A SHORT LIFE OF SAINT BASIL OF OSTROG
From the Prologue of Ochrid
Saint Basil was born in Popovo Polje, a village in Hercegovina, of simple and God-fearing parents. From his youth he was filled with love for the Church of God and when he reached maturity he entered the monastery of the Dormition of the Most Holy Theotokos in Trebinje and there received the monastic tonsure. As a monk he quickly became renowned because of his genuine and infrequently-found ascetic life. Saint Basil took upon himself mortification upon mortification, each one heavier and more difficult than the last. Later, against his will he was elected and consecrated as bishop of Zahumlje and Skenderija. As a hierarch he first lived in the monastery of Tvrdosh and from there, as a good shepherd, he strengthened his flock in the Orthodox Faith, protecting them from the cruelty of the Turks and the cunning ways of Latins. When Basil was exceedingly pressed by his enemies and Tvrdosh destroyed by the Turks*, he moved to Ostrog, where he lived an austere ascetic life, protecting his flock by his ceaseless and fervent prayer. He fell asleep peacefully in Lord in the sixteenth century, leaving behind his incorrupt Relics, incorrupt and miracle-working to the present day. The miracles at the grave of Saint Basil are without number. Christians and Muslims alike come before his Relics and find healing for their gravest illnesses and afflictions. A great people’s assembly (sabor) occurs there annually on the Feast of Pentecost.
-St. Nicolai of Zicha
*A new church was built in our day upon the ruins of the Old Tvrdosh monastery by Nikola Runjevac from the village of Poljica near Trebinje – a wonderful and glorious monumental church (zaduzbina) before God and before his people.
THE GLORIFICATION OF ST.BASIL OF OSTROG
Immediately after the falling asleep of St.Basil in 1671. people started coming in great numbers to pray at his grave, just as they were accustomed to doing during his earthly life. Many miracles began taking place at the site of his grave and they have not ceased to this day.
Seven years after giving up his soul to God, in 1678., St.Basil appeared in a dream to father Rafailo (Kosijerevac) the Abbot of the St.Luke Monastery in Zhupa near Nikshich, and ordered him to go to Ostrog and open up the saint’s grave. The Abbot paid no attention to the dream and did not go. He had the same dream again but he again ignored it. St. Basil then appeared to the Abbot a third time, dressed in a bishop’s vestments, with a censer in his hand. The Abbot woke up in fear and trepidation and told the brotherhood of his monastery about his dream. They agreed at once to make a hasty journey to Ostrog.
Upon their arrival they first informed the Ostrog monks of the Abbot’s dream and then look upon themselves a strict fast, all the while serving the complete cycle of daily prayers with Holy Liturgy. They did so for seven days. On the seventh day, they censed the Saint’s grave and opened it.
Before them appeared the Saint in a glorified body the colour of pure wax, giving out the fragrance similar to that of basil leaves. Then the monks placed his incorrupt body in a case and took it to the Upper Monastery, to the church of the Presentation of the Most Holy Theotokos, where it rests to this day.
The wonderworking Holy Relic of St. Basil of Ostrog, incorrupt to this day (source)
News of the glorification of St.Basil’s body quickly spread and people began to flock in great numbers to venerate his holy and wonderworking Relics. Not only Orthodox Christians, but also Roman Catholics and Lutherans, and even Muslims came to seek help at the great Sanctuary of Ostrog. According to their faith in the mercy of God and that of St.Basil they received help and found consolation.
Even today pilgrims from all parts of the country, of all nationalities and religions come before the Wonderworker of Ostrog. Many people travel to Ostrog from abroad. From the holy reliquary arise prayers in many languages. Many parents bring their children to be baptised before the relics of St.Basil and many name their offspring after the Saint. Many a marriage ceremony has been performed at Ostrog, countless confessions have been made and many people have partaken of the Holy Mysteries before the Holy Relics, while countless others have asked for prayers to be read for their health and salvation.
Many sacrifices and donations are brought to the Holy Father at the Ostrog monastery, but the greatest sacrifice of all is that of sincere repentance and the will to cleanse one’s heart before God and Saint Basil. Even the godless and atheists respect and honour St.Basil and utter his name with fear. For, as everyone knows, one did not make light of St.Basil while he lived, and one certainly does not make light of him now when he is glorified.
Before the merciful Ostrog saint the Serbs pour out their sorrows and pains and offer warm prayers for their living and departed relatives. Having prepared for this encounter by fasting and prayer, pilgrims from near and far, on feast days and on weekdays gather at Ostrog in great numbers to venerate the Saint, to tell him of their sorrows, to weep before his Reliquary and to confess their sins and receive a blessing. Besides the regular church fasts the people often promise to take on a special fast. This fast is called “the week of the Holy Father Basil”, and it usually precedes his Feast Day. Pronouncing the Saint’s name is traditionally accompanied by the words, “Glory and mercy be upon him”. Many an oath has been sworn before the relics of St.Basil, many a promise made …
Ostrog Monastery high on the mountain (source)
The Power of God and the Temptations of History
During his earthly life the Saint was never left in peace but was persecuted by many enemies of God and by the chief enemy of our salvation. After his repose his holy Relics were not spared by the evil one, either.
The first time that the Ostrog monks had to conceal the Relics of St.Basil was in 1714., when Numan-pasha Chuprilich attacked and devastated Montenegro. The monks buried the relics below the monastery, near the Zeta river. The river overflowed and flooded the area where the relics were buried, but miraculously the water penetrated neither the reliquary, nor the relics of the Saint.
The second time the relics had to be hidden was during the siege of Ostrog in the winter of 1852. The Turkish commander Omar Pasha encircled the monastery and the siege lasted for nine days. Thirty Montenegrins, headed by the great vojvoda (duke) Mirko Petrovic, father of prince Nikola, courageously defended the monastery. When they succeeded, with the help of St.Basil, in driving away the Turks, they served a thanksgiving molieban to God, the Most Holy Theotokos and St.Basil in the little church of the Presentation. After that the Montenegrins took the Saint with them to Cetinje and placed him in the Church of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin, near the Relics of St.Petar of Cetinje. There they remained until the spring of 1853, when they were again returned to Ostrog. During the war with the Turks the monastery of Ostrog was burned and looted. Many Ostrog treasures, as well as documents dating from the time of St.Basil, disappeared forever.
The third time the relics of the Saint were transferred was during the war in 1876-1877. They were again taken to Cetinje, where they remained for about a year. They were brought back to Ostrog in a majestic procession in 1878.
During World War II, in February 1942, when enemy grenades rained upon Ostrog, the monks, fearing that the Church of the Presentation might be hit and destroyed, took the holy Relics into a little cave behind the monastery building. This fear proved to be unfounded, for the grenades flew all around the monastery and fell and exploded, but the monastery itself was never hit, nor was anyone injured during these attacks. The Saint guarded his flock as he had always done before …
Archimandrite Justin of Chelije
See the source site for numerous miracles of St. Basil of Ostrog, taken from the excellent book: Healings of Soul and Body, St. Basil of Ostrog, translated by Ana Smiljanic, published by Svetigora in 2003, filled with over 300 pages of astonishing miracles of the Saint.
TROPARION OF SAINT BASIL - Tone 4:
From your youth you gave yourself entirely to the Lord, remaining in prayer, labor and fasting, O God-bearing Father. Because you were an example of virtues and good works to your flock, seeing your good work, God established you as a pastor and good hierarch of His Church. And after your repose, He kept your body incorrupt, O Holy Basil. Therefore, with boldness pray to Christ God to save our souls.
Kontakion of Saint Basil -Tone 8:
Even as a youth, you served the Lord, O Wise one, belaboring your body with prayer and vigil. Because you were shown to be a precious vessel of the Holy Spirit, He established you as a pastor of His Church which you tended well. And as such, you departed to the Lord whom you loved. We pray to you to remember us who keep your memory with faith, that all may shout unto you: Rejoice, O most honorable Basil.
Christ is risen from the dead, by death, trampling down upon death, and to those in the tombs, He has granted life!
Truly, the Lord is risen!