A Light to Its People

The Devic Monastery endures, it is alive and the sanctuary that is surrounded by barbed wire continues to exist. Almost devastated during the 2004 pogrom, the sanctuary has recovered, the refectories and the church have been renewed.

Манастир Девич слава 2007 The Devic Monastery - everything is as it is in any temple of faith. And yet, nothing is the same: Barbed wire around the Holy Place, foreign soldiers armed to their teeth, armored vehicles. They were here in the spring of 2004 and the picture was the same. Devic underwent an assault back then, and the army was rescuing the nuns. The monastery was burnt down and relics centuries old disappeared in the flames, the shelter was burnt down, and the Monastery's property was looted.

From such ashes and dust, just like from death - a resurrection, the sanctuary has reemerged. And it is living its ages-long endurance. The sisterhood, with the support of its people, its love and faith, has renewed the refectories and the church. It has also saved the relics of Saint Joannicius (Joakinije in Serbian, translator's note) of Devic.

Манастир Девич Митрополит Амфилохије, Владика Артемије Two days ago, several hundreds of people streamed together to this monastery. Before morning we, too, are travelling through the Drenica region where the monastery is rising like a nest of rare birds, together with the people making up this long convoy which is being escorted by UN police. This is a part of Kosovo where Serbs were not welcome, when everybody was making their pledge on liberty, brotherhood and unity. From behind the gates and windows, we are being followed by the eyes of those who are still swearing allegiance to Adem Jashari. Now there is a memorial compound built for him near Srbica. This is shown by the road sign from where a recently paved and well- illuminated road is parting. This is why, today, the Devic Monastery is distant and inaccessible for its people, who have been elevated and strengthened spiritually, who have been flocked together, еnlightened and - sustained by the monastery over the centuries.

Serbs from all regions are making their way passing alongside the mentioned compound, despite of the bad weather and the circumstances: From northern Kosovo, the most remote Serbian enclaves in Kosovo, from Sabac, Belgrade, and Krusevo...in order to celebrate the monastery's Saint's Day.

КФОР на слави манастира Девич The convoy stops at the fork where we are to abandon the main road. The French soldiers order: " From here on you have to walk''. Rows of people are descending slowly towards the foot of the mountain. The ransacking on the bridge goes on. So does the silence, like a drama. Afterwards, the people are walking uphill in rows, in silence. Children and old people are walking. The snow is really implacable, too. The people have brought along offerings for the sisterhood: Boxes of oranges, juices - carrying them on their backs, uphill.

In front of the monastery, the barbed wire has been moved. We pass through almost touching with the soldiers and their weapons. It is cold, indeed. And oppressing, in our hearts.

Монахиње у манастиру Девич Mother Superior Anastasija receives the guests. It is obvious that she is joyful, but displaying joy doesn't go with monasticism.

-This is one of those days in the year when most people are gathering here - the Mother Superior tells us. But today, more than ever before, our people have shown their strength. This is their identification card. This is why I hope to see better days, even though we've been through terrible ones. But, just like spring comes after winter, and resurrection after death, I believe that things will get better. We've always survived like this, over the ages. A few minutes later, Metropolitan Amfilohije, Bishops Artemije and Teodosije arrive. The soldiers and policemen who had escorted them take up their positions.

The Holy Pontifical Lithurgy begins, the church is too small to contain all the people, so they take turns. While some are in the sanctuary, others light candles or visit the refectories.

The moment of breaking the Saint's Day cake, the emotions are almost tangible - when the chant of the Decani monks sets off, and the people present in the church, with the signs of the assault still visible, chant along.

The Saint Day's host, Sasha Nenadovic from Herceg Novi, tell us: - I feel attached to the monastery, to Kosovo. I studied here, I served the army here. I come whenever I can, and I return stronger. And, I always depart saying good-bye to the sisterhood: "Next year, at this place, with our guiding light, our faith and our people. '' And thus, still today, when Serbs depart they use to say „Next year, in Devic''.

Metropolitan Amfilohije's Oration: The Thruth is the Last

The mighty come and go and this might be quite a unique place indeed, in Kosovo and Metohija, where so many wordly powers have passed by over the ages and where the people's divine Holy Places have been crucified during the past six centuries - just as in our present days. Yet, this present crucifiction, the one in Kosovo, is perhaps the most profound and the most horrendous among all those the holy shrine of St. Joanikije has ever seen.

But, here are the words of the holy prophet: „ If I should pass through the shadow of death, I shall have no fear, for Thou art with me, Your sceptre and staff are my comfort. And my fortress''. This is why we are here today, to consolidate ourselves in God's power and faith - that what belongs to God and those who belong to God - are invincible. And that they shall always defeat every evil anew, just as they have always been defeating it from the times of Christ, up to the present days.

Demonic powers and evil cannot have the last word in Kosovo and Methohija, nor in God's entire world. Injustice and crime. Darkness, gloom and death. And that, what creates death. The last word and the last victory is the victory of God's truth and of justice. The victory of God's goodness and love. This is the message given to us by the holy shrine of our venerable father Joanikije of Devic. This is the message given to us by the holy hand of the Great Martyr Stefan of Decani and the golden head of the martyr of Kosovo, Lazar, who have been consolidating themselves through the ages. In the name of God, which is above every name.

Source: „Vecernje novosit (December 17, 2007) - Milena Markovic, Ivan Radulovic, Photo: A. Stankovic