Prologue from Ochrid - August 8 [August 21]
1. St Emilian the Confessor, Bishop of Cyzicus.
He was bishop in Cyzicus in the time of the wicked Emperor Leo the Armenian, the iconoclast. Refusing to carry out the imperial directive on the removal of icons from the churches, he was, along with other Orthodox bishops, sent into exile. He spent five years in exile, enduring many ills and much humiliation for the sake of Christ. He died in 820, and joined the company of the citizens of heaven.
2. St Myron the Wonderworker, Bishop of Crete.
He was at first married, and was a Tabourer on the land, sharing the fruits of his farm joyfully and abundantly with the poor. He once caught some unknown thieves on his threshing-floor, stealing corn. Not saying who he was, St Myron helped the thieves to fill their sacks, lift them onto their backs and escape. For his outstanding virtues, he was ordained priest and later consecrated bishop. He was a great wonderworker and did many good and mighty works in the name of the Lord Jesus. He entered into rest in about 350, at the great age of a hundred.
3. Our Holy Father Gregory the Sinaite.
He was named 'the Sinaite' because he became a monk on Mount Sinai. In the time of the Emperor Andronicus Palaeologus, in about 1330, he went to the Holy Mountain to visit the monasteries and discover more about mental prayer and contemplation. But these two spiritual exercises were little known at that time among the monks of the Holy Mountain. The only one who was experienced in them and practised them perfectly was St Maximus of Kapsokalyvia. Gregory spread his teaching on mental prayer through all the cells and monasteries of the Holy Mountain. His most famous pupil was Kallistos, Patriarch of Constantinople, who wrote Gregory's life. After that, Gregory went to Macedonia and to other parts of the Balkans, and founded communities in which the monks engaged in mental prayer, thus helping many to deepen their prayer and come to salvation. His writings on mental prayer and asceticism are found in the Philokalia. Among other things, he wrote the hymn to the Holy Trinity: 'It is meet and right...', which is sung in the Midnight Office on Sundays. He stands among the most famous ascetics and spiritual teachers of the Balkans. He entered peacefully into rest in 1346, after a life of great toil, and went to the Kingdom of Christ.
4. The Holy New Martyrs Triandaphyllos and Spaso.
Triandaphyllos was born in Zagora and Spaso in Radoviste, in the diocese of Strumica. They were both Slavs, both young and simple men. But the love of Christ drew them out of the world and out of this life. They gave their lives, and remained faithful to Christ, suffering under the Turks for their faith: Tryandaphyllos in Constantinople in 1680 and Spaso in Salonica in 1794.
5. The Holy Martyr Gormizdas.
He was a noble at the court of the Persian King Yezdegeherd. As he refused to deny Christ, the king sadly deprived him of his rank and possessions and sent him to look after the animals, being convinced that Gormizdas would soon grieve for his rank and possessions, and would worship idols. Gormizdas peacefully minded the cattle and remained faithful. The king therefore put him to harsh torture, which succeeded only in weakening the body of Christ's martyr without affecting his soul. Finally, Gormizdas was killed, in 418, immediately after the martyrdom of St Abdus the Bishop (see March 31st). He suffered on earth, and was glorified in heaven.
Moses spoke to the sons of Israel: "I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life that you may live" (Deuteronomy 30:19). There are some decisive moments in the life of men when, indeed, it is left up to man to choose between life or death. Judas, in a decisive moment, was corrupted by silver and he chose death, i.e., the sin of avarice [greed]. When the general wanted to elevate Marinus the soldier (August 7) to the rank of an officer (centurion), envious men accused him of being a Christian. The general permitted him only three hours to contemplate and to choose between life or death, i.e., either to deny Christ or to die. Marinus, hearing the words of his superior, went to the local bishop, Theotechnus, and asked him for advice. The bishop led Marinus into the church, stood him before the Gospel and pointing his hand, at first to the Gospel and after that to the sword which hung from Marinus' waist, said to him: "Choose courageous man, one of these two; either to wear the sword and serve the earthly king temporarily and, after death, be lost eternally or to become a soldier of the Heavenly King and lay down your life for His Holy Name which is written in this Book and to reign with Him in eternal life." Marinus immediately decided, kissed the Book of the Holy Gospel and departed through death into life eternal.
To contemplate the miraculous appearance of God to the child Samuel (1 Samuel 3 1 Kings 3):
- How one night when Samuel was lying down, the Lord called him three times by name;
- How the Lord related to Samuel the threat to the House of Eli [Heli] because of the corruptness of the sons of Eli and a threat to all of Israel;
- How the Lord did not want to appear either to Eli, the high priest or to his sons but rather to Samuel, an innocent child.
About the peace-making of Christ
"And they [the people] shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4).
How clearly the prophet sees Christ the Peacemaker! One by one, the prophet points out the dignity of the Savior. First of all, the prophet pointed Him out as the Lawgiver of the new law, a law for all the peoples on earth. After that the prophet pointed out His exaultedness above all heights, earthly and historical. And now, the prophet points Him out as the Peacemaker whose power and love will forge [beat] swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. Has this great prophecy about peace been fulfilled? Yes it has, in spite of the fact that wars still exist. Behold, wars among Christian peoples are not the same as wars among pagans. Pagans fought with pride while Christians fight with shame. Pagan faiths inhabited their heaven only with warriors and the Christian Faith promises heaven to the saints. As Christians, by their weakness, repeat certain other pagan sins, so they repeat the sin of waging war. However, God examines the heart and knows with what disposition the pagans sin and with what disposition the Christians sin. The Pharisees denied Christ, Peter also denied Him. But the Pharisees denied Him with unrepentant malice and Peter denied Him in shame and again, confessed Him with repentance.
However brethren, what can we say concerning the swords and spears of passions by which we kill our souls and the souls of our fellow men? O, when we would beat those swords into plowshares that deeply plow the souls and sow the noble seed of Christ in ourselves! And when we would beat the spears into pruning hooks to harvest the tares in our souls and to burn them! Then the peace of Christ would take up abode in the souls of all of us, just as it abided in the souls of the saints. Who then would even think about war against his neighbors and against neighboring peoples?
O how wondrous is the vision of Isaiah, the son of Amos, the prophet of God!
O Lord, beat the weapons of war in us into instruments of peace by the fire of Your word.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK