AMERICA…

What is in store for you...

and the world!


God's severe but loving hand of chastisement has ever moved in the history of nations. Time and again, by His allowance, the ancient Hebrew people experienced great trials due to their sins: the Egyptian bondage, the capture of the Ark of the Covenant by the Philistines, the two Babylonian exiles, and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Likewise, in the present era of the New Israel, that is the Church of Jesus Christ, the Lord has allowed great misfortunes to befall Christian na­tions in order to correct and purge them.

 

Such was the defeat of the Serbian kingdom by the Turks in the time of Tsar Lazar, such was the fall of Byzantium at the hands of Muslims in the fifteenth century, and such was the enslavement of the Orthodox countries of eastern Europe by Communists in the twentieth century.

 

As people of the New Israel, Orthodox Christians have tradition­ally seen the events of history not merely as the result of outward cir­cumstances. Rather, they have seen the hand of the Lord in them—a hand directing them to repentance for their sins both individual and collective, a hand directing their hearts to God and to His Kingdom that has no end. This is the consciousness, the awareness of the Church. The newly proclaimed Saint, Nikolai, exhorts all of us to enter into this consciousness when he says: "Read your history as you should, and you will see the entire law of God engraved in it. With deep letters, like flaming cedar, the Lord writes His law, so that even the illiterate might be able to read it in spirit. He has written and sealed it once in the Holy Bible, but He is tireless in renewing His law in the life of every people.... Awaken spiritually, therefore, and do not immerse your soul in the earthly kingdom.

‘For freedom never means the earthly kingdom, but the heavenly. Freedom is a regular guest from the other world, and not a permanent resident of this world. Like a winged angel, as trans­parent and delicate as ether, and as powerful and vivifying as ether, free­dom flies in with its wings as a guest, hovers with its wings among us, and with its wings flies off—to the other world and with its wings flies off—to the other world,’” [St. Nikolai Velimirovich, "St. Lazar's Victory," ibid., p. 120].

What is said above and what follows must be considered in both spirit and truth as applicable to the United States of America and the whole world.  For indeed, the Hand of the Lord can be seen in the manner with which the very environment of this land, this world, this life of ours, is directed and affected.  While Our Lord respects the very gift that He gave us at birth into this earthly world, He continues to exhort us to do that which is right, true and correct.  When we turn our mind, heart and face against Him, he sends plagues, earthquakes, floods, fires, and winds, even terrorists... to scourge us both locally and nationally, if not world wide.  Remember that when, in these modern times of the twenty-first century you see diseases (both new and old), droughts, fires, floods, hurricanes and devastation such as came about in some states such as California to Florida, U.S.A. during the last several years, increase.  We see terrorists and terrorism against not just people of various religions, lifestyles and color, but worse... even people of a nation. 

Some would say the disease of AIDS is God’s hand against a people of alternative lifestyle.  That is not true for the disease, new to this world since the 1970’s.. is God’s hand against all people, not a particular people, otherwise many other diseases such as cancer would either not exist or have been allowed by God to be erradicated.  The same is true of fires, droughts, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, terrorism, and more.  The Salt of Christianity and all Christians... lays in the inner and outer act of Repentance and Forgiveness.

On May 6/19, 2003, the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, gathered in Belgrade, with one heart and one voice decided to canonize the great shepherd, church writer, histo­rian and poet of the Serbian people, Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich of Ochrid and Zhicha (1880-1956). On this day Bishop Nikolai's name was entered into the Calendar of Saints of the Holy Orthodox Church. Five days later, on the Feast of the Holy Equals-to-the-Apostles Cyril and Methodius, Enlighteners of the Slavs, a festal Hierarchical Divine Liturgy was celebrated in honor of the newly proclaimed St. Nikolai in the Memorial church of St. Sava on Vracar in Belgrade, with all the members of the Holy Assembly participating.

By this canonization the Holy Assembly joyously confirmed the widespread consciousness of Bishop Nikolai's holiness among the peo­ple of God, not only in the Serbian Orthodox Church, but in all the other Local Churches as well. For Orthodox Christians in America, this canonization has special significance, since St. Nikolai spent the last ten years of his life in America, reposing in the Lord at the St. Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania.

In this issue of The Orthodox Word we present, for the first time in English, a short but powerful work by St. Nikolai. "The Heavenly Liturgy" has become one of the most beloved poems of the Serbian people. It has been set to music, and is commonly sung to die accompaniment of traditional instruments.

The theme of this poem is simple and clear: Calamity is visited upon a people by God in order to bring them, through repentance, to a love for the Kingdom of Heaven rather than the kingdom of this world. This same theme has found expression in other works of St. Nikolai. In "The Tsar's Testament," for example, Great-Martyr Tsar Lazar of Serbia (t 1389) chooses to accept the earthly defeat of his army for the sake of the spiritual cleansing of his people. As the dying Tsar agonizes in doubt over die correctness of his choice, an Angel says to him: "As is the case with individuals, O Prince, so it is also with a group of related individu­als, that is, with nations. Your state has already grown old, and must fall. It has not fallen because of a chronological old age, but because of the poison that it has been taking and accumulating in itself.... There was a danger that the soul of the people would be reduced to earth, ashes, and death by the spirit of wickedness. Only a great terror, like a mighty wind, could have blown away this foul spirit and saved God's people from destruction. It was in order to save your people spiritually, there­fore, that your state had to fall,” [St. Nikolai Velimirovich, "The Tsar's Testament," in The Mystery and Meaning of the Battle of Kosovo (Grayslake, Illinois: Free Serbian Orthodox Diocese of the U.S.A. and Canada [New Gracanica Metropolitanate], 1989), pp. 67-68].


The Heavenly £iturgy

by  st. nikolai velimirovich

Left: St. Nikolai Velimirovich preaching in the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of St. Sava in New York City - Right: Icon of St. Nikolai Velimirovich

St. Nikolai Velimirovich, commemorated on the day of his blessed falling asleep in the Lord, March 5/18, and the day of the translation of his holy relics from America to Serbia, April 20/May 3. A recent icon from Serbia

As you read the following, may it be strongly suggested that you substitute the words "SERBIA" and "SERBIAN" with the words of "AMERICA" and "AMERICAN"... where feasible in order to obtain a more true grasp of what befalls this country and the world...

1.

Listen! What is that sound from afar?

Is it wind or gale?

Or the maple leaves murmuring?

Or the grass whispering to the earth?

Or the stars chanting in the sky?

2.

It is neither wind nor gale,

Nor the murmur of maple trees,

Nor the whispering of the grass,

Nor the chanting of the stars;

It is the Divine Liturgy being celebrated

In Christ's Heavenly Kingdom.

3.

John Chrysostom celebrates the service.

With him are three hundred bishops,

Martyred in this world,

And three thousand honorable priests,

God-pleasing priests.

St. Stephen serves as deacon,

And with him, St. Laurence.

St. Paul reads the Epistle;

And St. Luke, the Holy Gospel.

Holding the Cross is Emperor Constantine.

The fans are borne by holy warriors:

Demetrius and Procopius,

George and Eustathius,

Along with many others.

 

Fiery Maria carries the flame,

With incense kindled by Elias, the Thunderer.

[The folk name for the holy Great-martyr Marina. In Serbian folksongs she is re­ferred to as lightning which strikes sins]

Holy Healers anoint with oil,

And the Baptist sprinkles water.

Cherubim chant the Holy Hymn,

And the King of Glory sits upon His throne,

Filling Heaven with the light of His Countenance.

On His right stands the Blessed Theotokos,

Arrayed in star-studded royal purple.

St. Sava holds the scepter,

And numberless people are present,

More numerous than the stars in the heaven.

Saints and angels stand intermingled,

So that no one knows who is more beautiful.

When the Divine Liturgy ends,

The saints come to Christ,

Prostrating themselves before Him.

The very last is St. Sava,

(St. Sava, Enlightener and first Archbishop of Serbia (+1235). Fresco from the north wall of the King's Church (Church of Sts. Joachim and Anna), Studensitsa Monastery, Serbia, A.D. 1313-1314)

Along with the holy saints of Serbia.

He prostrates himself

But does not wish to rise;

He remains face down before the throne.

The Holy Virgin comes

To lift him to his feet,

For to her he dedicated Hilandar,

[Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos, dedicated to the Feast of the Entry of the Most Holy Theotokos into the Temple]

But Sava rises only to his knees,

Not wishing to rise further.

He kneels before Christ.

5

The Good Christ comforts Sava,
Speaking to him tenderly:
O my child, Sava, son ofNemanja?

[ St. Symeon Nemanja the Myrrhgusher, in the world Stephen, Grand Zhupan of Serbia (+1200) ]
Why art thou so sad?
Why dost thou weep?
Never before hast thou wept so piteously.
Thou didst not weep thus for Kosovo,
When the Serbian kingdom was lost—
The kingdom and her rulers.
Tell me then, dear child,
How does Serbia stand?
How stands the faith of her people?
Are they now as they were in times past,
Or have they changed, Sava?
Do they celebrate many Liturgies

And build many churches,
As they once did in the time ofNemanja
And his son St. Sava,
In the time of glorious King Milutin,

[ St. Milutin, King of Servia (+1320) ]
And my beloved Stephen of Decani?

[ Great-Martyr Stephen-Urosh III of Decani, King of Serbia (1331) ]
In the time ofLazar, My martyr,
And the glorious Milica of Ljubostinja,

[ St. Milica, Princess of Serbia, wife of Great-Martyr Tsar Lazar, named Eugenia in monasticism (+1405) ]
And Angelina, the mother of Krushedol?

[ St. Angelina, Despotina of Serbia (+ca. 1510) ]
And the other kings and princes?
Do holy hymns resound throughout Serbia?

Is My Gospel being proclaimed, spreading throughout the land?

Is the Serbian land fragrant with incense?

Is the stature of the Serbs honorable

Before men and angels?

Do the nobles deliberate with justice?

Are the rich giving their alms?

Do neighbors excuse one another?

Are the strong aiding the weak?

Do young men respect their elders?

Do young maidens remain virgins?

Are the priests living in holiness?

Do the monks pray for the people,

And do they warm their caves with tears,

Fervently praying for men?

Do people celebrate Sundays?

Are they filling the churches on feast days?

Tell me, dear Saint,

Second savior of the Serbian people,

What is the reason for thy distress?

Why do tears streak thy face,

And why dost thou end the heavenly hymn, weeping?

6.

Then Saint Sava replied:

"O Lord, great and powerful,

Before whom the Cherubim tremble,

Is there anything unknown to Thee?

Thou seest into the very heart of man,

And knowest his most secret thoughts.

Thou seest the worm beneath the oak tree's bark,

The viper under the stone,

Every grain of sand at the bottom of the sea.

From Thine eyes the dark iniquities of sinful men,

 

For whom Thou wast crucified, are not hidden.

But Thy love covers all.

Out of love dost Thou pretend ignorance;

Out of love dost Thou ask me what is known to Thee;

Thou knowest better than I."

7

"Serbs are not what they once were,

Worse than before Kosovo;

[ That is, before the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, when Tsar Lazar and his army sacri­ficed their lives ]

They have changed for the worse in everything.

Thou gavest them freedom,

Glory and victory.

A kingdom larger than Dushan's,

[ Dushan, Emperor of Serbia (+l355) ]

But they became haughty with Thy gift

And turned their faces away from Thee.

The Serbian nobles have degenerated;

They flirt with three faiths

Yet do not believe truly in any of these.

They have displaced Orthodoxy

And discarded their Serbian names.

They have forsaken their slavas
And offended their saints.
He who builds a church
Builds it not for Thee, but for himself.

They build churches to be seen by men,

But they do not pray to God in these temples,

Nor do they keep His law.

The nobles have trampled down justice;

The rich have neglected almsgiving;

The young show insolence to their elders,

Pretending to be more clever.

The strong one ignores the weak

And torments him until the end.

Neighbors do not forgive one another,

But they renounce each other for gain,

For as little as a patch of muddy ground.

Priests have weakened in their faith;

Monks have left their fasting.

Maidens throw away their virginity;

Arrayed in silk, they strut about in sin.

Young men scorn honor

And flaunt their depravity.

The people do not love Sundays Or feasts and old traditions;

Churches are vacant on festal days,

Standing like deserted caves:

Empty are churches;

empty are souls.

Dark lawlessness reigns everywhere.

Shame irritates and vexes me Because of the sins of my people,

Because Thou keepest me near to Thee.

These are the reasons I weep, dear Savior.

Eternity is too brief for my lament.

Rather would I be in hell...

If only the Serbs would return to Thee!

8.

In peace, the Lord heard Savas grieving;

Then lifted He His holy head.

His thoughts shook the heavens.

Lightning and thunder flashed

As dark clouds rushed in;

Hail fell on St. Peters Day,

And all of the Serbian land was whitened,

Like the leprous face of a harlot.

The Serbs lamented in their distress,

But the Living God they did not remember—

They did not recall God or their sins.

Saint Sava stayed kneeling,

His face ashen with terror.

9

Then the Lord bridled the clouds;

Rain and dew ceased to fall.

The once mild sun blazed,

And the Serbian land shriveled.

Rivers and streams dried up;

Deep wells failed.

The Serbs cried out in their distress,

But the Living God they did not remember-

They forgot God and their sins,

And Saint Sava remained kneeling,

His face pale with terror.

10.

Next, the Lord sent forth lice

To cover the fruit trees.

The hungry insects consumed plums and apples,

Blighting the cultivated orchards

All over the once lovely land.

The Serbs clamored in their distress,

Yet the Living God they did not remember—

They forgot God and their sins,

Yet Saint Sava was still kneeling,

His pale face lined with terror....

11.

Then the Lord loosed death

To slay both old and young.

Cruel diseases reached everywhere.

Many died; cemeteries were crowded,

But gravediggers were few,

And their arms grew weary.

The Serbs still lamented in their distress,

Not remembering the Living God,

Forgetting their sins.

