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Prologue from Ochrid - October 28 [November 10]

1. The Holy Martyr Paraskeva (Petka).

She was born in the city of Iconium of rich and Christ-loving parents. After their death, the maiden Paraskeva began to give her goods away to the poor and needy, all in the name of Christ the Lord. When a persecution arose under Diocletian (284-305), Paraskeva was taken for trial before the governor of that area. When the governor asked her name, she said that she was called a Christian. The governor rebuked her for not giving her ordinary name, but Paraskeva said to him: 'I had first to tell you my name in eternal life, and can then give you my name in this transitory life.' After flogging her, the governor threw her into prison, where an angel of God appeared to her and, healing her of her wounds, comforted her. She destroyed all the idols in the pagan temple by her prayers. After long and harsh torture, she was beheaded with the sword and entered into eternal life.

2. St Arsenius, Archbishop of Pec.

A great hierarch of the Serbian Church and the successor of St Sava, Arsenius was born in Srem. He became a monk while still a young man, and gave himself to wholehearted asceticism for his soul's salvation. Hearing of the wonderful personality and deeds of St Sava, Arsenius went to him at Zica, where the saint received him with kindness and drew him into the brotherhood at the monastery. Seeing rare virtues in Arsenius, Sava soon installed him as abbot of the Zica community. When the Hungarians over-ran the land of Serbia, Sava sent Arsenius south to find a more secluded spot for the archiepiscopal seat. Arsenius chose Pec, and there built a monastery and church to the Holy Apostles, which later became dedicated to the Lord's Ascension. Before his second departure for Jerusalem, Sava designated Arsenius to succeed him on the archiepiscopal throne and, when Sava died at Trnovo on his way home, Arsenius urged King Vladislav to take Sava's body onto Serbian soil. He governed the Church wisely for thirty years, and entered into rest in the Lord on October 28th 1266. On the wall of the altar at Pec is written: 'O Lord our God, hearken; visit and bless this church ... remember it, and me, the sinner Arsenius'. He was buried there in the church at Pec.

Translator's note: St Arsenius's relics are now in the monastery of Zhrebaonik in Montenegro.

3. The Holy Martyr Terence.

A Syrian, he suffered for the Christian faith together with his wife and their seven children. After many tortures, during which the power of God was shown, they were all beheaded with the sword.

4. St Stephen of St Sava's.

The writer of many beautiful Canons, he lived in the community of St Sava the Sanctified near Jerusalem. He later became a bishop, and entered peacefully into rest in 807.

5. St Athanasius, Patriarch of Constantinople.

An opponent of union with Rome, in contrast to his predecessor, John Beccus (1275-1282), he was an ascetic and a man of prayer from his childhood. Beloved of the people, he incurred the displeasure of some of the clergy for his moral strictness. He withdrew to his monastery on Mount Ganos, where he lived in even stricter asceticism than formerly. The Lord Jesus Christ Himself appeared to him and chided him gently for leaving his flock to the wolves. When he had prophesied the day of the earthquake in Constantinople, the Emperor Andronicus called him back to the patriarchal throne, much against his will, and he later secretly withdrew again to his asceticism, entering into rest at the age of a hundred. He was a wonderworker and a seer.

6. St Dimitri, Bishop of Rostov.

A great hierarch, preacher, writer and ascetic, he was born near Kiev in 1651, and died in 1709. Among many other glorious works of instruction that he wrote, especially noteworthy is the translation and publication of the Lives of the Saints. He foresaw his own death three days before, and died while at prayer. He was a great light of the Russian Church, and of Orthodoxy in general. He had heavenly visions during his life; he served the Lord with zeal and entered into the heavenly Kingdom.

Reflection

St. Dimitri of Rostov was a saint in the ancient and true model of the early Fathers. Not only did he write beautiful and instructive books, but also shone forth as an example to his flock. He was a great ascetic and man of prayer. So humble was he that he even begged the seminarians in his seminary to pray to God for him. Whenever the clock struck the hour, he stood for prayer and recited: "O Theotokos and Virgin, rejoice!" When he was ill-which, for him, was often-he begged each of the seminarians to recite "Our Father" five times on his behalf while meditating on the five wounds of the Lord Jesus Christ. On one occasion, St. Barbara appeared to him with a smile and said, "Why do you pray in the Latin manner?"-meaning, why do you pray to God with such brief prayers? At this reproach, even though it was gentle, he became despondent, but she encouraged him, saying: "Do not be afraid!" On another occasion, St. Orestes the Martyr (November 10) appeared to him, just as St. Dimitri had finished writing the saint's life, and said: "I endured greater tortures for Christ than those you have written." He then showed him his left side and said: "This was pierced with a red-hot iron." He then showed him his left hand and said: "There I was slashed." Finally, he showed him his leg above the knee and said: "And this was cut off by a scythe." When St. Dimitri wondered if this Orestes visiting him was one of the Five Companions (December 13), the saint discerned his thought and said: "I am not the one of the Five Companions but rather the one whose life you have just written."

Contemplation

Contemplate God's terrible punishment of Herod (Acts 12):

  1. How, in his pride, Herod elevated himself, and the people glorified him as a god;
  2. How an angel of God struck him at once, because he gave not God the glory;
  3. How he was consumed by worms and died.

Homily

On prayer to God to save a soul from the dust

Deliver me out of the dust that I sink not (Psalm 69:14).

Brethren, our souls are clothed in dust, and our bodies of dust are given us for the service of our soul. May our souls not drown in dust! May our souls not be enslaved by dust! May the living spark not be extinguished in the grave of dust! Very spacious is the field of earthly dust that draws us to itself; but even more spacious is the immeasurable Kingdom of the Spirit that calls our soul its kin. Truly, we are related to the earth through physical dust; but we are related to heaven through the soul. We are dwellers in temporary huts and soldiers in temporary tents. O Lord, Deliver me out of the dust! Thus prayed the repentant king who initially had given himself over to dust, until he saw how dust pulls us into the abyss of destruction. Dust is the body of man with its fantasies; dust is also all wicked men who wage war against the righteous; dust is the demons with their terrors. May the Lord save us from all this dust, for He alone is able to do that. We should strive first of all to see the enemy within ourselves-the enemy who attracts other enemies. Hence, the greatest misfortune of the sinner is that he, unconsciously and unwillingly, is an ally of his own enemies! However, the righteous man has strengthened his soul in God and in the Kingdom of God, and is not afraid. He is not afraid of himself, and therefore is not afraid of his other enemies. He is not afraid, because he is neither an ally nor an accomplice of the enemies of his soul. Hence, neither men nor demons can do him any harm. God is his ally and the angels of God are his protectors-what can man do to him? What can demons do to him? What can dust do to him?

O Lord our God, Three Persons and One Being, Who breathed living souls into the dust of our bodies, save us according to Thy mercy that we sink not.

To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK