Prologue from Ochrid - February 12 [February 25]
St Meletius, Archbishop of Antioch.
This great and holy man was an outstanding interpreter and defender of Orthodoxy. The whole of his life was devoted to the fight against the Arian heresy, which did not recognise the Son of God and blasphemed against the Holy Trinity. He was three times removed from his archiepiscopal throne by the heretics, and driven off into Armenia. The struggle between the Orthodox and the heretics became so bitter that once, while St Meletius was preaching to the people in church on the divine Trinity in unity, his own deacon, a heretic, ran up to the bishop and shut his mouth with his hand. Being unable to preach with words, Meletius preached by signs. Thus, he raised his arms on high, opened three fingers to their fullest extent and showed them to the people, then closed his hand and raised the one fist. He took part in the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, where the Emperor Theodosius showed him specially great honour. At that Council, God showed a mystery through His archbishop. When Meletius was propounding the doctrine of the Holy Trinity to the Arians, he first raised three fingers, separated one by one, then brought them together; and at that moment lightning flashed from his hand before the gaze of all present. At that Council, Meletius established Gregory the Theologian in the seat of Constantinople. While the Council was still in session, St Meletius finished his earthly course in Constantinople. His relics were taken to Antioch.
St Alexis, Metropolitan of Moscow.
A great hierarch of the Russian Church in a difficult period of Tartar oppression of the Russian people. Once in childhood he went bird hunting, then went to sleep and in a dream heard a voice that said: 'Alexis, why rush around so fruitlessly? I will teach you to catch men!' He became a monk at the age of twenty, and in time became Metropolitan of Moscow. He twice went among the' Golden Horde' of the Tartars, once to sooth the wrath of Verdevir Khan against the Russian people, and the second time at the invitation of Amurat Khan, to cure his wife's blindness. This-women had been blind for three years, but was healed and her vision restored when Alexis prayed and anointed her with holy water. After a life of great endeavour and fruitfulness, Alexis entered into rest in 1378 at the age of 85, and went to the court of the Lord.
Our Holy Mother Mary (Marius).
Mary was a woman with a man's courage. After the death of her mother, her father desired to become a monk. Mary would not be separated from him, so they decided to go together to a men's monastery - Mary with short hair and in man's raiment as a youth. Her father died, and Mary became a monk and received the name Marius. There was an inn near the monastery, and the innkeeper's daughter fell in love with the pious monk Marius. After pursuing him without success, she accused Marius of unlawful relations with her, because she had known some other man and borne him a son. Mary did not defend herself and was driven forth with scorn from the monastery. With the strange child in her care, she lived for three years in a grove belonging to the monastery, enduring hunger and hatred, and every sort of hardship and privation. As a result of all this, the innkeeper's daughter became deranged and, a little later, Mary died. Immediately after her death it was discovered that the 'Monk Marius' was a woman. As soon as the innkeeper's daughter touched the relics of St Mary, she was healed of her insanity and confessed her terrible sin. St Mary entered into rest and went to eternal joy in 508.
St Antony, Patriarch of Constantinople.
He was at first an ascetic, a man of great compassion, and then Patriarch in the time of the Emperor Leo the Wise (889-912). he proffesed his father monk and build a monastery over the relics of St Callia.
Callia was generous to poor from pure Christian compassion, both as a young girl and later as a married women. Her husband was rich but a hard man. Returning on one occasion from his work, he found that his wife had given away all his wealth to the poor. He thereupon killed her. But God glorified this compassionate soul, in that her relics healed many of the sick. Convinced by this of her sanctity, the holy patriarch Antony build a monastery over her relics.
St. John Chrysostom cites the following example from the life of St. Meletius, which demonstrates the immense nobility of this great hierarch. "It would be unjust to omit that which occurred during the banishment of Meletius from Antioch. When the governor sat in the coach, and with the saint seated beside him, he began to drive with great speed through the square. From all sides, the citizens hurled stones as hail at the head of the governor, for they could not be parted from their hierarch easily and were prepared to part with life rather than part with this saint. But what did this blessed man do? Seeing the stones flying, he covered the head of the governor with his cloak. Thus, he shamed his adversaries by his enormous meekness and, by this, he taught a lesson to his followers as to what kind of forgiveness we should show toward those who offend us; that it is not enough to refrain from doing them any evil but rather, with all our power, to remove any danger that threatens them." Concerning the external appearance of Meletius, Chrysostom further says: "In truth, the greatest satisfaction was to see his holy face. Not only when he taught or preached but also when men simply looked at him, he was in such a position to instill into the soul of the spectators every virtue.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as an Ascetic:
- How He fasted not to subdue His All-pure Body, but in order to give us an example;
- How He fasted for my sake;
- How I need to fast for the sake of my salvation and for the sake of His love.
About the wondrous visit of the Son of God
"I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and giving back to the Father" (St. John 16:28).
Brethren, these words are of crucial importance for us. For of all things in this world, it is most important to know: Is there a God and is there life after death? These words are more precious than all the pearls in the world, more precious than the sun and more precious than the stars, for these words were spoken by Him Who is the most reliable and the most truthful witness. In truth, these words are the source of the greatest joy for us immersed in despair and, after despair, death. These words witness that there is a God and that there is life after death. "I came from the Father" before all else, this means that God exists from Whom the Lord Jesus came: "And I am going back to the Father" and this means that God the Father exists to Whom the Son of God returns. At the same time, both of these quotations mean that eternal life exists and that death does not mean our annihilation. The Lord spoke these words just before His death.
O sweet and wonderful tidings! That which the heart of all men and nations throughout all ages dimly envisioned, the Lord witnessed as face as truth.
And further, these words confirm the unity of the Father and the Son as well as the divinity of our Lord and Savior. My brethren, God visited us, the Most-High God Himself; Holy, Mighty and Immortal God. That is the culmination of our comfort and our joy.
O Lord Jesus, Son of God, the true witness of all that is good for which our hearts yearn day and night, sanctify us, strengthen us and make us immortal.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK