Prologue from Ochrid - March 8 [March 21]
1. St Theophylactus, Bishop of Nicomedia.
When the Emperor's chief counsellor, Tarasius, was, while still a layman, chosen as Patriarch of Constantinople, many were then given the monastic habit by him - these being laymen, friends and admirers of Tarasius. Among them was this Theophylactus. Tarasius sent him as bishop to Nicomedia. He was, as a bishop, a good pastor to his flock, and showed a rare compassion towards the poor and wretched. After the death of St Tarasius, Nichephorus succeeded to the patriarchal throne in Constantinople, and, shortly after that, Leo the Armenian came to the imperial throne. This latter was an iconoclast and as such stirred up a veritable storm in the Church of Christ. Although the iconoclast heresy had been proscribed by the Seventh Ecumenical Council, this Emperor restored it and tried to displace Orthodoxy. St Theophylactus withstood the Emperor to his face, and when the latter would not retract, said to him: 'O king, great destruction will come upon you, and you will not find anyone to deliver you from it.' For speaking thus St Theophylactus was, at the Emperor's command, deposed from his seat and sent into exile, where he spent thirty years enduring many difficulties and insults and where he finally gave his soul to the Lord in about 845.
2. The Hieromartyr Theodoretus.
The Emperor Constantine built a cathedral in Antioch, and adorned it with great beauty. The people named this church 'the golden church', because of the exterior and interior gold-work and because of the amount of gold and silver plate in the church. The Emperor also gave this church vast lands for the support of the clergy, whose number was considerable. The custodian of these vessels and all the precious things in the church was the priest Theodoretus, a man of great faith and rare devotion. When Julian the Apostate came to the throne, he denied Christ although he was baptised, and launched a persecution of Christians. His uncle, also called Julian, came to Antioch and plundered the golden church, brought Theodoretus, as the treasurer, to trial and put pressure on him to deny Christ. Theodoretus not only refused to deny Christ, he also scolded the Emperor Julian for having fallen back from the true Faith and turned back to idol-worship as a dog to vomit. When the evil judge, out of capriciousness, urinated in the golden church, Theodoretus prophesied a terrible death for him, which soon overtook him. Theodoretus was beheaded with an axe for the sake of Christ, and the judge, Julian, felt pains in his abdomen from the time he had urinated in the church. His whole abdomen was rotted by worms and he vomited up his apostate soul in the most terrible torments. Also Felix, an assistant of his, died in fulfilment of Theodoretus's prophecy of a haemorrhage from the mouth immediately the righteous man had been beheaded. St Theodoretus was beheaded in 362 and went to the glorious Kingdom of Christ the King.
Be more trusting in the Lord than in your own mother. Confess all to Him. He will not betray you. Embrace all of His commandments as beneficial. They will not deceive you. In as much as you trust in God, so also be vigilant toward your enemies, toward your body, the world and demons. All of this was expressed much better by the glorious saint of God, Ephrem the Syrian, saying, "In embracing the commandments of God, have simplicity, and in warding off hostile intrigues, have the cunning (the dove and the serpent)."
To contemplate the Lord Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane:
- How He repeatedly commands the disciples to watch and pray to God;
- How He rises three times from His sweat-inducing prayer, goes over to the disciples and finds that they are asleep;
- How they were all overcome by temptation because they forsook their teacher and fled for they were not prepared to overcome the fear of men;
- How we, too, become lazy and are not vigilant and do not pray to God, for when temptation comes, we forsake the Lord Christ.
About the vision of the eyes and the vision of the soul
"Coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance" (Philippians 2:7).
This, the Apostle Paul says, that same apostle who said about the Lord Jesus: "He is in the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation" (Colossians 1:15), and "In Him dwells the whole fullness of the Deity bodily" (Colossians 2:9). This is the Lord according to His essence and according to His internal nature but "found human in appearance." Men, whose hearts are hardened as stone and whose minds are darkened, recognize objects around themselves only through their eyes. Such men, in those days, looked with their eyes and saw Jesus as a man. It was not given to them to know anymore about Him except what their physical eyes saw. Physical man saw in Jesus and beheld only the body but did not see in that body neither God nor a perfect and sinless man.
Even today, whosoever judges only by that which he sees denies to Jesus all that he cannot see in other men. No one can speak the truth about the Lord who judges Him only with their eyes. That which the eyes can see of Him is but a small veil behind which is hidden the eternal mysteries of heaven and the greatestmysteries of time and of earth. In order to see that which is hidden in Him, behind the physical veil, one must have spiritual vision, which is the Spirit of God in one's heart, the Spirit Who draws back the veil and reveals the mysteries.
O, Lord, Mystery Most Sweet, make us worthy of the visit of Your Holy Spirit.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK