Kosovo is the heart of Serbia; Orthodoxy is the heart of Kosovo; and holiness is the heart of Orthodoxy. The recognition of the illegal declaration of Kosovo as a Muslim-dominated state is not only an act of geo-political suicide, but a further dismantling of what little remains of the Christian civilization of Europe. Not only is Christianity quickly disappearing from Europe, but even its silent monuments are being destroyed. To remind ourselves of why and how Christianity is at the heart of our civilization, we need only to look to the memory of the saints. Today the Orthodox Church celebrates the memory of St Stevan Nemanja (Simeon in monasticism), the Myrrhgusher and Prince of Serbia. Bishop Nikolai (Velimirovic), himself a twentieth-century saint of the Serbian Orthodox Church, writes the following brief life of St Stevan:
The above fresco depicts St Stevan as a monk.
Stevan Nemanja, the great ruler of the Serbian people, unifier of the Serbian lands, creator of an independent Serbian government, defender of Orthodoxy, driver-out of heresy, was first baptised in the Latin Church, but later became a member of the Orthodox Church. In its organisation, it was at first dependent on Greece, but later shook off this dependence and became completely autonomous. When he had strengthened the state and the Orthodox Church within the state he then, following the example of his son Sava, received the monastic habit at the monastery of Studenica in 1195, being given the name Simeon. His wife Anna also received the monastic habit and the name Anastasia, and retired to a women's monastery. After two years' monasticism at Studenica, Simeon went to the Holy Mountain. There he stayed at first in the monastery of Vatopedi, together with Sava. Father and son spent days and nights in prayer. They built there six chapels: to the Saviour, the Unmercenaries, St George, St Theodore, the Forerunner and St Nicolas. They bought the ruins of Hilandar and built a beautiful monastery, in which Simeon lived only eight months before his death. When he was at his last breath, Sava, according to his wish, placed him on a simple rush mat. With his eyes fixed on the icon of the Mother of God with the Saviour, the blessed elder pronounced these words: 'Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord.' And he went to the Lord, on February 13th, 1200.Bishop Nikolai then adds this reflection:
The great Stevan Nemanja, whose authoritative word was unreservedly heeded by all, at whom peoples and kings trembled, became a monk and served the monks of the Holy Mountain as a model example of meekness, humility, goodness and prayer. And his death was the death of a truly godly man and spiritual guide. He took to his bed on February 7th, called St Sava to him, placed his hands on him and blessed him, saying: 'My beloved child, light of my eyes, comfort and guardian of my old age, the time for us to part has come; the Lord is letting me go forth in peace. But do not grieve, my child, for our parting; this is common to all. Here we part; but we shall meet again hereafter, where there is no more parting.' On February 12th St Simeon told Sava to dress him in his burial habit, spread rushes for him on the ground, put a stone for his head and thus lay him there. Then he called together all the monks and asked their forgiveness. At dawn on the 13th, while the monks were singing the morning office in the church, their voices reached the dying man's cell, St Simeon's face lit up once more and he gave his soul to God.Is this the sort of figure whose memory we wish to erase and whose churches we wish to destroy? Are the modern ideals of tolerance and democracy more important than preserving and defending monuments to such holiness? What sort of man does our society today wish to create? One need only turn to Socrates' description of the "democratic man" in The Republic (VIII: 561) for an answer:
Yes, I said, he lives from day to day indulging the appetite of the hour; and sometimes he is lapped in drink and strains of the flute; then he becomes a water-drinker, and tries to get thin; then he takes a turn at gymnastics; sometimes idling and neglecting everything, then once more living the life of a philosopher; often he is busy with politics, and starts to his feet and says and does whatever comes into his head; and, if he is emulous of any one who is a warrior, off he is in that direction, or of men of business, once more in that. His life has neither law nor order; and this distracted existence he terms joy and bliss and freedom; and so he goes on.Whom is it that we should aspire to emulate: the man of holiness or the man of democracy? Which civilization should we defend: one that, at the very least, defends the Christian past; or one which reifies – and even deifies – the noble lie of democracy, even when it seeks to destroy the last remaining monuments of Christendom?
The above fresco depicts St Stevan as a monk.