Dear respected Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia and Justiniana Prima,
Dear Bishop of Antania, Abbot of the Bigorski Monastery St. John the Baptist,
Dear members of the Bigorski Monastery,
Three days ago, at the threshold of this great day, I had the honour to award the Monastery of St. John the Baptist with the medal of Merit for special achievements. On behalf of all Macedonian citizens I thank you for the contribution that this place selflessly has been making through the centuries, increasing the spiritual, cultural and historical heritage of our people and the country to which it belongs
This day is not long enough for us to describe at least the major events of Bigorski’s millennial history. However, if we could look at these thousand years as one day, even for a moment we could see the first Archbishop of Ohrid John of Debar founding and consecrating the Monastery. We would witness generations of faithful, monks and lay men, rebuilding, upgrading and keeping the Bigorski Monastery alive. We would see the Macedonian constructors building these beautiful historical monuments from limestone, the legendary Miyak woodcarvers patiently carving the Bigorski iconostasis, and the famous painters painting the frescoes and icons in the church.
We would see a thousand celebrations of Christ’s birth and resurrection. We would witness the monastery becoming a source of spirituality, literacy, and spiritual rebirth and a home to people who were undoubtedly far ahead of their time, such as – Cyril Pejchinovikj, Joakim Krchovski, Anatolius and Parthenius Zografski and the Miladinovci brothers.
Unfortunately, we would also get to see great tribulations and accidents, because over the centuries, the Bigorski Monastery went through persecution, fires and wars, yet managed to outlive different empires, states and ideologies. At times it was abandoned, but it was never forgotten or erased from people’s memory. After each accident, the monks, together with the people, rebuilt this sanctuary, each time reaching new spiritual and artistic heights.
Even such a brief account of the long monastic history inevitably raises the question: How did this temple of tranquillity and beauty, manage to overcome all these storms?
This question and the answer to it, is especially important to us in these stressful modern times. The economic and social security and environmental crisis that humanity is facing now, have increased severely in their intensity, complexity and impact. The Covid-19 pandemic only multiplied the problems. Many global processes and turbulences affect our daily lives. Sometimes this whirl of crises makes us feel as if everything is happening at once, as if a thousand years are condensed into just one day.
And exactly in such moments of growing mistrust among people, of fear and uncertainty of the unknown, many of our fellow citizens seek peace, comfort and hope in this very place. Many unfortunate souls from different generations, different countries and different ideologies and religions found a spiritual refuge from the storms of life here at the Bigorski Monastery. The divisions and prejudices that are so present in our everyday life have no place at this sanctuary where people are people without labels, regardless of their title and personal characteristics. This is a place where wounds of the souls are healed and many addicts undergo rehabilitation from their sinful habits. Here many faithful restore their faith and strengthen their spiritual identity.
This millennial feast can be contributed to two things. First, it is a fact that the Bigorski Monastery is not just a material building but also a spiritual structure built not only from the bigor limestone, but also from the prayers of many generations of faithful.
Second, it is known that those who spend their lives here have a different understanding and perception of time, which for them is equal to eternity. To them, every day spent in self-denial is worth a thousand years. For people who sincerely believe, it is easier to separate the trivial from the essential, the transient from the permanent. With such a calm attitude towards life, they do not compete for success, material wealth, or power over others. It seems that this is the secret of the centuries-old existence of this monastery the foundations of which are deeply rooted in the hearts and souls of the Macedonian people.
Today’s jubilee makes us think about how wisely we use the days in our lives and what do we invest in the years of our lives. Is it only in the constant race for material values, or is it to take time and show kindness and solidarity to our loved ones and to all those to whom the burden of life has become too difficult to bear? To what extent each one of us contributes to the most important cause, to the construction of a free and equal society in which the dignity of every human being will be respected?
That is why it is necessary, today, at the beginning of the second millennium of the Bigorski Monastery, to think about how the next generations of our descendants will appreciate the deeds of our generation. I hope that if we keep our faith strong and preserve mutual respect, even after a thousand years we will be able to sustain the same values and convey them to the generations after us.
With that thought, let me wish you all joy and good health and I wish the holy Bigorski Monastery and Father Parthenius to maintain the spiritual strength and love they posses so that they could overcome all the temptations of the path they have chosen.
God willing, we would be gathering here for only beautiful events to come!