Prologue from Ochrid - May 20 [June 2]
1. The Holy Martyr Thaleleus.
Born in Lebanon, his father's name being Berucius and his mother's Romylia, he was an eighteen-year-old youth, handsome and wellgrown and with ginger hair. A doctor by profession, he suffered for Christ in the reign of Numerian. When he courageously confessed his faith in Christ the Lord before the judge, the latter commanded the two executioners, Alexander and Asterius, to bore through his knees, pass a rope through the pierced bone and hang him from a tree. But the executioners, as though the unseen power of God had deprived them of sight, bored through a plank and hung it on the tree. When the judge discovered this, he thought that the executioners had done it deliberately, and ordered that they be flogged. Then Alexander and Asterius cried out under the flogging: 'The Lord is alive to us; from now on, we are become Christians. We believe in Christ, and suffer for Him.' Hearing this, the judge ordered that they be beheaded. Then the judge took the awl, to bore through Thaleleus's knees himself, but his hand was paralysed and he had to ask Thaleleus to heal him, which the kindly martyr, with Christ's aid, did by his prayers. Then he was thrown into water, but showed himself alive to the judge (for Thaleleus was praying within himself that God would not have him die at once, but would let his tortures continue). When he was thrown to the wild beasts, they licked his feet and rubbed tamely round him. He was finally beheaded and entered into eternal life in 284.
2. The Holy Martyr Asclas.
He suffered in Antionus, a town in Egypt, in the time of Diocletian. He was flogged, flayed and burned with torches, but remained to the end steadfast in the Faith. When the torturer, Arrianus, was crossing the Nile by boat, Asclas, by his prayers, stopped the boat and would not let it move again until Arrianus had put in writing that he believed in Christ as the one, almighty God. But, dismissing that wonder as magic, Arrianus the torturer forgot all that he had written and continued to torture the man of God even more harshly. At last, Asclas had a stone tied around his neck and he was thrown into the Nile. But, on the third day, Christians found his body on the bank, with the stone still round his neck (as the martyr had foretold to them before his death), and gave him burial, in 287. The holy martyr Leonidas suffered together with him. Their torturer, Arrianus, repented later, came to believe in Christ with his whole heart and began to proclaim his faith publicly before the heathen. They then killed him also; and thus Arrianus, the sometime torturer of Christians, became worthy of the martyr's wreath for Christ.
3. Our Holy Father Stephen of Piperi.
This saint was of the tribe of Niksic, from the village of Zupa, of poor and devout parents, Radoje and Yacima. To learn the ascetic life, he lived first in the monastery of Moraca, where he became abbot. The Turks drove him out of there, and he settled in Rovaski Turmanj, in the place now called Celiste. After that, he moved again and settled in a cell at Piperi, where he remained to his death in toil and godly asceticism. He entered peacefully into rest in the Lord on May 20th, 1697. His relics are preserved there to this day, and glorify Christ our God and Stephen the man of God by their many wonders.
To contemplate God the Holy Spirit as an Inspirer of meekness and gentleness:
- How He inspired meekness and gentleness to the ascetics and hermits throughout the ages;
- How He inspired and, even today, inspires meekness and gentleness to all truly repentant souls.
About the spirit of the world and the Spirit from God
"We have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God" (1Corinthians 2:12).
Brethren, the spirit of this world is the spirit of pride and cruelty and the Spirit of God is the Spirit of meekness and gentleness. The apostle of God asserts that the followers of Christ did not receive the spirit of this world rather the Spirit "which is of God" i.e., who proceeds from God the Father as a sweet-smelling fragrance as from flowers and as a good fragrance pours out on the soul of man making it mighty, bright, peaceful, thankful and pleasant.
Men by nature are meek and gentle. St. Tertulain writes: "the soul of man by nature is Christian." But, by the spirit of this world, it is irritable and enraged. The spirit of this world made wolves out of lambs, while the Spirit Who is from God makes lambs out of wolves.
The apostle still adds that we received the Spirit of God "that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God" (1 Corinthians 2:12). Therefore, that we may know what is from God in us and what is not from God and that we may sense the sweetness of that which is from God and the bitterness from that which is not from God, rather from the spirit of this world. As long as man is outside of his nature, beneath his nature, he considers bitterness as sweetness and sweetness as bitterness. But, when by the Spirit of God he returns to his true nature, then he considers sweet as sweetness and bitter as bitterness.
Who can return man to God? Who can heal man of poisonous sinful bitterness? Who can teach him by experience to distinguish true sweetness from bitterness? No one except the Spirit Who is from God.
Therefore brethren, let us pray that God grants us His Holy Spirit as He granted the Holy Spirit to His apostles and saints. And when that Holy Spirit of God enters into us, the kingdom of God has arrived in which is all sweetness itself, only good, only light, only meekness and only gentleness.
O Holy Spirit, the Spirit of meekness and gentleness, come and abide in us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK