Prologue from Ochrid - February 28 [March 13]
1. The Hieromartyr Proterius.
This saint was a priest in Alexandria at the time that the Patriarch there was the heretic Dioscorus, one of the founders of the Monophysite heresy which holds that in Christ there are not two natures but one. At that time, Marcian and Pulcheria were on the imperial throne. Proterius, a holy and devout man, stood up against Dioscorus, as a result of which he endured much misery. Then the 4th Ecumenical Council was summoned at Chalcedon, at which the Monophysite heresy was condemned. Dioscorus was cast down from the patriarchal throne and sent into exile, and in his place the orthodox Proterius was chosen, He governed the Church with zeal and love, a true follower of Christ. But the followers of Dioscorus did not stop creating confusion in Alexandria. In the face of such bloody chaos, Proterius left the town with the intention of going away for a time, but the Prophet Isaiah appeared to him on the road and said: 'Return to the town; I am waiting to take you.' Proterius returned and went into the church. Hearing of this, the insolent heretics rushed into the church, seized the Patriarch and stabbed him. About six of the faithful perished along with Proterius. Thus this wonderful pastor of Christ's flock received the crown of martyrdom for the truth of Orthodoxy, in 457.
2. St Basil the Confessor.
A friend, contemporary and pupil of St Procopius of Decapolis, Basil faithfully followed his teacher both in peace and in persecution. They endured much from the iconoclasts. When the latter were defeated, by God's providence, Basil returned to his monastery together with Procopius, where he lived for a long time in fasting and prayer, and where he died in the year 747.
3. The Hieromartyr Nestor, Bishop of Magydos.
Nestor was distinguished by great meekness. In the time of Decius, he was taken for trial and harshly tortured for Christ. At the time of his death, he saw in a vision a lamb prepared for sacrifice, which he interpreted as a sign of his own imminent sacrifice. He was tortured by the Eparch Publius and finally crucified in Perga in the year 250.
4. Blessed Nicolas, the Fool for Christ of Pskov.
He lived as a fool in the town of Pskov in the time of Tsar Ivan the Terrible, and entered into rest on February 28th, 1576.
"Fools for Christ" were distinguished by rare fearlessness. Blessed Nicholas ran throughout the streets of Pskov pretending insanity rebuking the people for their hidden, sins and prophesying that which will befall them. When Ivan the Terrible entered Pskov, the entire town was in fear and terror of the Terrible Tsar. As a welcome to the Tsar, bread and salt was placed in front of every home but the people did not appear. When the mayor of the town presented the Tsar with bread and salt on a tray before the church, the Tsar pushed the tray away and the bread and salt fell to the ground. At that time, Blessed Nicholas appeared before the Tsar in a long shirt tied with a rope, hopping around on a cane as a child and then cried out: "Ivanuska, Ivanuska, eat bread and salt and not human blood." The soldiers rushed out to catch him but he fled and hid. The Tsar learning about this Blessed Nicholas, who and what he is, visited him in his scant living quarters. It was the first week of the Honorable Fast [The First Week of Lent]. Upon hearing that the Tsar was coming to visit him, Nicholas found a piece of raw meat and when the Tsar entered his living quarters, he bowed and offered the meat to the Tsar. "Eat Ivanusha, eat!" Angrily, the Terrible Tsar replied: "I am a Christian and I do not eat meat during the Fast Season." Then the man of God quickly responded to him: "But you do even worse: you feed on men's flesh and blood, forgetting not only Lent but also God!" This lesson entered profoundly into the heart of Tsar Ivan and he, ashamed, immediately departed Pskov where he had intended to perpetrate a great massacre.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as the Bread of Life: "I am the Bread of Life" (St. John 6:48).
- As the Bread by which the soul is nourished and lives;
- As the Bread by which the mind is nourished and enlightened;
- As the Bread by which the heart is nourished and enobled.
About the nourishment of the soul
"I am the Bread of Life " (St. John 6:48).
Thus spoke the Lord Jesus to the hungry generation of man. This word was realized throughout the centuries to the numerous followers of Christ who received the Lord as the nourishment of their souls. A desperate young man who was close to suicide confessed to a spiritual father. The spiritual father listened to him carefully and said to him: "My son, you are to blame for your misfortune. Your soul is starved to death. Throughout your entire life, you learned only how to nourish your body but you never thought that the soul requires nourishment; greater and more often than that which the body needs. Your soul is at the point of death from hunger. My son, partake of and drink Christ [Holy Communion]. Only that can restore your soul from death. Daily and continually partake and drink of Christ. He is the Life-creating Bread of our souls." The young man listened to the elder and returned to life.
Brethren, let us nourish our soul with Christ so that our soul may be alive and healthy. Let us continually nourish our mind with Christ's thoughts so that our mind might be enlightened and clear. Let us continually nourish our heart with the love of Christ so that our heart might be full and joyful. Let us continually nourish our will with the commandments of Christ and the example of Christ so that our will, every minute, might perform good deeds. Let Christ's thoughts be our thoughts and Christ's love our love and Christ's good will our good will. Let us continually nourish our souls with Christ the Lord; with our soul let us continually partake of Him and drink Him! There is no more nourishing Bread than He; there is no sweeter drink than He. In Holy Communion, He gives Himself completely to us: Body and Blood. But, Holy Communion is a warning that our souls must continually be nourished by Him; continually partake of Him and drink of Him just as we continually breathe. O, our God and Sweet Lord, stir our souls that they be continually nourished by You and remain alive. You are our Bread of Life.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK