Prologue from Ochrid - April 7 [April 20]
1. St George the Confessor.
For his great virtues, which he acquired through long asceticism, George was chosen and installed as Metropolitan of Mitylene. And this saint governed his flock with zeal and wisdom to old age. But when a persecution arose under Leo V, the Armenian, who destroyed the holy icons, this holy elder was summoned by the Emperor to Constantinople, to the Council of bishops which was summoned, at the Emperor's desire, to put a stop to the veneration of icons. But George not only refused to act according to the Emperor's desire; he, together with some other courageous bishops, stood up in defence of the holy icons. For this he was held in derision by the Emperor and exiled to the region of Cherson, where, in physical pain and every sort of need, he spent the remainder of his earthly life. He died and went to immortal life in about 816. He was a wonderworker both during his life and after his death, through his great righteousness and love for the Lord Jesus.
2. Our Holy Father Nil Sorsky.
One of the great fathers of the Russian Church, he was the founder of the monastic 'skete' way of life in Russia. He died peacefully in 1508, and his relics are preserved in the monastery at Sora. His rule of life in the sketes presents a spiritual and pragmatic work of the first order.
3. The Holy Martyr Calliopus.
The only son, obtained from God with tears, of a senator of Perga in Pamphylia. His devout mother, Theoclea, taught him veneration of God and purity of life at an early age. Calliopus was still very young when a terrible persecution arose under the Emperor Maximian. To save him from death, his mother put him into a ship, gave him a sufficient sum of money and sent him off to the city of Pompeiopolis. But things turned out differently, by the providence of God. Disembarking at Pompeiopolis, Calliopus walked straight into some tumultuous pantheistic celebration. When he, in the press of the crazed mob, refused to take part in that senseless feast, he was brought to the commander, Maximus, to whom he confessed that he was a Christian. The commander ordered that he be beaten with iron staves, burned by fire and finally, wounded all over, thrown into prison. Hearing of the torture of her son, his mother Theoclea gave away all her goods to the poor and needy and, with a small sum of money, hurried to her son's prison. Entering the prison, she bowed to her son and bound up his wounds. Finally, the commander pronounced the sentence that Calliopus be crucified. Joy and anguish were mingled together in his mother's heart. When they led her son to the place of execution, she passed the executioner five gold pieces to crucify her son, not like the Lord, but upside-down. This she did from humility towards the Lord. Calliopus was crucified, upside-down, on Holy Thursday, and his mother stood below the cross giving thanks to God. When they took his dead body down from the cross the next day, she fell on it and breathed her last. Thus these two went to stand before the throne of the King of glory. They suffered with honour in 304.
4. Our Holy Father Daniel of Pereyaslavi.
He had as his special asceticism the care of the dead. Whenever he heard that someone had frozen to death or died in some other way, he hurried to give him burial and to pray to God for him. He died peacefully in 1540. His healing relics are preserved to this day.
5. Our Holy Father Gregory the Sinaite.
A great saint and ascetic of Sinai and Athos (see August 8th).
"Spiritual directors should distinguish themselves from their subordinates as much as a shepherd distinguishes himself from his sheep." Thus speaks St. Isidorus of Pelusium in interpreting the First Epistle of St. Timothy. The life of a priest always serves as an example, be it good or be it bad. By an exemplary life, a priest confirms the Gospel and, by a wicked life, he denies the Gospel. No one in this world is in such a position to confirm the truth of the Gospel or to deny it in such a manner by his life, as is a priest. A good priest is distinguished from a wicked priest by his works no less than a shepherd is distinguished from a wolf. That is why a goodly portion of good priests will be with the sons of God and a goodly portion of wicked priests will be with the wild beasts of darkness. The good shepherds of the Church, even in the last moments of their lives, were concerned about their flocks which they were leaving behind. Upon his death bed, St. Joseph the Hymnographer prayed to God: "Preserve your flock, O Son of God, created by Your right hand and protect them to the end of time. Be of assistance to the beloved sons of Your Church. Grant to Your Bride [Holy Church] eternal peace and a stormless calm." St. Antipas, burning in a blazing ox, cast out of copper, prayed to God in this manner: "Not only me, but those also who would come after me, make them partakers of Your mercy."
To contemplate the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus:
- How the myrrh-bearing women approached the tomb to anoint Him with myrrh and aloes. To anoint the One Who is the sweet-smelling savor of heaven and earth;
- How the angel announces the resurrection of our Lord to them with the words: "Why do you seek the living One among the dead?" (St. Luke 24:5).
About seeking the living among the dead
"Why do you seek the living One among the dead?" (St. Luke 24:5).
The angel of God asks the Myrrh-bearing women as though in astonishment: "Why do you seek the living One among the dead?" As though the perceiver of the mystery of God and God's power wanted to say: "How could you have thought for a moment that He is the hostage of death? Do you not know that He is the principal source of life? Do you not know that all life is through Him and that not one living thing can borrow not even a drop of life from any other source? Did He not fully reveal to you His authority over life and death on earth? Who gave life to the lifeless Lazarus? Who took away the life of the barren fig tree?"
O my brethren, let us also cease to look for the living among the dead. If there are some of us who are still seeking Christ among the dead, let them desist from this soul-destroying effort. This is the vain effort of the Jews, pagans and non-Christians. We know that the Lord and Giver of life is not in the tomb but on the Throne of Glory in the heavens. The spirit, not darkened by sin, looks up into heaven and does not see the tomb; and the spirit, darkened by sin, looks into the tomb and does not see heaven. Sin and virtue govern the spiritual vision of man and reveals to each man its own world at cross purposes with one another. Sin overthrows the vision of the spirit to the earth and reveals to it the corruption of the world. Virtue uplifts the spirit to heaven and reveals to it the eternal world and the resurrected Christ as the King in that world.
O my brethren, let us not seek life among creation, but from the Creator. Let us not commit an even graver sin i.e., let us not seek the Creator in the tomb of creation nor the Illuminating, Immortal One in the darkness of death.
O Lord Jesus, Victor over death, we cry out to You: resurrect us also into life eternal from the corruption and darkness of death.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK