Book Launch: “Only Love You Spread, Christ”

In an atmosphere of immediate joy and pure Paschal exclamations, expressed through children’s smiles and delight, the launch of the Easter collection of children’s poems, titled “Only Love You Spread, Christ,” took place yesterday.

The collection of Easter works, which the children of Debar, Reka, Mavrovo, and beyond compiled for their best friends—the children—was created from the idea of our beloved Elder, Bishop Parthenios of Antaniska, whose tireless efforts for the advancement of this region are widely known. He addressed the attendees with an appropriate speech, expressing his great satisfaction, first to the children, and then to the professional collaborators and parents:

“Dear professors and parents,

Beloved children,

My joy is truly immense, seeing you gathered in such large numbers for this beautiful event—the launch of the poetry collection with children’s Easter songs. The title of the book, “Only Love You Spread, Christ,” is taken from the poem of little Marko. I think it is a perfectly chosen title because children naturally feel Christ as Someone Who spreads only love. Children love love the most and it is essential for them to grow up in a proper and healthy way. That is why Christ says in His Gospel: Let the children come to Me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:14); and elsewhere: Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). Certainly, He means the childlike purity and simplicity that should characterize every person. For children are usually simple, sincere, full of love, with pure hearts. Christ wants all people to be like that. In fact, the Creator of this world made man to be divine, to become god by grace. The purpose of our existence is exactly that: to first become good, true people and by God’s grace to reach deification. To be united with our Creator and Maker, Who is love. In fact, what is perfect love? Love is the Person, love is the Incarnate Christ Himself, the Word of God, to Whom our souls aspire.

The purpose of the book we are promoting today, in this joyful period of the after-feast of Holy Pascha, when we still greet each other with the joyful greeting Christ is Risen, is exactly that: through songs, through poetry, to express the children’s feelings regarding the greatest Christian holiday, the Resurrection of Christ, and of course, their feelings towards the Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

The book is certainly the result of the effort and work, the influence of the monastery through the monks, especially through religious education, which has recently begun to be practiced in the Rostushe church, so that the children and their parents have gained a lot of knowledge about their faith. Thus, the book is also a kind of testimony that Christianity in these areas has always been strong, that it is the historically and deeply rooted faith in this region and that it should remain so until the end of the world.

Of course, we live here with mutual respect and with our blood brothers who practice the Mohammedan or Islamic religion. And that is why the book is titled “Only Love You Spread, Christ,” because Christians are those who should embody Christ’s heavenly love in this world. And it is good for this region that Christianity never fades, because this region will be richer if people learn to live together and respect each other. In fact, through differences, people gain greater humanity and a more beautiful multiculturalism because they have learned to live with the differences of others. We as Christians are especially obliged to respect the other in their differences. I am delighted that the respected professor Ramazan Ramanoski is with us now. I thank him especially and can freely say that he was our inspiration for this endeavor. He recently met one of our monks, Father Anatolij, who told me wonderful things about Professor Ramazan. Soon, we as a brotherhood were invited to a children’s poetry event organized by him, and I was delighted to see and hear how children of the Islamic religion from this area read poems in Macedonian so beautifully! Therefore, I want to thank Teacher Ramazan once again, who in a way inspired the creation of this collection.

In conclusion, I will repeat that my greatest wish and my prayers are for more children in this region, and thank God, many prayers have been answered so far. God willing, there will be even more children, for us to watch and rejoice in, and for them to grow up beside the Monastery, which has much to show and teach them—centuries-old, traditional, fundamental messages for life. And may the God of love help us to love each other in this region, regardless of religious and national affiliation, because, I will say again, God is love. This is written in his epistle by the Apostle of Love, St. John the Theologian. And an interesting fact: the ancient Christians did not greet each other with “good morning,” “good day,” but with the greeting from St. John the Theologian: “God is love,” which in the Aramaic language—the language spoken by Christ and the Apostles—sounded: Mar (ܡܪ) “Lord” or “God” and Haba (ܚܘܒܐ) “love.” When we combine “Mar” and “Haba,” we come to the profound truth contained in “Marhaba”: “God is love.” This powerful message reflects the Divine nature of unconditional love, suggesting that love originates from the Divine source and permeates all aspects of human life. “Marhaba” is more than a mere greeting; it is an invitation to recognize God’s presence within ourselves and among us, and to acknowledge the interconnectedness of all beings. With the spread of Christianity to the East, this greeting also spread, became familiar in the Arabic language, and from there it passed into Turkish, in an altered form as Merhaba, as it is still used today as a daily greeting. Thus, the greeting of St. John the Theologian Marhaba reminded Christians that if God is love, then they are also obliged to be love. Is there anyone in this world we should not love? We are called to love even our enemies, not to mention people with their differences. When God is love, then I must love everyone!

