Prologue from Ochrid - November 27 [December 10]
1. The Holy Martyr James the Persian.
Born in the Persian town of Elapa, or Vilat, of Christian parents, he was brought up in the Christian faith and married a Christian wife. The Persian king, Yezdegeherd, loved James for his gifts and for his skill, and made him a noble at his court. Flattered by the king, James was deluded and offered sacrifice to idols, which the king also worshipped. His mother and wife, hearing of this, wrote him a reproachful letter in which they grieved over him as an apostate and one spiritually dead, begging him at the end of the letter to repent and return to Christ. Moved by this letter, James repented bitterly, and courageously confessed his faith in Christ the Lord before the king. The furious king condemned him to death, and added that his body was to be cut to pieces, little by little, until he breathed his last. The executioners fulfilled this command of the accursed king to the letter, and first cut off James's fingers, then his toes, his legs and arms, his shoulders and finally his head. During the entire process, the repentant martyr gave thanks to God. A fragrance came from his wounds as of cypress. Thus this wonderful man repented of his sin, and his soul went to Christ his God in the heavenly Kingdom. He suffered in about 400. His head is to be found in Rome, and a part of his relics in Portugal, where he is commemorated on May 22nd.
2. The Seventeen Holy Fathers Martyred in India.
These Christian monks suffered in India under King Abenner. Inflamed with anger against the elder Barlaam for having baptised his son Joasaph, King Abenner sent men in pursuit of Barlaam. The pursuers did not catch him, but seized seventeen other monks and brought them before the king. The king condemned them to death, and their eyes were first put out, their tongues cut out and their arms and legs broken before they were beheaded with the sword. But the Christian faith in the Indian kingdom was only the more strengthened by the blood of these glorious soldiers of Christ the Lord.
3. Our Holy Father Romanus the Wonderworker.
He lived in asceticism in the vicinity of Antioch. He never kindled a fire in his cell, or lit a candle. He died peacefully, and was a wonderworker both during his lifetime and after his death. He helps childless women when they ask his aid.
4. Our Holy Father Pinuphrius.
A contemporary of St Cassian (Feb. 19th), he was a great Egyptian ascetic. He lived in the fourth century and followed the ascetic life in various places, fleeing the praise of men. He had many disciples, who strove to emulate the lofty example of their teacher.
5. Our Holy Father Nathanael.
A Nitrian monk, he prayed to God both day and night, and was enlightened by pondering on the things of God. He did not cross the threshold of his cell for thirty-eight years. He entered into rest in the Lord in the second half of the sixth century.
When the executioners severed the thumb of St. James's right hand, he said: "Even a vine is pruned in this manner, so that in time a young branch may grow." At the severing of his second finger, he said: "Receive also, O Lord, the second branch of Thy sowing." At the severing of his third finger, he said: "I bless the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit." At the severing of his fourth finger, he said: "O Thou who acceptest the praise of the four beasts [symbols of the four evangelists], accept the suffering of the fourth finger." At the severing of the fifth finger, he said: "May my rejoicing be fulfilled as that of the five wise virgins at the wedding feast." During the severing of the sixth finger, he said: "Thanks be to Thee, O Lord, Who at the sixth hour stretched out Thy most pure arms on the Cross, that Thou hast made me worthy to offer Thee my sixth finger." At the severing of the seventh finger, he said: "Like David who praised Thee seven times daily, I praise Thee through the seventh finger severed for Thy sake." At the severing of the eighth finger, he said: "On the eighth day Thou Thyself, O Lord, wast circumcised." At the severing of the ninth finger, he said: "At the ninth hour, Thou didst commend Thy spirit into the hands of Thy Father, O my Christ, and I offer Thee thanks during the suffering of my ninth finger." At the severing of the tenth finger, he said: "On a ten-stringed harp I sing to Thee, O God, and thank Thee that Thou hast made me worthy to endure the severing of the ten fingers of my two hands, for the Ten Commandments written on two tablets." Oh, what wonderful faith and love! Oh, the noble soul of this knight of Christ!
Contemplate the wonderful Paradise of God (Genesis 2):
- How most beautiful was Paradise, both within and without;
- How all living things in Paradise were unconditionally submissive to man and man to God;
- How most beautiful were the first man and woman in Paradise, conscious of God's presence and of God's authority.
On the perfect man
… Till we all come in the unity of the Faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13).
The unity of the Faith, brethren, and the knowledge of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ the Savior, unites two men into one man, a thousand people into one man, and many millions of people into one man. The unity of Faith in Christ the Lord, and the true Orthodox knowledge of Christ the Lord, unites men more strongly than blood, more strongly than language, more strongly than all external circumstances and material bonds. When many souls think as one and the same, will as one and the same, and desire as one and the same, then these many souls are as one soul, one great and mighty soul. Physical differences in this case mean little, and are hardly to be taken into consideration. Thus, the same souls are built up into a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. The parts of the perfect whole are themselves perfect. Every Christian soul is a part of the perfect man. Christ is the Perfect Man of Whom the Church is the Mystical Body. He fills everyone who believes in Him with Himself, according to the measure of the stature of each. He is the fullness beyond all fullness, the living fount that flows and fills every worthy space. Inasmuch as a man empties himself of everything that is not of Christ, Christ will enter into him and fill him accordingly.
O my brethren, deep humility is needed in addition to strong faith, so that the Living Water may be poured into us. Even in nature, we see that water easily irrigates the lowlands. So, the more lowly our humiliation is before the Lord Jesus, the more willingly He pours Himself into us, irrigates us with His life-giving Self, and fills us as His vessel with the fullness of His immortality.
O Lord Jesus, Thou fullness of life, wisdom, beauty and sweetness, help us to humble ourselves before Thy Divine Majesty, that we may be made worthy of Thy visitation.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK