VIDOVDAN - GRACANICA 2000

Danas, Belgrade, Yugoslavia
June 29, 2000

Patriarch Pavle serves liturgy in Gracanica
and parastos in Gazimestan

Prayers with enforced KFOR accompaniment

By Jelena Tasic

Gracanica, Gazimestan - Yesterday in Kosovo and Metohija the holy day of the Holy Martyr Lazar, Vidovdan was commemorated by holy liturgy in the Church of the Ascension of the Holy Mother of God in the monastery of Gracanica and a commemorative service (parastos) in Gazimestan served by the Serbian Patriarch Kyr Pavle together with the archpriests of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the emissary
of the Russian Patriarch, the bishop of Krasna Gora, Sava. The honorable official of the Russian Church, who is currently visiting the Russian troops which are a part of KFOR, bequeathed to the bishop of Raska and Prizren, Artemije (Radosavljevic), a church banner with the images of the holy Aleksandar Nevski and the holy prince Lazar in the hope that "the assistance and the grace of God will be the travelling companions on the path of the Serb people in Kosovo".

With candles, flowers and prayers for the deceased, several dozen Kosovo Serbs accompanied by reinforced KFOR forces paid their respects yesterday to the heroes of Kosovo and all Serbs who perished from the Battle of Kosovo to the present day.

Assisting the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, parastos and liturgy in the monastery of Gracanica were served by Bishop Artemije and the bishop of Vranje, Pahomije (Gacic) and the former bishop of Zahumlje and Herzegovina, Atanasije (Jevtic).


Patriarch Pavle and Bishop Artemije

Bishop Artemije in Vidovdan festivities
Bishop Artemije blessing the Vidovdan "bread"

"We are bodies. We are of this earth. But we are also spirits because we of heaven. Were life on the Earth to last a thousand years, it would pass. While the kingdom of heaven has no end and if we are deserving of it, we are near to God and together also with all those holy to us. Our ancestors knew this and they were able to endure 500 years of slavery," Patriarch Pavle said during a sermon following liturgy in the monastery of Gracanica.

Commenting on the statements of a domestic politician who justified genocide by the Bible, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church reminded that the teaching of Christ is that "it is better to lose one's head than to sin against one's soul". "This does not mean passivity but only that we defend ourselves from criminals as men, always and everywhere," emphasized Patriarch Pavle, praying to the Lord for "peace to our country but also to our enemies because they are needful of it even though they do not know it, and that our Lord support us in everything good so that we may be a nation of honor".

Vidovdan Poetic Evening
Vidovdan Poetic Evening - Dr. Rada Trajkovic, BishopAthanasije, Bishop Artemije, Patriarch Pavle and Bishop Pahomije

Wishing a happy Vidovdan to all the faithful, Bishop Artemije reminded that on yesterday's date, 611 years ago, "the heavens touched the earth", and that the Serbs chose "the kingdom of heaven" and elected values eternal.

Gazimestan Commemoration
Traditional Commemoration at the site of the Battle, Gazimestan tower

State delegation present at parastos

The commemorative service (parastos) in Gazimestan yesterday was also attended by
representatives of the office of the federal government for relations with the
international mission in Kosovo, as well as representatives of the ruling parties.
There was a noticeable "buffer zone" with occasional KFOR soldiers between the
people who came with the church and the state delegation which arrived somewhat
later.

* * * * *

The Patriarch did not choose Milosevic

Answering the qusetions of foreign reporters in Gazimestan whether he would renounce
Slobodan Milosevic, Patriarch Pavle said that he did not choose the president of the
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. "I did not choose Milosevic. Western observers
recognized the elections. Now the West does not recognize him and asks me to
renounce him although I did not vote under [Josip Tito] Broz nor under Milosevic,"
explained Patriarch Pavle.

Yesterday in the residence hall of the monastery of Gracanica, he spoke with Bernard
Kouchner, the head of the UN civil mission in Kosovo and general Richard Sheriff,
commander, regarding the situation in Kosovo and Metohija. Yesterday the Patriarch
also visited the Pec Patriarchate.

