Prologue from Ochrid - June 30 [July 13]
1. The Assembly of the Holy, Glorious and All-praised Apostles.
Although each of the Twelve Apostles has his own Feast Day during the year, the Church has set aside this day for a general Feast of all of them together, including St Paul. The names and Feast Days of the Twelve are:
Peter - June 29th and January 16th.
Andrew - November 30th.
James the Son of Zebedee - April 30th.
John the Theologian - September 26th and May 8th.
Philip - November 14th.
Bartholomew - June 11th and August 25th
Thomas - October 6th.
Matthew the Evangelist - November 16th.
James the Son of Alphaeus - October 9th.
Thaddeus (or Jude the brother of James) - June 19th.
Simon the Zealot - May 10th.
Matthias - August 9th.
Paul -June 29th.
Let us also remember here how these most holy and selfless men in the history of the world died and finished their earthly course:
Peter was crucified upside-down.
Andrew was crucified.
James was beheaded.
John the Theologian died in a wondrous way.
Philip was crucified.
Bartholomew was crucified, then flayed and beheaded.
Thomas was pierced with five spears.
Matthew was burned by fire.
James the Son of Alphaeus was crucified
Thaddeus was crucified.
Simon the Zealot was crucified.
Matthias was stoned, then beheaded with an axe when dead.
Paul was beheaded.
2. Blessed Peter the Heir.
A Tartar by race and the nephew of the Tartar King Berkai, he once listened to a sermon on salvation by Kiril, Bishop of Rostov, and the words embedded themselves deeply in his heart. When he saw the miraculous healing of Berkai's son by Kiril's prayers, he secretly left the Golden Horde and ran off to Rostov, where he was baptised and devoted himself heart and soul to the ascetic life and to training himself in faith and devotion. Once he spent the night on the shore of a lake, and the Apostles Peter and Paul appeared to him in his sleep and told him to build a church dedicated to their memory on that spot, giving him the money he would need to accomplish this. Peter built a beautiful church there, and was there made a monk in old age, after the death of his wife. He finished his earthly course peacefully on June 29th, 1290, and his church became and remains the Petrovski monastery.
3. Our Holy Father George the Georgian.
Born in Iberia or Georgia in 1014, he was a kinsman of the Georgian king, Bagrat. He received a good classical education in his early years, but his heart ever drew him towards the spiritual life. He laboured in asceticism under the renowned spiritual teacher George on the Black Mountain. He then went off to the Holy Mountain and continued his asceticism in the monastery of Iviron, becoming the abbot of that monastery. With the assistance of the Byzantine Emperor, Constantine Monomachus, he restored Iviron and roofed the church with lead. This same leaden roof remains to this day. He translated the Holy Scriptures, the Prologue and the books for Divine Service into Georgian. Bagrat summoned him back to Georgia to teach the people, and he received a royal welcome in his homeland. He travelled far and wide, instructing the clergy and the people. Reaching old age, he desired to depart this life on the Holy Mountain and set out on the road, but death overtook him in Constantinople in 1067. His relics were taken to Iviron. Although he died on May 24th, the Georgians celebrate his memory on June 30th, counting him as equal to the apostles.
Concern for the good of all people! That concern filled the exalted spirits and noble hearts of the holy apostles. Writing about the Apostle Paul, St. John Chrysostom calls him: "The universal father of the world." "As though he", says Chrysostom, "gave birth to the entire world that he anxiously labored and tried to being all into the Kingdom." Indeed, most exalted is this title: "Universal father of the world" and if this title could be attributed to anyone, other than God, it could only be attributed to the apostles of Christ. By their parental concern for the entire world, they in truth, were "the universal fathers of the world." There are many mothers in the world who care less about their own children then the apostles were concerned about the good of their persecutors and adversaries. The Apostle Peter twice saved his most bitter adversary, Simon the Magician, from death: once when the people wanted to burn him and another time when a dog wanted to tear him to pieces. Just think, how the world repaid these their benefactors! As if they were the greatest robbers and criminals. O how true are the words of St. Cyril who says: "As long as we are in the body, the same occurs to us Christians as to pagans, the difference is only in the spirit."
To contemplate the miraculous repentance of the thief on the Cross: "But the other one rebuked him: 'Have you no fear of God seeing you are under the same sentence?' " (St. Luke 23:40):
- How the sensible thief in his suffering senses God's closeness, repents and prays to God for salvation while the suffering of the insensible thief incites him to blaspheme God;
- How because of sin I am a thief and because of sin I should be as that sensible thief whose suffering does not estrange him from God but rather draws him closer to God; God and salvation.
About the power and the efficacy of good works
"For such is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men" (1 Peter 2:15).
Brethren, it is difficult to argue with an atheist; it is difficult to talk with an unreasonable man; it is difficult to convince an embittered man. It is difficult to convince the atheist, the unreasonable man and the embittered man with words. You will convince them easier by deeds. "They may through observing you by reason of your good works glorify God" (1 Peter 2:12). Do good deeds to those who wish to argue with you and you will win the argument. One deed of compassion will bring the unreasonable man to his senses and will pacify the embittered man quicker than many hours of conversation. If atheism, unreasonableness and bitterness stem from ignorance, that ignorance is as a fury, which can quickly be restrained by good works. If you argue with an atheist in his own rabid manner, you strengthen the fury of atheism. If you converse with the unreasonable by derision, the darkness of unreasonableness is increased. If you think you will overcome the embittered man with anger, you will stir up a greater fire of bitterness. A meek and good deed is like water over a fire. Always remember the holy apostles and their successful methods of behavior with men. If an atheist provokes you, the man does not provoke you but the devil provokes you: man by nature is religious. If the unreasonable man scolds you, the man does not scold you but the devil scolds you: man by nature is reasonable. If the embittered one persecutes you, then it is not the man who persecutes you but the devil who persecutes you: for man by nature is good. The devil provokes you to lengthy arguments and unfruitful conversations and flees from good deeds. Do good work in the Name of Christ and the devil will flee and only then will you have dealings with men, with true men; religious, reasonable and good men. Therefore whatever you do, do in the Name of the Lord.
O All-good Lord, help us to do good and by good to conquer in Your Name.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK