The steeple of the small wooden church rose among the pines in the Brașov high country. The sun shone through the fall leaves casting a golden glow on the forest path; all was dusted with a crisp morning snow. This is the Romania I’ve dreamed about!
We took a bus to Poiana Brașov and attended the Divine Liturgy at Sf. Ioan Botezătorul (St. John the Baptist). Poiana (which means meadow/clearing) Brașov is most well know for its ski resort and touristy attractions–such as a restaurant built like some kind of Dacian style ale-house and a hotel called “Acasa la Dracula.” For me, the Church stands out as a witness to eternity in the midst of a temporal, shallow, and capitalist-driven consumer-culture which pervades the modern world. A hieromonk and a deacon served the Liturgy. With the chanters, they lead the Byzantine melodies and low drones, echoing the peaks and meadows surrounding the full little parish. There is something rooted and earthy, while at the same time heavenly and ethereal, in Transylvania.
The buildings of Brașov go back to the 13th century, while the iconography and music hearkens to a time when Constantinople ruled the world and the Carpathian Mountains sheltered small villages with a vibrant cultural life. The ancient, rooted, and earthy human life here is juxtaposed against the ethereal nature of the forests and mountains. It is still possible to find pockets of untouched nature here, where European bears, lynxes and wolves still exist. The only other place I’ve experienced nature like this was in Alaska, another place where time becomes timeless.
After church, we walked the roughly 4-5 mile long hike back to orașului (the town of) Brașov. We met hikers with their children and a British tourist as we made our way back home. The cyclical motion of the Church Liturgy cultivated a stillness in me as we walked. We came to one of the many troiţa, Orthodox Christian Crosses, along the path. Another reminder of the Christain history here and its Eucharistic Life. The troiţa were for me like a lâmpada lighting the Way home, literally and figuratively. After a leisurely three hour hike, we arrived home in Brașov full and ready for a new week.
Troparion of St. John the Baptist, Tone 2
The memory of the just is celebrated with hymns of praise/ but the Lord’s testimony is enough for thee, O Forerunner,/ for thou wast shown to be more wonderful than the Prophets/ since thou wast granted to baptize in the running waters / Him Whom thou didst proclaim./ Then having endured great suffering for the Truth,/ Thou didst rejoice to bring, even to those in hell/ the good tidings that God Who had appeared in the flesh/ takes away the sin of the world/ and grants us the great mercy.