*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 28th of June 2022. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org; I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You will forgive me for getting anxious when the almanac takes me into the Balkan Peninsula. As a refresher, the Balkan peninsula is in southeast Europe, with Greece on the southern tip, turkey to the East, and the Adriatic and the Italian Peninsula to the West. If you can picture this location on a map, you might see how this would be an essential buffer zone for various Empires throughout history, from the Roman to Greek and Ottoman. There have been many battles, and blood spilled.

Perhaps you’ve used or read the term “balkanized” to mean: breaking up into smaller (sometimes hostile) units. Maybe you had to do a report on Yugoslavia in high school and are still confused. I hear you. Please stick with me.

Today is St. Vitus day- you might remember him. He is a very early Christian martyr about whom we know nothing. But, his legends grew, and he became known as one of the 14 Holy Helpers- those saints prayed to by some for exceptionally speedy relief.

But throughout the centuries, the Serbian church came to see a pattern of significant events taking place on this day. It began marking it as both a religious holiday and a national holiday.

The battle of Kosovo first took place in 1389 on this day. In this battle, the Ottoman Empire crushed the Serbs but awakened a “Serbian national consciousness” that exists up to the present. It is a heavily mythologized event but holds a place in the narrative of Serbia as a Christian nation.

In 1876 the Serbs declared war on the Ottomans on St. Vitus Day or Vidovdan.

In 1914, the Bosnian Serb Gavrillo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand starting WW1.

In 1948, future Yugoslavian Josip Broz, aka Tito, broke with the USSR and sent the country into its own peculiar Cold War orbit.

On this day in 1989, Slobodan Milošević gave a speech at the location of the battle of Kosovo that marked his ascension to the top of Serbian politics. And then it was on this day in 2001; the same Milošević was deported to the Hague for war crimes.

Two things: Often, legendary dates attract other newsworthy events not because the date is magic but because public relations-minded people have a job to do.

And secondly, it’s curious to link a St.'s Feast day to wars and political events, but the Serbian church has always been a mix of Orthodoxy and nationalism. In 1054, most churches in Serbia took the side of the orthodox in the Great Schism. However, it was soon clamoring for independence from the patriarch at Constantinople. St. Sava convinced the patriarch to make the Serbian church autocephalous (or self-ruling) in 1219. Of course, Ottoman rule would keep Christians from electing a national patriarch, and the Autocephaly would be put on hold until the 19th century, when it was granted again. Still, it wasn’t until the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War 1 that the Serbian Orthodox Church was re-established.

In the region that gives us the very word “balkanized,” it was the legend of St. Vitus and the heavily mythologized battle against the Turks that would cement its particular Christian heritage and national unity. [may I note: no one becomes a Christian because of a “proud Christian heritage”- but it does afford the certain faithful benefits].

So- a happy Vidovdan- a traditional Christian holiday for St. Vitus that has been transformed into a national holiday in Serbia.

The last word for today comes from the daily lectionary- from Ephesians 5:

be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 28th of June 2022, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.

The show is produced by a man whose favorite Titos include the former Yugoslavian President, the Vodka, and Jackson. He is Christoper Gillespie

The show is written and read by a man who remembers Lakers star and Serbian Vlade Divac, who, no joke, used to smoke cigarettes at halftime in the 90s. I am not a Laker fan, but am Dan van Voorhis

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.