Prologue from Ochrid - July 17 [July 30]
1. The Holy Martyr Marina.
Born in Pisidian Antioch of pagan parents, Marina only heard of the Lord Jesus at the age of twelve, of His incarnation of the most pure Virgin, His many miracles, His death by crucifixion and His glorious Resurrection. Her little heart was inflamed with love for the Lord, and she vowed never to marry and, further, desired in her soul to suffer for Christ and be baptised with the blood of martyrdom. Her father hated her for her faith, and would not regard her as his daughter. The imperial governor, Olymbrius, hearing of Marina and learning that she was a Christian, at first desired her for his wife. When Marina refused, he ordered her to sacrifice to idols. To this, Marina replied: 'I shall not worship nor offer sacrifice to dead idols, lacking the breath of life, which have no awareness of themselves and are not even aware of our honouring or dishonouring them. I will not give them that honour that belongs to my Creator alone.' Then Olymbrius put her to harsh torture, and threw her into prison all wounded and bleeding. Marina prayed to God in the prison, and, after she had prayed, there appeared to her first the devil in the form of a terrible serpent, which twined itself about her head. When she made the sign of the Cross, the serpent split asunder and disappeared. Then she was bathed in heavenly light; the walls and roof of the prison disappeared and a Cross was revealed, resplendent and lofty. On the top of the Cross was perched a white dove, from which there came a voice: 'Rejoice, Marina, thou dove of Christ, daughter of the Sion that is on high, for the day of thy joy is drawing near!', and Marina was healed by the power of God of all her wounds. The demented judge tortured her the next day by fire and water, but Marina endured it all as if not in her own body. She was finally sentenced to death by beheading. At the moment of her death, the Lord Jesus appeared to her, accompanied by angels. She was beheaded in the time of the Emperor Diocletian, but remains alive in soul and in power in heaven and on earth. One of her hands is preserved in the monastery of Vatopedi on the Holy Mountain. Even in Albania, in the Langa mountains overlooking Lake Ochrid, there is a monastery of St Marina with some of her wonderworking relics. Numerous miracles have been wrought in this monastery and still are, witnessed not only by Christians but also by Moslems. The Turks have such a veneration for this holy place that they have never laid hands on either the place or the monastery's possessions. At one time, a Turk was caretaker of the monastery.
2. Our Holy Father Leonid.
This Russian saint lived in asceticism from his youth in several monasteries: in Solovetz, Mirozh and others. He finally founded his own monastery on the river Luza in the province of Vologd. He lived in strict asceticism and his soul was filled with the grace of the light and power of the Holy Spirit. A great light, he drew many to the ascetic life. Being pleasing to God, he went peacefully to his reward on July 17th, 1653. His relics are preserved in his monastery.
Until Christ becomes all for the soul completely all which generally has a certain permanent and unchanging value, until then, man cannot enter into suffering for Christ. How could St. Marina the fifteen-year-old girl enter into suffering for Christ? For to her, Christ was all completely all! How could Saint Julitta have rejoiced upon seeing her three year old son Cyriacus dead for the Faith of Christ? Again, for her, Christ was all completely all. Behold, how St. Tikhon of Zadonsk speaks in detail of how Christ is all to man in the form of a conversation between Christ and man:
"Do you desire good for yourself?
Every good is in Me.
Do you desire blessedness?
Every blessedness is in Me.
Do you desire beauty?
What is more beautiful than Me?
Do you desire nobleness?
What is more noble than the Son of God and the Holy Virgin?
Do you desire height?
What is higher than the Kingdom of Heaven?
Do you desire riches?
In Me are all riches.
Do you desire wisdom?
I am the Wisdom of God.
Do you desire friendship?
Who is a kinder friend than I Who lay down My life for all?
Do you desire help?
Who can help except Me?
Do you seek joy?
Who will rejoice outside of Me?
Do you seek comfort in misery?
Who will comfort you outside of Me?
Do you seek peace?
I am the peace of the soul.
Do you seek life?
In Me is the source of life.
Do you seek light?
'I am the Light of the world' " (St. John 8:12).
- How all the people would have died from the bite of the serpents, until Moses raised the brass serpent on a pole;
- How all, who were bitten by a serpent, as soon as they gazed upon the brass serpent were made whole;
- How the brass serpent pre-figures Christ on the Cross.
To contemplate the miraculous brass serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21):
About the need to repeat and repeat
"Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though you know them, and be established in the present truth" (2 Peter 1:12).
The plower sows in the field. Does not the plower repeat the same task every second? How would he, therefore, plow the field if not plowing from morning to dusk deepening furrow after furrow?
The traveler walks the road. Does not the traveler repeat the same task every second with the same effort? How else would he have traveled the road and reached his destination?
The carpenter prepares the boards in his workshop. Does not the carpenter repeat the same task with every board, with the same labor? How else would he be able to prepare the ordered amount of prepared boards?
Brethren, is not all of our beneficial works comprised of strands and strands of repetition? Therefore, let not the preacher of the truth become slothful and let him not say: "I told them so and I will not repeat it!" Let not the hearer of the truth become proud and let him not say: "I heard it once and I do not need to hear it again!"
O preacher of the truth, do not be afraid to repeat and to repeat: that through repetition you teach and by repetition you remind. Without repetition even the field is not plowed, nor the path traveled, nor the framework [rafters] of the house prepared. And you [preacher of the truth] are to plow, to lead and
O hearer of the truth, do not become proud and do not say that you heard the truth once. Truth is food for the soul. You have eaten bread today, yesterday and the day before yesterday and for months and years past. And again you will eat it, so that your body would be healthy. Nourish also the soul. Nourish it with the truth, the same truth, yesterday, today and tomorrow and until death so that your soul may be healthy, strong and radiant.
O Lord Jesus, nourish us every day and every hour with Your truth which is Yourself O Jesus, sweet nourishment!
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK