Prologue from Ochrid - March 14 [March 27]
1. Our Holy Father Benedict.
Born in Nursia in Italy in 480, of rich and eminent parents, he did not persevere long with his schooling, for he realised himself that he could, through book-learning, lose 'the great understanding of my soul'. And he left school 'an untaught sage and an understanding ignoramus'. He fled to a monastery where a monk, Romanus, gave him the habit, after which he withdrew to a craggy mountain, where he lived for more than three years in a cave in great struggles with his soul. Romanus brought him bread and dropped it over the wall of the crag on a rope to the mouth of the cave. When he became known in the neighbourhood, he, to flee the praise of men, moved away from that cave. He was very brutal with himself. Once, when an impure rage of fleshly lust fell on him, he stripped bare and rolled among nettles and thorns until he had driven out of himself every thought of a woman. God endowed him with many spiritual gifts: insight, healing and the driving out of evil spirits, the raising of the dead and the ability to appear to others from a distance in a dream or vision. He once discerned that he had been given a glass of poisoned wine. He made the sign of the Cross over the glass and it broke into pieces. He founded twelve monasteries, each having twelve monks at first. He later compiled the specifically 'Benedictine' rule, which is today followed in the Roman Church. On the sixth day before his death he commanded that his grave, already prepared as the saint had foreseen that his end was near, should be opened. He gathered all the monks together, gave them counsel and gave his soul to the Lord whom he had faithfully served in poverty and purity. His sister, Scholastica, lived in a women's monastery, where, guided by her brother and herself practising great asceticism, she came to great spiritual perfection. When St Benedict set his soul free, two monks, one on the road and one at prayer in a distant cell, had at the same moment the same vision: a path from earth to heaven, curtained with precious cloth and illuminated at the sides by ranks of people. At the top of that path stood a man of indescribable beauty and light, who told them that the path was prepared for Benedict, the beloved of God. After that vision, the two brethren discovered that their beloved abbot had gone from this world. He died peacefully in about 550 and went to the eternal Kingdom of Christ the King.
2. St Euschemon, Bishop of Lampsacus.
He underwent persecution and imprisonment in a period of iconoclasm, entering into rest in the time of the Emperor Theophilus the Iconoclast (829-842).
3. St Theognostus, Metropolitan of Kiev.
A Greek bv birth and the successor of St Peter of Kiev, he suffered greatly from the Mongol hordes from Dzinibek, being slanderously denounced to the Mongol ruler by his own Russian people for paying no tribute to the ruler for his position. When the ruler summoned him and questioned him about this, he replied: 'Christ our God bought His Church from the unbelievers with His precious Blood. For what do we now pay tribute to unbelievers?' At last he managed somehow to free himself and return home. He governed the Church for twentv-five years and entered into rest in the Lord in 1353.
We can hardly find a better example as to how we should not become lazy and how we should not procrastinate in prayer and in work for tomorrow's day than by this example which is given to us by St. Ephrem the Syrian. "Once a brother was inspired by the devil to think: Give yourself rest today and tomorrow rise for vigil." But he answered the thought, "Who knows, perhaps, I will not even get up tomorrow, that is why I need to rise today." Before work, he was also inspired with this thought, "Give yourself rest today and complete your work tomorrow." And again he responded, "No, I will complete my work today and about tomorrow's day, the Lord will take care of it." St. Anthony teaches, " Before the closing of each day, arrange your life as though this is your last day on earth and you will protect yourself from sins."
To contemplate the Lord Jesus before Pilate:
- How the Lord is silent before Pilate;
- How Judas, at that time, threw the pieces of silver into the Temple and hanged himself;
- And again, how Pilate questions and the Lord is silent.
About Christ's prophecy concerning His Glory
"From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven" (St. Matthew 26:64).
He who does not see God as the merciful Samaritan on earth will see Him as the Dreadful Judge in Heaven. So blinded were the leaders of the Jews that they were unable to see in Christ the Lord neither God, nor the Messiah, nor a Prophet, nor even a simple good man. They placed Him beneath ordinary good people. Not only that, they placed Him even lower than the thieves. They released Barabas and they condemned Christ! In general, they did not even consider Christ a man. They spit upon Him; they mocked Him; they made a masquerade of Him, as some cheap and unneeded thing. Exactly at that moment when the Jews maliciously played with Christ as some cheap and unneeded thing, the Lord suddenly opened His mouth and spoke, "From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of Heaven." What a distance there is between what Christ is in truth and that which the Jews held Him to be!
The Son of Man, Who sits on the right hand of Power, is the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was seen as such soon after that by the Holy Arch-Deacon Stephen and many many others. The Son of Man Who comes on the clouds with angels and countless numbers of powers and heavenly hosts is again that same Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, as He was seen in His Revelation, written by St. John, the Theologian and Evangelist.
O my brethren, do not be misled by deluding and illusionary tales of those men who speak, "When we see Christ in the Heavens as God, then we will believe in Him." That faith will be a little too late, and in vain will that vision be. With our faith we must see Christ as God in that humiliated, spat upon, beaten, bloodied, and ridiculed man; in that silent and condemned One in the court of Caiaphas Whom the Jews considered as something cheap and unneeded and Whom they turned into a masquerade. This is the Faith that is valued in the heavens. This is the Faith that is rewarded by resurrection and immortality. This is the Faith which, until now, nurtured and transplanted to heaven numerous armies of the holiest souls, of the strongest characters, the most forbearing heroes and the most illustrious minds. O humiliated Lord, raise us up to this Faith.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK