His Holiness Serbian Patriarch kyr Porfirije presided over a Holy Liturgy on 24 September 2023, at the Cathedral church of the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles in Mostar.
At the festive service commemorating the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the Mostar Cathedral church, the following Hierarchs concelebrated with the Primate of the Serbian Orthodox Church: Their Eminences Metropolitans kyr Hrizostom of Dabar-Bosnia and kyr Joanikije of Montenegro and the Littoral, as well as Their Graces Bishops kyr Dositej of Britain and Scandinavia, kyr Pahomije of Vranje, kyr Jovan of Šumadija, kyr Atanasije of Mileševa, kyr Grigorije of Düsseldorf and Germany, kyr Gerasim of Upper Karlovac, kyr Jovan of Slavonia, kyr Sergije of Bihać and Petrovac, kyr Kirilo of Buenos Aires and South Central America – Administrator of the Diocese of Zagreb-Ljubljana, Metodije of Budimlje and Nikšić, Nektarije of Jegar, and Dimitrije of Zahumlje and Herzegovina.
Historians have noted that the magnificent and monumental church dedicated to the Holy Trinity was built by the Serbs of Mostar in 1873 on the hill of Brankovac. On this occasion, significant contributions were made by the Turkish sultan and the Russian emperor. Unfortunately, on 15 June 1992, the church was shelled, subsequently set on fire, and shortly thereafter mined by Muslim-Croat paramilitary forces. The restoration of the church began in 2010.
On that occasion, Patriarch Porfirije delivered a sermon:
– In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
Brothers and sisters, today a great blessing from God has poured out upon the city of Mostar. His grace has descended upon this holy land of Herzegovina. The Lord Himself is with us in this holy church during the Holy Liturgy. And we are joyful because the Lord has allowed us to have, once again, after the falls, after suffering, crucifixion, and the cross, an almost completely renewed church here on Bjelušine – the Mount Zion of Mostar, the Zion of Herzegovina.
In this church, the Lord is with us in the Holy Liturgy, and we become one with Him, but also one with each other. Every sacred place where a person turns to God is a testimony and confession of the truth and the fact that we are not just bodies, we are not just biological beings. We are spiritual beings, or rather, we are, above all, spiritual beings, and everything that is tangible, material, and biological is called to be permeated with the Holy Spirit, to become spiritual through our efforts and love in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the greatest downfall for all of us, for all those who have lived in this city and continue to live here today, is the moment when sacred places were destroyed, when places where we are called to pray to God and see our neighbor as ourselves, to truly respect and love them, were demolished. That moment when we destroyed each other’s sacred places – places where we gather and where we are called to gather and pray to God, that moment was the greatest defeat for all of us together. The greatest possible shame and fall before God.
Brothers and sisters, there is nothing more wonderful, there is no greater blessing than when places of worship are built, especially when destroyed places of worship are being restored. We are blessed because we have a renewed place of worship, and a renewed sacred place is an opportunity and the beginning of our renewal, self-renewal, reconciliation with God, and reconciliation with one another through prayers that God may grant His peace to each one of us. We all know that there is no possibility of establishing peace externally if we do not have peace within ourselves. But in the same way, it is not possible to secure peace for ourselves and within ourselves if we do not make an effort to secure peace for our neighbor, peace for the one who is next to us.
Man is created and meant to be a being of community. God established the marital community as a visible framework for unity. Anyone who is married, who has children, who has brothers, sisters, and parents knows that they cannot be at peace if their spouse, brother, sister, or neighbor does not have peace. Every husband knows well that if he desires inner peace and his wife is troubled and restless, that peace is only an outwardly deceiving reality and true peace does not exist. Only when a husband ensures the peace of his wife will he find peace, and vice versa. Can parents be peaceful when their children are not at peace? Can children be tranquil when their parents are not at peace? And so on, brothers and sisters.
Therefore, in God’s church, we want to reconcile with God, to attain that inner, most important spiritual peace. However, in our life, nothing is only in the vertical, just as nothing is only in the horizontal. True peace, as a peace given by God, is achieved when we make effort to ensure peace for our neighbor. This applies to every value we fight for and seek to adorn and enrich our lives with.
This church, brothers and sisters, is a gift from God. The place where we are gathered once was the largest Orthodox church in the Balkans. We will gather for the Holy Liturgy to see God and to see ourselves, to get to know God and to get to know humanity. That is why the Holy Liturgy is served, that is why the church exists. And, thanks be to God, the members of another nation and faith have shown the same concern, the same feelings, the same need for peace. They, in accordance with their possibilities, but even more importantly, in accordance with the need to express the need for peace, participated in the restoration of this church, the restoration of the bell tower, and vice versa – we participated in the renewing of their places of worship. In fact, in renewing the neighbor. Everyone essentially deeply renews himself and realizes the truth and the fact that no one can say, in the words of the apostle Paul, that he does not need others. No one can say that he is self-sufficient and no one can say that he acquires peace, love, joy, and beauty all by himself. All of that, brothers and sisters, exists as a gift from God and is given to us. But it is not given to us, as today’s Gospel story shows, to appropriate it for ourselves. Everything is a gift from God! Is there anything that we have not received? We have received our lives. What are we masters of? We are not even masters of ourselves. We are not owners of our lives; we came into the world without being asked when it would happen, in what time and space. And God will call us into His embrace again, without asking us. We are the owners and masters, according to today’s story, brothers and sisters, only of what we have received and understood to be God’s gift, into which we have invested effort to multiply it and share it with others. We saw a story in which one man distributes gifts, talents. To one, he gives five, to another two, to the third, one talent, and so on. And of course, this is a metaphor, an image of God’s relationship with us humans. There is no man who does not have his gift, his talent, his unique value. And there is no person. more valuable than another who is less valuable. Everyone is most valuable before God, with their talents, their abilities, and their potential. Because everyone is unique. Everyone has received their gift, not to appropriate it, not to steal it from God, not to hide it, but to make an effort. And the first and basic spiritual effort is prayer, brothers and sisters. And fasting, and mercy, and forgiveness, and repentance, all of which the Holy Gospel teaches us. We need to invest this effort to get to know God more and more and unite with Him, but also to give ourselves to others through the gifts we have multiplied and invested in. As the apostle Paul says and we sing in the Troparion of the Holy Unmercenaries: Freely you have received, freely give. Our only possession is what we have shared with others. And the most beautiful, the richest, and the most virtuous is the one who has multiplied their talents the most. It is like in school. Not only is one’s knowledge evaluated, and the teacher will not evaluate each student in the same way. From the one who is more intelligent and talented, the teacher will expect more. But from the one who, at first glance and formally, has fewer abilities, let’s say in mathematics, if they have invested effort and maximum effort, the teacher will evaluate their effort the same way as they evaluated the one who is more capable in mathematics. And perhaps sometimes with a higher grade, if the more capable one put in less effort, or did not try at all. So in this story, we have two who multiplied everything they received, doubled it, and one who hid his talents. From the one who hid or appropriated the talents and jealously guarded them, the Lord took away what He had given and gave it to those who had put in more effort. Therefore, everyone has their talents, and we are all necessary to one another.
And today’s story fits and reflects the need of all those who live in this beautiful, blessed Mostar, the need for all of us to make an effort to understand the voice of God. His message, to understand that we are not just material, biological beings. Even if we gain the whole world outwardly, if we are empty inside, devoid of God’s grace, it is all in vain, it is worth nothing. By following this path and gathering in this holy church, praying to God, we will know this truth. We will then do what is pleasing to God, fulfill His law and His commandments, and we will know that the final judgment of God is in His Kingdom, where God will ask us what we have done to become better. Not that things may be better for us, but rather that we become better, and then as the fruit of our improvement, everything beneficial will be from us, around us, and among us. Therefore, God will seek effort and endeavor from us; He will ask us what we have done within our families, with our loved ones, within our nation, with our neighbors. Have we become one in faith, in Christ, in the Church, and as individuals aware of ourselves, have we been able to communicate and interact confidently and without fear with everyone else – respecting ourselves, loving ourselves and our loved ones, experiencing all other people as close and every nation as a gift from God.
May the Lord grant, brothers and sisters, just as we had baptism today in this church, that our people be baptized here, get married, but above all, to attend the Holy Liturgy, to get spiritual strength, to find the meaning of our existence, so that Christ may be in the first place for us, and then everything else will fall into place. May the Lord grant peace, love, and joy to all the people who live in this city and throughout Herzegovina. Through the prayers of Saint Sava, Saint Vasilije of Ostrog, the prayers of the Martyrs of Prebilovci, the prayers of all Herzegovinian Martyrs, may there be peace, joy, and love. And you, pray for all of us Hierarchs who come from all over, just as we will pray for you. We will always be united in prayer and in the Lord Jesus Christ, praising Him here on earth and in the heavenly Kingdom, now and forever and unto ages of ages. Amen!