Prologue from Ochrid - November 1 [November 14]
1. Ss Cosmas and Damian.
Unmercenaries and wonderworkers, they were brothers in the flesh and in the spirit, born somewhere in Asia of a pagan father and a Christian mother. After their father's death, their mother Theodota devoted all her time and energy to the bringing-up of her sons as true Christians. God helped her, and her sons grew as two choice fruits and as two holy lamps. They were skilled in medicine and ministered to the sick without payment, and so fulfilled Christ's command: 'Freely have ye received; freely give' (Matt. 10: 8). They were so strict in their unpaid ministry to men that Cosmas became greatly enraged with his brother Damian when he took three eggs from a woman, Palladia, and gave orders that, after his death, he should not be buried with his brother. In fact, holy Damian had not taken those eggs as a reward for healing Palladia's sickness, but because she had sworn by the Most Holy Trinity that he should have them. However, after their death in Fereman, they were buried together in obedience to a revelation from God. These two holy brothers were great wonderworkers both during their lifetime and after their death. A farm Tabourer, on lying down to sleep at one time, was attacked by a snake, which entwined itself around his mouth and stomach. This poor man would have breathed his last in the greatest torment had he not at the last moment invoked the help of Saints Cosmas and Damian. Thus the Lord glorified forever by miracles those who glorified Him here on earth by their faith, purity and mercy.
2. The Holy Martyr Hermenegild the Heir.
He was the son of the Gothic King Luvigeld, who held the Arian heresy. Hermenegild, however, did not turn from Orthodoxy, in spite of the flattery and threats of his brutal, heretic father. His father threw him into prison and, at Easter, sent a heretic bishop early in the morning to give him Communion. This man of God would not receive Communion at the hands of a heretic; a fact that the bishop passed on to the king. The king was furious, and ordered the executioners to cut off Hermenegild's head, which came to pass in 586. Luvigeld later repented of having killed his son, abjured his heresy and returned to Orthodoxy.
3. Our Holy Father, the Martyr James, with his disciples James and Dionysius.
He was born in the diocese of Kastoria, of parents called Martin and Paraskeva. Working as a shepherd, James became rich and thus incurred the envy of his brother, who reported him to the Turks as having found some money in the ground. James fled to Constantinople, where he became poor. He was once the guest of a Turkish Bey. The Turks were eating meat, but James was fasting. The Bey said: 'Your Christian faith is indeed great!', and he related how his wife had been sick in mind and how, after trying all doctors and medicines, he had taken her to the Patriarch for prayers to be read over her. As soon as the Patriarch opened the book to read, a heavenly light filled the church. When the prayer was ended, his wife was made whole. James, hearing how the Bey extolled the Christian faith, gave away all that he had and went to the Holy Mountain, where he became a monk in the monastery of Iviron. He lived in asceticism on the Holy Mountain, and suffered for the Faith at the hands of the Turks in Jedrene on November 1st, 1520. His wonderworking relics and those of his disciples are preserved in the monastery of St Anastasia near Salonica.
St. Hilarion of Meglin fought a great battle against the Bogomils. At one time, the leaders of the Bogomils met with Hilarion and began to debate with him about faith. The Bogomils taught that God created the spiritual world and that the devil created the material world. To this, Hilarion replied to them that in Holy Scripture it is written: For God is the King of all the earth (Psalm 47:7) and also: The earth is the Lord's and all its fullness (Psalm 24:1). The Bogomils claimed that the Old Testament is of the devil. To them, the saint replied: "If the Old Testament indeed proceeded from the devil would Christ have said, Search the Scriptures … and they are they which testify of Me (John 5:39), and would He have acknowledged as the greatest commandments those about love toward God and one's neighbor which, at one time, were given through Moses?" The Bogomils also claimed that the body of Christ was brought from heaven. To this, St. Hilarion replied to them that had it been so, then the body of Christ would have felt neither hunger nor thirst, nor weariness nor suffering, nor would it have been susceptible to death. The Bogomils then expressed their disapproval of the sign of the Cross which Orthodox Christians use. The saint replied to them: "And what will you do when the sign of the Son of Man, His Cross, appears in the heavens, and when all nations of the earth who do not believe in the Cross will weep?" And he also said to them: "How is it that you say that all evil is from evil material, and meanwhile you do not reverence that Wood by which the whole material world was sanctified?"
Contemplate the wondrous power of the apostles' words (Acts 16):
- How Paul and Silas spoke to the assembled women alongside the water at Philippi;
- How the Lord opened the heart of the woman Lydia, and she and her household were baptized.
On the call to all Christians to become saints
To the saints which are at Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1).
The Apostle calls the Christians in Ephesus saints. He does not call one or two of them saints, nor one group of them, but all of them. Is this not a wondrous miracle of God for people, not in the wilderness but in a city-and an idolatrous and corrupt city-to become saints? That married men who sire children, who trade and work, become saints! Indeed, such were the first Christians. Their dedication, fidelity and zeal in the Faith as well as their holiness and purity of life, completely justified their being called saints. If in latter times saints have become the exception, in those earlier times the unholy were the exception. Saints were the rule. Therefore, we must not wonder that the Apostle calls all baptized souls in Ephesus "saints" and that he has an even loftier name for all Christians, i.e., "sons," the sons of God (Galatians 4:6). Christ the Lord Himself gave us the right to call ourselves such when He taught us to address God as Our Father (Matthew 6:9).
O my brethren, do we not say to God every day: "Holy God?" Do we not call the angels holy? Do we not call the Mother of God holy? And the prophets, apostles, martyrs and the righteous? Do we not call heaven holy and the Kingdom of Heaven holy? Who then is able to enter into the holy Kingdom but the saints? Therefore, if we have hope for salvation, we also have hope for holiness.
O Holy God, Who dwellest in the holy place and resteth among the saints and callest the holy to Thyself and showest mercy to them, help us also that we may become holy-in words, in thoughts and in deeds-to Thy glory and our salvation.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK