Prologue from Ochrid - February 25 [March 10]
1. St Tarasius, Patriarch of Constantinople.
His predecessor, Patriarch Paul, secretly left the patriarchal throne, retired to a monastery and received the Great Habit. This was during the reign of Irene and Constantine. By Paul's advice, Tarasius, a senator and advisor to the Emperor, was chosen as Patriarch in 784. He quickly passed through all the stages of ordination and became Patriarch. A man of great physical stature and great zeal for Orthodoxy, Tarasius accepted this undesired state in order to help in the struggle of Orthodoxy against heresy, especially that of Iconoclasm. He was responsible for the summoning of the 7th Ecumenical Council in Nicaea in 787, where the iconoclasts were condemned and the veneration of the holy icons was restored and confirmed. Tarasius was very compassionate to the poor and indigent, building them shelters and feeding them, but he was decisive with those in power in the defence of faith and morals. When the Emperor Constantine divorced his lawful wife, Maria, and took a kinswoman to live with him, seeking the Patriarch's blessing to remarry, Tarasius not only withheld his blessing, but first counselled and then reproached him, and finally excommunicated him, As death approached, those round him saw him answering the demons: 'I am not guilty of that sin, nor of that one', until he was incapable of speech. He then began defending himself with his arms, driving them away from him. As he breathed his last, his face shone as with the light of the sun. This truly great hierarch entered into rest in 806. He had governed the Church for 22 years and four months.
2. Our Holy Father Paphnutius of Kephala.
This saint was a contemporary of St Antony the Great. It is said of him that he wore the same habit for eighty years. St Antony valued him highly and said to all that he was a true ascetic, able to heal and to save souls.
A Christian is similar to betrothed maiden. As a betrothed maiden continually thinks about her betrothed, so does the Christian continually think about Christ. Even if the betrothed is far away beyond ten hills, it is all the same, the maiden behaves as though he is constantly there; by her and with her. She thinks about him, sings to him, talks about him, dreams about him and prepares gifts for him. In the same way a Christian behaves toward Christ. As the betrothed maiden knows that she first must leave and distance herself from the home where she was born in order to meet and totally unite with her betrothed, so the Christian knows that even he cannot totally unite with Christ until death separates him from the body, i.e., from the material home in which his soul, resided and grew from birth.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus sitting in the boat, teaching the people on the shore: "On another occasion He began to teach by the sea. A very large crowd gathered around Him so that He got into a boat on the sea and sat down. And the whole crowd was beside the sea on land" (St. Mark 4:1).
- How a great multitude of people crowded around to hear Him so that He had to enter the boat;
- How, in parables He taught them about the sower, the seed and the ground i.e., those comparisons and examples, which from day in and day out, are repeated from the beginning of the world and will be repeated until the end of the world;
- How He does not teach them with the aid of some rare and unusual events rather by the help of those simple events, which along with man entered into time and together with man, will exit time.
About the impossibility of secrets
"For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed" (St. Mark 4:22).
All secret works of man will be revealed one day. None of man's works can be hidden. The Jews thought they could hide the slaying of so many prophets from God and that their bloody, nefarious deed against Christ would be able to be hidden from God and man. However, that which they thought to hide became a daily and nightly tale both in the heavens and on earth for thousands of years. Judas thought to hide his traitorous agreement against his Lord, but the Lord discerned this agreement and declared it to his face. "Jesus said to him, 'Judas are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?' " (St. Luke 22:48).
The Lord also discerned the hearts of the Pharisees and read their evil thoughts. "Why do you think evil in your hearts?" (St. Matthew 9:4). What kind of works, what kind of things, what kind of events in this world can be hidden from Him Who sees and reveals even the most secret thoughts of the hearts of men? "For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed." Because of this we need to be fearful; because of this we need to be rejoiceful. To be fearful - for all of our secret evil deeds, evil desires and evil thoughts will be brought out in the open. To be rejoiceful - for all the good, which we have committed, or desired or thought in secret, will be brought out in the open. If it is not brought out before men in the open, it will be brought out before the heavenly angels. The greater the fear for sinners, so much greater the joy for the righteous.
O Lord, Lover of mankind, forgive us our sins and do not make them known to our destruction and to the sorrow of Your holy angels.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK