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If you boast, then whom do you boast of? Brothers, listen to how I am asking the question. I am not asking ‘what’ you boast of, but ‘whom’ you boast of. If someone boasts of things, he boasts of something; if he boasts of people, he boasts of someone. People are more precious than things and it is better to boast of people than of things: some boast of their honoured ancestors, others of their heroic nation. Such people are nobler and higher than those who boast of a herd of pigs or diamonds, pearls or silver, gold, rings or pendants, expensive clothes or cars, horses or some other vainglorious burden which loads down the ship of life, so that it sinks before the gates of paradise.

We Serbs, the Serbian nation, have people and things to boast of. But if we were to raise ourselves up beyond ourselves and our possessions and boast of Him, Who became the radiant adornment of our history and the greatest value of our life, then we would boast of the Saviour of the world, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus, there are three levels of boasting: the lowest is to brag about things, that is something. Higher than this is to boast of people, that is someone; the highest is to boast of the Lord, the Maker of the world.

Shall we Serbs boast of our culture? What is culture? It is what is made by human hands. That is things. If we boast of culture, then we boast of things, and not people: we boast of lifeless things and not reason-endowed beings. And we shall remain at the lowest level. But we could boast of our culture, indeed we could, for we had and we have culture. We could boast of culture more than many, if this were not shameful and unworthy. Europe (1) boasts of its culture, Serbs have never in their history boasted of culture.

If we boast of culture, then we turn away from our path and take a way that is alien to us. And that is exactly what we have done: we have turned aside from our path and moved to an alien way, for which we have suffered as no others have suffered…

When Europe boasts of its culture, it boasts of things, not people. Other peoples also have their own culture and they do not need European culture. Some peoples, like the Indian and the Chinese, have cultures which are more refined and more developed than European culture, and therefore they despise it and have no love for it. And when Europe boasts of culture, it boasts of emptiness.

Europe would have remained Christian, if it had boasted not of its culture, but of Christ. And the peoples of Asia and Africa, remaining unbaptized, would spiritually have understood this and valued it. For each of these peoples boasts of its own faith, its own deities, its own spiritual books: some of the Koran, others of the Vedas or other books. They do not boast of the work of their hands, of their own culture, but what they consider to be higher than themselves, of what is highest in the world. Only European peoples boast not of Christ and His Gospel, but of dangerous machines and cheap factory-made products, that is culture (2). As a result of the self-exaltation of Europeans through their culture, which they impose on others, Non-Christian peoples have come to hate Christ and Christianity. Having come to hate lesser things, they have come to hate greater things. Having come to hate Europeans and their culture, they have come to hate the European God. But, alas, Europe has nothing to do with this. Europeans have been put into such an unenviable situation by erroneous development, a damaged Church, under whose influence they have spent 900 years. It is not European peoples who are guilty of this, but their spiritual leaders; the fault does not lie with the flock, but with the shepherds.

If only Europe were to boast of Christianity as its most precious inheritance and greatest legacy! That is how it should have been and that is how it was in early Christian times, when Europe was Christian and identified itself with Christianity. The glorification and preaching of Christ on all the Continents and to all peoples – that was the mission given by God to the whole European Continent. Apart from Christianity, Europe has nothing to boast of: without Christ, Europe is the very last beggar and the most shameless plunderer in this world.

Serbia is a neighbour of Europe, but Serbia is not Europe. Let Serbia help Europe, if she wishes to and is able to, but let her not merge with Europe and be diluted in Europe. In a word, let Serbia be with Christ, let Serbia boast of Christ and nothing more, and heavenly light will pour over her, illumining her path. And Serbia will see where to go and will not lose sight of the true path. From now on, as before, let Serbia glorify Christ and not be ashamed. Mercy comes upon Serbia from Christ and to Christ Serbia gives glory and praise unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Translator's Notes:

1. Wherever St Nicholas speaks of Europe, he means Non-Orthodox Europe, the Roman Catholic and Protestant parts of Europe that fell away from the Church nearly a thousand years ago.

2. For those who might criticize St Nicholas' comments on Western culture, we would quote the well-known poem, Cargoes, of the future English Poet Laureate, John Masefield, written some forty years before the Saint was imprisoned in the European death-camp of Dachau:

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amethysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rail, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

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