Prologue from Ochrid - March 16 [March 29]
1. The Holy Apostle Aristobulus, one of the Seventy.
He was the brother of the Apostle Bamabas and was born in Cyprus. He was a follower of the Apostle Paul, who mentions him in his Epistle to the Romans (16:10). When the great Apostle Paul created many bishops for different parts of the world, he made this Aristobulus bishop of Britain (i. e. England). In Britain there was a wild people, pagan and wicked, and Aristobulus endured among them unmentionable torments, misfortunes and malice. They smote him without mercy, dragged him through the streets, mocked him and jeered at him. But in the end this holy man came to success by the power of the grace of God. He enlightened the people, baptised them in the name of Christ the Lord, built churches, ordained priests and deacons and finally died there in peace and went to the Kingdom of the Lord whom he had served so faithfully. (In the Greek Calendar, St Aristobulus is commemorated on March 15th).
2. The Holy Martyr Sabinas.
An Egyptian from the city of Hermopolis, he was the administrator of that city. In the time of a persecution of Christians he went off into a mountain with many other Christians and shut himself in a hut, where he spent the time in fasting and prayer. But a poor man who had brought him food and for whom Sabinas had done much betrayed him; as Judas did Christ, so this poor man for money (for two pieces of gold) betrayed his benefactor. Sabinas, with six others, was taken by soldiers, bound and brought to judgement. After harsh torture, he was thrown into the River Nile, where he gave his spirit to God in 287.
3. The Hieromartyrs Trophimus and Thallus.
Brothers by birth from Syria, they publicly and freely preached Christ and denounced the folly of the Greeks and Romans. The infuriated pagans decided to stone them to death, but when they threw the stones at these two brothers, the stones turned back upon the throwers and the brothers remained uninjured. After this they were both crucified. From their crosses the brothers instructed and encouraged the Christians, who were standing nearby in great distress. After much suffering, they gave their spirits to the Lord to whom they had remained faithful to the end. They suffered with honour in the year 300, in the town of Bofor.
Author's Note: In the Greek Calendar, Our Holy Father Christodoulos is also commemorated. He lived in asceticism on the island of Patmos and there built a monastery in honour of St John the Theologian. He entered into rest in 1111. Many miracles have been wrought over his relics.
If we fulfill the law of God in our thoughts, how much easier would it be then for us to fulfill it in our deeds? That is, if we do not transgress the law of God in our thoughts, how much easier would it be not to transgress it in our deeds? Or still, if our hearts, tongues, hands and feet are with God, then our entire body cannot be against God. Heart, heart, prepare your heart for God. Consecrate it to God; worship God; fulfill the law of God in it; unite it with God; and all the rest will follow and will be governed by the heart. It is not he who holds the spoke of the wheel that steers the wheel, but he who holds its axis. The heart is the axis of our being. Speaking about the commandments of God, the Venerable Hesychius says, "If you compel yourself to fulfill them in your thought, then you will rarely have the need to strain yourself to fulfill them in deed." That is, if you set your hearts on God, as on an axis, then the wheels will easily and comfortably follow the axis. In other words all of man will follow after his own heart. "Your law is within my heart" (Psalm 39(40):9), says the all-wise David.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus how He walks under the cross to Golgotha:
- How He quietly and patiently carries His cross;
- How they took the cross from Him and gave it to Simon of Cyrene; how he carried the cross walking after Christ;
- How He glanced at the women of Jerusalem, who were weeping, and said to them: "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me: weep instead for yourselves and for your children" (St. Luke 23:28), declaring by this His victory and defeat over His murderers.
About the reproach of Christ as wealth
"By faith Moses considered the reproach than the treasures of Egypt, for he was of the Anointed One greater wealth looking to the recompense" (Hebrews 11: 24-26).
Moses did not want to remain in the palace of the pharaoh nor to be called the adopted son of pharaoh. Desiring more, "He chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasure of sin" (Hebrews 11:25). How different was Moses from his descendants [The Jews], who out of pharonic reasons, condemned the King of Glory to death! All of them would have liked to live one more year in the decaying court of the pharaoh rather than to travel with God for forty years in the wilderness. Moses left all honors, all riches and all vanities, which only the wealth of Egypt could provide. At the command of God, Moses started out through the hungry and thirsty wilderness with faith that beyond there lay the Promised Land. All of this also means to hold the "reproach of the Anointed One [Christ]" above all the wealth of Egypt.
The "reproach of the Anointed One [Christ]" is that which the men of this world with a powerful stench of the earth, are ashamed in Christ. That is Christ's poverty on earth, His fasting, His vigil, His prayer, His wandering without a roof over His head, His condemnation, His humiliation, and His shameful death. This "reproach of the Anointed One [Christ]" was valued by the apostles, and after them, by countless saints, who thought this to be of greater wealth than all the riches in the entire world. Following these indignities, the Lord resurrected and opened the gates of heaven and revealed the Promised Land of Paradise, into which He led mankind along the path of His reproach or the wilderness of His suffering.
O Lord, glorified and resurrected, help us that we may hold unwaveringly every drop of Your sweat and Your blood as a treasure greater than all worldly riches.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK