The Precursor to Our Statehood

Address by His Grace, Bishop Antaniski Mr. Partenij, Abbot of the Holy Bigorski Monastery, delivered during the awarding of the Order of Merit for Macedonia, at the Presidential Residence in Vodno, October 15, Anno Domini 2020

Епископ Партениј, Игумен Бигорски

Esteemed President of the Republic of North Macedonia, Mr. Stevo Pendarovski,

Your Beatitude, Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia Mr. Mr. Stefan,

Honored Prime Minister, Mr. Zoran Zaev,

Your Eminences and Right Reverences,

Distinguished Government Representatives,

Venerable and Honorable Fathers,

Beloved Guests,

Allow me, first and foremost, to heartily and warmly thank the respected President Mr. Stevo Pendarovski, as well as all others who contributed to this year’s great universal joy for our people – the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the Bigorski Monastery, enriched also by this act – the awarding of the Holy Bigorski Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner with the high state recognition: “Order of Merit for Macedonia”. With this honorable award, indeed, our state demonstrates that it knows how to recognize and appreciate, among other things, that which, according to the Holy Scripture, is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtue, and praiseworthy[1].

The Holy Bigorski Monastery, not only has it illuminated these lands with the rays of God’s light and holiness for a millennium with the word of the Divine Gospel, but throughout history, it has nurtured numerous spiritual and societal figures deserving of our contemporary spirituality, education, culture, and statehood – something that was emphasized a moment ago in the nomination for the award.

It is significant that in times of spiritual, moral, and educational erosion all around us, when many traditional values are undermined or relativized, when the experience of the ancestors is utterly neglected, great honor is given to an institution, I would say rather, to a living theanthropic organism, which for a thousand years has maintained a fertile climate for the deification of the God-longing individuals on our blessed Macedonian soil. With the blessing and intercession of the honorable and glorious Prophet, Forerunner, and Baptizer of the Lord, Saint John, the Bigorski Monastery today successfully and continuously maintains the liturgical and evangelical-educational homeostasis in our society.

The Christian tradition, enlightenment, and wisdom of life, preserved in the millennial heritage of Bigorski’s history, which at the same time are identified with the sacred Orthodox tradition of the Church of the East, are the only applicable and fruitful response to the contemporary tendencies of dehumanization of man, expressed through the aggressive invasion of modern technology, and especially, social networks into every pore of daily life. Faced with the soulless tyranny of so-called artificial intelligence, today’s man increasingly loses his God-like image, becomes isolated, becoming a victim and part of a de-personalized and purposeless crowd. This leads to the creation of a nihilistic anti-culture, filled with the spread of hatred, mockery of what is holy, and relativization of true goodness. Daily we witness the devaluation of values that are part of man, and are overused, witnesses to various slanders, gossip, and fake news, which cause serious damage to the psycho-somatic system of man, especially the young.

Therefore, today’s high award by the highest state institution to the ancient Bigorski Monastery, as a place of constant prayer and a guide for spiritual orientation, sends a strong message to our society, that the mud of this world cannot dim the gleam of gold, which reflects the light of God’s beauty, of nobility, and of love. By gold, I mean the entire Christian heritage and the holy Orthodox tradition, which, although deeply rooted in the past, have the same grace-filled transformative power in the present, and are at the same time the vanguard of the future, in accordance with the experiential testimony of the Apostle Paul, who says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever[2].

However, unfortunately, the rays of this eternal truth often cannot penetrate the clouds of earthly lies, vanities, and passions, precisely because of us, Christians, and especially some of us in the sacred clergy of the Church. Sometimes it seems that we forget the call that Christ addressed to His disciples: Ye are the light of the world… ye are the salt of the earth[3]. And if the salt has lost its savor, then we cannot expect that someone else and something else will salt the human souls with God’s grace, grace that enlightens, that liberates, that soothes and heals the wounds in the souls of people. The disputes and struggles for dominance in the Orthodox ecumene, in an attempt to bypass, and even to overturn the established canonical order and tradition regarding primacy in the Church, indicate that in some the salt of love has indeed lost its savor, which is the only uplifting factor in the Church and in interpersonal relations, in general.

Yet, there is no power that can dim the Divine light of God’s revelation in the Orthodox Church, and it always finds a way to break through the darkness and the melancholy of vain existence in this world. A clear indicator of this is the activity not only of the Bigorski Monastery, in whose glory we are gathered now, but also of the entire local Orthodox Church of ours. In this context, I sincerely welcome the support of the state leadership for the final resolution of the open issue with the recognition of our holy Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric, with which our state shows ecclesiastical maturity and spiritual emancipation.

Finally, as the abbot of the Holy Bigorski Monastery, I would like to once again thank President Mr. Stevo Pendarovski and his associates, for the high state award, which honors the countless Bigorski fathers, teachers, and actors, who for an entire ten centuries have manifested Christ’s light, joy, enlightenment, and love, making Bigorski a fulcrum of heavenly and earthly events, a precursor to our statehood, the heart of our spirituality.

Thank you for your attention! Many years to come!

[1] Philippians 4,8

[2] Hebrews 13,8

[3] Matthew 5,13-14