Prologue from Ochrid - February 21 [March 6]
1. St Zacharias, Patriarch of Jerusalem.
The Persian King Chozroes attacked Jerusalem, ransacking the city, in the time of the Greek Emperor Heraclius, in 614. He took the Precious Cross off to Persia and enslaved an enormous number of Christians, including Patriarch Zacharias. The Jews supported him in his wickedness towards the Christians. It is recorded, among further malice on the part of the Jews, that they bought 90,000 Christian slaves from Chozroes and killed them all. The aged Patriarch spent fourteen years in slavery. Many marvels were wrought in Persia by the Precious Cross, and the Persians exclaimed: 'The Christian God has come to Persia!' The Emperor Heraclius later compelled King Chozroes to return the Precious Cross to Jerusalem, together with the Patriarch and the remaining slaves. The Emperor himself carried the Cross into the Holy City on his back. St Zacharias spent his remaining days in peace, and went to the Lord in 632. Patriarch Modestus deputised for him on the patriarchal throne, and after him came St Sophronius (see March 1lth).
2. Our Holy Father Timothy.
A hermit in a place called Symbola on Asiatic Olympus, Timothy entered a monastery very young and spent his earthly life in fasting, prayer, vigils and unceasing toil right up to a great age. He remained pure and chaste throughout his life. God gives power over evil spirits to the pure and chaste, and this gift He gave to Timothy. Through careful watching over his soul, Timothy built within himself a glorious abode for the Holy Spirit. This holy man entered into rest in 795.
3. St Eustathius (Eustace), Archbishop of Antioch.
A great zealot for, and protector of, Orthodoxy, he was especially prominent at the First Ecumenical Council, where he disproved by erudite reasoning the teaching of the Arians. With the other holy fathers, Eustathius confessed the truth that Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, is equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit by divine essence. After the death of the Emperor Constantine, the Arians somehow again gained the ascendancy and began hotly to persecute Orthodoxy. St Eustathius was deposed from his throne and exiled first to Thrace and then to Macedonia. He suffered much and long, until at last he gave his holy soul to God in about 345.
4. St John III Scholasticus, Patriarch of Constantinople.
A lawyer, he was ordained priest and became Patriarch in 565. He wrote Canons which have been included in the Nomocanon. In his day, the Cherubic Hymn and the prayer 'At Thy mystical supper' were introduced into the Liturgy. He departed this life peacefully and gave his soul to God in 577.
What is fortune telling? There are three kinds of belief, which have their origin in fortune telling: belief in blind chance, belief in things and belief in the almighty power of the spirits of darkness. Through fortune telling, events are prophesied, the power of things differentiated and an oath is sworn to the spirits of darkness. Not any faith so decisively condemned and rejected fortune telling as did the Christian Faith. Not any faith, except Christianity is free and pure of fortune telling. Other faiths are, more or less, fortune telling and some consist only of fortune telling. Fortune telling means to subject man to lower things and beings lower than man. From this, one can say that fortune telling can be called a belief in darkness. That is why the Apostle Paul speaks: "Avoid profane and silly myths. Train yourself for devotion" (1 Timothy 4:7). Christianity is a Faith of light in two senses: First because it elevates man above chance, above all things and above the spirits of darkness; and Second that it subordinates man only to the authority of the Living, Wise and Almighty God. The All-seeing God exists that is why blind chance does not exist. In spiritual union with this All-seeing and Living God, man can be more exalted than all things and more powerful than all the spirits of darkness.
To contemplate the Lord Jesus in conversation with the rich young man: "An official asked him this question, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answered him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery; you shall not kill; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother.' And he replied, "All of these I have observed from my youth." When Jesus heard this he said to him, " There is still one thing left for you: sell all that you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have a treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." But when he heard this he became quite sad, for he was very rich" (St. Luke 18:18-23).
- How the rich man sought counsel and was not prepared to sacrifice;
- How our Lord pointed out to him the way to sacrifice which is necessary for the purchase of eternal life;
- How the rich man left sorrowfully for he could not part with his riches.
About fasting and prayer
"This kind can come outby nothing, but prayerand fasting" (St. Mark 9:29).
This is the saving prescription of the greatest Physician of human souls. This is the remedy tried and proved. Another remedy for lunacy, there is not. What kind of sickness is that? That is the presence and dominance of an evil spirit in a man, a dangerous evil spirit who labors to eventually destroy the body and soul of man. The boy whom our Lord freed from an evil spirit; this evil spirit that had hurled him at times in the fire, at times in the water just in order to destroy him.
As long as a man only philosophizes about God he is weak and completely helpless against the evil spirit. The evil spirit ridicules the feeble sophistry of the world. But, as soon as a man begins to fast and to pray to God, the evil spirit becomes filled with indescribable fear. In no way can the evil spirit tolerate the aroma of prayer and fasting. The sweet-smelling aroma chokes him and weakens him to utter exhaustion. In a man who only philosophizes about faith, there is spacious room in him for the demons. But in a man who sincerely begins to pray to God and to fast with patience and hope, for the demon it becomes narrow and constricted and he must flee from such a man. Against certain bodily ills there exists only one remedy. Against the greatest ill of the soul, demonism, there exists two remedies, which must be utilized at one and the same time: fasting and prayer. The apostles and saints fasted and prayed to God. That is why they were so powerful against evil spirits.
O gracious Jesus, our Physician and Helper in all miseries, strengthen us by the power of Your Holy Spirit that we may be able to adhere to Your saving precepts concerning fasting and prayer for the sake of our salvation and the salvation of our fellow men.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK