MANASTIR LEPAVINA - SRPSKA PRAVOSLAVNA CRKVA

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FATHER GAVRILO ON REHABILITATION IN SPA MLJECANICA




 With the blessing of His Grace Archbishop John, Father Gavrilo is currently on rehabilitation in spa Mljecanica, near Prijedor. He will stay there from 27.11.2007. till Saturday 29.12.2007..


Father Gabriel’s letter

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my dear spiritual children!

I was a 16-year old when I decided to devote my life to our Lord, serving Him as a monk. At that time, I still could not imagine how the Most Holy Theotokos would guide me while St. Paraskeva would assist with her own holy prayers, too.

I spent 13 years of my monastic life on the Mount Athos, in the monastery Chilandar which is dedicated to the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos. After that, I went to the Lepavina monastery, only to find out that the same feast is celebrated there.

After a serious operation where my right leg as well as my life had been saved, my recovery took place in Gamzigradska Spa, near Zajecar. The Slava at the spa is Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos!

On the very same day, 4th December, in 2007 in Lepavina, I met Dr. Tamara Popovic from the Mljecanica Spa near Prijedor. She came with many other faithful who had been coming to our monastery for the last 7 years from the Republic of Srpska. Before that I had never spoken to her. I did not know what her job was, nor did I notice her in the past. She told me on that occasion that she had been monitoring my illness from afar - she would often telephone to check on my sugar levels or would send various products for diabetes. She briefed me on my illness and cautiously but convincingly explained that I should visit the spa.

Life in the monastery was always busy, but when her second invitation came, I decided to seek the blessing of the Metropolitan Jovan. I was given the permission to travel, so I set off on the 16th December 2007.

When I got there and entered the dining room, I saw at once the icon of St. Paraskeva, my own Slava! I knew immediately that I had come to the right place. It was clear that I would be protected here by the prayers of my divine intercessor.
The staff led by Dr Stefanovski, the Director, welcomed me warmly.

Every morning I went to Dr. Stefanovski’s office where all the staff would come to ask my blessing or some spiritual advice prior to the start of the day. This is where in the evening we also exchanged our respective experience, medical and spiritual, and had a session on spiritual matters with a doctor who had just finished his round.

Dragomir Mandic became my physiotherapist. I had come to the spa completely exhausted with my right leg stiff and swollen. Dragomir did exercises with me with much love, patience and devotion. As a result, three weeks later I could walk. I felt renewed strength and energy. ’The lame walk, the dead are raised’….

It was there that I remembered the days spent on the Holy Mountain where I tried to recite the Jesus prayer. I thought of the years in Chilandar when I read quite a lot. Among others, it was a book called ‘The Way of the Pilgrim’, talking about a spiritual growth of a Russian pilgrim as he used this prayer.
At that time, Nikola Vitas from a village of Medak, in Lika, Croatia, came to stay at Chilandar. We did the Jesus prayer together. I did my best to pray unceasingly.

There are three levels to this prayer: the lip, mind and heart. With your spiritual father’s blessing, you should start with the lip prayer and you should do it until the mind fully accepts it. Then the mind starts reciting the prayer while the lips remain silent. The next level means that the prayer is made in the heart itself, thus the whole body is at prayer. When we go to sleep, our body is praying; when we wake up, the prayer continues. The Jesus prayer is like a healing river cleansing our entire body and soul, purifying our mind and heart. This results in life full of love and good deeds. This also means that we can recognize and feel love and goodness in other people, too.

I was very much drawn to this so I went to my Elder Nikanor to ask for his blessing to go to the Greek monastery of Philotheou. This monastery was well known for its strict monastic order and had many ascetics who recited the Jesus prayer. They had about 80 monks at the time. We would get up at 11 in the evening. Then we followed the cell prayer-rule with the prayer rope for two hours. The Jesus prayer was recited 300 times and was alternated with an invocation to the Mother of God, ‘O Most Holy Theotokos, save us! 300 times. We read other prayers too, a chapter from the Gospels, a chapter from the Apostles’ Acts and spiritual advice given by the Holy Fathers. At 2 o’clock, there was midnight service, followed by the Matins and Hours. We were not allowed to be late for the service.

Every morning we went to get the abbot’s blessing. In the church, we would stand according to the rank (hieromonks, hierodeacons, monks) and the length of the service at the monastery. When the Hours finished, we were then put into groups of 15, and each group would go on to serve the Holy Liturgy in different chapels. The monks would receive the Holy Communion every other day. The liturgy would finish normally around 5 in the morning and then we would have lunch. There was no lunch on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, only tea.

So there I was, living in Philotheou with the abbot’s permission, with all the other monks, when one morning, quite suddenly and without any reason, I just fainted! This was a turning point in my monastic life – this was a signal that I had reached maturity in monastic terms. This world did not exist for me any longer. There were only sky, the sea, the Athonite forests, the monasteries, the monks and myself among them! My whole body was yearning for God and in my heart there was a constant Jesus prayer.

I returned to Chilandar 20 days later. Everybody noticed that I had changed. Even my physical body changed. Everything looked the same, but in fact nothing was the same any longer. I resumed my duty of receiving guests to the monastery with that constant prayer in my heart. I would fall asleep with the Jesus prayer and every morning I would wake up with the prayer. If I overslept the time to go to church, I would hear some unusual tapping in my dream which would wake me. My father gave me his blessing to go to Karoulia. This is where hermits lived and prayed (the Russian monks Fr. Serafim, and Nikodim or Serbian Fr. Stefan), who warned me about the intensity of temptations to attack a monk who practiced the Jesus prayer so that he would stop doing it. Thanks be to God that I persevered and did not give in! In fact, even life itself on the Mount Athos is a big spiritual trial. This is The Garden of the Most Holy Theotokos where every step of the way is consecrated as much as nature and air. There are 20 monasteries there and numerous hermitage sketes, kellia and eremitical colonies where the Holy Liturgies are served daily. I lived in contemplation of God as a true ascetic. I carried on reading very much, particularly about the Russian ascetics of the 19 century. In the afternoon, as I dozed off, I would dream about their monasteries and how I went to visit them. I would wake up feeling joyful and blessed because the Divine Grace had visited me.

Why have I written all this? I wanted to share with you my experience I had on the Holy Mountain a long time ago. That day in the spa, towards the end of the working hours, as I lay on the bed, with brother Dragomir exercising my leg and professor Dragan Vulovic speaking to the students slowly and in measured pace about the course of my therapy, I fell asleep. I had just had light lunch. There was peace and quiet in the air. After so many years, as I was falling into sleep, I felt the same blessed state as well as the same spiritual joy and humility I once had on the Mount Athos so many years before. This was where I would wake and go to sleep with the prayer in my heart. And just like the dreams I had about the Russian ascetics that I had been reading about, in the same way now, I had a dream about the physiotherapist Dragomir doing his exercises – as if reality extended into the dream….And once again, I woke up feeling immense joy.

For this same reason, recently, I have likened the spa Mljecanica to a gospel spa of Bethesda, the spa of God’s grace and mercy. Our Lord sent me to this spa and gave me these people to help me. There are other spas, too, as much as other experts, and other techniques of treatment, but essentially, that which heals when God’s angel churns up the water surface, remains to be man. The man with the inbuilt feeling of God’s mercy, love, care and devotion – the rest is the same just like with everybody else.

There we are, my dear spiritual brothers and sisters, I have shared with you my life story, an experience about how love, care and works of charity affect those who are ill and needy and which are as beneficial and efficient as a monk’s prayer.

To all the staff members at the spa, may God and the Most Holy Theotokos bless you for everything you have done for me and for everything you are to do to those who ask for your help in the future. As we come nearer the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, I sincerely hope that you may prepare your souls for the meeting of the Lord, and recognize Him in every soul that comes your way to seek your help. ‘Do not grow weary of doing what is good’ Amen.

In the last ten years a large number of pilgrims from Republika Srpska has been visited our monastery. Among others, health and social workers from the spa Mljecanica near Prijedor have been also seen there. Knowing for the Father’s ruined health and need for time to time rehabilitation in the appropriate spa, doctor Tamara Popovic, with the agreement with her colleagues, has organised for him 21 days stay including all sorts of therapies. For the last seven days, which Father spent in the spa, results of recovering were obvious. Father Gavrilo feels much better and believes that after 21 days rehabilitation his health condition will be rapidly improved.

Great spiritual Father Gavrilo, who is very respected in Republika Srpska, was unusually surprised with a magnificent welcome from the whole spa personnel. He is immensely grateful to them and sincerely recommends everyone who has an opportunity to visit spa Mljecanica and possibly stay in it.

At this LINK you can read the history of this spa, and see all its availabilities. 

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During his break between different therapies Father Gavrilo with Dr Tamara Popovic and co-director Mr. Radovan Krejic

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In Father Gavrilo’s apartment on the morning coffe – Father Gavrilo, Dr. Tamara Popovic and Dr. Sinisa Markovic

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Nurse Ruzica Stojakovic is measuring Father’s heart pressure

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Senior physiotherapist Dragomir Mandic during the therapy with Fater Gavrilo

Enter in photogallery ...

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Spa Mljecanica, 17.12. 2007.

If you wish to send an email with the similar comment to the spa directorate, you can do that via mljecanica@prijedor.com .

COMMENT 1:

God helps you, brothers and sisters in Christ!
God helps you, Dr. Stefanovski!

I have spoken to Father Gavrilo and immediately wished to write to you. From a very short conversation with Father, I understood that in your institute he is surrounded with people who are giving him great love, care and above everything expertise. On the other hand, it is a very rare privilege to have a great spiritual father as a “patient”, especially Father Gavrilo who came to monastery Lepavina from Monastery of Hilandar. He was preparing a long time to come to your warm-welcome environment. That was prolonged as Father was always finding the reasons not to come, but understandingly, it was very difficult for him to leave the Monastery.

And now even on the phone I can feel that Father is satisfied, having a lot of reasons for that. He was very young when he went to the monastery and the life of this world in the atheistic surrounding was completely strange and incomprehensible for him. Hours and hours Father was praying to the Most Holy Theothokos of Lepavina for forgiveness of our sins, for our spiritual and physical health, and now, in your surrounding Father recognises God’s Love, the only love which guides to the salvation of our souls. And that is the most important thing for Father Gavrilo. He immediately mentioned that you fast, and taking the Holy Communion. He was speaking about the whole personnel. And he also said that the young physiotherapist was full of love.

It is very touching how much Father Gavrilo feels the Heaven Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos, leaving everything in Hers hands. You can always hear him saying that the Most Holy Theotokos saved his life through really nice people, and now through also very nice people strengthens his health.

Many thanks doctor, many thanks to all of you for the love you are giving to our Father Gavrilo. Please forgive me for wasting a little bit of your time with this letter, but I truly want to thank you, because I can see that Father enjoys your therapies and is very pleased with every day warm conversations, as well with you and with Dr Tamara, as with the whole personnel.
The reward is from God, and many thanks from me, like mati Mihaila likes to say.

Please pass the greetings to Father Gavrilo.
In Belgrade, 24.12.2007. All the best from our Lord!
From sister Tankosava and her family. 

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COMMENT 2:

God helps you and may He bless all of you…
This way I would like to thank you for the welcoming and warm Love given to Father Gavrilo …
Our Lord sent him there, and you magnificently responded, and I feel a great Joy to greet all of you and thank you for charity to him and all people who come to the spa …

With warm greetings and Joy for recovering of Father Gavrilo
Danica

COMMENT 3:

Greetings to the whole personnel of the spa “Mljecanica”. Please accept my greetings from the heart for accepting the initiative of Dr Tamara Popovic and enabling Father’s stay in your spa. You have chosen the most beautiful and the best way of gratefulness for all Christian love we have been getting for so many years from Father Gavrilo with his brotherhood in the Monastery Lepavina. I am completely sure that Father Gavrilo will be feeling much better after all yours therapies and that he will be praying for many years, according to his health conditions, for all of you and all our nation to the Most Holy Theotokos of Lepavina.

Please accept my sincere wishes for wide-spreading of your expertise and humanity.
All the best from our Lord from Slavica, Sarajevo.

COMMENT 4:

God helps you brothers and sisters in Christ!

I do not know you personally, but from Father’s stories I have a feeling that I know all of you and this is the reason why I wished to write you a few words. It was a very cold and grey autumn afternoon, when in the pleasant conversation with Father we touched the subject of death and passing through the tall-houses – something what instinctively brings fear for all believers. With the eyes full of tears, he said: “It is only them, who will pass them!”. And he added: “When I say this, I mean nurses and doctors who give care to all ill people with so much love inside”. One thought immediately came to my head – he has been cured better and with more care because they already knew who he was, but he was reading my thoughts and said: “They are taking care of all abject people. Nurses are bathing all those people without arms and legs and they are so much elder then them”, and he was still in floods of tears. I have spoken to him a few times since he has come in. He asks about the monastery, about my family. He is thinking of us, and not forgetting us in his prayers.

And again I can feel in his voice the same gratefulness. They really take care of me – he says, asking for my blessing every single day, we have discussions and spiritual tribunes. I can see that he had a contact with the “other” world. With the world which gives much more than gets, which loves, and does not expect to be loved! Not like us, people from this world, who give only to the others from which we expect to get something, who love only those from which we can get any interests! After the conversation with him, I needed to write to you, but not to thank you for all your care and love, because you will be rewarded from our Lord and the Most Holy Theotokos of Lepavina, but to pass you his message given to me as well. Try to living this life and taking care of all ill and calamitous people deserve to “Just pass!” He will help you in that with his prayers!

All the best and may our Lord bless all of you during these Feast days, sister Spomenka.

COMMENT 5:

The God in the help brothers and sisters in the Christ!

Knowing our beloved father Gavrilo more than ten years, I know that he was passing through difficult times, together with us his spiritual children, during all these spiteful times. The only solution was suffering all those trials which were not easy, although anyone could not notice that on father’s face – he was always welcoming us with the joy and hospitableness. I remember those cold winters, a few of us in the Church, old stove giving us a little heat that we being frozen needed to run in his small dinning-room for a warm coffee. I was thinking about father standing in that cold during everyday long Liturgies, what influenced his health.

Vidovdan 2006. we went with the joy to the Church Slava in the vicinage, father was serving the Feast Liturgy and suddenly we heard nothing but the silence – what was happening? Being in pain, father finished the Liturgy, but tomorrow he was lying on the operation table, blood clot in the right leg, doctors in surgery clinic of the Clinical Centre in Belgrade were saving his life at the last minute and the leg not to be amputated. We were waiting for our beloved father the whole summer to recover and to come back to the monastery. Father was not leaving his room any more, living like a hermit.

Now I can see all the efforts of dr Stefanovski and dr Popovic, all together with the whole personnel of the sanatorium Mljecanica, as they give him not only the therapies for recovering but also all the love and care. Father was using the most beautiful words about you when he got back to Lepavina, describing the dinning-room with his beloved St. Petka, the beginning of construction of the small Church in the sanatorium, to the rooms decorated with icons. “I feel like in Lepavina” – he said.

Glory to You my God because You have sent the father to such nice people to strengthen his health which has reeled from a heavy selfless life.

With gratitude to all of you and with a wish of all blessings from the Lord, sister Rada

Koprivnica, 26.12 2007.

COMMENT 6:


The God in the help, father Gabriel, brothers and sisters in the Christ! The God in the help, dear doctors and all medical staff!

Having read through tonight, that ours beloved father Gabriel is in kind hands, I thank the Lord of the God and the Most Holy Theotokos that support our pastor. I thank doctors and all medical personnel for self-denying love to our dear father Gabriel. The God will award you for all your efforts, and our father will beg with his prayers the the Most Holy Theotokos.

It is difficult to write, because we are always not indifferent to such things, and especially when it is a question of our father Gabriel, our Confessor. Endless gratitude to all doctors and medical staff that have accepted and have assisted to our father Gabriel.

Thanks to the Most Holy Theotokos of Lepavina, for that She has allocated father Gabriel in sanatorium “ Mljecanica “. The God sees a way of everyone, we only wished that father has returned happily to Lepavina! The Most Holy Theotokos, award all personnel which works in sanatorium “ Mljecanica “!

All blessings from the Lord wishes you Radmila
Livno, 28.12.2007.

COMMENT 7:

The God in the help, father Gabriel, brothers and sisters in the Christ!

Huge gratitude to everyone who renders medical aid to our dear father Gabriel for his health improvement.

Our spiritual virtual tribune has become empty without him, but we pray for the fast recovering of our dear confessor. By photos and texts which are exposed on a site, father Gabriel is in reliable hands. I think, as his stay at you is impossible for you in a way - and you charge your spiritual battery. I believe, that you see the light which shines your sanatorium now.

All the best I wish to all! Dear father Gabriel I wish the fast recovery and returning in the Monastery! And to all personnel - gratitude for care about father Gabriel and greetings on Christmas and New Year!

All blessings to all from the Lord!
Mladen, Velenje – Slovenija 30th December 2007.

COMMENT 8:

The God in the help, brothers and sisters in the Christ!

Any occurrence of the great confessor, - in any place, at any time, for the reason known to us, but always only to the God to the known present reason, is a great event which, as a rule, bears with itself movement, transformation of our life. It occurs and is felt sometimes at once, sometimes a little bit later.

Sanatorium “ Mljecanica “ – has an unusual name. With arrival of dear father Gabriel in sanatorium “ Mljecanica “ on slopes of mountain which is eternal “topos” (греч. - the place) in memories of our sort, and sanatorium becomes new “topos” - not only medical institution where people formally, are treated by means of the academic medicine for corporal illnesses, and a place where treatment covers the whole person; in fact the medicine is an ancient art which helps someone only when during procedures his soul feels the care and a sincere feelings of people who are there to help ill people.

And father Gabriel confirms to soul a medical touch which has received from all of you, brothers and sisters.

And I as one of many who sincerely also has spiritually felt embrace and prayers of father Gabriel and help of the Most Holy Theotokos of Lepavina, in far Berlin and as the witness of that God’s Power, I wish to brotherly express you gratitude for your love and care to our great confessor and the pastor, because, helping him and caring about him, you indirectly transfer this medicine to all spiritual children of his, everywhere in this world.

With fraternal greetings,
Radomir Vucic from Berlin

COMMENT 9:

Dear!

Allow me to wish you and your institution - to sanatorium, success in the further work, happy New Year’s and Christmas holidays! And especially, if it is possible, since I believe, that to him it would be very pleasant, a greeting to father Gabriel, the prior of a monastery “Lepavina”.

Brother Miroslav, Indjija,:: +381641593013

All blessings from the Lord!

VISIT:

The world champion on boxing Goran Delic from Republic Serbian has visited father Gabriel in sanatorium “ Mljecanica “ with the organizer of matches Ljubomir Vidovic and with friends Dragoslav and Alexander Kosami, Milo Kalabic and Alexander Anic. 


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Sanatorium “ Mljecanica “, on January, 5th, 2008

VISIT:

By the invitation of teacher Stana Meseldzija father Gabriel has visited an elementary school “Desanka Maksimovic” in Prijedor. Photos are made in a cabinet of computer science. In pictures, except of teacher Stana Meseldzija and father Gabriel: Elena Meseldzija, Igor Gvero, Milorad Radenovic, Dragoslav Kos, Alexander Kos and Milo Kalabic. 



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Prijedor, 5th January 2008. VISIT: Stana Meseldzija - the teacher, Radivoj Purgic - the organizer of pilgrim trips and Marin Voin - the doctor- internist during recent visit to father Gabriel in sanatorium " Mljecanica ".

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COMMENT 10:

With a joyful greeting of birth of the Christ I wish to express gratitude to medical staff of sanatorium for their care and love to Archimandrite Hegumen of the Lepavina’s relic. Your warm care to our dear father Gabriel is a parameter that shows also the respect for our sacred Church of Saint Sava and for all of us who belongs to it.

With deep belief I assure you, that the Most Holy Theotokos will not leave your efforts without the award that your collective of sanatorium “ Mljecanica “ deservedly succeeded on advantage of all working in it and those who is on treatment here.

As a token of gratitude I shall try to advance your sanatorium (with yours - presentation on the Internet) among the Chicago Serbian national associations, church and parish schools and local Serbian mass media.

I wish you that by prayers to the Most Holy Theotokos of Lepavina, like in the spa” Vitezda “, and in your medical institution all water churn when the Angel Divine comes on it and that all have found healing from the illnesses.

Amen, give the God!

Truly the Savior was born!
On the feast day of Archimandrite Stefan, on January, 9th 2008
Zoran (Chicago), Chicago, Illinois, the United States America.

COMMENT 11:

The god in the help, brothers and sisters!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Having made “detour” our dear father Gabriel in sanatorium “ Mljecanica “ near Prijedor, I have been touched by care and love with which you look after him and I wish to thank the whole personnel with all my heart and to wish them happy Christmas and New Year! Reading comments of brothers and sisters which have addressed to you with gratitude for self-denying love and care to our dear father, I would add the gratitude expressed as follows:

The face of our doctor is affable,
And his heart is even more gentle, that on breasts knocks,
In it the love is forged to and burns for the neighbour.

His soul has felt, and the eye has noticed,
That our father’s health is broken.

Having bent a knee in front of the Sacred Icon,
Kissing the Hand of the Most Holy Theotokos,
Has felt in the heart desire,
That father Gabriel has visited sanatorium.

The father has agreed to go away,
And now skilful hands with great love
Wash wounds of the rithteous person.

The Lord will award for any efforts,
He sees all and gives hundred times more.
Prayers of the rithteous person to the God are pleasant,
He will facilitate suffering what heavy was.

I have felt it,
Therefore also I address to you in verses,
I wish all of you the blessings from the Lord
Also I embrace all of you by heart!

The sister in the Christ Mira (Justina)

COMMENT 12:

The God in the help, brothers and sisters in the Christ, doctors and the personnel of the sanatorium “Мlejcanica”, with the Epiphany! With all my heart I wish to thank all of you for the help, treatment and care of our father Gabriel which we miss very much.

Especially I wish to thank for that that father Gabriel could address to us from your sanatorium. Was the big pleasure and a consolation to hear, that he is on a way of improvement since has come into the hands of the personnel of sanatorium “ Mljecanica “, and we very much miss him on a spiritual tribune in Lepavina.

But the greatest pleasure and happiness that father Gabriel has returned there in much better state of health. We pray, that the Lord the God, the Most Holy Theotokos and all Saints have rendered all of you for your efforts and care of father Gabriel! All the best to all of you and all blessings from our Lord!

Alexandra,
Epiphany, on January, 19th, 2008
Tettnang, Germany

COMMENT 13:

The God in the help, brothers and sisters in the Christ!
My family glorifies St John the Baptist, therefore for all of us these days are executed by huge pleasure and blessing of our Defender. And here, during the moment of this pleasure, father Gabriel from Lepavina calls, blesses all my family and all my guests, greets me on “Slava” and at once brings inexpressible peace which covers all my house.

As I was pleased with father Gabriel blessing my house, I was really pleased that his voice was such pleasant, fresh. Therefore I had a huge desire to express gratitude to you personally, the professor, and to the doctor-woman, together with the whole personnel of your institution because when the father is in this world, - in view of that he lives in a monastery since the childhood, - very strongly feels people’s weaknesses. The prayer is constantly necessary for him to pray both for all of us, and for whole our stumbled people, to uplift the prayers to the Lord. Because of it our father seldom feels so well as at your place, but anyway, it seems to me like that. Meanwhile, because of your love the father has become stronger, has recovered, has grown fond of you and all personnel, and I thank you for that, since for me its health means so much, and I constantly pray for him. Here also it turns out, that nice people, their love and professionalism have helped our father who wherever has appeared, everywhere brings the peace, love, good fortune.

Thank God, that we have such great confessor and the prayer book in father Gabriel!
Thank you once again and all blessings from the Lord!

With love, sister Tankosava with family

23.01.2008.

FATHER GABRIEL’S LETTER

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my dear spiritual children!

I was a 16-year old when I decided to devote my life to our Lord, serving Him as a monk. At that time, I still could not imagine how the Most Holy Theotokos would guide me while St. Paraskeva would assist with her own holy prayers, too.

I spent 13 years of my monastic life on the Mount Athos, in the monastery Chilandar which is dedicated to the Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos. After that, I went to the Lepavina monastery, only to find out that the same feast is celebrated there.

After a serious operation where my right leg as well as my life had been saved, my recovery took place in Gamzigradska Spa, near Zajecar. The Slava at the spa is Entrance of the Most Holy Theotokos!

On the very same day, 4th December, in 2007 in Lepavina, I met Dr. Tamara Popovic from the Mljecanica Spa near Prijedor. She came with many other faithful who had been coming to our monastery for the last 7 years from the Republic of Srpska. Before that I had never spoken to her. I did not know what her job was, nor did I notice her in the past. She told me on that occasion that she had been monitoring my illness from afar - she would often telephone to check on my sugar levels or would send various products for diabetes. She briefed me on my illness and cautiously but convincingly explained that I should visit the spa.

Life in the monastery was always busy, but when her second invitation came, I decided to seek the blessing of the Metropolitan Jovan. I was given the permission to travel, so I set off on the 16th December 2007.

When I got there and entered the dining room, I saw at once the icon of St. Paraskeva, my own Slava! I knew immediately that I had come to the right place. It was clear that I would be protected here by the prayers of my divine intercessor.
The staff led by Dr Stefanovski, the Director, welcomed me warmly.

Every morning I went to Dr. Stefanovski’s office where all the staff would come to ask my blessing or some spiritual advice prior to the start of the day. This is where in the evening we also exchanged our respective experience, medical and spiritual, and had a session on spiritual matters with a doctor who had just finished his round.

Dragomir Mandic became my physiotherapist. I had come to the spa completely exhausted with my right leg stiff and swollen. Dragomir did exercises with me with much love, patience and devotion. As a result, three weeks later I could walk. I felt renewed strength and energy. ’The lame walk, the dead are raised’….

It was there that I remembered the days spent on the Holy Mountain where I tried to recite the Jesus prayer. I thought of the years in Chilandar when I read quite a lot. Among others, it was a book called ‘The Way of the Pilgrim’, talking about a spiritual growth of a Russian pilgrim as he used this prayer.
At that time, Nikola Vitas from a village of Medak, in Lika, Croatia, came to stay at Chilandar. We did the Jesus prayer together. I did my best to pray unceasingly.

There are three levels to this prayer: the lip, mind and heart. With your spiritual father’s blessing, you should start with the lip prayer and you should do it until the mind fully accepts it. Then the mind starts reciting the prayer while the lips remain silent. The next level means that the prayer is made in the heart itself, thus the whole body is at prayer. When we go to sleep, our body is praying; when we wake up, the prayer continues. The Jesus prayer is like a healing river cleansing our entire body and soul, purifying our mind and heart. This results in life full of love and good deeds. This also means that we can recognize and feel love and goodness in other people, too.

I was very much drawn to this so I went to my Elder Nikanor to ask for his blessing to go to the Greek monastery of Philotheou. This monastery was well known for its strict monastic order and had many ascetics who recited the Jesus prayer. They had about 80 monks at the time. We would get up at 11 in the evening. Then we followed the cell prayer-rule with the prayer rope for two hours. The Jesus prayer was recited 300 times and was alternated with an invocation to the Mother of God, ‘O Most Holy Theotokos, save us! 300 times. We read other prayers too, a chapter from the Gospels, a chapter from the Apostles’ Acts and spiritual advice given by the Holy Fathers. At 2 o’clock, there was midnight service, followed by the Matins and Hours. We were not allowed to be late for the service.

Every morning we went to get the abbot’s blessing. In the church, we would stand according to the rank (hieromonks, hierodeacons, monks) and the length of the service at the monastery. When the Hours finished, we were then put into groups of 15, and each group would go on to serve the Holy Liturgy in different chapels. The monks would receive the Holy Communion every other day. The liturgy would finish normally around 5 in the morning and then we would have lunch. There was no lunch on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, only tea.

So there I was, living in Philotheou with the abbot’s permission, with all the other monks, when one morning, quite suddenly and without any reason, I just fainted! This was a turning point in my monastic life – this was a signal that I had reached maturity in monastic terms. This world did not exist for me any longer. There were only sky, the sea, the Athonite forests, the monasteries, the monks and myself among them! My whole body was yearning for God and in my heart there was a constant Jesus prayer.

I returned to Chilandar 20 days later. Everybody noticed that I had changed. Even my physical body changed. Everything looked the same, but in fact nothing was the same any longer. I resumed my duty of receiving guests to the monastery with that constant prayer in my heart. I would fall asleep with the Jesus prayer and every morning I would wake up with the prayer. If I overslept the time to go to church, I would hear some unusual tapping in my dream which would wake me. My father gave me his blessing to go to Karoulia. This is where hermits lived and prayed (the Russian monks Fr. Serafim, and Nikodim or Serbian Fr. Stefan), who warned me about the intensity of temptations to attack a monk who practiced the Jesus prayer so that he would stop doing it. Thanks be to God that I persevered and did not give in! In fact, even life itself on the Mount Athos is a big spiritual trial. This is The Garden of the Most Holy Theotokos where every step of the way is consecrated as much as nature and air. There are 20 monasteries there and numerous hermitage sketes, kellia and eremitical colonies where the Holy Liturgies are served daily. I lived in contemplation of God as a true ascetic. I carried on reading very much, particularly about the Russian ascetics of the 19 century. In the afternoon, as I dozed off, I would dream about their monasteries and how I went to visit them. I would wake up feeling joyful and blessed because the Divine Grace had visited me.

Why have I written all this? I wanted to share with you my experience I had on the Holy Mountain a long time ago. That day in the spa, towards the end of the working hours, as I lay on the bed, with brother Dragomir exercising my leg and professor Dragan Vulovic speaking to the students slowly and in measured pace about the course of my therapy, I fell asleep. I had just had light lunch. There was peace and quiet in the air. After so many years, as I was falling into sleep, I felt the same blessed state as well as the same spiritual joy and humility I once had on the Mount Athos so many years before. This was where I would wake and go to sleep with the prayer in my heart. And just like the dreams I had about the Russian ascetics that I had been reading about, in the same way now, I had a dream about the physiotherapist Dragomir doing his exercises – as if reality extended into the dream….And once again, I woke up feeling immense joy.

For this same reason, recently, I have likened the spa Mljecanica to a gospel spa of Bethesda, the spa of God’s grace and mercy. Our Lord sent me to this spa and gave me these people to help me. There are other spas, too, as much as other experts, and other techniques of treatment, but essentially, that which heals when God’s angel churns up the water surface, remains to be man. The man with the inbuilt feeling of God’s mercy, love, care and devotion – the rest is the same just like with everybody else.

There we are, my dear spiritual brothers and sisters, I have shared with you my life story, an experience about how love, care and works of charity affect those who are ill and needy and which are as beneficial and efficient as a monk’s prayer.

To all the staff members at the spa, may God and the Most Holy Theotokos bless you for everything you have done for me and for everything you are to do to those who ask for your help in the future. As we come nearer the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, I sincerely hope that you may prepare your souls for the meeting of the Lord, and recognize Him in every soul that comes your way to seek your help. ‘Do not grow weary of doing what is good’ Amen. 

ARCHIMANDRITE GAVRILO

Dear visitors of our web-site of the monastery Lepavina! Due to a high number of visits of our website, I am honoured to take the responsibility to describe you in English different events from Serbian Orthodox Church and monastery Lepavina. We would like to inform you that we will be also putting on our web-site some texts in English on different subjects from other Orthodox websites. I deeply hope and believe that our Lord will help me in that!

With God’s blessing, from monastery Lepavina Archimandrite Gavrilo.

Biography Archimandrite Gabriel (Vuckovic)

Krst
Njegovo Visokopreosvestenstvo Mitropolit G. Jovan

Njegovo Visokopreosveštenstvo Mitropolit G. Jovan

Otac Gavrilo

BIOGRAFIJA OCA GAVRILA

Manastirski Casopis PDF

MANASTIRSKI
ČASOPIS - PDF