Prologue from Ochrid - June 29 [July 12]
1. The Holy Apostle Peter.
The son of Jonah and brother of Andrew the First-Called, of the tribe of Simeon and the town of Bethsaida, he was a fisherman and was at first called Simon, but the Lord was pleased to call him Cephas, or Peter (Jn 1:42). He was the first of the disciples to give clear expression to his faith in the Lord Jesus, saying: 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God' (Mt. 16:16). His love for the Lord was very strong, and his faith in Him went from strength to strength. When the Lord was put on trial, Peter denied Him three times, but it needed only one look into the face of the Lord, and Peter's soul was filled with shame and repentance. After the descent of the Holy Spirit, Peter became a fearless and powerful preacher of the Gospel. After his first sermon in Jerusalem, about 3,000 souls were converted to the Faith. He preached the Gospel throughout Palestine and Asia Minor, in Italy and in Illyria. He performed many wonders, healing the sick and raising the dead, and even his shadow had the power of healing the sick. He had a major struggle with Simon the Magician, who declared himself to be from God but was actually a servant of the devil. He finally put him to shame and overcame him. Peter was condemned to death on the order of the wicked Emperor Nero, a friend of Simon's. After installing Linus as Bishop of Rome and exhorting and encouraging the flock of Christ there, Peter went to his death with joy. When he saw the cross before him, he asked the executioner to crucify him upside-down, because he felt himself to be unworthy to die in the same way as his Lord. And so this great servant of the greatest Master went to his rest and received a crown of eternal glory.
2. The Holy Apostle Paul.
Born in Tarsus and of the tribe of Benjamin, he was formerly called Saul and studied under Gamaliel. He was a Pharisee and a persecutor of Christians. He was wondrously converted to the Christian faith by the Lord Himself, who appeared to him on the road to Damascus. He was baptised by the Apostle Ananias, named Paul and enrolled in the work of the Great Apostles. He preached the Gospel everywhere with burning zeal, from the borders of Arabia to the land of Spain, among both the Jews and the heathen, and receiving the title of 'the Apostle to the Gentiles'. His fearful sufferings were matched only by his superhuman endurance. Through all the years of his preaching, he hung from day to day like a thread between life and death. Filling his days and nights with toil and suffering for Christ, organising the Church in many places and reaching a high level of perfection, he was able to say: 'I live; yet not I but Christ liveth in me' (Gal. 2:20). He was beheaded in Rome in the reign of Nero. at the same time as St Peter.
Simon Peter and Simon the Magician. The enemies of Christianity frequently like to cite examples of great miracle-workers among the pagans in order to deceive the gullible, to humiliate the Christian Faith and to elevate paganism, sorcery, soothsaying, Satanism and every other charlatanism. There is no doubt that Satan through his servants also attempted to perform miracles but all of the miracles of his servants do not emanate out of love for man, compassion and from faith in God but rather from pride, selfishness, vanity and hatred for mankind. A Christian should learn from the history of the apostles to differentiate divine miracles from satanic deceits and fantasies. Let the Christian only remember the Apostle Peter and Simon the Magician. Let the Christian compare the miracles of Peter with the so-called miracles of Simon. The apostle converted the stony hearts of men into noble hearts, cured the sick, and raised the dead and all of this by prayer and faith in the Living God. However, Simon the Magician amazed men with the devil's illusions. The Apostle Peter was a friend of God and Simon the Magician was a friend and protege of the perverted Emperor Nero who ended his life by suicide. The miracles of the pagan fakirs belong to the category of illusions and deceits of Simon the Magician. Just as from a distance hot sand resembles water so also the "miracles" of the fakir resemble the life-creating miracles of Christianity.
To contemplate the miraculous healing of the blind Bartimeus: "And they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a very great crowd, Bartimeus, a blind man, the son of Timeus, was sitting by the wayside begging" (St. Mark 10:46):
- How Bartimeus prayed to the Lord: "Have mercy on me!"
- How the Lord said: "See!" And he saw;
- How the word of the Lord can give sight to my blinded soul if I pray.
About the fear of God
"Conduct yourselves with fear in the time of your sojourning" (1 Peter 1:17).
These are the words of the great Apostle Peter, words that have a dual foundation: heavenly inspiration and personal experience. By divine inspiration, Peter, a simple fisherman, became a teacher of the people, a pillar of the Faith and a powerful miracle-worker. According to his own experience he learned that all of his wisdom and power was of God and, because of that, one should possess the fear of God. No other fear, except the fear of God.
The foolish one becomes frightened only when lightning flashes and thunder cracks but the wise man fears God every day and every hour. The Creator of lightning and thunder is more awesome than both of them and He does not appear before you, from time to time, as lightning and thunder rather He is continually before you and does not move away from you. That is why it is not enough, from time to time, to have fear of God, but one must breathe in the fear of God. The fear of God is the ozone in the suffocating atmosphere of our soul. This ozone brings purity, easiness, sweet fragrance and health. Until he had become strengthened in the fear of God, Peter was only Peter and not an apostle, hero, teacher of the people and miracle-worker.
O my brethren, let us not rejoice before the harvest. This, our life, is not a harvest but rather, it is a sowing, labor, sweat and fear. The plower lives in fear until he has gathered the fruits from the field. Let us also delay our rejoicing for the day of harvest, for now is the time for labor and fear. Will I be saved? This question should torment every one of us, in the same way that the plower is tormented by the question: "Will I reap the fruit of my labor in the field?" The plower labors and fears everyday. Let us also labor and fear "all the time of our sojourning" on earth.
O awesome and powerful Lord, sustain us in Your fear.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK