Prologue from Ochrid - April 23 [May 6]
1. The Holy and Great Martyr George.
This renowned and glorious martyr was born in Cappadocia, the son of rich and God-fearing parents. His father suffered for Christ, after which his mother moved to Palestine. When George grew up, he went into the army, in which he rose, by the age of twenty, to the rank of tribune, and as such was in service under the Emperor Diocletian. When this Emperor began a terrible persecution of Christians, George came before him and boldly confessed that he was a Christian. The Emperor threw him into prison, and commanded that his feet be put in the stocks and a heavy weight placed on his chest. After that, he commanded that he be bound on a wheel, under which was a board with great nails protruding, and thus be turned. He then had him buried in a pit with only his head above the ground, and left there for three days and nights. Then, through some magician, he gave him deadly poison, but in the face of all these tortures, George prayed unceasingly to God, and God healed him instantly and saved him from death, to the great amazement of the people. When he also raised a dead man to life by his prayers, many embraced the Christian faith. Among these was the Emperor's wife, Alexandra, and the chief pagan priest, Athanasius, the governor Glycerius and Valerius, Donatus and Therinus. Finally, the Emperor commanded that George and the Empress Alexandra be beheaded. Blessed Alexandra died on the scaffold before being killed, and St George was beheaded. This happened in the year 303. The miracles that have been performed at his grave are without number. Also are his appearances in dreams to those who, thinking on him, have sought his help, from that time up to the present day. Consumed by love for Christ, it was not difficult for holy George to leave all for this love - his status, wealth and imperial favour, his friends and the whole world. For this love, the Lord rewarded him with a wreath of unfading glory in heaven and on earth, and with eternal life in His Kingdom. The Lord further endowed him with the power to help in need and distress all who honour him and call on his name.
2. The Holy Martyr Lazarus the New.
This new martyr was a Bulgarian from Gabrovo. As a young man, he left his home and went off to Anatolia, becoming a shepherd in the a village called Soma. As a Christian he brought the wrath of Turks down on his head and was thrown into prison by some Aga. After great torment from inhuman torturers, which Lazarus endured heroically from love of Christ, this young martyr was murdered on April 23rd, 1802, at the age of 28. The Lord received him into His eternal courts and glorified him in heaven and on earth. Many miracles have been performed over the relics of St Lazarus.
During a certain uprising in Constantinople during the reign of Emperor Constantine, some embittered men broke off the nose and ears of the statue of the emperor in the city. Many adulators quickly came to the emperor and with great disgust relayed to the emperor how rebels broke the nose and ears from his statues and they asked the emperor to punish the transgressors with the most severe punishment. The great emperor felt his nose and ears with his hands and said to the flatterers: "I feel that my nose and ears are whole and undamaged!" The flatterers were ashamed and withdrew. With every royal generosity we all need to endure insults from others. Yet, with particular caution listen to accusations against other people, which our flatterers bring to us. We should always confess before God and before ourselves, that we, by our sins, deserved even greater insults than those which are perpetrated against us.
To contemplate the resurrected Lord Jesus:
- How His resurrection is the beginning of the new and bright day in the history of mankind;
- How His resurrection is my peace, my strength and the resurrection of my soul while I am still in the body.
About stirring up pure minds
"This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; through them by way of reminder I am trying to stir up your sincere disposition" (2 St. Peter 3:1).
Do you see brethren, the goal with which the Apostle Peter writes in his epistle? To stir up in people their pure minds! The apostle considers this as the main thing. And truly, it is the main thing. For if in every man the dormant pure mind would be awakened, there would not be a single human soul left on earth who would not have believed in Christ the Lord; who would not have confessed Him as the crucified and resurrected Savior of the world; and who would not have contritely turned to repentance for sins committed by the inducement of an impure mind.
Nothing distances us more from the Good News [Gospel] than an impure mind. What makes the human mind of man impure? Sin makes the human mind impure as milk when you pour in poison; it all becomes poisonous, so the human mind when impure sin enters into it, it all becomes impure. Every sin is impure; every sin makes the mind of man impure, muddy and poisonous. All knowledge which an impure mind possesses is impure as a muddied and soiled image of an object in a muddied and soiled mirror. "To the pure all things are pure" (Titus 1:15), said Paul, the other chief apostle. While Adam had a pure mind in Paradise, all of his knowledge about the Creator and created things was clear and true. Sin darkened his mind and the minds of his descendants. That paradisaical, pure mind of the sinless man is not dead rather is dormant in men under sin. It is necessary only to awaken it and then it will unerringly lead man back to Christ. That is why the apostle takes the responsibility to awaken in men that original pure, clear, discerning mind given to him by God.
O, my brethren, let us assist the holy apostle in awakening of men; He who was crucified upside down on the cross because of His preaching, let us help him in as much as it concerns us, and to awaken in every one of us, our own pure mind. If every one of us does this, we will see that all of us have one mind. For a pure mind is one while an impure mind is legion!
O resurrected Lord, You awaken in us a pure mind through the prayers of Your Holy Apostle Peter.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK