Prologue from Ochrid - May 7 [May 20]
1. Commemoration of the Appearing of the Precious Cross over Jerusalem.
In the time of the Emperor Constantius, St Constantine's son, and Patriarch Cyril of Jerusalem, the Precious Cross appeared one day at nine o'clock in the morning above Golgotha, and spread as far as the Mount of Olives. This Cross was brighter than the sun and more beautiful than the loveliest rainbow. The whole people - believers and unbelievers - left their work and watched this heavenly sign in fear and wonder. Many unbelievers were converted to faith in Christ, and also many Arians abandoned their wicked heresy and returned to Orthodoxy. Patriarch Cyril wrote a letter to the Emperor Constantius about this sign, the Emperor himself being inclined towards Arianism. This took place on May 7th, 357. Thus was it demonstrated by this means that the Christian faith does not lie in the worldly theorising of the sensual understanding of men, but in the power of God, shown forth through wonders and signs without number (See also Homily for March 19th).
2. The Holy Martyr Acacius.
This saint was an officer in the Roman army in the time of the Emperor Maximian. Answering at judgement for his faith in Christ, he said that he had inherited a devout faith from his parents, and that he would be steadfast in it, seeing the many miracles of healing that came from the relics of the Christian saints. After harsh torture endured courageously in the Thracian city of Pyrrinthus, Acacius was taken to Byzantium, where he underwent further torture and was finally beheaded with the sword. He suffered with honour and went to the Kingdom of eternal joy in the year 303.
3. Our Holy Fathers of Georgia.
In the sixth century, two hundred years after St Nina had preached the Gospel in Georgia, the most holy Mother of God appeared to John, an ascetic of Antioch, and commanded him to choose twelve of his disciples and go to Georgia, to strengthen the Orthodox faith there. John did so. Reaching Georgia, these twelve missionaries were formally welcomed by the prince of that country and the Catholicos, Eulalius, and immediately began their work with great zeal. The people gathered around them in hordes, and they strengthened them in the Faith with great wisdom and many miracles. The chief of these Christ-loving missionaries was St John of Zedan, and the names of the others were: Abidus, Antony, David, Zeno, Thaddeus, Jesse, lsderius, Joseph, Michael, Pyrrus, Stephen and Shio. With apostolic zeal, they all strengthened the Christian faith in Georgia, founded many monasteries and left many disciples to follow them. Thus they became worthy of glory in heaven and power on earth.
"I recognized that I was indebited more and that I was forgiven much. I was called to the priesthood from juridical and public offices and that is why I am afraid that I not be seen ungrateful if I would love less than what was forgiven me." These are the words of St. Ambrose who was unexpectedly called by God to change vocations from a secular judge to become archbishop of Christ's Church. With these words the saint demonstrated how the priestly calling is greater than the secular calling; how to the priestly vocation he comes by God's calling and how he who is called owes thanksgiving to God. The debt of thanksgiving to God, all the saints considered as their main debt. Without thanksgiving to God there can be no progress in the spiritual life. Thanksgiving to God, without ceasing, is the fruitful seed from which, if it is watered by the tears of continual repentance, a beautiful fruit blossoms - love toward God.
To contemplate the Descent of God the Holy Spirit upon the holy apostles:
- How the apostles stand in one mind at prayer;
- How, suddenly, there came a sound from heaven as a rushing mighty wind.
About how by sins good is being turned back from man
"Your sins have turned back these blessings from you" (Jeremiah 5:25).
If you do not possess good in abundance, O people, that means you have sin in abundance. Your sins have turned your good from you. O people, if you wish good for yourself, reject sin and do not sin anymore and you will travel toward good, and good will come to you and good will not depart from you.
O man, if you do not have good, it means that you have sin. Good cannot dwell in the same house with sin just as light and darkness cannot exist in the same place at the same time. When light departs, darkness settles in and when the darkness departs, the light shines. Thus, sin and good can be interchanged but they cannot dwell together.
O my brethren, "Your sins have turned back these blessings from you." These words were not spoken by only one prophet, to one people only, rather every true prophet spoke these words to his people. False prophets flatter the sins of their people, and thus, assist them even more to turn back good from their people. The true prophets go against the sins of the people, for they go along with good and cry out against sin, in order to be able to introduce good, which is from God, in the souls of their people. If the beehive begins to smell, will the honey carrying bees enter it and deposit their honey in it? No! And when the irrational bees do not want to enter in a putrid and smoke-ridden beehive, then how will the rational Spirit of God enter a soul, putrid and smoke-ridden from sin? And the Spirit of God is the possessor and the dispenser of all good gifts.
O Lord, Holy Spirit, help Your people by Your irresistible power that they drive away sin from their soul; so that You would be able to enter inside with Your life-creating gifts.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK