Prologue from Ochrid - March 1 [March 14]
1. Our Holy Mother, the Martyr Eudocia.
Living in Heliopolis, a city of Phoenicia, during the reign of Trajan, she was at first a great harlot, then a penitent, a nun and finally a martyr. She gained great wealth from her harlotry. The reversal of her life was brought about, through the providence of God, by an elderly monk, Germanus, and that unintentionally. Coming to Heliopolis in the course of his work, he stayed at the house of a Christian woman whose home abutted onto Eudocia's. When at night he began, as was his monastic custom, to read the Psalter and a book on the Dreadful Judgement, Eudocia heard him and stood listening attentively to his every word until the end. Fear and dread took such hold on her that she remained awake until daybreak. As soon as it was dawn, she sent a servant to beg that monk to come to her. Germanus came, and they began a long conversation on that which the old monk had been reading the previous night, and especially on faith and salvation. The result of these discussions was that Eudocia asked the local bishop to baptise her. After her baptism, she gave all her goods to the church, to be distributed to the poor, dismissed her servants and slaves and retired to a women's monastery. She so devoted herself to the monastic life - to obedience, patience, vigils, prayer and fasting - that after thirteen months she was chosen as abbess. She lived fifty-six years in the monastery and was worthy in the eyes of God to be given the gift of raising the dead. When a persecution of Christians arose under the governor, Vincent, holy Eudocia was beheaded. Here is a wonderful example of how a vessel of uncleanness can be purified, sanctified and filled with a precious, heavenly fragrance by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
2. Our Holy Father Agapius.
A novice with a staretz near the monastery of Vatopedi, he was captured by pirates and sold as a slave in Magnesia. After twelve years he was miraculously freed and returned to Vatopedi by the aid of the most holy Mother of God. He baptised his former owner and became his confessor. Spending the rest of his life in asceticism at Vatopedi, he departed this life peacefully in the Lord.
3. The Holy Martyr Antonina.
Born in Nicaea, she was arrested and harshly tortured for the Christian faith. She was finally sewn into a sack and thrown into a lake in 302, but God saved her soul and glorified her forever among the angels in heaven and among the faithful on earth.
Faithfulness and obedience to the will of God is necessary to adorn the life of every Christian. As is seen in the life of St. Agapius, God glorifies the faithful and the obedient. When he was a young man, this saint was captured by pirates, was taken to Asia and was sold to a certain Arab. For twelve years Agapius remained quietly and obediently a slave of this Arab. For twelve years he prayed to the All-Holy Mother of God to help him gain his freedom from bondage. One night, the Virgin Mother of God appeared to him and said, "Arise and go without fear to Mt. Athos to your elder." Agapius arose and came to his elder on Mt. Athos, the Holy Mountain. When the elder saw Agapius, he was saddened, thinking that Agapius had fled from his master.He said to him, "My child Agapius, you have deceived your master, but you can never deceive God. On the day of the dreadful judgment, you will have to render an answer for that money with which your master purchased you to serve him. Therefore, you must return and faithfully serve your master." Agapius, faithful and obedient to the will of God, returned immediately to Asia, reported to his master, and informed him about everything that had happened. The Arab, learning all of this, was amazed and was overcome with the charity of Christians. He desired to see Agapius' s elder. The Arab arrived at the Holy Mountain, accompanied by his two sons. Here, he and his two sons were baptized. All three of them were tonsured as monks. They remained there until their deaths, practicing the strict life of asceticism, at first, under the guidance of Agapius' s spiritual father, and afterwards, by Agapius himself. Thus, the one-time cruel masters became the obedient disciples of their former slave, faithful to the will of the God of the obedient Agapius.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus at the Mystical Supper:
- How He washes the feet of His disciples. By this act He especially teaches humility and love for one another;
- How Peter, one of the most faithful, was ashamed and refused to allow our Lord to wash his feet;
- How Judas, unbeliever and traitor, was unashamed and did not refuse our Lord to wash his feet;
- How even today, the faithful receive countless benefits from God with embarrassment and shame, and the unfaithful also receive the same but without embarrassment and without shame, and yet with grumbling against God.
About knowing and doing
"If you understand this, blessed are you if you do it" (St. John 13:17).
The most important aspect of this scripture text of our Lord, brethren, is thatthe Lord does not mitigate knowing, but stresses doing. He does not say to the apostles, "Blessed are you when you know this." Some pagan teachers who viewed salvation only in terms of knowledge spoke in this manner. However, our Lord says, "Blessed are you if you do it." The knowledge of salvation was given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself, and no one is able to attain that knowledge through his own efforts.
Some of the ancient Greek philosophers said that mankind cannot come to the knowledge of the truth, nor can be saved, until God Himself comes to earth. Our Lord came among men and revealed this knowledge to them. Whosoever receives this knowledge also accepts the obligation to fulfill it. O, how much easier will it be at the judgment for those who never received this knowledge at all, and consequently, did not fulfill it, than for those who received this knowledge and neglected to fulfill it.
O, how much easier it will be at the judgment for unlearned pagans than for the learned Christians.
Our Lord alone showed Himself not only as a Knower, but also as a Doer. His perfect knowledge complimented His perfect doing. Before the eyes of His disciples, He personally fulfilled all of His own commandments. He gave them this commandment and completed this act of humility and love when He washed the feet of His disciples. He then commanded that they should do this to one another. Our Lord did not dwell among men to soil men, but to wash them. He never soiled anyone, but cleansed all who wished to be cleansed. What kind of shame is it for many of us who labor much to wash ourselves and labor twice as much to soil others? O, my brethren, we muddy our own blood brothers. Even Christ weeps when He sees how we, with the mud of slander, soil those whom He has washed with His own blood. O Lord forgive us! We sin everyday against our own brothers. Make our brothers, O Lord, whom we have soiled, brighter than we in Your kingdom. You are just and You see all.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK