Prologue from Ochrid - February 8 [February 21]
The Holy and Great Martyr Theodore Stratelates.
There are martyrdoms that are more than costly. The costliness of a martyrdom depends on the greatness of the good things of this world that a Christian gives up, receiving suffering in its place; and it depends also on the greatness of the suffering which he endures for the sake of Christ. St Theodore, a Roman commander in the army of the Emperor Licinius and governor of the city of Heraclea, scorned his youth, his good looks, his military status and the goodwill of the Emperor, and in place of all this received terrible tortures for the sake of Christ. Firstly Theodore was flogged, receiving 600 lashes on the back and 500 on the stomach; then he was crucified and pierced through with arrows. Finally he was slain with the sword. Why all this? Because St Theodore loved Christ more than anything else in the world. He scorned the foolish idol-worship of the superstitious Emperor, shattered the silver and gold idols, giving the pieces to the poor, brought many to the Christian faith and urged the Emperor himself to reject idolatry and believe in the one God. During the whole of his torture, Theodore repeated unceasingly: 'Glory to Thee, my God, glory to Thee!' He suffered on February 8th, 319, at three o'clock in the afternoon, and entered into the Kingdom of Christ. He is regarded as the protector of soldiers, who turn to him for help. His wonderworking relics were taken from Euchaita to Constantinople and buried in the Church at Blachernae.
The Holy Prophet Zechariah.
The eleventh of the Minor Prophets, he worked together with the Prophet Haggai to persuade Prince Zerubbabel to restore the Temple in Jerusalem. He prophesied the solemn entry of Christ into Jerusalem on a colt, the foal of an ass and Judas's betrayal for thirty pieces of silver: 'They weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver', and the forsaking of Christ by His apostles at the time of His Passion: 'Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered.' He entered into rest in the second year of the reign of Darius Hystapes, in about 520 B.C.
St Sava the Second, Archbishop of Serbia.
He was the son of King Stephen the First-Crowned and nephew of St Sava the First. Before becoming a monk, he was called Predislav. Following the example of his great uncle, he became a monk and gave himself zealously to the ascetic life. Chosen to be Archbishop of Serbia after St Arsenius, and taking the name Sava II, he governed the Church with great devotion and love. He entered into rest in 1268, and his relics lie in the monastery at Pec.
Saint Seraphim of Sarov writes about despair: "Just as the Lord is concerned about our salvation, so does the devil, the slayer of men, concern himself about bringing the soul of man to despair. Judas the betrayer was faint-hearted and inexperienced in struggle, which is why the devil, seeing him in a state of despair, attacked and persuaded him to hang himself. Peter, the formidable rock, falling into great sin and experienced in struggle, did not despair and did not lose the presence of the spirit, rather he shed bitter tears from a warm heart and, seeing that, the devil fled from him as though burned by fire. Thus, brethren, the Venerable Antiochus teaches that when despair befalls us, we should not succumb to it but, strengthened and enveloped by Holy Faith, say with great bravery to the cunning spirit [the devil]: 'what have you to do with us, O apostate from God, fugitive from heaven and a slave of evil! You are unable to inspire us to do anything; for Christ, the Son of God, has authority over us and over all. And you, O murderer, depart from us! Strengthened by His Honorable Cross, we trample upon your serpent's head.' "
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as a Commander:
- As a Commander Who enters into battle against Satan;
- Who entered into battle against sin in men;
- Who took up the defense of good against evil in this world;
- Who defeated Satan, sin and death.
About how a true Christian encounters hatred in the world
"You will be hated for all for My Name's sake" (St. Luke 21:17).
All those who love themselves more than they love God will hate the followers of the Lord Jesus.
All those who love the body more than they love the soul will hate the followers of the Lord Jesus.
All those who love this world more than they love the eternal kingdom of God will hate the followers of the Lord Jesus.
All those who love sin more than they love virtue will hate the followers of the Lord Jesus.
The number of those who hate the Name of Jesus is sometimes greater and sometimes smaller. However great is their number brethren, do not be afraid for the number of angels and saints is myriad. The number of your kinsmen in the heavens, i.e., those who love the Lord Jesus, exceeds the number of stars in the firmament and the sands by the sea. O do not be afraid, Christ is with you and that means that you are always mightier than those who hate you. When the most Omnipotent One is on your side, you are always more numerous for you are always stronger than any number of your adversaries.
O Lord Jesus, Lord All-powerful always be with us and help us that we may inseparably be with You always and then our fear will vanish.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK