Prologue from Ochrid - January 20 [February 2]
Saint Euthymius The Great
Of noble and distinguished parents, Euthymius was born in the Armenian town of Melitene near the Euphrates river about the year 377 A.D. He was the only child, a son, born in answer to the prayer of his mother Dionisiya, who had a heavenly vision regarding the birth of Euthymius. From his youth, he lived a life of asceticism, at first in the proximity of his town [Melitene] but then, after he visited Jerusalem at age twenty-nine, in the desert between Jerusalem and Jericho called Pharan. He filled his days and nights with prayer, internal thoughts about God, contemplation and physical exertion. Around him many disciples gathered some of whom are glorious saints, such as Cyriac the Hermit, St. Sabas the Sanctified, Theotictus and others. By God's gift, Euthymius was a great miracle worker; he expelled demons, healed the gravely ill, brought water to the desert, multiplied bread and prophesied. He taught monks the love of labor saying, "If you eat bread, not of your own labor, know that you are eating of someone else's labor." When some of the younger monks wanted to fast more than others, he forbade them to do so and commanded them to come to the communal table so that they would not become prideful as a result of their excessive fasting. He also said that it was not good for a monk to move from place to place, for he said, " A tree frequently transplanted does not bear fruit. Whoever desires to do good, can do it from the place where he is."
About love, he said, "What salt is to bread, love is to other virtues." During the first week of the Honorable Fast [Lenten Season], he retreated to the desert and remained there in solitary silence and godly-thoughts until just before the Feast of the Resurrection. During his life time, a large monastery [Lavra] was established in the proximity of his cave which later, throughout the centuries, was completely filled with monks as a beehive is filled with bees. His final command was that the monastery always adhere to hospitality and that the gates of the monastery never be closed. He died at the age of ninety-seven. The Patriarch of Jerusalem was in attendance at his funeral. The patriarch waited all day long until the great masses of people reverenced the body of the saint and only in the evening were they able to complete the Office for Burial for the Dead. On the seventh day following his death, Euthymius appeared radiant and rejoicing to Domentian, his disciple. The Venerable Euthymius, in truth, was a true "son of Light". He died in the year 473 A.D.
The Holy Martyrs Innas, Nirras And Pinnas
They are considered to be the first Slavic martyrs who are mentioned in history. They are referred to as Scythians and disciples of St. Andrew the Apostle. They suffered for the Faith at the hands of their pagan neighbors on the right side of the Danube river near Varna. Tied up on the ice, Innas, Nirras and Pinnas froze and died in the Lord.
As much as the saints were so compassionate and lenient toward human weakness, so were they terribly unyielding and unbending in regard to the confession of the true dogmas of the Faith. Thus, St. Nicholas of Myra in Lycia struck Arius with his fist at the First Ecumenical Council [Nicaea, 325 A.D.]. St. Anthony left his desert to come to Alexandria to publicly unmask Arius. St. Euthymius, being greatly pressured by the Empress Eudocia and the pseudo-Patriarch Theodosius and being unable to debate rationally with them, left the monastery and hid in the desert. All other distinguished monks followed his example. Euthymius remained in the desert until the pseudo-patriarch was ousted and Orthodoxy strengthened. When, in Jerusalem, the greatest agitation surfaced in the name of the emperor against the Fourth Ecumenical Council [Chalcedon, 451 A.D.] and when the entire population was frightened by the heretics, then St. Theodosius the Great already burdened with old age, as a fearless soldier of Christ, came to Jerusalem, entered the Great Church, ascended the stairs, waved his hands and said to the people, "If anyone does not respect the Fourth Ecumenical Council as he does the four evangelists, let him be anathema." (Until this time, only four Ecumenical Councils had been convened). All of those listeners were frightened by those words and none of the heretics dared to say anything contrary to those words.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as Light:
- As a Light to my life; as a Light to mankind; as a Light to every creature;
- As a Light, especially in the darkness of fear and suffering;
- As a Light in the hour of death and after death; a Light in eternity.
About the only Light in darkness
"I am the Light of the world" (St. John 8:12).
Since the beginning of the world and time, no one who was ever born dared to speak these words. There were men and there are men who say: "I bring light!" But only one dared to say: "I am the Light!" Only the Lord Jesus could have spoken those words boldly and convincingly. His short life on earth and His long history, nearly two-thousand years, completely justified these words. He is the Light of Truth. He is the Light of Righteousness and He is the Light of Life.
He is the Light of Truth because He revealed in Himself the truth of the true nature of God and the true nature of man; and the relationship of man to man and the relationship of man toward God. Heaven and earth shall pass away and His words will not pass away for heaven and earth both came into existence by His word and His word is from Him and with Him always and will not pass away. ["Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away" St. Matthew 24:35; St. Mark 13:31 ].
He is the Light of Righteousness because He revealed the might of righteousness and the weakness of unrighteousness. He revealed that in the brightest light, by that which He spoke, by that which He did, and by that which He experienced and overcame the unrighteous ones. He revealed that through His Church in the course of twenty centuries through His numerous righteous saints and martyrs for righteousness sake. Righteousness is from God, and in the long life of history it can never be defeated. Unrighteousness is from helpless beings. Unrighteousness quickly rushes out to the rampart with its triumphant banner but, at the same time, it is quickly overthrown into the grave.
He is the Light of Life. His words illuminate life. His works illuminate life. His victory illuminates life, especially His resurrection, as the most luminous sun by its bright light illuminates life and disperses death as a weak shadow.
O Lord Jesus, Light Most-Luminous, Sun of Truth, Sun of Righteousness and Sun of Life, illuminate us sinners and unworthy ones!
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK