Ostrog, Montenegro, May 16, 2019
Hierarchs of the Serbian and other Orthodox Churches came together on Sunday to celebrate the memory of the Balkans most beloved saint—St. Basil of Ostrog, whose relics lie in repose at Ostrog Monastery in Montenegro.
Among the visiting hierarchs was His Eminence Metropolitan Sergius of Ternopil and Kremenets of the fraternal canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
The Divine Liturgy was celebrated on the monastery square in front of the beloved saint’s relics, reports the site of the Montenegro-Littoral Metropolia of the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Following the service, Met. Sergius conveyed the blessing and congratulations of the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine. In response, His Eminence Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro, the local hierarch, thanked him for “the prayers for unity in love and unity in the purity of Orthodoxy.”
The most terrible separation between people in today’s turbulent world is the separation in faith, said Met. Sergius, who labors in the western Ternopil Province in Ukraine, where the schismatics and Uniates find a lot of support.
“Our people are experiencing this division, schism, and new trouble—another schism within the Church, which is provoked, we can say, not by the people themselves, but from hell itself. But I am glad to testify that thanks to the life in faith and the support of your people, our people are preserving the faith,” Met. Sergius said. The Serbian Church has been among the strongest supporters of the rights of the canonical Ukrainian Church against the anti-canonical invasion of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The persecuted Orthodox people of Montenegro also financially assist the persecuted Orthodox people of Ukraine. Archpriest Ostoya Knezhevic of the cathedral in Nikšić, Montenegro met with Met. Sergius while on pilgrimage to Ukraine in early April to give him a donation that had been collected by the parishioners of the cathedral. He also gave him an icon of St. Basil of Ostrog.
“If the schismatics take our churches, then the people serve in a house, in a tent, under the open sky, but they preserve the purity of Orthodoxy. And in this is the joy of the life in Christ, and in this is the joy that through the blessing of Vladyka Amfilohije, we are united in faith,” the Ukrainian hierarch added.
The pain experienced by the Serbian Orthodox people and the pain of the Ukrainian Orthodox people brings them closer together and unites them, Met. Sergius affirmed. “The Lord does not leave us and comforts us with a special joy—eternal, Paschal, invincible. We have come to you with this joy, to the people of God, the clergy, and the monastics. We entreat the Lord to help us live with Paschal joy, that nothing in this world would take it from us,” the Ternopil hierarch concluded.
Met. Sergius gifted Met. Amfilohije with an icon of St. Job of Pochaev on behalf of Met. Onuphry and wished him to be the same kind of invincible warrior of Christ. Met. Amfilohije responded that he especially reveres Sts. Job and Amphilochios of Pochaev and prays for the gift of unity to be given to Church and people of Ukraine.
The feast day then continued with a procession in honor of the great St. Basil and a litiya served in Niksic, where St. Basil is revered as the city’s and people’s patron saint. The procession began at the Cathedral of St. Basil and made its way through the central streets of the city, led by Met. Amfilohije, with the participation of other Serbian hierarchs, Met. Sergius from Ukraine, and other hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and faithful from other Local Churches and from throughout Montenegro and Serbia.
The procession stopped at several points to read the Gospel and offer up special prayers. It finished by returning to the cathedral.
St. Nikolai Velimirovich writes about St. Basil in his Prologue from Ochrid:
Saint Basil was born in Popovo Polje, a village in Hercegovina, of simple and God-fearing parents. From his youth he was filled with love for the Church of God and when he reached maturity he entered the monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos in Trebinje and there received the monastic tonsure. As a monk he quickly became renowned because of his genuine and infrequently-found ascetic life. Saint Basil took upon himself mortification upon mortification, each one heavier and more difficult than the last. Later, against his will he was elected and consecrated as bishop of Zahumlje and Skenderija. As a hierarch he first lived in the monastery of Tvrdosh and from there, as a good shepherd, he strengthened his flock in the Orthodox Faith, protecting them from the cruelty of the Turks and the cunning ways of Latins. When Basil was exceedingly pressed by his enemies and Tvrdosh destroyed by the Turks, he moved to Ostrog, where he lived an austere ascetic life, protecting his flock by his ceaseless and fervent prayer. He fell asleep peacefully in Lord in the sixteenth century, leaving behind his incorrupt Relics, incorrupt and miracle-working to the present day. The miracles at the grave of Saint Basil are without number. Christians and Muslims alike come before his Relics and find healing for their gravest illnesses and afflictions. A great people’s assembly (sabor) occurs there annually on the Feast of Pentecost.
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