"Cercetați toate lucrurile, si păstrați ce este bun!"

Apostolul Pavel

I have a clear memory of the first time I considered the meaning of John 1: 1-5.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made, without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of people. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

I must have been 13 or 14 years old, and because I think in images, I imagined the Word as a powerful wind being blown into life, body and matter. In my attempt to imagine something that was both a beginning and something that had always been, the wind/Word had the dual quality of existing in Christ’s body as a finite human being and in Christ as God as infinite. From the image of wind awakening life there was the beginning of light. I imagined the light like the moment when you first light a candle in a pitch-black room. A montage image of wind/Word/body/life—both finite and infinite—began emanating light. The images moved to the tempo of the wind. But the light, amidst darkness, could be seen only by a few; just as the Word was unintelligible or unheard by most.

After my father passed away last year on May 29, my family and I kept a tall, thick candle burning until it extinguished itself. As the candle melted, it formed into an increasingly complex wax configuration. We each imbued the melted reconfiguration of the candle with various symbolic meanings. Perhaps it represented a material version of the duration of our immediate sorrow. Perhaps it represented the duration of the time we thought was needed for Cristian Ioanide’s soul to rise and detach from his body.

While the candle burned, my mother repeatedly played Tudor Gheorghe singing “Lumina Lina.” The song’s lyrics are in fact the verses of Ion Alexandru’s poem by the same name.

Lumină lină lini lumini
Răsar din codrii mari de crini
Lumină lină cuib de ceară
Scorburi cu miere milenară 

De dincolo de luni venind
Si niciodată poposind
Un răsărit ce nu se mai termină
Lină lumină din lumină lină 
Cine te-aşteaptă te iubeşte
Iubindu-te nădăjduieşte

Căci într-o zi lumină lină
Vei răsării la noi deplină
Cine primeşte să te creadă
Trei oameni vor venii sa-l vadă 
Lumină lină lini lumini
Răsari din codrii mari de crini
I-atâta noapte şi uitare
Si lumile au perit în zare
Au mai rămas din vechea lor
Luminile luminilor 

Lumină lină lini lumini
Instrăinându-i pe străini
Lumină lină, nuntă leac
Tămăduind veac după veac
Cel întristat şi sarăcit
Cel plâns şi cel nedreptătit
Si pelerinul însetatIn vatra ta au înoptat
Lumină lină leac divin
Incununându-l pe străin
Deasupra stiinsului pământ
Lumină lină Logos sfânt.            

The tone of the song was somber and penetrating. The verses profoundly and poetically captured the meaning of John 1:1-5. Later, I realized that both the poem and the song were incantations of my 13-year-old memory imagining the Word coming into the world as something both finite and infinite. It was the last two lines that had particular force for us in that time of sorrow, because we had understood that Cristian Ioanide, despite all his humanly faults, in his essence attempted to be a truth-teller. That is, he pursued writing—a calling he arrived at late in life—as a way to pierce the darkness of ignorance with the light attained through the Word.

I wanted to reflect in this article on the relationship between finite life and the infinite; and on the human capacity for attaining spiritual wisdom. Allow me to be less abstract.

It is said that those who are closest to God go through moments of suffering more easily. Why? Because they have the wisdom (the spiritual enlightenment) to understand loss, suffering and sorrow in relation to a greater design. This does not mean that they do not experience sorrow. We remember that Christ also wept at Lazarus’ bed. But it is to say that they heal from that sorrow differently. It seems that those who are closest to God are capable of grasping meanings that broach on the mystical, the supernatural, and the poetic. They have peace that surpasses understanding because they are not burdened by the guilt and contradictions of having wronged those we have lost or those still living. Put differently, those whose words and actions cohere with God’s will and Word gain a peace that is not fraught with the disorientations, evasions, and internal conflicts brought on by sin.

Most of us, however, are much more earthly. People have a difficult time reconciling the finitude offered by mortality with the infinite light and wisdom of the Word. We ask basic questions like “Why now?” Or, “Why him?” Or, “Why us?” We ask if there is something we could have done to prevent the loss of the loved one. We consider the impact of the loss on those closest to us. Perhaps we hold on to grudges or resentments. Or perhaps we fixate on matters that were left unfinished… asking for forgiveness; correcting past wrongs; fulfilling neglected promises.

Yet, all of us have the capacity to attain that peace that surpasses common understanding. Most of the time, the pursuit of this peace is in great contrast to the practices of the world. The contrast is as great as that between “stiinsului pamant” and “lumina lina.” I have been fortunate to witness this peace embodied in a human being. One day when my grandfather Costache Ioanide was visiting my parents’ home in Bucharest, I remember there was an argument. Voices began rising, but my grandfather’s face remained undisturbed, calm. Even as a small child, I remember being impressed with the fact that when he finally did speak, his tone was even and quiet, forcing those around him to lower their tones.

n “Blandul Poet sau Anularea Tematica,” my father, Cristian Ioanide, wrote that my grandfather attained this peace over time, through rigorous dedication to matters of the soul and study of the Word. “Anularea tematica” refers to the putting aside of all other concerns and possible paths in order to follow an ideal. In that article, Cristian Ioanide makes an analogy between Costache Ioanide and Vladimir Maiakovsky, with a crucial difference. While both put aside all other possible life themes in order to pursue an ideal, Maiakovsky ended his own life upon realizing that that he had pursued a false ideal. “Dar toata credinta sa a fost zadarnica pentru ca idealul era fals si l-a mintit.” By contrast, Costache Ioanide “atins de dragostea lui Hristos, lasa si el totul la o parte, isi anuleaza tema si alege Calea, Adevarul si Viata, pentru eternitate.”

My father often lived in the shadow of “blandul poet.” This was not always easy. After all, it is difficult to be compared to someone who has reached greater proximity to God. But toward the end of his life, Cristian Ioanide accepted and continued the work inherited as “baiatul poetului.” He found his own voice, style and approach to the work. It was not the same as his father’s, but he toiled as genuinely with the questions and knowledge he had inherited. And just as Cristian Ioanide was “baiatul poetului,” I find myself becoming “fata lui Cristian Ioanide.” It is about carrying forth a particular legacy, and it is not a process that is seamless. But it is a path that is generally characterized by an attempt to reach the peace, wisdom and infinite-ness of “Lumina Lina.”  And here again, the poet’s words serve as comfort.


de Costache Ioanide

Traim invaluiti de umbre
Visam iubiri de Pierrot
Venim si nu-intrebam de unde
Plecam si nu stim incotro 
Cand vin dureri intoarcem fata
Si nu stim pentru ce-au venit
Traim si nu cunoastem viata
Murim si inca n-am trait 

Si totusi, in aceasta lume
In care anii tai se cern,
Exista taina unui Nume
Exista un Stapan Etern 
Al lui e cerul de lumina
Si intunericul deplin
Al Lui sunt crinii morti in tina
Al Lui sunt crinii care vin  

Veniti prieteni cat e vreme
La Creatorul de vecii,
Veniti cat vrea sa ne mai cheme
Cat inca vrea sa-i fim copii 
Altfel nu suntem decat umbre,
Decat un vis de Pierrot
Venim si nu-ntrebam de unde,
Plecam si nu stim incotro.