среда, 10. август 2011.

The Mystery and the Meaning of the Battle of Kosovo

St. Nikolai Velimirovic


Fr Justin (Popović) of Chelije writes:

Holy martyr king Lazar

Saint Sava’s ideal and plan for his whole nation was: ‘Give up everything for Christ, but Christ for nothing.’ No one has ever realized this ideal and plan to such a full extent as the holy and great martyr, Tsar Lazar. He brought it about for his whole nation when he decided in favor of the Heavenly Kingdom and offered up himself as a sacrifice on the field of Kosovo, together with the whole Serbian people. He did this from the purely evangelic reasons recorded in our folk epic: ‘The earthly kingdom lasts only for a brief time, / But the heavenly kingdom always and forever.’ 

“We die with Christ, to live forever”, he told his soldiers. That Kosovo’s declaration and testament is regarded as s covenant which the Serb people made with God – and sealed with martyrs’ blood. Since then all Serbs faithful to that Testament regard themselves as the people of God, Christ’s New Testament nation, heavenly Serbia, part of God’s New Israel.
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The Mystery and the Meaning of the Battle of Kosovo

When reflecting on the choice the angel of God offered him when his nation was threatened by the Turks, Lazar prayed..

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From Jerusalem, the holy city,
Flying came a swift grey bird, a falcon,
And he carried in his beak a swallow.
But behold and see! ’Tis not a falcon,
’Tis the holy man of God, Elias,
And he does not bear with him a swallow,
But a letter from God’s Holy Mother.
Lo, he bears the letter to Kosovo,
Drops it on the Tsar’s knees from the heavens,
And thus speaks the letter to the monarch:
King Lazar before the battle
“Tsar Lazar, thou Prince of noble lineage,
What wilt thou now choose to be thy kingdom?
Say, dost thou desire a heavenly kingdom,
Or dost thou prefer an earthly kingdom?
If thou should’st now choose an earthly kingdom,
Knights may girdle swords and saddle horses,
Tighten saddle-girths and ride to battle—
You will charge the Turks and crush their army!
But if thou prefer a heavenly kingdom,
Build thyself a church upon Kossovo,
Let not the foundations be of marble,
Let them be of samite and of scarlet....
And to all thy warriors and their leaders
Thou shalt give the sacraments and orders,
For thine army shall most surely perish,
And thou too, shalt perish with thine army.”
When the Tsar had read the holy letter,
Pondered he, and pondered in this manner:
"O, Dearest God, what shall I do, and how?
Shall I choose the earth? Shall I choose
The skies? And if I choose the kingdom,
If I choose an earthly kingdom now,
Earthly kingdoms are such passing things-
A heavenly kingdom, raging in the dark, endures eternally."
And Lazarus chose heaven, not the earth.

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...Lazar and his soldiers received the Holy Mysteries and entered into the struggle against the Turks, Lazar having chosen the heavenly kingdom. The Ottomans, led by the Sultan Murat, had already conquered the greater part of the southern Balkan peninsula and pushed onward to impose Islam and their barbaric rule. The holy Lazar, with a desire not only to preserve the Serbs but to liberate his brothers Greeks, entered into battle "for the precious Cross and golden freedom." Despite all of the Serbian army perished in the battle, it was a spiritual victory as the epic says in the end "all was holy and honorable and acceptable to gracious God."
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CHAPTER ONE which describes wounded Tsar Lazar and his soul's turmoil and   confusion over the calamity and the testament

The Battle of Kosovo

The battle across the Field of Kosovo was still roaring when the Turkish officers brought the Serbian Tsar beneath the Sultan's tent. The Sultan Murat lay there in his death rattle with his eyes shut. After they informed him that Lazar had been captured and brought there, the Sultan slowly opened his eyes, and the glance of one dying man met the gaze of another. Without wrath, without malice and without joy the Sultan whispered: "The will of Allah!" And again he closed his eyes.

The disappointed officers who had failed to gladden their dying lord with such a valuable slave, led Lazar out in front of the tent, so that the Turkish army would see him and take courage. Before the tent lay the dead bodies of three Serbian generals: Obilic, Kosancic and Toplica —like three felled pine trees! They put Lazar by their heads and held him up straight; for Lazar was grievously wounded. Blood still flowed out of his open wounds. He stood bareheaded, with his head lowered. His face was like white cloth, bereft of blood and life, but smeared with blood and dust. His tangled hair was intertwined with his long beard and fell in locks over his pale forehead and gaunt face. Already counting both the Tsar and the Sultan as part of its apportioned plunder, death was leaving them to die slowly, while it flew away to seize many other sacrifices across the wide field.
    Turks continued to pass by and to stare with curiosity at the enemy Tsar and his slain generals. Some passed by in silence, others jeered and hurled curses; still others made humorous jests and invoked laughter among their companions.

   Lazar was standing upright, not by himself, but supported by the Sultan's bodyguards. His body was till bound to life as if by the thin thread of a cobweb, and he would have dropped to the ground, had he been left to stand on his own. Yet the soul of the martyr was still alive, vigorous and more mobile than ever. In the inner workshop of his soul Lazar's thoughts were scanning all the ramifications of what was happening on that bloody field and throughout his entire country. His thoughts even ascended to the highest heavens, as they searched there for explanations for all that had befallen him and his Christian army.
    "What is the reason for all this, Lord?" asked Lazar within himself "If I am sinful, as indeed I am, let me also die. But for what purpose has such a deadly harvest of my soldiers, my people, taken place?"
    And speedily Lazar sent his thoughts like couriers throughout all the darkness of the universe, to capture anywhere even a single ray of light. But nowhere, nowhere did they find even a thread of a ray. His thoughts returned empty from where they had set out. Then he dispatched them to scan his entire life, to search for a cause for this defeat and misfortune. Immersing himself in thoughts of all the secret corners of his past, he found some minor transgressions, but he had confessed them before his spiritual father, had repented and had made amends tenfold. From his childhood he had loved Christ and been devout. His home had been like a temple of holiness, compassion and purity. His children had been reared in faith and nobility. He had served his people by his own example in every virtue. He had erected several beautiful churches for God. He had been a father to the poor, a peacemaker to quarreling and unruly feudal lords, a just judge of criminals, a brave defender of those in the right when they were prosecuted.
    After rummaging through and examining his entire life with the speed of a dying man and the acumen of a judge, Lazar strained his thoughts and cried out within himself: "O my Creator, who knowest even our unknown sins, to Thee I cry out from this vale of tears! Forgive me for all that I have failed to do according to Thy holy will. Slay me, my Lord, and blot my name out of the book of life — only save my people!"
    Yet again the dying man sent forth his swift thoughts, to examine the recent events that had taken place in Krugevac, before the departure for Kosovo. He weighed every word that he had uttered with the finest criteria; he reflected upon every conversation and evaluated it; he reviewed his every deed and judged them strictly. But nowhere was there anything in all this that could resemble a sufficient cause for the debacle of his army and the fall of his country.
    Then at once — at once Lazar opened his mouth in horror and painfully groaned. And everything within him began to storm, like the sea encountering an unexpected tempest. And the Tsar asked within himself: "In this, did I not make a mistake in this?"
    The Turkish soldiers held him more firmly to keep him from falling, since they thought that he was groaming on account of his physical wounds.
    What terror had surfaced in Lazar's mind, so as to cause him to groan in pain and horror? He had remembered how he had been expected to choose one of two kingdoms: the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of the world. Had he chosen the earthly kingdom, he would, according to the prophecy, have remained alive, with his army, with a victory and with an unscathed country. But he had chosen the heavenly kingdom, and behold, again according to the prophecy, the destruction of himself, of his army, and of his country had come to pass.
    "Alas," thought the Tsar, "did I not make a mistake in this? Two destinies were placed before me, and I chose in the name of the people. If I personally had the right to choose death instead of life for myself — who gave me authority to make such a choice for the entire nation?
    "Here, here lay the snare. In every way I was mistaken in this choice. The mysterious power that had tested me, was obviously not from the light of God, but from the darkness of demons. And this power deluded me. I preferred the kingdom of heaven, and thereby obliged both myself and my people before that mysterious power; and behold, on the basis of this obligation it has now destroyed both me and my army.
    "I have given a fallacious testament to my people. In this is found the key to this hell that is seething around me over Kosovo! Thus I have committed a sin; I, and I alone, have made this mistake.
    "Oh tell me, all-seeing Lord, before whose eyes every fabric of life and death is woven, was I wrong? Tell me, O Thou, who art arrayed in the majesty of silence! If I did make the wrong choice, then I am to blame for the death of these honorable generals lying dead before me; I am to blame for the fall of the country; I am answerable to Nemanja for his crown; I am answerable to Sava for his church; I have been the cause of so much death, of so many wounds, of so much blood, of so much widowhood throughout villages and towns, of so much tyrannical wrath, which now looms over my enslaved people. Yet they are not my people, O Lord, but Thine."
    Once more Lazar groaned like a wounded stag. So the Sultan's bodyguards angrily scolded him and clenched in more tightly still.
    "Slay me, O Lord of life and death," prayed the Tsar within himself. "Slay me a hundred times; bring me back to life a hundred times, and then slay me again! If I have made the wrong choice and have bequeathed to my people a false testament, I deserve to be eternally dying in torments just as I am now dying for the first time. Tell me, Maker of tongues and words. Oh tell me before this dust, into which Thou hast poured a living soul, plunges into the dust. Tell me so that I may know. I do not ask Thee to forgive me; no, in no way. Just tell me so that I may know. Did I, in my choice, sin before Thee and before Thy holy heaven?"

CHAPTER TWO which describes Lazar's vision of heavenly realm, and two heralds who approach the dying Tsar

During his soul's turmoil the dying Lazar scarcely felt his physical pains. His body, being reconciled to death, was still cleaving a little to life through the life of his very lively soul. The human body usually serves the soul best, when the soul is not thinking about it. Such was the case in this instance.
     Instantaneously there suddenly appeared to Lazar's soul an extraordinary light. This light was brighter than the light of several suns merged into one. It was white, whiter than snow, but softened by a shade of light blue. This was shown to Lazar, and he saw an expanse wider than all the visible world. Off in the distance as far as the eye could see, as though it were on the border of that expanse, a light curtain was suddenly being taken off as if by steam, revealing a second expanse, just like the first. At the border of this one the beginning of a third was seen, followed by a fourth, and so on endlessly.

In these expanses were flowering fields, gardens and meadows, of extraordinary vegetation and of extraordinary colors — as were also the paradisical birds in the branches of the trees. Then there were wondrous cities, full of palaces of intoxicating beauty. Rivers were seen that were white as melted silver, and blue lakes, over which many white boats were sailing.
     All these expanses were populated with many, many nations, arrayed in colorful robes, but most were in white robes, interwoven with gold and beautifully embroidered. No one's face could be seen, but one could sense that among them there was a beauty only dreamed of on earth. A placid and serene hymn was heard there, sung by many thousands and thousands of voices: "Blessed be the name of the Lord henceforth and forever more." The hymn grew louder and louder, like rivers rising from a mighty deluge. Nation joined nation in the chanting, like wave after wave, until the hymn rose to the thunderous cheer of victorious armies.
     Then everything suddenly became silent. And the nations were seen bending this way and that like ears of ripened wheat. A stillness ensued, unbroken by any voice. Then many fires appeared, on which something was being burned. From it there rose blue columns of smoke. And a wondrous fragrance was diffused, an intoxicating aroma that increases life in man by a hundred times, caresses him like the sun, and nourishes him more sweetly than milk and honey.

Then Lazar noticed how one man, in radiant white linen, flew down from on high. He quickly winged his way over those people until he came to another man in red raiment. As he came toward him, he took him by the hand, and then both separated from the people and swiftly headed toward Lazar. From their radiance the extraordinary light became ever brighter than when it had first opened before Lazar. In amazement Lazar gazed at these two men as they drew near to him. Both were exceedingly handsome young men, but the one in white approached in greater glory than the one in scarlet. When they arrived and stood before Lazar, the one in white began to speak. 

CHAPTER THREE which relates how heavenly herald comforted Lazar and praised his testament as righteous and salvation-bearing

White Angel - Milesheva monastery

o not be afraid, Lazar," said the angel. "I am God's messenger, who stands before the face of the Most High King. And behold, I have been sent to you to tell you the answer to the question, which has been tormenting you more than the arrows stuck in your flesh. I have come to tell you the answer, so that I may cleanse your soul of dark doubts and, after it is cleansed — so that I may take it. And this man in the garb of a martyr of the Church is my brother, the holy prophet Amos. He is your patron saint, your Krsna slava, which you began to celebrate last night with bread and wine, but which today you celebrate with blood and death. Do not be afraid, but hear and rejoice!
     "I am that same messenger who brought to you the book from the Jerusalem on High. Invisibly I stood before you in your palace at Kruševac and left the book on your knee. While you were deliberating and trying to decide which kingdom you would choose, I stood at your right side. While awaiting your decision the holy heavens were silent, the holy Nemanjic dynasty were trembling with fear lest you would choose wrongly, and all the Serbian righteous who have reposed in the Lord were praying to God for you, so that He might guide you to the better choice. And after you made the blessed choice, the holy heavens burst into song, the holy Nemanjic dynasty rejoiced, and all the Serbian righteous offered up thanksgiving to God.
     "Do not be afraid, O man of God, you made the good choice, and have bequeathed a salvation-bearing testament to your people. Had you gained an earthly kingdom and bequeathed it to them, you would have enriched them less than you have with this testament. For true and glorious are those words of yours:

     The earthly kingdom lasts only for a brief time,
     But the heavenly kingdom always and forever.
Look at these expanses opened before you. Look at the multitudes of blessed nations in these vast areas. This is only one tiny part of the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom that you chose. Physical eyes would never be able to see such a vast expanse and so many multitudes of people. Indeed, this is all infinitely greater in measurement and in quantity than the earthly kingdom. However, this is revealed only to spiritual sight; spiritual eyes can encompass and behold this with a glance. For those locked in the flesh, this mystery remains locked. Nevertheless our common Creator had compassion on your desperate cry and, being mindful of your good deeds, He has opened your spiritual sight, so that you may behold all this and be comforted."
     With this the messenger of God was silent. Then the hum of singing again arose, just as that first time, among the blessed nations of heaven. And Lazar grasped the meaning of some of the words:

     To every heart that burns with love
     An answer comes from heaven.
     To every being that glorifies God
     He reveals Himself in mercy.

"This is the spiritual kingdom," continued the angel, "deified, divine, intransitory, incomparable, immortal. Truth, love, life and joy — these four are motivating these spiritual realms toward ceaseless song. They are presented to you as being physical, but they are actually incorporeal. Indeed, you are now looking at spirits through spirit Your eyes are shut, and you are seeing nothing with your physical eyes. Instead your free soul is looking directly at realms that are free and liberated from the flesh. The impressions, which you are now receiving as pictures, shapes, colors, voices and dimensions, are not coming from the physical, material world of symbols, but from the world that is non-material and real. And just as you now are seeing without your eyes and hearing without your ears, and are feeling content without flesh, so do the immortal spirits in this kingdom see, hear, and feel. The vision of spirits is incomparably further, their hearing is incomparably sharper, and their feelings are incomparably stronger than what a bodily man can see with his eyes, hear with his ears, or feel with his soul in the body. For this reason, I think, the true teachers of men were not mistaken, when they called the body a prison and the separation of the soul from the body liberation.
     "With regard to their perception of reality men are divided into three groups. The first group looks only with physical eyes at physical things, and thinks that they are seeing reality. They are the truly blind ones. They live in the complete darkness of ignorance, shaded by the dark shadow of created things.
     "The second group are those who go beyond the eyes with their human intellect, striving to grasp the meaning of the things, and in the process they trust only in their eyes and their intellect. And these people see nothing as they should, but only perceive a mystery of beings and objects that is incomprehensible to them. They maintain that an imperceptible world exists beyond all the perceptible world — and this is the culmination of their knowledge. Therefore they live in a tormenting twilight of dancing shadows, which hide the truth from them like a motley curtain.
     "But the third group does not give much credence to their eyes or to their intellect, but rather with childlike simplicity they accept revelation from the holy heavens, just as you have today. These revelations quench their thirst for earthly kingdoms and dominions, and create an insatiable hunger and thirst for the kingdom of heaven. Such are called 'the children of light.' It has been granted to them to see mysteries and, seeing, to walk the true way in earthly life. Not even they always and continuously see, as we heavenly inhabitants do, but only now and then, according to the will and grace of divine Providence.
     "In this third group was also found, in his earthly life, this amazing glorified saint of yours, the holy prophet Amos, together with the other prophets, clairvoyants, apostles, saints and righteous. And so you too, O glorious prince, are numbered in the ranks of these sanctified lovers of God."
     Thus spoke the angel of the Most High, and then was silent. Then the prophet Amos came closer to Lazar, took him by the hand, and began to speak.
     "Take courage, wondrous Lazar! Your soul is tormented by many questions. Behold, the herald of God is before you. Soon you will call him your brother in a kingdom of different kinship and citizenship from that on earth. Ask him freely about all that is tormenting your soul."
     From this touch and the words of the holy prophet, Lazar felt an awesome and vivifying effluence, which filled and strengthened his entire soul; and he decided to ask questions.

CHAPTER FOUR In which the heavenly herald answers Lazar's question: what is the most necessary thing for a man to ask from God

Lazar said: "Only now do I realize how sinful and uneducated I am. Behold, I am at death's door, and still I do not know what I should ask of God. I am contending with my Maker, as Job once did, concerning matters that are beyond my authority and range. Instruct me, O servant of the Most High, what is the most necessary thing for a man at death's door to ask of his God?"

