Prologue from Ochrid - February 11 [February 24]
The Hieromartyr Blaise, Bishop of Sebaste.
Born in Cappadocia, Blaise was meek and God-fearing from early childhood. He was chosen for his virtues as bishop of Sebaste, and was a great spiritual and moral light in that pagan town. During a period of violent persecution of Christians, Blaise encouraged his flock and visited the martyrs in prison, among whom was the famous Eustratius.
When the city of Sebaste was left entirely denuded of Christians - some killed and others fled - Blaise, by then an old man, retired to the mountain of Argeos and lived there in a cave. Ferocious wild beasts, recognising a holy man, came to him and he gently tamed them. But the persecutors found the saint in that hidden spot and took him for trial. On the way there, Blaise healed a boy who had a bone stuck in his throat and, at the petition of a poor widow, made the wolf that had taken her pig return it to her. The benighted judges tortured him, flogging him terribly. By his steadfastness in the Christian faith, Blaise brought many unbelievers to the Faith. Seven women and two children were thrown into prison with him; the women were slain first, then Blaise and the two children. He suffered and was glorified in 316.
Blaise's prayers are sought for the health and well-being of domestic animals and for protection from wild beasts. In the West, he is also invoked against sore throats.
The Holy Martyr George of Kratov.
Serbian by birth, from the town of Kratov, the young George was trade a goldsmith and in his heart and soul a faithful and devout Christian. As soon as he reached the age of eighteen, the Turks tired to convert him to Islam. But George remained as firm as diamond in the Faith. The Turks then tortured him with many harsh tortures and finally burned him alive at the stake. He suffered for the Christian faith on February 11th, 1515, in Sophia in the time of Sultan Salim, and was glorified with unfanding glory in heaven.
A Greek Empress, she was the wife of the wicked Emperor Theophilus the Iconoclast. After the death of Theophilus, Thedora reigned with her son, Michael III, the veneration of icons being immediately restored at the Council of Constantinople in 84was the occasion of the institution of the Feast of the Triumph Orthodoxy, which is celebrated to this day on the first Sunday in t Great Fast. This holy woman, who gave such service to the Church gave her soul to God on February 11th, 867. By the wonderful providence of God, it was at that time of the total triumph of Orthodox over all heresies that Saints Cyril and Methodius were sent as missionaries to the Slav peoples.
Matter is not evil of itself as certain Christian heretics, i.e., the Manicheans and other philosophers taught. Not only is matter not evil, but matter is not the sole conduit of evil, but in as much as matter is a conduit, so also is the spirit a conduit of evil. Every material thing is melancholic and even fearful because of man's sins, but matter is not evil. Matter is corruptible, weak and nothingness in comparison to the immortal spirit, but it is not evil of itself. And, if it were evil, would our Lord Christ have instituted Holy Communion of Bread and Wine and would He call the Bread and the Wine His Body and His Blood? If matter, by itself, is evil, how then, would men be baptized with water? How would the Apostle James have commanded that the sick be anointed with oil? How would Blessed Water [Holy Water] remain beyond spoiling and have miracle-working properties? How would the Cross of Christ have power? How would the garment of Christ transmit the healing power of the Savior by which the woman with the issue of blood was healed? How would the relics of the saints and icons have performed so many miracles and conveyed so much good to people from the kingdom of Grace? Therefore, how then could good come to man through evil? No, no; matter is never evil of itself alone.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as a Good Merchant Who came into this world as to a market to give and to take:
- To give His labor and to receive the numerous fruits of joy from that labor;
- To give Himself to be humiliated, to be spat upon, to be smitten, to be bruised, to be pierced, to be crucified in order to usher the army of His faithful into His eternal glory;
- To give His Body in order to redeem numerous souls from the multitudes.
About judging according to the flesh and according to the spirit
"You judge according to the flesh" (St. John 8:15).
Thus spoke the Omniscience Lord to the wicked Jews: "You judge according to the flesh." They had caught a woman in adultery and wanted to stone her because of her fleshly sin. But the Lord perceived the soul of the woman and saw that she could still be saved and changed, brought her to repentance and released her. For even though she committed the act of adultery, nevertheless, her soul was not totally adulterous. However, the Pharisees constantly bore the sin of adultery in their hearts but they skillfully concealed that sin of adultery and they did not condemn adultery in the heart but condemned the act of adultery of the flesh only against those whom they caught in that act.
Spiritual men judge by the spirit and physical men judge by the flesh. Even today, the Jews, punished and dispersed throughout the whole world, were never able to think spiritually and to judge spiritually, but still think and judge only by the flesh and only externally according to the ordinance of the Law written on paper or in nature, but still never according to the spirit. For, if they had learned to judge men and deeds according to the spirit, they would have immediately recognized the Lord Jesus as the Messiah and Savior.
Let us be on guard, O Christians, that we judge not only according to the flesh. Let us be on guard that we not be too quick to judge him who because of his ineptness slips into misdeed, nor to praise the one who adheres skillfully and does not slip before men but, who, with his heart is already completely in the abyss of sin. Let us be on guard from error, that we not judge men and nature according to sensual impressions and to strive to judge everything spiritually, i.e., by the spirit. Behold we are the children of the spirit and light, for we are baptized.
O Lord Jesus teach us and guide us that we do not think nor judge according to the flesh but rather by the spirit.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK