THE GLORIFICATION OF ST. BASIL OF OSTROG
By Archimandrite Justin of Chelije
Immediately after the falling asleep of St. Basil in 1671, people started coming in great numbers to pray at his grave, just as they were accustomed to doing during his earthly life. Many miracles began taking place at the site of his grave and they have not ceased to this day.
Seven years after giving up his soul to God, in 1678, St. Basil appeared in a dream to Father Rafailo (Kosijerevac) the Abbot of Saint Luke Monastery in Zhupa near Nikshich, and ordered him to go to Ostrog and open up the Saint’s grave. The Abbot paid no attention to the dream and did not go. He had the same dream again, but he again ignored it. St. Basil then appeared to the Abbot a third time, dressed in episcopal vestments and with a censer in his hand. The Abbot woke up in fear and trepidation and told the brotherhood of his monastery about his dream. They agreed at once to make a hasty journey to Ostrog.
Upon their arrival they first informed the Ostrog monks of the Abbot’s dream and then took upon themselves a strict fast, all the while serving the complete cycle of daily prayers with a Divine Liturgy. They did so for seven days. On the seventh day, they censed the Saint’s grave and opened it.
Before them appeared the Saint in a glorified body with the color of pure wax, exuding the fragrance similar to that of basil leaves. Then the monks placed his incorrupt body in a case and took it to the Upper Monastery, to the Church of the Presentation of the Most Holy Theotokos, where it rests to this day.
News of the glorification of St. Basil’s body quickly spread and people began to flock in great numbers to venerate his holy and wonderworking relics. Not only Orthodox Christians, but also Roman Catholics and Lutherans, and even Muslims came to seek help at the great sanctuary of Ostrog. According to their faith in the mercy of God and that of St. Basil they received help and found consolation.
Even today pilgrims from all parts of the country, of all nationalities and religions come before the Wonderworker of Ostrog. Many people travel to Ostrog from abroad. From the holy reliquary arise prayers in many languages. Many parents bring their children to be baptized before the relics of St. Basil and many name their offspring after the Saint. Many a marriage ceremony has been performed at Ostrog, countless confessions have been made and many people have partaken of the Holy Mysteries before the holy relics, while countless others have asked for prayers to be read for their health and salvation.
Many sacrifices and donations are brought to the Holy Father at the Ostrog Monastery, but the greatest sacrifice of all is that of sincere repentance and the will to cleanse one’s heart before God and Saint Basil. Even the godless and atheists respect and honor St. Basil and utter his name with fear. For, as everyone knows, one did not make light of St. Basil while he lived, and one certainly does not make light of him now when he is glorified.
Before the merciful Ostrog Saint the Serbs pour out their sorrows and pains and offer warm prayers for their living and departed relatives. Having prepared for this encounter by fasting and prayer, pilgrims from near and far, on feast days and on weekdays gather at Ostrog in great numbers to venerate the Saint, to tell him of their sorrows, to weep before his reliquary and to confess their sins and receive a blessing. Besides the regular ecclesiastical fasts the people often promise to take on a special fast. This fast is called “the Week of the Holy Father Basil”, and it usually precedes his feast day. Pronouncing the Saint’s name is traditionally accompanied by the words, “Glory and mercy be upon him”. Many an oath has been sworn before the relics of St. Basil, and many a promise made.
The Power of God and the Temptations of History
During his earthly life the Saint was never left in peace but was persecuted by many enemies of God and by the chief enemy of our salvation. After his repose his holy relics were not spared by the evil one either.
The first time that the Ostrog monks had to conceal the relics of St. Basil was in 1714, when Numan-Pasha Chuprilich attacked and devastated Montenegro. The monks buried the relics below the monastery, near the Zeta river. The river overflowed and flooded the area where the relics were buried, but miraculously the water penetrated neither the reliquary, nor the relics of the Saint.
The second time the relics had to be hidden was during the siege of Ostrog in the winter of 1852. The Turkish commander Omar Pasha encircled the monastery and the siege lasted for nine days. Thirty Montenegrins, headed by the great vojvoda (duke) Mirko Petrovic, father of Prince Nikola, courageously defended the monastery. When they succeeded, with the help of St. Basil, in driving away the Turks, they served a thanksgiving molieban to God, the Most Holy Theotokos and St. Basil in the little Church of the Presentation. After that the Montenegrins took the Saint with them to Cetinje and placed him in the Church of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin, near the relics of St. Petar of Cetinje. There they remained until the spring of 1853, when they were again returned to Ostrog. During the war with the Turks the Monastery of Ostrog was burned and looted. Many Ostrog treasures, as well as documents dating from the time of St. Basil, disappeared forever.
The third time the relics of the Saint were transferred was during the war in 1876-1877. They were again taken to Cetinje, where they remained for about a year. They were brought back to Ostrog in a majestic procession in 1878.
During World War II, in February 1942, when enemy grenades rained upon Ostrog, the monks, fearing that the Church of the Presentation might be hit and destroyed, took the holy relics into a little cave behind the monastery building. This fear proved to be unfounded, for the grenades flew all around the monastery and fell and exploded, but the monastery itself was never hit, nor was anyone injured during these attacks. The Saint guarded his flock as he had always done before.
“BE NOT FAITHLESS, BUT BELIEVING”
(St. Basil of Ostrog Appears to a Priest of Weak Faith)
(St. Basil of Ostrog Appears to a Priest of Weak Faith)
It was in 1940 that Bishop Nikolai asked the Very Rev. Jovan Boskovic from Orja Luka (municipality of Danilovgrad), “Do you believe, Reverend Father, that God’s saints live?”
“How can I not believe that, when they have themselves appeared to me and witnessed that they are living!
One day my popadia (priest’s wife) asked me to go to Ostrog with an offering for some misfortune that had occurred in our family. I was somewhat grieved and angry. 'What should I bring?', I asked. 'Leave those dead bones in the Ostrog cave to rest in peace! It is the living you ought to turn to for help!'
The day passed.
That night I had a vision of St. Basil. He struck me with his staff and shouted at me, full of wrath, 'I am alive, not dead as you think! And be not faithless, but believing!'
In great fear I jumped from my bed and asked popadija for the offering she prepared for my pilgrimage. I immediately went to Ostrog and took the offering to St. Basil. Since then I have been firm in my belief that God’s Saints are living, not dead!”
“COME HITHER AND FEAR NOT”
(An Illuminating Second Appearance of St. Basil to the Same Priest)
(An Illuminating Second Appearance of St. Basil to the Same Priest)
Of this second miraculous occurrence which took place in Ostrog, the Very Rev. Jovan Boskovic rarely spoke and even then, only to his closest friends. His experience was documented by Maksim Jovovic:
“Early at dawn one morning”, recounted the old priest, “I had sent my altar server to bring some food which was needed from the Lower Monastery. I ordered him not to tarry and to ring the bell for matins as soon as he had brought the food. At that time, except for myself, there was no one else at the Upper Monastery.
I walked out in front of the monastery to enjoy the fresh morning air and to listen to the songs of the many birds that dwell in this wonderful, far-off place.
Then I took the key to the little church in which the case containing the holy relics is kept and opened it. I blessed myself with the sign of the cross and stood petrified, for I saw the Saint sitting up and leaning against the lid of the case. I started trembling and, as it was still dark, I rubbed my eyes. Then I heard a clear, resonant voice saying, 'Come hither father, and do not fear!'
I came closer to the reliquary, fell to my knees and kissed the Saint’s hand.
He bade me stand and spoke to me, with a sweet look on his face. We spoke of many things for about half an hour. Then he said to me, 'Now you can lock up the church and go out to prepare for matins!' I kissed his hand again and the panagia on his breast and went out.
The altar server came back at that moment, rang the bells, and after some ten minutes we went into the church together with some newly arrived pilgrims. The holy reliquary was closed and we venerated it as usual. The matins service began and when it ended we went out. I was confused and somewhat saddened the whole day and told no one of what I had seen.
The next day I told some brother priests in the Lower Monastery what had happened and I thanked God and St. Basil for having bestowed upon me, a sinner, the great honor of such a miraculous and rare conversation. This happened to me only once in all my 40 years of serving in the monastery. I have nourished the remembrance of this miraculous occurrence all my life as my most wonderful, significant and unforgettable memory.”
ST. BASIL REVEALS HIS MOTHER’S GRAVE TO A VILLAGER
The Belgrade weekly “Vreme”, in its issue of September 18th, 1937, features the following article by V.M.
“Eighty year old Tripko Milutinovic, a villager from Mrkonjic, has erected a large stone monument in the vicinity of the Orthodox church in his native village in memory of the mother of St. Basil of Ostrog. It is known that she died in the village of Mrkonjic; however, the location of her grave remained unknown until Milutinovic discovered it last year.
'It was right after the feast of St.Basil last year', recalls the old man, 'that I rose up early in the morning to put up a stone fence around my vineyard. As I passed by the church, I met an old monk whom I had never seen before. A boy of about eight years of age was at his side. When I had come close to him, the monk called out a greeting and asked me, in a strange voice, whether this was the village of Mrkonjic and whether this was the old Orthodox church. I assured him that it was, whereupon he bade me come with him that he might show me the grave of the mother of St. Basil of Ostrog. I followed him without saying a word. When we approached the church, he said: "Here it is. Remember, the grave of the mother of St. Basil of Ostrog." As I was looking at the tombstone and the cross, the monk disappeared.'
Other villagers had also seen the old monk walking through the graveyard and near the church. The accountant, Petar Milosevic, says that he, too, had met him. After this, old Tripko Milutinovic decided to erect the monument at the grave of the mother of St. Basil of Ostrog.”
THE VISION OF A VILLAGER FROM GRBALJ
Vujadin Cejovic had moved from Montenegro to the village of Stara Krimovica in Grbalj, Boka Kotorska in 1907. It was on Sunday, October 31st, 1937, that he led his cows to pasture in a dense evergreen forest about two kilometers away from his home.
Suddenly he saw a man in episcopal vestments with a golden epitrachelion and a pectoral cross standing in a small clearing in the forest. His face was the color of wax and his robes very luminous. Vujadin was overcome with fear and trembling such as he had never felt before, not even in the fiercest battles he had fought against the Turks. His hair stood on end so that his hat fell off.
The man stood watching Vujadin for a little while and then, in a gentle tone of voice, asked him what he was doing there. Vujadin answered and complained that the previous year had not been good. The Saint answered that worse was yet to come, for people had stopped honoring God and His saints; therefore times of lengthy suffering lay ahead.
When Vujadin told him, with trepidation, that since the last war (1912-1918) the people had become corrupt and had taken an ungodly path, the Saint warned him, “You will forget that war when the next war comes, with its misfortunes and suffering that will be brought on by the misdeeds of the people. Young and old, male and female, all blaspheme against God with every step they take; no one heeds the Church or keeps the Faith. A terrible punishment must come upon this people if they do not turn from their evil deeds and vice. Tell your fellow villagers what you have heard from me, that these words might spread.”
When Vujadin timidly remarked that he would not be believed and that he would most certainly be mocked, especially as he was a new-comer to the village, the Saint answered sternly, “Regardless of whether they believe you or not, you must still tell them my words. Also, you must remind your priest to finish the work he promised to do last year for the church" (it turned out that the priest had promised to repair and renew the old Church of Saint Nicholas). Having said this, the Saint vanished.
A few years later the winds of war descended upon the Serbian people, bringing with them unspeakable horrors.
THE SAINT TURNS AWAY A GOOD-FOR-NOTHING YOUTH
In the monastery archives Hieromonk Seraphim Kasic documented the following incident which took place in 1958:
“On the Feast of the Falling Asleep of St. Basil of Ostrog in 1958, P.B., a fourteen year old lad from Niksic, came to our monastery begging to be accepted as a pupil. The elders of the monastery promised to take him in, on the condition that one of his parents come to the monastery in person to make arrangements. The youngster’s father had died in the war, so his mother came to the monastery to arrange for his stay. As she had no male child other than him, they asked her to give him up to the Ostrog Monastery and, should he prove diligent, obedient and honest, to see him become a monk one day, God willing. To this she answered, 'Father, I have tried very hard to bring him up well, as hard as I, a poor widow, could. He has finished elementary school and it was my wish that he continue his education in secondary school. I am not well off, but I do get some help from the government, and I was ready to do without if only he would go to school, get some education and start earning his own bread. But he will not listen to me; he has no inclination for learning. He has expressed the wish to go to a monastery and become a monk. Father, I would rather he be tonsured a monk than have him end up on the streets as a good-for-nothing and a thief.' The elders of the monastery took pity on the poor woman and so young P. was admitted to the monastery.
What happened next? Young P. was initiated into the monastic way of life and he performed certain chores, as all other pupils do, but it was evident from the very beginning that he was the most disobedient of all the boys. The monks watched over his every move with a vigilant eye. They pointed out his wrong doings and encouraged him to do better. They provided good guidance for him as to how one must behave in a monastery and how one must strive against sin.
And so the days went by. It had been four months since young P. had come to the monastery. Barely had the fourth month passed, when one morning he came up to me and said, 'Father Seraphim, would you like to hear about the dream I had last night?' I answered, 'Yes, P. Tell me your dream.' And he started recounting his dream:
'I was in the church where the Saint is. You, Father Seraphim, were serving matins, and there were other people in the church too, about ten of them. The candles and vigil lamps burned brightly and lit up the church, so it was pure bliss standing there. Upon finishing the matins service, you opened the holy reliquary as you always do, that we might venerate the Saint, which all of us did, one by one. When we had all venerated the relics, we lingered on in the church for a little while. You were standing by the open reliquary when suddenly a voice boomed out. You could hear the voice but you could not see who it was that was speaking. The voice said, “Everyone, leave, except for P!”
Then you, Father Seraphim, and all the others filed out. The reliquary was open. When everybody had gone out and I was alone in the church, a voice coming right out of the reliquary said to me, “P, come closer!” I went up to the reliquary and stood there, looking at the Saint.
And I saw him well and clearly, just as when I had venerated him. Suddenly, the covers from his head and chest slipped off and I saw his face and his hands folded across his chest. It was such a wondrous sight; I had never seen anything like it before. His face and hands were thin and yellow, like wax. I could see his eyes; they were shut, as though he was sleeping. His hair and beard were not as long as they look on the icon, but shorter, and gray – with not a single black strand. Suddenly he opened his eyes and looked at me as if he were alive; he looked straight at me! I was a little bit shaken up, but still I looked right at him. He didn’t take his eyes off me. Then all of a sudden, he shook his head as if in disapproval and closed his eyes again. The covers slipped back on and covered him just as he was before. That’s when I woke up.'
When young P. had told me his dream I did not answer for a long time. I do not pay much heed to dreams, but this one seemed especially interesting and quite disturbing, too. We stood there in silence, the two of us. At length, I answered him: 'P., St. Basil shook his head at you. That means you haven’t been good. He sees all our actions and he will punish all who do not do good in his home.' I advised him to obey old people, to be quiet and to study. I especially stressed that his hands must be clean and he must never take anything from the monastery without the elders’ blessing. Then I told him: “Go now, do your chores and do good at all times.”'
After his dream we noticed that P. never did what he was told to, that he was very obstinate. A few minutes we caught him in various misdeeds. He was forgiven and told that he would be expelled from the monastery if he continued to behave thus. And so he stopped being a pupil at the monastery and St. Basil’s prophecy that was manifested in his dream came true.”
THE HEALING OF A PARALYTIC
Hieromonk Simeon Mihailovic of Ostrog wrote in 1932:
“At the time that Vidak Djurovic, son of Miro, was a pupil at the Ostrog Monastery, some time in the late 1800’s, a very ill man was brought into the Church of the Presentation of the Most Holy Theotokos, in which the relics of St. Basil rest. The man had no use of his legs foe several years. They placed him under the holy reliquary.
Some time later, while the aforementioned pupil was serving coffee to those who had brought the paralytic, the afflicted man stood up by himself, walked out of the church and unexpectedly appeared in the old monastery guesthouse where the others were drinking coffee.
His appearance startled his companions at first, but soon they were overjoyed and they all embraced and kissed him, as though he had been born again or had risen from the dead. According to Vidak’s testimony the ill man, whose name he does not recall, was from some village in Sandzak.”
THE HEALING OF AN INSANE MAN
Hieromonk Serafim Kasic copied out the following letter written by Jovanka Vujicic from Kotor on August 22nd, 1957. The original letter is also preserved in the archives:
“Venerable Father, I am writing in regards to our conversation and your wish to describe in as much detail as possible the healing of my uncle. Also, I have been able to verify a few more facts about the incident.
My late uncle, Danilo Zlokovic, son of Todor (born in Bijela, municipality of Herceg Novi in 1866 and died 1924), traveled to Ostrog on foot every year, beginning when he was twenty years old, in order that he might venerate the Wonderworker of Ostrog and might thank him for having healed him. In his early youth (around 1883) my uncle had become insane. For two or three years he was heavily afflicted with this illness and would wander alone in the mountains. One day they caught him, tied him up and brought him to Ostrog.
He fell asleep under the Saint’s reliquary, while the old hieromonk read prayers for him. He slept for a long time, until Djuro Malevic, one of the men who had accompanied him to Ostrog, saw him awake from his sleep. He returned home by himself, healthy and sane. Until his death he remained in good health, always joyful and good-humored and very well-liked in the village.
My late uncle related that he was present at Ostrog when a crib with a child in it fell down the Ostrog rocks and the child remained unharmed. I remember this very clearly. My uncle told us of other miracles he had witnessed at Ostrog, but as I do not know the details of these miracles, I am not able to write about them.”
THE QUICK HEALING OF AN INSANE VILLAGER
M.L. from the municipality of Bar dictated the following to Maksim Jovovic in 1959:
“My neighbor M.P., a married man of about 40 years old, lost his wits suddenly one night. He shouted and swore and beat the children. He became dangerous for the community and there was a fear that he might kill someone during one of his fits. Before putting him in a mental institution his father decided to take him to Ostrog first, so that the monks might read prayers for him. This took place in 1905.
He was restless during the trip and his father barely managed to keep him subdued. When they entered the monastery he was forced to get down on his knees before the reliquary so that the monk could read prayers for him. This was achieved with great difficulty.
When the monk had finished reading the prayers he got up. His father left a donation for the monastery. He walked out of the church as a sane man. He traveled home peacefully and this illness never appeared again in his life.”