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Our father among the saints, Bishop Nikolaj Velimirović (Николај Велимировић, January 5, 1880 - March 18, 1956, also rendered Nicholas) was bishop of Žiča in Serbia and the author of several Orthodox books. His most widely-known work is the Prologue from Ohrid. His first name is pronounced and sometimes written Nikolai.
Nikolaj Velimirović was born in the small village of Lelich in Western Serbia. He attended the Seminary of St. Sava in Belgrade and graduated in 1905. He obtained doctorates from the University of Berne (1908), while the thesis was published in German in 1910, whereas the doctor's degree in philosophy was prepared at Oxford and defended in Geneva (Filosofija Berklija - Berkeley's Philosophy, in French) in 1909. At the end of 1909 he entered a monastic order. In 1919, then Archimandrite Nikolai was consecrated Bishop of Žiča in the Church of Serbia.
In April 1915 (during WWI) he was delegated to England and America by the Serbian Church, where he held numerous lectures, fighting for the unison of the Serbs and South Slavic peoples. At the beginning of 1919 he returned to Serbia, and in 1920 was posted to the Ohrid archbishopric in Macedonia, where in 1935, in Bitola he reconstructed the cemetery of the killed German soldiers.
During the Second World War in 1941 Bp. Nikolai was arrested by the Nazis in the Monastery of Žiča (which was soon afterwards robbed and ruined), after which he was confined in the Monastery of Ljubostinja (where, on the occasion of mass deaths by firing squad, he reacted saying: "Is this the German culture, to shoot hundred innocent Serbs, for one dead German soldier! The Turks have always proved to be more just..."). Later, this "new Chrysostom" was transferred to the Monastery of Vojlovica (near Pančevo) in which he was confined together with the Serbian patriarch, Gavrilo (Dožić) until the end of 1944.
On December 14, 1944 he was sent to Dachau, together with Serbian Patriarch Gavrilo, where some sources, especially the standard Church references, record that he suffered both imprisonment and torture.
After the War he left Communist Yugoslavia and immigrated as a refugee to the United States in 1946 where he taught at several Orthodox Christian seminaries such as St. Sava's Serbian Orthodox Seminary in Libertyville, Illinois and St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary and Monastery in South Canaan, Pennsylvania (where he was rector and also where he died) and St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary now in Crestwood, New York. He died on March 18, 1956.
Although recently glorified as a saint by the Church of Serbia, his writings remain highly controversial. Nikolaj Velimirovic was allegedly anti-semitic and he is supposed to have approved of the holocaust. (See Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic: Addresses to the Serbian People—Through the Prison Window. Himmelsthur, Germany: Serbian Orthodox Eparchy for Western Europe, 1985, pp. 161-162).
Others regard his address from Dachau as having been under duress and point to the lack of other anti-semitic statements in the rest of his large corpus of writings. He is recorded variously to have said that the Jews "crucified Christ," but such a statement is historically no different from that in the Bible or what Christians have been saying for centuries.
On May 19, 2003, the Holy Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church, with one heart and one voice, unanimously decided to enter Bishop Nicholai (Velimirovic) of Ohrid and Ziča into the calendar of saints of our Holy Orthodox Church.
St. Nikolai Velimirovich is often referred to as Serbia's New Chrysostom. St. John Maximovitch, who had been a young instructor at a seminary in Bishop Nikolai's diocese of Ohrid, called him "a great saint and Chrysostom of our day [whose] significance for Orthodoxy in our time can be compared only with that of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky). ... They were both universal teachers of the Orthodox Church."
|Bishop of Žiča
Chrysostom (Kavourides), Metropolitan of Pelagonia
|Bishop of Ohrid
|Bishop of Žiča
Troparion (Tone 8)
- O golden-tongued preacher proclaiming the risen Christ,
- Everlasting guide of the cross-bearing Serbian people,
- Resounding harp of the Holy Spirit, and dear to monastics who rejoice in you,
- Pride and boast of the priesthood, teacher of repentance, master for all nations,
- Guide of those in the army of Christ as they pray to God,
- Holy Nicholas teacher in America and pride of the Serbian people,
- With all the saints, implore the only Lover of mankind
- To grant us peace and joy in his heavenly kingdom!
Kontakion (Tone 3)
- Born at Lelich in Serbia,
- You served as archpastor at the church of Saint Nahum in Ochrid.
- Taking your place on the throne of Saint Sabbas at Zhicha,
- You taught God's people and enlightened them with the Gospel.
- You brought people to repentance and the love of Christ,
- And for Christ you endured suffering at Dachau.
- Therefore we glorify you, a new Nicholas well–pleasing to God.
- Beyond Sin and Death (1914)
- The Spiritual Rebirth of Europe (1917)
- Orations on the Universal Man (1920)
- Thoughts on Good and Evil (1923)
- Homilias, volumes I and II (1925)
- Prologue from Ohrid (1926)
- The Faith of Educated People (1928)
- The War and the Bible (1931)
- The Symbols and Signs (1932)
- "Immanuel" (1937)
- The Religion of Njegos
- Speeches under the Mount
- The Faith of the Saints (1949) (an Orthodox Catechism in English)
- Cassiana - the Science on Love (1952)
- The Only Love of Mankind (1958)
- The First Gods Law and the Pyramid of Paradise (1959)
- The Life of St. Sava. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1989. ISBN 0881410659
- "Why are Vigil Lamps lit before Icons?" (PDF)
- Quotation: Bless My Enemies O Lord -- by Bp. Nikolai Velimirovich
- Wikipedia on Nikolai Velimirovic
- Works online (The New Ideal in Education and The Religious Spirit of the Slavs (1916))
- A detailed biography
- The New Chrysostom, Bishop of Ochrid and Zhicha
- Life of St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The New Chrysostom, Bishop of Ochrid and Zhicha -- OrthodoxInfo.com)
- Works by Nikolai Velimirovic from Project Gutenberg
- East European Perspectives, Article by J. Byford
- Life of Bishop Nicholai (Velimirovich) in Portraits of American Saints, Compiled and Edited by George A. Gray and Jan V. Bear, Diocese Council and Department of Missions Diocese of the West Orthodox Church in America, 650 Micheltorena Street, Los Angeles, California, 1994, pp. 74-77 (Quoted at Serfes.org)