June 19, 2018

Saint Paisius of Hilandar (+ 1773)

St. Paisius of Hilandar (Feast Day - June 19)

Saint Paisius of Hilandar was born in the year 1722 in Bansko of southwest Bulgaria into a pious family. One of his brothers, Laurence, was abbot of Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos, and another was noted as a generous benefactor of Orthodox temples and monasteries. Saint Paisius himself went through his obedience at Rila Monastery.

In 1745 at age twenty-three, Saint Paisius went to his brother in the Hilandar Monastery on Mount Athos, where he received monastic tonsure. The ascetic matured spiritually on the Holy Mountain. He studied Holy Scripture and he was found worthy of ordination to the holy priesthood.

In the year 1762 Saint Paisius wrote the History of the Slavo-Bulgarians (Istoriya Slavyanobolgarskaya), a book upholding the Christian faith and awakening the national self-awareness of the subjugated Bulgarian nation. This is the second modern Bulgarian history after the work of Petar Bogdan Bakshev from 1667, History of Bulgaria. Most Bulgarians are taught that he was the forefather of the Bulgarian National Revival. He collected materials for this study for two years through hard work and even visiting the lands of the Germans, and he finished his History of the Slavo-Bulgarians in 1762 in the Zographou Monastery. The most famous part of the whole book is the paragraph:

"Oh, you unwise moron! Why are you ashamed to call yourself a Bulgarian and why don't you read and speak in your native language? Weren't Bulgarians powerful and glorious once? Didn't they take taxes from strong Romans and wise Greeks? Out of all the Slavic nations they were the bravest one. Our rulers were the first ones to call themselves kings, the first ones to have patriarchs, the first ones to baptise their people.(...) Why are you ashamed of your great history and your great language and why do you leave it to turn yourselves into Greeks? Why do you think they are any better than you? Well, here you're right because did you see a Greek leave his country and ancestry like you do?"

This more or less signifies the purpose of the author who speaks about the danger of Bulgarians falling victim to the hellenization policies of the mainly Greek clergy. These anti-Greek sentiments presented in Paisius' writing, characterized the Greeks as some kind of Bulgarian national enemies. The book's first manual copy was done by Sophronius of Vratsa in 1765. Structurally, History of the Slavo-Bulgarians consists of two introductions, several chapters that discuss various historic events, a chapter about the "Slavic teachers", the disciples of Cyril and Methodios, a chapter about the Bulgarian saints, and an epilogue. As Paisius toured Bulgaria as a mendicant friar, he brought his work, which was copied and spread among the Bulgarians.

Amid the darkness of foreign oppression the Saint rekindled the lamp of Orthodoxy, lit formerly by Saints Cyril and Methodios. The time and place of the Saint’s blessed end is unknown, though it is believed to be around the year 1773 while on the way to Mount Athos near Ampelino (modern-day Asenovgrad).

On June 26, 1962 the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church under the presidency of His Holiness Patriarch Cyril, and with the participation of all the Metropolitans, expressed the indebtedness of the Church and country to Saint Paisius. They decreed that Paisius of Hilandar and Bulgaria be glorified as a saint, and directed that his memory be celebrated on June 19, “when, according to the Orthodox calendar, Saint Paisios the Great is commemorated.”

The name of Saint Paisius is borne by a state university in Plovdiv, and by many institutes and schools in other cities and villages of Bulgaria. This testifies to the deep veneration of the Saint by the Bulgarian nation.