Prologue from Ochrid - January 30 [February 12]
The Three Hierarchs: Saint Basil The Great, Saint Gregory The Theologian And Saint John Chrysostom
Each of these saints have their own feast day. St. Basil the Great, January 1; St. Gregory the Theologian, January 25; and St. John Chrysostom, January 27. This combined feast day, January 30, was instituted in the eleventh century during the reign of Emperor Alexius Comnenus. At one time a debate arose among the people concerning who of the three is the greatest? Some extolled Basil because of his purity and courage; others extolled Gregory for his unequaled depth and lofty mind in theology; still others extolled Chrysostom because of his eloquence and clarity in expounding the Faith. Thus some were called Basilians, others Gregorgians, and the third were called Johannites. This debate was settled by Divine Providence to the benefit of the Church and to an even greater glory of the three saints. Bishop John of Euchaita (June 14) had a vision in a dream: At first, all three of these saints appeared to him separately in great glory and indescribable beauty, and after that all three appeared together. They said to him, "As you see, we are one in God and there is nothing contradictory in us; neither is there a first or a second among us." The saints also advised Bishop John that he write a common service for them and to order a common feast day of celebration. Following this wonderful vision, the debate was settled in this manner: January 30 would be designated as the common feast of these three hierarchs. The Greeks consider this feast not only an ecclesiastical feast but their greatest national school holiday.
The Priestly-Martyr Hippolytus, Bishop Of Rome
Hippolytus suffered for the Faith during the reign of Claudius. When the virgin Chrysa was unmercifully tortured for Christ in Rome, St. Hippolytus interceded on her behalf before the torturers and denounced them. Because of that protest, Hippolytus also was brought to court, was condemned and, after prolonged tortures, was sentenced to death. They bound his hands and feet and drowned him in the sea. Along with Hippolytus and Chrysa, twenty other martyrs also suffered. St. Hippolytus suffered in the year 269 A.D.
The Holy Martyr Theophilus The New
As a commander of the Emperor Constantine and Empress Irene, Theophilus was enslaved by the Hagarites and was kept in prison for four years. When he refused all pressures of the Muslims to abandon the Christian Faith, Theophilus was beheaded in the year 784 A.D. and took up habitation with the Lord.
Saint Peter, Tsar Of Bulgaria
Peter was the son of Simeon who was a great admirer of St. John of Rila. He gained independence for the Bulgarian Church from Constantinople and preserved Orthodoxy in Bulgaria from the Bogomils. After an unsuccessful war with the Hungarians and Russians, Peter died in 967 A.D. in the fifty-sixth year of his life.
Here is an example of how emperors seek counsel from the saints and how the saints avoid vanity and riches and how they counsel emperors. The Orthodox Bulgarian Tsar Peter set off with his retinue toward the Rila mountain driven by the insatiable desire to see St. John of Rila and to benefit from his instruction. The tsar sent men ahead to inform the saint of his arrival, but the saint did not agree to meet with the tsar. The saddened tsar again sent some men with foodstuffs and an ample amount of gold as well as a petition requesting the saint to write some counsel for him. John, accepted the edible things but returned the gold, not even wanting to touch it, replied to the tsar: "If you desire the heavenly kingdom, be merciful as the heavenly Father. Do not trust in injustice and do not be covetous; be meek, quiet and be accessible to everyone. Do not accept praises from your noblemen. Let your purple robe radiate with virtues. May the remembrance of death never depart from your soul. Humble yourself before the feet of Mother Church; bow your head before her prime-hierarchs so that the King of kings, seeing your sincerity, reward you with goodness such as never entered into the heart of man." Receiving that letter, the tsar kissed it, and after that read it frequently.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as a Friend of children:
- As a Friend of the angels in heaven who, like children, are innocent, obedient and without passions;
- As a Friend of little children on earth, who easily and simply believe in God;
- As a Friend to the saints, who by labor and grace are purified from sin and become innocent as children.
About how men must become like children in order to be sons of God
"Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (St. Matthew 18:3).
Thus speaks the Lord and His word is holy and true. What kind of advantage do children have over adults? They have three advantages: in faith, in obedience and in forgiveness. The child asks the parent about everything and whatever the parent replies, the child believes its parent. The child is obedient to its parent and easily subordinates its will to the will of the parent. The child is forgiving even though he provokes easily, but the child forgives quickly. Our Lord requires these three from all men i.e., Faith, Obedience and Forgiveness. He seeks that men believe in Him unconditionally, as a child believes in its parent. To be unconditionally obedient to Him as a child is to its parent and to be forgiving in relation to one anther, not to remember evil and not to render evil for evil.
Faith, Obedience and Forgiveness are the three main characteristics of a child's soul. In addition to that, comes purity and joy. A child is not greedy; a child is not lustful; and a child is not vain glorious. The child has an eye unspoiled by vices and a joy unspoiled by worries.
O brethren, who can make us over again into children? No one, except the one Christ. He can make us over into children and help us to be born again and, that by His example, by His teaching and by the power of His Holy Spirit.
O Lord Jesus, perfect in obedience and meekness, Eternal Child of the Heavenly Father help us to become as infants by faith in You, by obedience toward You and by forgiveness one toward the other.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK