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Prologue from Ochrid - July 13 [July 26]

1. The Holy Archangel Gabriel.

This great archangel of God is commemorated on March 26th. On this day his appearances and marvels through the whole history of the salvation of mankind are commemorated. It is reckoned that this observance was first instituted on the Holy Mountain in 982, during the patriarchate of Nicolas Chrysoverges (979-91), and was occasioned by the Archangel's appearing in a cell near Karyes, where, with his finger, he wrote the hymn to the Mother of God: 'It is meet ... '. As a result of this occurrence, the cell was named, and is called to this day, 'It is meet Linked with this, other appearances of the Archangel Gabriel are commemorated, such as his appearing to Moses when he was keeping Jethro's flocks, when he revealed to this great man, chosen by God, how the world was created and all the rest that Moses later wrote down in the Book of Genesis; his appearing to Daniel and the imparting of the mystery of the kingdoms to come and the coming of the Saviour; his appearing to St Anna and the promise of a daughter, the most blessed and pure Virgin Mary; his very brief appearing to the holy Virgin while she was living in the Temple in Jerusalem; his appearing to Zacharias the high priest and the news of the birth of John the Forerunner, and the punishing of the same with dumbness because he did not believe the angel's words; his appearing once again to the holy Virgin in Nazareth, and the annunciation of the conception and birth of the Lord Jesus Christ; his appearing to righteous Joseph, to the shepherds near Bethlehem, to the Lord Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane when he strengthened the Lord, as man, before His Passion: his appearing to the myrrh-bearing women, and his other appearances.

2. St Julian, Bishop of Cenomanis (Le Mans).

Some think that he is none other than that Simon the Leper whom the Lord healed. The Apostle Peter made him bishop and sent him to pagan Gaul, where St Julian endured great privation, but succeeded in bringing many of the people to the Christian faith. When the prince, Defenson, was baptised, many of his subjects embraced the true Faith. By the grace of God, Julian worked many miracles: healing the sick, driving out demons and raising the dead. He departed this life peacefully and, at the time of his death, appeared to Prince Defenson in full daylight, while the latter was at lunch.

3. Our Holy Father Stephen of St Sava's.

Nephew to St John Damascene, he lived in asceticism in the monastery of St Sava the Sanctified, and is therefore known as 'of St Sava's'. He was a great imitator of the life of St Sava and a resplendent star among the monks of Palestine. He entered into rest in the Lord in 794, at the age of sixty-nine.

4. Our Holy Mother Sarah the Egyptian.

She embraced asceticism as a young girl, and thus spent sixty years on the bank of the Nile not far from Alexandria. By her example, she drew many women to the monastic life. She entered into rest in the Lord in 370.

Reflection

A man adorns simple clothing and ornate clothing adorns a man. Simple clothing calls attention to the man, but ornate clothing calls attention to itself. The passion for ornate clothing simply drains and withers the soul of man. This is the real reason why the Church from time immemorial stood against opulence in dress and recommended the simple and plain. Among the countless Christian saints there is no mention of one for whom ornate clothing helped to attain sanctity. Many great and wise kings, not only Christians but also heathens, loved simplicity in dress. Thus, it is said that the Emperor Augustus Octavius, during whose reign the Lord Christ was born wore only simple clothing which was woven for him by his wife, sister or daughter. Of King Charles V, it is said, that he wore such simple clothing that even ordinary citizens, his subjects, were better dressed than he. A man once invited the glorious Greek military general Philopomenes to dinner in whose home he had never previously entered. Philopomenes arrived at the home of his host a little early. The host had not yet arrived and, the hostess not knowing Philopomenes personally and seeing him attired in simple clothing, thought that he was a servant of Philopomenes who was sent in advance to inform her husband of the coming of the military general. Because of this, she ordered him to chop wood. Philopomenes willing acceded to her command and began to chop wood. When the host came and saw what this honored guest was doing, he was horrified and asked him: "Who dared to give this type of work to Philopomenes?" Quietly, the military general answered: "My clothing."

Contemplation

    To contemplate the great patience of God toward the unbelieving Jewish generation and their deserved punishment (Numbers 14):

  1. How God worked a multitude of miracles before the eyes of the Israelites and how they remain stubborn in their unbelief and murmured against Moses;
  2. How God punished them, making them wander for forty years in the wilderness and all of them perished except Joshua and Caleb;
  3. How even some of us perish in the wilderness of sensuality and do not enter into the land of spiritual honey and milk in the Kingdom of Christ.

Homily

About the indispensability of sobriety in battle against the devil

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour" (1 Peter 5:8).

Orthodox monks have elevated sobriety and vigilance to the status of mortification. The spirit must be sober in order to sense danger and vigilant in order to recognize from which side the danger is coming and from whom.

My child, be vigilant that you do not tread on a serpent, that you do not fall into a pit, that you do not encounter a wolf, that you do not step out into deep water, that you do not stray from the path and get lost in the forest! Thus a mother counsels her child, fearing for his body. With no less love does the Church counsel a man, fearing for his soul. Therefore children, "be sober, be vigilant." Your old adversary the devil does not rest nor sleep but, similar to a hungry lion, stalks and seeks whomsoever he can devour. "Be sober, be vigilant," for you are as sheep and he is as a lion. When sheep sense the foul odor of the wolf, they flee to their shepherd. Therefore, "be vigilant" all of you and sense the foulness of the devil when he approaches you and flee immediately under the wings and protection of your shepherd, Christ the Lord. And You will sense the odious smell of the devil through your thoughts, through your feelings, through your intentions and through your passions of the flesh. All that you would have thought, imaged, felt, intended and desired contrary to Christ and the Law of Christ, know that that is the snare of the devil, the foulness of the devil know that and flee to your Shepherd directing your entire mind and all your heart and all your soul and body to Him.

O Lord Jesus, our Sober and Vigilant Shepherd, make us "sober and vigilant" at every moment so that our enemy will not surprise us and devour us.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK