недеља, 07. август 2011.

The Eulogy for Knez Lazar

Fresco of Knez Lazar from one of his endowments, Lazarica church

Be conquered by the turks

In order to achieve these
To leave the unstable height of earthly lordship
And to spill your blood
And to join the soldiers of the heavenly emperor.
And so you achieved two wishes:
You killed the dragon
And received a martyr's wreath from God.
And now do not forget your beloved children
Whom you left orphaned by your transition.
For since you achieved the bliss in the eternal celestial joy
Many hardship and suffering fell upon your children
And in many misfortunes they spend their lives,
Because they are conquered by the Turks
And they need your help.

Fresco of king Lazar's sons, Stefan and Vuk Lazarevic, Ljubostinja monastery

For this I beg you,
Pray to the universal ruler for your children,
And for all those who serve them with love and faith,
for they are fettered with worries,your beloved children
Those who ate their bread raised a conspiracy against them
And forgot your goodness,
o Martyr.
But since you passed from this life,
You know the worries and sufferings of your children
And as a martyr you are free before God.
Kneel before the Lord who wreathed you,
Pray that your children live long lives
In happiness pleasing to God.
Pray thar Orhodox Christian faith amply endures in your fatherland
Ask the victorious God to grant victory
to your beloved children, Knez Stephan and Vuk,
Against visible and invisible enemies.
For if we receive God's help
We will give you praise and gratitude
Call for a meeting of your fellow martyrs
And pray with them to the glorifying God,
Warn George
Move Demetrios
Persuade both Theodores
Take Merkourios and Prokopios
And do not leave out the forty martyrs of Sebaseia
In whose suffering now fight your children,
Knez Stephan and Vuk.

A detail from embroidered Eulogy depicting St. John Chrysostom and St. Basilus the Great
being crowned by Christ
Pray that the help from God be given them.
Come then to our aid, wherever you are.
Consider my small contribution
and count it among many,
For I did not grant you the praise you deserve,
But only as far as my small mind allowed,
And so I expect but small rewards
For you were not selfish, My Lord and Martyr,
In this decaying and short lasting world,
But you are more generous in the everlasting and magnificent
That you received from God.
For you fed me profusely
When I was foreign in a foreign land
And now I beg you both:
To feed me
and to assuage the fierce storm in my soul and body
Jefimija humbly offers you this, O Holy One.

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Nun Jefimija (despotica Jefimija Mrnjavcevic)


Nun Jefimija was born in 1349 but it could not be precisely determined the time of her death. It is clear only that she died after 1405.

Jelena (later nun Jefimija )
was a Serbian medieval noblewoman with the distinction of being the first Serbian authoress and the best known embroiderer. She was the daughter of a prominent Serbian aristocrat (kesar) Voichna in the time of Tsar Dushan. A member of the royal family, she had the opportunity to acquire education, learn foreign languages, and enjoy the company of learned clerics. She learned to read and write in Serbian and Greek, and learned fine embroidery. It is evident from the texts she wrote that she had used her potential to the full.

In 1365 she was married to Serbian Despot Uglješa, the ruler of Serres . Jelena was 22 when Uglješa died in the battle on the river Marica, in 1371, the crucial one for the Ottoman’s conquest of the Balkans. She lost her only son, too.  After losing her husband and her son she stayed for some time in Serres the beautiful hometown of her husband, which after the total Turkish occupation  she was forced to leave. Jefimija moved to the royal town of Krusevac in central Serbia, where she found her piece and shelter at the court of the queen Milica and king Lazar who become her patron and protector. Milica and Lazar’s royal court in Kruševac, was to become a mythical place of Serbian culture, because of the approaching Battle of Kosovo. While there, being a very pious and  highly educated noble woman she played very important role in the upbringing of a Serbian prince Stefan Lazarevic and  his four sisters, Serbian princesses of Lazarevic royal family.

Her unfulfilled mother’s love, wisdom and knowledge, Jefimija transferred to the young prince to-become Despot Stefan who sad for her that she was wisdom ruler, eloquent lady and caring mother at he same time.

Her wisdom and eloquence were described also by the Philosopher Constantine, a scholar at the Serbian court of the time.

After the Battle of Kosovo (1389) and martyr's  death of Holy king Lazar, Jefimija joined  Zupanja Monastery with queen Milica( king's Lazar widow)  and later they together joined Ljubostina monastery as nuns. Ljubostinja monastery was newly built endowment of queen Milica who also took a monastic oath as a nun Evdokia and then after receiving mega-schema as a nun Euphrosinia. There nun Jefimija  also received angelic mega-schema with a new name Jevpraksija  and spent her last days of life as an abbess of the monastery.

Ljubostinja monastery (dedicated to Holy Virgin and built: 1388-1405)

Her early life was a tragedy: in a Turkish raid she lost all her family, her estate, all her possessions, income and land. Later as an abbess, she was a great support to a widowed Serbian queen and took part in important diplomatic affairs, like helping queen Milica to get intercession (at the Ottoman court) for Serbian despot Stefan Lazarevic who refused to participate in the Turkish campaign against Bosnia in 1398.  Because of that he  was in prison at the court of Sultan Bayezid and accused of infidelity and the planned betrayal.
Together with queen Milica she also helped in getting the Holy remains of St. Petka-Paraskeva back to Serbia from occupied Constantinople. Sultan Bayezid gave his permission and  by God's mercy and as a great comfort for the Serbian people the Holy remains of the Saint were brought to Serbia and were held in the Church of Sveta Petka in Belgrade until 1521 (now they peacefully repose in brotherly Romania).  

Nun Jefimija as a poet

At twenty-two Jelena suffered a great personal loss and family tragedy, when her husband was slain in the battle against the Turks, in 1371. Little before that,  she had lost her infant son, too. Bereaved, she took the veil and chose the monastic name of Jefimija. Her important contribution to the Serbian medieval literature consists of three poetic works of high artistic merit, preserved in the medium of embroidery, and valuable not only as literature, but also as works of applied-decorative art. These pieces of embroidery were gifts to monasteries, and "first person singular in all three texts emphasizes Jefimija’s role both as a donor and an author." Jefimija's first text, "Lament for the Infant Ugljesa", was composed on the occasion of the death of her son. It was wrought in silver on a small double icon, and presented to the monastery of Hilandar, by Jefimija herself. The lament, written between 1368 and 1371, is imbued with "as much pain and wisdom as with tender emotions." Her prayer "is not conventional or abstract, as it tends to be in the hagiographies of medieval saints; it is personal and concrete...

The Eulogy for Knez Lazar embroidered in golden thread and read silk by nun Jefimija 

The young mother confesses that, despite all her piety, she cannot help grieving for her child, and admits that, like with all mothers, her grief is stronger than her fortitude". "A Christian mother ought not to be impassioned with the sorrow for her lost child, but nevertheless, her courage is feeble because the nature... of a mother is stronger and it prevails". This was the first instance in the old Serbian literature that a woman spoke openly and directly of motherly love and her child. There had never been written more personal words than hers.

As a nun, Jephimia lived at the court of Duke Lazar, the ruler of Serbia. After his death in the Battle of Kosovo, she composed a praise-song to Duke Lazar, and embroidered the text with golden thread on a length of silk, which she intended for the shroud over the casket with the relics of St. Lazar. "The coupling of the sentiment of personal and national tragedy, in perfect harmony with restrained expression and composition, elevates this text to the rank of the most beautiful works in Serbian literature." All Jefimija’s works were written in first person singular, as direct address to God or a Saint, a characteristic which gives them a warmhearted and intimate tone. Another characteristic is that they do not contain abstract emotions or ethical deliberations, but sorrow and pain, personal grief, anxiety about one's own and the fate of the whole nation... The first woman in Serbian literature, a poetess writing "in a clearly confessional and direct manner."

source: Svetlana Tomin, Beautiful Serbia, Nothing against Serbia, Wiki;

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