Prologue from Ochrid - May 10 [May 23]
1. The Holy Apostle Simon the Zealot.
One of the twelve Great Apostles, he was born in Cana of Galilee. The Lord Jesus came to his wedding with His Mother and His disciples, and, when the wine ran out, the Lord changed water into wine. Seeing this wonder, the newly-married Simon left his home and parents and bride, to go after Christ. Simon was called the Zealot because of his great and burning zeal for the Saviour and His Gospel. After receiving the Holy Spirit, he went off to preach the Gospel in Mauretania in Africa. As a result of his success in bringing many to the Faith of Christ, he was tortured and finally crucified like his Lord, who had prepared a crown of glory for him in His immortal Kingdom.
2. The Holy Martyrs Alphaeus, Philadelphus and Cyprinus.
They were brothers, sons of Vitalius, a governor in southern Italy, and were men of great nobility and strong faith. They were brought to judgement for their faith in Christ and taken from one judge to another, from one torturer to another. They were finally taken to Sicily and killed there, in the time of the Emperor Licinius. Alphaeus had his tongue torn out and died from the loss of blood. Philadelphus was burned in an iron coffin, and Cyprinus in fire. Their uncorrupt relics were found in 1517. The three brothers appeared to St Euthalia (see March 2nd).
3. Our Holy Mother Isidora the Fool for Christ.
She lived in the fourth century, and was a nun in a women's monastery in Tabennisi. She pretended to be mad in order to conceal her virtues and asceticism. She did the dirtiest jobs, fed herself from left-over scraps from the plates, was the servant of each and all and was despised by everyone. At that time, an angel of God appeared secretly to the great ascetic Pitirim, and told him about Isidora. Pitirim came to the monastery and, when he saw Isidora, bowed down to the ground, and she did the same before him. The sisters told him that she was mad. 'it is you that are mad,' replied Pitirim; 'she is greater before God than either you or me. I only beg God to give me also that which is destined for her at the Dreadful judgement!' Then the sisters were ashamed, and begged Pitirim and Isidora to forgive them. From that time, they all began to show honour to Isidora. But she, to escape this honour, fled from the monastery and died - it is not known where - in about 365.
4. Blessed Thais.
Thais was a rich maiden, a Christian, in Egypt. She decided not to marry, but to give her possessions to the hermit monks. But, when she had given away all her goods, she gave herself to a life of debauchery. Hearing of this, the hermits begged Abba John the Dwarf to do something, and he went to Alexandria and began to weep in Thais's hearing. When she heard the old man weeping for her sins, she repented at once, left her house and everything she had and went into the desert after the saint. One night when she was sleeping and John was standing in prayer, he saw an angel in a nimbus of light coming down to take Thais's soul. And John saw that her sudden but deep repentance was more pleasing to God than the years-long but shallow repentance of many of the hermits.
In one of his prayers, St. Ephren the Syrian turns to God with these words: "Lord, in that awesome and dreadful day You will say to us sinners: `You men know very well what I have endured for you. What have you endured for me?' To that, what will I, a repentant, cunning, sinful and foul one respond? The martyrs will then point to their wounds of torture, the severed parts of their bodies and their forbearance to the end. The ascetics will point to their mortifications, prolonged fasts, long vigils, philantrophies, tears and their forbearance to the end. And I, slothful, sinful, lawless: to what will I point? Spare, O Lord! Spare, O Merciful One! Spare, O Lover of mankind!"
To contemplate the action of God the Holy Spirit upon the apostles:
- How from the small, God the Holy Spirit makes great;
- How He from the fearful, makes fearless.
About how the righteous endures ridicule because of the words of the Lord
"The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day" (Jeremiah 20:8).
Who are they who reproach the prophet of God, the bearer of God's word and the bearer of the power and wisdom of God? His people reproach him and say to him: you preach to us a steep path; even if it is from God, we cannot walk upon it because for us, it is too steep.
Who are they who reproach the trumpeter of the voice of the Lord when he sounds the alarm because of fire which smokes in the distance and draws closer to the city? The elders of the people reproach him and say to him: why do you not keep your mouth closed; for you it would be warmer and for us a clearer sky. That which seems to you is not a fire but it is fog from the mountain dew!
Who are they who still deride the man of God when he comes from God and proclaims the will of God? He is reproached by his wife and is derided by his brethren. They say to him: you abandon your work which feeds you and you follow after someone else's work which humiliates you.
"The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day." Thus the prophet could have said, so could the apostle, so the martyr, so every zealot of the word of the Lord and of the law of the Lord. Not one of them was frightened by reproach nor by derision, nor turned away from witnessing nor led from the road to wayward paths. The entire outside world reproached them and were sarcastic to them. But the Lord strengthened and made them inwardly joyful. The Lord overcame the world, and the saints of God overcame those who reproached and derided them.
O Lord All-good, strengthen us internally in our hearts so that the reproaches do not disturb nor the derisions, hinder us for the sake of Your Name.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK