Prologue from Ochrid - February 19 [March 4]
1. The Holy Apostles Archippus, Philemon and Apphia.
Archippus was one of the Seventy. The Apostle Paul mentions him in his Epistles to the Colossians (4:17) and to Philemon (2), calling him his fellow-soldier in the battle. The Christians' gathering-place for prayer in the town of Colossae was in the house of Philemon. The Apostle Paul, writing to Philemon, calls this 'the Church in thy house'. This was in the time when the apostles were consecrating their disciples to the episcopate - some to permanent sees and others as missionaries, travelling to various places. Philemon was one of these latter. Apphia, Philemon's wife, remained to serve the house-church with fasting. At the time of a feast of the pagan goddess Artemis, all the faithful in Colossae were, as was their custom, gathered at prayer in the house of Philemon. The pagans came to hear of this gathering, rushed in on them and seized all the Christians. They flogged Archippus, Philemon and Apphia as their leaders, then buried them up to the waist in the ground and stoned them. Philemon and Apphia died of this, but they took Archippus out of the hole barely alive and left him for the children to play with. They took knives and stabbed him all over, and thus this fellow-soldier of Paul's in the battle made a good end of his earthly road.
2. Our Holy Father Dositheus.
Dositheus was a disciple of the famous Abba Dorotheus, who lived with Saints Seridus, John and Barsanuphius the Great. He was kinsman to a general and travelled to Jerusalem to see the holy places. While he was looking at a picture of the Dreadful Judgement in some church, a woman in purple robes came up and explained many things to him. Finally, at parting, she told him that, if he sought salvation, he must fast and not eat meat, and pray frequently to God. This was the most holy Mother of God. The heart of the young Dositheus was set afire and he desired the monastic life. Dorotheus received him as his cell-servant and commanded him utterly to forsake his own will and obey his spiritual father. He left him for several days to eat as much as he wanted, then after a certain time cut his food down to a quarter, and after a while to a quarter of that, until he became accustomed to living on the smallest amount of food, always telling him: 'Eating is a habit, and one eats what one is used to eating.' He was saved and glorified by total obedience. He remains forever as an example of monastic obedience and devotion to one's spiritual father. This young saint lived early in the 6th century.
St. Anthony teaches: "Just as a man comes froth naked from his mother's womb, so the soul comes forth naked from the body. One soul is pure and bright, the second is soiled by sin, and the third is blackened by many sins If a body comes forth from a mother's womb unhealthy, it cannot live; and so the soul, if it does not attain the knowledge of God through good behavior, it cannot be saved neither can it be in communion with God. The organ of bodily sight is the eye; the organ of spiritual sight is the mind. Just as the body is blind without eyes, so the soul is blind without a correct mind and correct life."
To contemplate the Lord Jesus in the midst of the common people:
- How with love, He teaches the people as a parent teaches his children;
- How the common people receive His words, astonished by His works and glorify God;
- How even today, the common people, free from corruption, receive His words with joy and thanksgiving.
"The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If you are not trustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you what is yours? " (St. Luke 16: 10-12).
This is how the Householder of both the material and spiritual world speaks. Material wealth He calls "small" and the spiritual wealth He calls "great." To whomever material wealth is given and proves himself to be selfish, hardhearted, arrogant, unmerciful and godless, to him spiritual wealth cannot be given, for if he is unfaithful in small things, he will be unfaithful in great things; when he is unfaithful in the physical, he will be unfaithful in the spiritual.
Man undergoes a test in a foreign world, and if he passes the test, he will gain his own world; if, however, he fails the test, who will give him his world? Man's true world, his homeland, is the heavenly sublime, divine world. The earthly world, however, is the world of coarseness and deterioration; a foreign world for man. But man is sent into this foreign world to complete a test for that, his true world; for his heavenly homeland.
Both expressions of the Savior, however, are similar in meaning. O how profound and true is their meaning! Just as light disperses darkness, so do these words of the Savior disperse our confusion in relation to that: why are we sent into this life? And what should we do? Whoever is able to read with a pure understanding, to him, everything is said in these two sentences.
Therefore, let us know that God will not bestow the spiritual gifts; the gift of understanding, nor the gift of faith, nor the gift of love, nor the gift of purity, nor the gift of prophecy, nor the gift of miracle-working, nor the gift of authority over demons, nor the gift of discernment, nor the gift of the vision of the heavenly world to him who has gambled and used these gifts for evil - as did the prodigal son - with the gifts of bodily health, or earthly riches or glory and position among men or knowledge of the material world or some other skill or ability.
O Lord Most Gentle, sustain our fidelity toward You in that which You have entrusted to us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK