Prologue from Ochrid - March 2 [March 15]
1. The Hieromartyr Theodotus, Bishop of Cyrenia on the island of Cyprus.
He was chosen for his wisdom and virtue as bishop, and governed the Church of God with love and zeal. When a persecution of Christians arose in the time of the wicked Emperor Licinius, this man of God was taken before the judge and put to various tortures. When the torturer, Sabinus, urged him to deny Christ and worship pagan idols, Theodotus replied: 'If you knew the goodness of my God, who, it is my hope, will by these brief tortures make me worthy of eternal life, you would wish to suffer for Him as I do!' They hammered nails into his body, and he thanked God; then, believing that the end was near, he counselled and instructed the Christians that were around him. But, by the providence of God, there came at that moment an order from the Emperor Constantine to free all Christians who had been brought to trial for the sake of Christ. Then this saint also was freed, returned thus tortured to his see in Cyrenia and lived for a further two years. He then entered into rest in the Lord whom he had served faithfully and for whom he had suffered greatly. He finished his earthly course in 302, and went to the courts of the Lord.
2. The Holy Martyr Troadius.
He suffered for Christ as a young man. Gregory of Neocaesarea saw him in a vision, courageously enduring torture for Christ until he was murdered. And he saw his soul parting with joy from the body and hastening to heaven. St Troadius suffered and was glorified in the 3rd century.
3. The Four Hundred and Forty Martyrs of Lombardy in Italy.
Massacred in about 579, their deaths are recorded by Gregory the Dialogist. Forty of them were beheaded in one place and four hundred in another, all because they refused to eat food offered to idols, and the four hundred also because they refused to follow the custom of the Lombard pagans of dancing around a goat's head that had been brought to the demons for sacrifice.
4. Our Holy Father Agathon, a great Egyptian ascetic of the 5th century.
He was a contemporary of St Macarius and a disciple of St Lot. His care was to fulfill all the commandments of God. One of the brethren expressed his liking for a knife with which he had been cutting willow wands for baskets. The saint joyfully offered the knife to the brother as a gift. St Agathon also said: 'I would be content to be able to take on myself the body of a leper, and give him mine.' Is not that perfect love? (In the Greek Calendar, he is commemorated on Jan. 8th).
5. The Holy Martyr Euthalia.
This holy Euthalia was a Sicilian maiden and had a mother with the same name and a brother, Sermilianus. They were all pagans and unbaptised. The elder Euthalia became ill of an issue of blood. There appeared to her in a dream the holy martyrs Alphius, Philadelphus and Cyprinus (May 10th), and told her that she would be healed only if she were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Euthalia believed in Christ, was baptised and was healed. Seeing this marvel, her daughter also was baptised. Sermilianus began to mock his mother and sister for their Christian faith, then to threaten them. The mother fled from the house in fear. Then the brother began to persecute his sister. But she was unafraid, for Christ, was dearer to her than her brother, and she said to Sermilianus: 'I am a Christian, and have no fear of death.' The wicked brother sent a servant to her to violate her, but when the servant assaulted St Euthalia, he was stricken blind. The evil brother saw that wonder, but his heart remained obdurate. Like Cain, he hurried after his sister, grabbed hold of her and cut off her head. Thus was the holy virgin Euthalia crowned with a wreath of eternal glory. And thus in this ecample were fulfilled the words of Christ that He was bringing a sword among men which would divide those of one blood but not those of one faith (Matt. 10:34-35)
If someone loses his faith in God, he is recompensed with stupidity. Of all stupidities, it is difficult to say whether there is a greater one than this: that someone who calls himself a Christian and then proceeds to gather pathetic proofs for God and eternal life from other beliefs and philosophies. He who does not find gold among the wealthy; how will he find it among the poor? The revelation of eternal life, of facts, of proofs, of signs, and of actual visions of the spiritual world - all of these not only constitute the foundation of the Christian Faith, but constitute its walls, floors, ornaments, all the furnishings, the roof and the domes of the majestic building of the Christian Faith. A single ray from the spiritual world glistens through every word of the Gospels, not to mention the miraculous events, both in Evangelical and Post-Evangelical times as well as throughout the entire history of the Church for two-thousand years. Christianity has thrown open wide the gates of that world in so great a measure, that it should not be necessary to call it a religion, in order not to confuse it with other faiths and religions. It is a revelation! God's revelation!
To contemplate the Lord Jesus Christ at the Mystical Supper:
- How he had told His disciples that one of them would betray Him;
- How after all that He did for Judas and after the washing of his feet and after indicating that He knew his betraying intention, Judas remained obstinate in his thoughts of selling his Teacher and his soul for silver;
- How our Lord was saddened at the destruction and downfall of Judas as with the destruction and downfall of His other traitors and traitors of His Church throughout all ages till the end, all of which He foresaw with His All-Seeing Spirit.
About the Father and the Son
"And whoever sees me, sees the one who sent me" (St. John 12:45).
He who sees the light also sees the sun beyond it. For could anyone see the sun and not the light? If the sun did not emit its light, none of us would know about the sun. All of our knowledge about the sun, we received with the help of the rays of light which came from the sun. No one has ever seen the sun with the help of some other light, other than that which comes from the sun itself. So it is with our knowing the Father with the help of the Son. He who does not know about the Son cannot know about the Father. He who knows the Son, knows the Father. He who sees the Son, sees also the Father. God cannot be known without His Light Who came among men. The Light of the Father is the Son. "I am the Light" (St. John 8:12), said Christ. The Light shines in the darkness! The physical world would be completely in darkness if it were not for the light from the sun. The spiritual and moral world and all the life of mankind would be in darkness if it were not for the Light which is from the Father. That Light is Christ the Lord. Truly, brethren, there is no true light which illuminates the Being of God as does the light of Christ the Lord. He who sees Him sees God. He who does not see Him is in darkness. O Lord, Son of God, always help our souls to see You, and through You, Your Heavenly Father and the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, Trinity, one in essence and undivided.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK