Eugene Ionesco and the Elder On Mount Athos

Source: Mystagogy

Eugène Ionesco (26 November 1909 – 28 March 1994) was a Romanian and French playwright and dramatist, and one of the foremost playwrights of the Theatre of the Absurd.

In an interview with French magazine Paris-Match, Eugene Ionesco mentions the following experience he had on Mount Athos:

I was born in an Orthodox family and I lived in Paris. At twenty-five years, I was a genuine young man of the secular culture of the then Paris. I got the idea to visit Mount Athos because of its position as – and indeed was – a place of asceticism in the Orthodox Church. And there I had another thought in mind: to confess. So I went and found a hieromonk, a spiritual father. What did I say to him? The usual sins of a secular young man who lives without knowing God. The hieromonk, after hearing me, said:

Do you believe in Christ my child?

Yes, yes, I believe Father. Besides, I am baptized Orthodox Christian.

Well, my child, do you believe and accept fully that Christ is God and Creator of the world and us?

I lost it, because this was the first time a person put forward this question to me, and which I had to answer honestly and take a position. Not just if I believe someone made the world, but that this God, the Creator of the world, has to do with me. And that I have a personal relationship with him! I replied:

Father, I believe, but help me understand this fact well.

If you really believe, then all corrects itself.

This incident caused the shift of Ionesco’s life, who up to deep old age and being famous, lived as a pious and deeply faithful Orthodox Christian.

Interviews with Ionesco


  1. Michael Bauman :

    As a young man I was in theater school and acted in a couple of Ionesco plays. One play in particular had a significant impact on me in the direction of understanding the Orthodox approach to God (later): Exit the King. It presents the need for humans to be put off lusts and desires in order to be free, a bit of the Ladder of Divine Ascent in it. Never new he was seriously Orthodox, but not surprising either.

  2. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    I was in a play of his in high school but I don’t remember the name. I was the guy in the background doing jumping jacks not saying anything. Never really understood it but what did a kid know about the theater of the absurd? Liked theater though. I was on a panel called the Guthrie Teen Board at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. We ushered and got to see the plays for free, went backstage, and met some actors that made it big later on like Jessica Tandy and others. Very interesting. I was a big fan of Tennessee Williams in those days.

  3. Wesley J. Smith :

    Amazing, and very heartening, how the Holy Spirit can use a simple hieromonk living in the desert to impact the world. I believe our monastics help keep things from falling apart.

Care to Comment?