Prologue from Ochrid - October 23 [November 5]
1. The Holy Apostle James, the Lord's Brother.
He is called 'the Lord's brother' because he was the son of righteous Joseph, the betrothed of the most holy Mother of God. When Joseph was dying, he shared out his goods among his sons and wanted to leave a share to the Lord Jesus, the Son of the most holy Virgin Mary, but his sons opposed this, not reckoning Jesus to be a brother of theirs. James, though, loved Jesus greatly and announced that he would include Him in his share, counting himself to be indeed brother to the Lord. James was, from the first, devoted to the Lord Jesus. According to tradition, he went to Egypt with the most holy Virgin and Joseph when Herod tried to kill the new-born King. As soon as he heard Christ's teaching, he began to live by it. It is said that, during the whole of his life, he ate neither fat nor oil, but lived only on bread and water, and he was chaste to the end of his days. He often kept a vigil of prayer at night. The Lord included him among his Seventy apostles, appearing to him after His glorious Resurrection, as the Apostle Paul testifies (I Cor. 15:7). He was bishop in Jerusalem for thirty years, and governed the Church of God with zeal. On the Lord's instructions, he composed the first Liturgy, which was far too long for later Christians and was shortened by St Basil and St John Chrysostom. He brought many Jews and Greeks to the Christian faith, and even unbelieving Jews marvelled at his justice, nicknaming him James the Just.
When Ananias became High Priest, he decided, along with other of the Jewish elders, to kill James as a preacher of Christ. One day, at Easter, when many people were gathered in Jerusalem, the elders told him to climb up onto a roof and speak against Christ. St James climbed up there, and began to speak to the people about Christ as the Son of God and the true Messiah, and of His Resurrection and eternal glory in heaven. The infuriated priests and elders cast him down from the roof, and he was badly injured though still alive. A man then ran up and gave him such a vicious blow on the head that his brains spilled out. Thus this glorious apostle of Christ died a martyr's death and entered into the Kingdom of his Lord. James was sixty-three years old when he suffered for Christ.
2. St Ignatius, Patriarch of Constantinople.
Son of the Emperor Michael Rangabe, he became Patriarch after St Methodius, in 846, but was deposed in 858 and sent into exile. Photius, the Emperor's chief secretary, was made Patriarch in his place, but, when the Emperor Basil the Macedonian came to the throne, he re-instated Ignatius. St Ignatius governed the Church with great zeal and wisdom, and built a monastery of the Holy Archangels, in which he entered into rest in the Lord in 877, at the age of eighty-nine.
3. The Holy Martyr James of Borovitz.
About this saint, there is only known that which was revealed after his death in a vision to some people in Borovitz. His body was floating on a river near that town one day in 1540, and came to rest there. Many miracles were worked by his relics.
From God comes grace, but from us comes labor. Therefore, let no one even think that the holy apostles relied solely on the God-given grace, or that it was easy for them, or that they performed their great work in the world without effort. Does not the Apostle Paul say: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway (I Corinthians 9:27)? And still, in another place, does he not say that he spent his life in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren, in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness (II Corinthians 11:26-27)? St. James fed only on bread and that not to satisfaction. He slept very little, and spent his nights in prayer. He knelt so much in prayer that the skin on his knees became as hard as the skin on the knees of a camel. This brother of the Lord prayed with tears and sighs not only for the Church, which he governed, but also for the whole world. Even when he was pushed from the temple roof by the malicious Jews, and thus was completely broken, the holy apostle never forgot his debt to God and to men. Gathering his last strength, he raised himself to his knees, stretched forth his hands toward heaven and fervently prayed to God saying: "Lord, forgive them this sin, for they know not what they are doing." While he was praying thus, wicked men struck him with stones from all sides. Seeing this, one of the sons of Rechab cried out: "Stop! What are you doing? The righteous one is praying to God for you, and you are killing him!" However, that shout of a compassionate soul could not deter the murderers, accustomed to evildoing, from killing the saint of God. So it was that the apostles did not rely on grace alone, but also put forth nearly superhuman effort to show themselves worthy of God's grace.
Contemplate the miraculous resurrection of Tabitha (Acts 9):
- How Tabitha lay dead on her bed;
- How the Apostle Peter prayed to God for her and said: Tabitha, arise;
- How Tabitha regained life, and arose.
On the beauty of the king's daughter
The king's daughter is all glorious within (Psalm 45:13).
The Church of God is the daughter of the King. However poor and unattractive to the physical eye it may seem on the outside, no matter how persecuted and humiliated, it is filled with royal radiance and beauty from within. The King, He Who is fairer than the sons of men (Psalm 45:2), imparts beauty to His royal daughter. The Church of God is like a vesture for Christ; Christ lives in her. No outer beauty can be compared with inner beauty, that is, the beauty of Christ.
The Most-holy Theotokos is the daughter of the King: Her vesture is woven with gold (Psalm 45:13). This vesture is the virtue of her soul. That we understand "vesture" as virtue is clear in the parable of the marriage of the king's son. The man who was not clothed in a wedding garment was driven from the king's table and punished (cf. Matthew 22:11-13). True faith in God was the golden vesture of the Most-holy Virgin. Virginity, meekness, compassion, sanctity, piety, devotion to God's will, and all other virtues, were like embroideries on this golden garment. However, her beauty was the work of the Lord Christ, hidden within her and born of her.
The soul of every faithful Christian is like the daughter of the King. All the beauty of that soul is in Christ and of Christ, Who is within the soul. A soul without Christ the Sun of Righteousness is in darkness, without form and comeliness, as the universe would be without form and comeliness without the material sun.
O great and gracious Lord, our true God and our man-loving Provider, help us to clothe ourselves in the garment of the virtues, that we may not be found naked at Thy Dread Judgment.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK