Prologue from Ochrid - October 20 [November 2]
1. The Holy and Great Martyr Artemius.
This glorious saint was Egyptian by birth, and the commander-in-chief of the army of the Emperor Constantine the Great. When the victorious Cross, encircled by stars, appeared to the Emperor, Artemius also saw it, came to faith in Christ the Lord and was baptised. Later, in the time of the Emperor Constantius, Constantine's son, he was sent to Greece to take the relics of St Andrew and St Luke from Patras and Thebes respectively to Constantinople, which charge Artemius carried out with joy. After that, he was appointed governor and imperial representative in Egypt, in which appointment he remained throughout the reign of Constantius and for a certain time under Julian the Apostate. When this renegade Emperor went to war against the Persians, he stopped for a time in Antioch, and summoned Artemius and his army to join him there. Artemius went. At that time, the Emperor gave two Christian priests, Eugenius and Macarius, over to torture. Seeing this, St Artemius was profoundly alarmed, went to the Emperor and said to him: 'Why are you so inhumanly torturing these innocent and dedicated men, and why are you putting pressure on them to turn back from the Orthodox faith?' He also prophesied to the Emperor that his end was near. The furious Emperor sent the two priests into exile in Arabia, where they soon died, and stripped Artemius of his military rank, ordering that he be flogged and whipped. All wounded and covered with blood, Artemius was thrown into prison, where the Lord Christ Himself appeared to him, healing and comforting him. After that, the Emperor ordered that he be laid on a flat stone and that another stone be put on him, so crushing his body like a board. Finally, he was beheaded, in 362. The Emperor Julian then went out against the Persians and perished in a dishonourable way, as St Artemius had foretold.
2. Holy and Righteous Artemius.
Born in 1532, he was the son of Russian peasants, Cosmas and Apollinaria, from the village of Verkol near Dvinsk. Even at age of five, he was different from other children in his rare piety and meekness. When he was thirteen years old, he went with his father through a great forest, and died there of exposure. His grieving father, unable to dig a grave, covered the body with branches and went on his way. Twenty-eight years later, a man saw a strange light in the forest, went over to it and found the body of Artemius, whole and uncorrupt. It gave healing to many of the sick when they touched it. His holy relics are preserved in a monastery near Pinega, not far from Archangel.
3. Our Holy Father Gerasim the New.
From Trikala in the Peloponnese, of the Notaras family, he was born in 1509. He lived in asceticism on Athos and then in Palestine, where he once fasted for forty days. He then settled on the island of Kephallenia, where he founded a monastery for women. He brought rain by his prayers, healed the sick and had insight into the future. He entered into rest in the Lord on August 15th, 1579, being a wonderworker both during his lifetime and after his death.
4. Our Holy Father, the New Martyr Ignatius.
From Zagora in Bulgaria, that famous Zagora that has given the Church so many holy ascetics and martyrs, he lived in asceticism in the skete of St John the Forerunner on Athos. He voluntarily put himself into the hands of the Turks to be tortured for Christ, and was hanged in Constantinople on October 8th, 1814. His relics have wonderworking power, and his head is preserved in the monastery of St Panteleimon.
The compassionate God wonderfully guides those who give themselves over to His holy will and care. Just as a candle-maker makes whatever kind of candle he wants from soft wax, so the All-wise God makes immortal lights in the Heavenly Kingdom of His devoted servants. St. Ignatius the New Martyr was totally devoted to God, even as a child. He yearned to become a monk and to be a martyr for the Faith. During the Karageorge uprising, the Turkish army was conscripting men throughout Bulgaria to fight against the Serbs, and even came to the house of Ignatius's father, George, to see if anyone there was fit for military service. Seeing that George was a well-built and strong man, they wanted to take him into the army. But George resolutely said: "I cannot fight against my fellow Christians." The infuriated Turks killed him on the spot. The young Ignatius hid in a neighboring house, then fled to Romania, but his desire for monasticism took him to the Holy Mountain. Even so, he wanted something more than monasticism-he desired martyrdom. He prayed with tears one night before the icon of the Most-holy Theotokos, imploring her to grant him the path of martyrdom. He heard a sound in front of him, and opened his eyes to see the glowing halo detach itself from the icon and rest upon his head. Shortly after that, he suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Turks, and received the wreath of eternal glory.
Contemplate the Lord's wondrous appearance to the Apostle Ananias and to Saul (Acts 9):
- How the Lord appeared to Ananias and directed him to Saul in the street called Straight;
- How, at that very moment, in a vision, Saul saw Ananias healing him of his blindness.
On old and new tales of God's wonders
We have heard with our ears, O God; Our fathers have told us, what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old (Psalm 44:1).
Thus King David speaks in the name of his people, and enumerates several great works that God performed for Israel. We, brethren, have also heard of all these works, from Holy Scripture, and of many more works and kinds of works than those of which David had heard, for they took place after him! Have we not heard of incomparably more miraculous and greater works of God's providence and God's love for mankind than all that David heard? The Son of God became incarnate of the Most-pure Virgin and lived as a man among men, poured out wisdom, worked miracles, destroyed death, put the devil to shame, and gave power to His followers. David did not hear of these things, but we have heard, for they have been revealed to us by our spiritual Fathers: the apostles and evangelists, martyrs and righteous ones, and all the ranks of saints from ancient times to the present day. Not only did they reveal it to us, but the Holy Spirit reveals it to us every day through the Holy Church, through the grace-filled Mysteries and through countless miracles. Behold, here is a reason for great joy, but also for great fear, for much is given to us and much will be required of us. We have been given more spiritual riches than all those who lived before Christ-more wisdom and understanding, more of God's glory and power, and more, many more examples of God's love for man and man's love for God. Ask yourselves, you richest of the rich, what have you given and what are you giving to God for all of this? You should strive to not be put to shame at God's Judgment. As a dream soon slips away, so will all your days on earth soon slip away, and the sound of the angel's trumpet will soon summon all nations and people to the Dread Judgment of God. Strive that you not then be ashamed, for you will not be able to excuse yourself with "We did not know," or "We did not have!" You know, and you have had more revealed to you, than even David and Solomon had; and more will be required of you than of them.
O Son of God, our great and wonderful Lord, God and Savior, remind us every day and every hour of Thy Precious Blood, shed for us, that we do not forget, O Lord, and that we not be eternally condemned.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK