Prologue from Ochrid - June 11 [June 24]
1. The Holy Apostle Bartholomew.
He was one of the Twelve Great Apostles. It is generally agreed that Bartholomew and Nathaniel are one and the same person. He was a companion of the Apostle Philip and his sister, the virgin Mariamna - and for some time of St John the Theologian preaching the Gospel in Asia, then in India and finally in Armenia, where he died a martyr. In Hierapolis, the holy apostles by their prayers killed a great snake which had been kept in a temple and deified by the pagans. In this same town, they restored the sight of one Stachius, who had been blind for forty years. This roused the mob against them, and Philip and Bartholomew were crucified, Barthlomew upside down. At this there was an earthquake, in which the evil judges and many of the people perished. Seeing this as a punishment from God, many ran to take the apostles down from their crosses, but Philip was already dead although Bartholomew was still alive. After that, Bartholomew went to India, where he preached and translated the Gospel of Matthew into the Indian language. After that, he moved to Armenia, where he cured the king's daughter of madness. But the king's envious brother, Astyages, took the apostle of God and crucified him, then had him flayed and beheaded in the Armenian town of Ourbanopolis. His body was buried by Christians in a leaden coffin. When many miracles had been wrought over his relics, pagans took the coffin and threw it into the sea. But the sea carried the coffin to the island of Lipara, where the bishop, Agathon, who had been warned by revelation in a dream, was waiting for it and buried it in the church. St Bartholomew appeared to St Joseph the Hymnographer in church one day, robed in white, and blessed him with the Gospels to sing spiritual songs, saying: 'Let streams of heavenly wisdom flow from thy tongue!' He also appeared to the Emperor Anastasius (491-518), and told him that he would protect the newly-built town of Dara. Later, the relics of this apostle were translated to Benevento, and then to Rome. Great and wondrous miracles have been wrought over them.
2. The Holy Apostle Barnabas.
One of the Seventy, he was born in Cyprus, of wealthy parents of the tribe of Levi, and studied with Gamaliel together with Saul. He was first named Joseph, but the apostles called him Barnabas, Son of Consolation, because he had a rare gift for comforting men's souls. After Saul's conversion, Barnabas was the first to welcome him among the apostles. After that, with Paul and Mark, he preached the Gospel in Antioch and other places. All accounts agree that he was the first to preach in Rome and in Milan. He suffered at the hands of the Jews on the island of Cyprus and was buried by Mark at the western gate of the city of Salamis, holding a copy of the Gospel of Matthew which he had transcribed with his own hand. His grave remained unknown for several centuries, but when many people had been healed of sickness in that place, it became known as 'the place of healing'. In the time of the Emperor Zeno, the Apostle appeared three times, on three successive nights, to Archbishop Anthemius of Cyprus, and revealed the whereabouts of his grave. This revelation by the Apostle took place just at the time when Peter, the power-hungry Patriarch of Antioch, was seeking to bring the Cypriot Church under his jurisdiction. After the revealing and finding of the miraculous relics of the holy Apostle Barnabas, it was established that the Cypriot Church, as an apostolic foundation, should be independent, and thus the autocephaly of the Church of Cyprus was finally confirmed.
3. The Feast of the Icon: 'It is meet...' and the miracle that was wrought in front of it in the time of Patriarch Nicolas Chrysoverges.
This miracle came about thus: One night a monk was reading the Canon of the Mother of God and singing: 'More honourable than the cherubim ...'in his cell in the monastery of the Pantocrator (now called after the icon). His elder had gone to Karyes. Suddenly a man appeared in the church and began to sing: 'It is meet a hymn which till that time had been unknown in the Church. The monk, hearing this hymn, was greatly struck both by the words and the heavenly singing. The stranger turned to the monk and said: 'We sing it like this at home.' The monk desired to have it written down, and brought a marble tablet, onto which the stranger wrote the hymn with r as though the tablet were made of wax, and then suddenly disappeared. This stranger was the Archangel Gabriel. The tablet was taken to Constantinople, and the hymn is sung to this day in the Church.
(For those who are not familiar with the text, it is as follows: 'It is meet to bless thee, who didst bring forth God; ever-blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honourable than the cherubim, and incomparably more glorious than the seraphim; thou who inviolate didst bring forth God the Word, and art indeed Mother of God, thee do we magnify.' -Translator.)
A true friend prays to God for his friend. A true friend is concerned about the salvation of the soul of his friend. To dissuade a friend from false paths and to direct him on the path of truth, that is precious friendship. The saints of God are the best friends of mankind. Two youths, Barnabas and Paul, were friends while together they were attending the school of Gamaliel. When Barnabas became a Christian, he persistently and tearfully prayed to God that He would also enlighten the mind and turn the heart of Paul in order that he becomes a Christian. Barnabas often spoke to Paul about Christ the Lord but Paul ridiculed him and considered him as one led astray. However, the Good Lord did not leave the prayers of Barnabas without fruit. The Good Lord appeared to Paul and turned him from the path of falsehood to the path of truth. The converted Paul then fell before the feet of his friend and cried out: "O Barnabas, teacher of truth, I am now convinced that everything which you spoke to me about Christ is the truth!" Barnabas wept with joy and embraced his friend. Barnabas, the friend saved the soul of his friend by his fervent prayer. If Barnabas has succeeded to place Paul as the emperor of Rome, he would have done less for him than what he succeeded in doing with prayer to bring him to the truth.
To contemplate the miraculous healing of the blind-dumb man: "Then was brought to Him one possessed with a devil, blind and dumb: and He healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spoke and saw" (St. Matthew 12:22):
- How the Lord healed the man, blind and dumb;
- How the Lord can instantly heal even my soul, blind and dumb because of my remoteness from Christ, only if I bring my soul to the Lord.
About the master and the slave
"He who spares his rod hates his son but he who loves him takes care to chastise him" (Proverbs 13:24).
God's love for men transcends the love of men for men as the heaven transcends the earth but, nevertheless, the Man-loving God chastises men. God chastises men not in order to destroy them but to correct and save them. O blessed chastisement which emanates from love! "For whom the Lord loves, He chastises; and He scourges every son whom He receives" (Hebrews 12:6). With what does God chastise? With a rod! What kind of rod? The rod of sickness, the rod of misfortune, the rod of loss, the rod of hunger, the rod of crop failure, the rod of drought, the rod of floods, the rod of death of relatives and friends, the rod of evil demons, when He permits them authority over man. These are the rods of God by which God chastises His children in order that He may correct them and bring them back to their senses, enlighten and save them.
Why should the parent not chastise his children if he truly loves them? The rod is a tool of great love and concern. If the child is not sensitive to spiritual chastisement, the child is sensitive to the rod. The more a child is insensitive to the spirit and conscience, it is more sensitive to the body. The body was not given to man that by itself it has meaning, but the body is to be a servant of the spirit to help the spirit and to benefit the spirit. If corporal punishment arouses the spirit in man and the spirit arouses the conscience, then the body has completely fulfilled its duty toward the spirit, its master. If the master [spirit] sleeps, then the servants are struck in order to arouse the master [the spirit]. If the servants awaken their master in the hour of danger, they will not lament the blows that they have received for they saved their master. And the awakened and saved master will know how to repay his servants. Hence, in truth, "He who spares his rod hates his son." Whosoever spares the servant, betrays the master.
O All-wise Lord, open the hearts of the parents that they may receive this holy instruction of Yours.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK