Prologue from Ochrid - May 14 [May 27]
1. The Holy Martyr Isidore.
In the reign of the Emperor Decius, this Isidore was taken by force by soldiers from the island of Chios. He had held the Christian faith from his youth, and had spent his life in fasting, prayer and good works. So when, in the army, he declared himself to be a Christian, the commander took him to task for it, and urged him to deny Christ and offer sacrifice to idols. The saint replied: 'Even if you kill my body, you have no power over my soul. I have the true and living God, Jesus Christ, who lives in me and will be with me at my death; and I am in Him and shall remain in Him, and will not cease to confess His holy name while the spirit is in my body.' The commander ordered that they first beat him with iron flails and then cut out his tongue. But, even without his tongue, Isidore was able to speak, and confessed the name of Christ by the Spirit of God. Meanwhile the punishment of God struck the commander, and he suddenly became mute. The mute commander finally gave the signal to behead Isidore. Isidore rejoiced at this sentence and, praising God, went out to the scaffold, where his head was cut off in the year 251. His friend, Ammon, buried his body and, after that, himself suffered and received the wreath of martyrdom.
2. Our Holy Father Serapion the Sindonite.
'Sindon' means 'linen cloth', and this saint was called' the Sindonite' because he covered his naked body only with a linen cloth. He carried the Gospels in his hand. Serapion lived like the birds, with no roof and no cares, moving from one place to another. He gave his linen cloth to a poor wretch who was shivering with cold, and himself remained completely naked. When someone asked him: 'Serapion, who made you naked?', he indicated the Gospels and said: 'This!' But, after that, he gave away the Gospels also for the money needed by a man who was being hounded to prison by a creditor for a debt. At one time in Athens, he did not eat for four days, having nothing, and began to cry out with hunger. When the Athenian philosophers asked him what he was shouting about, he replied: 'There were three to whom I was in debt: two have quietened down, but the third is still tormenting me. The first creditor is carnal lust, which has tormented me from my youth; the second is love of money, and the third is the stomach. The first two have left me alone, but the third one still torments me.' The philosophers gave him some gold to buy bread. He went to a baker, bought a single loaf, put down all the gold and went out. He went peacefully to the Lord in old age, in the 5th century.
3. Blessed Isidore the Fool for Christ.
He was of German birth. Going to Rostov from an attraction to the Orthodox faith, he not only became a member of the Orthodox Church but took on himself the strict asceticism of folly for Christ. He lived in rags, spending the day pretending madness and, through this madness, teaching men, and spending the nights in prayer. He spent these nights in a hut outside the town, built in a lonely swamp. Great and mighty wonders were performed by this saint, both during his lifetime and after his death. He appeared to a merchant who had been thrown out of his ship and was drowning. Isidore came to him through the water and led him to the shore. He caused the wine in all the containers to dry up one day , when the servants had driven him from the door of the Prince of Rostov without giving him a single cup of water. When he died in his hut on May 24th, 1484, the whole of Rostov was aware of a fragrant odour. The merchant who had been saved from the sea built a church in the place where the hut had stood.
Sin which serves as a scandal to others is a two-fold sin. A wise man strives not to scandalize anyone and does not lead anyone into sin by his sinful example. Saint Ambrose praises such sagacity of the Emperor Valentian who died at an early age citing these examples from his life: "The emperor, hearing that he was talked about throughout Rome as a passionate hunter and a lover of wild beasts - which, in reality he was not - and how this passion was taking the emperor away from his duties of State, immediately ordered that all the wild beasts in his preserve be slain. Again, upon hearing how certain malicious people spread the rumor that he ate lunch early (wanting by this to present him as being gluttonous), the emperor imposed a strict fast on himself both privately and publicly. Before the public lunches he was rarely seen to place a morsel of food in his mouth. And again, when his sisters disputed with a certain man over some property, the emperor, even though he had the right to judge the dispute, directed the case to the open court so that he would not be accused of partiality." Indeed, with great fear, this pious emperor upheld the words of the Lord: "Woe to him who shall offend [scandalize] one of these little ones" (St. Matthew 18:6).
To contemplate the action of God the Holy Spirit upon the apostles:
- How the Holy Spirit leads the apostles through all sorrows and tribulations, filling their hearts with consolation and joy;
- How the Holy Spirit makes that seed of the Gospel grow and succeed which the apostles sow throughout the world, even where it seems to have been scattered in vain.
About Christ as the Branch of David
"In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land" (Jeremiah 33:15).
With these words, the holy Prophet Jeremiah prophesies the coming of the Holy Savior of the world from the lineage of David. The Branch of Righteousness is Jesus Christ Himself. These words could not have referred to anyone else, since, at the time of the coming of the Lord Jesus, a prince from the lineage of David did not sit any longer on the throne at Jerusalem but rather a foreigner, Herod the Idumean. Neither from then until today was there any other prominent branch of David, neither as a worldly ruler nor a spiritual ruler. At the time of the nativity of Christ, there were but a few people from the Tribe of David and they were unknown and impoverished. Among these were numbered the All-Holy Virgin and the righteous elder Joseph, the carpenter. It is clear therefore, that for the past thousand years since this prophecy was spoken, no other majestic branch from the lineage of David appeared, except the Lord Jesus. This becomes more clear from the following words: "As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister to Me" (Jeremiah 33:22). These words could only apply to the spiritual descendants of David through Christ the Lord, i.e., upon Christians, for only the number of Christians (and not the physical descendants of David of whom there are not any at all), for these twenty centuries can be measured with the stars in the heavens and with the sand in the sea.
O my brethren, let us rejoice that even we Christians belong to this countless number of people of God; to the greatest people in the history of the world both as to numbers and as to character. Let us rejoice even more that we belong to this heavenly Branch of David Who, by His Blood redeemed us from foreigners and adopted us and made us heirs and co-heirs of the kingdom eternal. O, All-good Lord, You have redeemed us prodigal sons from the contemptible humiliation and hunger and made us sons of the kingdom.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK