Prologue from Ochrid - June 3 [June 16]
1. The Holy Martyr Lucillian and those with him: Claudius, Hypatius, Paul, Dionysius and the Virgin Paula.
Lucillian grew to old age as a pagan priest. Only as a grizzled old man did he learn the truth of Christianity and receive baptism. His conversion to Christianity caused great excitement among the pagans of Nicomedia, and he was brought to trial for refusing to deny his new faith. He was harshly whipped and, all black and blue, thrown into prison. In the prison were four young men: Claudius, Hypatius, Paul and Dionysius, who had likewise been imprisoned for the Faith. The old man rejoiced in the company of these young men, and they in his, and they spent their time together in spiritual converse, prayer and the singing of psalms. When they were taken from the prison, they were tortured in various ways and then taken to Byzantium, where the young men were beheaded with the sword by the soldiers, and Lucillian crucified by the Jews. The wicked Jews pierced his body all over with nails. A maiden, Paula, openly took the martyrs' bodies and gave them burial. She was denounced for this and, after torture, was beheaded, receiving a twofold wreath: of virginity and of martyrdom. Their martyrdom took place in the time of the Emperor Aurelian, between 270 and 275.
2. The Hieromartyr Lucian.
A Roman, renowned for his noble birth, wealth and learning, he was for a time a disciple of the Apostle Peter. Later, Pope Clement sent him, together with Dionysius the Areopagite, to Gaul to preach the Gospel, consecrating them bishop before they set out. Lucian sowed the seed of Christ's teaching with great zeal, first in Gaul and then in Belgium. When the wicked Emperor Domitian began persecuting the Christians, men were sent from Rome to seek out the Christian missionaries and arrest them. They first seized and killed Dionysius, and then set off in pursuit of Lucian. Finding him in Belgium, together with his helpers, the priest Maxianus. and the deacon Julian, they killed these two in one place and beheaded Lucian in another. When Lucian had been beheaded, his dead body rose from the ground and, taking its head into its hands (like St Dionysius and St John Vladimir), walked thus to the spot at which it wished to be buried. There it fell to the ground, and was there buried. A church was later built over his relics.
3. The Holy Martyr Dimitri, Tsarevitch of Russia.
He received a martyr's death at the age of eight at the hands of the power-hungry Boris Godunov, in the town of Uglich in 1591. He appeared after his death to a monk and prophesied that a false Dimitri would appear, who would bring about Boris Godunov's murder. This came to pass. Innumerable miracles were wrought at the grave of the martyred Tsarevitch. His relics were dug up fifteen years later, whole and uncorrupt, and were transferred solemnly to Moscow and buried in the Church of the Archangel Michael.
O, if only we could enter into the mystery of God's Providence in the lives of men! We would be filled with fear and trembling before every evil deed and before every sin of men. "I understood Your works O Lord and I am amazed." In certain great events, the mystery of God's Providence is obvious even to men of lesser spirituality, for example in the fate of the Crown-Prince Dimitri and the bloodthirsty and power-loving Boris Godunov. In order to arrive at the first place among the noblemen in the court of Tsar Theodore, Godunov poisoned many of the nobles. When he reached the position of being first to the Tsar, he even planned to poison the brother of the Tsar, the eight-year old Dimitri. On several occasions, through hired mercenaries, he administered the most bitter poison to the young Crown-Prince but the poison had no affect. Providence permitted that the criminal murder his victim, not secretly and quietly, but openly. Godunov dispatched the murderers who, openly in the middle of the day, murdered the Crown-Prince. Thus did Dimitri become an open martyr and Godunov became an open criminal for all of Russia. After that, Dimitri surfaced and proclaimed that he was the Crown Prince (as though he was the rightful Crown-prince Dimitri and that someone else was murdered) and set out with an army against Godunov. He defeated Godunov and drove him to such dispair that Boris prepared poison and took the poison himself. He, who poisoned others, poisoned himself! He who murdered the innocent Dimitri was himself defeated by a man with the name of Dimitri! He, who has spiritual eyes to see, let him see the mystery of God's Providence.
To contemplate the miraculous calming of the tempest on the lake: "And, behold, there arose a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was covered with waves: but He was asleep" (St. Matthew 8:24):
- How the disciples cried out: "Lord, save us: we perish!" (St. Matthew 8:25) and how the Lord, with one word, calmed the tempest and there was a great calm;
- How the Lord awaits that I cry out to Him in fear to calm the tempest of passions, of men and of demons on the sea of my life.
About the peace of the simple and the prosperity of the fools
"For the turning away of the simple shall slay them and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them" (Proverbs 1:32).
Does peace kill? Yes, godless peace kills. Does prosperity destroy? Yes, prosperity without God and contrary to the laws of God can destroy. Simple are they who seek such a peace and they who run after such prosperity are fools. For, in essence, they do not seek peace but rather the sword and are not running after prosperity but rather after destruction. What is the peace of the simple and what is the prosperity of fools? The peace of the simple is physical peace and the prosperity of fools is physical feasting. King Herod wanted such a peace and he was consumed by worms. Jezebel wanted such a prosperity and dogs consumed her.
By what name would we call a man who, in deciding to build a house, thinks that he will place the roof in the air first and afterward erect walls and then lay the foundation of the house? We would call him a simpleton and a fool. Much the same are all those who are attempting to establish peace in the world without interior peace and to establish exterior prosperity for men without interior prosperity. The Christian Faith is the only one which builds from the foundation and the foundation is Christ, a firm and indestructible rock. Thus, the Christian Faith for the peace and prosperity of men builds on Christ. An internal, blessed and joyful peace is built on Christ the Lord and on this peace, external peace is built. So also is true and lasting prosperity. It is still better to say that true peace and true prosperity is like a well-built house and external peace and prosperity are like the external adornments of the house. However, if the adornments fall, the house will stand but if the house is destroyed, will the adornments then hang in the air?
O my brethren, the Christian teaching is the only reasonable teaching about peace and prosperity. All else is madness and foolishness. For, how could the servants build a mansion on the estate of the Master without permission of the Master and without His help?
O Lord, the source of eternal true peace and true prosperity, save us from the peace of the simple and the prosperity of fools.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK