Libertyville, Illinois, July 18, 2017
The festive celebration of the liturgical glorification of St. Mardarije of Libertyville was held this past weekend July 14-16 at various Serbian Orthodox churches and monasteries, culminating in the glorification Liturgy at St. Sava’s Monastery in Libertyville, where St. Mardarije’s incorrupt relics lie.
The celebrations were headed by His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, who left Serbia on July 13, saying, “We joyously anticipate the upcoming celebration of the canonization of St. Mardarije of Libertyville, the first Serbian Orthodox bishop of America and Canada, and sharing in this great spiritual jubilee of our Church and spiritual children in America.”
On his way to the Illinois celebrations, His Holiness stopped in New York to visit the site of St. Sava Cathedral which was destroyed by fire after the Paschal celebrations in 2016. He was met there by His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios (GOA) and His Grace Bishop Irinej of Eastern America (Serbian Church), who briefed the patriarch on reconstruction plans.
Upon arrival in Chicago on Friday, July 14, Pat. Irinej was greeted by Bishop Longin of New Gracanica and Midwest America (Serbian) and the clergy of Holy Resurrection Cathedral, where the weekend began with the evening service, followed by a symposium on “The Life and Times of St. Mardarije.” Among the highlights of the symposium, in addition to the several talks on the life and works of St. Mardarije, including the keynote address, “St. Mardarije: Wondrous is God in His Saints” by His Eminence Metropolitan Amphilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral, was the premier of a new film “Christ’s Quiet Corner,” a 35-minute documentary and dramatization of St. Mardarije’s life produced by Ostrog Monastery. The trailer for the film can be seen below:
Joining His Holiness Pat. Irinej in celebrating the life and glorification of the first Serbian Orthodox bishop of America St. Mardarije throughout the weekend were Met. Amphilohije and a number of other hierarchs from other Local Orthodox Churches and jurisdictions represented in America, including His Beatitude Metropolitan Tikhon (OCA), His Eminence Archbishop Nikodim of Northern Donetsk and Starobel’skii (Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate), His Eminence Archbishop Peter of Chicago and Mid-America (ROCOR) and Bishop Theodosy of Seattle (ROCOR), His Eminence Metropolitan Antonii of Vani and Baghdati, and His Eminence Metropolitan Sava of America (Georgian), His Eminence Metropolitan Nicolae of the Americas (Romanian), and many more, as well as a number of clergy, monastics, and faithful pilgrims.
The weekend continued on Saturday with the Patriarchal Divine Liturgy being celebrated at New Gracanica Monastery in Third Like, a suburb of Chicago. Speaking at the Divine Liturgy, His Holiness Pat. Irinej noted the “exceptional personality” of St. Mardarije, emphaszing that he is great before God and the Orthodox Church, as he lived the life of the holy apostles and other great saints, thus emulating the Lord. The patriarch noted that, as a saint in the likeness of God, St. Mardarije belongs to all Orthodox Churches, not just the Serbian Church.
“Although we are scattered, there is one power that keeps us in spiritual and blood unity, and that is our community, our Church. And our Church has sent here a common saint in St. Mardarije, who performed apostolic work here, to take care of you,” His Holiness stated. “Take care of your faith, brothers and sisters, because the treasures of this world come and go, but the only richness that remains is faith in the Lord, life in His Church and work for Christ. It's a treasure… Glory to the Lord Who has given us a saint who lived in this land and who will attract many to the Church,” the primate concluded.
The faithful then returned to St. Sava Monastery for the glorification Vigil in honor of St. Mardarije, with the service being sung by the choir of St. Vladimir’s Seminary, and the glorification Divine Liturgy the following day. During the Divine Liturgy Met. Amphilohije offered a homily in which he read from St. Mardarije’s Paschal encyclical of 1935, which reveals the heart of St. Mardarije.
The metropolitan began his words by greeting all three times with “Christ is Risen!” He spoke briefly of St. Mardarije’s life, and how he fell seriously ill while laboring in America, but begged the Lord to extend his life that he might continue his ministry.
Turning to St. Mardarije’s encyclical, he read out the words of the saint, “… from the depths of my soul I cry out to you, ‘Christ is Risen!’” The saint recounted in his encyclical the great sufferings he had experienced, with his lungs hemorrhaging for three days, which helped to acquire a greater spirit and wisdom than that which he had previously possessed. “I confess now before you, I desire but one thing, and that is to strengthen you in your faith in God Who was, is, and will be, regardless of whether people believe in Him or not.”
St. Mardarije continues his encyclical recalling how the doctors were certain he would die soon of tuberculosis, and how his clergy gathered from throughout America and Canada to bid farewell to him. He was given Holy Communion, and throughout the night he would occasionally come to, and whisper prayers to Christ. “I felt the grace-filled presence of Christ. I prayed, Lord Jesus Christ my God, I do not mind dying, I do not mind leaving this world, I have prepared to close my tired eyes, and to stand before Your righteous judgment, believing that Your paternal life and mercy will forgive me if during the course of my earthly life I did not proceed in everything according to the laws of God, If I was not zealous enough in that great responsibility of episcopal ministry which You have conferred upon me through the Church. You will forgive me, I know, because Your paternal love is measureless… I am not afraid of death, and indeed, personally I rejoice in it…” knowing that in Christ death has become a passage to the eternal Kingdom.
Hundreds of faithful partook of Holy Communion at the Divine Liturgy, which was followed by a procession of the faithful and all the children around the monastery with banners, choir and the relics of St. Mardarije. Following the procession, everyone returned for the completion of the Divine Liturgy.
Speaking at the banquet after the Sunday Divine Liturgy, His Holiness Patriarch Irinej offered an exhortation to a way of life that St. Mardarije himself lived by, calling upon all to have love and peace, and to share their culture and especially the treasure of the Orthodox faith that unites all Orthodox faithful.
Many beautiful pictures and videos from the weekend, including the entire reading of St. Mardarije’s encyclical, can be found on the Facebook page of St. Basil of Ostrog Serbian Orthodox Church and of St. Sava Monastery.