Prologue from Ochrid - October 31 [November 13]
1. The Holy Apostles Stachys, Amplias, Urban, Narcissus, Apelles
They were of the Seventy. St Stachys was a helper of St Andrew the First-Called, who made him bishop of Byzantium. He built a church in Argyropolis, and governed his flock with faithfulness and zeal. After sixteen years as bishop, he entered peacefully into rest in the Lord. Amplias and Urban were also fellow-workers with St Andrew, and were made bishop by him, Amplias in Lydda and Urban in Macedonia. They both died as martyrs for Christ the Lord. Narcissus was made Bishop of Athens by the Apostle Philip, and holy Apelles was Bishop of Heraklion in Trachis. Aristobulus, the brother of the Apostle Barnabas, preached the Christian faith in Britain and died peacefully there. He is also commemorated on March 16th.
2. The Holy Martyr Epimachus.
Born in Egypt, he lived there in asceticism, and there finished his earthly course a martyr. In imitation of St John the Baptist, he went off as a young man into the desert. In response to his great love for God, the Spirit of God instructed him in all truth and, with no other teacher, taught him how to live the ascetic life. Epimachus discovered how the pagans were torturing and slaughtering the Christians in Alexandria, so, all afire with zeal for the Faith, he went to the city and knocked down the idols. When the pagans began to torture him for this, he cried out: 'Smite me, spit on me, put a crown of thorns on my head and a reed in my hand; give me gall to drink, crucify me and pierce me with a spear. The Lord endured all that, and I want to endure it!' In the vast crowd that was watching the martyrdom of holy Epimachus, there was one woman with a blind eye. She wept bitterly on witnessing the soul-less torture of the man of God, and, when the torturers flayed his holy body, blood spurted from it and a drop fell on her eye. Suddenly she could see, and her blind eye became as whole as the other. Then the woman cried out: 'Great is the God in whom this sufferer believes!' After that, St Epimachus was beheaded and his soul entered into eternal joy, in about 250.
3. The Holy Martyr Nicolas of Chios.
A devout young man and a great zealot for the Christian faith, Nicolas was born in the village of Karyes on the island of Chios. He was tortured and beheaded by the Turks in 1754, and gave his righteous soul into God's hands.
4. Our Holy Fathers Spiridon and Nicodemus.
They were monks and prosfora-makers in the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. Spiridon was illiterate, but he knew the whole Psalter by heart and worked miracles during his lifetime. He entered into rest in 1148.
And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me, said the Lord (Matthew 10:38). The holy and venerable Martyr Timothy of Esphigmenou (October 29) was at first a married man and had two daughters. Later, as a monk, he decided to suffer for the sake of Christ. Already prepared for the path of suffering, he begged the abbot for a blessing to stop by his village of Kessana to say farewell to his daughters. The abbot would not allow him to do that out of fear that a meeting with his two daughters would soften him, and turn him away from martyrdom for the Faith. But Kessana lay on the road to Propontis, where Timothy was headed. When he got to his village, he met a former neighbor, conversed with him and gave him a farewell message for his daughters. In vain, the neighbor begged him to stay and see his daughters, and rest. Timothy went hurriedly on his way. The daughters heard about their father from the neighbor and ran to see him. And now was seen a rare and majestic sight. The daughters raced to overtake and embrace their father, while the father fled from his daughters, so as not to transgress the command of his abbot. The daughters ran quickly but their father ran even faster. The daughters hurried to embrace their father, and Timothy, fleeing from them, hurried to embrace death. The daughters became weary and turned back in despair, and their father disappeared. Before his death Timothy begged his spiritual father, Germanus, to stop by his village and inform his daughters of his end by martyrdom. The Turks then beheaded Timothy and threw his body into a river. Germanus succeeded in retrieving just one garment from the martyr. He brought it to Kessana, found Timothy's daughters and related their father's heroic death to them, and showed them his garment.
Contemplate the miraculous guidance of the apostles by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16):
- How Paul and Silas wanted to go from Mysia to Bithynia;
- How the Spirit would not allow it;
- How, in a vision at midnight, a Macedonian man appeared to Paul and summoned him to come to Macedonia.
On the certainty of the righteous one that he shall not die
I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord (Psalm 117:17).
Who can say: I shall not die? He who cleaves to the Living Lord. Who can confirm with confidence: but [I shall] live? He who sees the Living Lord before him. Enoch and Elias did not die, but were taken into eternal life. The Lord took them in His mercy, and as proof to mankind of immortal life. Jesus Christ the Lord died and resurrected in accordance with His power, and as proof to mankind of the resurrection from the dead. The apostles and saints were slain, but many of them appeared from the other world in their love for mankind, and as proof to mankind of eternal life. Thus, those who were taken up to heaven in the flesh and those whose bodies reposed, live with the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ in the Immortal Kingdom. I shall not die, but live, said King David with great certainty, even though he lived on earth before the Resurrection of the Lord, and before the announcement of the General Resurrection of the righteous. With still more certainty, each of us Christians must speak this too: I shall not die, but live, for the resurrected Lord is the foundation of our Faith, and our eyes have seen and our ears have heard more-much more-than the eyes and ears of King David. After the Cross of Christ, the devil became as smoke; and after His Resurrection, death became like a mere fog through which one passes to the sunlit field of immortality. Blessed is he, brethren, who becomes worthy to live, and declare the works of the Lord.
O Living Lord, enliven us and save us.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK