Prologue from Ochrid - June 22 [July 5]
1. The Hieromartyr Eusebius, Bishop of Samosata.
He was a major opponent of Arianism. When the patriarchal throne of Antioch became vacant, Meletius was elected Patriarch. This Meletius was a shining light in the Church, and deserved the great eulogy given by St John Chrysostom at his death. But the Arians soon drove Meletius from Antioch. When Constantius, Constantine's evil son, died, he was followed by Julian the Apostate, a man even worse than he, as ruler of the Empire. During Julian's persecution of Christians, St Eusebius took off his cassock, clad himself in soldier's garb and travelled around the persecuted churches of Syria, Phoenicia and Palestine, strengthening the Orthodox faith everywhere and creating the necessary priests, deacons and other clergy and raising some to the episcopate. After the news of Julian's death, St Eusebius advised Meletius to summon a Council of the Church in Antioch. This took place in 363, and the twenty-seven hierarchs present denounced Arianism once again and proclaimed the Orthodox faith as it was expressed at the First Ecumenical Council. Besides Meletius and Eusebius, St Pelagius of Laodicea, a man of great asceticism and chastity, made a great impact at this Council, which took place during the reign of the devout Emperor Jovian. But he died soon after, and the evil Valens took the throne, and the persecution of Orthodoxy began afresh. St Meletius was banished to Armenia, Eusebius to Thrace and Pelagius to Arabia. After Valens, the Emperor Gratian came to the throne and restored freedom to the Church, returning the exiled bishops to their rightful places: Meletius to Antioch, Eusebius to Samosata and Pelagius to Laodicea. Many dioceses were vacant at that time and Eusebius was quick to find canonical pastors for the people. But when he arrived at the city of Doliche with the newly chosen bishop, Marinus, to install him as bishop and denounce the Arlan heresy (which was strong in that city), a certain fanatical heretic threw a tile from the roof and gave him a mortal wound. This great zealot for Orthodoxy, this saint and martyr, died and entered into eternal life in the blessedness of Paradise in the year 379.
2. The Holy Martyrs Zeno and Zenas.
St Zeno was a Ronian officer in the Arabian city of Philadelphia, and Zenas was his servant. When a persecution of Christians began during the reign of the Emperor Maximian, St Zeno stepped boldly before the governor, Maximus, and confessed his faith in the one, living God, counselling Maximus to give up dead idols and accept the one, true Faith. The governor was outraged and threw Zeno into prison. When the faithful Zenas visited his master in the prison, he too was seized and imprisoned. The two were thereupon tortured for Christ and finally thrown into the flames, which the pagans brought to a great heat with oil. Their souls were crowned in the Kingdom of Christ while their mortal remains were buried in the Church of St George at a place called Cyparisson.
St Alban is commemorated on August 23rd.
Why does the good Lord permit assaults and sufferings on the True Faith while He permits the pleasure of tranquility to heresies and paganism? Why? Even St. John Chrysostom asks and immediately replies: "So that you would recognize their weakness (the weakness of the heresies and paganism) when you see that they disintegrate on their own without any disturbance and also to be convinced in the power of faith which endures misfortunes and even multiplies through its adversaries." "Therefore, if we quarrel with the pagans or with the wretched Jews, it is sufficient to emphasize as evidence of divine power that the Faith (Christianity) which was subjected to countless struggles maintained victory" even when the entire world stood against her [the Church]. St. Isaac the Syrian says: "The wondrous love of God toward man is recognized when man is in misfortunes that are destroying his hope. Here, God manifests His power for his [man's] salvation. For man never recognizes the power of God in tranquility and freedom."
To contemplate the miraculous dumbness of Zacharias the high-priest: "And behold, you shall be dumb and unable to speak until the day when these things come to pass, because you have not believed my words which will be fulfilled in their proper time" (St. Luke 1:20):
- How Zacharias did not believe the angel of God that the old womb of his wife [Elizabeth] could conceive and give birth and how, because of that he was struck dumb according to the words of the angel;
- How, even I am, as though struck dumb when I cannot sufficiently speak about God's miracles because my faith is small.
About how the slothful man excuses himself
"The slothful man says: A lion is outside; in the streets I might be slain!" (Proverbs 22:13).
In order to justify his slothfulness, the slothful man emphasizes the difficulties and obstacles of a certain task and magnifies them beyond measure. If a man annoys him, he will say that the entire village annoys him; if the leaves rustle, he will justify that he is unable to go to work because of a storm; if a rabbit is in front of his house, he will say it is a lion! He says this in order not to leave the house and to delay his work.
Slothfulness is completely contrary to the nature of man. The nature of man is activity; the nature of man seeks to be occupied, to work and to build. Slothfulness is the sure sign of a distortion of the nature of man. That slothfulness is a terrible vice is clear in that an active man is never envious of the slothful man, while the slothful man is envious of the active man; in the same manner a sober man is not envious of the drunk, while the drunk is envious of the sober man.
O Lord, ever-active Creator, save us from the dull and sinful slothfulness by which we distance ourselves from our primordial nature [created] from Your image and likeness, Master of all things! Inspire us, with Your Holy Spirit, all-compassionate and joy-creating.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK