Prologue from Ochrid - November 13 [November 26]
1. St John Chrysostom (the Golden-Tongued), Patriarch of Constantinople.
He was born in Antioch in the year 347, his father's name being Secundus and his mother's Anthusa. Studying Greek philosophy, John became disgusted with Hellenic paganism and turned to the Christian faith as the one and all-embracing truth. John was baptised by Meletius, Patriarch of Antioch, and, after that, his parents were also baptised. After their death, John became a monk and began to live in strict asceticism. He wrote a book: 'On the Priesthood', after which the holy Apostles John and Peter appeared to him, prophesying for him great service, great grace and also great suffering. When the time came for him to be ordained priest, an angel of God appeared at the same time to Patriarch Flavian (Meletius's successor) and to John himself. When the Patriarch ordained him, a shining white dove was seen above John's head. Renowned for his wisdom, his asceticism and the power of his words, John was, at the desire of Emperor Arcadius, chosen as Patriarch of Constantinople. He governed the Church for six years as Patriarch with unequalled zeal and wisdom, sending missionaries to the pagan Celts and Scythians and purging the Church of simony, deposing many bishops who were given to this vice. He extended the Church's charitable works, wrote a rite for the Holy Liturgy, put heretics to shame, denounced the Empress Eudoxia, interpreted the Scriptures with his golden mind and tongue and left to the Church many precious books of sermons. The people glorified him; the jealous loathed him; the Empress twice had him sent into exile. He spent three years in exile, and died on Holy Cross. Day, September 14th, 407, in a place called Comana in Armenia. The holy Apostles John and Peter again appeared to him at the time of his death, and also the holy martyr Basiliscus (see May 22nd), in whose church he received Communion for the last time. 'Glory to God for everything!' were his last words, and with them the soul of Chrysostom the Patriarch entered into Paradise. Of his relics, the head is preserved in the Church of the Dormition in Moscow, and the body in the Vatican in Rome.
2. The Holy Martyrs Antoninus, Nicephorus, Herman and Manetha.
The first three were watching one day how the pagans, at one of their feasts, were worshipping idols with shouts and dancing, and they came out before the crowd and began to preach the one God in Trinity. Firmilian, the governor of Palestinian Caesarea, where this took place, was so enraged at the action of these three Christians that he ordered that they be beheaded forthwith. Manetha was a Christian maiden. She followed the martyrs when they were taken to the scaffold, and was herself seized and burned to death. They all suffered in the year 308, and entered into the eternal joy of God eternal.
3. Our Holy Father, the Martyr Damascene.
Born in Galata in Constantinople, he was first named Diamantis. He led a dissolute life in his youth, even embracing Islam. Then a bitter repentance grew in him, and he went to the Holy Mountain where, as a monk, he lived for twelve years in strict asceticism in the Lavra of St Athanasius. Desiring martyrdom, to cleanse him from his sin, he travelled to Constantinople and went into the mosques, making the sign of the Cross and calling out to the Turks that their faith was false, and that Jesus Christ is God and Lord. He was beheaded before the gateway of the Phanar on November 13th, 1681. His relics are preserved on Halki, in the monastery of the Holy Trinity.
Punishment and reward! Both of these are in the hands of God. But, as this earthly life is only a shadow of the true life in the heavens, so punishment and reward here on earth is only a shadow of true punishment and reward in eternity. The principle persecutors of Chrysostom, the saint of God, were Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria and Empress Eudoxia. After Chrysostom's death by martyrdom, bitter punishment befell them both, namely, Theophilus went mad and Empress Eudoxia was banished from the imperial court by Emperor Arcadius. Eudoxia soon became ill with an incurable disease and wounds opened all over her body and worms spilled out from her wounds. Such was the stench that emanated from her that it was not easy for a person on the street to even pass by her house. Physicians used all the best scents and aromas, even incense, as much as possible to wipe out the odor from the wicked empress, but succeeded very little and the empress finally died in stench and agony. Even after death, the hand of God lay heavy on her. Her coffin, with her body, shook day and night for a full thirty-four years until Emperor Theodosius translated the relics of St. Chrysostom to Constantinople. But what happened to Chrysostom after death? Reward - reward, such as only God can give. Adelphius, the Arab bishop, who received the exiled Chrysostom into his home in Cucusus, prayed to God after Chrysostom' death that He reveal to him where John's soul was to be found. Once, while at prayer, Adelphius, as though outside himself, saw a shining youth who led him throughout the heavens and showed him in order the hierarchs, pastors and teachers of the Church, calling each of them by name but he did not see John. Then the angel of God led him to the exit of Paradise and Adelphius was sad. When the angel asked him the reason for his sadness, Adelphius replied that he was sorry that he had not seen his beloved teacher, John Chrysostom. The angel replied: "No man who is still in the flesh can see him for he is at God's throne with the Cherubim and Seraphim."
To contemplate the wondrous creation of the world (Genesis 1):
- How, in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth;
- How the earth was without shape and form;
- How the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth; the earth was waste and void and the Spirit of God was stirring above the waters" (Genesis 1:1).
About the foundation and the cornerstone
"Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:20).
Brethren, the foundation of the apostles and prophets is the life and work of the apostles and the prophets, i.e., the Old and the New Testaments. Who unites the apostles and the prophets? Christ the Lord. Without Him, neither would the prophets understand the apostles nor the apostles understand the prophets. Therefore, He is the fulfillment of the prophets and witness of the apostles. Thus, He is the Cornerstone, which tied the prophets and the apostles and holds them together as a cornerstone holds the walls together. The entire Old and New Testaments are united in Him, find meaning in Him, revolve around Him, inspired by Him and upheld by Him - the Lord Jesus Christ. Where would the pagans and Jews meet and where would they understand one anther if not in Jesus Christ the Lord? Nowhere, except in Him. In Him and through Him they are united in one New Man, in one immortal body, in One, Holy and Catholic Church. The body and the soul are united in a greater and holier friendship only through the Lord Jesus. The bonds of the soul and body were at enmity until His coming in the flesh and that enmity led to the destruction of the soul. He reconciled and sanctified them both. Thus, He became the Cornerstone of every immortal and god-pleasing building, be it in regard to an individual man or family or nation or the entire race of man, either the present, or the past or the future or of either the Old Covenant or the New Covenant. He is the Chief stone in every building as He is the Head of the Body, God's Church.
O, Lord Jesus Christ, our Stone of salvation, 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