Archimandrite Damjan (Cvetkovic): “Thanks for Your Frankness, Guys, But We Are Going Different Ways”

Stepan Ignashev spoke with Archimandrite Damjan, Secretary of the Žiča Diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church, on overcoming the schism, the challenges of the modern “civilized world”, and the need to distrust ourselves as a way to resist these challenges and maintain hope for help from Christ.


Regarding overcoming the schism of the Macedonian Orthodox Church: What does it feel like to free of this division, Fr. Damjan?

—I think it;s too early to describe my feelings. Too early. Thoughts and feelings have not yet subsided; we just need to start living good Christian lives in new circumstances, given the conditions that have been created. Only with the passage of time will we see what is good and what needs to be overcome by joint efforts. I have never been to Macedonia, have not spoken to local clergy, and have not served there yet. Something specific can be said only when we have experienced overcoming the schism together. After all, the split will not disappear just by itself—the wound requires treatment and thorough therapy based on mutual love, patience and tolerance. Therefore, I don’t want to burst into an enthusiastic nightingale song about how everything is fine and dandy, cloudless and joyful—that would be too irresponsible and childish.

The only thing I can say and do with full responsibility is to call on all of us to pray fervently for genuine unity of the Serbian Orthodox Church, trust in our Church, and—with humility and without falling into euphoria—wait until Christ heals our common wound. We should not trust our feelings recklessly; they are corrupted by our sins and prevent us from seeing the truth, obscuring it. No, we should not trust our corrupted hearts and minds; this is the very case when haste in judgments is harmful. So I would advise calm, prayer, and trust in God.

What are the challenges the Serbian Church is faced with today, according to your observations?

—The loss of the people’s Christian identity, and the “Europeanization” of the mind and soul, against which our saints of modern times warned us. As Europeans, like Russians, we mustn’t, and don’t, want to put on the yoke of the so-called “values” that have begun to be considered the identification mark of the “new Europe”. Believe me, this “novelty” is well known to us and it smells too bad—we know perfectly well what it brought to the Roman and Byzantine Empires in its time. Therefore, the current positions of our states—both Serbia and Russia—which do not agree to recognize these “values” as foremost in their policies aimed at preserving their peoples are, of course, supported by our Church. Without spiritual sovereignty a nation ceases to exist—this is a law. In a sense, I am happy with the pressure that once-Christian Europe is exerting on us Serbs now—it is for our benefit. Under such pressure everyone is inevitably faced with a choice—to decide who he really is—a Christian, or just a “common man”. At the same time, one may wonder why this pressure is being exerted on us with such wild and completely insane persistence, with hysterical calls and even orders to “make the right choice at last.” I fully realize that the same sentiment, the same calls were heard by Lot and his family in the city, the name of which I do not want to repeat. If we go further and draw an analogy, the then union of economically successful cities around what is now the Dead Sea must also have speculated in visas, considering entry into its territory a special privilege for all barbarians who believed in God. I think that Russians well understand this now.

What saves us now is the frankness of our enemies. You see, if they had been craftier, if they had not gone crazy in their perversions, then having hidden their true goals behind something plausible, they would probably have gained many supporters in Serbia. And now that their goals are clearly visible, right before our eyes, what normal Serb or Russian would agree with them? So, I say thanks for your frankness guys, but we are going different ways. Thank God, now evil cannot hide—apparently, haste and vanity have taken their toll.

It is clear what attitude towards evil we should have. But what about the channels of evil—that is, those under its power?

—This is also clear; we should treat them as we do the sick—with compassion. But I believe we need to evaluate our strength. We would not go into an infectious diseases ward without a special protective suit—otherwise we could get infected. Again, we should not stop praying for those who have been enslaved by evil and those suffering from it. Let us remember that both individuals and whole nations always have a chance to return to Christ.

And we should not flatter ourselves that we are all “wonderful, spiritual Christians”. We constantly experience our spiritual weakness, what we see in the mirror is often terrifying. Therefore, seeing open evil that is trying to enslave us, we must work hard to purify our hearts, to bring them closer to Christ—not in words, but in reality. Empty declarations, without confirmation by deeds, will lead to stupid vanity, and the wreck and ruin of such a house built on sand will be terrible. We know and have seen all of this. Show that you are a Christian nation in deed, and not just at rallies; prove it with your lives, be faithful to Christ every day—and this will be the most powerful weapon against evil.

Vladyka Atanasije (Jevtic) used to say that the only criterion for entering the Kingdom of Heaven would not be my good deeds (and what good deeds do I have?), but the image of God that I have preserved in myself. By this image I will recognize God, and God will recognize me.

But, forgive me, Father Damjan: if I look at myself in the mirror without flirting with God and without deceiving myself, then I won’t see the image of God there at all. After all, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

—That’s the point. The Christian paradox lies in the fact that, while seeing his own imperfection, if a Christian sincerely wants to be with Christ he will want to bring his appearance into line with His commandments. In no case should we lose heart: We need the desire to live with God, and Christ will by no means abandon us. He will always help us, rest assured.

Stepan Ignashev
spoke with Archimandrite Damjan (Cvetkovic)
Translation by Dmitry Lapa


P.S. Dear brothers and sisters, we continue to help Kosovo Serbs, churches and monasteries. If you have the opportunity and desire to help, donations can be transferred:

to the Sberbank MIR card: 2202201429782747 (recipient: Петр Михайлович Д. / Petr Mikhailovich D.);

via PayPal:

The note: “Aid to Kosovo”, is required.

D9/23/2022 6:33 pm
How did he not ever go to Macedonia? That is so strange considering it’s right next door to them. Many religious leaders are well traveled. Pray the unity will strengthen Orthodoxy as it is so needed these days.
John MacDonald9/21/2022 9:20 pm
Q: What is a woman?
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