Prologue from Ochrid - June 27 [July 10]
1. St Sampson the Hospitable.
This saint was born of rich and eminent parents in ancient Rome, where he studied all the secular wisdom of that time, devoting himself in particular to the study of medicine. Sampson was a compassionate and liberal physician, and gave the sick medicine for both soul and body, counselling each man to fulfill the requirements of the Christian faith. He moved to Constantinople, where he lived in a tiny house from which he distributed alms, comfort, advice, hope, medicine and all possible aid to those suffering in spirit and in body. The Patriarch heard of Sampson's great virtue and ordained him priest. At that time the Emperor Justinian the Great became ill with what his doctors believed to be an incurable disease. The Emperor prayed with great fervour, and God revealed to him in his sleep that Sampson would heal him. When the Emperor summoned Sampson to court, the old man had only to put his hand on the diseased place and the Emperor was healed. When Justinian offered him an immense sum of money, Sampson thanked him but would accept nothing, saying to the Emperor: 'O Emperor. I had silver and gold and other riches, but I left it all for the sake of Christ, that I might gain heavenly and eternal wealth.' When the Emperor insisted on doing something for him, Sampson asked him to build a home for the poor. In that home, Sampson cared for the poor as a father cares for his children. His compassion for the poor and weak was second nature to him. This holy man, filled with heavenly power and goodness, entered peacefully into rest on June 27th. 530. He was buried in the Church of the Holy Martyr Mocius, his kinsman. After his death, Sampson appeared many times to those who called upon him for aid.
2. St Severus the Priest.
He lived in central Italy. A man of rare holiness, he was once called to hear the confession of, and give Communion to, a man at the point of death. He tarried, working in his vineyard, and the news was brought to him there that the sick man had died. Stricken with grief, as if he had himself killed the man, he wept bitter tears over the corpse, and God raised the dead man to life again in response to his fervent prayer. Then Severus confessed him and gave him Communion, preparing him for a Christian leaving of this world, and on the eighth day the man died again.
3. St Joanna the Myrrh-Bearer.
She was the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward (Lk. 8:3). When Herod had John the Baptist beheaded, he cast his head out into an unclean place. Joanna took the head and buried it with honour on the Mount of Olives, on Herod's land. Later, in the reign of Constantine the Great, the head was found. St Joanna is also remembered because she was present at both the Passion and Resurrection of Christ. She died peacefully.
There is no one so stupid as he who cannot see his own sins and cannot see the virtues of others. There is no one so enlightened as he who can see and recognize his own sins and the virtues of others. Those who only see the faults of others and criticize them, St. John Chrysostom equates them to flies that fall on the wounds of others, not in order to heal them but rather to gnaw and to poison them more." God has sent us here for penance [Epitimija]," these are the words of Blessed Theophilus of Kiev (+1853). He who knows and feels that he is here for repentance immerses himself in silence and contemplation about his own sin, which has brought him to repentance. The same Blessed Theophilus further said: "Weep also for the sins of your fellow man; without this not one created human being will be saved." To weep or to proclaim - how is it written my son? With Blessed Theophilus, it is written: "To weep over one's own sins but with Satan, to proclaim the sins of others." About himself, Blessed Theophilus at the point of death left this testament to his brethren: "Remember the odious Theophilus!" This is the testament of the holiest human being in Kiev in the year 1853 A.D.
To contemplate the miraculous healing of the man ill with dropsy: "And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy" (St. Luke 14:2):
- How the Lord touched the man with dropsy and he became whole and went home;
- How my soul - being under the burden of "the love of the body" - under the burden of the illness of dropsy;
- How only the Lord with one touch can heal the dropsy of my soul and free it of the excessive burden of passionate dampness.
About shelter from on high
"He who trusts in the Lord is safe." (Proverbs 29:25)
The righteous man is under the shelter of the Lord, under the shelter from on high. Water will not reach him nor will the flood drown him. Even the flood did not drown Noah for the Lord was the shelter from on high.
However, brethren, there is a flood worse than a watery flood, i.e., the flood of passions. When the passions begin to burn, when they begin to smoke and begin to turn black, when they emit and spread their stench all around, where will man flee, and who will save him? Only under the hand of the Lord, only under His shelter from on high. The flood of passions had pursued David but he fled and found shelter under the hand of the Lord; he saved himself from fire, from smoke and the stench of pursuing passions under the shelter from on high.
A man does not save himself from a flood only God saves. God is the Master of the clouds and the tamer of passions. Indeed, He is the shelter from on high. We flee to Him and hide ourselves under His garment. A dog appears like a lion toward the beggar but, before the feet of his master, the dog appears as an empty sack.
O Lord Most-high, Who sits on the throne on high, You are our shelter on high. Be merciful to us our Creator and extend Your hand that we be lifted up to Your shelter. Save us from the turbulent waters [passions] which rush to drown us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK