On the shores of Lake Ochrid, on a high cliff, stands an ancient monastery known as the Monastery of St. Nahum. This is one of the main holy places in the modern Balkans, and of course, the foremost in Northern Macedonia. But at the time the monastery was founded—in the ninth century—these picturesque and solitary lands were part of the Bulgarian kingdom. The beginning of monastic life on Lake Ochrid was placed by the holy Equal-to-the-Apostles Nahum. The monastery was dedicated to Archangel Michael and all the Heavenly Powers, and even during St. Nahum’s time it became a sort of “university”—missionary monks were prepared there.
Equal-to-the-Apostles Nahum of Bulgaria or Ochrid was one of closest disciples of Sts. Kirill and Methodius, teachers of the Slavs, and according to tradition, he was the youngest amongst these holy brothers’ followers. He zealously continued the missionary labors of his teachers and made an invaluable contribution to the development of Slavic culture and writing.
In the ancient Bulgarian capital of Pliska, St. Nahum founded the first Slavic school of literature. It entered history with the name, “Preslav”. Here translations were made of the works of Sts. Athanasius the Great, Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, and others. Besides translations, the Preslav school conducted educational activities and created original literary works; for example the “Alphabet Prayer”. This is one of the earliest Slavic poems. In it is placed the essence of Orthodox teaching in a form that made it easy to remember.
St. Nahum of Ochrid became one of the founders of Bulgarian religious literature. But only one of his works has come down to us, found in manuscripts on Mt. Athos. At the dawn of Slavic written literature, Nahum of Ochrid composed a canon to Apostle Andrew the First-Called. It is not likely that this was an accident. The memory of Apostle Andrew was particular significant for the Thessalonian brothers Kirill and Methodius, as well as for their disciples. Throughout their lives they literally walked in the apostle’s footsteps, visiting those places where, according to Church tradition, St. Andrew also walked and taught. St. Nahum was convinced that the mission begun by Sts. Kirill and Methodius amongst the Slavic peoples was a continuation of St. Andrew’s apostolic service.
Over the course of many years of ascetic life, Equal-to-the-Apostles Nahum preached the word of God to the Slavic peoples in their own language. He taught Bulgarian writing, and disseminated divine service texts translated from the Greek into Slavonic.
In deep old age, St. Nahum distanced himself from the world. He spent his final days on Lake Ochrid. Gradually a multitude of monks gathered around St. Nahum in the monastery he founded. He was a wise instructor, a strict ascetic, wonder-worker and man of prayer. St. Nahum tirelessly labored over translations of Holy Scripture into Slavonic to the end of his life.
Little is known about St. Nahum’s origins—where he was born and when, although an early Life says that he was the brother of St. Clement of Ochrid. Whether this means he was his natural or spiritual brother is still unclear. St. Nahum reposed in 910.