Prologue from Ochrid - March 12 [March 25]
1. Our Holy Father Theophanes the Confessor.
Named 'the Sygrian' from his birthplace, Sygriane, he was a kinsman of the Emperor Leo the Isaurian (717-41) and his son Copronvmos (741-75). He had enormous wealth and lived in great splendour. But all this lost its value for Theophanes when he enthroned Christ the Lord in his soul. Then he was hindered by a marriage which he was obliged to make. He succeeded, though, in persuading his bride that they should live as brother and sister in chastity, and, as soon as his parents died, his wife went to one monastery and he to another. His monastery was in the Syrian mountains in the Cyzicus region. The splendid and wealthy Theophanes lived for some time in the monastery as the poorest wretch. And all marvelled at the great change in him. Then, because he had become so known for his firm faith, abstinence and wisdom, he was invited to the 7th Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in 787, at which the veneration of icons was upheld. Because of his great purity and chastity, God gave him the gift of wonder-working and he was able to heal all manner of illness, especially mania and madness. He prayed to God for all the sick and distressed and helped them by his prayers. Only when he himself fell ill and was sick for a long time did he refuse to pray for his own healing but endured it with thanksgiving. When another iconoclast period arose under the wicked Emperor Leo the Armenian, Theophanes was taken to Constantinople and thrown into prison, where he spent two years in discomfort, pain and humiliation. The Emperor then sent him into exile on the island of Samothrace, an exile which he had forseen in his spirit and foretold to the prison warders. When he arrived on Samothrace, he lived for only twenty-three days, then went to his Lord and Creator to receive the deserved wreath of glory.
2. Our Holy Father Simeon the New Theologian.
This great and godly Father of the Church was born in Galatai in Paphiagonia and educated in Constantinople, where he entered the imperial service. He left all for Christ and took himself off to a monastery, living in asceticism under the guidance of an elder, Simeon, then becoming abbot of the monastery of St Mamas and finally a hermit. He was the greatest theologian since St Gregory the Theologian. His writings, illumined with the grace he carried in his heart, are a true theological revelation. He entered into rest in 1022, leaving wonder-working relics.
3. St Gregory the Dialogist, Pope of Rome.
Son of the senator Gordianus, he himself became a senator and governor of the city of Rome, but, as soon as his father died, he gave himself to the spiritual life. He built six monasteries in Sicily and a seventh in Rome itself, out of his great wealth, being tonsured in this last, which he dedicated to the Apostle Andrew. His mother, Sylvia, also received the monastic habit in a women's monastery. After the death of Pope Pelagius, Gregory was chosen as Pope. He fled from this honour and power and hid himself in the mountains and ravines, but God showed people where to find him by making a fiery column, reaching from earth to heaven, appear at the place where Gregory was hiding. He had a rare compassion, using all his income for the housing of the poor and on hospitality. He frequently brought the poor in and fed them from his own table. He occupied himself with the writing of instructive books. 'The Dialogist', or 'the one who converses' was the name he was known by, having written a book entitled 'The Dialogues' in which he brought to light the virtues and miracles of the Italian saints. He also compiled the service of the Presanctified Gifts that is used on Wednesdays and Fridays in the Great Fast. His archdeacon, Peter, often
saw a dove hovering over his head when he was writing. He went to the Lord in 604.
No one, not even the Lord Himself, can easily instruct the proud. No one wants to give instructions to him who cries out that he knows everything. "For great is the power of God; by the humble, He is glorified" says the wise Sirach. (The Book of Ecclesiasticus - Sirach 3:19), David also speaks about God saying, "He guides the humble to justice, He teaches the humble His way" (Psalm 25:9). The proud person is he who wants to teach everyone and himself does not want to be taught anything by anyone. The humble is he who does not wish to teach anyone but continually desires to be taught regardless by whom. An empty spike [ear] of grain raises its head above the entire field and the full spike [ear] of grain hangs down with bowed head. O proud man, if only your Guardian Angel would somehow remove the veil from your eyes and show you the endless open sea of all that you do not know, you would kneel before every man before whom you have exhibited pride and kneel before every man whom you have belittled. You would cry out lamenting, "Forgive me, forgive me! I do not know anything!" Often times, to the humble and pius the time when they are about to die is revealed, but the death of the proud comes unexpectedly and without warning. St. Gregory Dialogues speaks of a bishop, Carpus, who daily celebrated the Divine Liturgy and how suddenly someone appeared from the other world and said, "Continue to do what you are doing in serving me and may your legs never grow tired or your hands weakened. On the feast day of the Dormition of the Mother of God [The Assumption], you will come to Me and I will give you your reward in My Heavenly Kingdom, together with all of those for whom you have prayed at the Divine Services." After a year, on the feast of the Dormition, Bishop Carpus celebrated the Divine Liturgy of God, sought forgiveness from his priests, and gave up his soul to God. His face glowed like the sun.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus before Pilate:
- How the Jews accused Him before Pilate and how He does not say anything;
- How He does not reply, even to Pilate's questions;
- How our Lord speaks when it is necessary to defend men from the devil, from sin, from disease and death but is silent when it is asked that He, the Defender of Men, protect Himself from man.
Again, about the second coming of Christ
"And all the nations will be assembled before Him" (St. Matthew 25:32).
All the nations will be assembled before the Lord Jesus when He appears in His glory surrounded by Holy Angels sitting on a throne as the judge of all the living and the dead. "All nations will be assembled," all, without exception. Not only the Jews who tormented Him, not only the Christians who glorified Him but also the heathen who knew Him not, nor acknowledged Him. For if He did not appear to all nations, He sent to all nations someone or He gave something for the sake of knowing God's will and for the sake of salvation. That is why all nations must appear before Him for judgment. O what an awesome and majestic spectacle when all the nations and all the tribes on earth are assembled before the Lord, Who is brighter than many suns. What joy for the holy martyrs and confessors when they see how, in this countless mass of nations, there is not one tongue left at all to deny the divinity of the Lord Jesus! But, it will not be of any value to anyone in that hour and in that place to recognize and to confess the divinity of our great Lord, if they denied Him on earth. There and then accounts will settled, not gain nor loss. He who appears before the Lord with whatsoever, with that he will be either condemned or justified.
Now is the time to acknowledge the divinity of the Lord Jesus, now, when many deny Him and when His divinity is doubted by many. They who love the Lord and who have trust in all of His words will easily acknowledge this. For when He says this, about what do they who love Him have to worry, to doubt, or to hesitate.
O Lord, Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us!
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK