Kosovo Cycle (Part 5)

March 31, 2009

From the Kosovo epic poetry cycle translated by Helen Rootman in 1920

Tsaritsa Militsa and the Voyvoda Vladeta

Tsaritsa Militsa went a-walking
Near the great white fortress of Krushévatz,
With Militsa were her two dear daughters
Vukosava and the lovely Mara.
To them comes Vladeta the Voyvoda
Riding on his bay, his faithful charger;
He has ridden him so hard and furious
That the white foam from his flanks is dropping.
Says to him the Tsaritsa Militsa:
“God be with thee, oh thou princely warrior,
Tell me wherefore is thy steed thus foaming?
Dost thou come now from the plain, Kossovo?
Hast thou there beheld our noble monarch
My dear lord and thine, oh princely warrior?”
Answered her Vladeta the voyvoda:
“God be with thee, Tsaritsa Militsa,
I have ridden from the plain, Kosovo,
But did not behold our noble monarch.
I have only seen afar his charger
Which the Turks chased on the field of battle,
So I think our noble prince has perished.”
As the Tsaritsa Militsa listened
Down her white face were the tears fast falling,
And she asked Vladeta the voyvoda:
“Tell me truly, oh thou princely warrior,
When thou wert upon the field Kosovo,
Hast thou seen nine Jugovitch, my brothers,
And the tenth, the Jug Bogdan, my father?”
Answered her Vladeta the Voyvoda:
“As I galloped o’er the field of battle
I have seen nine Jugovitch, thy brothers,
And the tenth, the Jug Bogdan, thy father.
Midway on Kossovo they were fighting,
Bloody were their arms up to the shoulders
And up to the hilts their long green sabres,
But their arms sank weakened with much fighting
As they cut the Turks down on Kosovo.”
Once more spoke the Tsaritsa Militsa:
“Wait awhile with me, oh princely warrior!
Hast thou seen the husbands of my daughters,
Hast thou seen Vuk Brankovitch and Milosh?”
Answered her Vladeta the Voyvoda:
“As I galloped o’ver the field of battle
I saw Milosh Obilitch, the hero.
He was standing on the plain, Kosovo,
And upon his battle-lance was leaning,
But alas, the battle-lance was broken
And the Turks were pressing hard upon him,
So I think that he has surely perished.
Brankovitch I did not see, O mistress,
Did not see him–may the sun not see him!
He betrayed the prince upon Kosovo,
He betrayed thy lord and mine, dear lady.”


Sermon 4th Sunday of Great Lent

March 29, 2009

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spiritladder1

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ today is the Fourth Sunday of the Great and Holy Fast. This Sunday of Lent is dedicated to Saint John Climacus or Saint John of the Ladder. Saint John was a monk of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai. As a monk of Sinai he lived a spiritual life. He captured his experience in a book with the title, The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

In this book he describes the spiritual life and growth to God through 30 steps or rungs on a ladder. Through these 30 steps a man is transfigured into continual communion with God. The spiritual growth that is achieved by the action of these steps is only achieved through God’s mercy, prayer and fasting.

In today’s Gospel we hear of Christ our God’s mercy and healing and their relationship to prayer and fasting. In this Gospel we hear of a man that brings his son to our Lord for healing from demons. This man has doubt that our Lord can accomplish this healing because his disciples could not heal him. Our Lord first rebukes him and the crowd that is with him. Our Lord then asks him to believe that this healing can occur. The man says that he believes but asks Christ to heal his unbelief. The man’s son is then healed. Later the disciples ask why they could not heal this man’s son. Jesus replies that this type of demon can only be removed through prayer and fasting.

The first thing that confronts us in this Gospel is the existence of evil spirits, fallen angels or demons. We would all like to deny their existence. We would like to dismiss their action as illness or mental illness. Mental illness is something that does exist but, it is different from the spiritual illness that is being described in this Gospel. The possession of the soul by demons is a sickness of the soul. The sickness of the soul separates a person from God and from other people.

The goals of the demons are to convince us that they do not exist or that they have the same power as God. The prince of the demons is Lucifer or the devil himself. He is the prince of lies. If we believe the lie that that there is no evil then it becomes easier for us to believe that we do not need God. The other lie that the devil wants us to believe is that he is an evil god that is equal to God. We often hear of this good and evil equality in the belief of the ying and the yang. When we believe these lies we deny the power of God and separate ourselves from Him and others. Through this separation from God and others our soul’s becomes sick. In the most severe cases of soul sickness the person starts to act differently. Sometimes this is mistaken for a mental illness.