People gathered in Gracanica

Translated by Snezana Lazovic (Vidovdan, 2000)

SAINT LAZAR GREAT MARTYR OF KOSOVO


Prince Lazar was born in 1329 in Prilepac to the aristocrat family Hrebeljanovic. His father
Pribac was a Logotet-secretary doing very confidential work for King Dusan the Powerful in the royal palace. Young Lazar was raised in the palace, and was respected by the King who entrusted him with the rule of two parts of his kingdom: Srem and Macva. Lazar married Milica the daughter of an important aristocrat named Vratko also known as Yug Bogdan - a very wise and honorable man from the Nemanjic family. Lazar had three sons: Stevan, Vuk and Lazar and five daughters: Jelena, Mara, Despa, Vukosava and Mileva.

King Dusan the Powerful died unexpectantly in 1355 at the age of 48. This led to a weakening of Serbia's central government. Many dukes used this opportunity to secede from the Kingdom with the land that had been entrusted to them. The young son of Dusan Uros took over the throne and soon was killed. Vukasin Mrnjacevic proclaimed himself the King of Serbia. At this time, Turks were advancing toward the Kingdom of Serbia. In a battle on the river Marica in 1371, Vukasin was killed leaving behind him a weakened, poor and torn Serbia. Serbia was in desperate need of a gifted statesman, rich in virtue and deserving of God's Grace: a man similar to St.Sava and his father St. Stefan Nemanja who had founded the Serbian state. The Church recognized just such a man in Prince Lazar. His talent for leadership, wisdom and experience lifted him above those who would seize the throne by force and sought their own glory and importance.

Prince Lazar, first sought to consolidate and strengthen the Kingdom. As was the custom of that day and age, he married his daughters to the rebellious Serbian aristocrats. This enlarged and stabilized Serbia. Having thus secured the loyalty of dissident aristocrats, Prince Lazar turned to those countries which bordered his own, seeking to deepen Serbia's relationship with them.

At this time, the Serbian Orthodox Church was in a dispute with the Patriarch of Constantinople. King Dusan the Powerful wanted Serbia to have an independent Church. He single-handedly sought to elevate the Serbian archbishop to the level of a patriarch. The Patriarch of Constantinople utterly rejected this act and broke relations with the Church in Serbia. This was a very serious problem and one which King Lazar managed to solve by reconciling the Serbian Church and that of Constantinople. It was a result of this reconciliation that gave the Serbian Church its first canonical Patriarch.

The expansion of that Ottoman state, and increasingly frequent Turkish raids into his land, warned Prince Lazar that the time for a decisive battle was drawing near. Lengthy preparation on both sides preceded this confrontation. The fact that the armies were led by the Turkish ruler Murad 1 and by King Lazar of Serbia illustrates the importance of this battle. It was decided that the site of the battle would be a field in Kosovo (Kosovo Polje).

Prince Lazar knew that his chances against the Turkish aggressor were small and on the eve of the Battle of Kosovo he gathered his upper aristocracy and asked if they should fight for the Holy cross and Golden Freedom or surrender to their adversaries and live as slaves of the Muslims. They had to chose between the Heavenly Kingdom and earthly one. In the true spirit of Christianity they preferred to place their hope in Christ and Eternal Life. The Prince and all of this warriors took Holy communion and went into battle on Saint Vitus Day, Tuesday June 15th 1389.

In the beginning of the battle Serbian warriors were able to advance. Milos Obilic, the most famous hero of this Kosovo Battle, killed the Turkish King Murad. Despite this unexpected development, the Turkish army re-grouped and over ran the Serbs. They captured Prince Lazar alive, but beheaded him shortly thereafter.

Today his earthly remains are amazingly preserved intact and kept in the monastery Ravanica which was founded by him, along with many others churches and monasteries. The faithful gather from all Serbia just as they have through centuries to venerate his Holy relics and to get comfort and healing and to inspire them in the hope and belief that better days will come.

Remnants of the past
Traces of the rich history - a medieval tower