The angel of God answered him: "At the end and at the beginning of the earthly journey, as well as on every step of that journey, it is most important for the earthly wayfarer to ask God for two things: first, the forgiveness of sins; and second, the bestowal of the Spirit of God. Everything that is full must first be emptied in order for it to be filled. It must be cleaned first, and then adorned. The Spirit of God does not enter a house occupied by a demonic slave of sins, and He does not adorn an unclean home with either His presence or His heavenly gifts.
     "Man is wondrously composed of body, soul, and spirit. The spirit is the mover and the lord of the whole of man's being. As the spirit is, so will the movements of the soul and body be. As the spirit is, so also is the man. The spirit moves the soul, and the soul the body. 'It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail.' (John 6:63). Even the circles of the angelic host in the heavenly kingdom live and are moved only by the Spirit of God. From that Spirit there springs forth for us angels those four streams of sweetness: truth, love, life, and joy. In this same manner the progenitor of your race also lived and was moved by the Spirit of God, similar to us angels.
     "When, however, he insanely departed from righteousness and heavenly Love, a fundamental transformation took place in him. In appearance he remained the same; nevertheless an essential change occurred within him. To this day little is known in the world about this transformation. It is one of the strangest, quietest, most consecrated mysteries. But you, O great and immortal man, need to know in what this fundamental change consists, so that you may then also comprehend everything else that your heart desires to know. For this knowledge is the point of departure for any sort of wisdom and true knowledge. In it lies the actual answer to all the questions that torment mankind, and thus it is the answer to yours as well.
     "Hear, therefore, most glorious Prince of this terrestrial generation! The fundamental transformation lay in this: the insulted Creator pulled His Holy Spirit out of man, and left man alone with his created soul and natural spirit. With this natural spirit, which is created and not inspired by God, fallen man was condemned "to eat bread in the sweat of his face" (Gen. 3:19), like the ants and the bees and the beasts. Thus man degenerated into an animal, the lord became the peer of his servants, the king became equal to his subjects. Man the god became man the animal. But this is not the worst part. For the animals are in their own state wondrous and beautiful. What is the worst part is that man the animal quickly tumbled down into man the demon, of his own free will. Of his own free will, after having exchanged the Holy Spirit for an unclean vessel, he also threw away his natural, created spirit and accepted into himself a third spirit — the unclean spirit, the spirit of falling away from God and struggling against God, the spirit of the angels of hell. For when man lost the Holy Spirit, he was placed at a crossroads, where his natural created spirit is in control, and where two opposite spirits meet: the spirit of light and the spirit of darkness, the Spirit of God and the spirit of hell.
     "At this crossroads, where the natural spirit is in control and where the two opposing spirits are blowing, many people turn their face to the spirit of darkness and death, while there are only a few who turn their face toward God. To these latter our gracious God has again given His Holy Spirit. These are those amazing righteous people, to whom the promise and the prophesied salvation have been given. As it has been given to them so also will it be given through them to every future generation of mankind, so long as it remains on the crossroads facing towards the God of life.
     "For thousands of years they have been the only man-gods in the midst of the man-animals and, what is worse, man-demons. They have been called gods and sons of God, not because of their mortal flesh or their natural soul and spirit, but because of the Holy Spirit of God, which has been given to them again, and because at the crossroads of the spirits their face has been turned, with faith and reverence, towards the Holy Spirit of God. Because of this God has breathed His Spirit from Himself into them, and thus they have been made worthy to be called gods and sons of God.
     "For everything that our majestic Maker gives to His creatures, He either gives from what is His or of Himself. When He gives light, rain, abundant harvests, good health, success, or knowledge of nature — He is giving from what is His; that is, He is giving something that He has created, something that is His but is not Himself. When He gives His Holy Spirit, however, He is giving Himself. This is the character of perfect, divine Love, to give not only what is His, but also Himself.
     "Therefore know, O glorifier of God, that three sorts of spirits exist: the Holy Spirit of God, the natural spirit, and the spirit of demons. I repeat to you: as the spirit within a man is, so also is the man. Three brothers with the three different spirits are thus as far from one another as are the three realms: the realm of heaven, the realm of earth, and the realm of hell. It is therefore possible to evaluate a man accurately just by the spirit that is within the man. For the spirit is the mover of the soul and body. All the thoughts and desires and feelings of the soul, as well as all the deeds of the body, completely depend on the spirit that is within the man.
     "With this knowledge about the spirit, enter now, as with a secret key into the chambers of man's soul. Whichever type the spirit is, so is the soul. The soul is not as simple as the spirit. It has three powers: the intellect, emotion, and activity. All three of these together are like dough, for which the spirit serves as leaven. As the yeast is, so also is the dough and the bread. If the yeast is the Holy Spirit, then the thoughts in a man are holy and godly, his feelings are holy and godly, and his actions are holy and godly. If the yeast is the natural spirit, then the thoughts within a man are natural (i.e., earthly), his feelings are natural, and his actions are natural. If, however, the spirit within him is the spirit of demons, then the thoughts within the man are demonic, his desires and feelings are demonic, and his actions are demonic.
     "With this knowledge about the spirit and the soul, enter now, as with a secret key, into the mysteries of the human body. Whichever type the soul is, so is the body. The spirit is simpler than the soul, and the soul is simpler than the body. The numerous organs and operations of the body are indicative of the quality and power of the soul. If the soul is saturated with the Spirit of God, then the body, too, as the instrument of such a soul, is the harp of God, which expresses what the divinely inspired soul thinks, feels, and wants. If the soul is saturated with a natural spirit, then the body also, as the instrument of such a soul, is the expression of nature, of natural thoughts, of natural feelings, and natural desires. If, however, the soul is saturated with the wicked leaven of the spirit of hell, then the body of such a man also, as the instrument of the soul, is the herald of hell's powers, of the will of demons and the deeds of demons.
     "Without this basic comprehension and distinction, how can one comprehend what is happening to him in the world? And how can the destiny of a people and all that happens to a people be understood? Without this basic comprehension and distinction, O most valiant knight of this day, no one among mortals can grasp what is happening today on this field of battle. Only one who is not inspired by a demonic spirit and who has elevated himself above a normal natural spirit, is in a position to view this tearing of cloth as a new weaving, and to see in this painful chaos a cosmic order, and in these bloody horrors of devastation — an orderly artistic arrangement.
     "Is it not clear to you from this, what every man is obliged to ask of the Lord — not only at the hour of death, but at every hour and at every step of his earthly journey? He is obliged to ask for the Holy Spirit of God. God is full of mercy and love, and out of His abundant love He gives Himself to those who love Him and who with love seek the Spirit from Him. Just as it was told to you from the holiest mouth of all: 'If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask for Him?' (Luke 11:13)

CHAPTER FIVE In which the Tsar asks why his country was destined to fall, and receives an answer

Breathless, Lazar listened to what was told him. Then, after remaining silent for a short time, he posed the following question: "Tell me, O holy herald of heaven, why was my country destined to fall?"
     The herald of the heavens on high answered him: "Because, O Prince, it had grown old. According to the logic of creation everything that grows old in this universe of yours must be removed, and be replaced with something new. These words surprise you, I see. I see — because I am looking through your soul, with all its thoughts and feelings, which are alternately filling and agitating it. The power of us citizens of the spiritual kingdom is such that we see through souls as through transparent glass.
     "The body of an earthly country does not interest me. Such bodies are changeable, breakable, and transitory. Nor do we even pay any attention to them. We examine the bodies in the earth — that which belongs to our country, heaven. That which is related to us and which will someday share immortal citizenship with us — this is what interests us.
     "Surprised, you are now asking yourself: 'But how could my country have grown old, when so many other empires have lasted on earth two or three times longer and still have neither grown old nor been destined to fall?' It is difficult for the physical to concur with the spiritual. Thinking physically, men evaluate old age according to time; but thinking spiritually, spirits calculate old age according to inner strength. One can only call the Most High, Immortal, Eternal God forever young. Both time and eternity have passed by His head without leaving a single wrinkle on His face. We also, being His angels, have from the time of creation likewise remained young, even though we were created before all men. We have remained young only because we keep Him, His Holy Spirit, within us — and because we live in Him, breathe in Him, are nourished in Him, and rejoice in Him. And everything that finds fulfillment in anything else besides Him, that seeks life outside Him, that looks for contentment outside Him, and that nourishes itself with mortal bread, quickly grows old and dies. Life and youth depend upon the spirit, which is in created beings; upon the spirit — aging and death also depend. A nation's destiny, its preservation or its fall, is decided according to the spirit within its people.
     "Among men, those who are most similar to the angels are the anchorites and ascetics, that is, those souls who have taken from the earth only the tiniest quantity of sustenance for the survival of their body, while nourishing themselves day and night with His Spirit, the Spirit of eternal life and eternal youth. And their souls were so well-fed and strong, that they could preserve their bodies in vigor and durability longer than those who, in a spirit of weakness, anxiously nourished their bodies and their souls with nothing but the world.

"As is the case with individuals, O Prince, so it is also with a group of related individuals — i.e., with nations. Your state has already grown old, and must fall. It has not fallen because of a chronological old age, but because of the poison that it has been holding and accumulating in itself. This poison has worn it out and has caused it to wrinkle. For the feudal lords of Serbia, the country has outgrown the soul. Therefore the Spirit of God has abandoned them and has withdrawn into the soul of the people. The smoke of passion, however, which has estranged the Holy Spirit from the feudal lords and has broken out of hell and through the natural spirit, has even begun to spread among the people. There was a danger that the soul of the people would be reduced to earth, ashes, and death by the spirit of wickedness. Only a great terror, like a mighty wind, could have blown away this foul spirit and saved God's people from destruction. It was in order to save your people spiritually, therefore, that your state had to fall. And even the saints of Serbia themselves, with Saint Sava at their head, were praying and beseeching the All-seeing God to permit the fall of the temporal inheritance of their people, only so that the soul of their people might be saved from eternal death.
     "Therefore, do not grieve, wise Prince. Your choice was according to the plan of Providence and brought joy to the saints of Serbia. Through your testament your people will be protected and preserved. By this testament generations will be nourished and given drink. The poisoned feudal lords will vanish, and with them so will the smoke that has been poisoning and deadening souls. The malicious squabblers will be destroyed, and with them so will the wicked example that they set for the people. Terror, poverty, and sorrow will appear — the three forces that knock the souls of men off the earth and pull them toward heaven. The people will feel like strangers in their own homes, and will seek their homeland in heaven. They will cleanse their souls of the world and will free them from the leprosy of materialism, with which their flesh had been fattened by the natural spirit and the spirit of hell. And your people will be transfigured into a spiritual and clairvoyant people — profound in their thoughts, lofty in their clairvoyance, invincible in their faith and hope. They can be even last in the eyes of the other earthly nations, but they will be first in the view of the immortal spirits of heaven. And your people will bless you, O Prince. For your testament of choosing the heavenly kingdom will be for them a mitigation of their torments and a torch in the darkness of slavery.
     "Consequently you were not mistaken in your choice, O Prince, whose head has been twice crowned — with a heavenly as well as an earthly diadem. You did not err in choosing the heavenly kingdom, but you are committing a sin now by doubting in the correctness of your choice. Do not be swayed by the mind, but by the unwavering heart. Do not confuse the peril of your army with the imperilment of your people. Do not equate the fall of the state with the destruction of everything. States are given to peoples, so that there might be something else to fall instead of the people — so that there might be something to give as a ransom for the soul of a nation. When something cheap is given in exchange for something priceless, it is always better commerce than vice versa.
     "Your nation has bowed before the One who destroys what is cheap and preserves what is priceless, who reaps the straw and keeps the grain. Do not, like the suffering Job, enter into a debate with the Creator of your people and the Designer of your state. His will is always good, His thought is always radiant, and His work is always righteous. When He is planting a tree, He is thinking about cutting it down; when He is cutting it down, He is thinking about the seedlings. Before His majesty all created worlds are like a drop of water in the palm of the hand. And this drop — this is a tear of joy from His eye. In it He is reflected, and it shines with His radiance."

CHAPTER SIX In which is discussed the superiority of mind among those who choose heavenly kingdom

Lazar spoke up and asked: "But tell me, radiant citizen of the heavenly kingdom, how will my choosing the heavenly kingdom benefit my people?"

     To this the citizen of heaven replied: "Choosing the heavenly kingdom will truly bring ineffable benefit to your people. It will purify their mind, heart, and will. It will thus make their entire soul a shining mirror, in which our immortal world and life will be reflected. The kingdom of heaven will enter into them, and they will be made worthy to enter the kingdom of heaven.
     "First, as I said, it will purify their mind. As the head is to the body for you mortals, so the mind is to the soul. And just as one watches over his body with his head, so does one keep watch over his soul with his mind. And even though the seat of the mind is in the heart, its principle sentries are, according to the visible world, in the head. The mind receives through the senses, and then sifts and evaluates. How a man will sift and form a judgment about external impressions, depends ultimately on the spirit, with which his entire soul is inspired, as well as the mind.
     "If the heavenly Spirit of God is within a man, then his mind will be pure and strengthened, and will be able to evaluate and judge everything according to its Creator and through its Creator, just as it was said through the mouth of the prophet: "In Thy light shall we see light." Illuminated by the heavenly Spirit of God, the mind of man becomes also deified itself, and thereby becomes radiant, pure, and alert. With the help of heavenly light in itself, it observes and watches all matter and all events; that is, it reads all these clearly and recognizes their meaning and significance. Such a mind, saturated with the Spirit of heaven, does not permit itself to be led astray by any shadow or darkness, hurled by the spirit below, which would sway one into opposition to God or separate him from God.
     "Such was the original, pure, and alert mind that the Maker created in man's soul, and He illuminated it with the Spirit from Himself. But as soon as the mind was defiled, it also became lazy, and ceased to be the lord over external impressions. The sentries were worn out, and outsiders have stormed into the city of the mind of man. The mind has lost its heavenly light and along with it its power. It can neither distinguish nor repulse. It bows down before every sensory impression. Furthermore it chases and seeks them and draws them within, without evaluation or common sense.
     "With such a darkened and enfeebled mind, man has above all lost his peace. Bereft of peace of soul, he scurries this way and that throughout the world and searches for anything new, without himself being aware that he is not even searching for something new. In actual fact, he is searching for the God he has lost. Through Him he used to be lord of all the creatures around him. Now, he rushes to all his former servants and slaves and asks questions of them as of a lord.
     Only the actual meaning of creatures, the light of creatures, no longer enters into him as before. Instead, only their shadows do, and even this only to the extent that physical eyes see them, physical ears hear them, the tongue tastes them, the nose smells them, and the skin touches them. The wheels of the natural universe thunder over the souls of such people as though they were rolling over corpses. The spirits of hell support this trampling and annihilation of man with wicked revelry, while we, the guardians of men's souls, stand aside, according to the command of the Most High; and sorrowfully we watch those, who are losing themselves and perishing with regard to both worlds.
     "We spirits see what sort the mind of a man is in reality and totality. But you, being covered with flesh, are not in a position to see so clearly. You evaluate a mind on the basis of its thoughts. Consequently you also are often mistaken. For a perverted mind is often disguised by attractive thoughts, just as an ugly face is with a white veil. But a correct and pure mind again often dissembles itself with foolishness. Therefore I shall now show you the difference between a man who chooses the kingdom of the world and a man who chooses the kingdom of heaven.
     "Whatever a man who chooses the earthly kingdom perceives in the world, he accepts as reality and evaluates it in relation to his own benefit. If he looks at a nugget of gold, he does not think of the gold as an object created by God, nor does he seek out the symbolic significance of gold; instead, he thinks only of all the satisfying pleasures he could procure with that gold. If he sees the field of another, he does not think of the miraculousness of the crop that is growing out of the earth; instead, he thinks about how much profit he could make from this field or from another one like it. If he observes a white lamb in a green meadow, he does not think of the lamb as a lamb; instead, he thinks of the lamb as his dinner. If he encounters the wife of another, he does not think of her as a mother nor even as the artistic creation of the immortal Artist; instead, he thinks insulting and shameful thoughts. If he is the ruler of a nation, he does not think with trepidation of his obligation to God and to his people, nor does he ask God for wisdom, so that he can worthily guide his nation. Instead, he only thinks about what the people owe him. Concerning neighboring rulers, however, he thinks only about how he will humble them, topple their governments, and annex their countries. Consequently all the thoughts of the man who chooses the earthly kingdom are corporeal, worldly, and animalistic. His mind is totally darkened to the truth, completely covered with cobwebs. And he spreads the cobwebs of his mind all over himself — and these cobwebs are the foolish, darkened, and fallacious thoughts of his mind.
     "The man, on the other hand, who chooses the everlasting and immortal kingdom of heaven, thinks about everything through the Creator of all. When he sees gold, he thinks about the One, who created this beautiful metal and hid it beneath the earth. He moreover thinks of the immutable radiance of truth, which that metal signifies from a spiritual perspective, and the virtues of the soul, which it signifies from a moral perspective. When he sees his neighbor's field, he thinks about it first of all as God's property, a field in which God himself is the first and principal worker. Accordingly he praises in his thoughts the labor of the field's master, who has cleared it, fenced it, plowed it, and sown it. And within himself he prays to the Master of the universe to bless the great effort of that man, and to grant fertility to his field so that the man's children can be nourished and will glorify the One who is their Maker. If he sees a lamb in a meadow, he thinks of the all-wise Provider, who so marvelously clothes the lamb, while nourishing and shielding it. If he meets the wife of another, he thinks about her respectfully as about a mother, to whom his and her Father has ordained a special task and way of salvation during this brief exile on earth. If he is the ruler of a nation, he thinks with trepidation of his obligation to God and to his people; He asks God for wisdom, so that he can worthily guide his nation to the glory of the Lord. Within himself he blesses neighboring rulers, and prays to God for them and for their nations as for his own brothers.

"Rejoice, therefore, O chosen one of God, for you have made a righteous choice and have bequeathed a salvific testament to your people. By choosing the heavenly kingdom you have brought God near to your people and your people near to God. Thereby you have entrusted your people to the care of the greatest Physician and Healer, who sees the most hidden wounds of men's souls, and who alone can and knows how to heal them. With bitter remedies He will cleanse the mind of the people, imbue them with the breath of the Holy Spirit, and make them once again radiant and mighty. He will return to them the heavenly mind, with which one thinks like the Bestower of minds. And your people will be liberated from the spirit of earth and hell, and will be qualified to think with the profound, lofty, lucid, spiritual thoughts of angels. With their mind they will surpass both their ancestors from the time of freedom and their conquering masters. The works, which your people will manifest during the centuries of bondage, will be the radiant expression of their radiant mind and will be to the astonishment of distant generations in freedom.
     "Thus will the mind of your people be cleansed, healed, deified and elevated to heaven. In their thoughts will be reflected the infinite mind of the One, who is all Mind, in which a wrongful thought can neither be conceived nor enter from anywhere. The light of the sun is darkness compared to the light of this eternal Mind. And crystal is like opaque granite compared to the lucidity and brilliance of His thoughts. All the heavenly powers are mindful of the pre-eternal Mind of their Creator. This Mind is of Him and in Him. In Him it is eternally being born, and from Him it is illuminating with wisdom every creature in heaven and beneath heaven. He knows everything without inquiring. He sees everything in an instant without looking with His eyes. He moves and guides everything without moving from place to place. Without Him there is no true mind. Nowhere are there any correct thoughts in opposition to His thoughts."

CHAPTER SEVEN In which is discussed transcendence of the love among those who choose the kingdom of heaven

The thought of us mortals is short," said the dying Prince, "and the candle of our soul does not cast light very far. Therefore do not become angry, O herald of the divine realm, at what I am about to ask you. Why has the One, who created us out of love and has surrounded us with His love from every direction — why has He permitted these three fair generals to perish, along with so many others, whose dead bodies are at this very hour forming the fairest embellishment of this dreadful field? Why — when I know that they had not grown cold in their love for their Creator?"
     To this question the Prince received the following answer: "What you are asking me is quite understandable, O glorious founder of Ravanica Church. If I, as a conscious and bodiless spirit, were forced to clothe myself in a corruptible body of dust, I would bless the hour that would liberate me from the flesh. Death is fearful for those who are being separated from the object of their love, but not for those who are being invited to the object of their love. Death is a horror for those who have chosen the earthly kingdom, but a joy for those who have chosen the kingdom of heaven. Where a man's heart is, there also is his homeland. Whoever loves the world and what is in the world, does not have a healthy heart and knows nothing of true love. Such a worldly love is inspired either by the spirit of nature or — even worse — by the spirit of hell. Only that human heart, which burns with love for the Creator, is healthy. True love can refer only to the One, who demonstrated His love for man before His mother. Such love — which has on earth only a beginning and never, anywhere an end — is alone worthy of that exalted name. All the rest, which is called love on earth, is not love, but partiality toward bodies, things, forms, transitory sounds, changeable tastes, in a word — toward fleeting and fading shadows.
     "Therefore when the Lord of life and death sends death to those who love Him, He is sending death out of the flame of His love for them in order to free them from distance and draw them nearer to Himself. But when He sends death to those who have been partial to matter, and have not tasted the nectar of love for their Creator, He is sending death out of His wrath, in order to remove them an infinite distance from Himself. Just as a reaper harvests with the same sickle both the wheat and the tares — in order to bring the former into his house and to put the latter far from both his field and his home. You see this field covered with dead bodies like haystacks. Corpse lies by corpse like newly cut stalk by stalk. But some kernels of grain from those stalks are safe, and have been borne in the hands of angels to the courts of heaven, while other kernels are ruined, and have been pushed into the abysmal darkness and smoke. Such is the difference between the human souls even during their life on earth. Just as the destiny of the wheat and the tares cannot be assessed during the time of blossoming and harvesting (for at that time they seem to be destined for the same fate), but only during the time of winnowing, so it is with the destiny of men up to the time of death. Nevertheless among men the quality and strength of their love, which again depends on the spirit within them, makes the difference.
     "The heart of man was created for love — in its most sublime, pure, and holy form. His heart is a temple, the smallest but most wondrous on earth, in which the spirit of God's love yearns to live. It is a censer, out of which the fragrance of man's love for the Creator rises. We angels in heaven ineffably love everything made by our Maker. Yet our love for creatures derives only from our love for the Maker of all creatures. Each of His creations is dear to us only because it is His and from Him. We love Him; therefore we also love everything that He loves. And whatever He loves, this the magnificent Creator and Sustainer of all both creates and sustains. Love for Him, for the One who loves us, makes us mighty, joyful, holy, youthful and — alive.
     "This is the love of pure spirits for the Spirit. No other feelings are manifested among us in heaven except for this continuously blazing feeling of love. Just as light permeates the dewdrops of morning, so does divine love permeate us. The progenitor of the human race also had such love for a time; and during that time of such love he was exceedingly mighty, joyful, holy, youthful and — alive. But as soon as his love was divided between heaven and earth and was inclined toward earth, he became feeble, sorrowful, unconscious, old and — was crowned with death. His descendants, having chosen the kingdom of this world, fell even further and became the plunder of death. Their hearts, emptied of the mighty and holy love of heaven, were filled with various adverse, transitory, and deceptive feelings. Heaven was no longer a reality in their soul but just a pale memory, which from generation to generation became fainter and fainter. Having lowered their mind to thinking only about physical objects, without and even in opposition to God, they began to desire with their heart only material things, again without and in opposition to God. Thus their hearts were closed by lust, envy, hatred, malice, malevolence, by fear for the body, by fear of death, by insatiability, selfishness, infidelity, avarice, and by every dissatisfaction with worthless satisfactions. The world defiled their hearts; the world outgrew their hearts; the world became a tyrant. And thus was everything — until the Spirit of God came down along the bloody path of the Son of God, and once again softened the stony hearts of men and illuminated them with heavenly love.
     "You yourself know well, as an excellent judge of character, how Adam's poisonous smoke of the world (and, even worse, the smoke of the spirits of hell) began also to poison the heart of your nation, extinguishing within it the flame of heavenly love, which, from the time of its baptism, had blazed splendidly over several centuries. God, who loves mankind and "desires all men to be saved," could no longer watch as your people plunged to their final destruction, into the abyss of eternal death. A way had to be found to thwart this evil and to heal your people. However, neither the examples of the Serbian saints nor the sermons of the Serbian clergy, nor even your warnings and pleadings were to any avail. As a result, there finally had to come this cataclysm, this terror and horror, this slaughter, and the slaying of the great and noble generals, and your own temporal death, O most noble Prince of them all.

"Consequently there is also yet to come a protracted period of bondage, repentance, weeping, sighing, silence, and suffering. Bitterness will follow bitterness, like step after step, so that in this way the heart of your people may be detached from the world and attached to heaven; so that it may be disappointed in worthless worldly partialities and be fascinated with the lasting love of heaven; so that it may be emptied of the smoke of hell and filled with light without dusk; in a word, so that your people may blaze anew with love for the Creator, and so that they may be warmed from that flame with love for the souls on earth and the spirits in heaven, as creatures of the Most Beloved — and so that through this love they may once again become mighty, joyful, holy, youthful and truly alive.
     "Rejoice, therefore, O noble sacrifice! Your choice was righteous and your testament is salvation-bearing. All that is to happen to your people from this time, will serve to drive them away from the deceptive worldly love, which is transitory and worthless, and to elevate them to the eternal love of heaven. Whatever they will from this time forth love on earth, they will love through the purity and holy love of heaven. Their external subjugation will bring them internal liberation. And this inner freedom is so valuable that neither exterior bondage nor exterior liberty can harm it. Tyranny cannot extinguish it; external liberty cannot defile it.

 "Thus will your people be filled with strength, and be mighty even as love is mighty. They will be guided onto this path by the One, who heals with chastisement as well as tenderness. He is love itself. He is the home and hearth of love. In Him love is manifested as fatherhood, as sonship, and as the flaming spirit of love, the Holy Spirit. Outside of Him and in opposition to Him there neither exists nor can there ever be a feeling of true love either in heaven or on earth. The invisible realms of spirits are inebriated and live by the love that comes from Him. The entire invisible and visible universe is an enigma, to which His love is the key. Everything that responds with love to His love, becomes immortal and is enrolled into His heavenly family. This enrollment into His immortal family, into the citizenship of the heavenly kingdom, is the supreme aim of all your efforts and strivings on earth. This is the supreme dignity, of which you, spirits in flesh, can be made worthy. This — is the reward to martyrs in this vale of tears."

CHAPTER EIGHT in which is discussed the transcendence of will among those who choose the kingdom of heaven

As he listened to these exalted words, Lazar felt his heart burning with love for the wondrous Creator of men. After a rather long silence and reflection, there came to his mind yet another perplexity, whose resolution he could not find within himself. Thus he decided to pose this question to the heavenly herald: "But explain to me, O herald of God, will not the activity of my people be stifled by slavery? Will not their will for great deeds be dwarfed by the banner of the enemy? And will not the artistic gift given to them by God be snuffed out within them, like the talent buried in the ground?" (Mt. 25:14-30).
     "You are worrying about your people even in your mortal wounds like a father about his children, O lighthouse of your nation. Truly I tell you: such goodness will not be forgotten either by God or by the people. However, what you ask me now bears witness to the fact that you are still in the cage of the body and that you have not been completely freed of earthly delusions. Know, therefore, that in the holy heavens no human deeds are evaluated in and of themselves, but only in the light of the sort of motives and quality of the will with which these deeds are performed. Countries, laws, books, palaces and cities, towers and roads, machines and inventions, devices and gadgets — by themselves all this is an empty nothingness, like an abandoned antheap, like a vacant nest, out of which the swallows have flown away. The greatest cities of men, when viewed from the nearest cloud, are united by the dust of roads, and do not differ from that dust. The tiny bees and the homeless cranes could laugh at your most highly developed empires and say: 'There is better order among ourselves!' If a puny cricket were to stand along side your most loudly acclaimed gadget, he would represent an incomparably greater miracle than that gadget. Or do you think that we in the kingdom of heaven marvel at what you on earth marvel? How could any such works of men stir up envy within us in the spiritual kingdom, who see things unimagined by you and undreamed-of worlds of intransitory nations and creatures of God. O valiant Prince, how difficult it is for a free bird from the mountains to explain things to a bird in a cage! Nevertheless through all their deeds men reveal their will as being either good or evil, and this is what is sensed, weighed, and judged in the spiritual kingdom. A deed is not evaluated according to the deed, but according to the willful motive for that deed.
     "Those who have chosen the kingdom of this world are infinitely different from those who have chosen the kingdom of heaven also in their will, just as they are in both their thoughts and feelings. They have either a mixed or a purely evil will, according to the influence of the natural spirit or the demonic spirit. Consequently their deeds are also either a mixture of good and evil or only evil. Self-will is an evil will. Not even the heavenly angels know what they will do until they inhale God's desire. Every will outside the sphere of God's will is an evil will. If a man wants to do what he wants, he wants to do evil. Through their self-will many people think that they are exhibiting their individuality. By doing this they are in reality only emphasizing the evidence of the absence of individuality and of the tyranny of the world or of hell over them. Just as there is no water in Egypt except for the water from the Nile, so there is no kind of goodness in the souls of men, nor even a good will, outside the eternal and fresh Fountainhead of everything good.
     "However, this truth has vanished from the memory of those who, with their whole soul, drag themselves through the dust. Having fallen away from God's will, the will both meek and almighty, they arrogantly follow their own will. Is this their own will, as they think, or the will of some elements and worlds unknown to them? Nevertheless they think so — that they are following their own will! And as they walk lengthily and swiftly over all those steps, they maintain that they have gone far away; and they call this 'progress.' But when they fall from exhaustion, they realize that they are situated in the very spot from which they initially set out, at the starting point of their forefathers. They deify the works of their hands, as the vain are wont to do, so that they may love only gods lower than themselves.
     "However, when they begin to look for happiness from their handmade deities, these idols impudently direct them to suicide as the only deliverance. For death is the bottomless abyss into which all human philosophies, all human feelings, and all human deeds irretrievably and irredeemably plunge, when they are outside the living and life-creating Sustainer of all. Every day self-deception after self-deception slaps those who have chosen the kingdom of this world, yet in spite of this they tirelessly build themselves a tower of happiness out of earthen bricks until they plunge into the abyss of death without ever even having glimpsed the face of happiness. They proclaim their ancestors mad, because they have vainly been seeking happiness in their own ways and not in the ways of their forefathers. By proclaiming their ancestors mad, they have testified that they are the children of lunatics. And in the end, after they have accomplished nothing and attained nothing of what was desired, they bequeath a testament to their offspring — to seek happiness on the same roads where they found none.

"Know, O marvelous founder of Lazarica Church, that this day is a turning point for your people, not for evil but for good. Being the forgetfulness of God's will, mindless self-will had pulled the nation's soul to the abyss of eternal death. From now on your people must obey a foreign will, so that they may learn to obey the will of God. They must be subjugated to the self—will of their tyrants, so that thereby they may come to despise their own tyranny over themselves. Through the labors and toils of the centuries to come, they will thus learn to hate two bad wills, two self-wills, their own and that of their masters. Constricted and under pressure from every direction, your people will be able to grow only skyward, like a tree in a dense forest, and will therefore seek light only in the skies. In the skies they will seek out the radiant will of their Creator, and they will find it easily, because they will have nothing but the third will to seek, since they will have come to despise both their own will and the foreigners' will. Easily they will find it, like an old acquaintance, whom they once knew but then forgot. Once they find it and recognize it, they will rejoice over it like an orphan who has been kidnapped and then returned to his father. The will of the Creator will be sweeter than milk and honey to them, and the more they drink of it, the sweeter it will become. Bareheaded and barefooted they will bow down before the will of the Most High, and yet they will feel more blessed than their unruly lords and their ancestors adorned with gold. Their artistic talent, given in greater or lesser quantity to every living being by the Artist, to whom art and all artists belong, will for them be neither lost nor hindered. Have no fear. True, they will no longer be able to manifest it by constructing towers and cities; nevertheless they will sufficiently display it in their intimate circle, in their domestic handicrafts. These handicrafts will be touching in keeping with the spirit and love, with which they were fashioned; and they will be so exalted in beauty and modesty, that the whole world will be amazed. In all their handiworks will be reflected the mysterious hand of heaven, as well as heavenly harmony and compassion, because everything will express the harmony of the will of man with the will of God. All the works of your enslaved people will be dedicated to God, all will be subjugated to His unerring will, and consequently all will be inspired by the Spirit of sanctity, truth, and beauty. Nevertheless, all these works will in and of themselves be worth nothing in the eyes of the holy heavens, just as any kind of human works are in themselves worth nothing in the eyes of eternity. But their deified will, of which these works are an expression, will inherit eternity.

   "For this reason, O royal soul in frail dust, arise and bow down before the will of the Immortal and Eternal one, the will before which all the nations of heaven bow down day and night. Do not worry about your people, now that you have entrusted them to the will of the Most High. For His will shall be sweeter for your people in slavery than self-will was in frothy worldly lordliness. By choosing the heavenly kingdom you have included your people among the immortal and angelic nations of heaven. As a man and as a prince you were not able to bequeath a greater inheritance to your people than to make such a choice and to confirm it with the red seal of your own blood. Therefore now on this field, as in your own Gethsemane, repeat those salvific words: "Father, let Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven!" Be prepared to pass over at the hour of two from this earthly battlefield to the place of eternal rest. There you will recognize how majestic the will of God is, and how pleasurable obedience to that will is. In it there is not even a drop of malice, not even an instant of weakness, not even a shadow of fatigue. It has created countless worlds, visible and invisible, so that they may taste its goodness and sweetness. From its bounty it pours itself through the spiritual worlds into the forms and embroideries and afflictions of the physical world. That will has accomplished what it alone could accomplish, and has drowned everything in the ocean of its intoxicating joy and gladness. And all that it demands of its children is that they immerse themselves deeply into its immortal and life-creating water." 

CHAPTER NINE in which Lazar looks at the battle with the two visions opened for him: the physical and the spiritual

   Not much time passed by before a marvelous heavenly harmony pervaded Lazar's soul. Those heavenly nations were singing a song, from which the dying Tsar recognized these words:
     A dreadful day, but wondrous harvests!
     A flock of souls comes to us from Kosovo.
     Come, ye souls, come nearer to us!
     Two harvests are being reaped on the battlefield
     The one is of life, but the other of death.
     The living harvest is streaming into heaven,
     The angels carry it beneath their wings,
     Carrying it into the kingdom of heaven.
     On Amos' day — a testament for Christians,
     A testament of struggle for the cross and freedom.
     With blood Lazar is to seal the testament
     And to enrich his people eternally.

     Lazar was so moved by the meekness and sweetness of this hymn, that a stream of tears began to flow from his eyes. He was enwrapped in the spirit, and was thus unaware of his tears. But the Turks saw them and interpreted the weeping of the Christian Tsar differently. Some interpreted them as sorrow over the dead generals before him, but others as weakness produced by fear of his impending death. The two heavenly men, however, whom none of the Turks could see, stood by and secretly conversed with each other.
     Then Saint Amos stepped closer to Lazar and gently said to him: "O wondrous Prince, you who celebrate me as your patron saint, are you touched by this wondrous hymn? These holy nations of heaven are rejoicing, because now brethren are drawing near to them from earth. Indeed, most of the brethren, who are coming to them this day, are coming from this field. The Most High has given this day to me, as to His martyr on earth, just as He has given every saint his own day. On this, the very day of your own suffering, I suffered death for the holy faith. Just as the holy heavens offer felicitations and sing hymns to every saint on his day, so are they doing for me today. Thus do the holy heavens glorify God every day through His saints. The prayers of all those mortals who celebrate me at the slava, at the "glory" of the Lord these prayers I offer up, sanctified by incense, before the heavenly King and Sustainer of all. And the souls of the righteous, who depart from earth on my day, I accompany, together with the guardian angels into the shining skies of eternal light and eternal life. In just a little while you, O Prince, will share this day with me, as a saint commemorated on this day. For us in heaven, every sharing of heavenly glory means a doubling of blessedness."
     After he said this, Saint Amos placed his right hand on the face of the dying Prince and said: "Be opened!"

    In that instant, there simultaneously opened for Lazar both visions, the physical and the spiritual. And with both visions he gazed over the battlefield around him. And behold, how new and wondrous everything was! The faces of many of his soldiers, who had received communion yesterday at Samodreza, were as radiant as lighted candles. Around their heads shone halos of light, which were slightly elongated in four directions in the shape of crosses. Beside each of these faces thus illumined, there stood, as if suspended in air, a luminous, translucent man just like this heavenly herald, who was speaking with Lazar.
    However, the Prince saw different faces also. These were warriors like the black earth. Behind their heads there loomed and stooped here and there some sort of monsters as black as tar. The Prince realized that the expression of these loathsome monsters corresponded to the black misdeeds and passions of the sinners against whom the monsters were pressing. He understood moreover that on this broad battlefield there was taking place not only a struggle of men but of spirits as well.
     Hell and earth and heaven had converged in a dreadful clash. The roaring and the clanging, the screeches and the screams, the thunder and the clatter, the shouting and the death rattles the air was filled with all the sounds and noises that can be heard out of throats and nostrils, from hoofs of horses, from metal, from trumpets, from wooden staves, from bones and teeth, from the tightened skin on drums, from wind and rain. The stabbing with swords and spears, the shimmering of silver armor and the glistening of helmets and silver bridles, the fluttering of the green flags of the Asiatics and of the red and white cross-banners of the Christians, the white faces of the European soldiers, the dark-yellow Asiatics and the coal-black Africans, the snowy turbans and the bright red Turkish trousers, the blue and purple dolmans, the yellow and orange boots, the multicolored horses and dogs, the gray camels and the gray falcons. Will the human eye ever be filled with such a display of color from three continents?

The warriors lunged at each other, some with lightning in their eyes, the others with the pallor of a candle burning down. Horses reared with their teeth exposed by the tightened reins. Every soldier was thinking about how he would slay his enemy or defend himself. The faces of some were a book of horror, of others a book of fury, of others — a book of fright, of still others a book of pain, or of anxiety, or of hope but no feeling or passion was without the utmost tension and the culmination of its strength. One warrior with his eyes closed was expressing his pain with his mouth open. Another with clenched jaws was flashing his scorching wrath in his eyes. Yet another with the creases on his face was showing the mustering of the might of his entire being. Some were falling, struck by the mace of their adversary. Others were pulling arrows out of their body and were clenching their wounds with their hands to stop the bleeding alas, to what avail? In the confusion one soldier kills his closest companion. Another, knocked down, finds death beneath the hoofs of his horse, in which he had trusted as an ally. An arrow overtakes a battler as he flees, while another in the thickest part of the melee remains unscathed.
     Neither physical vision could see nor could physical reason understand, why one thing was happening to one man and something else was happening to another. This fabric and rash of fate can be seen and comprehended only by that other, spiritual vision. Only in Lazar, among all the thousands of warriors, was this spiritual vision opened. And with this other mysterious vision Lazar watched and saw the battle of spirits over men. According to the light or the darkness of the soul of each soldier, either spirits of light or spirits of darkness were rushing up to him. Instantaneously each spirit recognized his own and was seizing his own. With a blow of their hand or a puff of air from their mouth, the mighty angels of heaven were beating the demons, who were like ravenous jackals, off the souls of the cross-bearing knights. But the beasts of hell, though trembling before those holy powers, treacherously flew at every human soul as soon as it would leave a warm body. With repulsive boasts they were snarling at the souls of sinners, and with their claws they were hurling them as with a fishhook with claws that reached to their elbows. But as soon as the angels would overtake them swinging their arm, they would scrunch those claws together into snakelike coils, and the demons would scratch themselves in a monstrous rage. Out of them there moreover came a certain smoke and stench, unknown to earth and to men. Both armies would have been smothered within an hour by that hellish stench, had the angels not annihilated it with the heavenly and vivifying ozone that fills their being.

So Lazar watched and saw, with honor and terror, how the angels would eventually permit the demons to have some black human soul. But the souls of the righteous they would shelter with their wings, and would take them and carry them up into the heavenly heights. Before his flight into heaven, each angel would turn to Amos and warmly greet him. For this was Amos' feast day. Lazar marveled at the great armies of heaven and hell, which were no smaller than the human armies on the battlefield. Their wrestling over the souls of men represented such a rapid and resolute struggle, that it has no parallel anywhere on earth except within man, in whom opposing thoughts are always at war. For the entire time that Lazar was fixedly gazing at the double battle with his double vision, that heavenly melody filled his ears — a melody that kept him from losing his mind from the terrifying sights:

    "A flock of souls comes to us from Kosovo. Come, ye souls, come nearer to us!"

CHAPTER TEN in which Lazar receives the answer to his question why unbaptized Asia was permitted to conquer his people who had fought for the honorable cross

    After beholding these horrors, Lazar was for some time unable to regain his spiritual peace. His whole body was trembling. The Sultan's bodyguards around him interpreted this as a natural fever before death of a grievously wounded man. Lazar, however, was again entirely in the spirit, and was paying no attention to the bodily senses. The battle raged around him as before, but he neither heard any voice nor saw any object of this world. Before him stood the angel of God and the prophet. He saw only them. Then the angel of God made the sign of the cross over the exhausted Prince with three fingers, and with this his peace of soul and strength of body were restored. Thereupon he said to him: "Is everything still not clear to you? Would you, O wondrous founder of Gornjak Monastery, like to ask anything further?"
     Still standing beneath the terrifying burden of the slightly more pressing vision, Lazar responded with a subdued voice:
     "Even though your every word, O incorporeal herald, drops into my heart like a new flame of truth that illuminates and gives warmth, nevertheless all the clouds of my ignorance have not been enlightened and dispersed. There is still a dark cloud overhanging my view.

    "I set out with my knights to battle for the honorable cross and golden freedom. The Asiatic Sultan came with his hordes to our hearth for the purpose of pillaging and destruction. I do not understand, O great servant of God, why the will of the Most High is inclined to grant victory to those, who ridicule the cross and deprive a baptized nation of its freedom?"
     To this the messenger of God replied: "When the baptized mock the cross through their transgressions, then the All-Seeing permits the unbaptized to mock it even more, so that the baptized may be mindful of it and be ashamed. For great ridicule on the part of the unbaptized is more tolerable for Him than small ridicule on the part of the baptized. You know that the honorable cross is the cross of the Son of God, and that it signifies suffering for that for which He suffered. Before Him, the cross was dishonorable, and only dishonorable men carried it. But from the time when this dishonorable symbol was given honor by the One, from whom is desired every honor in heaven or on earth, by touching it with His body and washing it with His blood — from that time this symbol has become the greatest symbol of honor in both worlds.
     "For the greatest symbol of honor you have been fighting today, O banner-bearer of Christ. In fact you have spent your entire life fighting for the honorable cross against false brethren, while today you have been fighting against open — and so much more honest — enemies of the cross. Your false brethren would be ashamed and your enemies would be terrified, if they knew the significance of the honorable cross, against which they have risen up. For now, however, their eyes have been blinded, and they are unable to see this. Only through bearing the cross voluntarily does one come to know the importance of the cross. Whoever bears the cross, also knows that the cross is the way, the truth, and life. And so, because the way is love, and the truth is love, and the life is love, the cross also symbolizes love — the supreme symbol of love! To bear the cross means to bear witness to one's love for God through suffering. The cross is the witness of holy love. Whoever does not show this evidence, has no holy love within him. No sort of words and no sort of gifts can bear witness to love as well as the cross can. Therefore the Son of God gave himself to be crucified on the cross, in order to give eternal evidence of His eternal love.
     "As you fought today for the honorable cross, you were fighting for the only true way of life, for the only living truth, and for the only true life — yes, and for the only eternally living and holy love. And whoever struggles for this, if he dies, he shall live; if he perishes, he shall conquer. Your Golgotha, O Prince, is inevitably bound to the resurrection. The very struggle for the cross already signifies victory, without even considering the impending outcome of the struggle. For from the cross of Golgotha this entire planet has been girded with the cross from east to west and from north to south, and thereby the sign of the cross has been made over the whole inhabited world. Whoever suffers and battles under this holy symbol, possesses the sure guarantee of victory.
     "Behold, your banners of the cross are still fluttering over this field of battle. In a short time they will be toppled and trampled. For your sinful feudal lords toppled and trampled this holy symbol a long time ago. Nevertheless, the crosses trampled on Kosovo will be easily raised up in the heart of the people and will dwell in the heart of the people. In time, every descendant of yours, every Orthodox son and every Orthodox daughter in your Christian people, will represent on this earth a living banner of the cross. After the honorable cross has, not just symbolically, but actually made its dwelling place in the hearts of men, it will be easy to make that banner out of silk cloth and branches from a box tree. For it is always easier for men to attain a symbol than to attain reality, and it is easier to attain the expression than to attain the spirit and truth. After your people will have lived in bondage under their unbaptized masters as many centuries as ancient Israel lived in bondage under the pharaohs of Egypt, the cross will fill the soul of your people so fully and will plant itself within their soul so firmly, that as soon as the linen banner of the cross is raised anew, their yoke of external slavery will be quickly thrown off, their external freedom will be easily obtained, and their kingdom will be reestablished.

    "O wondrous martyr of Christ, what a truly wondrous testament you have bequeathed to your people by choosing the kingdom of eternal reality! And how you have placed before its eyes the symbol of victory, in the form of the honorable cross! Instead of the pillar of fire, which led the Israelites out of the bondage of Egypt, the cross, raised from the field of Kosovo to heaven, will lead your people through the wilderness of servitude. The cross will illuminate them, guide them, and lead them out into the promised land of freedom — not just earthly, symbolic, and temporal freedom, but freedom that is true, immortal, and angelic.

CHAPTER ELEVEN which duscuss external and internal freedom, and the essence of golden freedom

    Listen now to a word about freedom, O insatiable champion of the honorable cross and golden freedom. All realities have their unalterable and inalienable names. But on earth these names are extended also to symbols of those realities, and even to symbols of symbols, because of the inability of the tongue to be restrained and because of the visual weakness of men. Thus the word "freedom" has been extended to many relationships and many circumstances among the people on earth. I shall first tell you what should already be clear to you. When the external freedom in a nation is transformed into the serfdom of one kinsman to his closest kinsman, and is defiled by a nameless tyranny of one man over another, which continues unpunishable by the law of that land then the Almighty, the Compassionate, takes away the freedom of such a nation and casts it into the school of servitude, so that it may learn to recognize and appreciate freedom. Is this not clear to you, noble Prince?"
     Lazar replied: "Truly you are telling me things that should be clear to every intelligent man."
     Thereupon the angel continued: "Golden freedom, however, is closely tied to the honorable cross. Through the honorable cross, golden freedom was revealed to men. For gold is a symbol of truth. Golden freedom therefore means freedom that is true and unchangeable. We immortal spirits have the freedom in the heavenly kingdom this internal spiritual freedom. When someone among mortals acquires this freedom, he, and he alone, is truly free. He is free of worldly cares and cravings; free of delusions of worldly glory and fleeting fame; free of the world, of men, of demons; free also of himself, of his lower, unspiritual being. Bearing this golden freedom in his breast, he feels free whether he is living in external freedom or external slavery. This freedom cannot be increased by his country being free any more than it can be decreased by his country being deprived of its freedom. It is a treasure hidden within the soul, a treasure which thieves cannot steal, tyrants cannot destroy, fire cannot burn, and death cannot annihilate. True freedom is freedom whether one is in a prison or in a palace. Without it a prison is a tomb and a palace is a prison. Without this internal freedom of the children of God, the freedom of the spirit and the heart, man is always a slave no matter what the external circumstances of his life are. This freedom makes external slavery unbitter and external freedom sweet. It is salt for external freedom, and protects it from abuse and corruption; it is light for external bondage, providing light and warmth to enslaved people. 

"Your Lord and ours has told you that you must be like children. Is it not true that children are the freest beings in your human race? Obedience to the will of parents does not so much limit their freedom, as it simply steers them in the right direction. We in the holy heavens of God have this childlike freedom, for we are also children, and we do whatever we wish with the joyful knowledge that only the love and wisdom of the all-seeing heavenly Father encompasses and limits us. Nevertheless, we do not experience this limiting as a restriction or constriction, but rather as a parent protecting his children from falling. Not being free of God, but being free in God this is genuine freedom, freedom that is everlasting, life-creating, joyful, golden. To come to know oneself as being dependent solely upon the Father, the Nourisher and Protector, on the closest Kinsman, on the most faithful Lover this is the most sublime awareness and experience of freedom that the created beings in heaven and on earth can ever know. Gold is gold, whether it is under the feet or on the head. So it is also with golden freedom, whether it is in the heights or in the valleys, in the light of day or in the darkness of night.
     "Consider the Son of God, the Child of God, who appeared in the flesh in order to proclaim to fleshly beings the mysteries of eternal life. Of all the children in heaven and on earth, the Son of God was the freest Child. He was free as a woodworker in Nazareth, as a Teacher among the people, and as a bound Slave before the Roman authorities and the Jewish leaders. Not even for one instant was His freedom either bound or loosed. The real slaves were those who were judging Him, spitting upon Him, flogging Him, and crucifying Him. But not even for one moment was He unfree; for he was not for a single moment out of the sight of His heavenly Father and His heavenly fatherland. From heaven He brought His freedom here to men, and He led into this freedom those who understood it and came to love it.
     Therefore His apostle speaks to those who have been liberated from the world, from demons, and from themselves: 'Stand in the freedom, with which Christ has set you free.' This apostle, and his companions, and millions of believers in Christ, have felt like free children of God, whether in the city or the wilderness, whether at a laden dinner table or in hunger, whether in chains or among friends. They were all like Him, the Revealer and Bestower of golden, heavenly freedom, the freedom of the children of God in the Home of their Father. For the Spirit of the Father, the Holy Spirit of freedom, had permeated their souls and saved them from every enslavement.
     "For this golden and holy freedom you have been fighting and dying, O beloved lover of the kingdom of heaven. The external freedom in your house and in your country, governed by brothers of the same blood and the same faith, is only a symbol of the divine freedom of the soul; a shell that indicates what is within, a moon that tells tales about the sun. Those who do not have this essential golden freedom within themselves, and who struggle only for external freedom, do they not exist as slaves even in their own house, in their own country, governed by brothers of the same blood and the same faith? Is this not delusory freedom, which differs from servitude to another in name only? For such delusory freedom one does not give up his crown, much less his head. Yet you, O Prince, went off to this field, to lay down both your crown and your head for freedom but for that authentic, evangelic freedom.
     "Whoever lays down his life for the earthly kingdom, does what the foolish Esau also did — he sells his dignity for a bowl of lentils. People usually think of external servitude as a loss. It is indeed a loss, but of what? Not of the soul, but of things, property, authority, and dominions. But if it is not a loss of the soul, it is not a loss in general For everything has remained except the props and the stage, where the soul appears. The soul can superbly act out its dramatic role even without a crowded, furnished stage. If a man has chosen our heavenly kingdom, then every foot of the earth, on which he stands, is for him a superb stage for his role.
     "Your two illusory defeats today will be turned into two glorious victories. Your first defeat is the slaughter of yourself and your valiant knights; the second, as a consequence of the first, is the enslavement of your surviving people. For the first defeat you and your valiant knights will receive sainthood in heaven and will be lauded in song on earth. For the second defeat your people will be given spiritual regeneration, internal golden freedom, through a baptism in fire and blood.
     "In the eyes of an onlooker bereft of understanding, a man who throws seed onto a field is becoming poorer, because he is emptying his storehouse of grain. The accounting, however, is not made at the time of sowing, but at the time of harvesting. For your people this day has been a great sowing in the field of time. And when they come to harvest the seed which you have sown today, O worthy sower, you will be watching from the heights of heaven, and you will rejoice with ineffable joy.
     "It is better to obtain the kingdom of heaven through sacrifice than to obtain the kingdom of this world through wickedness. There is no wickedness on earth or in hell that can outwit the eternal Wisdom of heaven. In many duels this Wisdom has appeared to be beaten in the eyes of those who think that the battle is over. But Wisdom gazes far into the distance, and sees the day of Her victory. When Her adversaries scream victoriously, She silently records Her illusory losses as gains. The arrogant ridicule Her small and unarmed hosts, but in the end they gape, startled and in terror. The arrogant, who rely on themselves, always experience the unexpected, She never. The Wisdom of heaven gives Her adversaries every advantage in battle, and retreats before them as though beaten, but in the end She scatters them like chaff. Her wands crack the iron of her adversaries. Her gentle wave of the hand returns clouds of arrows back toward the archers. With Her thought alone She raises up the fallen and elevates the small. She supports the oppressed and shows compassion to the downtrodden. In Her breath is irresistible power; in Her word is inextinguishable light. "In Her hands are all the ends of the earth." She hovers over the human race like a mother over a child in a crib. Who can oppose Her and remain alive? Into the chalice of free nations She adds bitterness and into the chalice of the enslaved She adds honey; but both the one and the other with careful measure, lest the remedy become poison. She loves those who serve Her; and She competes in serving with Her beloved ones. No one among those created can outplay Her, outmatch Her, or outserve Her. Blessed is the man, who chooses the Wisdom of heaven and Her kingdom.
     "However, your time has nearly expired, O Prince and bearer of the fate of your people."

CHAPTER TWELVE in which Lazar's end is recounted

    After these words the herald of heaven raised his hand and uttered some mysterious phrase. At once Lazar's spiritual vision was closed. But Lazar was no longer an old man, but was regenerated and renewed. He had seen and heard without participating. His soul had been pacified and illuminated by the heavens, like calmed water, in which only the sunny sky is reflected. The battle still raged around him, but he was no longer tied to it by any fiber of his soul. His heart stood elevated above earthly sorrow and joy, and his mind stood high and far above all thoughts about earthly matters. This entire world lay like ashes beneath him. His soul stood out from those ashes like a spark and was infinitely far removed in time and space. Both time and space, as well as all the worlds encompassed by them, belonged to those ashes. In his soul Lazar felt a new, infinite life, and a new, infinite world and a new, infinite joy. He sighed deeply and exclaimed aloud: "Amen."
* * *

     What is this clamor reaching the ears of the Prince? What is this victorious shouting? Why is this pack of Asiatic warriors flocking like a frothy wave to the Sultan's tent? What is filling Murat's brave soldiers with such excitement?
     It is a new trophy for the unbaptized, a new loss for the baptized. Even the guards around Lazar were shouting with great delight. Lazar lifted his heavy eyelids from his eyes, and looked and saw. The cross-banner of Boško Jugovic was fluttering above the company of Turkish soldiers. It had been captured and seized. This meant that Milca's brave brother had perished. It was a certainty that his inseparable brothers and their valiant father, Jug Bogdan, had likewise perished along with him. These thoughts filled Lazar's mind, but he was not saddened.
     The banner was planted in the ground, while the messengers went off somewhere to report it to someone. Afterwards the company of Turks began to open ranks and make a pathway. Lazar looked and he saw the Sultan's son, Bayazid, mounted on a horse as white as milk. The Turkish champions seized the banner and placed it on the ground before the heir to the Sultan's throne. After his horse stepped on the unfurled banner, Bayazid tightened his golden bridle, and the white horse neighed as it trampled the cross-standard of the Christian army with its hoofs. Lifting his head toward heaven, the horseman shouted: "Allah akbar! (God is the victor!)"
     At that moment the entire army around him fell down on their knees, bowed their foreheads to the ground and thunderously exclaimed: Allah akbar!
     All this Lazar saw and heard and was saddened.
     What is that whispering around Lazar? What is that excited whispering that is teeming from mouth to mouth among the sons of Asia? What are those mysterious assemblies, like the rustling of leaves from the face of the wind?
     The Sultan is dying. Amid the general whispering only one clear voice is heard beneath the tent. The son of the dying Sultan is issuing orders. What sort of orders could he be issuing at this hour? They are not military orders. They do not pertain to the battle. The battle is already over. The sons of Asia have won it. Rather, the new Sultan is commanding that, before his father's death, the infidel Tsar must be executed.
     "Behead the infidel Tsar before Sultan Murat the Invincible expires!" The enraged Bayazid angrily repeated this command, as he appeared at the entrance of the tent.
     Lazar heard this and understood but was not saddened.
* * *

     What is this new commotion? What is this confused bustling and searching?
     The sons of Asia are searching for a tree stump, where they can chop off the Christian Tsar's head. They are searching for one all over the treeless field, and are failing to find one. Burning with wrath, Bayazid again roars like an angry lion and threatens the executioner with death.

Lazar understood what they were looking for and what they wanted. So he raised his right hand and crossed himself, and uttered aloud: "O Christ our God, forgive everything and glory to Thee for everything!"
    After he said this, Lazar slipped out of the grip of the Turkish bodyguards with the spryness of a youth, and stepped over to the body of Vojvoda Miloš. With ease and dignity he stretched out on the ground, and leaned his head on the head of his faithful general. When he saw this, the bloodstained executioner felt gratitude toward the noble slave, because in this way Lazar was helping him to escape his own death. The executioner brandished his scimitar. Like lightning the curved sword flashed through the air, sliced through Lazar's neck and shattered on Miloš's shoulder blade.

But the two heavenly heralds flew off toward heaven with the soul of their new companion, Saint Lazar. To greet them as tranquilly as moonlight, the holy nations of heaven were singing the words:

     The earthly kingdom lasts only for a brief time,
     But the heavenly kingdom always and forever.

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Noteworthy in the life of the holy tsar-martyr Lazar are his Christian upbringing, his youthful piety, his love for monastics, and his "evangelic love for God and his fellow man." These characteristics are reflected in his gathering of ascetics to Serbia, his restoration of parish churches, his building of numerous monasteries, and his care for the poor and the sick, demonstrated through his founding of almshouses, hospitals, and schools. 

Ravanica monastery - King's Lazar legacy

During his reign, the holy Lazar pondered his duty and considered, "Is there anything greater for an earthly ruler than to do what is pleasing to God?"
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*Preface: Matushka Nancy Mirolovich, fr Justin Popovic, Wikipedia.


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