That is what we see in today’s Gospel. The father refers to his son as a lunatic or a person that is crazed. This man wants to believe that the illness is something other than a sickness of the soul. In a way the man wants to believe that this illness is something that was given by God. That it is a punishment from God. This is the true denial of God by attributing to Him the evil of the fallen angels that has been self inflicted through the misuse of our free will. We must remember that all that God has created is good. This is continually reinforced for us as God creates the world in Genesis with the words, “and God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:10-31)

This is why our Lord rebukes this man and the crowd. He does this because of their forgetfulness that all that God created is good and to bring them back to belief in Him. The Apostle James explains rebukes that are made in the following passage from his epistle “For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body.” (James 3:2-3) Thus, rebukes may seem offensive but they are a tool to turn us back to a correct way of living.

Then Jesus asks the man to bring his son to Him for healing. Then the Lord asks him to believe that his son can be healed. The man then cries out Lord I believe heal my unbelief. Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic says “There is nothing that melts the ice of unbelief as readily as tears.” These tears occur when we can no longer endure the pain of not trusting in God. We often hear this in the cry “God help me!” when we at the point of despair. It is at this point of despair that God can enter into our lives. This is when God can help us to have belief and faith in Him. Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic further says “… man cannot even come to faith without God’s help. Man can only come to some slight belief…But the path from some measure of belief to true faith is long indeed, and no man can follow this path without God’s guiding hand.”

When the man’s son is healed our Lord tells the demon to enter him no more. In this the Lord is reminding us and the young man that our behaviors are often engrained in our very being. This is a reminder to us that we are not return to our sins once we have repented of them. In the Gospel of Saint Matthew our Lord also reminds us that once we have removed a sin from our lives we must be careful not to add more sins with the following “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, …Then he goes, and takes with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” (Matthew 12:43-45) With these two reminders our Lord reminds us that we must be continually diligent in the conduct of our lives not to sin to prevent the sickness of the soul.

After the healing of the man’s son Christ’s disciples ask him why they could not cast out the demon. Our Lord’s response is that it is because of their unbelief and that this type of demon is only cast out through prayer and fasting. Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic points out the following regarding the disciples unbelief and their inability to cast out this demon “…the measure that their faith had become weaker, whether from worldly fear or from pride, so the power that had been given to them had become weakened.” Our Lord then gives the prescription for healing to regain that which was given to them by God; prayer and fasting. This same medicine is given to us by the church so that we can regain or strengthen our faith and enter into continuous communion with God.

Saint Peter Chrysologus of Ravenna discussed prayer and fasting in the following way “Prayer knocks at the door, fasting obtains, mercy receives. Prayer, mercy and fasting: these three are one, and they give life to each other. Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting.” Fasting is a method of quenching the passions through abstinence. Fasting is not only the abstinence from food but the abstinence from lose living. It is a self discipline that allows us to knock at the Lords door through prayer and receive His mercy for us that restores us into continual communion with Him.

So my dear brothers and sisters in Christ my prayer for you is that you may take your spiritual medicine of fasting that you may be able to pray to restore and grow in your faith so that you may receive the Lord’s mercy and have continual communion with Him.


Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church,, Youngstown Ohio on the 4th Sunday of Great Lent 2009.

Kosovo Cycle (Part 4)

March 28, 2009

Another poem from the epic poetry of Kosovo translated by Helen Rootman in 1920. As you read please remember those who suffer and those that died as a result of the Albanian Pogrom 5 years ago and the NATO bombings 10 years ago.

Musitch Stefan
Musitch Stefan drinks wine in his castle,
Drinks wine there in Maydan, rich with silver,
And the servant Váyistina serves him.
When of cool wine he has drunk sufficient
Thus speaks Musitch Stefan to his servant:
“Hearken, oh my dear friend Váyistina,
Thou shalt sup, and empty now a wine-flask,
Then go out and walk before the castle,
Look above thee at the clear blue heavens.
If the moon is high above the sunset
And Danitsa in the east has risen,
Then the hour has come for us to journey
To the fair and pleasant field, Kosovo,
To our noble prince’s place of meeting.
For my dear friend, as thou surely knowest,
When we took our oath the prince besought us,
He besought us, by our oath exhorting:–
‘Whoso is a Serb, from Serbian mother,
Who has Serbian blood and Serbian lineage,
And comes not to battle, to Kosovo,
May there never to his heart be granted
Children, neither yet a maid nor man-child.
Underneath his hands shall nothing prosper,
Neither vine-yards nor the silver wheat fields,
And from him shall misery be oozing
Till his name and race die out and perish.'”
Stefan lies upon his soft down pillows;
Sups his faithful servant Váyistina
Sups and drinks cool wine beside his master;
After supper walks before the castle,
Looks above him at the clear blue heavens.
Lo, the moon shines high above the sunset,
Lo, Danitsa in the East has risen,
And the hour has come when they must journey
To the fair and pleasant field, Kosovo,
To the noble prince’s place of meeting.
Váyistina goes into the stables,
Brings therefrom two noble battle-horses,
Saddles them, and decks them with rich trappings,
One for him, and one for his good master.
Then he leads them to the castle courtyard,
Carries forth the silken battle-standard
On which shine and glow twelve golden crosses,
And the ikon of Saint John th’ Apostle,
John the patron saint of Musitch Stefan;
In the courtyard then he leaves the standard
And he mounts the stairway of the tower.
Fate here brings him Musitch Stefan’s lov’d one,
She embraces him and tells him weeping:
“Oh my friend and brother, Váyistina,
By Almighty God and John th’ Apostle,
Thou wert until now my faithful servant;
If from now thou art in God my brother
Never wake my well-lov’d lord and master;
For I, most unhappy one, whilst dreaming,
Saw a flight of pigeons high above me,
And near-by beheld I two grey falcons
Soaring far above our lordly castle,
And they flew away unto Kosovo
Till they reached the camp of Sultan Murad–
There they fell, and rose no more for ever….
That, oh brother, is an evil omen
And I fear you both will surely perish.”
But the servant Váyistina answered:
“Oh dear sister, thou belov’d of Stefan,
Never, sister, will I be unfaithful
To thy lord, my honourable master.
For thou hast not been at our oath-taking
When the noble prince has there besought us,
Has besought us, by our oath exhorting:–
‘Whoso is a Serb, from Serbian mother,
Who has Serbian blood and Serbian lineage,
And comes not to battle, to Kosovo,
Underneath his hands shall nothing prosper,
Neither vine-yards nor the silver wheat fields;–
Barren shall his fields remain for ever!
To his heart no children shall be granted,
And from him shall misery be oozing
Till his name and race die out and perish.’
Therefore never will I be unfaithful
To thy lord and mine, oh noble lady.”
To the upper rooms mounts Váyistina
And awakens there his sleeping master:
“Waken now and rise, belovéd master,
For the hour has come when we must journey.”
To his feet then springs the hero Stefan,
Washes his white face with cooling water,
Dons a lordly dress, and girds around him
His good sword, with jewels thick encrustéd.
In his hands he takes a brimming goblet,
And he drinks to God’s great fame and glory,
To the Cross’s honour and his journey.
In the castle court behind the stables
Thus drank Musitch Stefan, the voyvoda,
As befits a knight of noble valour.
Then they went before the lordly castle
And they mounted their two noble horses,
Lifted up the cross-emblazon’d standards,
And while drums and pipes were sounding loudly
In the name of God began their journey.
When the dawn has risen white upon them
On the wide and level plain, Kosovo,
They encounter there a slender maiden,
In her hands two shining golden goblets,
Both of gold, but both of them are empty;
‘Neath her arm a white silk cap she carries,
On the cap is fixed a bunch of feathers
Held together by a silver buckle,
And with gold and pearls thick interwoven.
To the maiden thus speaks Musitch Stefan:
“May God ever help thee, little sister,
Where hast thou been on the field of battle?
Whither wilt thou take the white silk kalpak?
Give to me the silken kalpak, sister,
That I see which warrior has worn it.
Give it to me and I swear upon it
By my journey’s luck I will not harm thee.”
And replied the maiden of Kosovo:
“Health and luck be thine, oh great voyvoda!
I have not been on the field of battle,
But my mother woke me very early–
We rise early and we fetch our water;
When I reached the river of Sitnitsa
Lo, it was in flood, its waters turbid,
And it bore upon it steeds and heroes,
Turkish caps and many white silk kalpaks,
Splendid silken Serbian caps it carried.
Near the end was floating this white kalpak.
In Sitnitsa’s waters then I waded
And I caught and held this white silk kalpak,
For at home I have a younger brother
And I take it to him for his birthday,
I am young, and these white feathers please me.”
Then she gives the cap to the voyvoda;
Musitch Stefan takes it, and beholding,
Knows who was the hero that has worn it….
Down his white face are the tears fast falling,
On his knee he strikes his hand in anguish
Till the gold link of his sleeve is broken
And all torn his silken hose of scarlet:–
“Woe is me! Now help me God Almighty,
For my prince’s curse is come upon me!”
He returns the kalpak to the maiden
And he puts his hand into his pocket,
And he gives to her three yellow ducats:
“Take these yellow ducats, little maiden,
Now I go to battle, to Kossovo,
I will fight there in the name of Jesus.
If God will that I should come back safely,
With a better gift I’ll then present thee.
But, dear sister, if I there should perish,
By this gift now keep me in remembrance.”
Then they drive their spurs into the horses,
Wade across the waters of Sitnitsa,
Spurring, reach the prince’s place of meeting.
And when Musitch Stefan has arrived there
Lo, he smites and slays three Turkish pashas;
As he with the fourth began to struggle
Then the hero Musitch Stefan perished,
And with him his servant Váyistina,
And with him twelve thousand mighty warriors.
And there has our noble monarch perished;
There the Serbians lost their ancient empire,
And the Tsar Lazar his earthly kingdom.

Kosovo Cycle (Part 3)

March 26, 2009

These are two fargments from the epic poetry of Kosovo translated by Helen Rootman in 1920. As you read plaese remember those who suffer and those that died as a result of the Albanian Pogrom 5 years ago and the NATO bombings 10 years ago.

The Banquet on the Eve of the Battle

(a fragment)
Prince Lazar his patron saint doth honour
On the fair and pleasant field Kosovo,
With his lords is seated round the table
With his lords and with his youthful nobles.
On his left the Jug Bogdan is seated,
And with him nine Jugovitch, nine brothers;
On his right Vuk Brankovitch is seated,
And the other lords in their due order;
Facing him is Milosh, that great warrior,
And with him two other Serbian leaders
Kossanchitch, and young Toplitza Milan.
Tsar Lazar lifts high the golden goblet,
Thus he speaks unto his Serbian nobles:
“Unto whom shall this my cup be emptied?
If it be old age that I should honour
Then, oh Jug Bogdan, I must now pledge you;
If it be high rank that I should honour
Then Vuk Brankovitch, I must now pledge you;
If the voice of feeling I should follow
To the Tsaritsa’s nine well-lov’d brothers
To the Jugovitch, my toast is owing;
If it beauty be that I should honour
Ivan Kossanchitch, I must now pledge you;
If heroic looks I now should honour
Then Toplitza Milan, I must pledge you;
If heroic deeds are to be toasted
I must drink to that great warrior Milosh,
I can surely pledge no other hero.
Milosh Obilitch, I drink to thee now,
To thy health, oh Milosh, friend and traitor!
Friend at first, but at the last a traitor.
When the battle rages fierce to-morrow
Thou wilt then betray me on Kossovo,
And wilt join the Turkish Sultan, Murad!
Drink with me, and pledge me deep, oh Milosh,
Drain the cup; I give it thee in token!”
To his feet leaps Milosh, that great warrior,
To the black earth bows himself, and answers:
“Tsar Lazar, for this thy toast I thank thee,
Thank thee for the toast and for the goblet,
But for those thy words I do not thank thee.
For–else may the truth be my undoing–
Never, Tsar Lazar, was I unfaithful,
Never have I been, and never will be.
And to-morrow I go to Kosovo
For the Christian faith to fight and perish.
At thy very knees there sits the traitor,
Covered by thy robes he drains the wine-cup,
‘Tis Vuk Brankovitch, th’ accurséd traitor!
And when dawns the pleasant day to-morrow
We shall see upon the field, Kosovo,
Who to thee is faithful, and who faithless.
And I call Almighty God to witness
I will go to-morrow to Kosovo,
I will slay the Turkish Sultan, Murad,
And I’ll plant my foot upon his false throat;
And if God and fortune so befriend me,
I will take Vuk Brankovitch then captive,
Bind him to my battle-lance! Yea, tie him
As a woman ties hemp to her distaff,
And I’ll drag him with me to Kosovo.”

