The same way that “this heavenly man and earthly angel” gathered once with the Divine grace the Israeli people by the waters of Jordan, in order to prepare them for the way of our Lord, today he gathered in his Bigorski sanctuary by Radica River a multitude of his faithful children. The first joy he brought our fraternity and the present faithful, was the arrival of the most respected Metropolitan Hilarion, who brought as a gift, a particle of the holy relics of the newly canonized Saint Gabriel of Lesnovo the Wonderworker. This Saint really resembled the life of Saint John the Baptist with his strict ascetic fit. As a small sign of gratitude, our elder Archimandrite Parthenius, on his part, presented the Metropolitan with a pastoral cane, wishing him good health and graceful strength for his spiritual work.
Beside this joyful visit, our heavenly protector once again brought to the Monastery our much beloved friends from Athens – the esteemed choirmaster Ilias Rediadis-Toumpas with his choir of the church St. Panteleimon – Aharna, Athens. The choirmaster Ilias, who is a president of the Union of the choirmasters of Attica, and his choir honoured us with their melodious participation in the vigil and the Divine Liturgy in memory of St. John the Baptist.
Before the beginning of the celebration, our Abbot, Fr. Parthenius greeted all the present with his inspired sermon:
our precious friends from Orthodox Greece,
beloved brothers, sisters, and dear spiritual children in Christ,
Once again, ‘’the voice of the one crying in the wilderness’’, the Forerunner of the Logos, ‘’the beautiful and sweetly -spoken swallow’’ – as we always refer to St. John in the supplication prayer, has summoned us to this prayerful gathering in honor of his unusual and glorious birth. The Church hymnography describes the Nativity of St. John the Forerunner and Baptist as a very joyful event, a rejoicing of the heavenly and celebration of the earthly. But how else could the Church express this overwhelming joy of all creation? Because today, really, ‘’the voice of the Logos‘’ comes, ‘’the dawn of the Sun of justice‘’ rises, ‘’the Lamp of the Light‘’ is lit! A lot of praises can be uttered about the greatness of the personality of Christ’s Forerunner, the one who in the Holy Church comes second in honour right after our Lord and His Most Holy Mother and whose ascetic but powerful image on the church iconostasis is always painted on the right of Christ. But how could we, the humble ones, in our celebration get even slightly close to praises that St. John heard from the mouth of our Lord? Therefore, feeling unworthy, we sing to ‘’the greatest of all who are born of women‘’, with the words of his Nativity troparion: O, Prophet and Forerunner of the coming of Christ, we honour thee lovingly, but cannot extol thee worthily… We cannot, thus, praise him worthily, but we celebrate him with love and heartedly express to him our gratitude that he has chosen us to be his humble workers in this famous home of his.
We also pay due respect to our most honoured Bishop, His Eminence the Debar – Kichevo Metropolitan, Timothy who gave his blessing that You, respected Metropolitan of Bregalnica Mr. Hilarion, our dear former co-member of this fraternity, should be with us tonight, and just like last year head this whole night long vigil in honor of our heavenly protector. Metropolitan Timothy, on his part, will honour us with his presence tomorrow, together with the Bishop of Heraclea Mr. Clement, and head the festive Divine Liturgy for the holiday.
I am especially grateful to you, our dear friends from brotherly Greece, most respected choir master Elijah Rediadi – Tumbas, and respectable members of his choir, who have come here all the way from the distant Athens in order to take part in our joy, thus increasing it with your presence and worldly famous chanting. And who could deny that your presence here is a practical fulfilment of Christ’s Commandment of love? With your coming here you have actually shown that the brotherly love in Christ is not just possible between our two nations, but also natural, because we confess one and the same faith, one and the same spirit unites us. You have proven that with your last year’s participation in the united psalm singing and glorifying of God and His Forerunner, something which has been most positively accepted by our faithful nation and approved with great excitement. God willing, we hope that very soon our Holy Church, Ohrid Archbishopric, would also be accepted by the family of the Orthodox Churches, so we would have a lot more occasions for common prayer and communion in the unique Body of Christ. Because, it would really be injustice if the country which has the city of Ohrid, where the evangelical seed, planted by the Divine Clement and Naum, disciples of the Holy Equal to the Apostles Cyril and Methodius of Thessaloniki, yielded the first and most abundant crop and from here spread all over the Slavic countries, even the distant Russia, is ecclesiastically isolated by its Orthodox brothers and in this way committed to great peril and turmoil. Once the holy and great Patriarch Photius of Constantinople, with his worthy complimentary, the Byzantine Emperor Michael, with equal sense of unity and visionary spirit, sent the Holy Equal to the Apostles Brothers to a sacred apostolic mission for the conversion of the Slavic people and half of Europe to the embrace of the Christian faith and the protection of the Cosmic Church of salvation. Such elevated sense for communion, nobility and love in Christ, glory to God can be found even today. The Divine grace that inspired then St Photius the Great and the Sts Cyril and Methodius, and many other devout workers on the field of God, equally inspires their spiritual descendants today.
May the omnipotent and providential God renew and increase the strength of all who mean well to the one, Holy and Ecumenical Church, so that with their apostolic efforts and by Divine intervention, we can finally overcome the consequences of the fatal ethnophiletism in the Church and heal form the pain that has been tormenting for decades the faithful flock of the Ohrid Archbishopric. Because it’s very painful for us, the followers of the Ohrid ecclesiastic tradition, that the Ohrid Archbishopric, which the Orthodox Faithful here has been inseparably connected to with historical bounds, is still outside the universal Orthodox family.
I am grateful to all of you who found the time to come to this glorious sanctuary of St. John the Baptist, so that we could celebrate together his joyful Nativity! May his prayers be with all of us!
Have a good and graceful vigil!
This morning the Divine Liturgy headed by our respected Bishop, Metropolitan Timothy in co-service with the Metropolitans Hilarion and Clement, was a full manifestation of grace, joy and united prayer, proving once again the heavenly glory and greatness of the Holy Forerunner…
One of the numerous present guests, was the President of the Religious Commission of the Government, Mr. Darian Sotirovski, who presented our Elder with a wonderful carved icon of St. John of Debar, the first Archbishop of Ohrid.