Prologue from Ochrid - July 26 [August 8]
1. The Hieromartyr Hermolaus.
He was a priest in Nicomedia in the time of the Emperor Maximian, and was with the twenty thousand martyrs condemned by the Emperor to be burned in their church (see December 28th). Hermolaus somehow escaped death on that occasion, together with two other priests, Hermippus and Hermocrates. Hermolaus baptised St Panteleimon, with whom he was brought to trial, tortured and finally beheaded. Hermippus and Hermocrates suffered with them, and they were all crowned with wreaths of victory and glory in the Kingdom of Christ. They suffered with honour in about 304.
2. Our Holy Mother, the Martyr Paraskeva.
Born in Rome of Christian parents, she was brought up from her earliest youth in the Christian faith and gave herself wholeheartedly to the fulfilling of God's commandments in her life. She brought others to the Way by means of her true and deep faith and devout life. When her parents died, Paraskeva gave all her goods away to the poor and received the monastic habit. As a nun, she preached the truth of Christ with ever more burning zeal, not hiding from anyone, even though the Christian faith was at that time subject to bloody persecution by the Roman authorities. Wicked Jews denounced Paraskeva for preaching a forbidden faith, and she was brought to trial before the Emperor Antoninus. All the Emperor's flattery was unavailing in shaking the faith of this servant of God. She was then put to torture by fire, and a white-hot helmet was placed on her head, but God saved her miraculously and she escaped and left Rome. She again began to go from city to city, there to bring the pagan people to the true Faith. In two more cities she was brought before princes and judges, and tortured for her Lord, performing on these occasions great miracles by the power of God and quickly recovering from her wounds. The pagans, as ever, called her miracles magic, and ascribed her recovery to the power and mercy of their gods. St Paraskeva once said to a prince who was torturing her: 'it is not your gods, O Prince, who heal me, but my Christ, the true God.' She was finally beheaded by a Prince Tarasius. Thus gloriously ended the fruitful life of this holy woman. Her relics were later taken to Constantinople. She suffered for Christ in the second century.
3. Our Holy Father Moses the Ugrian.
He was at the court of the young Prince Boris of Russia. Then, when the godless Svyatopolk murdered Boris, Moses escaped and fled to Kiev. A little later, he was taken to Poland as a slave by King Boleslav, and sold for 1,000 gold pieces to a young and depraved widow, the wife of one of Boleslav's dead generals. This wicked woman tried to turn Moses to debauchery, but he would not be turned, having vowed to live chastely before the Lord. She then suggested marriage to him, but he refused. Moses secretly received monastic profession from a monk of the Holy Mountain, and appeared before his owner in his monastic habit. She bound him, and ordered that he be flogged and his private parts cut off. He spent five full years in hopeless enslavement to this evil woman, five years of pain and torture. But suddenly King Boleslav perished in a rebellion, in which this woman was also killed. Then Moses was free to go back to Kiev, where, with St Antony, he gave himself to prayer and silence. Overcoming all his vices, he helped many to free themselves from theirs; and his holy relics helped many (see the life of St John the Longsuffering on July 18th). After ten years of silence in the Caves, St Moses entered into rest on July 26th, 1043, and went to the eternal and virginal Kingdom of Christ.
Not one passion is conquered without a great struggle. The Holy Fathers have referred to adulterous passion as death. When the adulterer is saved from an adulterous passion it is as though he resurrected from the dead. For those who live in the world the passion of adultery is inflamed principally by seeing and for those who live a life of asceticism in the wilderness that passion is inflamed by thoughts and by imagination. Saint Sarah, a great female ascetic, was tortured by the insane passion of adultery for thirty years. She always defeated it by prayer and drove it away from her. At one time, the foul insanity of adultery came to her in bodily form and said to her: "Sarah, you have defeated me!" Sarah humbly answered: "I have not defeated you but the Lord Christ has defeated you." From that time on, the thought of adultery left her forever. When Saint Pimen was asked how can a man struggle against the adulterous insanity, he replied: "If man surpresses his stomach and tongue then he will be able to rule over himself." St. Anthony said that there exists three kinds of movements in the body: "First, the natural movement, second, unrestrained in food, and third, from the demons." Again, others have said that the vice of adultery is strengthened by anger and pride. However, all agree that along with man's sobriety and effort the help of God is necessary in order that this repulsive passion be uprooted completely. And that it is possible for man to preserve himself in purity, witness, among many others, St. Moses of Urgin, who lived fifty years in the world and ten years in the monastery, altogether a total of sixty years in completely virginal purity.
To contemplate the miraculous victory over the Amorites (Joshua 24):
- How God sent hornets against the Amorites and they all became confused and were defeated by the Israelites;
- How mighty is the Lord God and how, with the help of little things, He destroys the prideful unjust ones.
About the misfortune of those who come to Christ and then apostatize from Him
"For if after they have escaped the pollution's of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them then the beginning" (2 Peter 2:20).
Brethren, bright is the sun but brighter still are the words of the apostle. Brethren, the sun illumines bodies but it cannot illumine souls, while the apostolic words illumine the souls. The apostle clearly sees the heights and depths of a soul and he illumines it for us out of fervent love, in order to lead us on the pure path of salvation. In a few words, he gives us two great instructions. The first instruction: one cannot flee from the impurity of this world in any other way except through the knowledge of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. First of all, without knowledge of the Lord Jesus one is unable to see or to know the impurity of this world, and second, man is unable to be cleansed from this impurity without the knowledge of the Lord Jesus. The second instruction: when man flees from the impurity of this world by knowing the Lord Jesus and, again, becomes entangled in it, then for him "the latter end is worse than the beginning." For knowing the light, he again returns into the darkness and the darkness becomes even darker, and, recognizing justice, he again sinks into injustice and his punishment is more severe; and recognizing holiness he again falls into beastliness and the animal is still more furious. The holy apostle does not hesitate to equate this turning back with a dog who returns to his own vomit and with the sow, who having been washed returns to wallow in the mire.
Whoever recognized the Lord Jesus Christ also recognized all that is needed for his salvation; he received a binocular to see the impurity, lies and injustice and received the power to flee from all of that. Therefore let him not turn back so that eternal death does not swallow him up. Let him not tempt God countless times. For if God was quick to save him the first time He will be slower the second time, and even slower the third time. My brethren, illuminating are the apostolic words.
O Lord Jesus, Savior, Almighty and All-Good, do not depart from us in the hours of our weaknesses and deliver us when the impurities of this world again draw us to themselves.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK