Prologue from Ochrid - June 18 [July 1]
1. The Holy Martyr Leontius.
A Roman military commander in Tripoli in Phoenicia in the reign of the Emperor Vespasian, he was born in Yelada, 'of great physical stature, powerful, strong and bold in battle'. The imperial governor, Hadrian, sent a military detachment to seize Leontius, Hadrian being a fierce adversary and persecutor of Christians. The commander of the detachment, Hypatius, fell ill on the way with a grave fever and the unit had therefore to slow its pace. One night an angel of the Lord appeared to Hypatius and said to him: 'If you desire to be healed, you and your soldiers must cry to heaven three times: "O God of Leontius, help me!" '. Hypatius told his companions about this vision, and they all shouted together as the angel had instructed him, and Hypatius was immediately healed. This miracle amazed them all, and especially a certain Theodulus. Then Hypatius and Theodulus went on ahead of the other soldiers to find Leontius. Leontius received them courteously and offered them refreshment. When he had expounded his faith in Christ, their hearts began to burn with love towards the Lord, and a bright cloud descended upon Hypatius and Theodulus, shedding dew over them. In this way the Holy Spirit of God Himself baptised these two converted souls while St Leontius spoke the words: 'In the name of the All-holy Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.' The evil Harden discovered that Hypatius and Theodulus had become Christians and ordered that they be beaten without mercy and then beheaded with an axe. In this manner Leontius's spiritual children died. Then Hadrian ordered a most cruel torture for Leontius, but Leontius remained unwavering in his faith. His entire body was covered with wounds, but he prayed to God unceasingly to remain with him. In the midst of these most vicious torments, an angel of the Lord appeared to comfort and encourage him. At last they threw the martyr onto the ground and flogged him until he gave his soul to God. Leontius's sufferings were witnessed by a certain Notarius, who recorded all that he saw on tablets and placed them in the martyr's grave. St Leontius suffered with honour in the year 73.
2. Our Holy Father Leontius the Seer.
A Greek from the Peloponnese, he lived the ascetic life for sixty years in the monastery of Dionysiou, and went to his rest in 1605 at the age of eighty-five. It is said of Leontius that he left the monastery only once in all the sixty years: he entered it when he first went to Dionysiou and left it when they carried him out to bury him. He had a miraculous gift of discernment and prophecy, and myrrh flowed from his relics after his death.
A scientist examines natural phenomenon with great attention and we, with greater attention, should examine the phenomenons and the actions of the grace of God. Behold, what one of the great spiritual fathers' witnesses about the act of Holy Communion. Father John of Kronstadt writes: "I am amazed at the greatness and the life-giving power of divine Communion. An elderly woman, who was spitting blood and was so completely exhausted from not being able to eat anything, began to recover the day that she received Communion from me. A young girl close to death began to recover, eat, drink and speak after Communion whereas, before that, she was unconscious, in convulsions and did not eat or drink anything." O, if every priest, with the attention of a scientist and with the love of a prayerful man, did observe and follow the actions of the Grace of Holy Communion similar to Father John!
To contemplate the miraculous healing of the young man whom the devil tormented, at times throwing him into the fire and, at times, into the water: "Lord, have pity on my son: for he is a lunatic and suffers severely; for often times he falls into the fire and often times into the water" (St. Matthew 17:14):
- How the Lord rebuked the devil and the young man was made whole;
- How even the evil spirit casts me at times into the fire of passions and at times into the water of carnality;
- How even the Lord can save me from falling into the fire and into the water if only I pray to Him.
About God's indebtedness
"He who has compassion on the poor lends to God and He will repay Him for his good deed" (Proverbs 19:17).
The poor man who begs and the rich man who gives both are indebting the Lord, but only under the condition that the poor man begs in the name of the Lord with humility and that the rich man gives in the name of the Lord with compassion. Everyone who receives should know that he receives that which belongs to God and everyone who gives should know that he gives that which belongs to God. Such giving has a price and such receiving has a price. All of us enter this world naked and naked shall we leave this world. All of us are beggars before the Lord for we possess nothing that we have not received from the Lord. Therefore, give to the poor man as God as given to you. You take what is another's and you give to your own when you perform charity. The poor man is closer to you than all of your goods even as God, the Creator of men, every man is incomparably more precious than all of his goods. If you have been given riches, it was given to you for temptation: that your heart be tempted! That God and all the heavenly hosts see whether you understood from whom are all your riches and why they were given to you. Blessed are you if you know that your goods are from God and belong to God! Blessed are you if you consider the poor as your companions, among your family members and share with them from that which God has entrusted to you!
O how immeasurable is God's love for mankind! Behold, all that you have belongs to God but, nevertheless, God considers Himself your debtor if you take from Him and give to the poor and He will repay you for your good. What kind of mercy can be compared to this!
O Man-loving Lord, open our minds to understand the mystery of Your mercy and soften our hearts as wax, that as wax they burn and shine with the reflection of Your inexpressible mercy!
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK