The Armenian Christian

One night they brought us a new convict. They gave him the upper bunk bed from the opposite side. Before going to sleep I saw him curled up in a corner and I refalized that he was praying because he was making the sign of the Cross. I thought about him all night. I supposed he was Greek but I waited for the morning to ask him.

In the morning after everybody woke up the forger started to question him. He wasn’t Greek and he spoke Russian like him both being strangers in that country. I didn’t understand anything because I didn’t know their language. When it came the time for walk the new convinct accompanied me and I was glad about this fact because I had one hour at disposal to ask him questions. I hoped he spoke English. To my great surprise he started the conversation in a flawless English. He knew many things about me because the forger gave him all information.

He decided to get out with me at fresh air thinking that we shared the same faith. Indeed my joy was great! He was Orthodox and was born in Armenia. I made him make the sign of the Cross. He did that just as I did it. I haven’t forgotten it yet a few weeks ago I twisted my fingers to make sure that I crossed them well when I made the sign. The Armenian told me how he got into jail saying that he had paid two thousands dollars to get in there. He had given money to someone from that country where we were to be able to go to work in England. He crossed Russia by train hidden in a wooden trunk. Once arrived there the intermediaries took him to an apartment they made ready telling him that he had to stay there for the following two days while they would have made his passport and then would have sent him to England. Suddenly someone knocked at the door but instead of those two men it was the police! Then he realized what had happened: everything had been just a scam only for taking his money…He stayed in detention for two weeks in other places before being brought there and he hoped he would be set free quickly because he was helped by a Russian priest.

Then I told him about myself and about Cyprus and we didn’t even realize how the time flew. We had to go back to the cell. I was glad that in that seclusion there was someone else of the same faith with me. It was a great joy indeed!

And when I think that only a few weeks before I was among thousands of Orthodox people but I was not aware of that and I didn’t care about it. The day passed without happening anything special but the evening was still far.

It was spring by then. The day didn’t break easily and in the evening it got dark around ten. I looked carefully at the Armenian. He cuddled himself in a corner of his bed and he was praying. I felt relieved thinking that our prayers would be raised to the sky in the same time like an insistent cry that was going to bring us the liberation and return to our homes.

Me in the cosmopolitan Cyprus and him in his poor country Armenia as he had described it to me. About midnight everything ceased. Only the cry of a woman was heard like a roar of a beast. The old ones explained to me that it was something habitual and it was coming from the jail for women that was next to ours.

In the end I could fall asleep but I woke all of a sudden because of a dream that I lived intensely and I will never be able to explain.

Usually in the morning I don’t remember what I dreamt but I remember in detail this vision as if it had happened for real. I was descending a big stone staircase lighted by torches. I had chains and I was accompanied by two policemen whose clothes looked like those from the Middle Ages. They took me to a big room made of stone that seemed like a fort. In the back it was a big solid table where sat three persons. It was a court. I was a bit further and because of that I didn’t see quite well. In front of me there were some other men in chains followed by their guardians. In a short time I went closer with my attendants being able to see what happened at the table. All of a sudden I heard my name called and those who accompanied me beckoned me to go closer. The three persons were discussing. At a certain moment the president turned to me and said: You have fulfilled your punishment and soon you’ll return to your family. Hearing these words I got relaxed and took courage. I wanted to know what was going to happen with the Armenian so I asked them. The president looked at me from top to toe as if he was studying me then he answered loudly: Go. He is free too.

I turned towards those who accompanied me and left but while it seemed that I was climbing the stairs I woke up! I couldn’t fall to sleep again till morning thanking to the Lord without cease. I didn’t wait for long the hour when we were allowed to go out for fresh air to tell the news to the Armenian. I had a conviction that everything was coming to an end and we were to be freed. Starets Paisios was glad for me seeing me so reconciled with myself.

`My child didn’t I tell you that when you would be ready we’d go back to the Island of the saints? How much he loved Cyprus and the Cypriots! He had a special love for them and he said they were very good people from a blessed land but they were tormented. And he added: But if all of them repent then everything will go well in their country. Then I didn’t understand what could have meant those words because I was far away from reality.

After I went out of jail I studied I talked with wise elders and I was able to taste the true life from the Church of Christ. Only then I understood what abba had said.

I wished I could have the opportunity to ask him other questions for instance about the liberation of Cyprus of Constantinople but also about many other issues of interest for me. But over time thinking about his words about repentance and forgiveness everything became clear: we all together with the leaders of the Church had to do the same they did in the past when people from many villages gathered to pray for rain or for chasing away the deadly diseases and their prayers were listened.

Of course the prayer is important but it must be accompanied by deeds. I didn’t stay to think about the things I’m writing, I’m writing what happened to me and what I have in my heart but I realize that these are in fact some childlish things. But let’s resume the story…

When it came the time to get out I descended the four floors like flying on the stairs but I immediately heard the shouts of the guardians because I went ahead. Srriving in the cage for walks I saw again the opposite building of a dark blackish color. There it was the temporary jail for children. What could I do? Nothing except for praying for them. The Armenian came shortly after me and he was glad too. When we got back to the cell I was told that I was going to receive a visit. I told him my vision and we were both sure that in a short time we would be freed. But we put our hopes in the providence of God. We were walking to and fro like two children in the small cage talking about Christ. I knew only a few things but he was advanced in terms of faith. He told me that in his country there was a cathedral dedicated to saint apostle Judas Thaddeus who had brought Christianity in Armenia! He knew the Creed but also other prayers. I felt insignificant before him because everything I had learnt about Orthodoxy I had found out from the few books sent by my parents. The time of the walk was over and we went back to the cell one after another followed by the guardians. There we were back in the ordinary. Some of them were playing chessm one was watching TV and I went back to my canon. I began to study with the help of abba Paisios.

I was very glad because I enriched myself with many information about saint Judas Thaddeus. Apostle Judas, my child – said abba – is one of the twelve chosen ones. We can’t doubt that because elder Paisios confirms it.

There are some theologians who ask themselves questions and have doubts about the true identity of this holy apostle who was Jacob’s brother, the first bishop of Jerusalem and son of righteous Joseph from his first marriage. In brief he was the brother of the Lord. I always took with me the book about saint apostle Judas Taddeus and I always asked for his help praying to him many times daily.

Once I asked abba:

`Father, is it well how I pray to saint apostle Judas Taddeus? EIs it right the prayer I say?`

`My child all the prayers we address to the saints are for making us be our intercessors who persuade God to listen to our prayers. But we need to pay heed during prayer. The Lord Himself taught us to say the lord’s prayer. Only then I understood the meaning of the ceaseless prayer.

Excerpt from the book Testimony of the religious conversion of a former convinct – Father Paisios my saint and teacher, Egumenița Publishing 2016

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