And Saint Sava continued kneeling,

Terror fixed on his pale face.

12.

Then the Lord withheld the crisis.

The land filled with abundance,

But the people shouted:

"There is nothing to be had—anywhere!"

Serbs, ever lamenting in their distress,

Remembered neither the Living God nor their sins,

As Saint Sava remained kneeling,

His face pale with terror.

13.

The Lord unbound Satan

And loosed him from hell upon the Serbs,

That he might do his own will for a time,

Do what he liked with the country

And the bodies of its people.

But God forbade him to touch their souls.

Satan raised armies,

Raised up his beasts and men,

All of them enemies of God,

But one in mind with himself,

Of whom beasts would be ashamed,

Beside whom wild boars would be disgraced.

Satan armed them with fires of hell,

Setting them against the Serbian land.

14

Fires roared forth from hell's gate,

And Satan ignited the house of the Serb.

He destroyed all that had been built,

Devoured all that had been kneaded,

Carried away all that had been woven,

Plundered all that had been saved,

Squandered all that had been stored,

And spat on all that was sanctified.

Nobles he bound in chains,

And hanged the leading men

Or starved them in prisons.

He killed young men and

Shrouded maidens in mourning.

He gathered mothers above cradles,

Over cradles bloody and empty.

He bound the tongue of the Serb,

Not permitting him to sing, to cry,

Or to pronounce the Name of God,

Not permitting him to consider his brother a brother.

He bound the legs of the Serb

So that he could not walk freely,

But only so far as his binding cord allowed,

As far as the rifle butt pushed him.

And Satan bound the arms of the Serb,

So that he could not work freely,

But only at forced labor.

He could not sit nor eat bread

Without Satan's proud command.

He could not consider his children his own,

Nor freely think . . . freely breathe.

15

Thus it continued for a long time,

Until the Serbian land swelled

With the bodies of its dead,

With the blood of Serbian martyrs,

Like a dough made with potent leaven.

Then God's Angels began to weep,

And the Serbs turned to God,

Their only Friend,

Their One True Savior;

They turned to the Most High God

And to Saint Sava.

At this, Sava trembled with horror.

Leaping up, he cried out in a loud voice:

"Enough, O Lord! Spare those who remain!"

And the Lord heeded Sava:

He took pity on the Serbian slaves,

And forgave them their sins.

16

The face of the Serb brightened;

Bells rang joyfully.

The land was fragrant with incense;

The Truth of Christ shone brightly.

Charity and honesty reigned;

Angels descended from heaven

To embrace the Serbian land.

The chalice of Great-Martyr Tsar Lazar of Serbia (t!389),

now located in the Serbian Orthodox Church Museum, Belgrade.

17

Oh, listen!

What is that sound from afar?

The Divine Liturgy is being celebrated In Christ's Heavenly Kingdom.

St. Sava celebrates

And with him serve three hundred bishops,

Along with three thousand priests.

Archdeacon Stephen serves

And with him Habakkuk,

[New Martyr Deacon Habakkuk of Serbia, martyred by the Turks in 1814.]

Who had been impaled as Christ's martyr On a lawn in the midst of Belgrade.

The King of Glory sits upon His throne,

While, like the sound of a mighty storm,

There resounds from earth the Serbian shout: Alleluia!

Blessed is the mother who bore Sava,

And blessed are the Serbs so long as he guides them.

"The Heavenly Liturgy" translated from Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, Collected Works (Diisseldorf, Germany: Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Western Europe, 1978), vol. 2, pp. 592-99 (in Serbian).

Translated by Rev. Fr. Gregory Allard, parish priest at St. Alexis Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Church in Lafayette, Indiana, and Rev. Fr. Dragan Petrovic, parish priest at St. Nicholas Serbian Orthodox Church in Indianap­olis, Indiana.


Did you truly read with the light of your heart and soul to the words?  Did you replace the words "SERB" and "SERBIAN" with "AMERICA" and "AMERICAN"?  If you did not, re-read it again with the replacement in your mind's eye so that you may obtain the importance and meaning of what has been said.

The Lord confounds even the wise when people and nations continually turn away from Him... He confounds their thinking of what they believe about themselves which often causes for them to make wrong choices and wrong decisions for a people, even a nation... no matter whom they may be - politician, ruler and many others ... and these are truly the times in which we are living for the people say with their lips, "O Lord, have mercy on me" but their hearts have grown cold with malice, envy, greed, lust, and even more deadly sins.

What are some of the means for correction?  Understanding the means of Repentance and Forgiveness... Understanding what those imply to the core of one's very being...  is the Salt of Christianity.

 

+Joseph Thaddeus, OSB, SSJt., Ph.D.

Metropolitan Archbishop - Abbot


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