Prologue from Ochrid - November 26 [December 9]
1. Our Holy Father Alypius the Stylite.
Born in Hadrianopolis, a city in Paphlagonia, he was from his youth dedicated to the service of God. As a deacon, he served in the church in that city with Bishop Theodore. But, desiring a solitary life of prayer and meditation, Alypius withdrew to a Greek cemetery outside the city, from which people fled as from a place of terror, as demonic visions had been seen there. Here he erected a Cross, and built a church in honour of St Euphemia, who had appeared to him in a dream. Near the church, he built a high pillar, climbed up onto it and spent fifty-three years there in fasting and prayer. Neither the mockery of men nor the evil demons could drive him away or shake his purpose. This saint endured endless assaults from the demons. They not only tried to terrify him with demonic apparitions, but also stoned him and gave him no peace day nor night for a long time. But Alypius courageously defended himself against this diabolical power with the sign of the Cross and the name of Jesus. Finally, the vanquished demons left him and fled, and men began to revere him and to come to him for his prayers, comfort, teaching and healing. Two monasteries were built beside his pillar, on one side for men and on the other for women. His mother and sisters lived in the women's monastery. St Alypius guided the monks and nuns from his pillar by word and example, and shone like the sun in the sky for them all, showing them the way of salvation. This man of God had such grace that he was often bathed in heavenly light, and a pillar of this light stretched above him to heaven. Alypius was a great and mighty wonderworker, both in his lifetime and after his death. Living for a hundred years, he entered into rest in the year 640, in the time of Emperor Heraclius. Of his holy relics, the head is preserved in the monastery of Koutloumousiou on the Holy Mountain.
2. Our Holy Father James the Solitary.
A Syrian, he was a disciple of St Maron (Feb. 14th) and a contemporary of St Simeon Stylites. He lived in asceticism under the open sky and fed on soaked lentils. He performed great wonders, even raising the dead in the name of Christ. The Emperor Leo asked him for his thoughts on the Council of Chalcedon. He entered peacefully into rest in the year 457.
3. Our Holy Father Stylianus.
From Paphlagonia, he was a fellow-countryman and contemporary of St Alypius. He had a great love for the Lord Jesus and, because of this, gave himself to strict asceticism. He rejected all things, only to have an undivided love for his Lord. At the time of his death, an angel appeared to take his soul, and his face became radiant like the sun. He was a great wonderworker both before and after his death, and was of special help to sick children and childless parents.
4. Our Holy Father Nikon, the Preacher of Repentance.
He was born in Armenia. Drawn by the Lord's words: 'He who forsakes father or mother will receive an hundredfold, and inherit eternal life' (Matt. 19:29), Nikon indeed left all for the sake of Christ and went to a monastery, where he became a monk. When he had become perfected in all the virtues, he left the monastery and went to preach the Gospel to the people. He incessantly cried: 'Repent!', and thus became known as 'the Preacher of Repentance'. As a preacher, he covered the whole of Anatolia and the Peloponnese, performing many wonders in the name of Christ. He went peacefully to his beloved Lord in Sparta in 998.
5. St Innocent of Irkiatsk.
He died in 1731, and his wonderworking relics were discovered in 1804.
Many learned pagans entered the Church of Christ and were baptized precisely because the Church preached immortal life as a proven fact and not as a speculation of human reason. St. Clement of Rome had studied all of Greek philosophy, yet his soul remained unsatisfied and empty. As a young man of twenty-four, he desired to know with all his soul if there were another, better life than this. Philosophy gave him only the thoughts of various men, but no real proof. He mourned for his lost parents and brothers and was tormented constantly by not knowing if he would be able to see them in some other life. The All-seeing God directed his footsteps and he met a man who spoke to him of Christians, and of their belief in life beyond the grave. This so stirred the young Clement that he immediately moved from Rome to Judea so that there, in the cradle of the Christian Faith itself, he might come to uncontestable knowledge regarding life beyond the grave. When he heard the preaching of the Apostle Peter, based entirely on Christ's Resurrection from the dead, Clement despised the conjectures of philosophy and sincerely adopted the Christian Faith. He was baptized, and dedicated himself totally to the service of the Church of God. As it was then, so it is today-he who has a strong faith in the resurrected Christ, and a clear knowledge of life beyond death and judgment, easily decides to pay the price for entry into that life; that is, the fulfilling of all God's commandments.
Contemplate the wondrous creation of the world (Genesis 2):
- How the Lord God created man, and woman from man;
- How Adam and Eve were naked and were not ashamed, for they did not yet know sin.
On the purpose of the apportionment of gifts, ministries and callings
… For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).
This is why the Holy Spirit apportioned the gifts, and made some apostles, others prophets, others evangelists, and others pastors and teachers: that the saints, the faithful Christians, become perfected. As in a household, honor and service are apportioned, and there is honor and service appropriate to parents, honor and service appropriate to adult sons and daughters, and honor and service appropriate to young children and servants-yet all serve together for the benefit of one another; so it is in God's house, the Holy Church: with every honor is a corresponding service, and the services of each are beneficial to all. Thus the body of Christ, God's Holy Church, is gradually and wisely built. Each of the faithful, assisted by the others, grows and develops as a member of this body; grows and develops in holiness and purity, and in a corresponding measure and proportion to the whole great body. The whole body, from the beginning to the end of time-especially from the Incarnation of God the Word on earth until the Dread Judgment-is the Holy Church of God. The body is worthy of immortality, the building is worthy of God. The eye of man cannot see it from end to end, nor can the mind of man comprehend it. The building is of chosen materials: living stones, eyes and hearts, without roughness or ugliness, without corruption or change. Everything is in its place, everything is most beautiful in its entirety and in its parts. Here, brethren, is the goal of our journey! Here is the meaning of our burning in the furnace of suffering! Here is our life, better than all our plans and lovelier than all our desires.
O Lord Jesus, our man-loving Lord, do not cast us away as inferior material, but polish us and build us into Thine immortal body.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK