Prologue from Ochrid - June 7 [June 20]
1. The Holy Martyr Theodotus of Ancyra.
This martyr was a secret Christian and, as such, used to help the Church and give burial to the bodies of the martyrs. He buried the bodies of seven young maidens who had suffered for Christ. When the pagans discovered this, they attacked him and he was killed (see May 18th for more about him).
2. The Holy Martyrs Kyria, Vareria and Maria.
All three of these martyrs was from Caesarea in Palestine. When a persecution of Christians arose, they withdrew from the city to a hut, where they prayed unceasingly to God with fasting and tears that the Christian faith might be spread throughout the entire world and that persecution might cease. As the result of slander, they were brought to trial and tortured, and died under their torments in the year 304. And so these glorious virgins were crowned with the wreath of martyrdom.
3. The Hieromartyr Marcellus, Pope of Rome.
In the reign of the Emperor Maximian, Marcellus was condemned to keep cattle in a certain place. In order to please Diocletian, who had taken him as co-Emperor, Maximian began to build the Thermae, the baths in Rome, and forced the Christians to work on them as Pharaoh had once forced the Jews in Egypt. Many Christians perished there. The deacon Kyriakus, who had healed Artemia, Diocietian's daughter, of an evil spirit (for he had great power over demons), suffered at this time. He had also healed Jovia, the daughter of the Persian king, and had baptised them both. Artemia, the deacon Sisinius, two friends of Kyriakus, Smaragdus and Largius, the deacon Aphronianus and two newly baptised Roman soldiers, Papius and Maurus, the elder Saturninus and Crescentianus, the blessed maidens Priscilla and Lucina, who used their great wealth to have graves made for the Christian martyrs - all these suffered at this time. The holy Pope Marcellus cared for the cattle for a long time, but finally became weakened from hunger and humiliation and the tortures of the soldiers, and surrendered his soul to God.
4. The Hieromartyr Marcellinus, Pope of Rome.
Marcellinus was Pope Marcellus's predecessor on the Roman throne. When the Emperor Diocletian summoned him and threatened him with torture, he offered sacrifice to idols and was, because of this, rewarded by the Emperor with a costly garment. But Marcellinus repented bitterly and began to weep both day and night for his rejection of Christ, even as the Apostle Peter had before him. A synod of bishops was held at that time in Campania, and the Pope dressed himself in sackcloth and sprinkled ashes on his head, and, going before the Synod, confessed his sin and asked them to judge him. The fathers said: 'Let him judge himself.' Then he said: 'I strip myself of the sacerdotal rank of which I am not worthy; and, further, let my body not be buried after my death, but let it be thrown to the dogs.' Having said this, he pronounced a curse on any who should dare to bury him. He then went to the Emperor Diocletian and, casting the precious garment in front of him, confessed his faith in Christ and cursed the idols. The enraged Emperor ordered that he be tortured and killed outside the city, together with three other men: Claudius, Cyrinus and Antoninus. The bodies of these three were buried at once, but the Pope's body lay there for thirty-six days. Then St Peter appeared to Marcellus, the new Pope, and told him to bury Marcellinus's body, saying: 'Who so humbleth himself shall be exalted.'
5. Our Holy Father Daniel of Scetis.
The abbot of the famous Scetis in Egypt, he was a disciple of St Arsenius and a teacher of many. Many of his words and teachings are like celestial signposts for monks. Once, when the barbarians were attacking Scetis, the brethren called to him to flee with them, but he replied: 'If God does not care for me, what reason is there for me to live?' He also once said: 'Insofar as your body grows fat, even so does your soul wither away.' He lived the communal life as an ascetic for forty years, and then in the year 420 took himself off to the desert. He happened to be in Alexandria when an evil man murdered his son's wife because of her chastity. This was St Thomais (see April 13th), and he buried the martyr with the help of his disciples.
Among the saints exists a very sharp [acute] conscience. That which average people consider a minor sin, the saints consider to be a great transgression. It is said of the Abba Daniel that on three occasions robbers captured him and took him into the forest. Fortunately, on two occasions he saved himself from slavery but the third time when he wanted to escape, he struck one of them with a stone, killed him and fled. This murder preyed on his conscience as heavy as lead. Perplexed as to what he should do, he went to the Alexandrian Patriarch Timothy, confessed to him and sought advice. The patriarch consoled him and absolved him from any epitimija [penance]. But his conscience still worried him and he went to the pope in Rome. The pope told him the same thing as did Patriarch Timothy. Still dissatisfied, Daniel visited in succession the other patriarchs in Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem confessing to all of them and seeking advice. But, he remained unsatisfied. Then he returned to Alexandria and declared himself to the authorities as a murderer. The authorities arrested him. When the trial was held before the prince, Daniel related everything that had happened and begged to be killed in order to save his soul from eternal fire. The prince was amazed at all of this and said to him: "Go, Father, and pray to God for me even though you kill seven more!" Dissatisfied with this, Daniel then decided to take a leperous man into his cell and to serve him until his death and when this one dies to take another. Thus he did and so, in this manner, quieted his conscience.
To contemplate the miraculous healing of the woman with the issue of blood:
"And, behold a woman which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind Him and touched the hem of His garment. For she said within herself, if I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned around and when He saw her, He said, daughter, be a good comfort; your faith has made you whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour" (St. Matthew 9:20-22):
- How, with great faith, the woman with the issue of blood touched the hem of the garment of the Lord Jesus and was made whole;
- How my soul is also like a woman with the issue of blood as long as it is a slave to the flesh and blood;
- How, with one touch by Christ the Lord, my soul can be healed and spiritualized.
About emulating the ant
"Go to the ant, O sluggard, study her ways and learn wisdom" (Proverbs 6:6).
It is the will of the Creator who sent us into this world that we work as long as we are in this world. The Lord Jesus Himself commanded: "Work; Keep Watch!" He praises those who multiply their given talents and condemns the slothful who bury their talents. He calls His time on earth, service and says that He did not come to be served but to serve. He uses as an example His Heavenly Father and says: "My Father works even until now, and I work" (St. John 5:17). He commands His disciples: "Work while you still have light."
O what a terrible shame for man when an ant, an irrational creature, is used to emphasize an example of diligence. But when man does not know how to look up to the diligence of God, it is necessary to direct him, at least, to emulate the ant. An ant works all summer and prepares food for itself for winter. Brethren, do we also prepare winter stores that we will open and display after death? O, may we not come with empty hands before Him Who, with full hands, gives to us as long as we are in this life.
Slothfulness is one of the deadly sins for it deadens the soul in man. A slothful soul is the nest of vices; the slothful soul is the habitation of the devils.
O Lord Almighty, You Who are, at the same time, all peace and all work, deliver us from destructive slothfulness and move us by Your Holy Spirit toward all good works for the sake of the salvation of our souls.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK