Prologue from Ochrid - May 24 [June 6]
1. Our Holy Father Simeon Stylites of the Wonderful Mountain.
This wonderful and holy man was born in Antioch in 522, in the reign of the Emperor Justin I the Elder. His father perished in an earthquake and he was left alone with his mother, Martha. When he was six years old, he went away into the desert to John, a spiritual teacher there and, under his guidance, gave himself to a strict asceticism of fasting and prayer, to the wonderment of all who saw him. Whilst enduring fearful demonic trials, he received great comfort and grace from the Lord and His angels. Christ the Lord appeared to him in the form of a handsome youth, and, after this vision, Simeon's heart was inflamed with great love for Christ. He spent many years on a pillar, praying and singing psalms. Led by God, he took himself off to the mountain called `Wonderful' by the Lord Himself, and is known as 'of the Wonderful Mountain' because of this. The measure of his love for God was such that rare grace was given him, by the help of which he was able to heal every sort of illness, tame wild beasts and perceive the most distant regions of the earth and the hearts of men. He was taken out of the body and saw the heavens, conversed with angels, harried the demons, prophesied, spent thirty days at a time without sleep and even longer without food, receiving nourishment at the hands of angels. The words of the Saviour: 'He that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do' (Jn 14:12), were completely fulfilled in him. In the year 596, at the age of seventy-five, Simeon went to the Lord, to the eternal enjoyment of the vision of the face of God in the company of the angels.
2. The Holy Martyr Meletius Stratelates, with 1218 soldiers and their wives and children.
Accused of the destruction of a pagan temple in the reign of the Emperor Antoninus, Meletius gave forth his holy soul nailed to a tree. Many solders under his command, who refused to deny Christ their Lord, suffered with honour in the second century, an went to the Kingdom of Christ our God.
3. Our Holy Father Nikita Stylites.
He lived an unrestrained and vicious life as a youth. When once he happened to enter a church, he heard the words of the Prophet Isaiah: 'Wash you (your sins), make you clean' (1:16). The words penetrated deeply into his soul, and effected a complete change in his life. Nikita left his home, his wife and his land and entered a monastery close to Pereyaslavl, where he laboured until his death in strict asceticism. He enveloped his body in chains and shut himself up in a pillar, being therefore known as a Stylite. God granted him great grace, and he healed people afflicted with various torments. He healed Michael, Prince of Chernigov, of palsy. One day some evildoers saw the chains on him and, seeing them gleam, thought them to be silver, so they killed him one night, took the chains off him and carried them away. This happened on May 16th, 1186. He appeared to a certain elder, Simeon, after his death and told him to place the chains, when they were found, in the grave beside his body.
The Apostle Paul said: "To the pure all things are pure" (Titus 1:15). Even the food of man, by itself, cannot be called impure although some food in man can provoke impure thoughts and desires in man. Concerning this, the wonderful St. Simeon the Stylite reflects on a conversation with his Elder John. John the Elder said: "Man does not soil food and drink for the Lord says in Scripture: `Even as the green herb have I given you all things' " (Genesis 9:3). To that Blessed Simeon responded: "If man then does not soil food, nevertheless it gives birth to impure thoughts and darkens the mind and it gives root to and fattens passions and transforms the spiritual man into the physical, nailing his thoughts to earthly desires." Is not the water which falls from the clouds clean? But when too much rain falls, the crops decay from it. Likewise heavy foods provoke the decay of the spiritual and moral being of man.
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Chrismation [Confirmation]:
- How that Grace anoints the soul cleansed from original sin by baptism, with the joy of sonship;
- How that Grace confirms man in the Faith of Christ and seals him for the kingdom of God.
About how the love of God is shed abroad in the hearts of men
"The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us" (Romans 5:5).
Love is joy and love anoints the heart of man with joy. Brethren, love is power and love anoints the heart of man with power. Love is peace and love anoints the heart of man with peace. And from joy, power and peace, courage is born and love anoints the heart of man with courage.
The love of God, as a fragrant oil, is shed abroad in our hearts by no other than the Holy Spirit, the All-gentle and All-powerful Spirit. Completely undeserved by us, the Spirit of God is shed abroad in us: the love of God in our hearts in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Chrismation. However, in time we neglect this love and by sin we alienate ourselves from God and fall into the disease of spiritual paralysis. And the Holy Spirit unwilling to abide in an impure vessel, distances Itself from our heart. When the Holy Spirit distances Itself from us, then joy, power, peace and courage also departs from us immediately. We become sorrowful, weakened, disturbed and fearful. But the All-good Spirit of God only distances Itself from us but does not abandon us completely. He does not abandon us but He offers to us who are sick, remedies through the ystery of Repentance and the Mystery of Holy Communion. When we again cleanse ourselves through the Mysteries [Sacraments] of Repentance and Communion then He, the Holy Spirit of God, again abides in us and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts. We fall, we rise, we fall and we rise! When we fall, the Spirit of God stands by us and raises us if we desire to be raised. However, when we are raised, the Spirit of God stands within us all until we, by sin and foolishness, do not desire to fall. Thus, we in this life interchangeably become a fertile field and a wilderness, sons of repentance and prodigal sons, fullness and emptiness, light and darkness.
O All-good Holy Spirit of God, do not depart from us either when we want You and when we do not want You. Be with us all the time until our death and save us for life eternal.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK