, at least for someone like me, who is tempted to apostasize, which is basically what de-conversion is. Would you be anxious if one of your parishioners was reading and/or posting on that blog?

  6. fatherstephen Avatar

    I do not recommend it for reading. I merely borrowed a quote for reflection that I thought was worthy. Blogs that I recommend are on my blogroll. There are too many places on the internet, too many conversations to be had that are simply unproductive.

    One of my interests on Glory to God for All Things, is to engage as patiently and kindly those who are wrestling with their faith, particularly those who are considering Orthodoxy. I try not to engage in much argument because argument rarely leads to real fruit.

    Depression will be with us until the end of time. I think it is something some suffer from more than others (particularly those who may be physically prone to it). I have a personal interest in the topic and wish to be a source of encouragement to anyone engaged in that horrible battle.

    I believe that even in the throes of depression, if we can learn to pray, it will be of great use. God is present even in the darkest points of depression, or can be, though it is always a great gift of grace. But I have seen it and speak with first-hand knowledge on that point.

    If anyone wanted my advice it would be to use the internet to your advantage. Read those things and have those conversations that are fruitful and draw you closer to God and the fullness of being. Avoid other things. Like a bookstore, not everything for sale is worth buying.

    To your last question I never try to exercise control over my parishioners and would seek not to be anxious for them. But, as above, I would not recommend it. If God gave you a ministry to go there – fine. Otherwise, let them have their conversations. They are going through a great struggle (like us all).

  7. artisticmisfit Avatar

    I also must beg your forgiveness, but I do not like Frederica’s writings. She asked me to pray for her a couple of years ago… I guess I find myself really ill at ease and at odds with a lot of our own, or your own, sometimes I feel very excluded, at least from online communities… Do you ever write on the Orthodox list at the Indiana university? I guess what I am trying to say is that I am way to the left and I find I don’t fit in with a lot of Orthodoxy because of this.
    Anyways, regardless if God gave me a ministry to the apostates or not, I am rejecting that ministry. He may have given me a ministry to homosexuals as well, I discussed this with a Western rite priest a couple of years ago as well…

    The apostates and the homosexuals: the marginalized. LOL.

    I even avoided your blog for a while because I felt it was too conservative and had to nothing to offer me…

    Sorry to be so negative. Sometimes it is all I can do to say the Jesus Prayer and leave it at that. Everything else that is available to me at any given time bores me. I guess I get dissatisfied with earthly things more easily now…

  8. Mark A Hershberger Avatar

    prayer is so hard, yet so fulfilling. It is hard for those of us who haven’t yet adopted the habit. And yet, when I pray (I have periods of time when I can be pretty regular), I feel so fulfilled.

    It seems like it is this way with so many thing.

  9. fatherstephen Avatar


    I never have been on the “Indiana List” discussion – I have heard of much arguing, etc. My purpose here is to maintain a safe and kind place for people to read and ask questions or offer observations – within the rules set for the blog (essentially be kind). I generally do not get into contentious issues or political issues. I write about what I know or what I like (if I write about other things the writing will be poor or uninformed). Thus there is a limitation on this site: on me, on my readers, etc. But I think they are reasonable. There is enough space out there for argument and contention that no one would need me to add one more. The community, if thre really is one on this site, changes from time to time, in terms of those who comment. There are around 1500 to 2000 views a day, so most people read and do not comment – which I have no way of interpreting. All I can do as far as community is to write, be patient, answer questions, and ask all of us to be kind. We do not cover all topics, as I note above, generally just the ones I write about or related questions. I’m not sure how often Frederica reads my stuff. We are personal friends from a number of years back. The article I recommended is worth the read regardless of how you may feel in your relationship with her. It is simply the story of a modern confessor and his sufferings. Very moving.

  10. handmaid Avatar

    Mother Cassiana here in Colorado at Holy Protection Monastery has done translation work on Elder Cleopa and I believe knew him at one point; in the book about him, which I read a long while ago now, I do believe that he was picked up once by the Communists. If I remember correctly he was thrown into a room where the lights were on, and this room had so many lights as to be blinding (it was a form of torture) for days. He immediately began to pray the Jesus Prayer. When he was hauled out of the room no worse for the wear, the Communists were stymied because most people went crazy or blind. I had borrowed the book, so this is entirely from memory, forgive me for the lack of details.

    His whole family is very inspirational.

  11. artisticmisfit Avatar

    Bless, Father!
    Father Stephen,
    You are right. I guess I just feel caught between the secular and the sacred, and I disagree with Frederica’s secular viewpoint and I have been uncharitable to her by not praying for her every day like she asked me to. I had a hard time on her mailing list too, and yes, the Orthodox list is full of contention, and that is where I first started writing on the internet as an Orthodox Christian a few years ago. You are correct, her article is worthwhile. I actually pulled out my Orthodox Word with Elder Cleopa on the front and my Christ is Calling You last night. I find it interesting how George Calciu differentiates between priest, pastor and minister and I found myself thinking about that last night, which divisions of the church have priests, and which have pastors, and which have reverends, as I know men serving in each role. It was kind of mind blowing, to realize what a Fr., as in priest, truly is. Do you ever think about your role as a priest and what that means?

  12. novice Avatar

    Thank you so much for this video clip. He is an inspiration.

  13. Aleksandra Adamiak Avatar
    Aleksandra Adamiak

    Do you know where Fr. Constatine is? He was a follower of Elder Cleopa.

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