And without further ado, my heart is full of joy seeing these little beauties and handsomes, and I wholeheartedly bless them. Now I invite Professor Dr. Milena Ristova – Mihajlovska to give her promotional speech.”

This first songbook of its kind, containing the most sincere childhood experiences of the Resurrection of Christ, was launched by the experienced promoter and professor of Macedonian language at the Goce Delchev University in Shtip, Prof. Dr. Milena Ristova – Mihajlovska. She expressed her deepest emotions for this literary debut of the youngest, as well as immense joy for the strong cultural and educational mission of our Elder, for the revival of this region and its cultural and spiritual upliftment.

A particularly touching and inspiring address was also delivered by the Macedonian language teacher Mr. Ramazan Ramanovski from Kosovrasti:

Dear attendees, dear students, their parents, and mentors, esteemed Abbot of the Bigorski Monastery Bishop Parthenios, esteemed Sister Euthymia, esteemed monastic community of the Bigorski Monastery…

It is truly an honor and pleasure for me to be part of this project—a picture book, and at the same time a collection of children’s works, titled ‘Only Love You Spread, Christ.’

Brothers and sisters, be careful, do not give away the ideal of your fleeting life, do not abandon the temple you carry with you, do not abandon it even when you know it is in ruins. Restore its ruins because only in this way will we regain faith in ourselves.

Do not be ashamed of something that is yours; keep it in mind as an important message from all our ancestors who were here before us.

And precisely our ancestors who lived here before us left us the legacy to love and respect each other, to help each other, to lend a hand in times of trouble, because only in this way will we deserve God’s love. Only united and with mutual trust will we always be stronger. Freedom is our first Holy book, so do not let it slip from your hands. It is not conquered once and for all, but every day and constantly. Through every creative endeavor of ours. And through every sunrise that illuminates us. For our flag is the sun, and it is the oldest fire that warms us.

Dear attendees, we are witnesses that the Rekan region is a synonym for interethnic coexistence, discrimination is an unknown term for us, and hospitality is an epithet that best reflects us. Unfortunately, the ‘white plague’ did not bypass this region, and little by little these areas are being emptied.

They say that in every evil there is something good, and I say that the best thing that has happened to this region is that here lives and works Father Parthenios, Bishop of Antaniski and Abbot of Bigorski.

Dear Bishop, allow me in my personal name and on behalf of the residents of the Rekan region to express our immense gratitude for everything you do, for the cultural and spiritual renaissance of this region, for every child’s smile, for your vision to make Reka a worthy place to live.

Greetings also to: Sister Euthymia, Father Dositej, Father Kiril, Father Anatolij, and the entire monastic community of the Bigorski Monastery and the monastery in Rajchica, without whose support and effort this picture book would not have looked this way.

Now I would like to say a few words about the picture book ‘Only Love You Spread, Christ.’ The pages of this picture book are filled by students from the Rekan and Debar regions, but we also have students from Tetovo, Mavrovo, Skopje, etc. The authors in this picture book emphasize love for God with every verse, His power, and teach us that only with faith and love for God can we overcome all life’s obstacles. Dear attendees, I do not want to go on for long, I just warmly recommend this picture book to you, read it and you will be convinced of its power and significance. Dear guests, now I leave you to the recitations of these young authors.”

Parents, children, teachers, educators, writers, guests, as well as Macedonian language professors from the entire region, attended this extraordinary event. All of them expressed their sincere satisfaction and gratitude to Bishop Parthenios for this initiative.

The youngest, with broad and pure smiles, read and recited their works, reminding all of us once again of the meaning and beauty of the Resurrection of Christ.

At the end of the event, Bishop Parthenios presented these young authors and poets with appropriate gifts, and the Macedonian language teachers with certificates of appreciation for their collaboration and mentorship.

Our monastic community expresses immense gratitude to the Macedonian language teachers: Marina Kostoska, Lidija Grozdanovska – Mirkoska, Ramazan Ramanovski, and Simona Kostovska, as well as to Prof. Dr. Milena Ristova – Mihajlovska for the wonderful promotion of the songbook “Only Love You Spread, Christ,” hoping for further fruitful collaboration.