ANIMALS OF MY HEART
Elder Cleopa Ilie of Romania (+1998)
& the birds in the Divine Liturgy
Father Cleopa Ilie of Romania is a Saint of our days who died in December 2, 1998.
In May of 1948, on the feast of Ss. Constantine and Helen, Father Cleopa delivered a homily in which he said, “May God grant that our own rulers might become as the Holy King and Queen were, that the Church might be able to also commemorate them unto the ages.” The next day the state police took him to prison, leaving him in a bedless cell without bread or water for five days. After being released Father Cleopa, upon good counsel, fled to the mountains of Sihastria, where he lived in a in a hut mostly underground. There the elder prayed night and day seeking the help of God and the Theotokos.
During this time the elder was visited by the grace of God in the following way. Fr. Cleopa told his disciples that when he was building his hut, birds would come and sit on his head. The first time he served Liturgy on a stump in front of his hut, as he was communing the Holy Mysteries, a flock of birds came and gathered, such as he had never seen before. As he gazed upon them in astonishment, he noticed that each one had the sign of the Cross marked on it forehead.
Another time, after the preparation for Liturgy and having read all the prayers, he set the Antimension on the tree stump and began the Liturgy with the exclamation, “Blessed is the Kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto the ages of ages!” Again the birds appeared, and as they perched in the branch of the tree they began to sing in beautiful and harmonic voices. Fr. Cleopa asked himself, “What could this be?” And an unseen voice whispered to him, “These are your chanters on the cliros.” These signs and others encouraged the Elder immensely during his time of exile.
Another time, he was serving the Divine Liturgy when he was living as a recluse and he had no choir. As he approached the time for the Cherubic Hymn, he heard a voice behind him tell him that he has his choir. Elder Cleopa looked around and birds with crosses on their heads descended and started singing the Cherubic Hymn, and then vanished when the Liturgy was over.