Prologue from Ochrid - December 23 [January 5]
1. The Ten Holy Martyrs of Crete.
They suffered for Christ the Lord during Decius's persecution, in the year 250. Their names were: Theodulus, Satuminus, Euporus, Gelasius, Eunician, Zoticus, Pompey, Agathopous, Basilides and Evaristus. They were all honoured and eminent citizens, the cream of the cream. When they were taken to the scaffold, they were filled with joy and discussed among themselves who would be the first to be beheaded, because each wanted to be the first to go to his beloved Christ. 'Men they prayed: 'O Lord, forgive Thy servants and accept our outpoured blood on our own behalf and that of our kinsfolk and friends and all our fatherland, that all may be released from the darkness of ignorance and come to know Thee, the true light, O eternal King!' Tley were beheaded and entered into the Kingdom of glory, to eternal rejoicing.
2. St Niphon the Wonderworker.
Born in Paphlagonia, he was brought up in Constantinople at the court of a great commander. Falling into low company, the young Niphon became dissolute and gave himself to great sin and vice. Because of his sin, he could not even pray to God. By the mercy of the most holy Mother of God, he was brought back to the way of righteousness and became a monk. He had innumerable visions of the heavenly world and waged a four-year war with the demons, who whispered to him incessantly: 'There is no God! There is no God!', but, when the Lord Jesus Himself appeared to him alive on an icon, Niphon received great power over the evil spirits and was freed from these heavy temptations. He had such insight that he saw angels and demons around men as clearly as he saw the people themselves, and he could discern men's thoughts. He often spoke with angels and disputed with demons. He built a church to the most holy Mother of God in Constantinople, gathered many monks together and saved many souls. Alexander, the Archbishop of Alexandria, through a heavenly revelation, consecrated him bishop of the town of Constantia on Cyprus. Niphon was already old by that time, and, governing the Church of God well for a short period, entered into Christ's eternal Kingdom. St Athanasius the Great visited him at the time of his death, being then archdeacon of the church in Alexandria, and he saw Niphon's face shine like the sun.
3. Our Holy Father Nahum, the Wonderworker of Ochrid.
He was a disciple of Ss Cyril and Methodius, and one of the Five Followers - those zealous fellow-workers with these apostles of the Slavs. St Nahum travelled to Rome, where he was renowned both for his wonderworking power and his great learning. He knew many languages. At the time of his return from Rome, he settled, with the help of the Emperor Boris Michael of Bulgaria, on the shores of Lake Ochrid. While St Clement was working in Ochrid as bishop, St Nahum built a monastery on the southern shore of the lake, a monastery that adorns that shore till this day as the name of St Nahum adorns the history of Slav Christianity, and has been through the ages a fount of strength and recourse for the sick and the wretched. Many monks from all over the Balkans gathered round St Nahum, who was a wise teacher, a strict ascetic, a wonderworker and a man of prayer. A tireless worker, St Nahum laboured especially to translate the Holy Scriptures from Greek into Slavonic. He worked wonders both during his lifetime and after his death, and his wonderworking relics to this day perform many marvels, particularly healing from grave illness and from madness. He entered into rest in the first half of the tenth century, and went to the joy of his beloved Christ.
In the Greek Synaxarion, Ss Clement and Nahum are called the new Moses and Aaron, and this marvel is recorded of them: heretics in Germany bound them and threw them into prison, but, God's power, the prison shook, the chains fell off them, the doors of the prison opened and they went out freely.
While still living in the flesh, the saints had great revelations from God and visions of both heavenly and infernal powers. All of their revelations and visions confirm the Orthodox Faith in all of her teachings. The saints are a joy, a great joy to the faithful. St. Niphon saw the Theotokos and the Lord Christ alive in glory; he saw men's souls leaving the body; and he saw the guardian angels of certain men! He spoke openly with angels and disputed with demons. The Church teaches that the sincere repentance of a sinner, even in the last hour, saves the soul of the penitent. St. Niphon saw the soul of one such repentant sinner in the last moment; he saw how the angels defended that soul from the aggressive demons and carried it to Paradise. The Church teaches that suicide is a mortal sin. St. Niphon saw the soul of a suicide as the devils were dragging it to hell. The guardian angel of that soul went off and wept bitterly for that soul. This was the soul of a servant who had committed suicide because his master was merciless, and who did not want to endure to the end in order to be saved.
Contemplate God's reward to the penitent David:
- How God glorified the penitent David and gave him the gift of His Holy Spirit to compile the wondrous Psalter;
- How God made the penitent David the ancestor of many good kings and righteous seers;
- How God made him the ancestor, according to the flesh, of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
On Daniel the Prophet
… And the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth (Daniel 2:35).
Suffering, brethren, can weaken a man's character; however, luxury can weaken it even more. Daniel, the man of God, could not be weakened either by suffering or by luxury. In both instances he remained the same, and in both instances he was equally the messenger of the one Living God and a clairvoyant revealer of God's mysteries. He lived in royal luxury and then in a lions' den. In both instances, he remained unchanged: in royal luxury he fasted, and in the lions' den he did not hunger. The Most-high God rewarded his faithful servant with the great gift of prophecy. The main subject of his prophecies is Christ the Lord. Christ will come and will destroy idol worship throughout the whole earth. He will fill the earth with Himself like no man clothed in the flesh has ever done. He is the One to Whom will be given dominion and glory and a Kingdom, that all people, nations and languages should serve Him (Daniel 7:14). Daniel, the great prophet of God, prophesied the time, the exact time, of the coming of the Lord Jesus into the world.
How we Christians must be ashamed before this Daniel! We see all the promises fulfilled in Christ, and yet we are lax in our faith and in our love for Christ. All was not revealed to Daniel as it is revealed to us who are baptized; nevertheless, he did not turn away from God, not once. O Lord God of Daniel, strengthen us, give us repentance, and have mercy on us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK