Prologue from Ochrid - May 22 [June 4]
1. The Holy Martyr Basiliscus.
A kinsman of St Theodore the Tyro, he was martyred together with Eutropius and Cleonimus (March 3rd). When these two were crucified and gave up the ghost, Basiliscus was taken back to prison. A change of governors occurring at this time, Basiliscus remained a long time confined in prison. He besought God with tears that He would not deprive him of a martyr's death for His sake. After he had prayed at length, the Lord Jesus appeared to him and promised to fulfill his desire, sending him to his village to say farewell to his mother and brothers. Thereupon the new governor, Agrippa, arrived and sent to have Basiliscus brought from the village immediately. On the way to the city of Amasea, the Lord worked great wonders through His martyr, bringing many of the people to faith in Christ. Agrippa ordered the martyr to offer sacrifice to Apollyon. "'Apollyon" means "Destroyer"', said Basiliscus, and, with fervent prayer, he knocked the idol to dust and burned the temple with fire from heaven. The terrified Agrippa attributed this all to magic, and ordered that Basiliscus be beheaded with the sword. Agrippa immediately became insane and, in his madness, went to the place of execution, found a little of the martyr's blood in the dust and smeared it on himself under his belt, being restored to health by it. Having come to his senses, he was baptised. Later, a certain Marinus, a citizen of Comana (the place of Basiliscus's execution) built a church over the martyr's relics, and many of the sick found healing there.
2. The Holy Martyr John Vladimir, King of Serbia.
He came of a princely family from Zahumlje. His grandfather was named Hvalimir and his father Petrislav. He was a wise ruler; merciful, meek, chaste and courageous. He was fervent in prayer and a devoted builder and benefactor of churches. But he had major battles to fight, both inside and outside his realm; internally with heretics and Bogomils, and externally with invaders, with King Samuel and the Emperor Basil. Samuel captured him by guile and threw him into prison. While he was in prison, an angel of God appeared to him and foretold that he would soon be released from prison, but that he would die a martyr's death. Getting to know Vladimir better, Samuel became attached to him and gave him his daughter Kosara in marriage. When Samuel died, his son Radomir became king, but his twin brother Radislav killed him and then summoned Vladimir on some pretext and beheaded him as well, in 1015. The relics of this holy martyr-king are preserved uncorrupt in his monastery near Elbasan, and numerous wonders have been worked over them through the ages and to this day. In 1925, a church was built to this royal martyr near the monastery of St Naum, which famous monastery he founded.
3. The Second Ecumenical Council.
This Council was held in Constantinople in 381, in the time of the Emperor Theodosius the Great. Its purpose was to confirm the teaching of the Orthodox Church about the Holy Spirit. Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople (d. 362), had taught wrongly that the Holy Spirit is God's creature and not a divine Person, equal to the Persons of the Father and the Son and one in being with them. Macedonius was condemned by this Council and the Nicene Creed was amplified with teaching on the Holy Spirit.
4. Holy and Righteous Melchisedek, King of Salem.
He was a contemporary of our forefather Abraham. According to the Apostle Paul, he was, as king and priest, a type of the Lord Jesus (Heb. 7).
How was Moses able to fast for forty days? How were the many Christian ascetics able to live a long life in extreme abstinence from food and drink? For the physical man who does not know about the spiritual life, it is impossible to believe. It is impossible even to prove it to him for the understanding of this is achieved only by experience. When the torturers of St. Basiliscus detained him for three days without food and water and when they offered him food to eat, he refused saying that he was not hungry. "I am," says he, "filled with immortal food and do not want to receive mortal food. You are fed by earthly bread, but the heavenly word of God feeds me; wine makes you happy, and the Grace of the Holy Spirit makes me happy; meat satisfies you and fasting satisfies me; physical power strengthens you and the Cross of Christ strengthens me; gold makes you rich and the love of Christ enriches me; clothing adorns you, and good works adorn me; you are made happy with laughter and I am comforted by the Spirit through prayer." Here is a man, one out of many, and there are many more upon whom the word of the Lord is confirmed. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God!" (St. Matthew 4:4).
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Baptism:
- How that Grace cleanses man from original sin;
- How It includes man among the citizens of the freedom of Christ.
About the bodies of men as temples
"Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom you have from God and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price" (1 Corinthians 6: 19-20).
For what, brethren, did our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit? Because, we are purchased at a price. The Lord Jesus purchased us with His cares, labors, sufferings and death. Because of this price we were made worthy to become the temple of the Holy Spirit.
But, someone will say that price was paid a long time ago and we live twenty centuries later! It is all the same: the price was not paid for one time and for one generation but rather for all times and for all generations from Adam to the Dreadful Judgment. And if there would be billions and billions of human beings born on earth, the price is paid for all of them. The price is so great and rich that if all the sand in the sea were changed into men, the price would be sufficient.
Brethren, from what moment do our bodies become the temple of the Holy Spirit? From the moment of our baptism. Although the price is paid for all men only those who are baptized become the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Brethren, what is the consequence that the Holy Spirit lives in us? The consequence is this, that we are not our own anymore. When the Holy Spirit takes up His abode in our bodies, then He becomes the Master over us and not us over it [the body] nor over ourselves. Then, brethren, we are the possession of God the Holy Spirit.
Brethren, what does it mean at the Mystical Supper [Last Supper] when the Lord washed even the feet of Judas and when Judas received a piece of bread from the Lord, it says: "Satan entered him" (St. John 13:27). O what dreadful words! O what a horrible punishment upon the traitor of God! Brethren, does that not mean that when we reject God, Who washes and feeds us, the Spirit of God departs from us and, in His place, Satan settles in? O what a stern meaning! O what a terrible reminder to all of us who are baptized! The Holy Spirit settled in us during our baptism and made us a temple for Himself. But, the Holy Spirit does not dwell in us by force but rather according to our good will. If we transgress against Him, He departs from us and in place of Him, Satan enters and our physical temple is transformed into a pigsty.
O All-good Holy Spirit do not leave us. Have mercy on us and forgive us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK