Prologue from Ochrid - April 20 [May 3]
1. Our Holy Father Theodore Trichinas.
A citizen of Constantinople, he was the son of wealthy parents. He left parents, home and riches while still a young man and settled in a remote monastery in Thrace, where he undertook the most rigorous ascetic life. He slept on a stone so that he might have less sleep; he was always bareheaded and dressed in a hair-shirt, from which he was called 'Trichinas' or 'hairy'. Because of his great and self-inflicted sufferings for the sake of his soul's salvation, God granted him the gift of working miracles, both in his lifetime and after his death, and he died peacefully in about 400. Healing myrrh flowed from his relics.
2. Our Holy Father Anastasius of Mount Sinai.
He was abbot of Mount Sinai. He was for a long time a monk under the famous abbot, St John of the Ladder, whom he succeeded on the latter's death. He was also a great ascetic, and an eloquent narrator of the lives of the saints and the author of other instructive works. He fought an intensive battle against the heresy of the Acephalites, which was condemned by the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon. He died in great old age in 685, and went to the Lord whom he had served so faithfully.
3. Blessed Anastasius the Sinaite, Patriarch of Antioch.
He was chosen as Patriarch of Antioch in the reign of the Emperor Justinian while still a monk on Mount Sinai. His virtues, purity of life, great spiritual learning and staunch faith won him the patriarchal throne. But Justinian fell into the heresy of Docetism. Eutychius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Blessed Anastasius reacted sharply against this. The Emperor exiled Eutychius and wanted to exile Anastitsius also, but could find nothing in his life capable of criticism. When Justinian was dying, he repented and returned Eutychius to the patriarchal throne, but Justin, his successor, succeeded in exiling Anastasius on the basis of certain slanders. Anastasius spent twenty-three years in exile and was then returned to the throne of Antioch during the reign of the Emperor Maurice. He governed the Church of God for six further years and finished his earthly course in 599.
4. Blessed Gregory, Patriarch of Antioch.
An Armenian by birth, he was abbot first of the Pharanite monastery and then on Mount Sinai and, when Blessed Anastasius was driven from the patriarchal throne, was, against his will, installed as Patriarch of Antioch. John Moschus writes about him in his 'Meadow', praising him highly. Gregory was particularly distinguished by an outstanding compassion, most especially towards sinners. He entered into rest in the Lord in 593
5. The Holy Apostle Zacchaeus.
He was at first a publican and a sinner, but when the Lord saw him in the tree in Jericho (Lk. 19), He immediately brought Zacchaeus to repentance. Zacchaeus later followed the Apostle Peter, who made him Bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, where he served the Gospel in faithfulness and died peacefully.
6. Our Holy Father Athanasius of Meteora.
Born in 1310, he lived in asceticism on the Holy Mountain. He founded a famous monastery in the Meteora in Thessaly. He had great gifts of discernment and wonderworking.
Author's note: Philaret also mentions Gabriel the Child in his 'Lives of the Saints'. He was born in the village of Zvjerka, near the town of Zabludov and was only six years old when, in 1648, on the day when his parents were not at home, he was lured to a lonely place by a Jew named Schutko and there crucified. His body was found uncorrupt thirty years later.
St. Anastasius of Sinai teaches: "To every Christian is given an angel [Guardian Angel] from God to guard him all his life unless someone through evil deeds drives him away. But as the snake drives away bees and evil smell drives away pigeons, thus our sins drive away the guardian angel of our life: drunkenness, adultery, anger and so forth. The angel of every faithful man leads him to every good deed, while the demons exert to scandalize the faithful ones and to deprive them of the Kingdom of Heaven." The angels are close to men and that they take care of men, the whole of Holy Scripture attests to this, but especially the New Testament. Besides this, there exists in the Orthodox Church numerous traditions of saintly men and women, who witness to that which St. Athanasius confirms, i.e. that is that each one of us in this world is accompanied by a gentle and mighty [herald] messenger of God, a soldier of the King of Heaven, the angel of light. Who, except an insane person drives a good friend away from himself? In truth, only the insane and the extremely ignorant, drive away their best friend, their guardian angel by their sins.
To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:
- How He, as the Almighty Victor over death, does not seek revenge on His enemies who tortured and crucified Him, but leaving them to themselves, He sustains His frightened friends;
- How He even today as in all times, innocent and meek, does not hurry to seek revenge on the unfaithful but hurries to the aid of the faithful.
About the one and only foundation of salvation
"For no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11).
The Jews say, " the foundation is Moses." The Muslims say, " the foundation is Mohammed." The short-sighted naturalists say, " the foundation is nature." We ask: Did Moses resurrect from the dead? Did Mohammed ascend into heaven? Does nature bestow the Holy Spirit the Comforter? Moses did not resurrect. Mohammed did not ascend into heaven. Nature, not only does not bestow the Holy Spirit the Comforter to men, but breathes hatred against man and growls at him and bares its talons.
One cannot be the foundation of the world who is conceived in sin; who himself sinned; who wandered and sought counsel in women; who, by someone else's power, performed certain works; who crumbled in the grave and whose name leads to confusion in regard to the way, the truth and the life. Mohammed and Moses were conceived in sin and they committed sins; they sought counsel from women; with the power of others they performed deeds; in the grave they lay decomposed; their names lead men to confusion about the way, the truth and the life.
That is why, brethren, we have no where to turn in history and to seek another such foundation except the Lord Jesus Christ Who was conceived without sin; Who did not commit any sin; Who did not wander and Who did not seek counsel from anyone; Who by His own power performed mighty deeds; Who did not decay in the grave; and Whose Name does not lead men into confusion regarding the way, the truth and the life.
The apostle does not say that Christ laid down some foundation but that He Himself is that established foundation. He is All-justice, that is why He is the foundation of every justice. He is All-truth, that is why He is the foundation of every truth. He is All-wisdom, that is why He is the foundation of every wisdom. He is All-power, that is why He is the foundation of every power. He is All-good, that is why He is the foundation of every good. He is All-life, that is why He is the foundation of life in both worlds, in this and in the next. O resurrected Lord, You are the foundation of our salvation and eternal life.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK