Timisoara. Each time we’re here, I’m sickened and saddened by the depth of man’s cruelty to man. Walking in the city square dotted with its outdoor restaurants and fine shops, it’s difficult to imagine 100,000 people packed into its space to push for peaceful reform in December, 1989.
Peaceful it was not. As I understand it, soldiers opened fire in an attempt to disperse the crowd. Their plan failed. The people refused to leave so the country’s president issued orders to pull about a dozen young people from the masses, stand them on the stairs of the Orthodox cathedral at the end of the square and shoot them. The military followed orders but killing the kids was the last straw. That’s when it decided enough was enough and turned on the president. The military captured, tried and executed him and his wife several days later.
Today, plaques commemorating those who died in the fight for freedom adorn the cathedral’s walls near the main entrance. It’s impossible to visit the site, snap a few pictures and walk away without experiencing a somber and reflective moment.
I remember exactly where I was when the media announced the president’s overthrow. I was a mom of three young children, consumed with caring for their needs and taking one day at a time. Never in a million years would I have guessed that someday I’d visit Romania multiple times for the purpose of bringing the truth and hope of Jesus Christ to this broken land. “God, thank You for the awesome privilege of playing a healing role in this country.”
We step inside the cathedral, its ceiling and walls bedecked by gold and stained glass. Pictures of celebrated saints and Mother Mary hang in various places, kissed by men and women of all ages. Individuals burn candles and worship alone in small alcoves. An open decorative trunk sits to the right. Worshipers approach it reverently, look inside and cross themselves or lean into it and kiss its contents. I suspect that it holds the remains of a deceased saint but I hesitate to peek inside because I don’t want to look like a tourist anymore than I already do. And so I stand in the back and watch, my heart heavy for those who worship a dead Christ.
Wherein lies hope if Christ still hangs on the cross? And wherein lies the possibility of earning one’s entrance to heaven through obeying Orthodox rules and doing good deeds? Scripture says we’re all sinners with no hope of pleasing a holy God unless we come to Him through His Son. Our salvation comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, not through good works lest any man should boast. “God, reveal Your truth to those who seek You in Romania. Pour out Your Spirit on this country and turn the hearts of multitudes to You.”