(…) It should be emphasized that the Vidovdan commemorations are not celebrations of Serbian military victory over the Turks, for the Serbs were not victorious in the Kosovo Battle.
However, it is incorrect, and even malicious, to claim that at Vidovdan commemorations the Serbs “celebrate their defeat in the Kosovo Battle.” Such a statement has no logical or historical support. According to the historical documents, the Turks had not won a victory in the Battle of Kosovo. Neither a military victory nor a military defeat are not and could not have been either the reason or the meaning of Vidovdan commemorations.
On those occasions the Serbs honour and commemorate the heroes of Kosovo who laid down their lives defending their faith, freedom, nation, and country. At the same time, Vidovdan commemorations are the annual reviews of the post-Kosovo Serbian generations. They are evaluated in terms of Vidovdan-Kosovo ethics and on the basis of their reconfirmation of the Pledge of Kosovo. On Vidovdan, June 15, 1389, on the Kosovo Field, the Serbs chose once and for all their religious, cultural, ethical, and national identity.
Their choice, in the form of an unwritten pledge, was handed down to all post-Kosovo Serbian generations and, through 600 years, Serbs have lived by that pledge. Fortunately, Serbian Kosovo ethics remain unchanged and those values will always endure for all future Serbian generations.
Those values, briefly defined, are as follows:
-Uncompromising faith in God, without which there is no genuine philanthropy;-Philanthropy, as a confirmation of the professed faith in God;
-Firm dedication to Christianity as it is confessed by the Orthodox Church;
-Priority of the spiritual over the material;
-Faithfulness to God, nation, and motherland;
-Freedom as a precious value for which everything should be sacrificed, whereas it should not be sacrificed for anything in the world;
-Honesty, righteousness, and love for peace – virtues to be practised by individuals as a basis for healthy social relationships;
-Placing common interest above personal interests and readiness to sacrifice for those interests;
-Compassion to be extended even to enemies;
-National unity as a condition for national existence.
This testament, this set of ethics of Kosovo, represents the greatest importance of Kosovo and Vidovdan. Inseparable through six centuries, it is the reason we celebrate Vidovdan today.
As Saint Nikolai of Zica said:
,, None of the Christian peoples has in its history what the Serbian people have in Kosovo.
Some 60 years after the Battle of Kosovo, Constantinople fell, the capital of Eastern Christianity. The Christian emperor, of Serbian blood and origin by one of his parents, was killed. It could be said that that disaster was like Kosovo. And it might also be said that it was an event even greater than Kosovo. God forbid! In the field of Kosovo the Christian army marched toward death, while in Constantinople they remained in the town hoping to the last moment that death would somehow turn its back on them. When the first cannonballs in history penetrated the city ramparts, terror ensued so that both the army and the citizens were panic-stricken. All the churches were filled with crying and prayer to God for the salvation of the city, that is for the salvation of their bodies and for the salvation of the state and the earthly kingdom. That is why the Greeks recorded the fall of Constantinople as night and not as a day, as destruction and not as a victory. It is true that it was a battle between the cross and the crescent, but without an epopee and without any inspiration for future generations.
For a defeat understood only as defeat cannot arouse anybody’s enthusiasm. Nor can Golgotha itself without the Resurrection inspire and strengthen anybody.
The Serbian Kosovo is a totally different matter.
As the dead are dressed in new and expensive clothes, so was the Serbian army dressed in its best robes. The glowing procession hurried from all the borders of the empire onto honour and fame, to the field of Kosovo. Shaded with cross-shaped banners and the icons of their family saints (slava), singing and cheering, singing and playing musical instruments, with song and joy, the army rushed toward its execution. Does not that remind us of the first groups of Christians who in such a mood went under the sword or to the fire or before the beasts?
Not a single Christian martyr is known to have prayed to God to save him from his approaching death, while thousands and thousands are known to have prayed not to be spared from a martyr’s death. Neither did Lazar’s army hold prayers for salvation from death. On the contrary, it confessed its sins and took Communion in preparation for death. An entire people as one Christian martyr, obedient to the thoughtful will of the Almighty, accepted the bitterness of death, and that not as bitterness but as a life-giving force.
And has not Kosovo right up to the present day, indeed, served as a vital force to dozens of generations?
In the history of the Christian peoples, there is not another case of 1 entire army, an entire nation being imbued by the wish to die in order to meet death for the sake of its religion. This was not to meet a suicidal but a heroic death. Kosovo is unique in the 20 centuries-old history of the Christian world. Those are mistaken who say that Kosovo stopped the wheel of our history and held us back. If it had not been for Kosovo, we would have been a great nation today! It was Kosovo that made us a great nation. It is our Golgotha; but it is at the same time our spiritual and moral resurrection.
Still, the holy body of Lazar, imbued with Heavenly power, lies wholly even today curing all human disabilities. The bodies of the other knights of the cross were not lost, although they remained on the battlefield. Their bodies were sanctified by their holy souls, and the entire land of Kosovo was dedicated by their holy bodies. Thenceforth Kosovo became the campo santo, the holy field.
That is why the Serbs, even those living in America, come and take a handful or a bag of soil from the holy field of Kosovo to carry it and keep it as a sacred relic in their places of worship and their homes, as is done from the tomb of St. Dimitrije in Salonika or the graves of other Christian martyrs. Kosovo is the greatest tomb of Christian martyrs killed in a single day. No other of such magnitude is known to us. And celebrating the deathday of their saint, the whole Serbian people honour and commemorate St. Vitus’ Day (Vidovdan). He who honours the holy martyrs, such as the archdeacon Stefan or Djordje or Dimitrije or Teodor or Trifun or Good Friday and Easter Sunday or Ss. Petar and Paul, does not honour the defeated but the victor; neither does he honour the dead but the living.
Therefore, by celebrating the great martyrdom of the Kosovo martyrs, we do not celebrate the defeated ones but the victors, not the dead but those who are alive. Vidovdan is the greatest Slava of the Serbian people. It is day and not night – it is the Day.
“Whoever keeps his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
The book itself preached to the Tsar:
“Tsar Lazar of noble ancestry!
Which kingdom will you choose?
Will you choose the earthly kingdom?
Or will you choose the heavenly kingdom?
If you choose the earthly kingdom …
All the Turkish host will perish.
If you choose the heavenly kingdom …
All your army will perish,
And you, O Prince, will die with them.”
After the Tsar heard these words,
He pondered all sorts of thoughts:
“Dear God, what shall I do and how shall I?
Which kingdom shall I choose?
Shall I choose the earthly kingdom?
Or shall I choose the heavenly kingdom?
The earthly kingdom lasts only a brief time,
But the heavenly kingdom always and forever.”
So the Tsar chose the heavenly kingdom …
Then the Turks mounted their attack against Lazar.
And the Serbian Prince Lazar perished,
Together with his entire army,
Seventy-seven thousand in number,
And all was holy and honourable
And acceptable to gracious God …