Prologue from Ochrid - May 25 [June 7]
1. The Third Finding of the Head of St John the Baptist.
In the eighth century, during a period of fierce iconoclasm, the head of St John the Baptist was taken to Comana, the place of St John Chrysostom's exile. When the iconoclast persecution ended in 850, in the time of the Emperor Michael and Patriarch Ignatius, the honoured head of St John was taken to Constantinople and placed in the church at the imperial court.
2. The Hieromartyr Therapon, Bishop of Cyprus.
A monk and ascetic on the island of Cyprus, he was worthy of episcopal rank and, during a persecution of Christians, was found worthy of a yet higher crown: that of martyrdom. His body at first rested in a church in Cyprus, but, during the reign of the Emperor Nicephorus, in 806, the Hagarenes fell upon Cyprus. Therapon appeared to the verger, told him that the infidel was about to attack Cyprus and ordered him to have his relics transferred to Constantinople. The verger saw to this at once. When the ship with the casket put to sea, a great storm arose, but the sea around the ship remained calm and a sweet perfume spread from the casket around the whole ship and the surrounding area. Then the verger opened it, and they saw that it was full of myrrh, which flowed from the saint's relics. Many of the sick anointed themselves with this myrrh and were restored to health. A church was built in Constantinople over the relics of the wonderworking saint, which continued to give healing to all who gathered round them with faith. The gravest diseases were healed by St Therapon's relics: paralysis, cancer, haemorrhage, insanity, blindness, tuberculosis and other maladies.
3. The Holy Martyrs Pasicrates, Valentian, Julius and others.
They were Roman soldiers, and suffered for Christ in about 302 in Macedonian Dorostol. When Pasicrates' brother, Papianus (who had apostatised from Christ through fear), came to his brother and tried to persuade him to renounce Christ and stay alive, St Pasicrates replied: 'Get away from me; you are no brother of mine!' Pasicrates and Valentian were beheaded together. At his trial, Julius said: 'I am a war veteran, and have served the Emperor faithfully for twenty-six years. And, having been faithful till now in lesser things, how can I not be faithful, in the things that are greater, to the heavenly Kingdom and its King?' Then Nicanor was brought before the prefect, Maximus. Nicanor's wife encouraged her husband to die for the sake of Christ. 'You stupid old woman', Maximus hurled at her, 'Are you after a better husband?' She replied: 'If you think that of me, give the order to have me killed now, before my husband!' Marcian also perished with Nicanor. His wife came to the place of execution, carrying their son in her arms. Marcian kissed his son and prayed: 'O almighty God, do Thou take care of him!' And they were all then slain and entered into the Kingdom of Christ.
Some misguided men think more about the end of the world than the end of their lives even though it is obvious that for him to whom the end of his life comes the end of the world has come. A brother standing before St. Seraphim of Sarov continually kept in his mind how he was going to ask the saint about the end of the world. St. Seraphim discerned his thought and said to him: "My joy! You think highly of the wretched Seraphim. How could I know when the end of the world will be and that great day when the Lord will judge the living and the dead and render to each one according to his deeds will be? No, no, this is impossible for me to know!" And when the saints did not know how will the sinners know? Why should we know, that which the Savior Himself did not find beneficial to reveal to us? It is much better to think that our death will come sooner than the end of the world rather than the end of the world before our death.
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Repentance and Confession:
- How that Grace, when it touches the heart of the penitent, the penitent sees all the ugliness of his sin and, through tears, washes them away;
- How that Grace, when the penitent confesses, enters into man as joy into the sorrowful one, as hope into the hopeless one.
About the nearness of the Judge
"Behold, the Judge stands before the door" (St. James 5:9).
Brethren, in one day, you can gain all eternity. And in one day, brethren, you can lose all eternity. You are given thousands of days on earth to determine your own personal eternal salvation or for your own personal eternal damnation. But blessed be a hundred-fold that day in which you repent of all your unclean deeds, unclean thoughts and return to God crying out for mercy! That day will be worth more to you than a thousand other days.
What kind of day is that blessed day? That is a day of self-condemnation. When that day dawns a man who, thus far, judged the entire world, looks all at once and sees himself as the greatest stain on God's world. He becomes ashamed before God, becomes ashamed before every man and becomes ashamed before every created thing of God in the world. Shame begins to burn him as fire. Then he recognizes and confesses: truly, I am the greatest blot in God's world! Truly, all men are better than I! Truly, all things are more pure than I! I am blacker than burned wood and I, until now, thought that I was white! I am uglier than the frogs and, until now, I thought that I was as beautiful as an angel! Lord, Lord, Lord, have mercy on me a sinner and wash me from the mud of sin, so that I can, as much as possible, begin to resemble Your creation!
Brother, do not wait, do not wait for that blessed day of repentance comes by itself. You alone brother, seize firmly the first day that comes to meet you and say: "You are that, my blessed day, by which I will purchase life eternal!" Do not wait, brethren do not wait for "Behold, the Judge stands before the door!" That Judge is the Living Lord Who also created you and, until now, has seen and numbered all of your transgressions. In a day or two, He can draw you to the judgment where you will not have, not even a word of justification. Seize the day! Seize the day of repentance! Seize the day before death has seized you! "Behold, the Judge stands before the door!"
O Lord, awesome and just, prolong the days of the sinner until he repents.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK