Prologue from Ochrid - March 3 [March 16]
1. The Holy Martyrs Eutropius, Cleonicus and Basiliscus.
They were comrades of St Theodore the Tyro. When glorious Theodore gloriously laid down his life, they remained behind in prison, and were not condemned for a long time because of the courage of the imperial governor of the town of Amasea. When a new governor arrived, more inhuman than his predecessor, he ordered these three to be brought before him. All three were young men; Eutropius and Cleonicus were brothers and Basiliscus a kinsman of Theodore's. But all three were, through their brotherly love, as blood-brothers. And they therefore said to the governor: 'As the Holy Trinity is indivisible, so are we indivisible in faith and inseparable in love. All flattery on the governor's part was in vain, as were all his efforts to bribe Eutropius. He first invited him to dine with him, which Eutropius refused with a quotation from the Psalms: 'Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsels of the ungodly', after which he offered him vast wealth - 150 litres of silver - which Eutropius likewise refused, reminding the governor that Judas lost his soul for silver. After all these attempts, followed by interrogation and torture, the first two were condemned to be crucified, for which they gave thanks to Christ that He had counted them worthy to die the death He had died; and the third, Basilicus, was beheaded. They all entered into the Kingdom of joy, where their commander, Theodore, was waiting for them, glorified before Christ the Lord and Victor. They suffered with honour in 308.
2. St Piama of Egypt.
She refused, for the sake of Christ, to marry, and gave herself to asceticism in her mother's house. She took only a little food every other day, and spent her time in prayer and meditation, being gifted with insight. She departed this life peacefully, commending her soul to the Lord, in about the year 377.
3. An Unknown Girl in Alexandria.
She was from a wealthy house, having a good father who suffered much and had a difficult death, and an evil mother who had an easy life, died in peace and was buried with honour. In uncertainty whether to live by the example of her father or her mother, this maiden had a vision, in which the state of her father and of her mother were shown to her. She saw her father in the Kingdom of God, and her mother in darkness and torment. This determined her to devote her whole life to God, and, like her father, follow the commandments of God without regard to any opposition or misfortune that she might have to endure. And she followed the commandments of God to the end, with His help, and was made worthy of the Kingdom of heaven, in which she was reunited with her beloved father.
Humanly speaking, Christ, by His obedience, elevated Himself to primacy in the Church, in the world and in the history of mankind. No one can be a good leader who has not completed the school of obedience. Adam forfeited the authority and dominion over the living creatures and the elements of nature at the very moment when he showed himself disobedient to God. The Abba Moses said, "Obedience begats obedience; if someone listens to God, God also listens to him." It is obvious then, that God listens to man more than man listens to God, especially when one takes into consideration how often and in how many ways man sins daily against the commandments of God. It is a fact that the Eternal God listens to us, corruptible as we are, more than we listen to Him. This should fill all of us with shame who still have a conscience. When St. Eutropius was being tortured, along with his two companions, he prayed to God, "Come to us in assistance as You came to Your servant Theodore Tiro." Suddenly, the ground shook and the obedient Lord appeared with His angels along with St. Theodore. The Lord said to the sufferers, "During the time of your torture, I stood before your faces and observed your patience. I will write your names in the Book of Life."
To contemplate the Lord Jesus at the Mystical Supper:
- How He chose bread and wine, two ordinary elements of nourishment, and through them instituted His visible and invisible bond with the Church until the end;
- How the Mystical Supper was preserved until today and how it will be preserved until the end of time as the Mystery of Communion;
- How everyday, and almost every hour, somewhere in the world, a priest, consecrates the bread and wine and receives it as the Body and Blood of Christ. What a wonderful vision that is! [The Consecration of the bread and wine and receiving it as the Holy Body and Precious Blood of Christ]
About love for your neighbor
"Yet that I remain in the flesh is more necessary for your benefit" (Philippians 1:24).
Inflamed with the love of God, the Apostle Paul acknowledged, in his Epistle to the Philippians, that for him death is a gain because his life is Christ's. Paul's love for Christ draws him toward death so that he may stand by Christ as soon as possible,and his love for the faithful again compels him to remain in the flesh. However, there are not two loves which attract the apostle and pulls him in two directions, but one and the same love which opens before him two treasures of wealth. One treasure is the blessed world in heaven, and the other treasure is the souls of the faithful on earth. That heavenly treasure is increased by this wealth from earth; this treasure overflows into the other. To go to heaven, the apostle is drawn by love and reward; to remain on earth, he is drawn by love and duty. When mortal man, my brethren, discovers that it is more important to remain in the flesh out of love for his brethren, what kind of miracle is it then that the eternal God knew, before the apostle, that it was more important to be in the flesh for the salvation of mankind than out of the flesh in the spiritual kingdom? Does not this confession of Paul before the Philippians explain to us with complete clarity the reasons for the Incarnation of the Son of God? There, in the heavens, is the true Kingdom of Christ and the true life of Christ without the mingling of sin and death. But the love of the Son of God toward men deemed it necessary to remain in the flesh on earth among men. Truly, we need to be thankful to the Apostle Paul that he, in explaining himself to us, explained the mystery of Christ's coming and His dwelling in the flesh.
O Lord, wonderful are You in Your saints.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK