Prologue from Ochrid - February 6 [February 19]
St Bucolus, Bishop of Smyrna.
He was a disciple of St John the Theologian, who consecrated him bishop of the city of Smyrna. There were few baptised Christians in Smyrna, and St Bucolus shone like a lamp in the pagan darkness. He was adorned with all the virtues, especially gentleness and meekness. Before his death, Bucolus named the famous Polycarp as his successor in the episcopate, then he peacefully departed this life and went to the Lord.
The Holy Martyr Fausta.
Suffering for Christ in the reign of the Emperor Maximian (between 305 and 311), she made her torturers marvel by her heroism and brought them to the Christian faith. These were the eighty-year-old pagan priest Evilasius and Maximus the Eparch. When the judge threatened Fausta with even harsher tortures, she asked him to have a picture of her made, showing her enduring all the tortures with which he was threatening her. When it was ready and shown to her, holy Fausta said: 'As this picture feels no torture, so my body does not feel the torture of your punishments, for my soul is established in the Lord.' The judge cast her into a cauldron of boiling water, where this thirteen-year-old girl departed this life with prayer on her lips, and went to Paradise.
The Holy Martyr Dorothea.
An eminent and beautiful maiden from Caesarea in Cappadocia. The administrator of the district, Sapricius, gave Dorothea into the care of two pagan sisters, Christina and Kallista, to turn her from Christ. But it happened the other way about: Dorothea succeeded in bringing both sisters to the Christian faith. Sapricius in fury ordered that the sisters be tied together back to back, cast into a vat of pitch and then set alight. He then condemned Dorothea to death. She listened to the sentence with joy and cried out: 'I thank Thee, O Christ, Thou Lover of souls, that Thou callest me to Thy Paradise and leadest me to Thy most holy court!' A nobleman, Theophilus, who was present laughed at these words and called out to Dorothea: 'Here, you bride of Christ; send me apples and wild roses from your bridegroom's paradise!' 'Yes; I'll do that!', the martyr replied. When Dorothea was at the place of execution, a handsome youth suddenly appeared with three marvellous apples and three red wild roses. This was an angel from God, and it was winter-time. At Dorothea's bidding, the angel took them to Theophilus and said: 'Here is what you asked for.' When Theophilus received the message and saw the gift, he was very much afraid. Everything within him turned topsy-turvy, and he rejected paganism and became a Christian. He was tortured and killed for Christ, and his soul quickly followed Dorothea's to the Lord's Paradise.
St Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople.
A great light in the Church, he was a kinsman of the Emperor and grandson of the famous Patriarch Tarasius. He was a forceful protector of the Church from the power-seeking of the Pope and other Roman perverters of the Faith. He passed through all the ranks from layman to patriarch in six days, being made Patriarch at Christmas, 858. He departed this life in the Lord in about 895.
Our Holy Fathers Barsanuphius and John.
Great ascetics from Gaza, gifted with insight and wonder-working power, they left us a well-known book of answers to various questions on the spiritual life. They lived in the sixth century.
The Holy Martyrs Martha and Mary and their brother Lycarion.
All three were crucified for Christ, then stabbed to death with a lance.
St. Barsanuphius, who for fifty years lived secluded in a cell and did not allow himself to be seen by any living person, attained exceptionally purity and perceptiveness through his godly-thoughts and prayer. Here are a few thoughts from his "Book of Answers." "Every thought which is not preceded by the silence of humility does not proceed from God. All that is from the devil occurs with confusion and disturbance." "When you pray and God delays to fulfill your request, He does this for your benefit in order to teach you forbearance." "Visible thieves are servants of invisible thieves; imaginary thoughts." "The Lord Jesus Christ endured all things and finally ascended on the Cross, which means the deadening of the body and passion and a holy and perfect rest." "Our Lord wants you to honor every man more than yourself." When they asked the elder whether they should hire a defender [advocate] regarding a dispute between the monastery and certain men, the elder replied: "If you would purchase the defense of men, then God will not defend you."
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as a Laborer:
- As a physical Laborer throughout many long years;
- As a spiritual Laborer who constantly taught man, comforted man and healed man giving the new law to the world;
- As a tireless Laborer who left the commandment, "I must work the works of Him Who sent Me while it is still day" (St. John 9:4).
About the mutual knowledge of the Father and the Son
"I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me" (St. John 7:29).
No one has ever dared say that they know God. Many have only said that "they believe in God." Only our Lord Jesus Christ spoke the words: "I know Him." And immediately He explained from where He knows Him, saying: "because I am from Him, and He sent Me." The first reason: "I am from Him" testifies to the eternal being of the Son; and the second reason: "And He sent Me," testifies to the manifestation of the Son in time in the physical world as an emissary of the Holy Trinity.
For us, who are Christ-believing, it is not given to know the Father as His Only-begotten Son knows Him but to us it is given and it is commanded that we believe. Our merit is in believing and not in knowing. If all of us knew God by seeing, no one would have any merit. For what kind of merit is there in seeing and recognizing? However, not to see and believe, in this is merit; in this is virtue; in this is our salvation. We are not worthy to see God and by seeing to know, for we are weakened by sin and alienated from God. But, the mercy of God gave us faith in this life which is able to bring us closer to God and to lead us into the eternal kingdom of seeing and knowing in that life. O, my brethren, let us believe in Christ the Lord for He knows. He does not speak by faith but by knowing.
O Merciful Lord, confirm the faith in us. Extend the hem of Your garment that we may hold on to it to the end of our lives.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK