The Religious Spirit of the Slavs (1916)
by Nikolai Velimirovic


In the beginning of the sixteenth century, a preacher of the Gospel in
Trieste and Laibach, _Primus Trubar_, published successively the New
Testament, Psalter and Catechism in the vulgar Slovene language. It
produced the greatest imaginable excitement amongst the Slovene clergy and
people. Christ and the Prophets spoke for the first time to the people in
mountainous Carniola and Istria in a language that the people could
understand. A minority of the clergy shared the popular excitement, whereas
the majority was filled with fury against the innovator. But Trubar went
his way courageously and continued to publish and republish the sacred
books in the Slovene tongue. The affair had the usual ending: the violent
persecution of the disturbers of the _semper eadem_, and the victory of the
persecuted cause. Trubar died in exile from his country, his books were
burnt, the churches in which his books had been read pulled down, and the
people who dared to speak with Christ and the Prophets in their native
language terrified. At the same time, the Turks, after having devastated
Serbia and Croatia, descended on Slovenia with the sword, burning pulling
down, and terrifying everywhere.

Yet the great question of the ecclesiastical language could not be stifled.
Even before and after Trubar, the Slavs on the Adriatic coast of Dalmatia
and Istria insisted on the so-called _Glagoliza_ as the language which
should be used in the divine service. _Glagoliza_ is not the common
language of the Croats and Slovenes, but it is an old and sacred form of
the same tongue. Rome opposed for a long time, declined afterwards, opposed
or half-opposed again, till the question is to-day brought to a very acute
phase. Pope Paul V permitted the use of the _Glagoliza_ in the Church. This
permission was repeated by John VIII. and Urban VIII. There was printed a
_Missale Romanum, slavicâ linguâ, glagolitico charactere_ (Rome, 1893).
Still, one can say that although it is theoretically allowed, it is
practically forbidden. It is used to-day in some new places, like Krk,
Cherso, Zara, Sebenico, in Senj, Spalato, etc. But the fact remains that
the Southern Slavs, or the Slavs generally, do not like the Latin language
in the divine service. For the Slav conscience it is something incongruous:
the Latin language of Nero and the spirit of Christ. Every language is the
bearer of a certain spirit. Latin is the bearer of a juristic and despotic
spirit. Ranke said: "The Papal Church is a legacy of ancient Rome."[1] If
this be true, the language doubtless was one of the principal reasons for
it. With the language of the Cæsars also crept into the Church the spirit
of the Cæsars. This spirit was brought to a triumph in 1870 at the Council
of the Vatican.

As the Croats and Slovenes protested against the language of the Cæsars, so
they protested also against the triumphant spirit of the Cæsars in the
Church. Bishop Strossmayer opposed the dogma of Papal Infallibility with a
sincerity, obstinacy and eloquence which can be compared only with the
spirit of the "_golden age_" of Christian history. In a letter to an old
Catholic friend, he wrote: "It is nonsense to say that the Popes cannot
live without these miserable rags called temporary possessions."[2] Is this
not true apostolic language? Again he wrote: "What occurs to-day in Rome is
obviously God’s punishment and at the same time a providential way to those
reforms which the Church needs in order to fulfil her mission with more
success in the future than she has done till now."[3] And to Dr. Döllinger
he confessed quite openly: "And what about my nation and its future? It
seems to me quite certain that it will one day get rid of Roman

[Footnote 1: "History of the Popes," Chap. I.]
[Footnote 2: "Letter to Professor Reinkens," Schulte: _Der
[Footnote 3: _Ibid._]
[Footnote 4: _Ibidem._]

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