The Gethsemane Prayer /with an epilogue/
The hard emotional states, as is the tormenting desire to expand the range of ecclesiastical-state power and the frustrations from the Biblical, historical and the most important for us the pastoral fact of the existence of the Macedonian nation and also from the unfulfilled “prophecies” about the drying out of the cut off branch from which some of the members in the Assembly of the Episcopes of the Serbian Orthodox Church cannot free themselves, enhance our efforts in the prayer, the sweat like drops of blood, and sighs: “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” The emotions and frustrations (non-transformed passions) during the resolution of certain grave issues in the Church should be brought to light (of our awareness) and excluded, not nurtured, because otherwise they cause darkening of the mind. So, instead of the pastoral care in the work of the Episcopes to be seen, first of all to strengthen Church unity, in such a situation, when passions dominate, the capacity even for objective judgement is lost, and ecclesiastically untenable decisions are adopted which bring about splits. Is there a point then in speaking about illumination of the mind and mind-and-heart prayer and to whom?
The Macedonian Orthodox Church, restored Ohrid Archdiocese, with God’s help, will accomplish, that is, will not deviate from the way of Christ: the Cross, Death, Descent in the hell, three-day Resurrection and the Ascension to the heavens. The other side of the dispute, the Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church, as a “wise spiritual guide”, all things considered, is unconsciously dosing to us the necessary afflictions. Certainly, we have not had to pass the road all the other local Orthodox Churches did—to suffer from our own ones—since the persecution happening now is sufficient; yet this does not frighten us. We are grateful to God that our Church has been lead and will be lead by Episcopes who have passed the road of crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of the mind in the heart and who have shown us all the time the road of love toward our enemies as well. Do they who are intimidating us with court of justice think that he who has accepted the yoke of Christ to be an Episcope in the
If ten or fifteen Episcopes at the Assembly in Belgrade already decided to adopt a resolution for our discrediting, and at this did not examine the echo of their resolution among us, in our Church—they will miss a lot, especially because they are not taking into account the people’s “amen”, which always belongs only to it (the devout people) and which they possess not. The people’s “amen” is an essential and inalienable right of the devout laity to confirm or not the hierarchy decisions, which proceeds from the Catholicity and the Liturgy of the Church. Here ceases to be valid (to function) any kind of clericalism and uncontrolled decision of the high clergy; that is to say, any resolution of the Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church regarding us is invalid, we would say non-reflexive, if there is a lack of an echo and a confirmation from the other side of the altar: just as in the Macedonian devout people, whom due to the non-recognition of its identity they pastorally miss, thus also in the Serbian devout people, whose needs and cares about salvation they fail to reflect. If the Serbian Episcopes have no pastoral basis, i.e. do not have the amen of those whom they head, because the Serbian devout people has never asked from them intervention in our pastoral problems—whom do they represent then? Man may simple get scared if thinking in this direction. The above written particularly goes for the decisions the hierarchy passes on issues which are not of dogmatic or canonical character, and which are outside its canonical jurisdiction and immediate pastoral interest, as is for example the issue about the name of our Church, where the decision of the faithful people is crucial. Certainly, the other Churches will also not recognise the political project called “OOA”, especially not the Bulgarian and the Romanian, which know the best what and whom they are dealing with.
Finally, to make clearer what we are writing, we should reveal the objective of all so far undertaken and, all things considered, to be undertaken onwards by some of the Serbian Episcopes hidden under the guise of the Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Their aim is to gather the critical mass of people necessary for a certain disloyal, small-numbered and insignificant, seemingly church organisation, in fact a political project as “OOA” is, to become, according to them, an effectively legitimate Church. This aim in essence is impossible to accomplish, and those who wished by all means to do so are incapable of influencing the devout people in the Republic of Macedonia and making a kind of a generally acceptable change in that direction. In fact, in the last three years they have had the opportunity to assemble a people around the parallel hierarchy, which they had installed from the outside and by force, yet nothing significant has gathered around their ideas, and this due to the simple reason that the hierarchy (a part of the Serbian together with the parallel one) has pastorally missed our faithful people and abides in lie—instead of becoming all things to all men in order to lead them towards Christ, they are telling everyone who is what: we were not Macedonians, but Serbs?! Unbelievable distortion of the Gospel.
And if all is thus, and every at least a little sensible and well-intentioned man knows it is so, is not then the acquisition of the autonomy tomos of “OOA” equivalent to the receiving of the thirty silver coins of the traitor Judas as the price for the Inestimable One? Is the tomos without a people a reward for division and betrayal of ones’ native Church and betrayal of ones’ spiritual fathers—hurting them with nails, piercing their side with a spear and giving them sour wine mingled with gall to drink. Our prayer and pain of the heart is they not to hang themselves as Judas Iscariot did, but when the granted time for repentance has run out and they have realised what they had done, to repent and return from where they had fallen and where they are truly beloved and awaited. History has shown that whenever traitors were used at first, as no longer useful, they are thrown away. And if we know that to Church splits, even if administrative, only the devil rejoices, then he who with his decision causes these divisions, should think a little whom he works for and whose will he fulfills. To grant an autonomy tomos to barely a hundred of problematic men, and simultaneously reject three million Orthodox Christians, and this in times when the Church in the contemporary world is exposed to most subtle persecution is truly worryingly auto-destructive. Develop the thought about a parallel hierarchy in the
So that the road of delusion is walked to the very end, ‘the last condition will be worse than the first’ , it is possible they to make officially—and they are already making informally—attempts for spiritual terror and intimidation of the faithful people: that our Holy Mysteries (Baptism, Communion, Marriage) were not filled with the Holy Spirit, our Episcopes were unworthy, and our devout people would not be saved. Man may simply wish to ask them are these their desires or do they really believe this? These are the ill orientations of theirs of rejecting the counsels of the Gospel and the Holy fathers of the Church, which inevitably lead to a position of highlighting their own “holiness”, and pointing at (disreputing) our “profanity”. This is the highest degree of self-love, of which all the shepherds to the end of the ages have been warned through the gospel parable about the ungrateful vine dressers: Come, let us kill the heir, and the inheritance will be ours (Mk. 12:7). The heir (‘the Episcopes of the Macedonian Orthodox Church’) they are killing, i.e. discrediting, with the aim to wrongfully seize the spiritual vineyard (‘the devout people’) and cultivate it in a way so that the vineyard brings forth fruits not suitable for the Owner of the vineyard, but fit to satisfy their nationalistic and other passions. Already seen in our midst between 1918-1941 AD; formerly as well. Therefore what will the Owner of the vineyard do (Mk. 12:9)?
If we are one in Christ, in which we are deeply convinced, why do they not have a look at the fruits of the repentance of the Macedonian people, “of the cut off branch”, which would be most normal in such a situation (the Lord said we will recognise each other by our fruits, did He not?—cf. Matt. 7:20): renewal of monasticism, active liturgical life, confession of many, all-national fasting, longing for a visible eucharistic unity with the other Orthodox brothers as well, election of new Hierarchs from among the monasticism—fruits which not even some recognised Churches can boast with and which the Lord solely asks from us? So instead of recognising each other by our fruits, us dividing because of the branches, and priding over leaves and their shadow—and in the end wondering why our people lives in darkness and shadow of death (Matt. 4:16). We cannot believe they are still trying to persuade anyone that the renewal of Orthodox spiritual life in the Macedonian Orthodox Church is just an illusion and a great deception, that Christ did not rise, but His disciples came at night and stole Him away (Matt. 28:13).
One more advice to them: let them try to kill the shepherd, in accordance with what they bestially did—with the approval by part of their clergy as well—from 1918 until 1941 to the Macedonian people in the part of by them occupied Macedonia, and if they succeed, let us see whether the flock will indeed disperse then. Enough have they been killing, and have been trying to kill only spiritually, from 1967 until today. Let them again in our midst as well start killing our bodies, at least to this they have proven to be apt, and it is easier and better for us as well. God, forgive them, they know not what they are doing!
And now a piece of advice and reminding for all of us, too: let us never return with evil to the evil done to us by some of the Serbian Episcopes, hidden behind the Assembly of the Serbian Orthodox Church, so that we do not fail Christ and the road He walks along. It is the best to accept the spiritual terror coming from their side as an equivalent to the question ‘do you love me?’—that is, to accept the evil as a challenge and a test of our Christian love. This is it as far as love towards “enemies” is concerned. If there were no temptations, we would never know what is in our hearts, we would never get healed and would not spiritually grow and mature. The latest developments will be the ultimate test and check of the spiritual maturity and distinct spiritual identity of our Orthodox people. We thank God He accepted the renewal of Orthodox spiritual life in the Macedonian Orthodox Church as our readiness for this final examination of maturity. We know that only with His help we will win this battle as well.
Metropolitan Nahum of Strumica
with the sub-deacons Laurentius and Gregory