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Giurgiu, Nov 22 /Agerpres/ - Rainbow colors reverberating in frescoes, light flowing from Christ's Resurrection, Heaven trickling down through the painting brush, that's the way the murals painted by Orthodoxy beacon Arsenie Boca at the "St. Nicholas" Church of the Draganescu town - Giurgiu County can be translated and rendered into metaphor.
Located less than 20 km from Bucharest, the Draganescu commune became a place of pilgrimage for all those who want to know more in-depth the life and work of Father Arsenie Boca, the 'Saint of Transylvania', as many believers call him.
Arsenie Boca arrived in Draganescu after being ousted from the Prislop Monastery, where he had once been abbot and then a father confessor. Zamfira, the Mother Superior there, and Ligia, wife of Draganescu parish priest Savian, were sisters, and it's with their help that Arsenie Boca found a shelter here. He arrived in the village as a painter sent by the Patriarchate, but he was not allowed to celebrate holy service.
As long as he remained in Draganescu, Arsenie Boca lived in the parish house with the family of the priest. Although he did not perform the sacred rituals, people had got word of him from Sambata, and frequently sought him for advice.
The little church painted by Arsenie Boca lies near the river Arges, in a tiny village close to Mihailesti town. The protector of the church is Saint Nicholas, and an icon of the deeply revered Holy Hierarch Nicholas, donated by Marcel Mihaiescu, is placed right on top of the church façade.
"The church is made of brick and rests on six stone columns. Two small towers were built above the porch, and the central dome is seated above the nave. The whitewashed bell tower stands in the churchyard, where a semantron and an outdoor cross are also kept," administrative adviser of the Giurgiu Diocese, father Nicusor Puflea, told AGERPRES.
The following words stand as written testimony on the cross in the church courtyard: "This Holy Cross was raised for the eternal remembrance of Pious Father Priest Savian Bunescu, who went to eternal sleep in 2005, at age 62, a vicar of this Holy Church, and of Pious Father Arsenie Boca, who reposed in 1989, the one who accomplished the painting of the Holy Church between 1968-1988. May their memory be eternal."
The inscription of the church states that it was built from scratch in 1870 by Petru Danescu and Ion Dumitrescu, as the old wooden church and the cemetery had been swept away by the Arges river that violently swelled out of its banks in 1866; this is also the year when the bridge over the new river course was built.
The church was rebuilt from foundations through the diligence of parish priest Savian Bunescu who had been pastoring it since 1937. The furniture, the rood screen, the pews and door are carved in oak by sculptor Ion D. Carcei from Grumazesti, Neamt County.
From the history of the site of the church one also learns that the name of the municipality comes from boyar Fotache Stirbei Draganescu, son of steward Badea Stirbei, and that the grounds where the church stands belonged to the Prisicenii de Jos estate, also called Draganescu, after the name of its owner who had bought it at an auction for 2,500 thalers.
The church was consecrated on October 2, 1983 by Vicar Bishop Roman Ialomiteanul.
Father Arsenie Boca lived in Draganescu for 20 years and in 1968 he began painting the parish church, a work that took him more than 15 years. As he wasn't allowed to celebrate service, some of the priests who visited the church over the years claim that Arsenie Boca has actually painted the sermons he delivered at Sambata de Sus.
His frescoes are diaphanous, and the images are accompanied by metaphors referring to people's weaknesses and sins, by aphorisms, quotations from the Holy Scripture, sometimes by teachings of the Father and biblical scenes: the Resurrection, a picture of hell, the Group of the Righteous. The paintings are said to have a visionary, prophetic content, as it is known that Father Arsenie Boca had the gift of spiritual far-sight: one of the scenes, two tall buildings engulfed in flames, is said to allude to the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers, not to mention those where items like a cell phone, a space shuttle, satellite dishes, all unusual things in that period, appear.
A painting that has a special resonance nowadays is that depicting the parable of the Gospel of the Great Banquet. Saint Michael the Archangel invites 'modern man' 'to come to dinner', ie give up sin and worldly and fleeting pleasures and delights and approach instead the only imperishable things: the Church and God. The guest, represented as a man seated in an armchair, a phone in hand and having a woman behind, ignores the pleas of the Archangel with the excuse written on the painting: "I got married, I rounded off my farms, I bought five million horsepower, I'm looking for a dwelling on another planet ... so please forgive me for I'm unable to come ... we do not have this concern any more ... ''
Another interesting composition is in the apse of the shrine. It presents moments of the life and passions of Pious Stephen the New, who received martyrdom during the reign of iconoclast Emperor Constantine V, on a day of November 28, when he is also celebrated; there's a foretelling waft in it, as Father Arsenie Boca passed to the Lord also on November 28, 1989, at the Sinaia Monastery, less than one year after he completed painting the Draganescu church; according to his wish, he was buried in the cemetery of the Prislop Monastery on December 4.
What strikes the eye at the Draganescu frescoes is the light therein; as Father Savian used to tell the faithful: "You watch the walls of the church and thus behold the Scripture!" Or, as theologian and philosopher Nichifor Crainic put it: "The painting hinges on the edge of eternity."
It is said that this is in fact a painted narration, as Father Arsenie Boca represented all the key moments in the life of the Savior, each image of the iconographic program accompanied by an explanation in the form of one or several verses of Scripture.
His rendition of the Savior's Resurrection from the tomb is light-suffused, with Christ ethereally wafting through the tombstone. The Draganescu frescoes show Adam and Eve, the Banishment, the Last Supper, the Annunciation, the entire New and Old Testament in pictures, Saint Apostles Peter and Paul holding the Voronet Monastery upon their hands, but also represented here are the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople and St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, standing under the same bow of light as a prophetic call to unity of faith, and as a message that there is no salvation outside the Church. But the pinnacle of Arsenie Boca's teachings is forgiveness. In his book 'The Path to the Kingdom' he says: "If you don't forgive, God does not forgive you either. And we must endlessly and wholeheartedly forgive everyone." AGERPRES
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