Prologue from Ochrid - May 27 [June 9]
1. The Hieromartyr Therapon, Bishop of Sardis.
He brought many Greeks to the Christian faith and was cruelly persecuted by the pagans, being starved, imprisoned and flogged. They stripped him and threw him to the ground, bound him to four posts and beat him mercilessly, until they had stripped the flesh from his bones. However, the martyr still remained alive and the four dry posts became green and grew into tall trees from which many of the sick received healing. Finally St Therapon was slain like a lamb and entered into the Kingdom, to behold the glory of God in eternity. He suffered with honour in the time of Valerian, in about 259.
2. The Holy Martyrs Theodora and Didymus.
In the reign of the wicked Emperor Maximilian, there lived in Alexandria a maiden, Theodora, well-educated and of noble lineage. She was brought to trial before the pagans for her Christian faith. After long interrogation and torture for the Faith, the prince, her tormentor, ordered that she be thrown into a brothel and the soldiers given free access to her to indulge their carnal lusts. Theodora prayed fervently to God to save her from defilement, and, when she had prayed, a soldier called Didymus came in to her and told her that he was a servant of Christ. He dressed her in his soldier's garb and himself in her dress, then let her out and remained in the brothel himself. He was seized and brought before the judge, where he acknowledged that he was a Christian and had saved Theodora, and was now prepared to die for Christ. He was condemned to death and taken out to the place of execution. Theodora ran up to him there and cried out: 'Although you saved my honour, I did not ask you to save me from death. Yield the martyr's death to me!' Didymus replied: 'My beloved sister, do not hinder my death for Christ, nor the washing of my sins in my blood.' Hearing this exchange, the pagans condemned them both to death, and they were beheaded and their bodies burned. They suffered with honour and received eternal wreaths of glory in Alexandria in the year 304.
3. St David of Garesjei.
This David is one of the thirteen Georgian Fathers (see May 7th). He is thus named for the Garejeli desert near Tiflis, where he lived the ascetic life. In old age, David decided to visit the Holy Land with several of his disciples. He left the direction of the monastery to two elders, Lucian and Dodo, and set out on the way. When they came to a hill from which Jerusalem was visible, David burst into tears and said: 'How can I dare to walk in the steps of God incarnate with these sinful feet?', and he told his disciples to go and worship at the holy places, but he himself took up three stones and set off to return. But the Lord did not let such humility remain hidden from the world, and an angel appeared to Elias, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, and said to him: 'Send at once for the elder who is even now returning to Syria; he has taken with him three stones, and is carrying off with him all the Holy Land's grace. One stone is a sufficient blessing for him; let him return the other two to Jerusalem. He is called Abba David of Garesjei.' The Patriarch quickly sent men off to overtake the elder. They took two stones from him, and let him go on his way. The third stone lies on his grave to this day, and possesses miraculous healing power.
Bodily health is undoubtedly a gift from God. But bodily health is, by no means, the greatest good of this world as many people speak and write about. For whatever kind of bodily health it is, it is transitory; and that which is transitory cannot be called the greatest blessing for man. Intransient values are more precious than transient values, as eternity is more precious than time. Intransient values enter into the framework of the health of the soul. Father John of Cronstadt writes: "Oh, I myself feel, that when I am completely healthy and, when by labor do not exhaust myself, then I am dying in the spirit and there is no kingdom of God within me, then my body controls me and the devil controls the body."
To contemplate the Grace of God the Holy Spirit in the Mystery [Sacrament] of Holy Communion:
- How that Grace makes the consecrated bread and wine a living sacrifice of Christ;
- How It acts within the bread and wine in the same way as It acted within the body of the All-pure One [The Theotokos] at the time of the Incarnation of the Lord.
About the Grace of God revealed throughout the ages
"That in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His Grace" (Ephesians 2:7).
With the prophetic gift, the Apostle Paul prophesied about the riches of the Grace which, throughout the ages, will be poured out on the generations of mankind. We who live nearly twenty centuries separated from the apostle can attest to that which the apostle prophesied in ages past. Just as beehives are filled with valuable and honey-bearing bees, so all the centuries from Christ until today are filled with praiseworthy men, virgins and women.
O how abundantly the richness of the Grace of God manifested itself on countless souls who, at first, were sinful and later became holy!
O how abundantly the richness of the Grace of God manifested itself on men and women who were, at first, weak and fearful and after that heroically confessed Christ the Lord and joyfully suffered for Him!
O how abundantly the richness of the Grace of God manifested itself throughout the centuries on the simple and illiterate who, after that, became true wisemen and spiritual generals of the faithful armies of Christ!
Brethren, just think how much more hidden holiness, unrevealed sacrificing, unrecorded heroism, unsung virtues lay hidden in the depths of twenty centuries of Christianity! When all of that is made known, all that which was in the past centuries and in those centuries which will come until the end of time, then will the angels and men be astonished before the unspeakable riches of the Grace of God. Then the Apostle Paul himself will have to cry out: "Even though I was an apostle, nevertheless, my word was too weak to express all the immeasurable richness of the Grace of God which, out of love for man, was proclaimed in the world."
O Most Holy Trinity, our mankind-loving God, uplift our hearts that we continually glorify and praise the exceeding great richness of Your Grace.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK