Prologue from Ochrid - November 20 [December 3]
1. Our Holy Father Gregory of Decapolis.
He was born in Isaurian Decapolis of eminent and devout parents, Sergius and Maria. When he had finished his schooling, his parents desired him to marry, but he fled to the desert and became a monk. He lived in various places: in Byzantium and Rome, and on Mount Olympus. Wherever he found himself, he made men marvel by his asceticism and miracles. It happened at times that his face was lit up with heavenly light, and that angels of God appeared to him; he looked upon the beauty of the angels and heard their blessed singing. He lived a long and godly life, and died peacefully in Constantinople in the ninth century, his soul entering into the joy of his Lord.
2. St Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople.
A disciple of St John Chrysostom, he was consecrated Bishop of Cyzicus in 426, and in 435 was chosen as Patriarch of Constantinople. He governed the Church of God as a wise hierarch. In his time, two unusual events occurred. The first was the translation of the relics of St John Chrysostom from Comana to Constantinople, at the desire of both the Emperor and the Patriarch, the Emperor Theodosius the Younger being at that time on the throne, with his sister Pulcheria.
The second event was the earthquake in Constantinople and the surrounding country. Many of the greatest and most beautiful buildings fell in the terrible earthquake. Then the Patriarch, together with the Emperor and many of the clergy, the nobles and the people, made a procession. While they were praying in this procession, a child was miraculously lifted up high into the air, finally becoming invisible to the eye. It then returned, and landed gently on the ground. Asked where it had been, the child replied that it had been lifted up to heaven among the angels, and had heard them sing: 'Holy God, holy and mighty, holy and immortal, have mercy on us!' Hearing this song, all the people in the procession began to sing it, and the earthquake ceased at once. From that time, this wonderful hymn was adopted by the Church. The child soon died, and was buried in the Church of St Irene. St Proclus served as hierarch for twenty years, and entered peacefully into rest in the Lord in 446.
3. The Holy Martyrs Eustace, Thespesius and Anatolius.
These three were brothers from Nicomedia, of pagan parents, Philotheus and Eusebia, who later received the true Faith from Anthimus, Bishop of Nicomedia, together with their three sons. Philotheus was ordained priest. When he and his wife had died, a terrible persecution broke out under the Emperor Maximian, and Philotheus's three sons were taken for trial. Tried, interrogated and tortured in various ways, they were finally condemned to death. Angels appeared to them many times in the prison, giving them manna for food and filling their youthful hearts with strength and courage in endurance. When they were led out to the scaffold, two of their friends, Palladius and Acacius, came up to them and began to speak with them. While they were still talking, the holy martyrs gave their souls into God's hands. The soldiers then beheaded their dead bodies, and carried them off to show the judge. They suffered for Christ the Lord in about 313, and entered into the eternal Kingdom of Christ.
4. St Isaac, Archbishop of Armenia.
He was born in Constantinople at the time that his father was an envoy from the King of Armenia to the Byzantine court. He was the tenth Archbishop of Armenia, and as such governed the Church for fifty years. His episcopate was distinguished, among other things, by the translation of the Scriptures into Armenian. He was told in a vision that Armenia would, one day, fall away from the pure, Orthodox faith. This great hierarch entered peacefully into rest in 440, and went to the Lord.
5. The Three Holy Persian Maidens.
IN the days of King Sapor, these three maidens were persecuted as Christian and finally beheaded with knives. Three fig trees grew over their graves, the fruits of which healed all manner of pains and ills.
No mortal has interpreted the Epistles of the Apostle Paul with greater love and depth than St. John Chrysostom. Had St. Paul himself interpreted them, he could not have interpreted them better. Behold, history tells us that it was Paul himself who interpreted them through the mind and the pen of Chrysostom. When St. Proclus was a novice under Chrysostom, during the time that he was patriarch, it was his duty to announce visitors. A certain nobleman was slandered before Emperor Arcadius and the emperor had expelled him from the court. This nobleman came to implore Chrysostom to intercede with the emperor on his behalf. Proclus went to announce him to the patriarch but, looking through the partly opened door, saw a man bent over the patriarch, whispering something in his ear while the patriarch wrote. This continued until dawn. Meanwhile, Proclus told the nobleman to come back the next evening, while he himself remained in amazement, wondering who the man with the patriarch was, and how he managed to enter the patriarch's chamber unannounced. The second night the same thing happened again, and Proclus was in still greater amazement. The third night the same thing happened again, and Proclus was in the greatest amazement. When Chrysostom asked him if the nobleman had come by, he replied that he had already been waiting for three nights, but that he couldn't announce him because of the elderly, balding stranger who had been whispering in the patriarch's ear for three nights. The astonished Chrysostom said that he did not remember anyone entering to see him during the previous three nights. He asked his novice what the stranger looked like, and Proclus pointed to the icon of the Holy Apostle Paul, saying that the man was like him. Therefore, it was the Apostle Paul himself who was directing the mind and pen of his greatest interpreter.
Contemplate the wondrous creation of the world (Genesis 1):
- How the Holy Trinity took counsel together about the creation of man;
- How God created man in His own image.
On behavior in accordance with one's calling
… that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering (Ephesians 4:1-2).
Be not proud, be not angry, be not faint-hearted; for these are unworthy of a Christian calling. This calling is so elevated and wonderful that it is difficult for a man to safeguard himself from pride; yet it is difficult to keep oneself above faint-heartedness when dangers and losses occur. Against these three unhealthy states, the Apostle emphasizes three healthy states: against pride, lowliness; against anger, meekness; against faint-heartedness, longsuffering. It must be said that these three virtues-lowliness, meekness and longsuffering-do not express in full measure the loftiness of the Christian calling. But then, nothing in this world can fully express the height of the Christian calling. The preciousness and richness of this calling cannot be seen here on earth: it is like a closed chest that a man carries through this world, but only opens it and avails himself of its riches in the other world. Only someone who could raise himself to the highest heavens and see Christ the Lord in glory with the angels and the saints could assess the loftiness of the Christian calling; for there is the victorious assembly of all God's chosen ones from earth who were made worthy of this exceedingly high honor.
O Lord Jesus Christ our God, Thy name is the name most dear to us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK