Prologue from Ochrid - November 10 [November 23]
1. The Holy Apostles Olympas, Erastus, Quartus, Herodion, Sosipater and Tertius.
They were all among the Seventy. The last three are also commemorated elsewhere: Herodion on April 8th, Sosipater on April 28th and Tertius on October 30th. Ss Olympas and Herodion were followers of the Apostle Peter and, when Peter suffered, they suffered too, being beheaded at Nero's command. Erastus was steward of the Church in Jerusalem, and later became Bishop of Paneas in Palestine. Quartus was bishop in Beirut; he suffered greatly and brought many to the Christian faith. Sosipater was bishop in Iconium, and Tertius followed him as bishop there. They strove in spirit, became victors and were crowned with wreaths of glory.
2. The Holy Martyr Orestes.
From the town of Tyana in Cappadocia, St Orestes was a cradle Christian and a doctor by profession. He was harshly interrogated by a wicked governor, Maximinus, in the reign of Diocletian (284-305). When the governor urged him to deny Christ and worship idols, Orestes replied: 'If you knew the power of the Crucified, you would reject idolatrous lies and worship the true God.' For this he was harshly beaten, then flayed and cut about, then burned in boiling lead and finally thrown into prison to die of hunger. The young Orestes spent seven days without bread or water. On the eighth day, he was brought before the governor, who began to threaten him with terrible tortures. To this Orestes replied: 'I am ready to undergo every torture, having the sign of my Lord Jesus Christ inscribed on my heart.' Then the governor ordered -that twenty nails be hammered into his legs and that he be bound behind a horse and dragged through thistles and rocks until he expired. In the place where Orestes' body was thrown, a man radiant as the sun appeared, gathered the bones and took them to a hill near Tyana, burying them there. This great saint, Orestes, appeared to St Dimitri of Rostov and showed him all his wounds.
3. St Nonnus, Bishop of Heliopolis.
He was renowned as a great ascetic in the Tabennisiot monastery in Egypt, because of which he was chosen as bishop in 448, in the diocese of Edessa. He was later translated to the diocese of Heliopolis, and there brought thirty thousand Arabs to the Christian faith. After the death of Bishop Ibo, St Nonnus returned to Edessa, where he remained till his death in 471. Through his prayers, the notorious sinner Pelagia was brought to the Christian faith. She was later glorified for the holiness of her life (see Oct. 8th).
The all-wondrous paths of God's providence were shown in an exceptional and wondrous event in the monastery of Dochiarou at the time of the Blessed Neophytus, the nephew of St. Euthymius. When, after the death of Euthymius, Neophytus began to build a new and larger church to St. Nicholas the miracle-worker, his resources ran out and he to prayed to God for help and God helped him in a miraculous manner. Toward the monastery of Dochiarou lay a peninsula called Longos or Sika. On this peninsula, Neophytus had a small metoh [small parcel of land belonging to the monastery] near which there was a statue of a man made of stone. On this statue, the following words were inscribed: "He who strikes me on the head will find much gold." Many had struck the statue on the head but did not find anything. Neophytus sent Basil, the monastery's novice, on an errand. One day, Basil stood before the statue and wondered about the mystery of this inscription. At that moment, the sun came out and the statue threw its shadow toward the west. Basil took a stone and struck the head of the shadow and began to dig there and found a kettle full of gold coins. He immediately ran and told the Abbot Neophytus. The abbot ordered three honorable monks to go with Basil in the monastery's boat and bring back the gold. Thus, these monks set off, loaded the gold into the boat and started off for the return trip. However, while they were on the sea, the devil put the thought in their heads to pocket the gold for themselves. Those three honorable monks, deluded by the devil, bound Basil with a rope, tied a rock around his neck and tossed him into the sea. When Basil fell to the bottom of the sea, the Archangels Michael and Gabriel suddenly appeared as two resplendent youths, took him and translated him to the church at Dochiarou and placed him before the Royal Doors of the locked church. The next day when the monks entered the church, they found Basil lying bound before the sanctuary. The abbot questioned him and learned of the miraculous event that happened to him. Then, the other three monks arrived, who seeing Basil alive, were as though struck by thunder. The abbot punished them severely, took the gold and completed the church. He dedicated it, not to St. Nicholas, but rather to the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel. That is why Euthymius' old church at Dochiarou is called St. Nicholas and the new, however, is called the Church of the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel.
To contemplate the wondrous salvation of Paul from the snake (Acts of the Apostles 28):
- How Paul gathered sticks and tossed them on the fire: "But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire" (Acts of the Apostles 28:3);
- How a venomous viper leaped from the fire and fastened on his hand: "A viper came out because of the heat and fastened on his hand" (Acts of the Apostles 28:3);
- How he shook off the viper and no harm came to him: "But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm" (Acts of the Apostles 28:5).
About the only Peace and the Peacemaker
"For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one" (Ephesians 2:14).
Between the Israelites and the pagans an abyss opened wide, which no mortal could fill in and level off. The Lord Christ alone is the one who could do that and He did it. That which had been estranged, He brought closer and joined. By what? By "His blood," i.e., by "His sacrifice" He replaced all other sacrifices. By this, He redeemed all of nature and replaced by Himself that which men brought and offered to God (in other words, to the gods) as a sacrifice. One sacrifice is sufficient both for the Israelites and for the pagans - that is, the sacrifice of Christ. Furthermore, the blood of animals separated the Israelites and the pagans, both in the places where they were offered and by the divinity to whom they were offered and by the kind of animal that was offered and by the manner how it was offered. And now, the Most Pure Blood of Christ has come in place of all that blood and this Blood of Christ unites and makes brothers of the Israelites and the pagans. The one and the other became blood brothers as even all of us faithful are blood-brothers because of the Blood of Christ, by which we are redeemed from the curse and by which we are now fed. The middle wall of separation (Ephesians 2:14), which divided and separated, He destroyed and joined the hands and the hearts of the Israelites and the pagans. By what? By "His Body," i.e., by the living truth, by the truth incarnates in Himself. The shadow of the law replaced truth for the Israelites and fables replaced truth for the pagans. He removed both of them and revealed the living truth in the Body and the world saw and rejoiced.
O, Lord Jesus Christ, our most blessed Redeemer, unite the hearts of us, Your faithful.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK