Contemporary Virtuous Romanians: Father Daniil Tudor

8 June 2012

Father Daniil Tudor (December 24, 1896 – November 16, 1962)

Prove me, O Lord, and test me, try my reins and my heart in the fire (Psalm 25:2).

Light of the light of Rugul Aprins (The Burning Bush) of the Antim Monastery, Father Daniil Tudor is remembered as one of the most important figures linked to this unique spiritual movement, which he himself founded.

The path from darkness towards light was not a smooth one for Alexandru Teodorescu (his name before monasticism), who had a strong personality, an impetuous character, and a brilliant intelligence. Having been a naval officer who had fought on the Eastern front, a high school teacher and a poet, during the 1930’s he became the founder of two magazines, Floarea de Foc (The Fiery Flower) and Credinţa (The Faith), where he mercilessly criticized the political extremes of the time, something which was later used against him as key “evidence” of his “plotting” against the communist regime.

There were two major experiences that irrevocably converted him into a faithful Orthodox believer: a trip to Mount Athos – where he went as a skeptical tourist and returned as a humble pilgrim, initiated in the secrets of the Prayer of the Heart – and his miraculous survival from a crash in his private airplane from an altitude of a thousand meters.

His conversion, much akin to his temperament, was sudden and extreme: he joined the monastic community of the Antim Monastery in 1946, where he became a monk and received the name of Agaton [Agathon]. The years that followed were the most fruitful for his work as a spiritual leader. They consisted of the practice of hesychastic prayer accompanied by the study of its related patristic teachings and of his presentation of those experiences at the weekly meetings of Rugul Aprins in the monastery’s library.

Already under scrutiny by the Security, he moved from Gorj County to the Crasna Monastery in 1949. He was arrested a year later under the pretext of illegal activity committed on the war front and was sent to Jilava prison. Released two years later, he entered the Neamţ Monastery, where he received the Great Schema with the name of Daniil He then moved to the Rarău Skete, where he unofficially started a spiritual “school” for the youth meant to become the elite of the country’s spiritual resistance.

In 1958 he was arrested together with the entire group from Rugul Aprins and was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for having “plotted against the social order” and received an additional fifteen years for “intensive activity against the working class.” Imprisoned in Aiud, he refused any sort of compromise with the communist ideology.

His “obstinacy” brought on solitary confinement. According to a former political prisoner, it was there that he was given ink and paper to write his “self-disclosure”. Instead, Father Daniil wrote an entire indictment of the principles of the communist rule. For one month he kept writing, waiting to be summoned for an investigation. One morning, however, the whole Aiud Prison learned that he had been found dead in his cell. The official cause of death written on his death certificate: brain hemorrhage. His body was thrown in Râpa Robilor (The Slaves’ Ravine), the common grave of the new Romanian martyrs.

Though mortal through his repose, Father Daniil’s soul is alive in Heaven, and the purity of his profound spirit lives on with us through the akathist hymns of an otherworldly beauty that he composed out of grace and prayer.