Prologue from Ochrid - May 31 [June 13]
1. The Holy Apostle Hermas.
One of the Seventy, he is mentioned in the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans (16:14). A Greek by birth, he spent a long time in Rome. He was bishop in Philippoupolis, and finished his life a martyr. He compiled the very instructive book 'The Shepherd' through revelations from the angels of God. Hermas was a rich man, but fell into extreme poverty through his own sins and those of his sons. A man appeared to him, clad in white and with a staff in his hand, and told him that he was the angel of repentance, sent to him before the end of his life. The angel gave him twelve commandments:
1. To believe in God.
2. To live in simplicity and innocence.
3. To love truth and flee from falsehood.
4. To guard his thoughts in chastity.
5. To learn patience and magnanimity of soul.
6. To know that a good and an evil spirit attend every man.
7. To fear God, but not the devil
8. To perform every good deed and to restrain himself from every evil one.
9. To pray to God in faith from the depths of his heart, so that his prayer might be heard.
10. To preserve himself from melancholy, the daughter of doubt, and from anger.
11. To try true and false prophecies.
12. To preserve himself from every evil desire.
2. The Holy Martyr Hermias.
He was a soldier in the imperial army till old age, when he suffered for another Emperor: Christ. The wicked judge tried in vain to make him renounce the Christian faith and offer sacrifice to idols, then he ordered that Hermias's teeth be broken with a stone and the skin stripped from his face with a knife. After that, he was thrown into a flaming furnace, but he remained unharmed, protected by the grace of God. He was then made to drink the strongest poison, which was given to him y a magician on the judge's orders, but the poison did him no harm at all. When the magician saw this, he was so amazed that he confessed Christ himself, and was immediately slain with the sword. They then poked out both of Hermias's eyes, and he said mildly to the judge: 'Take the eyes of flesh which used to gaze upon the vanity of the world; I have other eyes in my heart with which I clearly see the true light.' He was then hung upside down by the feet, and those who were torturing him became blind and staggered around him. St Hermias called them to himself, laid his hands upon them and restored their sight by his prayers. Seeing all this, the judge became as furious as a lion and, drawing out his sword, cut off the head of the man of God. Christians came and took Hermias's body in secret, and gave it burial. His relics gave healing to all the sick and wretched. St Hermias suffered in the reign of the Emperor Antoninus, in the year 160.
3. The Holy Martyr Philosophus.
This martyr of Christ's was born near Alexandria. During a persecution of Christians, Philosophus refused to renounce Christ the Lord before the pagan princes and judges, and they therefore inflicted terrible tortures on him. After he had been tortured in various ways, they finally placed him on a soft bed, bound hand and foot, and put a harlot in with him to entice him into sin. When Philosophus felt passion awakening in himself through the touch of the woman's hands, he took the tongue between his teeth, bit it through and spat it out in the harlot's face. His passion was extinguished and the harlot was so aghast that she fled from him at once. He was afterwards beheaded with the sword, in about 252, whilst still young in years, and entered into the Kingdom of eternal youth. (In the Greek Prologue, St Philosophus is commemorated on May 1st.).
This life is a spiritual struggle. To conquer or to be defeated! If we conquer, we will enjoy the fruits of victory throughout all eternity; if we are defeated, we will endure the horrors of destruction throughout all eternity. This life is a duel between man and all that is contrary to the Divine. God is an Almighty ally to all who sincerely call upon Him for help. "This life is not a joke or a play thing," says Father John of Cronstadt, "but men turn it into a joke and plaything. But the capricious play around with time given to us for preparing for eternity, play around with empty words. They gather together as guests, they sit and chatter and after that they sit and play in this way or the other way; they gather in theatres and there they entertain themselves. All life for them is an amusement. But, woe unto them who are only entertaining themselves."
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Holy Unction [Anointing with Oil]:
- How that Grace works through sanctified oil;
- How according to prayer and faith, It heals every illness and every infirmity.
About the Mystery [Sacrament] of Holy Unction [Anointing with Holy Oil]
"...And anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them" (St. Mark 6:13).
The holy apostles did this and it is commanded that we do the same. The Apostle James writes to us: "Is there any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the Name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he has committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (St. James 5: 14-15). You need not call anyone except the priests, the elders of the church; you need not anoint him in any other name except the Name of the Lord, so that it will not appear as witchcraft. No one will be able to raise him except the Lord Himself nor can any other forgive his sins except the One Lord. Why oil and not something else? Because it is commanded and so that we may show obedience and faith. Why is it commanded that we baptize with water and anoint [Chrismate] with oil [myrrh] and communicate with bread and wine? That is God's choice and God's prudence and ours is to believe and to obey. Various elements are used in the different Mysteries [Sacraments], but the Grace of God is one as our Lord is one and everything is from the Lord. Why does our Lord need some materials in order to pour out His Grace upon us? The Lord does not need the material but we do as long as we are material, we need material. Condescending to our weakness, the Lord uses matter. To the incorporeal angels, He gives Grace in an incorporeal manner.
Oil alone is helpless of itself as every other material is helpless of itself, but the Grace of God is All-powerful. Through oil, the Lord gives the Grace of His Holy Spirit and that Grace heals the sick, raises the infirm and restores sanity to the insane.
O my brethren, how inexpressible is God's goodness! What did not God do for us? And what more could we possibly desire? He knew all of our needs beforehand and, for all of them, He foresaw the cures in advance. He only seeks from us that we believe in Him and fulfill His prescriptions. Is it not insolent and shameful that we more often conscientiously follow the instructions of physicians, mortal men such as we are, and neglect the prescriptions of the Immortal God?
O All-good Lord, melt our stony hearts by the power of Your Grace so that before the hour of our death, we may show indebted thanksgiving toward You: toward You O our All-good and our All-wise God!
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK