Prologue from Ochrid - March 17 [March 30]
1. St Alexis, the Man of God.
Varied are the paths along which God leads those who desire to be pleasing to Him and fulfil His Law. In the time of the Emperor Honorius (393-423), there lived in Rome a high imperial dignitary, Euphemianus, very eminent and very rich. Both he and his wife, Agalais, lived lives pleasing to God. Although he was rich, Euphemianus sat down to table only once a day, at sunset. They had an only son, this Alexis, who, when he was grown up, was compelled to marry. But, on the night of the wedding, he left not only his wife but also his father, took ship and went to the town of Edessa in Mesopotamia, where the wonderful Face of the Lord Himself, sent to King Abgar, was kept. Having venerated this Face, Alexis dressed himself in simple clothing and lived for seventeen years as a poor man in that town, constantly praying to God in the porch of the church of the Mother of God. When he became known as a holy man, he shunned the praise of men and so went off and took a ship that was going to Laodicea. By the providence of God, the ship went off course and took him right to Rome. Regarding this as a cross from God, Alexis decided to go to his father's house and there, unknown, continue his life of self-denial. His father did not recognise him, but from charity allowed him to live in his courtyard in a little shack. There Alexis spent seventeen further years, living only on bread and water. Molested by the servants in many ways, he persevered to the end. And when the end drew near, he wrote a few words on a single sheet of paper, held it in his hand, lay down and breathed his last, on March 17th, 411. Then a voice was heard in the Church of the Holy Apostles, saying to the Emperor, who was present, and the Patriarch: 'Look for the Man of God.' Shortly afterwards it was revealed that this Man of God was in Euphemianus's house. The Emperor, the Pope and their whole escort came to Euphemianus's house and, after lengthy questioning, discovered that the poor man was the Man of God. When they went into his shack, they found him dead with his face shining like the sun. His parents discovered from the paper that he was their son Alexis; and his bride, who had lived for thirty-four years without him, that this was her husband, and they were overcome by immeasurable sorrow and grief. But then they were comforted, seeing how God had glorified His chosen one. For, on touching his body, many of the sick were healed, and a sweet myrrh came forth from it. He was buried in a coffin of marble and emerald. His head is preserved in the Church of St Laurus in the Peloponnese.
2. The Holy Martyr Marinus.
He was a soldier, and not only refused to offer sacrifice to idols, but took things sacrificed by others and trod them underfoot. For this he was tortured and beheaded in the third century. A senator, Asterius, clad in costly white raiment, was watching the sufferings of St Marinus, and he became so fired with enthusiasm for the Faith of the Christ who gave such courage to His followers that he took the body of the martyr onto his back, bore it away and buried it. Seeing this, the unbelievers killed him also as a Christian.
Why are we here on earth? To show our love for God. To learn to love God more than sin. That by our inconsequential love, we may respond to the greater love of God. Only God's love is a great love and our love is always inconsequential. God abundantly showed and shows His love for man both in Paradise and on earth. This brief earthly life is given to us as a school and as an examination to question ourselves as to whether we will respond with love to the great love of God. "Every day and every hour, proof of our love for God is required of us," says St. Isaac the Syrian. God shows His love for us every day and every hour. Every day and every moment we stand positioned between God and sin. We have either to give our love to God and elevate ourselves among the angels or to choose sin and fall into the gloom of Hades. Alexis, the Man of God, loved God more than he loved his parents, his wife and riches. He spent seventeen years as a beggar far away from the home of his parents, and another seventeen years Alexis spent as an unknown and scorned in the house of his parents. He did this, all for the sake of the love of God. The merciful God responded love for love for these thirty-four years of suffering. He gave Alexis eternal life and joy among His angels in the heavens and glory on earth.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus on Golgotha:
- How the soldiers removed His garments and He remains silent and does not defend Himself;
- How they nailed Him to the wood with spikes and He remains silent and does not defend Himself;
- How with uproar and tumult, they raised the cross from the ground, placed it upright and the Lord remains silent.
About the second coming of Christ
"For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man" (St. Matthew 24:27).
The second advent of our Lord Jesus will be a coming in glory. Our Lord repeated this many times. Here He tells us in more detail as to what this, His coming, will resemble. He says it will resemble lightning. Through this He reveals the five characteristics of His glorious advent.
First: His second coming will be unexpected, like lightning. That is why He reminded us, "Therefore, stay awake! For you know neither the day nor the hour" (St. Matthew 25:13).
Second: His second coming will be as bright as lightning. The sun and the stars will be darkened. The entire universe will lose the glow of its face when He shines. He, who sins, will have less light and brightness. How much darker will the sinner be under this heavenly flame. That is why He reminded us to hold the lamps of our souls filled with oil and readiness. O my brethren, let us not find ourselves in the darkness in that terrible hour!
Third: His advent will be as powerful as lightning. For He, alone, spoke to others saying that He will come "with great power and glory" (St. Mark 13:26).
Fourth: His coming will be all encompassing and public to everyone and all, from east to west. That is, He will not appear as the first time to be seen only by His disciples or only one people or one nation or one country or one state but He will appear like lightning which all nations and all peoples on earth will see at once.
Fifth: Just as the lightning precedes rain and hail, so shall His second coming precede the dreadful judgment which will be for the righteous and faithful like the desired rain; and for the unrighteous and unfaithful, like hail.
Let us make preparation, my brethren, for the clouds are gathering and the divine lightning may descend from them at any time.
O Lord, Great and Awesome, give oil to the lamps of our souls so that we will not find ourselves in eternal darkness when Your eternal light appears.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK