Prologue from Ochrid - November 5 [November 18]
1. Our Holy Father Galaction and our Mother Episteme, Martyrs.
They were born in the city of Edessa in Phoenicia, both of pagan parents. Galaction's mother was barren until she was baptised. After her baptism, she brought her husband also to the true Faith and baptised her son Galaction, bringing him up a Christian. When the time came for Galaction to marry, his devout mother Leucippe died, and his father betrothed him to a maiden called Episteme. Galaction did not wish to enter into marriage at all, and he quickly urged Episteme to be baptised and then to become a nun at the same time as he became a monk. Both went away to the mountain of Publion, Galaction to a men's monastery and Episteme to a women's, and each of them became a true light in the monastery. They were first in labours, in prayer, in humility and obedience, and first in love. They did not leave their monasteries, and neither saw the other until the time of their death. A fierce persecution arose, and they were both brought to trial. While they were mercilessly whipping Galaction, Episteme was weeping, and they then whipped her also. They cut off their hands and feet, and finally their heads. One Eutolius, a man who had been a servant of Episteme's parents and then a monk together with Galaction, took their bodies and buried them. He also wrote the Lives of these two wonderful martyrs for Christ, who suffered and received their heavenly crowns in 253.
2. The Holy Apostles Patrobus, Hermes, Linus, Gains and Philologus.
They were of the Seventy. Patrobus was bishop of Neapolis; Hermes was in Philipopolis (Rom. 16:14), Linus in Rome (II Tim. 4:21), Gaius in Ephesus (Rom. 16:23) and Philologus in Synope (Rom. 15:16). All of them fulfilled the Law of Christ with love and went to His Kingdom.
3. St Jonah, Archbishop of Novgorod
Born in Novgorod and orphaned early, he was taken and educated by a God-fearing woman. Michael the Fool for Christ of Klops saw him once as a young boy and said to him prophetically: 'Ivan, my little one, be diligent in your studies, for you will be archbishop in Novgorod the Mighty'. And so it came to pass, for later, after the death of Archbishop Euthymius, this Jonah was elected and consecrated to the throne of Novgorod. Jonah was God-fearing and merciful, such as is rare in a mortal man. He built churches and monasteries and cared for his flock as a true and good shepherd. He was offered the throne of Moscow as Metropolitan but declined, excusing himself because of his great age. He entered into rest peacefully on November 5th, 1570, and went to the joyful, heavenly mansions. One hundred years after his death, a great fire broke out in Novogorod. The relics of this holy hierarch did not catch fire among the flames, but on the contrary, began to show healing powers and to give off a sweet and wonderful fragrance.
Physical love, in comparison to spiritual love, is less than a shadow is to solid substance. Brotherhood and sisterhood of the blood and body is nothing compared to the brotherhood and sisterhood of the spirit. Galaction's father betrothed him to the maiden Episteme. Galaction baptized Episteme and, after that, both received the monastic tonsure. Their physical love was replaced by spiritual love, a love as strong as death. So great was Galaction's spiritual love for Episteme that he never desired to see her with his physical eyes. Neither physical contact nor closeness are necessary for spiritual love. So great was Episteme's spiritual love for Galaction that when she heard that he had been taken for torture she ran after him, begging him not to reject her, but to receive her as a fellow sufferer, as he was her spiritual father and brother. When the merciless torturers flogged holy Galaction's naked body, holy Episteme wept. However, when the torturers cut off their hands and feet for Christ, both rejoiced and glorified God. So great was the power of their love for our Lord Jesus Christ, and so great was the spiritual love with which they loved each other. Truly, physical love is like a colorful butterfly that quickly passes, but spiritual love is enduring.
Contemplate the wondrous action of the Holy Spirit upon the baptized (Acts 19):
- How Paul, coming to Ephesus, saw men baptized with the baptism of John to repentance;
- How he placed his hands on them and the Holy Spirit descended upon them;
- How they were filled with power, and spoke in tongues and prophesied.
On the elevation of man through the Risen Christ
… Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come and hath put all things under His feet (Ephesians 1:21-22).
Behold, the heights to which God exalts the being of man! Here, Christ's Divine Nature is not the subject, but rather His human nature. This is not about the eternal Word of God, but rather about the man Jesus, whom God raised from the dead and exalted-not only above this whole visible and mortal world, but also above the invisible and immortal, far above all the orders of angels and the heavenly powers; far above all the known and unknown wondrous hierarchies of heaven; far above every created being, known and unknown; and far above every name in the material and the spiritual worlds. My brethren, do you see how our All-glorious Creator fulfilled the promise He gave to Adam when he banished him from Paradise, and repeated more clearly to Abraham, and repeated still more clearly through the prophets and David? Do you see how the Lord of Sabaoth began to glorify the human race by glorifying the man Jesus, the Son of God, in Whom was incarnate the divinity of God? As the first in glory, God first glorified Him, and then, in order, all those who are numbered with Him, and who by the grace of the Holy Spirit are named and written in the Book of Life for eternal glory. It is not without cause that the Church sings to the Mother of God: "More honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim." Where the Risen Lord is exalted, His Most-holy Mother is also exalted, as are also His holy apostles, in accordance with His words to His heavenly Father: Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am (John 17:24).
Such is the boundless consequence of God's descent to earth. Such are the ineffable fruits of His sufferings.
O Lord Jesus Christ our Savior, equal only to Thy Father and the Holy Spirit; help us to extricate ourselves from the depth of putrid sin and sensual foolishness before the end.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK