Prologue from Ochrid - November 3 [November 16]
1. The Hieromartyr Acepsimas, Bishop of Naeson, and others with him.
The eighty-year-old Acepsimas, filled with every Christian virtue, was sitting one day in his house with his guests when a child, filled with the Spirit of God, ran up to the aged bishop, kissed him on the head, and said: 'Blessed is this head, for it will be martyred for Christ!' This prophecy was soon fulfilled. King Sapor raised a fierce persecution of Christians throughout Persia, and St Acepsimas was seized and taken before a prince who was also a pagan priest. When the bishop had been arrested and bound, he was approached by one of his household, who asked him what he wanted done about his house. The saint replied: 'It's no longer my house; I'm going to a higher home, and shall not return.' After long interrogation, he was thrown into prison, whence, the next day, were brought a seventy year-old priest called Joseph and a deacon, Aeithalas. After three years' imprisonment and many sufferings, Acepsimas was beheaded, and Joseph and Aeithalas were buried up to the waist in the ground, being stoned by a group of men who were without mercy towards Christians. Joseph's body, by God's providence, disappeared that night, and above Aeithalas's body there grew a tree, which healed all manner of disease and pain. Five years passed, then the wicked and jealous pagans cut down this tree. These soldiers of Christ suffered in Persia in the fourth century, in the time of the pagan King Sapor.
2. The Holy and Great Martyr George.
On this day we celebrate the translation of St George's relics from Nicomedia to the city of Lydda in Palestine, where he suffered in the time of the Emperor Diocletian (284-305). The sufferings of this wonderful saint are recorded on April 23rd. At the time of his death, St George asked his servant to take his body and carry it to Palestine, to the place where his mother was born, and where he had much land that he had given away to the poor. His servant did this. In the time of the Emperor Constantine (305-337), a beautiful church was built in Lydda by devout Christians, and. on the occasion of the consecration of that church, the saint's relics were translated and buried there. Innumerable miracles have been wrought by the relics of St George, Christ's great martyr.
3. Our Holy Father Elias of Egypt.
He lived in asceticism near Antinoe, the capital of the Thebaid. He spent seventy years on and inaccessible rocks in the wilderness. He ate only bread and dates and, as a young man, fasted whole weeks at a time. He healed all manner of pains and weaknesses. He became very shaky in old age, and entered into rest at the age of 110, going to the joy of his Lord. 'Keep your mind from malicious thoughts of your neighbours, knowing that such thoughts are hurled by diabolical power, to keep your mind from your own sins and from seeking God', he said.
Among the countless miracles of St. George, this one is recorded: On the island of Mytilene there was a church dedicated to St. George the Great-martyr and Trophy-bearer. All the inhabitants of the island would come to this church on the annual feast of their patron saint. Knowing of this, the Saracens of Crete once attacked this island on its feast day, pillaged the island, and enslaved its inhabitants, taking many of them back to Crete. Among the enslaved was a handsome young man, whom the pirates gave to their prince. The prince made him his servant. The young man's parents were overwhelmed with great sorrow for their son. After a year had passed and St. George's day came again, the grieving parents, following the ancient custom, prepared a table and entertained many guests. Remembering her son, the poor mother went to the icon of the saint, fell to the ground and began to pray that he somehow deliver her son from slavery. The mother then returned to her guests at the table. The host raised a glass and drank a toast to the honor of St. George. Just then their son appeared among them, holding a decanter of wine in his hand. In amazement and fear, they asked him how he had managed to come to them. He replied that as he was about to serve his master wine in Crete, a knight on horseback appeared before him, pulled him up onto the horse and carried him instantly to his parents' home. All were amazed, and glorified God and His wonderful saint, George the Commander and Victory-bearer.
Contemplate the wondrous deliverance of Paul and Silas from prison (Acts 16):
- How these holy apostles were cast into the inner prison and their feet were placed in stocks;
- How they were at prayer, praising God at midnight;
- How the earth quaked, the chains fell off those who were bound, and the doors of the prison were opened.
On Christ as the Head of all the saints
That … He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth (Ephesians 1:10).
Sin causes panic and confusion. A man drowning in sin and vice is like a chicken with its head cut off which, dying, thrashes about convulsively and rushes to and fro. Before Christ's Incarnation, the whole pagan world was a confused, headless body, dying in convulsions. Christ joined the severed head with the benighted trunk and brought the body of the human race back to life. He is the Head of the heavenly host, and He has always been. And, as the Creating Word of God, He was from the beginning the Head of everything created in the visible world, especially the human race. But sin, like a sword, separated the sinful trunk of Adam from his Head. However, the Lord reconciled heaven and earth in His Incarnation, bringing heaven to earth, and raising earth to heaven, and establishing all of it under His mind, under His headship. Through Christ we are reconciled with the Holy Trinity and the angels of God, with one another, and with the created nature around us. The lost Head has been found and all has been harmoniously arranged beneath it. The Apostle says: We have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). As the head is to the physical man, so the mind is to the spiritual inner man. Therefore, if we are Christ's, we must think and judge in all things according to our Head, Jesus Christ, and Him alone. Thinking and judging by Him, we will perceive ourselves as organs of one body that includes other men and the angels: one body, whose Head is Christ. Hence, our love for God is enkindled, and our faith strengthened, and our hope enlightened. Only a sleeping body feels no link with its head. Let us awaken, my brethren, let us awaken while we have time.
O Lord Jesus Christ, our All-wise Head, unite us with Thyself.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK