The love of God for all of His creatures is beyond comprehension. The following real life story narrated by an Orthodox priest from Moldavia reveals to us how powerful the love of God is for those of us who sincerely repent of our grievous sins. There is no sin under the sun that is greater than the love of God. Zamfira was a very sinful person who had killed her own child, violated many laws of society, lived an immoral life and she was incarcerated from the tender age of sixteen for these misdeeds. Yet, it was in the context of an Orthodox Christian prison ministry, that she found repentance and the loving embrace of Jesus Christ. And it was at the moment of spiritual cleansing through sacramental confession that she was prepared to give up her soul to her Creator. The wisdom of God had determined that it was the proper time for her to be taken from this world of tears. May this marvelous story be a lesson to all of us who are living in a very sinful generation that it is never too late for us to claim our rightful place in eternity. It is for this reason that Jesus died that horrible death on the Cross on Golgotha.
+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, December 16, 2013
THE SHOCKING WITNESS OF AN ORTHODOX PRIEST
ABOUT THE REPENTANCE OF ZAMFIRA, A GYPSY
“Seven years ago I was the priest at the prison chapel of Prounkou in Kisivo, Moldavia. Since I also serve in my parish Church, I do services at the prison on Wednesdays and Fridays. I am helped by inmate volunteers in the chapel. One of the responsibilities of the volunteers is to assist the inmates who will participate in the chapel services. They help them with the readings from the service books that are found in our small library. I wish to relate to you something unusual that happened in the fall of 2008.
The prison of Prounkou is the only prison—hospital where both men and women are housed. In one of the cells of the surgery wing of the prison Zamfira, the gypsy was billeted. When one of the volunteers went to the cell where Zamfira was housed asking who wanted to participate in the service the following day, Zamfira said: “I will come but I will not need your books.” Zamfira was about thirty-six years old, she was beautiful and from what I was told a person of loose morals. She had been in prison since she was sixteen years of age because she had killed her child and was involved in other serious crimes.
The following day Zamfira came to the service at the chapel. On that particular day, we read the Canon of Supplication to Jesus Christ, the service of Supplication to the Virgin Mary and the Canon of the Holy Eucharist. Zamfira sat in the back of the chapel. She was making fun of every prayer that was said while making irreverent hand motions. This naturally disturbed me and the inmates in the chapel. There were about thirty-five men and women in the chapel. No one dared to say anything to her because she had some kind of connection with the occult. In spite of the fact that she was thirty-six years old, she held a high position in the hierarchy of the occult and all the inmates were aware this. She gave a whole performance during the service and entertained some of those present with jokes. I left her alone and the only thing I asked her was: “What is your name?” She answered me, “Zamfira.” I asked her to be quiet. She responded: “very well,” but she continued doing what she had been doing.
Following the service, I heard the confessions of everyone present. I said to a lady who lived in the same cell with Zamfira: “I cannot give you Holy Communion now. I want you to do penance and I want you to come back in two weeks to receive Holy Communion.” Zamfira was the only person who did not come to confession that day. I asked her if she was going to confess her sins. Her response was: “No, I am not coming to confession because if you hear my confession the hairs of your nose will fall out.” Then I responded: “Why then did you come to Church since you did not confess, you did not pray and you did not listen to the service? Did you come just to pass the time of day?” She said: “No, I came to see how beautiful you are.” She answered all my questions curtly. I then said: “then let the will of God be done.”
Two weeks later, I sent a volunteer to the woman to whom I had given penance in order to remind her to come to Communion and to prepare herself. She was the woman who lived in the same cell with Zamfira. The volunteer went to her cell and said to her: “The priest said that since tomorrow you will receive Holy Communion you are to prepare yourself and you are to read the prayers in preparation for Holy Communion.” “The volunteer gave her the Book of Hours to read and as she did this Zamfira suddenly spoke out saying: “I too want to go to Church tomorrow.” The volunteer responded: “No, you are not going to Church because you do not sit quietly.” Zamfira insisted saying: “I beg you, I want to go. Give me a book to read.”
The volunteer gave her the Book of Psalms. I do not know what she read or how much she read but the next day, a fellow inmate came to me and said to me: “Father Zamfira is not mentally well.” The priest asked: “What are you trying to tell me?” “She cried all night long. She would read and then cry. I do not know what she read but she cried very much.” “After I had heard the confessions of everyone, I went to see Zamfira. She was kneeling in a corner of the chapel. She seemed to be crying and she did not say anything. I asked her if she wanted to confess her sins.” She responded: “Yes, Father I want to confess my sins but not the way all the others gave their confession.” “Tell me how do you want to confess your sins?” “I want to confess in a loud voice in front of everyone.” “As I was standing facing the icon of Christ, Zamfira turned towards everyone in the chapel and she started to confess her sins publicly.”
“Her confession lasted for forty-five minutes. With every sin she confessed she cried while genuflecting and saying: “I beg you to forgive me.” Once she finished her confession, I thought: should I give her Holy Communion? According to the rules of Saint Basil concerning penance for carnal sins committed, she should not be able to receive Communion for three hundred years. I had learned that her grandmother baptized her but she had never received Holy Communion. This would be the first time she would receive Communion. She had not eaten anything that morning. I was asking myself what Jesus would do after hearing such a confession. I then thought about the Church‘s teaching on this issue: If I give Holy Communion to an unworthy person then I would take her sins upon myself. I decided to give her Holy Communion. After receiving Communion she glowed with such joy she started chanting Halleluiah. She was in such a state of joy that one rarely sees in Christians who live sinful lives in the world.
That night a prison guard called me. He said: “Father, Zamfira has died.” “I arrived at the prison at 9 p.m. and I asked one of her fellow inmates who had also received Holy Communion that day what happened and she said to me:” “Father, she was very happy that she had received Holy Communion. From early morning she was praying to God and was talking to me about God, about repentance, about faith and love. She was crying because of her sins. About 8 p.m. she said to me:” “I am not feeling well, there is something wrong with me.” “She went into the bathroom, washed up, put on her best clothes and said: “I will now die, give me a candle.” (Note: in some Orthodox Christian countries, people who are preparing for death always keep a lit candle next to them). “They brought her a candle; she turned her head toward the wall and died.” “The next day the doctors had a meeting. They said her only physical problem was a hernia and she needed an operation. They could not find anything else that would cause her sudden death. I believe that God waits for each person to return to His loving embrace and when this happens and that person is spiritually cleansed, then God judges whether or not He will take them into His bosom.”
Priest: Viorel Kozokarou
GLORY TO GOD IN HIS HOLY SAINTS
ΔΟΞΑ ΤΩ ΘΕΩ ΕΝ ΤΟΙΣ ΑΓΙΟΙΣ ΑΥΤΟΥ
Translated: from the Slavonic into Greek by Father George Konispolianis.
Translated from the Greek into English by:
+Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, Waterford, CT. USA