Prologue from Ochrid - June 4 [June 17]
1. St Metrophanes of Constantinople.
His father Dometius, brother of the Roman Emperor Probus, fled from Rome as a Christian during a persecution and went to Byzantium. The Bishop of Byzantium, Titus, ordained Dometius priest and, after Titus's death, Dometius became Bishop of Byzantium. After Dometius's death, his elder son Probus occupied the episcopal throne (Dometius had children from his earlier, pagan days), and Metrophanes succeeded him on his death. When the Emperor Constantine first set eyes on Metrophanes, he loved him as a father. At the time of the First Ecumenical Council, Metrophanes was a very old man and, being unable to take a full part in the Council's deliberations, appointed his assistant bishop, Alexander, as his representative. The Emperor had Metrophanes raised to the rank of Patriarch by the Council, and he thus became the first Patriarch of Constantinople. The Emperor further invited the whole Council to visit the sick and aged hierarch. When the Emperor asked him who he wished to succeed him on the patriarchal throne, Metrophanes named Alexander of Alexandria, after which he said to him: 'My brother, you are my chosen successor!' He also took Archdeacon Athanasius (later Athanasius the Great, Patriarch of Alexandria) by the hand and praised him before them all. After this prophetic act, he took leave of them all and, ten days later, gave his soul to God, in 325.
2. The Holy Martyr Concordius.
He was a great ascetic and a wonderworker during his earthly life. Arrested as a Christian under the Emperor Antoninus, he was tortured and imprisoned, and led before the stone idol of Zeus to pay it reverence. He spat on the idol, for which he was at once beheaded.
3. The Holy Martyrs Frontasius, Severinus, Severian and Silanus.
They were martyred in France in the time of the Emperor Claudius. When they had been beheaded, they rose to their feet, took their heads in their hands, crossed the river lie and came to the church of the most holy Mother of God, where Bishop Frontanus was at prayer. Entering the church, they laid their heads at the bishop's feet and then lay down and crossed themselves. They were buried there and, at their burial, the singing of an unseen host of angels was heard.
4. Our Holy Father Zossima, Bishop of New Babylon in Egypt.
He lived in asceticism on Mount Sinai. Going to Alexandria in the course of his work, he was consecrated by the venerable Patriarch Apollinarius as Bishop of New Babylon. He was a good pastor of Christ's flock, but when old age and weariness came upon him, he withdrew again to Sinai, where he gave his soul into God's hands and received a wreath of glory among the great hierarchs. He lived and died in the 6th century.
5. The Hieromartyr Astius, Bishop of Dyrrachium.
He suffered under Trajan. First beaten with leaden rods, he was then stripped bare and crucified on a tree. His naked body, smeared with honey, was left for the wasps and hornets to eat. St Astius breathed his last in great torment, praising God, and received a twofold wreath: as a martyr and a hierarch. He suffered at the beginning of the second century.
6. Ss Mary and Martha, the Sisters of Lazarus.
After the Lord's Ascension, Lazarus went about preaching the Gospel, and his sisters helped him in this work. It is not known where they died.
It is a horrible thing to kill a man. There are no words to describe the horror which lays hold on the murderer. While a man is preparing to kill another man, he thinks that to kill a man is the same as killing an ox. When he carries out his preconceived crime then, all at once, he realizes that he has declared war on heaven and earth and that he has become an exile and cut off from both heaven and earth. The victim does not give him peace neither day nor night. A known criminal came to Zosimus on Sinai and begged him to tonsure him a monk. Zosimus clothed him in the monastic habit and sent him to the monastery of Venerable Dorotheus near Gaza to lead a life of asceticism in the Cenobia. After nine years the tonsured criminal returned to St. Zosimus, returned his monastic habit and sought his secular clothes. To the question why are you doing this, the criminal replied that for nine years he has fervently prayed to God, fasted, kept vigil and fulfilled all acts of obedience and that he feels that many of his sins were forgiven but that one of his sins torments him continually. At one time, he killed an innocent child and that child appears to him day and night and asks him: "Why did you kill me?" Because of that he decided to leave and to turn himself in to the authorities that they may execute him and thus to repay blood for blood. Dressing in his former clothes, he went to the town of Diospolis where he acknowledged his crime and was beheaded. Thus, by his blood, he washed away his bloody sin.
To contemplate the miraculous healing of the possessed ones [madmen]of Gergesene [Gadarene]: "Now when He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gerasenes, there met Him two men who were possessed, coming from the tombs, so exceedingly fierce that no one could pass by that way" (St. Matthew 8:28):
- How the Lord cast out the demons from the ones possessed and the possessed ones became calm and meek;
- How the Lord stands beside me and waits to be called to help me and to cleanse me from every evil spirit which lays hold of me and separates me from God.
About trust in the Lord and not in your own understanding
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; on your own understanding rely not" [Proverbs 3:5).
If all the mountains would move toward you, would you be able to push them back with your hands? You could not. If darkness after darkness of all the mysteries in the heavens and on the earth rushed to the small taper of your understanding would you, with your understanding, be able to illuminate the darkness? Even less! Do not rely on your understanding for, from the perishable matter which you call intellect, a greater portion of it is nothing more than dead ashes. O man, do not rely on your understanding for it is a road over which a mob rushes a hungry, thirsty, motley and curious mob of sensual impressions.
O man, trust in the Lord with all your heart. In Him is understanding without end and all-discerning. The Lord says: "I am understanding; mine is strength" (Proverbs 8:14). He looks on the paths on which your blood flows and all the crossroads on which your thoughts wander. With compassion and love He offers Himself to you as a leader and you rely on your darkened and perishable understanding. Where was your understanding before your birth? Where was your understanding when your body was taking form, when your heart began to beat and flow with blood, when your eyes began to open and when your voice began to flow from your throat? Whose understanding was all this while your mind was still sleeping as charcoal in a coal mine? Even when your understanding awoke, can you enumerate all the illusions which it has delivered to you, all the lies in which it has entangled you, all the dangers which it did not foresee? O my brother, trust only in the Lord with all your heart! Until now, He has rescued you numerous times from your own understanding, from illusions and its lies and from danger in which it has pushed you. A blind man is compared to the man who can see, so is your understanding compared to the understanding of God. O blind one, trust in the Leader. O brother, trust only in the Lord with all your heart.
O Lord, All-seeing, Eternal and Infallible Understanding, deeper than the universe and more radiant than the sun, deliver us, even now from the errors of our understanding.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK