Prologue from Ochrid - August 10 [August 23]
1. The Holy Martyrs Laurence the Archdeacon and Pope Sixtus, and others with them.
When Pope Stephen (see August 2nd) was killed, St Sixtus was installed in his place. Sixtus was an Athenian, first a philosopher and later a Christian. At that time, the Roman bishops were being killed one after the other in such quick succession that to be made Bishop of Rome was tantamount to a death sentence. The Emperor Valerian was determined to stamp out Christianity, and Pope Sixtus was quickly brought to trial with two of his deacons, Felicicius and Agapitus. When they were being taken off to prison, Laurence said to the Pope: 'Where are you going, Father, without your son? Whither, O Bishop, without your archdeacon?' The Pope consoled him with the prophecy that he would undergo yet greater suffering for Christ, and follow him very soon. And indeed, as soon as Sixtus and the two deacons had been beheaded, Laurence was arrested. He had been inspired to set in order both his own affairs and those of the Church. As treasurer, he had taken all the Church's valuables to the house of a widower, Cyriacus. At that time, he healed Cyriacus of terrible pains in the head by the touch of his hand, and restored the sight of a blind man, Crescention. Thrown into prison, Laurence there healed an elderly prisoner, Lucillus, of blindness and baptised him. Seeing this, the warder, Hippolytus, also received baptism, and later suffered for Christ (see August 13th). As Laurence would not deny Christ, but strongly counselled the Emperor Valerian to abandon his false gods, he was beaten on the face with stones and on his body with scorpions (chains with poisoned teeth). A soldier, Romanus, who was present at the torture, came to belief in Christ and was immediately beheaded. They finally put Laurence on an iron grid and lit a fire underneath. Roasting in the fire, Laurence gave thanks to God, and mocked the Emperor for his paganism. When he had given his pure and heroic soul to God, Hippolytus took his body by night, first to the house of Cyriacus and then to a cave, where he buried it. St Laurence suffered, together with the others, in 258.
2. St Hiron.
He was a Christian philosopher. St Gregory the Theologian mentions him in his books. He entered peacefully into rest and went to the Lord.
How can we overcome the enmity of our enemies? By renunciation, meekness and prayer. Renunciation in everything, except in faith and purity of life, meekness and prayer, always and always. St. Ambrose writes: "This is the weapon of the righteous ones that in retreating they conquer, just as the skillful archers have the custom that by fleeing, they shoot those stronger than themselves." A brother was offended by his friend but, nevertheless, desiring peace with him, went to him to be reconciled. However, his friend did not even want to open the door for him and scolding him from within, chased him away from his house. The brother then complained to a spiritual father who said to him: "Going to your friend to be reconciled, all along the way, you condemned him in your thoughts and justified yourself. I counsel you, even though your friend sinned against you, establish the thought in yourself that you have sinned against him and, in this manner, go to him and in your thoughts justify him and condemn yourself." Thus, the brother proceeded. And what happened? Just as the brother approached the house of his friend, he opened wide the door, ran up to him and embraced the offended brother and made peace with him.
To contemplate the misery, which overcame the Philistines because of the captured Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 5:6; 1 Kings 5:6 LXX):
- How the people were afflicted with emerods [hemorrhoids] and mice in the crops wherever the Philistines set down the Ark of the Covenant;
- How the frightened Philistines themselves returned the Ark of the Covenant to the land of Israel;
- How the sacred thing of God punishes those who keep it [the Ark] in an unclean land of idols or in a heart, unclean by passions.
About the weakness of sinful ones
"As for my people, children are their oppressors and women rule over them" (Isaiah 3:12).
All that is of God is most beautiful and most wise. Everything created by God travels obediently along the path for which God has ordained it. The stars move, animals live and the atmospheric currents conform - all according to the order established by God. Only man, the most intelligent creature, frequently falls into ignorance and leaving the path of God, invents new paths according to his thinking. Because of that, it could happen that instead of the elders, children become leaders and instead of the husbands, wives begin to rule. When children rule oppression reigns and when women rule, disorder usually reigns. When this is permitted by God because this does not occur without the sin of a people and without the permission of God then the people find themselves under punishment for their sins, in the same way as when war comes and the enemy subdues the land, for all oppression is war and every disorder is a punishment for sin.
Just as oppression and disorder are able to reign in a nation so, in the same way, they are able to reign in the soul of man. Immature and impious thoughts represent children and physical sensual theorizing, represent women. When immature and impious thoughts prevail, then they oppress man and drag him from evil to evil as when children judge; and when physical theorizing prevails over the spiritual, masculine wisdom, which is from God, then they rule over man as an evil woman. Under "women", the prophet understands not only females, but also men with women's weaknesses.
So that children's ignorance and women's whims do not overtake man, or a nation, it is necessary to strictly adhere to the law of God, prescribed by God for men as all created things adhere to the law of God, prescribed for them by God.
O Lord, Creator and our Lawgiver, illumine us and strengthen us. Illumine us with the grace of the Spirit that we may always know Your law and strengthen us with the power of the Spirit to always adhere to Your law.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK