His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Porfirije visited the St. George Serbian Orthodox Church in Schererville, Indiana on February 3, 2023.
His Holiness, accompanied by Their Graces Bishop Nikodim of Dalmatia and Bishop Kirilo of Buenos Aires and South America, were welcomed at the entrance to the magnificent church of St. George by His Grace Bishop Longin of New Gracanica-Midwestern America, parish priest Presbyter Radovan Jakovljevic and numerous parishioners.
The youngest parishioners, dressed in Serbian folk costume, welcomed the patriarch with the traditional bread and salt. This was followed by a solemn act of doxology served by Protopresbyter Radovan Jakovljevic and Protodeacons Dragan Radic, Jovan Anicic and Milovan Gogic.
Presbyter Radovan Jakovljevic: Your Holiness, thank you for wisely and with humility spreading the word! On behalf of all those present, His Holiness the Patriarch was greeted by the parish priest, Protopresbyter Radovan Jakovljevic:
- Welcome, your Holiness! Your visit tonight shows how much love, care and spiritual strength you have in your archpastoral work in the Lord's broad vineyard. As a spiritual father and a worthy successor on the throne of Saint Sava, you do not forget and your spiritual concern is not less for any single faithful member of our holy Serbian Orthodox Church, both in the homeland and in the diaspora, rather you invite and bring us together in prayerful gathering and bless us with your spiritual blessings.
Your holy right hand blessed this church community back in 2013, when you, as the Bishop of Jegar, visited our St. George Church and signed our Gospel in the altar. We are looking forward to the fact that you will inscribe your name there as Serbian Patriarch tonight and leave us a great blessing and memory of your holy visit. Thank you for wisely and humbly preaching the word of God according to the words of the Holy Apostle Paul: "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! " (1 Cor 9, 16). Thank you also for boldly steering the helm of our holy Serbian Church of Saint Sava on the turbulent waves and rough seas of this life, resisting the various pressures and temptations that have loomed over our holy Church and our Serbian people. We sympathize with you in your concern and prayerfully remember our suffering people in Kosovo and Metohija, in Montenegro and other places where the name of God is invoked and Saint Sava is glorified.
We are grateful to you for the opportunity of having you bless our children and faithful parishioners from all over Northwest Indiana and most of the city of Chicago, who even the cold weather did not stop from coming tonight to welcome their Serbian Patriarch with love and a warm heart. Finally, we pray to the Almighty Lord to grant you physical and spiritual strength to continue walking straight on the path of the commandments of God, not turning back, but like a wise shepherd to look forward to the eternal goal and reward in the Kingdom of Heaven, according to the words of the Apostle Paul: "I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3, 13-14).
Patriarch Porfirije: With Christ, even when everything does not go as it should, if we have hope in Him, sooner or later it will be as it should be. Without Him, even when everything seems to be right, sooner or later it will go wrong.
Serbian Patriarch Porfirije addressed the faithful:
- In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Your Grace, my brother in Christ and fellow concelebrant, venerable fathers, brothers and sisters, tonight my heart is filled with immense joy because of God's blessing and your love to be able to be here, in this church and to see the beautiful faces of all of you gathered here. Had there been no other beauty in this in this beautiful and vast country, it would be more than enough for us to have met tonight, that we see each other in the joy of meeting Christ in one another. Meeting each other is the meaning of our existence, that is the community, it is seeing each other's faces. I would prefer to hug you all and say as little as possible, and I'm sure you would want that more than anything. That's why my heart is open for your love and be sure that both when I'm here and when I go to Serbia, wherever I am, you will be forever in my heart, especially these beautiful children who came here tonight.
It is nothing but our Orthodox faith. That's the faith Saint Sava planted many centuries ago in the very foundation of our nation. That Orthodox faith has guided us through the centuries and shaped what we know today as the Serbian people. Our Orthodox faith has makde us what we are today. Without the Orthodox faith, we would not be what we are today. It is enough just to look at this beautiful church, which is a reflection and expression of all the great sanctuaries that are scattered throughout the area where the Serbian people live. Everything that is valuable in our nation bears the seal of the Gospel, the seal of the Orthodox faith, if you will, it goes beyond that. Everything of value in the Euro-American world bears the seal and sign of Christ.
Gather always in your church, pray to God and seek first, as the Gospel says, the Kingdom of God and the rest will be added to you. This does not mean that you should not seek everything else that life requires, you have needs, but it only means that everything else you seek can gain its meaning and value if you first seek the Kingdom of Heaven. If we do not seek the Kingdom of Heaven and if we do not have Christ, everything we have is in vain: fame, money, power, and many other values of this world. They all have their beginning and their end, they don't last long. However, if we seek the Kingdom of Heaven and God makes us worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven, then everything else gains its meaning, its beauty and its value.
Simply put, put Christ first. And when Christ comes first, when God comes first, be sure that everything else will fall into place sooner or later. However, if something else is in the first place instead of Christ, everything will be twisted, everything will be wrong, even when it seems to us that it has value, whether it is fame, whether it is power, whether it is wealth. With Christ, even when everything does not go as it should, if we have hope in Him, sooner or later it will be as it should be. Without Him, even when everything seems to be right, sooner or later it will go wrong. That's why, first of all, pray to God in humility, in the silence of your heart, in the depth of your being, in peace and humility, because, I'm sure you know, we can't do everything on our own, we need God's help.
Our people always knew that, and you know that as well. I see that tonight, because you are gathered in the church. Throughout the centuries, our people lived in countries which changed borders, they lived in various places, in countries that changed names. But why did it stay and persist in that which it is? Because it was always connected with the Church, with faith, with Christ. Where the Orthodox and Church of St. Sava is, there our home is, there our homeland is. So you too, although far from your homeland, from the Fatherland, in the church of God and in the Church of Christ, in the Orthodox faith, you are actually in your homeland. When we are far from our homeland and when we are with the Church, wherever we are, we are actually in our homeland, but also the other way around. And when we are in Serbia, and we are not children of St. Sava, we do not keep to the testament of Saint Sava, we do not pray to God, we do not live by the Orthodox faith, even though we are in Serbia, we are complete strangers. We are actually outside our homeland. That's why you bring your children to church, to teach them the Orthodox faith and be sure that they will always be in the Fatherland wherever they are, that they will know who and what they are, what their origin is and where there people come from, they will know that they are Orthodox and children of St. Sava.
Thank you for the love you've shown me tonight! I truly love all of you all in the Lord, we love you and we ask you to cultivate unity, to gather around your Bishop, around your priests, not to be against each other, and even when you disagree to be ready to ask for forgiveness and to forgive, because that is holiness, that is the Gospel, that is Orthodoxy. Be more important to one another than chasing justice and trying to prove who is right. What is it worth to you if you are right and you have lost a brother or sister. That goes for every family. What is it worth a husband if he proved his wife right and lost her. And vice versa. This also applies to the extended family, and we are all one big family. So, always forgive one another and don't forget that in the Lord's Prayer, which we say every day, it is said: And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Forgiveness is a sign and proof that we say that prayer from the soul and heart and that we believe in it.
May the Lord bless all of you gathered here! May he give you health, well-being, peace and love within your families. May he give peace and love to all our brothers and sisters who live here in America, all Serbian Orthodox, all Orthodox brothers and sisters, but also to all people who live here in America! May he give peace to all the people of the world! May the Lord give you peace! May God bless you!
After the doxology, a formal academy was held in the magnificent parish center in honor of Saint Sava, followed by a fundraising dinner to benefit Monastery Krka, an ancient Serbian monastery in Dalmatia.