Prologue from Ochrid - August 3 [August 16]
1. Our Holy Fathers Isaac, Dalmatus and Faustus.
Isaac is commemorated separately on May 30th. St Dalmatus was first an officer under the Emperor Theodosius the Great, who held him in great honour, but, when his spirit awakened within him, he scorned all that is of this world, abandoning his rank, and took his only son Faustus off to the outskirts of Constantinople, to St Isaac's community, where they were both tonsured as monks. Dalmatus consecrated himself utterly to please God in his life, which was a joy to the elder, Isaac. When Isaac came to the hour of death, he installed Dalmatus as abbot in his place, and the community later came to be called after Dalmatus. He sometimes fasted for forty days at a time, conquering by his fasting the invisible power of the demons. He took part in the Third Ecumenical Council in 431, and battled against the Nestorian heresy. Being pleasing to God, he entered peacefully into rest in the 5th century. His son Faustus supported his father in everything and, after a godly life, died peacefully in that community.
2. Our Holy Father Cosmas the Eunuch.
A monk of the monastery of Pharan, he was very learned in the Holy Scriptures. He so valued the works of St Athanasius the Great that he said to his disciples: 'When you hear something quoted from the writings of St Athanasius, if you have no paper by you, write them on your handkerchief.' In old age, he came to Antioch, to Patriarch Gregory (596), and there ended his days. One particular man often came to Cosmas's grave, and, honouring the saint, prayed there. Asked why he did this, he explained that he had been paralysed for twelve years, and that St Cosmas had healed him.
3. Our Holy Father Antony the Roman.
He was born in Rome in 1086 of devout and affluent parents. At that time, the Roman Church broke away from the Eastern Church, and all who remained faithful to the Eastern Church were persecuted by the Roman clergy. Antony was among those persecuted. He gave away all his goods and became a monk. Standing on a rock in the sea, he lived in asceticism for fourteen months. The rock meanwhile parted from its base and, by a strange providence, floated through the water to Novgorod. In Novgorod, Archbishop Nikita received him with kindness and helped him to build a church to the holy Mother of God, later to become a monastery. Antony lived long as abbot of this monastery and, revealing great power by the grace of God through many miracles, died peacefully in 1148 and went to the courts of the Lord.
4. St Salome the Myrrh-Bearer.
The mother of the holy Apostles James and John, the wife of Zebedee and daughter of Joseph, the betrothed of the most holy Mother of God, she served the Lord during His earthly life, and was made worthy to be among the first bearers of the tidings of His Resurrection.
Holy souls read Holy Scripture with great diligence concentrating on every word and placing themselves before the mirror of the Word of God as before the Dread Judgment. Their diligence was so great in this that some of the ascetics undertook distant journeys in order to come to a spiritual sage who would interpret for them a word or a saying from Holy Scripture. Whenever it was possible, this was accomplished through correspondence. It is from this that a complete collection of the letters of the saints remained [survived] such as those of Saints Basil, Gregory, Chrysostom, Isidore of Pelusium, Nilus of Sinai and many others. One day St. Cosmas pondered on the words of the Lord Christ when He, in the Garden of Gethsemane, asked His disciples whether they had a sword. When His disciples said to Him: "Lord, behold, here are two swords. And He said to them, it is enough" (St. Luke 22:38). Being unable to explain these words himself, St. Cosmas decided to cross over the wilderness to the distant Lavra called Pirga to the illustrious Abba Theophilus to inquire of him. With great difficulty did St. Cosmas succeed to reach his goal. Theophilus explained to him: "The two swords signify the two-fold order of a god-pleasing life: deeds and visions, i.e., labor and awakening of the mind to godly thoughts and prayer. Whoever has both of these, he is perfect."
To contemplate the ingratitude of the Jews toward God the Deliver and on God's punishment (Judges 13):
- How the sons of Israel again did that which is wicked before the Lord;
- How the Lord handed them over into the hands of the Philistines for forty years;
- How the ungratefulness of a liberated people toward God the Deliver, even today, is punished by bondage under foreigners.
About human ingratitude unseen even among the animals
"The ox knoweth his owner and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, My people doth not consider" (Isaiah 1:3).
The ingratitude of man is most strongly exposed by the gratitude of animals. When the irrational ox knows who his master is and when the ass knows from whose crib it is fed, how then can rational man not know about God, His Creator and Nourisher? The word Israel means "one who sees God." And every rational man should by his rationality be "one who sees God", to know God, to feel the presence of God and to serve God as once did the meek and wonderful Jacob. But when rational man, whose entire dignity is in the knowledge of God, does not know God, i.e., when the "one who sees God" becomes blind toward God, then the dignity of the ox and the ass is raised in dignity above such a man. For an ox, without exception, recognizes his master and the ass, without exception, recognizes the one who feeds him while among men there exists exceptions, i.e., there exist men and, very often leaders of men, who do not recognize their Lord nor their Nourisher. In all of created nature, godlessness is a disease only among men for godliness is the condition of normality and health only for men and not for animals. Thus, godlessness is not the disease of animals but of men; alas, only of men, only they who are destined to be "ones who see God" and who, when they lose their godliness, become poorer than the ox and the ass.
This is the vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos, the Prophet of God.
O God of meek Jacob, of Israel, enlightened one "who sees God", help us to maintain our human dignity, the dignity of one "who sees God" and that in every day and every hour, we may know and recognize You with gratitude, as our Lord and Nourisher.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK