Prologue from Ochrid - August 7 [August 20]
1. Our Holy Father, the Martyr Dometius.
Born a pagan in Persia in the time of the Emperor Constantine, he came to know the Christian faith as a young man, forsook his paganism and received baptism. He was so enchanted with the true Faith that he left all worldly things and became a monk in a monastery near the town of Nisibis. He lived among the brethren for some time, then withdrew into silence, going to Archimandrite Urbel, of whom it is said that, for sixty years, he never ate anything cooked. Urbel made him a deacon, but, when he wanted to make him a priest, Dometian fled to a distant mountain and settled in a cave there. He attained such perfection through fasting, prayer, vigils and meditation that he was able to heal the sick. When Julian the Apostate came to that place, he heard of Dometius and sent men to wall him up alive in the cave, with two of his disciples. Thus died this saint of God, in 363, and went to the Kingdom of God.
2. Our Holy Father Or.
A solitary of the Thebaid, he achieved great perfection through very great asceticism. When he had become established in stability and dedicated to solitude, he founded several monasteries one after the other, and was an outstanding spiritual guide and the instructor of many monks. Rufinus, who visited him, writes thus of him: 'In appearance, he is like an angel of God; an old man of ninety with a long, snow-white beard. The impression left by his presence is delightful. His gaze is imbued with a more than human radiance.' He strove never to tell a lie, saw angels of God many times and also underwent great temptations from demons, but soberly and courageously overcame them all. He received Communion every day. Once, one of his disciples reminded him that Easter had come, and that he must celebrate it. Hearing this, he went outside, raised his hands to heaven and spent three days in unbroken prayer. Then he explained to his disciples: 'This is the monk's celebration of Easter: the lifting up of the mind to unity with God.' He entered into rest in great old age in about 390.
3. The Holy Martyrs Marinus and Asterius.
The first was a soldier and the second a Roman senator. In the time of the Emperor Gallienus, holy Marinus was serving as a soldier in Caesarea in Palestine. He was beheaded for his Christian faith. The senator Asterius was watching his suffering, himself being a Christian. He took off his toga, wrapped the martyr's body in it, took the body on his shoulders and bore it away to give it burial. Pagans who witnessed this beheaded him also. They suffered for honour with Christ in about 260.
4. Our Holy Father Pimen the Much-Ailing.
He was sickly from his youth, and from his youth desired monasticism. Brought to the Monastery of the Caves for healing, he remained there till his death. He prayed more for sickness than for health. One night, angels appeared to him and tonsured him as a monk, telling him at the same time that he would be sick until his death, and would be healed at that moment. And so it was; he lay sick for twenty years, working wonders even during his lifetime and being possessed of a rare gift of discernment. At the time of his death, he got up from his bed completely healed, immediately prepared his grave and entered into rest in the Lord, in the year 1110.
5. The Hieromartyr Narcissus, Patriarch of Jerusalem.
He was beheaded in the time of Antoninus, in the year 211, at the age of a hundred and sixteen.
Neither concern yourself about the righteous nor envy the sinner. Remember always that the Lord Christ, by His resurrection, conquered a shameful death and that Herod, Judas, Nero, Julian the Apostate, Valerian, Leo the Armenian and other opponents of Christ, by a shameful death mortalized forever their temporary successes and victories. Envious ones slandered St. Narcissus the Patriarch for violating his chastity. The innocent Narcissus withdrew into the wilderness and spent many years in silence and patiently waited for God to do His will. Three patriarchs followed him [on the patriarchal throne] and only then did men come forward and clearly prove his innocence. Then everyone forced him to return from the wilderness to his throne. Thus, God justifies the righteous. The bloody Emperor Valerian, with satanic passion, murdered Christians throughout the entire world [Roman Empire]. How did he end up? In battle with the Persians, he was defeated and enslaved by King Sapor. Sapor did not desire to kill him immediately but used him as a mounting block whenever he wanted to mount a horse. Every day, King Sapor's servants brought Valerian along with a horse and Sapor enjoyed placing his foot on the neck of the Roman Emperor in order to make it easier for him to mount the horse. He who sows an evil seed reaps an evil harvest.
To contemplate the mercy of God toward the barren Hannah, the mother of Samuel (1 Samuel 1 1 Kings 1):
- How Hannah was barren and in her sorrow implored God that she give birth to a son, promising to dedicate him to God;
- How God heard the prayers of Hannah and she gave birth to a son and called him Samuel (besought from God);
- How Hannah brought Samuel to the Temple and dedicated him to God.
About the new law from Zion
"For out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3).
The prophet speaks of a new law and of a new word. The old law was given on Sinai and the new law will come from Zion. The old law was given through Moses and the new law, the Lord Christ Himself will bring. That [the old law] was intended in the beginning only for the Jews, and this one [the new law], will be directed to all peoples and all of mankind. Even though these words of the prophet are clear, however, the Jews could not understand them nor do they understand them today. The meaning of these words is closed to them because of their stony hearts. To whom do they [the Jews] apply these words? To no one. How do they [the Jews] interpret these words? They do not. They pass by these words as a blind man passes by an open door. If they were able to comprehend these words, would they have then acted in such a manner as they acted with the prophet and the prophesied One [Christ]? Would they have sawn Isaiah and crucified Christ on the Cross?
The Jews considered the law of Moses to be the only and final law of God. That is why they were unable to comprehend the meaning of the prophecy of the new law from Zion, i.e., from the House of David, for David glorified Zion. But if the Jews did not know to comprehend the new law through the old law, we Christians know that through the new law we comprehend the old law. The Jews only had a tree without fruit but we have the tree and the fruit. They only had an image without reality, but we have both reality and the image. They adhered only to promises and that, incorrectly understood, but we have the promises and the fulfillment.
O All-rich Lord, Who has enriched us with Your spiritual law and Your life-giving words, You only do we worship and to You only do we pray; grant us wisdom and power to live according to Your law and to uphold Your holy word, so that we may not become poor before You, Who has made us rich!
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK