Prologue from Ochrid - November 2 [November 15]
1. The Holy Martyrs Acyndinus, Pegasius, Anempodistus, Aphthonius, Elpidephorus and others with them.
They were Persian Christians, and suffered in the time of King Sapor, in 355. The first three were servants at the court of this king, but secretly served Christ their Lord. When they were arrested and brought to trial before the king, he asked them whence they came. To this they replied: 'Our paternity and life is the most holy Trinity, consubstantial and undivided, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God.' The king gave them over to harsh torture, and they endured it all courageously, singing psalms and with prayer on their lips. At the time of their torture and imprisonment, angels of God appeared to them several times, and once the Lord Christ Himself, as a man 'with a face radiant as the sun'. When one of the torturers, Aphthonius, saw with wonder that boiling lead did no harm to the martyrs, he believed in Christ and cried out: 'Great is the Christian God!' He was then immediately beheaded, and many others saw and believed. Then the King commanded that Acyndinus, Pegasus and Anempodistus be sewn into goat-skins and thrown into the sea. Then St Aphthonius appeared from the other world with three shining angels, and they bore the martyrs to dry land and set them free. Elpidephorus was a courtier. When he revealed that he was a Christian, and denounced the king for his slaughter of innocent Christians, the king condemned him to death, and Elpidephorus was beheaded along with about seven thousand other Christians. Then the three first-named martyrs were finally thrown into a burning furnace, along with twenty-eight soldiers and the king's mother, who had also come to faith in Christ. And so, in the flames, they gave their righteous souls into the hands of the Lord.
2. Our Holy Father Marcian of Cyrus.
He was from the town of Cyrus in Syria, and was distinguished by gentle birth and physical beauty. He left all for Christ, and withdrew to the desert of Halkis as a solitary. He was a contemporary of Patriarch Flavian of Antioch and the Emperors Constantius and Valens. A divine light, by which he read the Holy Scriptures, shone in his cell at night, and he never had need of any other light. being a great wonderworker both during his lifetime and after his death. At the time of his death, he commanded his disciple Eusebius to conceal his body and bury it in secret, to avoid veneration. He entered into rest in the Lord in the year 387.
3. The Hieromartyr Victorinus, Bishop of Patav.
Many assert that he was a Slovene. Blessed Hieronymus cites him as a man learned and devout. He knew Greek better than Latin, and wrote commentaries on several books of the Old and New Testaments. He suffered for the Christian faith in about 303.
How will one who transgresses love toward his parents raise himself toward love for his enemies? Love for one's parents-this is the main and fundamental school of love. Without this school, one can go no further. The Serbian King Dragutin rose up against his father with an army in order to sit on his father's throne. But it so happened that he later broke his leg, and this awakened in him pangs of conscience which did not leave him in peace until his death. Dragutin withdrew from the throne and relinquished his authority to his younger brother Milutin, and began to widely distribute alms, build churches, and perform other good works. In addition to this, he lived a strict life of asceticism in secret. He girded himself with a belt of reeds around his naked body, dressed in coarse sackcloth, and prayed to God at night in a secretly dug grave. This penitent king did all this only that God would forgive him the sin of lack of love toward his parents, and God forgave him. Many holy martyrs joyfully received their executioners who were seeking them, and treated them hospitably in their homes while they themselves prepared for death. To entertain one's mortal enemies-is this not an expression of great love toward one's enemies? When King Sapor harshly tortured Acyndinus, Pegasius and others with them, he suddenly went mad, became dumb and unable to speak, and began to claw his face with great fury. Seeing his tormentor in such despair, St. Acyndinus wept and prayed to God for the king and said, "In the name of Jesus Christ the Lord, speak!" and the king's tongue was loosed and he began to speak. Here is an example of true love for one's enemies!
Contemplate the wondrous power of the apostles' words (Acts 16):
- How a certain slave girl with an unclean spirit of divination cried out after Paul and Silas;
- How Paul turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her;
- How the unclean spirit at that same hour came out of the slave girl.
On the will of God that all Christians should be holy
According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4).
Only the Church teaches and demonstrates that first there was a plan for the world and then the world was created. That plan was in the wisdom and will and power of God. And we Christians, as the Church of God, are in this plan. According to this plan, God chose us before the foundation of the world for holiness and righteousness and love. God chose us beforehand and adopted us through Him-through Whom? Through the Lord Jesus Christ. For all that we are to God, we are to Him through Jesus Christ. Apart from Jesus Christ man has no other bond, no other relationship, no other kinship with God, and therefore our choosing and adoption was through our Lord Jesus Christ. He chose us, His Holy Church, according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:5), as He had once chosen Israel from among all the nations on earth. Let no one say that this choosing of God destroys man's free will, so that neither does a Christian have merit because he is a Christian, nor is a pagan condemned because he is a pagan. No, this is a totally erroneous interpretation. For at one time God also chose Israel and some in Israel perished while some were saved. He also chose His Holy Church, calling all nations and peoples to it. But the salvation of those among the chosen does not depend on God's choice alone, but also on man's will and effort.
O eternal God, our Creator, Who chose us for salvation before Thou hadst even created us, have mercy on 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