Strumica Diocese: News

May He Forgive Me ( 24.01.2009 )

It is known that when people incompetent in ecclesiastical matters had publicly written against me or had criticized me I have most often not felt the need to and have not answered them publicly. Yet, this time I must admit that the title – a Master of Theology – my critic bragged with, has prompted me to answer him. Let the readers be also acquainted with my stance on the issues and let them judge themselves whom they will trust. I am writing in the third person singular, i.e. indirectly, because I do not know the man and because I am writing for the purpose of general moral. In the end, the Lord will judge us all together.

Now, what does our theologian (if this is not merely a pseudonym) say in his letter to the daily Dnevnik? 

“I am writing this analysis with concern. This concern is because the new winds which were supposed to blow in the spiritual awareness of our nation, inspired by the “new” and “young” spiritual cadre (as are Poemen, Methodius, Hilarion, Nahum etc.), have deflated themselves into breezes.

And here it is how it reads in the Holy Bible:

Then the Lord said [to the prophet Elijah], “Go out, and stand on the mountain [Horeb] before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing [and there was the Lord] (1 Kings, 19:11-12).

We see that according to the Holy Bible the Lord is exactly in the gentle blowing, not as our theologian says in the strong (as opposed to the, according to him, deflated breeze) wind.

What are we to think now about our concerned theologian?

Firstly: He would certainly not have made this comparison and would not have used this metaphore had he known or remembered this episode in the Holy Bible. Thus, he has either not read the Holy Bible or it has been a long time since he had done that. For all who know, the former is a testimony to little faith or lack of faith, and the latter is a testimony to life without Christian struggle. May he forgive me.

Secondly: Our theologian speaks as if he does not have not only experience in serving the faithful people but also personal life experience. However, I think that it is neither the former nor the latter what defines him, it is rather the high opinion of himself and the desire to play smarter than the young Episcopes of the MOC. May he forgive me. It is high-mindedness that blinds him so he overlooks one such known phenomenon as is person and personal relationships in the Church. Namely, in the development of a person and personal relationships, i.e. there where everything is based on love and freedom, nothing comes to happen abruptly and forcibly (boisterously). The field of work of an Episcope of the Church is exactly the development of a person and of the personal relationships in God and therefore, mainly, here we move slowly and gently and with much carefulness and patience (quietly). The Episcope ought to influence the spiritual awakening and development in the people just like the gentle and warm spring breeze that makes nature awaken and bloom in spring. Naturally, in order for the Episcope to reach gently and invisibly to his spiritual children’s hearts, he must first roughly and invisibly, to the eyes of others, reach to his own heart.

Thirdly: Therefore do the Holy Fathers say that theology is a science rising first of all out of the living experience of God in the heart and out of the living experience of God in the person of our every fellowman, not out of reading books and collecting theological information that soon after vanishes without a trace or serves us merely in nourishing our vanity. Gaining worthless titles or ranks do not lead to it, but great self-denial. Shed blood, at purifying your heart from passions and in serving your fellowmen, and then receive the Spirit—our Fathers say.

Knowing all this, can we but think that our concerned theologian is much suspicious regarding his theological knowledge, in other words, regarding his knowledge of God and regarding his knowledge of himself? Now we will see how he distorts the truth when it comes to his fellowmen and how he draws a wrong conclusion about them. It seems that the one does not go without the other—the erroneous understanding of God leads to erroneous understanding of man. May he forgive me. We will nonetheless not condemn him and not call him a liar, because we have learnt from the Holy Fathers to hate the sin, not the man who commits it.

Here it is how in his letter he falsely claims something I have never even thought or let alone stated: “Recently, Metropolitan Nahum has also followed the same logic, so instead of teaching about the pagan character of the Christmas Eve fires, as he had done it in the past years, this year he has decided to back another horse, probably thinking that in this way he will bring our people to its senses more successfully and quickly—now the Christmas Eve fires have become “Serbian”.”

If one should ask now our theologian where I have said or stated that, he could certainly not produce any evidence. There, let him find some proof and let him put me to shame if he can, if there is any such thing. There is not any, though. In the past just as today people have been lighting fires, it indicates and coincides with a certain level of awareness. Lighting fires is an old pagan ritual custom, which is well known. When gathering around these fires people most often break the fast, which is also well known. My opinion that this is not good is likewise well known. Nevertheless, there is no such thing as my statement that the Christmas Eve fires are a Serbian custom. So far I have not been interested at all in this issue from this aspect.

The thing that I have publicly stated in an interview, and it was last year not this one, behind which I stand, is the fact that distributing Christmas Eve (oak) branches in churches is a Serbian church custom. It is a Serbian church custom because it does not exist in any other Orthodox Church (Russian, Romanian, Bulgarian, Greek etc.) except for the Serbian, because it was not known in Macedonia until the Serbian occupation in 1918, because it is still unknown in many parts of R. Macedonia where Serbian propaganda has not succeeded, because it is not known in the Pirin Macedonia and in the Aegean Macedonia and in Prespa Minor (Albania) etc. This and other only Serbian church customs are not an ordinary issue for the MOC, but an issue of identity about which it is impermissible to keep silent. This does not mean we have something against the Serbs—on the contrary, it only means we are preserving what is ours. Our priests should distribute Christmas Eve branches only in the churches in the places where people who feel as Serbs live, and nowhere else.

We see our theologian knows how to distort truth when representing his fellowmen. Now, depending on it whether the false representation stems from being uninformed or ill-intended, we are lead to think that, on the one hand, when writing something about an Episcope of the Church with no certain facts and evidence and with no checked information, it shows stupidity and naivety, and on the other hand, when it is done with ill intention, it shows great immorality. In the second case, we would add the epithet “barefaced” or “unashamed” to the lie. Nonetheless, again I believe that neither the former nor the latter is crucial in defining the profile of our theologian, it is rather the high opinion of himself and the desire (conscious or unconscious) to play smarter than the Metropolitan of Strumica. It is high-mindedness what again blinds him and he cannot clearly read and understand a simple announcement of the Strumica clergy intended for local needs and coincidentally taken and commented by the national media. Here is the falsely interpreted part of the above-mentioned announcement: “Not to speak about the lighting fires and breaking the Nativity fast, that is a purely pagan custom. Neither in this part nor in the whole announcement are there Serbian Christmas Eve fires mentioned.  

There are yet many strange things in the writings of our concerned theologian, yet for this there is neither time nor space. I would recommend him just not to disorient the public writing insubstantially against one of our brightest theological minds, Metropolitan Methodius of America and Canada. I hope, in the end, that although he counts himself greater than us, the Episcopes mentioned, he will nonetheless, to the end of his life, respect at least some of the ones not mentioned. For, in the Holy writings there is an example of a theologian who in his delusion also counted himself greater than all the Episcopes, then greater too than the supreme Apostles Peter and Paul, for eventually to think he is also greater than God. You can imagine how he endedLord have mercy!                

Metropolitan Nahum of Strumica

Source: Daily "Dnevnik"