Kossanchitch and Milosh

(a fragment)
Milosh speaks to Kossanchitch his brother:
“Ivan Kossanchitch, oh thou dear brother,
Hast thou spied upon the Turkish army,
Seen how many warriors came from Turkey?
Can we offer battle to the army?
Can we hope to vanquish it in battle?”
Ivan Kossanchitch thus speaks in answer:
“Milosh Obilitch, oh thou my brother,
I have spied upon the Turkish army
And a mighty army came from Turkey.
Were we grains of salt instead of warriors
Yet we could not salt that army’s dinner.
Fifteen days through Murad’s hordes I wandered
But I could not find an end or limit.
From Mramór right up to Suvi Javor,
And from Jávor right up to Sazliya,
From Sazliya to the bridge of Chemer
And from Chemer to the fortress Zvechan,
And from Zvechan right away to Chechan,
And from Chechan up above the mountains
Stand the Turks in serried ranks together;
Horse to horse, and hero touching hero,
Battle-lances like a magic mountain,
Like a cloud their battle-standards streaming
And their tents stretched like the snow in winter.
If the gentle rain should fall from heaven
Not one inch of ground could then receive it,
So thick stand the horses and the heroes.
Murad fell upon the plain of Mazgit,
Took by quick assault Lab and Sitnitsa.”
Then speaks Milosh Obilitch in answer:
“Ivan Kossanchitch, oh thou my brother,
Where has Sultan Murad pitched his tent there?
I have sworn to slay the Sultan Murad
And I’ll plant my foot upon his false throat.”
Ivan Kossanchitch thus answers Milosh:
“Thou art surely mad, oh thou my brother!
There where thickest press the Turkish warriors
Stands the tent of mighty Sultan Murad.
If thou hadst the swift wings of the falcon
And couldst swoop from out the clear blue heavens
Still thy swift wings could not save thy body.”
Then to Ivan swears the hero Milosh:
“Ivan Kossanchitch, oh thou dear brother,
Not by birth, and yet like my own brother,
Do not tell this story to our monarch,
It would but disquiet and alarm him
And then all the army might be frightened.
Speak unto our monarch in this manner:–
There has come an army out of Turkey
Big enough that we should give it battle,
But it will be light for us to conquer.
It is not an army made of heroes,
But old monks and pilgrims dressed as warriors,
Artisans are there, and slim young merchants,
Those who never yet have seen a battle,
But who for their bread have joined the army.
Say too–but whatever size the army
It has fallen very sick and ailing,
And the horses too all greatly suffer,
Some are lame, and none are in condition.”

Kosovo Cycle (Part 2)

March 25, 2009

In honor of those who lost their lives and those that continue to struggle as a result of the Albanian Pogrom five years ago and the NATO bombing 10 years ago I am posting the epic poems from the Kosovo cycle in several parts. They were translated by Helen Rootham, published in 1920.

Tsar Lazar and Tsaritsa Militsa

Tsar Lazar sits at the evening banquet,
With him sits the Tsaritsa Militsa;
Says to him the Tsaritsa Militsa:
“Tsar Lazar, oh golden crown of Serbia,
Thou wilt go to-morrow to Kosovo,
And wilt lead the men-at-arms and nobles,
But thou leavest no one in the castle
Who for me could carry hence a message
To Kossovo, and bring back your greeting.
Thou dost lead away my nine dear brothers,
Thou dost lead away nine Jugovitchi;
Leave me one at least of these my brothers,
That I have a brother left to swear by.”
Then the Serbian prince Lazar makes answer:
“Oh dear lady, Tsaritsa Militsa,
Tell me thou then, which of thy nine brothers
I shall leave with thee in thy white castle.”
“Leave me Boshko Jugovitch, oh monarch!”
And the Serbian prince Lazar makes answer:
“Oh dear lady, Tsaritsa Militsa,
When the white day dawns again to-morrow,
When the day dawns and the bright sun rises
And the great gates of the city open,
Walk then, lady, to the city portals;
That way goes the army in its splendour,–
All the battle-horses with their lancers.
Boshko Jugovitch will ride before them,
In his hand will bear the battle-standard,
And then stay with thee in thy white castle.”
When the dawn has broken on the morrow,
And the great gates of the city open,
Then walks out the Tsaritsa Militsa;
She stands there beside the city portals
And beholds the army in its splendour:
All the battle-horses with their landers,
Boshko Jugovitch before them riding.
Of the finest cloth-of-gold his garments,
And the standard with a cross emblazon’d,
Oh my brothers, falls in folds around him,
Covers him and rests upon his charger.
On the standard, lo, a golden apple,
From the apple rise the golden crosses,
From the crosses hang long golden tassels
And the tassels droop upon his shoulders.
Closer comes the Tsaritsa Militsa,
Catches at the war-horse by its bridle,
Puts her arm around her brother’s shoulder
And begins to whisper to him softly:
“Boshko Jugovitch, oh thou my brother,
Now to me the Tsar Lazar doth give thee,
And thou shalt not ride with him to battle,
Shalt not ride with him unto Kosovo;
And he bids me tell thee with his blessing
Thous shalt give to whom thou wilt the standard
And remain with me here in Kroushévatz,
That I have a brother left to swear by.”
Boshko Jugovitch then makes her answer:
“Go Militsa, to thy fair white tower,
For I may not stay with thee, my sister,
Nor let from my hand the battle-standard
That the Tsar gave to me at Kroushévatz;
For I will not that my comrades mock me:
See the coward! See the coward Boshko!
He who rode not with Lazar to battle,
Dared not ride with him unto Kosovo,
There to shed his blood for Christ his honour,
For the Holy Cross to fight and perish.”
And he spurred his charger through the gateway.
Came the Jug Bogdan her father, riding,
And with him rode seven Jugovitchi,
But not one of them did look upon her….
And when they had passed out through the gateway
Far behind there came her brother Voïn
Leading with him Tsar Lazar’s great chargers
Covered with their shining golden trappings.
She holds Voïn’s grey horse by its bridle,
Puts her arm around her brother’s shoulder,
Holds him thus, and whispers to him softly:
“Voïn Jugovitch, oh thou my brother,
Now to me the Tsar Lazar doth give thee,
And he bids me tell thee with his blessing
Thou shalt give to whom thou wilt his chargers,
And remain with me here in Kroushévatz
That I have a brother left to swear by.”
Voïn Jugovitch then makes her answer:
“Go Militsa, to thy fair white tower,
I a hero, may not leave my comrades,
Nor give up the Tsar’s steeds to another,
Even knowing that I die in battle.
I go now, oh sister, to Kosovo,
There to shed my blood for Christ his honour,
For the faith to die there with my brothers.”
And he spurred his charger through the gateway.
Seeing this, the Tsaritsa Militsa
Falls down lifeless on the cold hard roadway;
And behold, the Tsar himself comes riding.
When he sees the Tsaritsa Militsa
Down the Tsar’s face are the fast tears falling,
He looks to his right hand and his left hand,
Calls to him then Goluban, his servant:
“Goluban, oh thou my faithful servant,
Now dismount thee from they swan-white charger,
By her fair white hands lift up my lady,
Carry her unto the slender tower;
From thine oath to me hath God now loosed thee,
Thou shalt not ride with me to Kosovo,
But shalt stay behind here, in the castle.”
When the servant Goluban has heard this,
Down his white face are the fast tears falling,
He obeys, and stays his swan-white charger,
By her fair white hands lifts up his lady,
Brings her then unto the slender tower;
But his heart cannot endure the order
That he rides not with his lord to battle,
And he goes back to his swan-white charger,
Mounts him, and rides swiftly to Kossovo.
On the morrow when the dawn has broken,
Flying, come two ravens, two black ravens,
Flying from the wide plain of Kosovo;
They alight upon the slender tower,
On the tower of Lazar the Glorious;
Croaks the first, begins to speak the second:
“Is this Tsar Lazar’s white slender tower,
In this tower is there none that liveth?”
In the tower nobody has heard them,
Saving only Tsaritsa Militsa;
She comes down from her white slender tower,
And she asks the ravens, two black ravens,
Whence do you come flying here this morning?
Tell me, have you seen two mighty armies?
Do these mighty armies fight together?
Which of these two armies doth now conquer?”
Answer her the ravens, two black ravens:
“God be with you, Tsaritsa Militsa,
We come from the wide plain of Kosovo,
On the plain we saw two mighty armies,
Yesterday the armies fought together,
And both monarchs perished in the fighting.
Of the Turkish hordes a few are living,
And a few are living of the Serbians,
Living, but sore wounded all, and bleeding.”
As the two black ravens thus were speaking,
Lo, came riding Milutin the servant,
In his left hand, see, he bears his right hand,
He has countless wounds upon his body,
And his horse is bathed in blood beneath him.
Questions him the Tsaritsa Militsa:
“Milutin, what evil thing hath happened?
Hast thous left they lord upon Kossovo?”
Milutin the servant makes her answer:
“Help me to dismount, I beg thee, lady,
Bathe me also with the cooling water,
And with red wine let my lips be moisten’d,
For my wounds have nearly overcome me.”
Then the Tsaritsa Militsa helps him,
Bathes his cruel wounds with cooling water,
And his lips with good red wine she moistens.
When the servant’s heart revives within him
Questions him the Tsaritsa Militsa:
“Milutin, how went it on Kosovo?
Where Lazar, the Prince of Serbia, perished,
Where the Jug Bogdan, my father, perished,
And where perished his nine sons, my brothers;
Where the brave Voyvoda Milosh perished,
Where Vuk Brankovitch with them has perished,
And where perished mighty Ban Strahinya.”
Milutin the servant tells his story:
“All remain, oh lady, on Kosovo,
Where has fallen Tsar Lazar the Glorious.
There are broken many battle-lances,
Serbian lance and Turkish, both are broken,
But more Serbian lances broke than Turkish
While defending Tsar Lazar, oh lady,
Glorious Tsar Lazar, the lord of Serbia.
And the Jug Bogdan has fallen also,
And with him eight Jugovitchi, lady;
There where no man would desert his brothers
Whilst a single one could move his weapon,
Boshko Jugovitch still fought, oh lady;
Raged the battle round him on Kosovo
And he threw the Turks into disorder
As the falcon strikes the homing pigeons.
And there perished mighty Ban Strahinya,
There too, perished Milosh, oh dear lady,
By Sitnitsa, by the chilly water,
There where very many Turks have fallen.
Milosh slew the Turkish Sultan, Murad,
And he also slew of Turks twelve thousand
May God bless the woman who has borne him!
He left glory to the name of Serbia
While there lives a people and Kosovo.
And what of th’ accurséd Vuk, you ask me!
Curséd he, and curséd she who bore him,
Cursed his race unto all generations!
He betrayed the Tsar upon Kosovo,
Led away with him twelve thousand warriors,
Mighty men-at-arms, oh my dear mistress.”

Kosovo Cycle (Part 1)

March 25, 2009

In honor of those who lost their lives and those that continue to struggle as a result of the Albanian Pogrom five years ago and the NATO bombing 10 years ago I am posting the epic poems from the Kosovo cycle in several parts. They were translated by Helen Rootham, published in 1920.

The Fall of the Serbian Empire

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:
“Tsar Lazar, thou Prince of noble lineage,
What wilt thou now choose to be thy kingdom?
Say, dost thou desire a heav’nly 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 heav’nly kingdom,
Build thyself a church upon Kosovo,
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,
Ponder’d he, and ponder’d in this manner:
“Mighty God, what now shall this my choice be!
Shall I choose to have a heav’nly kingdom?
Shall I choose to have an earthly kingdom?
If I now should choose an earthly kingdom,
Lo, an earthly kingdom is but fleeting,
But God’s kingdom shall endure for ever.”
And the Tsar he chose a heav’nly kingdom,
And he built a church upon Kosovo,–
Did not bring foundation stones of marble
But he brought pure samite there and scarlet;
Summon’d there the Patriarch of Serbia,
Summon’d there with him the twelve archbishops.
Thus he gave the warriors and their leaders
Holy Sacrament and battle orders.
But no sooner gave the Prince his orders
Than the Turkish hordes swept on Kosovo.
And the Jug Bogdan leads there his army,
With his sons, the Jugovitch–nine brothers,
His nine sons like nine grey keen-eyed falcons,
Each of them commands nine thousand warriors,
And the Jug Bogdan commands twelve thousand.
With the Turks they fight there and they struggle,
And they smite and slay there seven pashas.
When the eighth advances to the battle
Then doth Jug Bogdan, the old knight, perish,
With his sons the Jugovitch–nine brothers,
His nine sons like nine grey keen-eyed falcons,
And with them doth perish all their army.
Moved their army three Mernyachevichi:
Ban Uglyesha and Voyvoda Goïko,
And the third, the mighty King Vukáshin;
And with each were thirty thousand warriors,
With the Turks do they there fight and struggle,
And they smite and slay eight Turkish pashas.
When the ninth advances to the battle
Then there perish two Mernyachevichi,
Ban Uglyesha and Voyvoda Goïko;
Many ugly wounds has King Vukáshin,
Turks and horses wade in blood above him,
And with him doth perish all his army.
Moved his army then Voyvoda Stefan;
And with him are many mighty warriors,
Many mighty warriors–sixty thousand.
With the Turks do they there fight and struggle,
And they smite and slay nine Turkish pashas.
When the tenth advances to the battle,
There doth perish the Voyvoda Stefan,
And with him doth perish all his army.
Then advances Tsar Lazar the Glorious,
With him moves a might host of Serbians,
Seven and seventy thousand chosen warriors.
They disperse the Turks upon Kosovo,
No time had the Turks to look upon them,
Still less time had they to stem the onslaught;
Tsar Lazar and all his mighty warriors
There had overwhelm’d the unbelievers,
But–the curse of God be on the traitor,
On Vuk Brankovitch,–he left his kinsman,
He deserted him upon Kosovo:
And the Turks o’erwhelmed Lazar the Glorious,
And the Tsar fell on the field of battle;
And with him did perish all his army,
Seven and seventy thousand chosen warriors.
All was done with honour, all was holy,
God’s will was fulfilled upon Kosovo.

Sermon 3rd Sunday of Great Lent

March 22, 2009


In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ today brings us to the Third Sunday of the Great and Holy Fast or the as the Church refers to this Sunday as the Sunday of the Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross.

The Church gives us the cross at this point, the half way point, of the fast to inspire us. The cross is given to show us the direction that we are headed; that we are headed to crucifixion of our Lord and His Holy Resurrection. This should be where we are headed with our own lives; the crucifixion of our self-will that allows us to perform God’s will that allows our lives to be resurrected to the life that God intended for us.

The cross is also provided to sweeten the fast because by this time in the fast we start to feel the bitterness of fasting. This bitterness is experienced through our denial of the body through food and the denial of our will by not doing what we want to do. The cross is like the wood that Moses plunged into the bitter waters of Marah to sweeten them to make them drinkable. (Exodus 15:23-25) Through seeing the cross we are comforted that there is the joy of Pascha ahead of us and the fast becomes a little easier.

In today’s Gospel we hear our Lord say “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” This verse from the Gospel starts with a decision that each of us must make with the words “Whosoever will come after me.” This decision is an action of our free will. Saint John Chrysostom illustrates the words of the Lord with the following “I do not force, I do not compel, but each one I make lord of his own choice.”

The question we have to ask ourselves when we look at this verse is what type of choice is the Lord asking us to make? Saint John Chrysostom states that this must be a choice for good things otherwise the Lord would compel us to make this choice. Saint John goes on to say that this choice does not eliminate hardship from our lives with the following “to hinder you from having any trial at all those hardships, yet such is not for My will for your sake, that you may yourself contribute something, and be more approved.” In other words the hardships that we endue in this life as followers of Christ are the work that we must perform of our own free will for the building up of the Gospel and the Church in order to receive the blessings of God.

The next phase of this verse is “let him deny himself.” What is this denial of self? There are two types of denial of self. The first type of denial is the denial of self that Adam experienced. Adam denied that God created him to live in harmony with Him for the sake of sin. Not only did Adam use his will contrary to the will of God but, he clung to a lie. The lie was that he was not responsible for his actions. (Genesis 3:12)

When we examine our lives for confession we should find the same denial of what God created us to be. We should see how we have exerted our will over God’s will as well as the lies that we have told ourselves. What are these lies? Some examples are: I am better than I really am financially, morally etc. or if I am addicted drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or some other passion that I can stop at any time. These lies that we tell ourselves are an illusion of our true way of living. The denial of this illusion of self is the second type of denial of self that Christ is speaking of in this portion of the verse.

This denial of the illusion of self is the restoration of the harmony between God’s will and our own will. Through this denial of the lies about ourselves we will deny those things that bind us to the earth and replace them with spirituality, that passions will be replaced by virtues. Most of all the fear we have of God, that He is punishing us in this life and our grumbling against him will be replaced with obedience to Him and love for Him. We will realize the difficulties we experience are self-inflicted as a result of our misuse of our free will.

The next phrase of this verse is “take up his cross.” What does it mean to take up ones cross? Saint Nikolaj Velimirovic answers this question in the following manner. “It means the willing acceptance, at the hand of Providence, of every means of healing, bitter though it may be, that is offered. Do great catastrophes fall on you? Be obedient to God’s will, as Noah was. Is sacrifice demanded of you? Give yourself into God’s hands with the same faith as Abram had when he went to sacrifice his son. Is your property ruined? Do your children die suddenly? Suffer it all with patience, cleaving to God in your heart, as Job did. Do your friends forsake you, and you find yourself surrounded by enemies? Bear it all without grumbling and with faith in hand, as the apostles did. Are you condemned to death for Christ? Be thankful to God for such an honor, like thousands of Christian martyrs.”

This verse completes with the words “follow me.” These words are probably the most difficult for us. What does it mean for us to follow or accompany Christ to the cross? It means to go against all that this world holds as important as Saint Paul reminds us in his Epistle to the Corinthians “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-27)

So my prayer for you my dear brothers and sisters in Christ is that you will be willing to pick up and embrace the way of the cross that you may follow the ways of Christ which are foolishness to this world but, will sweeten your life in immeasurable ways.


Delivered by Fr. Milan Medakovic at Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church,, Youngstown Ohio on the 3rd Sunday of Great Lent 2009.