Holy Archangels' Monastery near Prizren, Serbia

"You showed me the church of Yours as the source of health", Dusan's gift charter. -Full reconstruction was interrupted... -In June 1999 a monk from the monastery, Fr. Chariton, was abducted. -Now - a spiritual center gathering the remaining Orthodox people from Prizren and around. The young monastic brotherhood is full of religious enthusiasm and remains confident that one day Holy Archangels will be completely reconstructed.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Germans and St. Bishop Nikolaj of Serbia – an immortal relationship (part I)

On the day of Saint Prophet Elijah (July, the 2nd) in 2004. started rebuilding of our monastery.

Dedicated to all honest German soldiers who were on the "gate" of Holy Archangels' Monastery

Is the hatred between Germans and Serbs something natural, something achieved through history or something imposed?
It is hard to describe bishop Nikolaj in one text. This saint is a spiritual ocean, as well as his spiritual ancestor was - the one he was named after - St. Nikolaj of Myr-Licia, whose holy relics rest in Bari, Italia. Here we only mention what is significant for our monastery, the first monastery in the world which had a church built in its honor (the church which is gone now).

St. Nikolaj had two doctorates, Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Theology. He became the Doctor of Theology in Bern, a German speaking area of Switzerland. Ever since then, and during his earthly lifetime, the bishop had contacts with Germans. He, as the opponent of the European atheistic culture, a culture more and more inclined to nihilism, presents “Pan-human” Christ, as an ideal of all human love, against Nitzche’s Superhuman, the spiritual creator of Nazism.

“There is no doubt that that the principles and forces of European culture and civilization are anti-Christian. The modern man type had been built for a long time, so that it could eventually replace Godman Christ with its philosophy and science, with its politics and technique, with its religion and ethic. Europe used Christ only as “a bridge between uncultured and cultured barbarity, that is, between illiterate barbarity and literate one.”
(Bishop Nikolaj, around 1930. : Words about Pan-human, page 334.)

Nikolaj always inspired people with his modesty and ingenuity. Never did anyone remain indifferent in his presence. When looking at a man, never did he see a Serb, a German, a Jew, a Gypsy, a communist, a democrat, an educated or uneducated peasant, a man or a woman, but simply a Man. For that reason, he won the respect and love of those who did not approve his life principles. Journalist Milan Jovanovic Stoimirovic describes a meeting with bishop Nikolaj, around 1935:

I think I was in Ohrid at that time, visiting Doctor Nikolaj together with late Vinaver (a Serbian writer) and a great German architect, a celebrity of his time who traveled around Macedonia so that he could see the old Balkan architecture (which he liked very much for its room layout and its exterior).

Bishop Nikolaj spoke about the problems of Germany, as if he had dealt with them for all of his life, and never did he allow to be interrupted, nor anybody dared to interrupt him. One could tell that Nikolaj precisely knew complete German philosophy and the cultural history, as well as the modern crises of German Reich and German society. “By estranging from God” – Nikolaj said, “Germans are moving towards a great national risk”. Then the German started asking questions, and Nikolaj gave him the answers. That dispute lasted for ten minutes or so and Nikolaj had the intellectual superiority. The German became more and more cordial and obedient. Afterwards he summarized the experience he gained during that meeting and said - Beispiellose Anspruchlosigkeit, - which could be translated as “unique unpretentiousness” and which referred to the house and furniture, the host and his work, his bearing, as well as to all those shining emanations which he unobtrusively gave off through his words and which at the same time won our hearts.

Afterwards, the German kept asking about Nikolaj, looking for the explanations about his family, career and everything else. I told him what I knew, and he asked for the literature. When I told him there was none, he was astonished and said that Nikolaj, the thinker, should be introduced to Europeans.

During the time when the record number of peace conferences took place, the world faced the one thing bishop Nikolaj had been warning about: The Second World War. Saint Nikolaj is one among few Slovenes who received a medal from Hitler, maybe the only one. And he deserved it because he insisted on the arrangement of German military graveyard in his eparchy of Ohrid and Bitolj. “That is not the graveyard of our enemies, but the graveyard of those who tragically died serving their fatherland. It happened shortly before The First World War broke out. But, the same man lead the demonstrations of Serbs, the only nation in the world which totally rejected the Pact with Nazi Germany signed by their government, the government which was soon afterwards overthrown. The British and their press praised the Serbs as heroes, and by the end of the war they betrayed those heroes to soviet communists. The kind of man Nikolaj was indeed could be described as a Pan-human. Is there any other man in the world who received the medal from Hitler, after that was arrested and even sent to notorious prison “Dachau”? Nikolaj did.

Never did Hitler and Nazis forgive the bishop’s part in the rejection of Pact. But being acquainted with his influence among the people, they wanted to take advantage of that fact and to make him join their side. “To force him to work for them”, but the Man of Christ belongs to Christ because he is dead for the rest of the world, because he is immune to any kind of blackmail or bribe. His only way is to witness the truth. Eventhough his life was in great jeopardize during the time of war, never did he remain silent. Furthermore, he fought to save innocent lives by protesting at occupying authorities, and literally hiding people under his mantle. Some of the witnesses whom Nikolaj saved are still alive (the Jew, Ela Trifunovic Neuhaus wetness in the movie about Nikolaj). Of course, he did it for all endangered people, regardless of their nation and religion. Those honest Germans who found themselves serving Nazism because of their weakness, recognized Nikolaj’s righteousness and tried to help him as much as they could and diminish the evil that Nazism spread...


translated by Masa Krsmanovic



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