Prologue from Ochrid - February 17 [March 2]
1. The Holy and Great Martyr Theodore the Tyro.
'Tyro' means 'Recruit'. No sooner had St Theodore entered the Marmarite regiment of the army in the town of Amasea than a persecution of Christians broke out under the Emperors Maximian and Maximinus. Theodore did not attempt to conceal that he was a Christian, and was brought to trial and imprisoned in a prison that was then locked and sealed. The wicked judge intended him to die of hunger, but the Lord Christ Himself appeared to Theodore in the prison and encouraged His martyr with these words: 'Fear not, Theodore; I am with thee. Take no more earthly food and drink, for thou shalt be in the other life, eternal and unending, with Me in heaven.' Then a multitude of angels appeared in the prison, and the whole place shone with light. The warders on duty saw the angels in white apparel and were filled with fear. Then St Theodore was taken out, tortured and condemned to death. He was thrown into fire, and gave his soul to the most high God. He suffered in 306.
2. Our Holy Fathers Theodosius the Bulgarian and Romanus his pupil.
As a monk, Theodosius settled not far from the town of Tmovo, where he founded a community which became known as 'Theodosius's' after him. He was prominent in the Council in Bulgaria against the Bogomils in 1360. Upholding the Orthodox faith at that Council, he put the Bogomils to shame by his reasoning. He finished his earthly course in Constantinople in 1362. His disciple, Romanus, continued in asceticism in Theodosius's community until his death.
3. St Mariamna (Maria).
The sister of the apostle Philip, she travelled with her brother, and with him preached the, Gospel in Hierapolis and other places. After Philip had died a martyr's death, Mariamna continued her missionary work in Lycaonia, where she died.
An artist is one who, from crude and shapeless stone, carves and shapes forms similar to living creatures. An artist is one who weaves a multi-colored blanket from the wool of sheep. An artist is one who builds a magnificent palace out of earthly bricks. But what kind of artist on earth can be compared to Christ the Artist, who from illiterate men creates wise men, who from fishermen creates apostles, who from cowards creates heroes, who from the immoral creates saints? But all must be given over to the hand of the artist, in order to be fashioned into that which the artist knows and is capable of doing. All things, in truth, must be given over to the hand of the artist. Even men must give themselves over to the hand of Christ, in order for Him to carve, to weave or to build that which only He knows and is capable of. Nineteen past centuries witness to us, that all of them who did not protest [against Him] but rather gave themselves over to Christ the Artist and from the boorish and the ignorant became angel-seeing children of God.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus as an Artist above artists:
- Who, from the body of man, which became savage from passions, creates a noble organ of every good work;
- Who, from the chaos in the soul of man, creates the cosmos; a pure and shining mirror of the glory of God;
- Who, from ignoble men creates an undefiled kingdom, a State of the holy - an artistic work without precedence and without comparison.
About death as sleeping
"All were weeping and mourning for her, when He said: 'Do not weep any longer, for she is not dead but sleeping.' And they ridiculed Him because they knew that she was dead" (St. Luke 8 52;53).
The reference here is about the dead daughter of Jarius. Jarius himself said that his daughter had died and his servants confirmed this. But, the Lord, the Giver-of life said: "Do not weep, she is not dead" and they ridiculed Him "because they knew that she was dead." The ignorant pretend that they know better than the Knower. The blind pretend that they see better than the All-seeing One [The Discerner]. But when the young girl arose and showed herself alive, the ignorant "were utterly astounded" (St. Mark 5:42).
Even today, the ignorant ridicule when they hear the divine truth. Divine truth speaks: There is a Living God! And the ignorant ridicule as though knowing that there is no God. Divine truth speaks: There is a Heavenly Kingdom! And the ignorant ridicule even this as though they know that there is not a heavenly kingdom. Divine truth asserts: The dead will resurrect! And the ignorant even deny this as though they know that this will not be. And when God appears and the angels of God appear, and the Kingdom of Heaven is made known, and the dead resurrect, then the ignorant ones will be "astonished with a great astonishment" (St. Mark 5:42).
Who can save the world from the ignorant? No one can save the world except Christ the Omniscience, the Omnipotent. By what can the ignorant be saved? By nothing except by faith in Christ and faith to Christ. Who are the most ignorant ones in the world? They are those who deny whatever Christ claimed and claim whatever He denied. In a word: there are those who think that they know something contrary to the knowledge of Christ. They are the worst and the most dangerous ignorant ones both to themselves and to others.
My brethren, know that everything and everyone can deceive us except Christ the Lord and our Friend. He always knows and we do not always know, except when we look at Him and listen to Him.
O Lord, Merciful and All-merciful, help all the ignorant that, before death and judgment, they may be "astonished with great astonishment" and that they too will be saved in the kingdom of Your holy ones.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK