1000 years of the Bigorski Monastery – 1000 years of holines, revival, love towards the nation

A word of gratitude of our beloved Elder and Abbot, the Bishop of Antania, Mr Parthenius, addressed to Metropolitan Timothy during the Vespers before the ceremony, in which he stressed with God-inspired words the importance of the Bigorski’s 1000th jubilee

Your Holiness,

Your High Reverence,

Honourable and righteous Fathers, brothers monks, and sisters,

Beloved guests and friends,

Here we are in the eve of the great celebration in honour of the glorious anniversary of the Bigorski Monastery – 1000 years since its founding by our Father among Saints, the first and renowned Archbishop of Ohrid, St. John of Debar. This anniversary reveals a vast ocean of spirituality, history, education, patriotism, revival, holiness. This day is actually, underlining and completion of 1000 years of monastic life and testimony, of feat and sacrifice in this sacred sanctuary of the Honorable Forerunner and Baptist John, and concludes the entire humble achievement of our holy monastic community. Standing in awe before this magnificent anniversary, our hearts are filled with gratitude and duly respect for our noble predecessors, the reposed Fathers and brothers of ours, who have written the Word of Truth in their hearts and left us an example of authentic life and incomparable inheritance. So now, asking for their intercession before God we exclaim with respect and devotion: ”May their memory be eternal!”

The thousand years long heritage which encompasses the entire course of the Liturgical and ascetic way of life, transformed this place into a fertile ground for deification, making it the garden of Eden for spiritual nourishment and tranquility, a real shelter for the souls exhausted and burdened by the sin and the world. During these past 10 centuries, Bigorski blazed forth like the Upper Room in Jerusalem, because in it one can constantly hear the rustling sound of Pentecost; these blessed slopes of Bistra are revealed as the new Mount Tabor, where through the rays of the uncreated light many souls are transfigured and sanctified; the river Radica proved to be the new Jordan River, where one can constantly hear the call for repentance of the Forerunner: Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3,2) – a call which for centuries resounded powerfully in its cliffs and echoed from there in our towns and villages.

Having in possession the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church and the blessing to be one of the first and most important coenobitic monasteries of the glorious Ohrid Archbishopric, the Bigorski Monastery became a Homeland of deified individuals who have been fully devoted in the feat of humility, obedience and love, gave an unspeakable contribution for the improvement of ecclesiastical and social life in Macedonia. They also proved that the evangelical type of man is not a fantasy, but rather a reality which is achieved and lived through the Holy Mysteries of the Church; they proved that man is truly a divine icon, created in the image and likeness of God. Therefore, today when we celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Holy Monastery, we give our testimony for the Church of Christ. We testify that there is a real Prototype of man, that He is in the Church and that through Him it survived for such a long time; that the Church, the beloved one, which is all beautiful and without stains, gives birth to the Christ-like man, the real man, the true personality. Such man today is of an essential need for our modern society which is constantly torn by the cruel influence of infidelity, doubt, relativism, nihilism and technocracy.

The God-renowned Bigorski’s 1000th Anniversary is completed, to our great honour, but also responsibility,  with the last two and a half decades, since the monastic life has been revived in it. Planted on the spiritual roots of Divine grace, which has amalgamated in this sacred place in the past centuries, our humble monastic brotherhood continues the mission of its predecessors whose presence in the heavenly Church, we strongly feel and grow in our faith.

Here, as an inseparable part of the recent and fruitful history of this Holy Monastery, we will mention with gratitude, the name of the most respected Archpastor of this God-protected Diocese of Debar and Kichevo, his Holiness, the Metropolitan Timothy.

Having been tonsured at Bigorsky, he was the very Bishop with whose blessing monastic life was restored here in 1995 when my humility was tonsured by his holy hands. I consider it to be a great blessing from God and a historical benefit for our Church that in that particular time, our Episcopic seat was headed by this monk-loving Bishop, who from the very beginning treated us with a great deal of righteousness, wisdom and above all, paternal care.

In the spirit of the Holy Orthodox Monastic Tradition,  Metropolitan Timothy granted the Monastery the essential blessed freedom and trust, i.e. the internal autonomy, guaranteed by the regulation of the ancient monastic Tipicons and Statutes, which goes as follows: “The monastery will be independent in everything… ruling and regulating on its own… completely administrating its authority and governing, governed, according to st, Basil the Great, by the aristocratic conscience of a Father, an Abbot, who carries upon himself the image of our Saviour“. Having this freedom in the spirit of God, our monastic community was able to continue without impediment the mission of the great Bigorski citizens who are now heavenly residents and continue from above, from the embrace of Abraham, this common mission of ours: to preach the kingdom of God to others (Luke 4,43).

Besides the wisdom demonstrated in the matters regarding the monastery constitution, Metropolitan Timothy also revealed his spiritual conscience regarding the Holy Mystery of Confession, without which no one can clean his heart and see God. Having in mind that spiritual guidance is not just an administrative duty of the Church established by the ecclesiastical regulations, but rather centuries-old practice established in the tradition of the Holy Fathers, a personal relation and union in Christ, the Metropolitan not just significantly supported the revival of this interrupted mystery in our country but also, in concordance with the teachings of the Orthodox Church, gave permission for a free choice of a spiritual father, both for the clergy and the laymen. I remember when upon my arrival at Bigorski, I mentioned to him that my spiritual father is at Mount Athos, Bishop Timothy replied that there is no problem with it, that he considers the choice for a spiritual father- an act of free will for every individual.

Because of all this and because of your unselfish assistance and support for the celebration of the great jubilee, our dear Archipastor, we beseech you to accept from our filial hands the highest millennial decoration of the Holy Bigorski Monastery – a ribbon with the star and the cross with the image of the Honorable Forerunner.

And now, let us rejoice spiritually, for this is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118,24). Let us celebrate and share our joy with all the known and the unknown Saints who have sanctified this place and give our gratitude to the God in Trinity and St. John the Baptist for honouring us with the privilege to celebrate this 1000th anniversary. The history being written today, obliges us to continue the 1000 years-old agioritic course, so that even we, the last ones, could be honoured to enter the great and glorious Bigorski history and with God’s help leave behind a good heritage for the next generations to come. And may the patron of this Holy Monastery, the Honorable Forerunner, protects this sanctuary in glory, unharmed and intact to the end of the centuries.