The opening speech of Mr Prof Dr Bozidar Kovacek, president of the Matica Srpska
There is one God-given way of transforming copper into silver, and silver into gold. That alchemy does not use the wisdom-stone, the lapis philosophorum that has been persistently and uselessly sought after by the medieval wizards, but it uses real magic – benefaction. That requires only abundant love for the close ones and for the good, and generosity. Selflessness and altruism increase and elevate the given and dignify what remains. Benefaction is a two-way blessing – for the donor and the recipient. A verse from one of our old poem entrusts an honourable man with the following: ‘don’t get on your high horse when you are in luck, and don’t disregard yourself when you are in misfortune’. Benefaction helps us to avoid that situation. Sacrifice for the overall good is more than a great tradition with our people who made delightful undying poems, and in this way handed down all regarding the legacies that the rulers and noblemen of the Middle Ages left to their people and eternity. That verbal history has been educational for the rebels and Karadjordje. The moment that they had started to create it, their country appeared to them as an inseparable material and spiritual resurrection of their people. Without waiting for the gunfire to cease, Karadjordje summoned the wisest of the elders – Dositej, to establish education and gather round other learned people, and in so doing set up the University and School of Theology. Those were the spiritual legacies of the First Uprising.
The other great man of the liberated Serbia, Milos Obrenovic, has also known of the historical inevitability of power and knowledge. The following is an example in that respect: just after the Serbian Association was founded in 1826, he enrolled himself and his brother Jevrem, in August of the same year, with a membership contract for his brother and a quadruple membership contract for him, thus becoming the first benefactor of the Serbian Association.
He personally had no need for the books that would be printed in Budim for the Serbs, but his strategic and genius statesmanship made him aware that the spiritual gatherings of the donors can be the real basis for the affiliation of the earthly and the supernatural; and not only in the cultural sphere. If we are to observe it from a higher moral aspect, we shall understand that contributing to the general good is not only a matter of voluntary choice. As one of the beautiful Serbian family traditions oblige us to care for the well-being of our parents, we should, in the same manner, at all times consider the good of the spiritual tradition of our nation. The progress of any nation is not only a consequence of material goods, but culture and spirituality; these are the basis on which a nation exists and relies. Reliance on the latter is perhaps stronger, given that material goods are temporary, and the spiritual, if real, is eternal.
The spirit of contributing to the general good and cultural prosperity was reinstated in the rebellious times, and has existed up to the Second World War when all the legacies were confiscated. Now when the restitution of the old legacies is before us, space is created for the new ones. The wealthy noble people of today whose number, we hope, will have the tendency of increasing, shall have the ability to discern that the material sphere, for the sake of the overall civilization progress, should contribute to the sphere of the spiritual, scientific, cultural and artistic good.
The foundation of the Karic family has commenced this mission with dignity, and though almost unaccompanied in this assignment, is for years working on its development. The tonight’s ceremony that takes place on the Cirilo and Metodije’s Day, the two Slavic apostles and educationalists, confirms that this foundation has gained deserved respect, and in some domains has become equal with the old foundations which had carried the glorious tradition of providing for the cultural prosperity of its nation for many decades, right through to the present day; as stated in the inaugural official document of the Serbian Association in 1826: now, and as of now, continuously, forever.