Prologue from Ochrid - October 26 [November 8]
1. The Holy and Great Martyr Dimitrios.
This glorious and wonderworking saint was born in the city of Salonica of well-born and devout parents. Begged of God by these childless parents, Dimitrios was their only son and was, because of this, most carefully cherished and educated. His father was the military commander of Salonica, and, when he died, the Emperor made Dimitrios commander in his place. In doing this, the Emperor Maximian, an opponent of Christ, particularly recommended him to persecute and exterminate the Christians in Salonica. Dimitrios not only disobeyed the Emperor: he openly confessed and preached Christ the Lord in the city. Hearing of this, the Emperor was furious with Dimitrios and, at one time, on his way back from a war against the Sarmathians, went to Salonica especially to look into the matter. The Emperor, therefore, summoned Dimitrios and questioned him about his faith. Dimitrios proclaimed openly before the Emperor that he was a Christian, and, furthermore, denounced the Emperor's idolatry. The enraged Emperor cast him into prison. Knowing what was awaiting him, Dimitrios gave his goods to his faithful servant, Lupus, to give away to the poor, and went off to prison, glad that suffering for Christ was to be his lot. In the prison, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and said: 'Peace be with thee, thou sufferer for Christ; be brave and strong!' After several days, the Emperor sent soldiers to the prison to kill Dimitrios. They came upon the saint of God at prayer, and ran him through with their spears. Christians secretly took his body and gave it burial, and there flowed from it a healing myrrh by which many of the sick were healed. A small church was very soon built over his relics. An Illyrian nobleman, Leontius, became sick of an incurable illness. He ran prayerfully up to the relics of St Dimitrios and was completely healed, and in gratitude built a much larger church in place of the old one. The saint appeared to him on two occasions. When the Emperor Justinian wanted to take the saint's relics from Salonica to Constantinople, a spark of fire leapt from the tomb and a voice was heard: 'Leave them there, and don't touch!', and thus the relics of St Dimitrios have remained for all time in Salonica. As the defender of Salonica, St Dimitrios has many times appeared and saved the city from calamity, and there is no way of counting his miracles. The Russians regarded St Dimitrios as the protector of Siberia, which was overcome and annexed by Russia on October 26th, 1581.
2. Our Holy Father, the Martyr Joasaph.
A disciple of St Niphon, Patriarch of Constantinople, he lived in asceticism on the Holy Mountain. He had such great love for Christ the Lord that all his asceticism seemed to him inadequate, and he longed to suffer for love of his Lord. He therefore went to Constantinople, where he openly confessed the Holy Trinity and the Son of God before the Turks. The furious Turks beheaded him on October 26th, 1536.
3. Commemoration of the great Earthquake in Constantinople.
In the time of the Emperor Leo the Isaurian, in 740, there was a terrifying and long-lasting earthquake in Constantinople. The people realised that this was God's punishment for their sins, and entreated the most holy Mother of God and St Dimitrios with great penitence, until God had mercy and the earthquake ended.
A miracle of St. Demetrius of Thessalonica: Demetrius was a commander of Thessalonica during his life and remained so after his repose. People have felt his presence in Thessalonica, especially in times of great calamities. He protects the city, wards off misfortunes, repels invaders, and helps all who invoke his name. Here is a wonderful example of his unusual aid to people in need. Once, the barbarians attacked Thessalonica and were unable to overtake it. Infuriated at this, they pillaged the countryside and bound and carried off two beautiful maidens whom they gave as a gift to their prince. These maidens knew how to embroider well. When the prince saw their handiwork, he said to them: "I hear that there is a great god in your land, Demetrius, and that he works great miracles. Embroider his face on this linen." The maidens told him that St. Demetrius was not a god but rather God's servant and the helper of Christians. At first, they refused to embroider the face of the saint, but when the prince threatened them with death, they carried out the command and completed the task by St. Demetrius's Day. On the eve of the feast, they looked at their embroidery and wept sorrowfully, as they had to spend the feast day in slavery and had to give that embroidered image of their beloved saint to an impious barbarian. Both maidens prayed to St. Demetrius to forgive them. Then St. Demetrius appeared to them and took them both away, as an angel had once taken the Prophet Habakkuk. He brought them to Thessalonica and set them in his church. A solemn all-night vigil was being celebrated, and many people were there. When they learned of the miraculous rescue of these Christian maidens, all glorified God and St. Demetrius, His great servant and commander.
Contemplate the miraculous deliverance of Peter from prison (Acts 12):
- How Peter was sleeping in the prison bound with two chains;
- How the faithful prayed to God for Peter;
- How a radiant angel appeared in the prison, freed the shackled Peter, and led him out.
On the heart ready for God
My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready (Psalm 57:7).
Brethren, blessed is he who is able to speak like this to his Lord! Blessed is he whose heart is completely ready to follow the will of God. The readiness of the heart of man lies in this: to joyfully follow the will of God and not be confused by one's own thoughts and desires. At first, the repentant King David had followed his own sinful thoughts and desires, and was like a boat on a stormy sea. However, when he realized that the storm was going to drown him, he turned to God with great repentance and tears, and turned the boat of his life entirely over to God. My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready! he cried out with great peace of soul, for he knew that he had given his boat into the hands of the Most-skilled Helmsman. The storm still raged and the winds and waves still assaulted him, but he was not afraid, convinced that nothing could smash his boat, and that his boat would sail safely to a calm harbor. A "ready heart" means a heart cleansed of pride and humbled before the majestic power and wisdom of God. A "ready heart" means a heart emptied of all worldly desires and illusions, and filled with nothing but aspirations toward God and love for God. A "ready heart" means a heart that is healed of all restlessness, cares and fears, and is quieted and encouraged by the presence of God's grace. I will sing and give praise in my glory (Psalm 57:7), continues the Psalmist. This shows that his heart is truly ready-he is not proud of his royal glory but ascribes it to God. He humbled himself before God as nothing, and now his sole pleasure is to magnify and glorify God. His personal glory only gives him a reason for glorifying His All-glorious God.
O my brethren, let us endeavor that our hearts be ready soon before God: ready to hear the word of God, ready to follow the will of God, ready to glorify the Living God.
O Lord God, our immortal Creator, help us to ready our hearts, that they may be vessels of Thy life-giving grace.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.
From The Prologue From Ochrid by Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich
© 1985 Lazarica Press, Birmingham UK