Prologue from Ochrid - January 24 [February 6]
The Venerable Female Xenia [Ksenia]
Xenia was born in Rome, the only daughter of a prominent senator. Drawn by love for Christ, she refused to enter into marriage as her parents wished, but rather, to avoid this, she secretly fled from her home with two of her slaves and arrived at the Island of Cos to a place called Mylassa. There she founded a convent for virgins where she lived an ascetical life until her death. Even though she was a frail woman, she possessed a steadfast endurance in fasting, prayer and all-night vigils. She often stood all night in prayer; she was dressed more poorly than all the other sisters; and the bread which she ate, she often sprinkled with ashes from the censer [thurible]. At the time of her death (450 A.D.), a wonderful sign appeared over the virgin's convent: a wreath of stars with a cross in the center, brighter than the sun. Many, who were sick, received healing from her relics. Her female slaves [tonsured nuns] continued in the example of their abbess and when they died, and according to their wishes, were buried at the feet of Blessed Xenia [Ksenia].
The Holy-Priest Martyr Babylas
Babylas was a priest in Sicily. He suffered for Christ with two of his disciples in the third century.
The Venerable Macedonius
Macedonius was a Syrian hermit. Only in his old age did he feed on baked bread, but before that he ate only grains of barley softened with water. He ended his earthy life in the year 418 A.D.
Venerable Philon, Bishop Of Cyprus
When St. Epiphanius was summoned to Rome to assist the sister of the Emperor Honorius by his prayer, he consecrated Philon a bishop. Philon exegeted the Pentateuch and the Song of Songs. He died peacefully in the fifth century.
The Venerable Dionysius Of Olympus
Dionysius was a miracle-worker. He lived an ascetical life on Mt. Olympus. He was tonsured a monk on Mt. Athos [The Holy Mountain] where he was the abbot of the Monastery Philotheou. Toward the end of his life, he withdrew into solitude on Mt. Olympus where he died in the sixteenth century.
In our day, you usually hear these words from parents: "We want to secure the life of our child." That is why they work very hard to amass wealth, often unjustly, to educate their child in the calling [vocation] which brings the greatest physical security and material benefit. This is done by so-called Christians! They do this because their concept of a real life and the real security of life is erroneous. See, how a true Christian mother prepares her son for a real life. At the time of her death, Blessed Euphrosyne spoke to her son Clement of Ancyra: "Do me the honor, O my son, and bravely stand up for Christ and confess Him strongly and without hesitation! I hope, in my heart, that the crown of martyrdom will blossom on you in my honor and for the salvation of many. Do not be afraid of threats, nor swords, nor pains, nor wounds, nor fire. Let nothing separate you from Christ, but look up to heaven and from there await your great, eternal and rich reward from God. Fear God's majesty; be afraid of His awesome judgment, tremble at His all-seeing Eye, for all those who deny Him will receive the punishment of unquenchable fire and eternally vigilant worm. Let this be my reward from you, my sweet son, for my pain in child-bearing and effort surrounding your education that I may be called a mother of a martyr. The blood that you received from me, do not spare but shed it that, from that, I can also receive honor. Submit your body to torture that I, too, may rejoice at that before our Lord as though I myself had suffered for Him."
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as Teacher:
- As a Teacher Who teaches how man should think in order to be saved;
- As a Teacher Who teaches how man should talk in order to be saved;
- As a Teacher Who teaches how a man should act in order to be saved.
About the most all-discerning Prophet [Jesus]
"Why do you harbor evil thoughts in your hearts" (St. Matthew 9:4).
When our Lord deigned to direct a rebuke to the Pharisees and Scribes, at that time, they had not killed anyone, nor had they deceived anyone, nor had they looted anyone and, not only that, at that time, they had not even offended anyone by their words. Why then, did our Lord admonish them when they had not committed any sin neither in works nor in words? Why? Because, at that time, their thoughts were evil.
An evil thought is sin! That is the great news which Christ brought into the world. In truth, an evil thought is the sinful source of all sin because, before a man says something or does something sinful, he thinks sinfully. Thought is the causative sin. All other sins are only subsequent sins. Whoever wishes to annihilate those evil actions must uproot those evil thoughts first. Whoever desires to stem the flow of water must first dry up the source. Therefore, let no one justify himself: I am not a sinner, for I have not killed anyone nor looted from anyone nor profaned anyone nor lied to anyone! Behold, we are full of deadly looting, profaning and deceiving thoughts! If we have not committed sin by our own deeds, that is simply a matter of the mercy of God and external circumstances. But, if God had yielded and if the circumstances were favorable, we would have committed all those sins that we had thought. The serpent is not only venomous when it bites but also when it does not bite, because it carries the venom in itself.
Therefore, not only is thought a sin, but also it is the source of sin: the beginning of sin and the seed and root of sin. That is why the All-seeing and All-knowing Lord rebuked those who had evil thoughts. "Why do you harbor evil thoughts in your hearts."
O Lord, All-seeing and All-knowing, help us to cleanse our hearts and minds from evil thoughts so that our words and deeds may be pure.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK