Christmas glow in Bigorski

Bethlehem has opened Paradise to us; come, let us see the food mysteriously found within it; come, let us receive the heavenly nourishment in the cave. There appeared the root from which, without water, forgiveness sprang; there we found an unfathomable well, from which David drank, thirsty in his time; there the Virgin bore a Child and immediately quenched the thirst of Adam and David. Therefore, let us go to Him, where the young Child, the pre-eternal God, was born.

(Ikos of the Feast)

In this quiet winter night, while the world slept carelessly, immersed in a sinful dream, our caring Father poured forgiveness from heaven, sent us the long-awaited salvation, visited us with His unearthly, heavenly peace, sending to us, the unworthy ones, His beloved Son. He silently entered time and emerged from the pure womb of the Virgin, to save His creation and bring it back into the arms of His Father. Humble as a lamb, born in the manger of animals, in a poor cave, He illuminated the world with His indescribable light. But few were those who saw the heavenly light in that redemptive night and were witnesses to the Divine birth. The world slept, and the newborn Infant, humbly lying in the arms of His Mother, received the first gifts – the multitude of angels gave Him their most beautiful song, the wise men, having traveled a long way guided by the bright star, offered Him their caskets of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and the simple shepherds gave Him their pure hearts as gifts.

Even today, as back then, the world still feverishly chases after its empty dreams, wages its wars, and celebrates its vanities, unaware of the One who is born again, to spread His peace everywhere. So today, as back then, He gathered around Himself those who long awaited His birth, calling His faithful children into the churches, making them witnesses of this immense grace that God the Father sent from heaven and tireless messengers that salvation of the world is born. And how much we need today that Savior who comes as an innocent Child, born in the manger of animals, yet carrying within Himself all the wisdom of the Universe! We need His peace, to calm our rebellious souls. We need His light, to bring brightness into this sorrowful world. We need His love, to unite the divided humanity, to end hostilities. We need His wisdom to learn from our mistakes, humbly acknowledge them, and embark on a new, better path. In short, we need Him, the Philanthropist. Without Him, the world, no matter how proud to admit it, simply wanders in the dark.

So, the Bigorski Sanctuary of St. John the Baptist prepared a manger in the Temple, to prayerfully welcome the Holy Birth of the God-Infant Christ. Led by love for God, as once the wise men by the Bethlehem star, the faithful received in their hearts the announcement of this heavenly descent and, arriving from all sides, filled the Bethlehem of Bigorski, prepared to prayerfully commune with the monastic Communities in the all-night vigil. Like the humble shepherds, who vigilantly guarded their flocks that night, they with humble hearts eagerly awaited the moment when the God-Infant would be born in their souls.

The Christmas ambiance in the Monastery began in the early evening hours, when according to tradition, after the festive vespers service, the Christmas Eve  began, with the singing of the Christmas carols by our dear guests, the students of the “Ilija Nikolovski Luj” secondary music school. For several days now, these young Christ-loving souls have been announcing the news of Nativity of Christ with their playing and singing, as a kind of overture to the mass Christmas Eve processions, where the singing children holding stars led by the Christmas cave, gracefully decorated the streets and squares of all cities in the country. This evening  they did not miss the opportunity to thank through song, the one who most endeavored for the renewal of this beautiful tradition – their and our beloved Elder, Bishop of Antania, Mr. Parthenius. And as love begets love – Elder Partenius, as a humble pilgrim to the God-Infant, inspired gracefully opened his heart and fed us with the sweetest spiritual honey, lovingly explaining to us the mystery of God’s dispensation of His ineffable Nativity.

Could there be a more worthy beginning to the all-night prayerful vigil in the temple than this wonderful contemplation by the Elder, which so ignited and filled our souls with impatient expectation? Each divinely-wise verse of the festive worship service added another humble decoration in the cave of our hearts, which were preparing to receive within themselves the newborn God-Infant. Our good God encreased this joy with yet another dear guest – the Athonite hierodeacon Father Hrizostom, who with great love co-served with our Elder and the Bigorski archimandrites, hieromonks, and hierodeacons. The vigil flew by quickly like a dream, sweetened by the beautiful chanting and the profound service of our beloved Elder, who presided the Liturgical mystery. And he did not miss the opportunity to treat us once more with that sweet spiritual honey that flows from his heart, when after the Gospel reading, he fatherly taught us what it means to be a true Christian and what is the power of true Christians, who without the weapons of this world conquer the world.

Lord, Who came today as a humble Child and endowed the world with peace, pacify our restless hearts, dwell in them and abide constantly in us, so that, strengthened by Your grace, we may conquer the world, leading the thirsty souls to the spring of Your salvation. Amen!