Prologue from Ochrid - November 18 [December 1]
1. The Holy Martyr Plato.
From the town of Ancyra in Galatia, he was born and brought up a Christian. Even in his youth, he showed great perfection in every virtue. Plato did not conceal his faith in Christ the Lord, but preached it openly, denouncing idolaters for their bowing down to dead creatures in place of the living Creator. For this, he was brought before the governor, Agrippinus, for trial, and was harshly tortured by him. When the governor began to urge him to escape death and save his life by worshipping idols, Plato replied: 'There are two deaths: the temporal and the eternal; and there are two lives: the one transitory and the other without end.' Then Agrippinus put him to harsher torture. Among other tortures, he commanded that red-hot cannon balls be placed on his naked body, and that his flesh be cut into strips. 'Torture me more harshly', cried the martyr to the torturers, 'that your inhumanity and my endurance may be the more clearly seen.' When the torturer spoke to the martyr about the philosopher Plato, saying that. he was a pagan philosopher, he replied: 'I am not like Plato, nor he like me, except in our names. I learn and teach the wisdom that is of Christ, while he teaches the wisdom that is folly before God.' After that, Plato was thrown into prison, where he spent eighteen days without bread or water. When the warders marvelled that Plato could live without food for so long, he said to them: 'You are satiated by food, but I by holy prayer; you rejoice in wine, but I in Christ the true Vine.' He was finally beheaded with the sword in about 266, and received a wreath of eternal glory.
2. The Holy Martyrs Romanus and Barulas.
Holy Romanus was a deacon of the Church in Caesarea, and at one time preached the Gospel in Antioch. When there was an idolatrous feast, and the governor of Antioch, Asclepiades, was going into a pagan temple to offer sacrifice, Romanus stood in front of him and said: You sin, O Governor, when you go to the idols. They are not gods, for Christ is the only, true God.' The furious governor put Romanus to torture, and he as flogged and flayed without mercy' At that moment, he saw a child called Barulas, and said to Asclepiades: 'This little child has more understanding than you, old man, for he knows the true God, and you do not.' The governor began to question Barulas about his faith, and he confessed his faith in Christ the Lord as the one, true God, and his unbelief in the false idols. Then Asclepiades commanded that little Barulas be beheaded with the sword, and Romanus be strangled in the prison, which came to pass in the year 303. Thus both these martyrs inherited the Kingdom of Christ.
But whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matthew 5:39), commanded the Lord. This is the shortest and clearest teaching on humility. The evil demons fear nothing so much as a humble man fulfilling the Lord's commandments. There was a rich nobleman in Alexandria who had a young daughter into whom an evil spirit had entered, and the daughter had gone insane. Someone told the despairing father that none could heal his daughter except the monks who lived in the wilderness and came to Alexandria from time to time to sell baskets, their handiwork; but none of the monks would enter the rich nobleman's house if he told them why he was inviting them. It would be better for him to purchase baskets from the monks, then ask them to come to his house for payment. Then, when they entered the house, he could implore them to pray to God for all the members of the household, and thus obtain God's help to cure the maiden. The father obeyed and went to the marketplace on a certain day and met one of St. Macarius's disciples as he was selling baskets. The man agreed to buy the baskets, and invited the monk to his home to pay him. When the monk entered the home, the possessed daughter leaped at the monk and vigorously struck him on one cheek with her hand. The monk silently turned the other cheek. The evil spirit cried out in anguish and departed from the girl, and she became completely calm and rational. When the monk returned to the wilderness, he told the elders what had happened and they all glorified God, that He had given so much power to those who fulfill His commandments.
Contemplate the wondrous creation of the world (Genesis 1):
- How, on the fifth day, God created the living things that live in the waters and the fowls of the air;
- How God blessed them and said: Be fruitful and multiply.
On love that surpasses knowledge
… to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge (Ephesians 3:19).
The love that surpasses knowledge, that exceeds our understanding, is the love of Christ. No one can have even an inkling of the quality or the greatness of this love until Christ enters into him. Can anyone who has never tasted honey have any idea of its taste? Only when Christ enters into the heart of man by faith, does man know the inexpressible taste of the love of Christ-its sweet and intoxicating fragrance and incomparable comprehensiveness. Just as a man who has Christ in his heart touches the breadth, length, depth and height of the knowledge of divine wisdom, so this man with Christ in his heart also touches the limitless open seas of the divine love of Christ. O my brethren, how feeble are words when one needs to speak of the love of Christ-words are never weaker than in this situation. Indeed, what can one say before such astounding proofs of His love? He created us out of love, He was incarnate out of love, and out of love He accepted mockery and death for our sake. He opened the heavens for us out of love, and He revealed to us the immortal glory prepared for us! Even all this is only a part of the inexhaustible wealth, glory, beauty and life-creating sustenance that is the love of Christ. Oh, if only we too would be made worthy by faith, so that the Lord Jesus would enter our hearts, and that we would taste of His ineffable love!
O Lord Jesus Christ, our Life, our Wisdom and our Love, cleanse us and enter into us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK