Prologue from Ochrid - January 3 [January 16]
1 The Prophet Malachi.
He was chronologically the last of the prophets, born after the return of the Jews from exile in Babylon in 538 B.C. He was unusually fair of face. According to folk-tradition, he was named 'the angel', perhaps because of his outward fairness, or because of his purity of spirit, or, again, perhaps, because of his companionship with an angel, with whom he often spoke face to face. At these times, others also heard its voice but were not worthy to look on its face. The young prophet spoke forth that which the angel revealed to him. He cried out against the ingratitude of Israel and the sins of the priests. Five hundred years before Christ, he clearly foretold the coming and work of St John the Baptist (3:7). But he was chiefly the prophet of the Day of Judgment (4:1-3). He went to God young in years, and after him there was no prophet in Israel until John the Baptist.
2. The Holy Martyr Gordius.
Born in Caesarea of Cappadocia, he was an officer in the Roman army under the Emperor Licinius. At the outbreak of a terrible persecution, he left the army and his former rank and went into the Sinai desert. Alone on Mount Horeb, Gordius spent his time in prayer and in pondering the mysteries of heaven and earth. In particular he pondered on vanity and on the worthlessness of all for which people struggle and strive so on earth. He came finally to the desire to die and so move into that life that is without transience or corruptibility. With this desire, he went down into a town where pagan games were held. He presented himself to the governor as a Christian. The governor attempted in vain to turn him from the Faith with flattery and threats. Gordius remained unyielding and firm as diamond, saying: 'qt would obviously be an act of the greatest folly to trade this brief life for eternal torment and spiritual peril." Condemned to death, he hastened joyfully to the place of execution, speaking with the executioners on the way of the wonderful and sweet knowledge of Christ. With the name of Christ onhis lips, he delivered his youthful body to the sword and his righteous soul to God in the year 320.
3. St Geneviéve.
Protectress of Paris, she became worthy of the Kingdom of God by fasting, prayer and works of mercy. She entered into rest on January 3rd, 512, at the age of 89.
God permits humiliation and ruin to befall a proud man when he thinks that his strength is secured forever. When the pernicious Roman Eparch [Governor] Tarquinius beheaded Blessed Timothy, he summoned St. Sylvester and threatened him with death if he did not reveal Timothy's inheritance and in addition immediately offer sacrifice to the idols. Without fear and trembling, this discerning saint responded to the eparch with the Evangelical words: "You fool, this night your life will be demanded of you" (St. Luke 12:20), "and that with which you boast that you will bring to me (i.e. death) will occur to you." The proud eparch shackled Sylvester in chains and threw him into a dungeon intending to kill him shortly. Having done this, the eparch sat down to eat lunch, but a fish bone caught in his throat. From noon to midnight, the physicians struggled to save his life but all was in vain. At midnight, Tarquinius gave up his proud soul in greatest torments. And so the prophecy of St. Sylvester was fulfilled, as also were the Biblical words: "Pride goes before disaster" (Proverbs 16:18).
To contemplate the Guardian Angel:
- How he stands at my right side upholding me in everything until I depart from the law of God;
- How I have offended him on numerous occasions and how I drove him away from me transgressing the law of God.
About how the Kingdom of God is gained with the heart and not with the tongue
"Not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven" (St. Matthew 7:21).
Brethren, one does not gain the Kingdom of God with the tongue, but with the heart. The heart is the treasury of those riches by which the kingdom is purchased; the heart and not the tongue! If the treasury is full with the riches of God, i.e., a strong faith, good hope, vivid love and good deeds, then the messenger of those riches, the tongue, is faithful and pleasant. If the treasury is void of all those riches, then its messenger [the tongue] is false and impudent. The kind of heart, the kind of words. The kind of heart, the kind of deeds. All, all depends on the heart.
Hypocrisy is helpless before men, and is even more helpless before God. "If then I am a father," says the Lord through the Prophet Malachi, "If then I am a father where is the honor due to me?" And If I am a master, where is the reverence due to me?" (Malachi 1:6). That is, I hear you call me father, but I do not see you honoring me with your heart. I hear you call me master, but I do not see fear of me in your hearts.
Our prayer: "Lord! Lord!" is beautiful and beneficial only when it emerges from a prayerful heart. The Lord Himself commanded that we pray unceasingly, but not only with the tongue to be heard by men, but rather enclosed in the cell of the heart so that the Lord could hear and see us.
Lord, majestic and wonderful, deliver us from hypocrisy and pour Your fear into our hearts so that our hearts could stand continually upright in prayer before You.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK