Prologue from Ochrid - July 20 [August 2]
1. The Holy Prophet Elias.
A man who saw God, a wonderworker and a zealot for faith in God, Elias was of the tribe of Aaron, from the city of Tishba, whence he was known as 'the Tishbite'. When Elias was born, his father Sabah saw angels of God around the child, swaddling it with fire and feeding it with flames. This was a foreshadowing of Elias's fiery character and his God-given fiery powers. He spent his whole youth in prayer and meditation, withdrawing often to the desert to ponder and pray in tranquillity. At that time, the Jewish Kingdom was divided into two unequal parts: the Kingdom of Judah consisted only of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with its capital at Jerusalem, while the Kingdom of Israel consisted of the other ten tribes, with its capital at Samaria. The former kingdom was ruled by the descendants of Solomon, and the latter by the descendants of Jeroboam, a servant of Solomon's. The prophet Elias came into the greatest conflict with the Israelite king, Ahab, and his evil wife Jezebel, for they worshipped idols and turned the people from the service of the one, living God. On top of this, Jezebel, being a Syrian, persuaded her husband to build a temple to the Syrian god, Baal, and appointed many priests to the service of this false god. Elias performed many miracles by the power of God: he closed the heavens, that no rain should fall for three years and six months; called down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice to his God, while the priests of Baal were unable to do this; brought rain from the heavens at his prayers; miraculously multiplied corn and oil in the widow's house at Zarephath, and restored her dead son to life; prophesied to Ahab that the dogs would lick up his blood, and to Jezebel that the dogs would devour her - which came to pass; and performed many other miracles and foretold many events. He talked with God on Horeb, and heard His voice in the calm after the great wind. At the time of his death, he took Elisha and appointed him his heir as a prophet; he parted the Jordan with his mantle and was finally borne to heaven in a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses. He appeared together with Moses, to our Lord Jesus Christ on Tabor. At the end of the world, Elias will appear again, to break the power of antichrist (Rev. 11).
Author's note: In the Greek Lives of the Saints, the following miracle of the holy prophet Elias is recorded: a certain Paisius, abbot of the monastery of St Elias in Jerusalem, went to Constantinople and from Constantinople to Belgrade at the time that Patriarch Paisius was staying there. At that time, there was an Orthodox Christian living in Belgrade, married to a Latin wife. On St Elias's day, the wife planned to make bread, but her husband said to her: 'You must not work.' His wife replied that the feast had been two days earlier (according to the Roman Calendar). And so a dispute arose between them. The stubborn woman kneaded the dough, but then a marvel! The dough became stone in her hands! At that, the neighbours gathered round, and each of them took a piece of the stone. Paisius took a piece of it, as a witness to God's miracle, and took it with him to Jerusalem. He laid this piece of stone in front of the icon of the holy prophet Elias in his monastery. (This is recorded in Dositheus Book XII, Ch. 11, Para. 2, p. 1192.)
2. St Elias, Patriarch of Jerusalem, and St Flavius, Patriarch of Antioch.
Great zealots for the Faith and defenders of Orthodoxy, they both died in exile, driven there by the heretical Emperor Anastasius. They foresaw precisely the death of Emperor Anastasius and their own deaths. They wrote to each other at the same time from widely different places: 'Anastasius the Emperor is dying today; let us go to God's judgement with him.' After two days, both these holy hierarchs died, in the ear 518.
Writing about the life of his sister St. Macrina, St. Gregory of Nyssa hesitates to enumerate her miracles, "that I not be," says he, "responsible for the sin of unbelief among helpless men." He calls helpless, those who do not believe. Truly, there is nothing more helpless than a man without faith. The man without faith believes in the power of dead things and dead elements of nature and does not believe in the power of God or in the strength of the men of God. That is spiritual dullness and that dullness is equated with spiritual death. Thus, the living souls believe and the dead souls do not believe. Living souls believe in the powerful miracles of the Prophet Elijah. These miracles give them courage and joy, for they know that they are a manifestation of the might of God. When God manifests His might through lifeless things and elements of nature, why then would He not manifest it through living and holy men? That which especially gives joy to the faithful is that the Prophet Elijah appeared alive on Mount Tabor at the time of the Transfiguration of the Lord. During his life on earth, this great prophet gave proof of the existence of the One and Living God and, after his death, and even after several hundred years, by his appearance on Mt. Tabor, he gave to mankind visible proof of life after death.
To contemplate the miraculous help of God to the Israelites in battle (Deuteronomy 2):
- How Moses defeated the pagan kings, Sihon of the Amorites and Og, king of Basan, for God promised that they would perish;
- How Moses was unable to take the land of Moab, for God did not want this because of the descendants of the righteous Lot;
- How victory and defeat in wars generally do not occur without God's permission.
About the personal witness of the apostle
"This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with Him in the holy mount" (2 Peter 2:17-18).
Let us hear the testimony of the true and faithful one who was crucified on a cross because of his testimony. Let us hear the Apostle Peter who, what he was unable to prove by his words, proved by his bloody death on the cross, crucified upside down by the pagans. He testifies that he was on the holy mountain, i.e., Mount Tabor when our Lord was transfigured, when Moses with Elijah appeared and when a voice was heard from heaven saying: "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased" (2 Peter 1:17). In this text, the apostle does not speak of what he and his companions saw on the holy mountain, which is narrated in the Gospel, but repeats only that which they heard. That which they heard is just as important as that which they saw. Therefore, let the people hear that the apostle saw the Lord Jesus transfigured in a miraculous heavenly light and let them know that He is the Son of God. Let the people also hear that the apostles saw Moses and Elijah alive and let them know that life after death exists as well as the judgment of God. Let them also hear, that the Lord Jesus is called the Son of God, not by man, but rather by God the Father Himself. Those who speak these words to the people and relate to them what their eyes saw and what their ears heard are faithful and true witnesses. He, who does not believe the apostles, believes in Judas, Caiaphas, Herod and Nero, the persecutors of the apostles and traitors of the truth. He who does not believe in the righteous ones has no other alternative left but to believe in the unrighteous ones. He who does not believe in the pure ones, must believe in the impure ones. He who does not believe in those who suffer for the truth, must believe in the torturers and libertines. Day does not dawn for anything else except that men may take sides with one or the other.
O Lord our Savior and Enlightener, enlighten our souls by Your holy words, for which Your apostles suffered.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK