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Prologue from Ochrid - June 9 [June 22]

1. St Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria.

He was of noble birth and a close kinsman of Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, after whose death he was chosen as Patriarch. He fought three fierce battles in the course of his life: against the Novatianist heretics, against Nestorius and against the Jews of Alexandria. The Novatianists began in Rome, and were so called after their leader, the heretic priest Novatian. They were filled with pride at their virtues, went about dressed in white, banned second marriages and declared that one must not pray for those who had committed mortal sin nor receive back into the Church those who had once fallen away, however deeply they might repent. Cyril overcame them and drove them out of Alexandria, together with their bishop. The battle with the Jews was harder and bloodier. The Jews had been in the ascendant in Alexandria right from the time that Alexander the Great founded the city. Their hatred towards the Christians was vicious and mindless. They killed Christians by treachery, by poison and by crucifixion. After a long and difficult struggle, Cyril succeeded in inducing the Emperor to drive the Jews out of Alexandria. His battle, however, against Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople, was resolved at the Third Ecumenical Council in Ephesus. Cyril himself presided at this Council, and also represented Pope Celestine of Rome at his request, he being prevented by old age from attending the Council. Nestorius was condemned, anathematised and exiled by the Emperor to the eastern borders of the Empire, where he died. After the end of these battles, Cyril lived in peace and guided Christ's flock with zeal. He went to the Lord in the year 444. It is said that he composed the hymn: 'Hail, Mother of God and Virgin.'

2. St Kiril of Byelozersk.

Born and educated in Moscow, the son of a great house, he was tonsured in the Simonov monastery, where he lived in an asceticism that was a marvel to the other monks. To conceal his virtues, he feigned madness. He spoke face-to-face with St Sergius of Radonezh, and learned much of great value from him. He was chosen against his will as abbot of his monastery, but constantly begged the Mother of God to show him how he could continue in his silent asceticism. One night he saw a great light and heard a voice: 'Kiril, leave here and go to the white lake!', so he left the Simonov monastery with one other monk and went to the shore of the lake (Byelozersk means 'white lake'). There, in the thick of a pine forest, he continued his ascetic life. In time, this hermitage became a large monastery. Kiril received from God the gift of working miracles, and went to the Lord, whom he had loved enduringly with a great love, at the age of ninety in the year 1429.

Reflection

We sin if we consider it a duty to also hate those whom our relatives hate. This hatred passes on to us like a family sickness. In adopting the love of our relatives, we also adopt their hatreds. Sometimes even the great spiritual giants succumbed to that weakeness. Patriarch Theophilus disliked St. John Chrysostom and remained his bitter enemy even until death. Saint Cyril, his kinsman and successor to the throne of Alexandria, inherited that hatred against Chrysostom the saint and, for a long time, bore this hatred within himself. In vain did Saint Isidore of Pelusium advise Cyril to change his opinion about Chrysostom and to enter his name in the Diptych of the Saints but Cyril could not change his evil will. Then the All-Holy Birth-giver of God, for whose glory and honor Cyril fought so much against Nestorius, appeared to Cyril in a vision with a multitude of angels and with John Chyrsostom in great glory. The Holy and All-Pure One begged Chrysostom to forgive Cyril. Then Chrysostom approached Cyril, they embraced and kissed one another. This vision completely changed the feelings of Cyril toward Chrysostom and Cyril repented with shame because he unreasonably hated Chrysostom. That is why to his death Cyril did everything in order to highly praise Chrysostom as a great saint of God.

Contemplation

To contemplate the miraculous healing of the dumb man possessed: "As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a dumb man possessed with a devil" (St. Matthew 9:32):

  1. How the Lord cast out the devil from him and the dumb man spoke;
  2. How the devil, with all his power, tries to make my soul dumb so that it does not glorify the Lord;
  3. How the Lord, with one word, if I so desire, can cast out from me the unclean spirit and make me a harp of the glory of God.

Homily

About those who love death

"All they that hate Me love death" (Proverbs 8:36).

Thus speaks the Lord, Creator of heaven and earth, through His prophet. He who hates the wisdom of God, hates God and he who hates God what else is there for him to love except death? Is not everything outside of the Lord death? The sun and stars, the seas and mountains, animals and plants what is all of this except dead dust formed and enlivened by the power of God, the word of God, the wisdom of God?

He who does not love God, not only does he not love God but does not love anything that is from God, i.e., neither the beauty of the stars nor the order of the seas and mountains nor the living power that is in animals and plant life. He who does not love God, removes and distances God from nature. What else then is left? Only dead, formless, dark, dust only death. Even that dust is created by God. And that dust, the blasphemer of God must return to God and that, which is left over, he can love. What is there left over? Only that which does not touch God, i.e., death, sin and the devil. He who does not love God he, in essence, loves death, sin and the devil. Every blasphemer of God is a toy of the devil, the fruit of sin and a pawn of death.

If we despise You, O Loving Lord, we do not have anyone or anything to love. For that which we love on earth, we love because of You and the capability to love is from You. Foolish is he who loves the rays and despises the sun and who loves a drop of water and despises the spring.

Inspire us toward You by Your life-giving love, O our All-loving Lord.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK