Prologue from Ochrid - October 29 [November 11]
1. Our -Holy Mother, the Martyr Anastasia the Roman.
She was born in Rome of well-born parents and left an orphan at the age of three. As an orphan, she was taken into a women's monastery near Rome, where the abbess was one Sophia, a nun of a high level of perfection. After seventeen years, Anastasia was known in the whole neighbourhood, to the Christians as a great ascetic and to the pagans as a rare beauty. The pagan administrator of the city, Probus, heard of her and sent soldiers to bring her to him. The good Abbess Sophia counselled Anastasia for two hours on how to keep the Faith, how to resist flattering delusion and how to endure torture. Anastasia said to her: 'My heart is ready to suffer for Christ; my soul is ready to die for my beloved Jesus.' Brought before the governor, Anastasia openly proclaimed her faith in Christ the Lord and, when the governor tried to dissuade her from the Faith, first with promises and then with threats, the holy maiden said to him: 'I am ready to die for my Lord, not once but - oh, if it were only possible! - a thousand times.' When they stripped her naked, to humiliate her, she cried to the judge: 'Whip me and cut at me and beat me; my naked body will be hidden by wounds, and my shame will be covered by my blood!' She was whipped and beaten and cut about. She twice felt a great thirst and asked for water, and a Christian, Cyril, gave her a drink, for which he was blessed by the martyr and beheaded by the pagans. Then her breasts and tongue were cut off, and an angel of God appeared to her and upheld her. She was finally beheaded with the sword outside the city. Blessed Sophia found her body and buried it, and Anastasia was crowned with the wreath of martyrdom under the Emperor Decius (249-251).
2. Our Holy Father Abraham the Recluse and his niece Maria.
Under pressure from his parents, Abraham married, but on the very day of his wedding, he left his bride, his parents, his home and all that he had and went off into solitude to live in strict asceticism. He lived thus for fifty years, only leaving his cell twice in the whole of that time. Once it was at the command of the local bishop, to convert a pagan village to the Christian faith, and the other was to save his dissolute niece Maria. He entered peacefully into rest in 360, at the age of seventy.
3. Our Holy Father, the Martyr Timothy of Esphigmenou.
From the village of Paraora, in the province of Kessana in Thrace, he was married and had two daughters. His wife was seized by the Turks and converted to Islam, and, in order to save her from the harem, he also pretended to become a Turk. Saving his wife, he gave her to a women's monastery and went off to the Holy Mountain, first to the Lavra and then to Esphigmenou. He desired martyrdom for Christ, like Agathangelos of Esphigmenou, and was beheaded in Jedrene on October 29th, 1820. His body was thrown into a river, but his clothing was taken back to Esphigmenou by the elder Germanus, his spiritual father.
But he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Matthew 10:22), said the Lord. Faith is the only light of endurance, for endurance in and of itself implies unbearable darkness. Faith is the shining star in this darkness; faith eases the sharpness of suffering; it bears on its wings all the weight of endurance. St. Abramius gives us a beautiful example of perseverance in endurance. The vexation that the devil caused him by a multitude of temptations and terrors would have driven lesser men to leave one place for another. But Abramius did not want to move, so as not to give the evil demon a cause to rejoice; he remained in his place and defeated the devil. The bishop of that region sent Abramius to a pagan village to convert the villagers to the Christian Faith. After long hesitation, Abramius set out, saying: "Let it be as God wills-I will go out of obedience." He first built a church in that village. Then he smashed all the idols in plain sight of the villagers. They beat him and whipped him half to death, and drove him from their village. But he prayed to God with tears for them, that the Lord would open the eyes of their hearts to know the truth of Christ. And so the pagans continually beat and abused him over the course of three years, but he constantly prayed to God for them, and was not angered with them, enduring in the Faith as a firm rock. And only after three years of labor, tears, forgiveness and faith, was he rewarded. Suddenly, the consciences of the villagers were awakened and they all came together to Abramius, bowing before him, and receiving the Christian Faith from him.
Contemplate the terrible punishment by which Paul punished the magician (Acts 13):
- How a certain Jewish magician held Sergius the deputy under his dark power;
- How Paul, by a word, blinded that magician;
- How the deputy saw that miracle, believed in Christ and was baptized.
On the glory of the name of God
And blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen(Psalm 72:19).
From the grace-filled heart of the prophet flow words full of grace. The prophet speaks of the King and the King's Son, the most unusual King Who has ever appeared on earth. May His name be blessed forever (Psalm 72:17), the prophet said, and then, as if that were not enough, he said it again and added: His glorious name. The Church of Christ is the glory of Christ. Blessed is His Holy Church-the fruit of His labors, the wreath of His humiliation, the work of His hands, and the flower of His blood! Blessed is the very name of His Church-holy and salvific! And with His Church, that is, with His work and with His glory, the whole earth shall be filled. By the words, Forever and ever, the prophet foretold the immortal work of Christ, that is, His Church. She will be built in time and will be revealed in eternity. She will be built until the end of time, and will be revealed whole in eternity.
O my brethren, let us strive that our souls may be built into Christ's Church, into that living and immortal body whose life has no end, and whose beauty is indescribable. Let us strive that we are not rejected as unsuitable and useless stones, to be cast into the abyss of eternal darkness.
O Lord Jesus Christ, King and Son of the King, write us also in the book of immortality, and remember us in Thy Heavenly Kingdom.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK