Prologue from Ochrid - May 23 [June 5]
1. St Michael, Bishop of Synnada.
From his childhood, this wise and holy hierarch consecrated himself to the service of Christ. He laboured in asceticism together with Saint Theophylact of Nicomedia. Once, in a time of drought, these two holy men caused an abundance of rain to fall on the earth by their prayers. Because of the life of asceticism and chastity that Michael had led from his early youth, he was chosen and consecrated by Patriarch Tarasius as Bishop of Synnada. He took part in the Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787. At the wish of the Emperor, he visited Caliph Harun al-Rashid to conduct peace negotiations. In the time of the wicked Emperor Leo the Armenian, he was deposed from his episcopal throne for his veneration of the holy icons and sent into exile, where he died in want and poverty, faithful to Orthodoxy to the end. He entered into the Kingdom of Christ the King in 818.
2. Our Holy Father, the Martyr Michael.
On the death of his parents, this Michael gave all his goods away to orphans and went on pilgrimage to the holy places in Jerusalem. He then entered the monastic community of St Sava the Sanctified and became a monk. Although quite young and ruddy of face, he became withered and pale from much fasting. At that time, the Arabs held sway over Jerusalem. It once happened that Michael's spiritual father sent him to the town to sell some handwork. A eunuch of an Arab princess met him on the street and took him to the princess to display his wares. When the princess beheld the handsome monk, she began to burn with an impure lust, and proposed to the monk a carnal sin such as Potiphar's wife once proposed to chaste Joseph. When. Michael refused her impure suggestion and turned to flee, the enraged princess gave orders that he be beaten with staves and taken to the Sultan with the false accusation of blasphemy against Mahomet. The Sultan urged him to accept Islam, but he refused. They gave him strong poison, hoping to kill him, but he drank it all up with no ill-effect at all. Then the Sultan commanded that he be slain with the sword in the centre of Jerusalem. The monks found his body and carried it to St Sava's monastery, where they gave it burial. St Michael suffered for Christ and was glorified in the 9th century.
3. Our Holy Mother Euphrosyne, Princess of Polotsk.
She was the daughter of Prince Vseslav of Polotsk. When her parents wished her to be married, she ran away to a monastery and became a nun. An angel of the Lord appeared to her three times to show her the place where she was to build a new monastery for virgins. She brought her own sister, Evdokia, into monasticism and many other young girls from the ranks of the aristocracy. One kinswoman of hers, Zvenislava, a princess of Borisov, brought all her wealth, clothing and precious jewels, and said: 'I count all the beauty of this world as naught, and wish to give these fine things, prepared for my marriage, to the Church of the Saviour. And I desire to espouse myself to Him in a spiritual marriage, and to bow my head beneath His easy, and light yoke.' Euphrosyne professed her too, and gave her the name Evpraxia. In old age, Euphrosyne evinced a desire to die in Jerusalem, and prayed for this boon. God heard her prayer, and she did indeed die in the monastery of St Theodosius in Jerusalem on May 23rd, 1173, during a visit there.
A spiritual man interprets all things and all manifestations in nature in a spiritual and symbolic manner and, from all, draws benefit from it for his soul. At one time, the brethren came to St. John the Short [Colovos] and began to tell him how a heavy rain fell and watered the palms and how new branches began to sprout on the palms so that the monks would have enough material for their handiwork. St. John thought and said to the brethren: "In the same manner the Holy Spirit enters the hearts of the saints so that It renews itself and lets out the branches of the fear of God."
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Baptism:
- How that Grace gives power to the soul to follow Christ the Lord;
- How It is a pledge of God's adoption of the baptized man.
About how we need not grieve the Spirit of God
"And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, where by you are sealed unto the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:30).
Brethren, "The Seal of the Gift of the Holy Spirit" is recited over all of us who are baptized by water and Spirit. The Spirit of God is given to us not because of our merits and, no one should ever think that, but according to the mercy of the Living God. Even in normal relations between men, happy is the one who gives the gift and happy is also he who receives the gift. Giving is joy on both sides. The greater the gift, the greater the joy. God rejoices when He gives the Grace of His Holy Spirit: why then should men not rejoice who receive it? The needy one who receives usually rejoices more than the rich man who gives; why then should not miserable men rejoice who receive this enormous gift from the rich God?
In what way do men grieve the Holy Spirit? The apostle who commanded that we not grieve the Spirit of God immediately adds, by what means is the Spirit grieved: "All bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking (swearing) and all malice. All of that to be put away from you" (Ephesians 4:31), says the apostle. In other words, the Spirit of God is grieved by our every sin. Let every sin be put away from us and the Spirit of God will be joyful and by Him we will be rejoicing. When we have an important guest in our home we endeavor to do everything that is well pleasing for that guest. Can there be a greater guest than the Holy Spirit of God? Since He is our greatest and most desired guest, we need to invest the utmost effort to please Him. We know with what we please the Spirit of God - with the same, with which we please Christ the Lord. The Lord said: "If you love me, keep my commandments" (St. John 14:15). He who, therefore, keeps the commandments of Christ has love toward the Son and toward the Holy Spirit. He who pleases the Son, keeping His commandments, also pleases the Father and the Holy Spirit. The apostle especially recommends: "be you kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another" (Ephesians 4:32). If we are kind, if we are tenderhearted [merciful], if we forgive one another, by this we please the Spirit of God Who is a guest in our hearts. The Spirit of God then rejoices in us and our entire being trembles from certain inexpressible joy.
O my brethren, let us take care that we not grieve our Most High Guest Who comes to us with the richest gifts.
O God the Holy Spirit, forgive our negligence toward Your Immortal Majesty and do not leave us empty and worthless without You.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK