Sermon of the Bishop Smolyanski Visarion — second Vicar of Plovdiv Metropolitan Nikolay and Vicar of the Smolyan Spiritual District, Abbot of the "Holy Trinity" monastery at Cross forest

Amongst the many known holy places spread around the Bulgarian lands, there is a sanctuary, which still seeks its place in the new history of Bulgaria, but already has found it in the hearts of the believers.

Remained throughout the centuries, Cross Peak this sacred place, keeps the memories of an ancient monastery, demolished by the time of the Ottoman slavery. By word of mouth, from generation to generation a rumour has passed, that here in the glorious Rhodope mountain, the cradle of the legendary, mythical singer Orpheus, at the sight of the erected at east cross, many have found solace for their sorrow, a cure for their suffering and a hope that good will be with them for the rest of their lifes. Up here, man finds a better meaning of the words of Christ: "Everything you ask with a prayer and hope, you'll be given" / Matthew 21:21/

Brothers and Sisters,

Indeed, Cross forest is a sanctuary, in which man finds comfort for his sorrow, hope and confidence in times of need, happiness after the grief and wisdom so he can live peacefully the rest of his life. Cross forest is a God's gift for the believers, and a cosmic present for those with hesitations in their faith. It's like not only the Rhodope air is crystal clear but, after spending a brief devotional time here, man can cleanse his conscience and his heart as well.

Here at Cross forest, the believer can value fittingly, everything that the Bulgarian Orthodox church had done throughout the times of rise and fall, so the acts of the faith could stay alive and active. And if at certain times there was disturbance in the faith that happened because God let it happened, so he can put on test the strength of the Christian spirit. That never ending faith has brought today even you, from the different parts of our Motherland so you can drink of the holy waters of Christ's wise words and taste the fruits of the hope and love impregnated by the wisdom of the Gospel, to re-think the words: "Here on Earth, man is a tired traveller, who has stopped to spend the night, for we don't have here an enduring city, but we seek that which is to come" / Hebrews 13:14 /

If we take a closer look at the history documents, we will find out that even the Byzantines chroniclers had named the Rhodopes "Magna silva bulgarika - The holy Bulgarian forest". That definition refers in the best way for Cross forest, raising as high as 1545 meters above sea level in the thick of beautiful wood and ridges. Cleansed after the holy liturgy, you breathe easily, fascinated by the Rhodope mountain peaks in the distance: Persenk and Perelik, Rojen and Prespa, Maragidik and Karlak. And if you want to add to your spiritual delight some fascination from the Bulgarian nature, you will definitely visit the Wondrous Bridges and Pamporovo, Haidushki meadows and the Smolyan lakes, travel around the Rhodope mountain, that has kept the talent and the beauty of a whole generation of architects weaved into the Rhodope house and song, into the Rhodope embroidery and textile that had bind together in a sacred union the rock and the wood, the joy and sadness, the enchantment and brilliance, the faith and strength of the will.

Every believer coming out of the main temple gives his adoration to the twelve chapels initiated for the twelve disciples. Going up to the cross, the symbol of Cross forest, takes you through these chapels and a chapel, devoted to our national saint and guardian of the Bulgarians - Saint Rilsky the Wonder-worker.

Often the question: "and the cross, since when it exists there?" is asked

No one knows when the first cross was erected on this place. But history tells us that as early as 4th century A.D, right here in the Rhodope Mountain, among the woods, Saint Nikita Remisianski preached about the Christian principles. Down the current of the rivers Chepelarska and Lakinska the hordes of Jadit Ali pasha had commit many outrages. Preserved their chanting speech and Bulgarian self-determination peasants of the Mostovo and Belitsa, Drianovo and Jurkovo villages, testify that despite the violence, deep in their hearts they had retained the image of our suffered Motherland. Only a couple of kilometers from here the orthodox Bulgarians of the Borovo village had been coming to Cross forest to mark the festive in the name of the Holy Spirit and to made an offering for health, here across the Black hill, in the residence of Eni han Baaba. And in the sky above the Rhodopes the Christ's cross radiated invisibly, two Rhodope peaks facing one another, but peacefully exist together throughout the ages, just to remind that this land is for every single one of us and that the Christian love can forgive everything and forget the evil acts.

Year after year passed and when the sister of the deceased Tsar Boris the Third - Evdokia fell ill, she found the path to the Cross peak, made a visit there and received the healing power of the Cross forest through washing herself with Holy water from the pond near the monastery and then an invisible arm took away her illness. At the same time at the hospital in Sofia, the grandson of the court aid of Hist Majesty, attending princess Evdokia to Cross forest recovered from illness as well. The gratitude of the Tsar to God for healing his beloved sister was found in the order for erecting a metal cross at the height of the Cross peak, weighting 33kg like the age of Christ - The Saviour, crucified at Golgotha to redeem our sins.

After five decades of prohibition, in 1988, the Christians are finally granted to visit freely Cross forest! And there it is, Cross forest in state of establishing the place as a completed monastery complex. This restoration is an indicator for the power of the faith of one nation, that had combined throughout the century’s spirit and sword of fire, and always gained victory when relied on God! Words fade when it comes to explaining the strength of the faith brought here at 22nd of September 1995, when the monastery was sanctified, His Holiness the Bulgarian patriarch Maxim, accompanied by the Plovdiv's metropolitan Arsenii and many other bishops of the Bulgarian Orthodox church who participated in the sanctification.

Today, You are the witnesses that here at Cross forest, breathing is that easily, not only for the air so crystal and clear, but for that God is here with us constantly at this place, helping us to have faith for the good which is to come! Here at Cross forest, at the base of the cross and in the church, you pray from you bottom of your soul, you cleanse yourself spiritually, forgotten the vanity of the day, humbled and quiet. And I assure you that if your prayer is pure, coming straight from your hearts, you will hear Christ's words: "Come to Me you all toil-worn and burdened, and I shall calm you" and furthermore: "Here I stand at the door and I am knocking, and if someone hears My voice and opens up the door, I will enter and have dinner with him, and he will eat with Me"

Once visited this holy place, man will not forget it's wholesome effect and will pray to God, to receive strength and health, and to have a chance to come here once again, along with relatives or friends, children and grandchildren. Here you all accept each other as brothers!

God bless you and always keep in your hearts you God and the memory of Cross forest. Repeat more often the words of Saint Prophet and King David: "God is my light and my salvation, from whom should I fear?" (Psalm 26:1) and "God, My Saviour, I seek you from early dawn, for you my soul lives".

I wish you all fair well on your way back home that will be much light because the heavy burden of the sin has fallen and you have received your spiritual lessons for the things to come.