Monday, November 22, 2004

The Life Story of Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic - New Chrysostom

He was born on December 23rd (old calendar) or January 5th in 1881 in a small village Lelic, not far from Valjevo. He was baptized in Celije Monastery, which was functioning as the main village church and also a school at that time. His parents Dragomir & Katarina, farmers, had nine children. Nikolaj was their first child. When he had finished theology school, he received scholarship at famous Roman-Catholic University in Bern, in Switzerland. After graduation, he prepared a doctorate on the topic of "The Belief in Christ’s Resurrection as the main dogma of the Apostolic Church". With the topic “Berkeley Philosophy,” he received his second doctor's degree in philosophy at the Oxford University.


When he returned to Serbia, he became a monk in a monastery at Rakovica, near Belgrade, on December 20th 1909, and he got his monastic name Nikolaj. After some time, he went to Russia (in Petersburg) and finished Clerical Academy.
At the beginning of the World War I, in 1915, he was sent, under the government of Nikola Pasic, to England and the U.S.A. to suppress the propaganda against the Serbs and to propagate the just fight of the Serbs.
“What am I going to tell them?,” he asked for the instructions? After a long silence, Mr. Pasic answered, "You will know when the time comes"!
During the next four years (1915-1919), Nikolaj was in, in churches, schools, universities, hotel rooms, and other places of England and the U.S.A., trying to explain the just fight of Serbian people, for freedom and against the Austrians.
At the end of the World War I, while he was still in England, he was elected for a bishop at Zica on March 25th in 1919. In 1920 he was relocated to Ohrid Bishopric. At this time, there were many intensive diplomatic activities of the state and the church, so that he was a member of numerous delegations sent to Greece, Turkey, St. Gora, the U.S.A. and England. He was a great missionary and activist of Evangelism. Under very complicated circumstances, he was traveling and teaching people just as famous St. Sava had done before. He rebuilt the churches and monasteries destroyed in war. He formed the orphanages for the poor abandoned children. In order to defend his people from an aggressive sect-propaganda, he supported the newly formed Congregation of Orthodox Christian Peoples, whose leader he was between the two wars.
In the year 1934, Bishop Nikolaj came back on the throne of Zica parish. He started the reconstruction of the Zica Monastery and recovered the old Nemanjic glory. He also reconstructed many other monasteries, among which several monasteries on Ovcar - Kablar cliffs, which are called The Serbian Saint Mountain.
As soon as the Germans occupied the country, police and military forces came to Zica, and Bishop Nikolaj was isolated and arrested on July 12th 1941. He was imprisoned in monastery Ljubostinja until December 3rd 1942 and after that he was sent to Vojlovac, near Pancevo, together with the previous Zica Bishop Vasilije Kostic and his nephew Jovan Velimirovic. In 1943, Germans also put patriarch Gavrilo there. At the end of the summer period in 1944, they were both taken to the disreputable camp Dahau in Germany. They were the only two clergymen in Europe who were the prisoners in that camp in a Nazi country. With a great help of Dimitrije Ljotic, they were both released. When the war ended, they were in Slovenia with their Serbs.
For some time they were wondering through the countries of Western Europe, and than patriarch Gavrilo returned to Serbia and took over a duty of the leader of the Serbian Church. Bishop Nikolaj had a very difficult path and got to feel all the bitterness of emigration.
He didn't want to return to his beloved Serbia during the post-war government of Communists. He thought that he could help his people better from abroad. "When a house burns - put out the fire from the outside," he used to say.
All the time, he was helping his people, churches, monasteries, monks and clergy from the U.S.A. He gave to his people all that he had. He was gathering Serbs from all around the world, taught them that only if they stay close to each other, become attached to their church and faithful to their religious customs, they can save their good name and their roots in the world. He died and went to God on March 18th 1956, in Russian monastery of St. Tihon in Pennsylvania (U.S.A.) and was buried in Serbian monastery St. Sava in Libertyville. In 1991 his remains were replaced in Serbia in monastery Lelic

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