Prologue from Ochrid - December 11 [December 24]
1. Our Holy Father Daniel the Stylite.
Born in the village of Maroutha, near the city of Samosata in Mesopotamia, of Christian parents, Elias and Martha, he was a gift of God through the tearful prayers of his mother, who was barren, and was dedicated to God in his youth. He embraced the monastic state at the age of twelve and visited Simeon Stylites, receiving his blessing. Desirous of solitude, Daniel left his monastery and withdrew to an abandoned pagan temple on the shore of the Black Sea. He endured many assaults from demons, but overcame them all by prayer, endurance and the sign of the Cross. After that, he climbed up onto a pillar, where he remained till his death, enduring with equanimity both heat and cold, and attacks from both men and demons. Many disciples gathered around his pillar, and he led them towards eternal life by his example and his words. God rewarded His devoted servant with great grace in this life, and he worked many miracles of help to men, and foretold future events. People came to his pillar from all parts, seeking help and advice from the saint of God. Kings and patriarchs came to him, as well as simple folk. The Emperor Leo the Great used to bring his foreign guests, princes and nobles, and show them Daniel on his pillar: 'Here is the wonder of my empire!' Daniel foretold the day of his own death, taught his disciples as a father would his children, and took leave of them. At the time of his death, his disciples saw angels, prophets, apostles and martyrs around the pillar. Having lived in asceticism for eighty years, this angelic man entered into rest, and into the Kingdom of Christ, in 489.
2. Our Holy Father Luke the Stylite.
Luke lived in Constantinople during the reign of the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus. He fought as a soldier in the war against the Bulgars and witnessed the slaughter of many thousands, but he himself emerged from the war alive and unharmed. Seeing the finger of God in his deliverance, he scorned all the vanity of this world, took himself off to a pillar near Chalcedon and there spent forty-five years in asceticism, cleansing his soul from every sinful thought and desire. He entered into rest after a life pleasing to God, some time between 970 and 980, and went to the better life.
3. Our Holy Father Nikon the Withered.
He was enslaved by the Tartars as a monk of the Kiev Caves, and spent three years in captivity, fettered, tortured and abused. When his kinsmen brought the money to ransom him from his owner, he refused, saying: 'If the Lord had wanted me to be free, He would not have given me into the hands of these lawless men.' Once he told his owner that Christ would free him in three days. The Tartar thought that this meant that his slave was going to run away, so he cut his tendons below the knee. On the third day, though, Nikon was indeed carried by invisible hands to Kiev. After a time, the Tartar came to Kiev and recognised his former slave. He repented and was baptised, and the former owner became the servant and disciple of his erstwhile slave. Nikon, called the Withered because of the great emaciation of his body, was a great visionary and wonderworker. He entered peacefully into rest in the Lord on December 11th, 1101.
4. The Holy Martyr Meirax.
An Egyptian, he was tricked by the Mohammedan Emir into accepting Islam. He later repented, went into a mosque bearing a cross, declared himself a Christian and called upon the Moslems to forsake their errors and turn to the Truth. He was tortured and martyred in about 640.
The Lord preserveth all them that love him (Psalm 145:20). The lives of the saints confirm this as clearly as the sun. Certain envious priests complained to Patriarch Anatolius about St. Daniel, slandering him and saying that he was a magician. In essence, they were envious of the exceedingly young ascetic, who surpassed them in all the virtues and attracted many people to himself by his way of life. The patriarch summoned Daniel and examined him regarding his faith and his way of life. When Daniel told him everything, the patriarch rose from his seat, embraced him, praised him, and dismissed him in peace. Several days later, Patriarch Anatolius became ill, summoned Daniel and asked him to pray to God for his recovery. Daniel prayed to God, and the patriarch was immediately restored to health. Since the patriarch wanted to reward Daniel somehow, the young saint begged him to forgive his slanderers as his reward. To this the patriarch replied: "How can I not forgive them when they are the authors of so much good, namely, that I now know you and have received healing through you?" Truly, the Lord preserves all who love Him, and He turns to their good the evil that men conceive against them.
While St. Nicon the Dry was a slave among the Tartars, his master became sick and was at the point of death. Seeing that he would soon die, he ordered his sons to crucify Nicon at the head of his grave after his death. St. Nicon, discerning the future, saw that his cruel master would be baptized and prayed to God for his restoration to health. Contrary to all expectations, the Tartar recovered. Thus, by prayer, Nicon saved himself from physical death and his master from spiritual death.
Contemplate the covenant that God made with the righteous Noah (Genesis 9):
- How God blessed Noah and his sons after the flood;
- How He promised that there would never again be a universal flood;
- How He established the rainbow as a sign of that covenant.
And Lot … said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly (Genesis 19:7).
Lot, a righteous man among the unrighteous, lived in Sodom with his wife and two daughters. The faithful Abraham asked God: Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? (Genesis 18:23). God answered the faithful Abraham that not only would He not destroy the righteous, but if there were to be found ten righteous in that city, he would spare the entire city because of those ten. However, only one righteous man was found in Sodom-Lot-and he was a stranger. Just as before the flood there was only one righteous man in the world, Noah, so before the destruction of Sodom there was only one righteous man in that city, Lot. Lot was similar to his uncle Abraham in every virtue, notably in his obedience to God and his hospitality. The Sodomites hated him as a stranger and even more as a righteous man. Brethren, do not so wickedly, Lot exhorted them. He called the corrupt people his brethren in order to calm them and to remind them not to commit evil, in order to save them. But his brotherly words provoked them to even greater wrath. Lot was found worthy to have the angels of God visit him and deliver him from that corrupt city whose sins cried out to God. And the reprobates attacked the home of Lot to defile the sanctity of hospitality. Brethren, do not so wickedly, Lot implored them. But why would these brutes listen to a man if they did not fear God? That is why the angels of God punished them with blindness: And they smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great (Genesis 19:11). Then the angels led Lot from the city of the unrighteous and let loose a storm of brimstone and fire upon the city. Thus, the evil city perished, and the one righteous man in the city was saved. Better is one righteous man than a thousand sinners (Sirach 16:3).
O righteous God, Who never abandonest the righteous man, correct our unrighteousness and save us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK