Prologue from Ochrid - May 28 [June 10]
1. St Nicetas the Confessor, Bishop of Chalcedon.
He renounced the world in his youth and withdrew to follow the path of monastic asceticism. He shone like the sun with virtue and came to the attention of the ecclesiastical authorities, being raised to the episcopal throne of Chalcedon. He was, as a hierarch, particularly compassionate to the poor and cared for many orphans, widows and beggars. When the wicked Emperor Leo the Armenian made his stand against the icons, St Nicetas came courageously to their defence, denouncing the Emperor and expounding their meaning. He was finally driven into exile for his confession of the Faith, and, after much hardship and suffering, went to the Lord to receive a wreath of glory in the Kingdom of God.
2. The Holy Martyr Heliconis.
She was born in Salonica and educated in Christian piety. She went to Corinth in the time of Gordian and Philip, where she outspokenly denounced all who sacrificed to idols. When the governor, Perinus, urged her to offer sacrifice to Aesculapius, Christ's martyr said to him: 'Hear me, and know that I am a servant of Christ; as for Aesculapius, I do not know who he is. Do what you will.' She was brought to trial for these words and terribly tortured. She was thrown into the flames, but a great gush of blood poured from her body and extinguished it, and she remained alive. She was thrown to the lions, but they would not touch her and instead fawned round her. Thrust into a temple for at least the semblance of offering sacrifice to idols, she smashed the idols, thereby arousing still greater hatred in her tormentors. Lying in prison covered all over with wounds, she saw the Lord Himself with the Archangels Michael and Gabriel. He healed her wounds, comforting and encouraging her. Later, she was led out to the scaffold to be beheaded with the sword. Before her beheading, Heliconis raised her arms high and prayed that God accept her and bring her into the company of His flock in the heavenly fold. When she had finished her prayer, a voice was heard from heaven: 'Come, make haste; a crown and a throne are prepared for thee.' She was finally beheaded and received a wreath of glory from the Lord, for whose love she was sacrificed like an innocent and pure lamb.
3. St Ignatius, Bishop of Rostov.
This hierarch guided the flock of Christ for twenty-six years with great love and compassion. When he died and his body was placed in the church, some of those present saw him leave his coffin and rise up in the air above the church. He blessed the people and the city from on high, and then returned to his coffin. Many other miracles were wrought at his grave. He went to the Lord on May 28th, 1288.
Only a proud man is always prepared to equate Christ with other great men. Even though it is obvious at first glance, that great men are one thing and the Lord Christ another, just as creation is one thing and the Creator is another. Christ is not only great but He is the Creator and Source and Inspirer of every true greatness in the history of mankind. Napoleon, one of the transient great men in exile and misery on the island of St. Helena, uttered these words: "Alexander, Caesar, Hannibal, Louis XIV, with all their genius, are nothing. They have conquered the world and were unable to gain one friend. And behold, Christ calls and instantly entire generations are united in a bond closer and stronger than the bond of blood. Christ ignites the fire of love which consumes all egoism and surpasses whatever kind of love you desire."
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Holy Matrimony:
- How that Grace, during marriage, lawfully sanctifies the physical bond of two human beings for the sake of the procreation of children;
- How It unites, illumines and strengthens, through love, the union of two souls: husband and wife.
About the power of the Mystery [Sacrament] of Matrimony
"Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cling to his wife and they shall be one flesh" (Genesis 2:24).
It is God's will that the human race multiply; it is God's artful manner how the human race is being multiplied. It is God's mystery how man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife. To leave your parents does not mean to abandon your parents but rather to become parents yourself. When children become parents, they are no longer only children, but are companions of their parents. When wedded sons learn of the mystery and pain of childbirth, they then respect their parents even more. The marital union can never free a man from having respect and obedience toward his parents. The original commandment of God to honor your parents must be fulfilled. But, according to the natural cycle of things, a man leaves his parents and becomes a parent himself; he becomes a founder of a new future while his parents depart, having completed their role in the world. However, everything is not in "leaving" the parents. By a certain incomprehensible mystery, man clings to his wife and detaches himself from his parents. St. Theodoretus writes: "Christ Himself left his Father on high and united Himself to the Church."
My brethren, matrimony is a great and miraculous mystery, one of the greatest mysteries of God's plan. A pure and honorable marriage is overly replete with sublimeless. A pure and honorable marriage, in the fear of God, is a vessel of the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Whoever disdains marriage disdains the Spirit of God. Whoever defiles marriage with impurity, blasphemes against the Spirit of God. Whoever abstains from marriage for the sake of the kingdom of God must, in a different manner, prepare himself as a vessel of the Holy Spirit and, in the spiritual realm, make himself fruitful in order not to be cut down as the barren fig tree.
O God, Holy Spirit Almighty, assist those who are in the state of matrimony, that in purity, fear and mutual love be as the Church of God in which You joyfully abide and govern all things for good.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK