President Stevo Pendarovski attended and addressed today the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the Bigorski Monastery “St. John the Baptist”, which took place under his auspices.
President Pendarovski attended the Divine Liturgy, officiated by the Head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric, Metropolitan of Skopje, Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia and Justiniana Prima, H.H. Stefan, after which he addressed the audience.
The celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the founding of the Bigorski Monastery “St. John the Baptist” was organized in accordance with the measures and protocols for protection against Covid-19.
Respected Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia and Justiniana Prima,
Respected Bishop of Antanis, Abbot of the Bigorski Monastery “St. John the Baptist”,
Dear members of the Bigorski family,
Three days ago, on the eve of this great day, I had the honor to decorate the monastery “St. John the Baptist” with the State Order of Merit. On behalf of the Macedonian citizens, I thanked them for their contribution to this cult place and for giving it unselfishly through the centuries, in nurturing the spiritual and cultural-historical heritage of the people and the country to which it belongs.
This holy day today is too short to describe, at least, the major events of Bigorski’s thousand-year history. But, when, for a moment, we would look at these thousand years as one day then we could see the first Ohrid Archbishop Jovan Debranin founding and consecrating the monastery. We would witness generations of believers, monks and lay people, upgrading and keeping alive the Bigorski family. We would see the Macedonian builders building these beautiful buildings from limestone, the legendary Mijaci – woodcarvers patiently carving the Bigorski iconostasis, the famous painters painting the famous frescoes and icons.
We would witness a thousand celebrations of Christ’s birth and resurrection. We would see the monastery grow into a source of spirituality, literacy and rebirth, where people acted who were undoubtedly far ahead of their time – Kiril Pejcinovic, Joakim Krcovski, Anatolij and Partenij Zografski and the Miladinov brothers.
Ladies and gentlemen, unfortunately, we would witness great tribulations and accidents. Over the centuries, the Bigorski Monastery has survived persecution, fires and wars, but also outlived empires, states and ideologies. At times it closed, but it was never forgotten or erased from people’s memory. After each accident, the monks, together with the people, rebuilt this sanctuary, reaching new spiritual and artistic heights.
Even such a very brief outline of the long monastic history inevitably raises the question: how did this temple of tranquility and beauty manage to overcome all these storms?
This question and even more its answer are especially important for our contemporary context. The economic, social, security and environmental crises facing humanity have increased many times in intensity, complexity and impact. The pandemic only multiplied the problems. Global processes and turbulence affect our daily lives. Sometimes this vortex of crises makes us feel as if everything is happening at once, as if a thousand years are condensed into just one day.
And exactly in such moments of growing mistrust among people, fear and uncertainty of the unknown, many of our fellow citizens seek peace, comfort and hope in this very place. For many sufferers from different generations, different countries and different ideologies and religions, the Bigorski Monastery is a spiritual refuge from the storms of life. The divisions and prejudices that are so present in our everyday life have no place in the monastery where people are, above all, people, regardless of their personal characteristics. This is a place for healing the wounds of the soul and rehabilitation of addicts. Many believers in this monastery restore faith in life and strengthen their spiritual identity.
This millennial feat is due to two things. First, the Bigorski Monastery is not only a material, but also a spiritual structure built not only of the Bigorski limestone, but also of the constant prayers of generations of people of faith.
Second, it is known that those who spend part of their lives here have a different understanding of time, which for them is equal to eternity. To them, every day spent in self-denial is worth a thousand years. People who sincerely believe, easier separate the trivial from the essential, the transient from the permanent. With such a calm attitude towards life, they do not compete for success, material wealth, or power over others. It seems to be the secret of the centuries-old existence of this monastery whose foundations are deeply rooted in the hearts and souls of the Macedonian people.
Today’s jubilee encourages us to think about how wisely we use the days in our lives and in what we invest our years. Is it just in search of material values or to show kindness and solidarity to loved ones and to all those to whom life has become too difficult? Does each of us contribute and to what extent to the most important cause, to the construction of a free society of equal and virtuous in which the innate dignity of every human being is respected?
That is why it is necessary, today, at the beginning of the second millennium of the Bigorski Monastery, to think about how some next generation of our descendants will appreciate the works of our generation. I hope that if we remain with strong faith and mutual respect, even after a thousand years we will have goodness and values that will remain behind us, which will be talked of.
With that thought, let me wish you all good health and joy with your loved ones, and I wish the holy Bigorski family and Father Partenij to keep the spiritual strength and energy they possess to overcome all the temptations on the life path that they have chosen.
May we see each other only for good things!